Craft, Career & Cheer: Cecil Castellucci

Learn about Cecil Castellucci.

Could you describe the best experience you’ve had working with an editor?

I have been really blessed by working with some incredible editors, Shelly Bond, Deborah Wayshak, and David Levithan among them.

But I have a special place in my heart for Kara LaReau with whom I did my first three novels with (Boy Proof (2005), The Queen of Cool (2006), and Beige (2007), all Candlewick Press).

She is fun, talented and savvy. She knows how to edit with gentleness and fierceness that makes me feel safe enough to leap and take chances as an author.

Working with her was like drinking champagne all the time. She is generous with her heart, her editorial eye and has a great sense of humor (she is now doing freelance editing).

How do you psyche yourself up to write and to keep writing?

Bon bons and hot baths.

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

On the porch with sunlight and a coffee. I am like a spring flower.

So far, what’s the most fun you’ve ever had working on a book? Why?

I loved working on my graphic novel The Plain Janes with illustrator Jim Rugg (Minx, 2007). It was fun to collaborate on a project with someone who cared just as much about the characters and what was happening to them as I did.

Jim is incredibly talented and the drawings that he did of the Janes made it easy for me to write for them. When you’re working on a graphic novel, the images of the characters are important. So much is conveyed through the art.

I found that once I got the thumbnails for Jim’s art, I would then go back and revise my text so that I could add a layer rather than have the text say exactly the same as the image.

Sometimes Jim would change the pacing of what I wrote, say, by adding a few panels or by compressing something I had said in a few panels into one panel.

It was helpful to have a “swim buddy” who was interested in telling the story in the best way possible. I likened working with Jim to jamming with a jazz band. I hope to do another project with him in the future.

How do you define artistic success?

Getting to keep doing it. Stretching and growing in the craft. Writing things outside of what is comfortable. Singing in a new voice. Getting to work with excellent people. Doing new projects that are exciting.

How do you reach out to teachers and librarians? How do you approach the task of connecting your books to young readers?

Los Angeles has an amazing writing and literary community. There are three amazing indiebound bookstores–Skylight Books, Vroman’s Bookstore and Book Soup–that host excellent readings.

We’re also the home to the SCBWI main offices, and there is the annual (summer) conference here.

Some YA authors here have banded together in support, we call ourselves the LA YAs. One thing that I have been trying to do is to promote YA literature as a whole.

For example, I started a YA book club at my fave indie bookstore Skylight Books. It’s called “Pardon My Youth.” We meet at the bookstore the third Sunday of every month. Every month a different Los Angeles YA author leads the discussion.

We’ve had Ben Esch discuss I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak (Knopf), Lisa Yee discuss What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic, 2008), and Kerry Madden discuss Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (Simon & Schuster, 1996). We have YA librarians, aspiring writers, teachers and even some teens who have been coming.

I also am throwing a YA Mix and Mingle Pizza Party at Vroman’s Bookstore with the LA YAs. I feel that by promoting YA as a whole it helps to connect my books to readers, teachers, and librarians.

How have you come to thrive in such a competitive, unpredictable industry?

I drink a lot of water.

In your own words, could you tell us about your latest book?

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, co-edited by Holly Black (Little, Brown, 2009) is an anthology of short stories about geeks and the geek observed with some of the most geeky YA authors today contributing stories. M.T. Anderson, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Wendy Mass, Lisa Yee, Sara Zarr, David Levithan, Tracy Lynn to name a very few.

This year, for me, is all short stories, all genre. Amongst them, my first non-YA stories:

Baby in The Basket” (Strange Horizons, 2009);

“The Bread Basket,” which will appear Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2009);

“Wet Teeth,” which will appear in Eternal Kiss: 12 Vampire Tales of Love and Desire, edited by by Trisha Telep (Running Press, 2009);

“The Long and the Short of Long Term Memory,” which will appear in Interfictions 2, edited by Delia Sherman and Chris Barzak (Small Beer Press, 2009).

My next YA novel is Rose Sees Red (Scholastic, 2010), and I also look forward to the release of a picture book, Grandma’s Gloves (Candlewick 2010).

And of course I have a million other things in the hopper that I’m excited about.

[In the video below, Cecil talks about Beige.]

Cynsational Notes

Read a previous Cynsations interview with Cecil.

Enter to win a contributor-signed copy of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009) from Cynsations! My short story, “The Wrath of Dawn,” co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, is included in the collection, and we are happy to sign and personalize the book, if the winner so desires.

To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type “Geektastic” in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Sept. 30.

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children’s-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.