Cynsational News & Giveaways

Congratulations to Author Jama Rattigan on 15 Years of Dumpling Soup (Little, Brown)! To celebrate Jama is giving away three signed hardcover copies. Peek: “These are original trade editions from my personal stash (currently, only paperback and library editions are still in print.” Enter to win between now and Jan. 31. See more information. Don’t miss the story behind the story. Note: Dumpling Soup was illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders.

“Meeting” the Author by Melissa Stewart from I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: “Seeing someone on screen isn’t quite as powerful as a live visit, but videos are a great option for schools that lack the time, resources, or funding to bring in authors and illustrators. They’re also a great way for any school to increase their students’ exposure to book creators.”

The Educational Paperback Association (EPA) yesterday announced that Kevin Henkes is the winner of the 30th annual Jeremiah Ludington Award. The Ludington Award, named after the EPA’s founder, is presented annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the paperback book business. Past winners have included Mary Pope Osborne, Seymour Simon, Tomie dePaola, Anita Silvey, Richard Peck, Lois Lowry and Paula Danziger. Recipients receive a framed certificate and the EPA presents a $2500 check to the charity of their choice.

2009 Coretta Scott King Awards? from Kyra at Black Threads in Kid Lit. Peek: “Do a blog search – is there any chatter on mock Coretta Scott King Awards for 2009? …I have not been able to find any, so decided to start a thread given the awards are coming out later this month.” Note: chime in on the discussion of 2008’s best in African-American children’s-YA Literature. Note: Books I highlighted were Coe Booth‘s Kendra (Push), Varian Johnson‘s My Life as a Rhombus (Flux)(author interview), and Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper‘s Becoming Billie Holiday (Wordsong)(author interview).

Artist’s Agents 101 by Kathy Rietz from The Prairie Wind: Newsletter of the SCBWI Illinois Chapter. Peek: “Artist agents know the business and have connections at publishing houses that most illustrators do not.” See also Diane Foote Reveals ALSC’s Secrets; peek: “All eligible books are considered to be ‘under consideration’ until the decision is made. The decision is made by a voting process at the Midwinter meeting; if a clear winner is not determined in the first round of voting…” Note: Diane is the executive director of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

The WD Interview: Megan McCafferty by Lauren Mosko from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “…if I wrote the book with enough humor and heart and intelligence, it would appeal not only to girls who are still in high school, but also to those who graduated years ago and have a fondness for teen angst.”

Rickey E. Pittman: official site of the author of Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House and Stories of the Confederate South (both Pelican). Peek: “Rickey E. Pittman…is originally from Dallas.” “After moving to Monroe, Louisiana…he was commissioned to write historical plays for Franklin (1997) and Madison (1998) parishes. In addition to freelance journalism, editing, and nonfiction writing, he has published short stories, poetry, and three books.”

Behind Some Authors Lies a Ghost by Dianne Sagan from Writing for Dollars. Peek: “Ghostwriters must write in the client’s voice. This can be a challenge. How do you write in someone else’s voice?” See also Questions and Answers with Dianne Sagan from Karen and Robyn – Writing for Children.

A Few Things I’ve Learned About Writing for Children’s Magazines by David L. Roper from KidLit Central. Peek: “As is the case with all writing, it is easier to sell nonfiction than fiction. To break into a new children’s magazine market, consider first submitting an article, craft idea, or other nonfiction item.”

Congratulations to Jerry Wermund on Soil: More Then Just Dirt (Rockon, 2008). From the promotional copy: “In dry, wet and moderate climates, heat and cold as well as natural acids break down rocks into soil. Water seeps downward altering soil into different layers and structures. Soil is alive. Many visible and microscopic creatures make homes in upper soil layers. Soil sustains life for plants. Nitrogen from the air as well as phosphorous and potassium from rocks enter soil to fertilize the roots of healthy grasslands, forests and crops. Soil scientists recognize twelve orders or types of soil.” Note: Jerry is the rare self-publishing success story, because of the quality of his poetry, the cross-curriculum value of his books, his commitment to first-rate production, and his overall professionalism. Read a Cynsations interview with Jerry.

Revision Questions from Cynthia Lord. Peek: “Can I make this stronger, deeper, more vivid, without sacrificing pacing?” Source: Lisa Schroeder. Read a Cynsations interview with Cynthia.

Meet Vicki Palmquist, Co-founder of The Children’s Literature Network from Julie Bowe at Kidlit Central News. Peek: “One of the services CLN provides is to provide recommendations and referrals. We are frequently asked by teachers, librarians, booksellers, and the media for information about our members. We participate in preparing reading lists and providing referrals for magazines, newspapers, and websites. Teachers and parents ask for suggestions for authors and illustrators to visit their schools. Media specialists ask for help in preparing specialized reading lists.” Learn more about the Children’s Literature Network.

Enter to win the January book giveaways at TeensReadToo.

J. Jaye Smith: author of Batty About Texas, illustrated by Kathy Coates (Pelican). From the publisher: “Jaye Smith spent her childhood in Slidell, Louisiana, and found her passion in the creative arts while still in high school. She attended Belmont University and graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education in 1993. Smith has worked as a vocalist and a music teacher for most of her life and is also an accomplished songwriter. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family and spends her free time reading, dancing, and gardening.”

Congratulations to Gwenda Bond for signing with Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and congratulations to Jennifer on signing Gwenda. Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

Best Advice for Aspiring Writers… from Ally Carter at Ally’s Diary. Peek: “Is this cruel, cruel advice? Yes. But believe me I wouldn’t be opening myself up for the onslaught of angry comments that might commence if I didn’t think it were true.”

Middle Grade Fantasy Books: a bibliography compiled by Stacy Whitman.

Layne Johnson: the illustrator of numerous books for children, including Farmer George Plants a Nation (Cawkins Creek, 2008), which received a starred review from School Library Journal, A Young Man’s Dance (Boyds Mills, 2006), Christmas for a Kitten (Albert Whitman, 2003), and Where Horses Run Free (Boyds Mills, 2003). Layne is a native Houstonian.

The Evolution of Identity (for illustrators) from Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Peek: “Coming from a graphic design background (as I did), I used to think the opposite. ‘Isn’t it good to show you’re flexible, that you are capable of many different looks and can help a publisher with different needs?’ The answer is no.”

Meet Saundra Mitchell! from Sara McLean. Peek: “Screenwriting says if I’ve spent more than five minutes in a particular scene, I’m boring people. It’s easy for me to get in and get out, which I think is hard for some novelists.”

The Seven Deadly (Publishing) Sins from Waxman Literary Agency. Peek: “These seven no-nos will put your career on ice faster than you can say ‘remainder.'” Source: Elizabeth Scott’s Blog.

Children’s Author Dori Hillestad Butler: official author site features information on Dori and her books, classroom resources, and information for aspiring writers. Dori writes children’s books, magazine pieces, and for the educational market. She also edits for Storydog and has a regular book review column in her local paper. Dori is based in Coralville, Iowa. Her books include The Truth About Truman School (Albert Whitman, 2008), My Grandpa Had a Stroke, illustrated by Nicole Wong (Magination, 2007), and F Is For Firefighting, illustrated by Joan C. Waites (Pelican, 2007).

Predicting Success by Robin LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: “It turns out that creative success is a very elusive beast, and that it often has less to do with quality and more to do with reaching a certain tipping point in terms of generating buzz and getting talked about.” Read a Cynsations interview with Robin.

Writing process…writing practice from Helen Hemphill at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “Practice is about getting better. It’s about doing, analyzing, and critiquing. But it’s also about reflecting. What am I doing to sabotage my story? How can I write this sentence, this paragraph, this chapter better?” Also features a video interview with Anne Lamont. Read a Cynsations interview with Helen.

Marc Aronson’s Unsettled: a podcast from Heidi Estrin at The Book of Life. Mark talks about the advantages of non-fiction, the current and future prospects for non-fiction, as well as passion and process in non-fiction writing. Then he focuses on his latest book, Unsettled (Ginee Seo, 2008). Note: “Marc Aronson is an editor, a publisher, and an author of historical nonfiction for young people. He writes the ‘Nonfiction Matters’ column in School Library Journal, and also hosts the Nonfiction Matters blog on the SLJ website.” Read a Cynsations interview with Marc.

The Book Roast: a free promotional site for authors dedicated to celebrating great books. “Our mission is to help publicize books of all genres, printed by publishers of all sizes (excluding self-published and pornography). We serve up a variety of authors and books lightly grilled and seasoned with humor. The interactive and party spirit on our site helps set us apart.” Note: The Book Roast returns from hiatus on Jan. 12. Guests marinating include Barrie Summy (Jan. 15) and Curtis Brown literary agent Nathan Bransford (Jan. 22).

Let the Drawing Begin: a contest for kids from K-6 grades to draw the perfect bookmark, sponsored by BookKids at BookPeople in Austin. Peek: “This year our theme is ‘Be Independent.’ Then, we print up the top entry in each of four age categories and distribute the bookmarks in the store for the rest of the year. Winners also receive a $25 gift certificate to BookPeople.” See details.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin (Dial, 2008): a recommendation from Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: “a thought-provoking read that offers engaging characters and suspense…” Read a Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009) ARC Giveaway from author Cindy Pon. Peek: “please respond in the comment section with your favorite Chinese dish!” Deadline Jan. 12. See details.

Tips on Starting a Book Club by Little Willow from SparkNotes. Peek: “Before your first meeting think about what kind of questions can get the conversation going and keep it going.”

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Awards! The awards are given by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Source: Jewish Books for Children with Author Barbara Bietz. Note: watch Cynsations for more on the Sydney Taylor Awards!

Blockbuster or Bust: Why struggling publishers will keep placing outrageous bids on new books by Anita Elbers from the Wall Street Journal. Peek: “When a publisher spends an inordinate amount on an acquisition, it will do everything in its power to make that project a market success. Most importantly, this means supporting the book with higher-than-average marketing, advertising and distribution support…” Source: April Henry.

Where The Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little Brown, June 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: “graceful and profound.” Read a Cynsations interview with Grace.

On Getting Published by Justine Larbalestier. Peek: “They seem to not hear the part about spending twenty years trying to get into print. Twenty years, people!” Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

What Inspires Your Writing? from Little Willow at Slayground. Peek: “I asked authors to name books they recently read and enjoyed as well as their favorite classic and contemporary authors. ‘Tell me whose books you devoured as a kid,’ I said, ‘or whose novels you collect now as an adult.’ I also asked each author whose writing career he or she would most like to emulate.” Check out answers from Kelly Parra, Linda Joy Singleton, Jo Knowles, Micol Ostow, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and more!

Early Bird ARC Giveaway from the Class of 2k9. Peek: “We’re giving away five great ARCs to one lucky person.” Featured titles are: Freaked by J.T. Dutton (Harper)(signed); Jane In Bloom by Deborah Lytton (Dutton)(signed); When The Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton (Philomel)(signed); Heart Of A Shepherd by Rosanne Parry (Random House); and Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Marshall Cavendish). Deadline: Jan. 24.

Smithsonian Notable Books for Children 2008 by Kathleen Burke of Highlights include The White Nights of Ramadan by Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon (Boyds Mills); That Book Woman by Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small (Atheneum); Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen (Ten Speed/Tricycle), and A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Scholastic). Source: Chicken Spaghetti.

Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Acceptance by Sherman Alexie from The Horn Book. Peek: “What I learned from my experience is that pretty much every teenager out there, regardless of class or race or culture or geography, feels pretty dang isolated and pretty dang misunderstood. And more than anything they feel this pressure — by their tribe, whatever their ‘tribe’ is, by their class, by their families — to be a certain something.” See the 2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature. Source: Wild Rose Reader.

Boys Reading About Girls by Donna Bowman Bratton at Simply Donna. Peek: “I’ve spent a great deal of time as a library volunteer and substitute librarian at my son’s school. Boys love nonfiction. There’s no dispute about that. But, I regularly see boys older than E choosing female-centered books like Judy Moody along with a book about NASCAR.” Note: Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) has a female protagonist (and my Gothics are all arguably feminist), but I do get regular reader male from YA boys. The gender difference in the correspondence is generally related to length and directness. Girls tend to write longer, more personal letters. Boys tend to get right to the point. My favorite: “When is the sequel coming out? What is taking you so long? What are you doing with your time?”

Home Schooling Grows in Popularity by Janice Lloyd of USA Today. Peek: “The number of home-schooled kids hit 1.5 million in 2007, up 74% from when the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics started keeping track in 1999, and up 36% since 2003. The percentage of the school-age population that was home-schooled increased from 2.2% in 2003 to 2.9% in 2007.” Source: Public Education Network.

Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill (Greenwillow, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: “warm, funny, and full of grace.”

Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young(Little Brown 2008): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: “an altogether lovely and elegant picture book.” Read a Cynsations interview with Ed Young.

Attention Teachers and Librarians: subscribe to Fran Cannon Slayton’s monthly Children’s Book Newsletter to win 30 advance copies of When the Whistle Blows (Philomel, June 2009) for your school or classroom! Drawing to be held Dec. 15, 2009.

Reader’s Choice Best YAs of 2008: chime in with your favorites at the YA Authors Cafe.

The Children’s Book Council 2009 Teen Book Awards from Peek: “In association with the Children’s Book Council (CBC), is giving you a very special opportunity to let your voices be heard by telling us your five favorite books of 2008. The five titles that receive the most ‘votes’ will serve as the finalists for the CBC’s 2009 Teen Choice Book Award.” Note: there’s still time to nominate more of 2008’s best books. Source: professornana.

You are cordially invited to attend…a Royal Tiara Auction to benefit “essential teen programs” at the New York Public Library. Until Jan. 31, tiaras decorated by such celebrities as R. L. Stine, Chris Van Allsburg, Judy Blume, Marc Brown, Meg Cabot, and Sarah Dessen (as well as various famous designers, actors, royals, media outlets, etc.) will be available for bidding in celebration of Meg Cabot’s Forever Princess (HarperCollins). Note: definitely check out the tiaras, consider making a bid, and share the link–it’s a great cause! Source: Cynthia Lord.

See below for a book trailer celebrating Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (Delacore, 2009), which Publishers Weekly calls, “An intimate and absorbing drama.”

Online Classes

Writing Children’s Nonfiction Books for the Educational Market from Laura Purdie Salas. Peek: “…you will learn about the educational market and how it differs from the trade market. You will learn how to put together an introductory packet to send to publishers. We’ll work on the various components of that packet so that by the end of the month, you have packets ready to pop in the mail.” Class runs from Jan. 26 to March 20. See details.

Matchmaking Your Manuscript: from Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard. Peek: Do you have a children’s book manuscript ready to submit? Are you feeling overwhelmed? The children’s book universe can appear impenetrable to unpublished writers. This six-week online course will give you the knowledge and confidence to create a submission plan for your manuscript (and your future manuscripts). Laura and Lisa will guide you step-by-step through the submissions process and show you how to improve your chances of publication. Includes a critique of your cover letter or query letter.

More Personally

Amazing, surprising news! I heard this week from my genius editor that Eternal (Candlewick, Feb. 10, 2009) is going into a second printing. A huge thanks to y’all for your continued support!

It also was an honor to see Eternal included in “My Favorites of 2008” from Karin’s Book Nook. If you’re a fantasy fan, take a look at her great list!

If you want me to see a post related to Eternal, please email me with the link. (I do not do Google Alerts as I’ve observed that they lead to insanity). Thank you!

I’m off to the Vermont College of Fine Arts winter residency and don’t expect to be back in the saddle, work-wise, in Austin until Jan. 26. I will do my best to check email while I’m in Vermont; however, if you could hold off on non-critical messages until I return, that would be helpful.

Business Notes

The giveaway of Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Holt, 2008) went to John in Texas! Read a Cynsations interview with Elise. Note: giveaways will resume when I return, beginning with one featuring the ARC for Eternal (Candlewick, Feb. 10, 2009).

From link submissions, I could tell this week that many authors included “promote my website” among their new year’s resolutions. See information on submitting an official author/illustrator site for consideration.

Reminder: Submitting a children’s/YA book to Cynsations? Please don’t write a “pitch” letter (per the instructions on my site) as I can’t respond individually to thousands of these a year. Instead, see the submissions guidelines to decide whether your book is a fit. Likewise, please don’t send requests to confirm receipt or notes to update me on the progress of your book. Thanks, and good luck!

Austin Area Events (Cyn and Friends)

Writing For The Mass Markets: My Publishing Boot Camp With Jennifer Ziegler at 11 a.m. Jan. 10 at BookPeople, sponsored by Austin SCBWI. “Discover what you can learn from writing for the mass markets. How does it differ from writing trade novels? Can it help or hurt your career? Will it improve your craft? Will it help you make valuable connections? Most importantly, will your literary friends and associates still want to hang out with you? Jennifer Ziegler, an Austin-based author and former English teacher, has been writing teen novels for twelve years – many of them for mass market YA series. One of them, Alias: Recruited (Bantam, 2002), made the New York Times’ Bestseller List for children’s chapter books. Her trade novels include How Not to be Popular (Delacorte, 20089)(author interview), and Alpha Dog (Delacorte, 2006)(author interview) which was a finalist for the 2007 Teddy Award.” Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will be speaking on “First Drafts” at the February monthly meeting of the Writers’ League of Texas at 7:30 Feb. 19 at the League office in Austin (611 S. Congress Avenue).

Cynthia will visit the YA book club at the Cedar Park (Texas) Public Library at 11 a.m. May 30.

More of Cyn’s Events

Due to a technical difficulty, Cynthia’s discussion of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and related forthcoming books on the teen grid of Teen Second at Second Life has been rescheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 24. See more information.

Cynthia will be speaking on “Writing and Illustrating Native American Children’s Literature” (with S. D. Nelson) and “Monsters and Magic: Writing Gothic Fantasy Novels for Teenagers” on March 15 at the Tucson Festival of Books.


Cynsational Books of 2008 from Cynthia Leitich Smith at Cynsations. See also 10th Anniversary Feature: Cynthia Leitich Smith. Note: in case you missed the original posts. Peek: “It helps that I don’t limit myself to books that I initially thought of as ‘my kind of thing.’ By reading broadly, my tastes and knowledge base have expanded.”

Take a Chance on Art: purchase one or more $5 raffle tickets to enter to win illustrator Don Tate‘s painting “Duke Ellington,” and support the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. Note: it’s especially important this year in light of devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. To learn more, read interviews with TLA librarian Jeanette Larson and illustrator Don Tate.

Fifth Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts will be March 27 to March 29. Featuring: author Kathi Appelt; author Elise Broach; and editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic. Includes: lectures; organized workshops; writing exercises; one-on-one critiques with one of the guest authors; one-on-one critique with guest editor (extra fee); open mike; discussions; room and board. Cost: $450. Registration begins Dec. 1. For more information, contact Sarah Aronson.

Novel Secrets: A Novel Retreat in 3 Acts: “Have you always wanted to write a young adult or middle grade novel for children, but have not carved out the time to get it done? Do you have a draft of a novel written, but are looking for ideas and strategies to revise and strengthen it? Would you like the chance to meet with an editor or an agent to pitch your novel and gain critical feedback about this novel in particular and the fiction market, in general? All of this is possible if you attend…” Features authors Elaine Marie Alphin, Darcy Pattison, editor Jill Santopolo, and agent Stephen Barbara. See more information.