Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out Andrew Arnold's cover art for Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitich Smith (Roaring Brook, 2014). According to Greg, "It's a middle-grade story of three friends at a motel in Cocoa Beach and what happens the day after a space shuttle launch is scrubbed due to the presence of a UFO over Cape Canaveral..."

2013 Orbis Pictus Award & Honor Books

Monsieur Marceau: Actor without Words by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Gérard DuBois (Roaring Brook) is the winner of the 2013 Orbis Pictus Award. See a Cynsations guest post by Leda about the book.

The Honor Books are:

See also Orbis Pictus Recommended Books.

More News & Giveaways

Dyslexia in Middle Grade Fiction by Joy McCullough-Carranza from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Seeing characters like Percy and his demigod friends turn their challenges into real advantages as they save the world is incredibly powerful for other kids with similar struggles. But not all kids are epic fantasy types, and Percy Jackson isn’t the only dyslexic in middle grade."

Keeping a Professional Distance from Our Book by Elizabeth S. Craig from Mystery Writing Is Murder. Peek: "I’d be crazy not to listen to these, but it does reach a point where I realize only I know what’s best for my stories. I’m not writing my own fan fiction, here."

Pay Proper Attention to Your Bio by Jane Friedman from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "...a brief bio has never stopped me from investigating a person I’m super interested in. But it’s an unnecessary stumbling block, and it’s usually the people with the super-short bios who have no websites or easy contact information."

A Caricature, Not a Compliment by Kayla Whaley from CBC Diversity. Peek: "...the 'disabled saint'—the good little cripple, perfect in personality in spite of being wholly imperfect physically. Innocent and pure and forever denied their humanity. The classic example is Tiny Tim..."

What Really Makes Katniss Stand Out?  Peeta, Her Movie Girlfriend by Linda Holms from YPR Baltimore. Peek: " of the most unusual things about Katniss isn't the way she defies typical gender roles for heroines, but the way Peeta, her arena partner and one of her two love interests, defies typical Hollywood versions of gender roles for boyfriends."

KidLit for the Philippines: An On-Line Auction to Benefit Typhoon Survivors from Michelle Cusolito at Polliwog on Safari. Peek: " online talent auction to benefit Mercy Corps and UNICEF relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan (AKA Yolanda). Agents, editors, authors, and illustrators have donated various services and items to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with donations being made directly to Mercy Corps and UNICEF."

Write Outside The Lines of Your Book by Josin L. McQuein from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "That’s the beauty of an organic medium; new ideas and methods won’t break it. Things can be strange and uncomfortable. Characters can – and will – surprise you, if you stay true to the personalities and voices that develop as the story progresses."

Keeping Your Eyes to Yourself by Lydia Kang from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "Not only are you not writing, but you’re taking little pecks of confidence away from yourself when you need it the most. It’s disheartening and can seriously cripple your muse."

What Happens at Frankfurt Book Fair? by Keith Yatsuhashi from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: "Frankfurt is all about selling and acquiring rights."

Cynsational Giveaways
This Week at Cynsations
Cynsational Screening Room

Award-winning children's book illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh employs both modern images and ancient iconographies to tell the untold story of loss that Mexicans feel for their family members who make the dangerous journey to America as undocumented workers. He speaks below about his work and influences.

More Personally

Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving, and happy Hanukkah! Cynsations posts are abbreviated this week due to the holidays and will resume on Monday.

Last week's highlight was speaking at the 2013 conference of the Florida Association for Media in Education. Thank you, Florida librarians! I also managed to sneak in a little fun time in Orlando.

At Downtown Disney

Who's having more fun, me or the LEGO sea serpent? (Also at Downtown Disney)

At the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Islands of Adventure)
Personal Links

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Guest Interview & Giveaway: Kathi Appelt & Hallie Durand on Mitchell Goes Bowling

By Kathi Appelt
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Hallie Durand is the author of the middle grade books Dessert First, Just Desserts, and No Room for Dessert, illustrated by Christine Davenier (Atheneum).

Her first picture book was Mitchell’s License (Candlewick). Mitchell Goes Bowling is her second picture book. Both are illustrated by Tony Fucile who also illustrated the Bink and Gollie books by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee.

KA: We first fell in love with Mitchell when your book, Mitchell’s License, appeared a couple of years ago. Can you tell us about Mitchell and his dad?

HD: My favorite thing about Mitchell and his dad is that Mitchell’s dad has his son’s “number.” He knows exactly what kind of kid he is dealing with—in the first book, when Mitchell doesn’t want to go to bed, his dad knows just how to get him to capitulate, by letting Mitchell drive (and Mitchell is quite pleased to be issued a driver’s license—his dignity is definitely intact!).

And in the new book, Dad knows exactly what to do with Mitchell’s knock ‘em down personality—go bowling. I think that’s what so many of us yearn for—to be understood as individuals, embraced, and met where we are.

KA: This book gives us such a close up of Mitchell, a boy who loves to knock things down. I’m especially fond of the page where he tries to knock down his dad. But what I love above all is the way that Dad channels Mitchell’s otherwise destructive impulses. And then, in a stroke of genius, you sent your characters to the bowling alley, the home of knock downs. Can you tell us about your own experience with bowling? I’m fascinated with bowling!

HD: I’ve liked the game since I was in middle school and I could hang with other seventh graders (without parents!). It was a safe place to go and we could order a whole pitcher of soda.

Now as a parent, I love it more—in part, because the lanes are just about exactly as I remember them, but more importantly because we’re all together, but we’re all doing our own thing, and that’s kind of who we are as a family too. On top of that, the crashing noise when the pins go down is incredibly satisfying, and no matter how unskilled you are (like me) you can pretty much count on a few pins going down (especially with gutter guards).

I’m also fascinated with the accessories: the shoes, the intricacy of drilling the proper holes in the ball, the tiny suitcases called “piggyback bags” that are used to carry an extra ball (for serious bowlers!), the machine that “dresses” (oils) the lane, the “ball elevator” . . . there’s no end to the cool stuff about bowling.

KA: One of the best things about this story is the very fun language. I love the “steamin’-hot-potato dance.” Is this something that you practice in your off-hours?

Eleanor praying
HD: You know, I always do a dance for a strike and I also have a Yahtzee dance. But I don’t practice in my off-hours—it has to be organic! My husband recently told me that when he was in the ROTC, based in Germany, he had a “turkey” dance (that’s three strikes in a row).

Channel John Travolta then: Point to the sky (right), point to the sky (left), 360 degree turn, and SPLIT. I’ve never had occasion to make up a “turkey” dance . . .

KA: Tony Fucile’s art feels like a perfect fit for your Mitchell stories. Did you participate at all in the art? If so, in what ways?

HD: Yeah, we loved collaborating. Quite a few of the gags came directly from Tony—his daughter Eleanor actually does “pray” when she bowls, and the “hand dryer” gag was totally his idea. His family loves bowling as much as mine, so it was pretty much a marriage made in heaven! And in the first book, where the dad is a car, we worked together to use as many car parts as we could think of.

The only one we couldn’t nail was the “trunk.” It’s not that standard for the author and illustrator to brainstorm but for us it was essential (and so much fun).

early sketch for Mitchell Goes Bowling
KA: This is definitely a father/son story, but I wouldn’t call it “typical.” There’s no mushiness about it, but there’s nevertheless an underlying sweetness. It feels sort of jazzy for lack of a better word. Lots of improvising going on here. And maybe that’s the way all father/son relationships are? A mixture of competitiveness and team sports. What do you think?

HD: Aw, I love “jazzy”! The inspiration for this story was something my son said when we “tied” at Monopoly, cause I felt bad for him. He said, “You winned and I winned.” And that stuck in my mind cause it was so perfect and poignant. You can both win.

KA: I love the line, “With his dad, he couldn’t lose.” When I talk about picture book texts with my students, I always encourage them to find a line that is both summary and pay-off. I don’t think it gets any better than that line. But there are plenty of other wonderful lines throughout this book. Do you have a favorite?

HD: My favorite line is an offering from my husband: “That’s just how he rolled.” For me, it’s really meaningful because if we watch and listen, we can meet our kids “where they roll,” and no two kids “roll” the same way.

KA: On a more personal note, what is your overarching goal as a picture book writer? Do you have one?

HD: I can’t say I have a goal, but I hope to continue to make stories around things I hear or see that I can’t get out of my head because they touched me in some way or demanded to become a story.

KA: Any words of advice for aspiring picture book writers/illustrators?

HD: For me, there’s one thing that has seen me through both the dark and the light—do the very best work you are capable of at the time. This doesn’t mean you won’t get better and more skilled, but no matter what any reviewer has to say, no matter how your book sells, no matter if it is even acquired by a publisher, if it is the very best work you are capable of at that time in your life, you’ll be okay. Doing the very best you can is a “no-regrets” policy. It’ll stand up to the toughest critic, who, of course, is yourself.

KA: What is Mitchell up to next?

HD: I’m not sure what Mitchell is up to next! But you can look for Marshall in next fall’s Catch That Cookie! illustrated by David Small. It centers around a gingerbread-cookie hunt, and was inspired by my own son Marshall, who once locked all the doors on our mini-van so the cookies couldn’t escape—that’s an example of something that demanded a story!

sketch from Catch That Cookie!
KA: Here’s a very fun downloadable Story Hour Kit.

Learn more about Hallie!
About Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt’s books have won numerous national and state awards.

Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the Pen USA Award, and was a finalist for the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award. Her most recent novel, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, was also a National Book Award Finalist. Kathi serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

Her cats are named Jazz, Hoss, D’jango, Peach, Mingus and Chica.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of two sets of Mitchell Goes Driving and Mitchell Goes Bowling (both Candlewick). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: North America.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Post: Anne Broyles on "In Its Own Sweet Time"

By Anne Broyles
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

My first picture book, Shy Mama’s Halloween, took 2.5 hours to write and sold on the fifth submission. Revision required only a few word changes. Fifteen months after an editor called with an offer, I held the published book in my hand. That didn’t take long!

Book #2, Priscilla and the Hollyhocks, was also a quick write. It sold on the second submission after requested revisions. From acquistion to publication? Four years. Not so bad.

My third picture book just came out… thirteen years after the initial idea. In 2000 after decorating our Christmas tree with our German foreign exchange daughter, I quickly wrote four pages of notes about a Costa Rican grandmother and her American-born grandson decorating The Memory Tree.

Over the next months, I focused on a young adult novel and occasionally pondered The Memory Tree. I created back-stories for Abue Rosa and Arturo, but knew their current relationship would be the book’s heart.

In July, 2001, I wrote the first draft (two languages, three hours, 2000 words) and compiled a list of possible publishers. I shared my manuscript with a Costa Rican friend to ensure cultural and language accuracy. Over the next six years when I needed breaks from other projects, I revised with the help of critique partners, deleted words (2000->1540->1330->933) and changed the title to The Empty Christmas Tree after one reader said that The Memory Tree “sounded genealogical.” Arturo became more active. A broken ornament provided conflict.

Between 2004-2011, I submitted the 738-word manuscript to editors and received five rejections. Pelican’s Nina Kooij e-mailed they would hold the submission on their “possibles list,” but I was free to submit elsewhere.

Eleven years had passed since my initial idea. Despite editors’ encouraging comments I wondered if this bilingual, multicultural, holiday book fit too small a niche. I gave The Empty Christmas Tree a rest even though I believed in its story of love, forgiveness and the healing power of stories.

In January, 2012, the SASE I’d sent to Pelican over two years earlier arrived. Is the book still available? Kooij asked. Yes! Over the next months, I cut my English/Spanish text to make space for side-by-side Spanish-only text and changed the title to Arturo and the Navidad Birds.

After Spanish-speaking friends from seven countries read the manuscript, I tweaked the story for general Hispanic cultural appeal, in hopes that more readers would find themselves in the story. The color palette and details of illustrator, K.E. Lewis’ beautiful paintings reflected Abue’s cultural background and brought her to life, but it didn’t matter if she was Costa Rican, Nicaraguan or Mexican.

This fall, Abue and Arturo’s story entered the world. In its own sweet time!

Humans need nine months of gestation. Elephants spent two years pregnant. Writers commit to an even longer haul. We know that even good writing may not quickly find a home.

In the thirteen years between my idea and Arturo and the Navidad’s publication I completed other picture books and two novels, none of which are yet published. Arturo’s journey to publication reminds me that as writers, we need to:
  • Believe in our work. 
  • Trust the process of creation. 
  • Understand the road to publication. 
  • Work on multiple projects, simultaneously or successively. 
  • Persevere! 
  • Enjoy and celebrate one’s book from idea to bookshelf.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Event Photo Report: Florida Association for Media in Education

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Last week's highlight was a trip to Orlando for the 2013 conference of the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME). Thank you, Florida librarians!

Meeting Florida librarians with Greg Leitich Smith

About to start the author panel with Lisa Yee, Duncan Tonatiuh, Jessica Martinez & Ginny Rorby

With Duncan & Lisa

Book sales were brisk!

Keynote author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & librarian Satia Marshall Orange

Greg signs Chronal Engine (Clarion)

Signing Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins)

Signing the Tantalize series for Rosa (Candlewick & Walker UK/Aus/NZ)

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