Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to Win an Eternal T-shirt this month at! Check out the available styles. Read a Cynsations interview with logo designer Gene Brenek. See the five-star review of Eternal from TeensReadToo. Peek: “This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is filled with danger, deception, humor, love, sadness, and hope.”

Win a Copy of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, sponsored by Brooke Taylor. Leave a comment at Brooke’s LJ to enter. Blog about the contest, and send Brooke the link (in comments) for extra chances to win. Deadline: April 22. Peek:

“Acclaimed authors Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best-selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

“With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you’re a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on.” Read Cynsations interviews with Holly and Cecil.

More News

Author Tammi Sauer (above) shows off Cowboy Camp, illustrated by Mike Reed (Sterling, 2005), with a few of the 1,500 preschool cowpokes who celebrated Read Across Oklahoma at the OKC Zoo on April 7. Tammi writes: “I feel so blessed to have been part of such an amazing event. The Read Across Oklahoma Committee, the sponsors, and countless volunteers put tons of time, energy, and heart into creating a memorable day for lots and lots of little buckaroos. One word captures the feeling behind it all: Yeehaw!” See Pre-schoolers Descend on Zoo from the Edmond Sun.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #110: Featuring Jason Stemple and Jane Yolen from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “A book with photos has to be overshot, needing many more photos than just the ones he already has. But, of course, unlike posed pictures, he has to get what he finds. Still, as Pasteur said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.'” Read a Cynsations interview with Jane.

Three Tips for a Successful Book Fair from 100 Scope Notes. Peek: “Book fairs come with plenty of things that are definitely not books. Software, games, pencils with all manner of fluffy and/or furry tops–there’s a lot of stuff to sort through. If you don’t like the idea of selling those items, stick to your guns.”

Children’s Books Bookshelf from The New York Times Book Review highlights debut author Kekla Magoon. Peek: “Magoon’s first novel shows movingly how the two sons of a civil rights leader come to bear the cost of the struggle.”

Your Approximately Perfect Writing Life by Kristi Holl from Writers First Aid. Peek: “What’s important to you? What would spell success for you in the writing life? Have you written down your goals? Look at each one closely. Are they truly your goals and desires?”

Interview – Elizabeth C. Bunce by P.J. Hoover at the Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: “…as occasionally maddening a job as this is, it’s still just about the coolest gig out there. And you’ll go crazy if you don’t stop and remember that every once in a while.” Read a Cynsations interview with P.J.

Donna Bray, co-Publisher at Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, on Title Changes from Agent Kristin at Pub Rants. Peek: “I have in the past stood up for a title that sales was unsure of–some felt, for instance, that We Are The Ship by Kadir Nelson was not obvious enough, even with the subtitle ‘The Story of Negro League Baseball.’ Every day, editors and publishers do support the vision and instincts of the creative people we work with–-and we bump up regularly against the demands of the marketplace, which presents more and greater challenges daily.”

Marvelous Marketer – Ruta Rimas (Assistant Editor, Balzer + Bray) by Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children’s Book Author. Peek: “I certainly Google prospective authors, more so for a complete picture of the person than for knowing if they have a web presence or platform (note: authors, take down any embarrassing pictures of yourself that you do not want editors/agents/readers to see).”

Book Launch: The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen from Janet S. Fox at Through the Wardrobe. Peek: “I think one reason it took me such a long time, especially in the beginning, is that I was terrified of actually finally trying to write a novel. I kept expecting someone to come and stop me. And I often put it aside to work on other projects, or to figure out back-story, or various other things.” See also Greg’s recommendation of the novel. Peek: “…an exciting adventure and a great read, filled with treachery and mayhem, and with engaging and likeable characters.” Read Cynsations interviews with Michelle and Janet.

Articles on Self-Publishing: The Need for Balance by Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware. Peek: “These hard facts are way less sexy than the vision of a brave new technological world that makes it possible for (a few) authors to bypass the traditional route to success–but they are no less real.” Source: Janni Lee Simner.

Get Ready- For A Literary Agent from Tami Lewis Brown at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “The time to find a literary agent is when you are ready. That sounds so simple. It seems to go without saying. But nearly every failed agent/client relationship can be traced to that simple cause–the writer wasn’t ready to sign with an agent. Any agent.” See also The Myth of Querying Widely, Going on an Agent Hunt, and More Questions for Your Agent to Be or Not To Be.

Art for Art’s Sake… Is Fine if You Don’t Want to Be Paid from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “…you shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone who is doing something brilliantly unless you understand all the things they are doing brilliantly in it. Not sure you do?”

Interview with Deborah Taylor, Chair of ALA’s Coretta Scott King Committee from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “Dr. King’s vision included a path that acknowledged the work that needed to be done for getting there. We are on that path. The purpose of the award is to highlight the contributions of African Americans in literature for young people. This broadens the landscape for all readers to read and appreciate the works of these talented artists.” Read a Cynsations interview with the founders of the Brown Bookshelf.

Interview with Alisa Libby from Becky’s Book Reviews. Peek: “Catherine was a teenager and hadn’t been a member of the court for a year before she was wed to the powerful King Henry. But in spite of her naivety, she must have known that the king had already beheaded one of his former wives, Anne Boleyn, on charges of adultery—and Anne was Catherine’s cousin. You would think that, knowing this, she would have been on her best behavior, regardless of her past indiscretions.”

On writing verse novels by Lisa Schroeder at Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “I sat down to write, and what came out was sparse, poetic language. I had written three mid-grade novels prior to this one, and half of a young adult novel, all of them in prose. This verse stuff was all new territory.” Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

On Passive Writing by Dorothy Winsor from Kidlit Central News. Peek: “…you have to differentiate between passive voice, emphasis on action, and the delights of characters who shape situations rather than just respond to them.”

An open letter to…people from Kidliterate because reading Children’s Books Never Gets Old. Peek: “If you’re not ashamed to admit you’re watching ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ why should you be embarrassed to be seen reading The Dark Is Rising?” Source: Confessions of a Bibliovore.

Interview with Susane Colasanti from Katie’s Book Blog. Peek: “In high school, it felt like I was always waiting for something to happen. I was waiting for a boy to fall in love with me, waiting for my real life to start, waiting for the bad times to finally come to an end. So I knew that I wanted to incorporate the sensation of endless waiting into my book.”

Confess Your Biggest Screw Up! from K.L. Going. Win a $100 gift certificate to your local independent bookstore, Borders, or Barnes & Noble, plus a complete set of autographed K.L. Going YA books. Three runners-up will receive an autographed copy of King of the Screwups. Contest runs: April 1 to June 30 2009. Peek: “It’s easy–we all make mistakes, sometimes big ones, sometimes small ones, sometimes hilarious ones (at least they’re funny after the fact).” Send K.L. one paragraph or more describing your most heinous screw up. If she laughs hysterically or cries in sympathy, you just might be a winner! The time has come to spill your guts, so start typing.” Read the first three chapters of K.L.’s new release, King of the Screw-ups Houghton Mifflin, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with K.L. Going.

Why Keep Blogging from Becky’s Book Reviews. Peek: “So essentially, if you want to grow your blog, you’ve got to put some thought into it. Think about what your readers would like to see, hope to see.”

What Josh Whedon Taught Me About Storytelling by Christine at Release the Magic. Peek: “Whedon gives us characters with whom we identify and grow to love deeply. Complex characters who don’t have a clear line of good and evil. Real people. His characters become real. Where else can a character introduced in Season 2 as the current ‘big bad’ come back season after season, becoming a love interest and ultimately saving the world?”

Check out this trailer for The ABCs of Writing for Children by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.

There’s Good News, and There’s Good News. Which Do You Want First? from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “So You’ve Gotten a Bad Review. The Good News Is: Nobody cares. No, really. You’re the only one.”

Bonnie Adamson Illustration: the official site for the children’s book illustrator. Bonnie’s books include the four books of the “I Wish” series of bilingual picture books from Raven Tree Press: I Wish I Had Freckles Like Abby; I Wish I Had Glasses Like Rosa; I Wish I Was Strong Like Manuel; and I Wish I Was Tall Like Willie. Also featured: the three books of the Travels with Anna series, also from Raven Tree, and one title from Magination Press: Feeling Better: A Kid’s Book About Therapy.

How can I become a children’s book editor? from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “People who are a good fit for the job have been reading a lot of children’s books (and a lot of different kinds of children’s books), and have a lot to say about them.”

Susan Patron: new official site from the Newbery-winning author. Peek: “I remember the exact moment when I decided I wanted to become a writer. Our fourth grade teacher had just finished reading Charlotte’s Web aloud to the class. I was leaning my head on my arms, and by peeking to the side I could see that a lot of other people had their heads down, too. It is a very private and personal moment, when you hear about Charlotte’s death; I didn’t want anyone to see my face.” Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.

Pics [and Report] from TLA from YA author Varian Johnson. Highlighted authors include Sara Zarr, Chris Barton, and Wendy Lichtman. Read Cynsations interviews with Varian and Sara.

The Literal, Tedious Novel Draft from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: “A former student wrote to me saying she’s bogged down in an early novel draft, can’t seem to get past the middle, goes back to read what she’s written and it feels clunky and awkward. The more she tries to push ahead, the weaker the writing gets.” Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

Hardcover Deep Discount Clause (and part two) from David Lubar. Peek: “This works out to 17 cents a book. Which means that a ton of books were sold at an even deeper discount than 50%. (In the interest of full disclosure, the hardcover earned a bit more than twice that.)” Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Sources for Grant Money to Finance Author Visits from Jennifer Ward. Note: author-speakers are encouraged to feature this link. Event planners may want to bookmark it.

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (HarperTeen, 2009): a recommendation from Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: “Part action-adventure, part romance, Wondrous Strange is a thrilling, fun ride into a world of intrigue and dangerous bargains and where Celtic mythology (and Shakespeare’s take on it) might be all too real.”

Everyday Poetry: Audiovisual Poetry by Sylvia Vardell (Book Links, March 2009). Peek: “Would you like to introduce kids to the poets themselves? On YouTube you’ll find speeches and readings by and interviews with Billy Collins, Pat Mora, Nikki Grimes, Naomi Shihab Nye, and an American Idol–style introduction of J. Patrick Lewis.” Read a Cynsations interview with Sylvia.

Here’s “For Mohammed Zeid, of Gaza, age 15” from Naomi:

and the introduction of J. Patrick:

Critique/Mentor Services

Lesléa Newman Critique Service. Lesléa is the author of 55 books for adults and children, including the YA novel Jailbait (Delacorte, 2005), the middle grade novels Hachiko Waits (Henry Holt, 2004) and Fat Chance (Putnam, 1996), and many picture books including The Boy Who Cried Fabulous (Trycle, 2004), A Fire Engine for Ruthie (Clarion, 2004), Skunk’s Spring Surprise (Harcourt, 2006), and Heather Has Two Mommies (1990). She has made her living as a full-time writer since 1988. Her literary awards include creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, a Parents’ Choice Silver Medal, a Children’s Crown Honor, the Alabama Children’s Choice Award, a James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, and a ASPCA Henry Bergh Honor. Currently she is the Poet Laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Lesléa has taught creative writing for over twenty years and has mentored hundreds of students. Most recently she was on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine and a guest faculty member at Lesley University’s Writing for Young People MFA program. She has led many writing workshops and retreats for SCBWI and Rowe Conference Center.

Lesléa says: “As your mentor, I will mark up your manuscript in purple ink and write you a long editorial letter. I look at the big picture (themes, plot, character development) and the small picture (is this the best word choice?). I am always available for email correspondence and pre-arranged phone meetings. And if your manuscript is ready, I am happy to advise you on how to get it published.” Lesléa’s fees vary, depending on the project. She usually charges $100 to critique a picture book and $2,000 to critique a 250-page novel. Fees are negotiable, depending on needs, the time she thinks it will take to critique your work, etc. Please visit: or write

Reminder: Bluebird Works Creative Consulting: author-editor Kara LaReau (formerly of Candlewick and Scholastic) offers a variety of creative services to authors, agents, and publishers. Peek: “Throughout my career, I’ve been dedicated to providing artists with the attention they and their books deserve. While I’m always honored and delighted to work with established artists, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to nurture and champion burgeoning talent. I enjoy collaborating with artists who are passionate about their work and about writing in general, who understand and appreciate the role of revision in the bookmaking process, and who possess an open mind, a good sense of humor, and a willingness to take risks.”

More Personally

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on the release of the Korean edition of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (DongSanSa, 2008)! Note: We just received the author copies. I love this cover. It really conveys the idea of three alternating narrators and the comedic feel of the story. It’s also been suggested that Shohei looks like Greg and Elias looks like either Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Harry Potter.

Congratulations to Rebecca (green-and-white striped shirt) on her admission to The New School‘s MFA program! We’ll miss you! Note: here, Rebecca stands between authors Debbie Gonzales and Thomas Pendleton AKA Dallas Reed. Author Anne Bustard is to the right. This photo was taken last fall at my Halloween party.

Congratulations to Sean Petrie (shown with his girlfriend Sara) on your admission to the joint MFA program in Writing and in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts! This photo was taken at a recent Austin Youth Lit Meet-Up at Waterloo Ice House North.

Even More Personally

I’m honored to report that 2009 nominees (PDF) for YALSA’s Teens Top Ten include Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)! Voting will take place Oct. 18 to Oct. 24. Note: I’ll offer more information about the award program and links to the other nominees in a post to follow.

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a review from Kimberly J. Smith at Cool Kids Read. Peek: “A true page-turner, I can’t imagine any fan of Gothic suspense/romance not thoroughly enjoying this–and not just YA readers either.”

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a recommendation by Teen Reviewer Iulia G., age 17, from Teen Books (and beyond!) blog from the Palatine Public Library. Peek: “Regardless of your religious views, it’s hard not to believe in angels after you read this novel.”

Thanks to Jennifer Holm for letting me know that Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) is now available at SuperTarget. Note: given that I am known to walk into Target for, say, a bath mat and walk out with a full cart, this is especially satisfying. It’s like The Great Circle of Shopping.

As readers of my YA Gothic fantasy series know, my shifters are inspired by the age of giant Ice Age mammals. For fans of Travis, the werearmadillo from Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), here’s an article on the “Giant Armadilo” from the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Thanks also to Sara Shacter for letting me know that Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) is now available in paperback at Jewel grocery stores. Note: I used to shop at Jewel when I lived in Chicago. Perhaps I can see the book when I return for my visit this fall.

Extraordinary Authors from Carmen Oliver. Peek: “They [me and Kathi Appelt] reminisced about the first time the two of them met twelve or thirteen years ago at a writer’s conference, and how that encounter has evolved into a friendship, a sister-like bond.” Note: thanks to all who attended and blogged the event! I’ll feature more links in my next round-up. See my report!

I’m thrilled to say that this week I received final art for Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010), and it’s amazing–loud, funny, colorful, energetic, charming, warm, wow! I can’t wait to share the cover art when it’s available.

Thank you for your ongoing support of my Native-themed children’s titles (Jingle Dancer (2000)(ages 4-up), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001)(ages 10-up), and Indian Shoes (2002)(ages 7-up), all HarperCollins) as well as the Santa Knows DVD production from Scholastic Book Club (ages 4-up) over the past several months! Note: of my Native-themed books, Jingle Dancer continues to be my best seller. I just heard this weekend that it’s going into its 18th printing (the library edition is in its 10th!). Hooray!

Cynsations is going on a brief hiatus. I will resume blogging on April 27. Have a great week!