Cynsational News & Giveaways

Jill S. Alexander: official site of the debut author of The Sweetheart of Prosper County (Feiwel and Friends, 2009). Jill hails from Tyler, Texas. Peek: “An interest in novels came late for me in my rural East Texas hometown. With no public library and few books, save one full set of encyclopedias, I learned poetry from church hymnals and storytelling from eccentric relatives.” Read Jill’s LJ.

So You Want to Be an Unlikable Narrator by Alex Flinn at I Plan To Be a Diva Someday… Peek: “I think that a viewpoint character needs to be interesting, as in charismatic, different from the reader, someone the reader would like to watch.” Read a Cynsations interview with Alex.

Answering the question “How do you find the time?” from Lisa Schroeder at Author2Author. Peek: “You have to learn how to get in some writing even when you don’t have a lot of time. If you only have 15 minutes that day, make the most of that 15 minutes.” Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Cynsational Tip: spell out the contents of your blog post in its title. Consider: would you be more likely to click a post titled “Lately…” or one titled, say, “A Response to Agent Michael Stearns on Morality in YA Lit, How and When to Pitch, and More.”

What’s Age Got to Do with It? by Justine Larbalestier. Peek: “It feeds into the myth of genius, of someone just producing great work full blown out of nowhere, without an apprenticeship, without any hard yakka, or learning, or improving. I happen not to believe in genius. I don’t believe art comes out of nowhere.” Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

Congratulations to R.L. LaFevers on the release of Nathaniel Fludd: Beastolologist, The Flight of the Phoenix, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)! From the promotional copy: “Nathaniel Fludd’s life has taken a turn for the worst. With his parents lost at sea, he lands on the doorstep of a distant cousin, the world’s last remaining beastologist. Soon Nate is whisked off on his first expedition, to Arabia, where the world’s only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg. When disaster strikes, Nate quickly finds himself all alone. Will he be able to see the phoenix safely hatched, keep his accidental pet gremlin out of trouble, and rescue his guardian from the Bedouin? If he fails, nothing will stand between the world’s mythical creatures and extinction. Too bad Nate’s not the sort of boy who enjoys adventure . . .yet.”

Marvelous Marketer: Jill Santopolo (Executive Editor, Philomel Books) from Shelli at Market My Words: a children’s book author/marketing consultant rants about how authors can market their books to kids. Peek: “I’m looking for good books for middle grade girl readers. I’d love a contemporary, realistic, commercial series or two that focus on a core group of friends–something that would be today’s equivalent of The Baby-sitters Club [by Ann M. Martin (Scholastic)].” Read a Cynsations interview with Jill.

‘Exquisite Corpse’ An Online Adventure For Kids from National Public Radio. Peek: “Host Guy Raz strolls down to the National Mall, where kid-book authors Jon Scieszka and Kate DiCamillo are introducing The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, an online serial story written by a posse of children’s authors. It premiered Saturday at the National Book Festival.” Source: Brenda Bowen.

Reminder: enter to win the Reading is Fundamental/Super Contest sponsored by Lee A Verday at Lee A. Verday’s Book/Writing Blog. Winner-take-all prize package includes: a signed copy of The Hollow by Jessica Verday (Simon Pulse, September 2009); a “R.U.H2?” T-shirt (R-U-H-Squared?)(Stands for aRe yoU Haunted by the Hollow?); Ruined: A Ghost Story by Paula Morris (Point, 2009); The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central, 2009); The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day (Grand Central, 2009); Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009); and an “I HEART My Guardian Angel” T-shirt (which ties into Eternal)! New followers of Lee’s blog can also enter to win a signed ARC of Darklight by Lesley Livingston (HarperCollins, December 2009)! Deadline: midnight PST Oct. 12. See more information.

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Bonnie Christensen by Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “If I’m writing and illustrating, I always complete the manuscript first, then step back and change hats. Ideally, I can let the manuscript ferment for a while before tackling it from the illustrator perspective.”

Why Boys Aren’t Reading by P.J. Hoover from Roots in Myth. Peek: “…this past week it dawned on me—why is it always a mother-daughter book club? What about the boys?” Read a Cynsations interview with P.J.

Writing Through Family Challenges by Kristi Holl at Writer’s First Aid. Peek: “I don’t know what challenges you are personally facing, either in your own family and marriage and health or with someone else’s. But I encourage you to do whatever is necessary so that it doesn’t overtake your writing life.”

Heidi R. Kling: new official site of the debut author of Sea (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, June 2010). Peek: “I applied for a spot in the MFA Writing for Children program at the New School. My imagination leapt, picturing myself hanging out in hip, Greenwich Village coffee shops with edgy, beret-wearing writers. Turns out my imagination wasn’t that far off—though beret-sightings were few and far between—I did find the perfect setting to practice my voice and learn more about the genre of writing that seemed innate to me: writing for teens and young adults.”

What Do Literary Agents Do? by Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. Peek: “An agent will carefully select the best editors to consider a particular project, but at the end of the day an agent never quite knows who is going to respond the strongest to a particularly project.” See also Nathan on Submitting to Editors Without An Agent and Queries from Previously Published Authors. Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Banned Books Week Q&A: Maureen Johnson from Emily at the BookKids Blog. Peek: “So mostly, you’re left wondering why these crazy people have singled out your book. It seems like the process is always pretty random: Your book happens to be around. Your book ends up in a class. Your book gets passed along by a friend. There are a lot of potential book banners out there. Sometimes, you fall into their sights.”

The September Carnival of Children’s Literature from Susan Taylor Brown. Peek: “We have a little bit of something for everyone this fine carnival day.” Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.

The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Greg Couch (Knopf, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: “…describes Farnsworth’s modest upbringing in Utah and his flash of inspiration while plowing a potato field when he was 14 (which he subsequently described to his science teacher) that led to his development of the first working ‘image dissector’ at age 21.”

In the Authors’ Tent: Sara Zarr from Melodye Shore at Front Pages. Peek: “I did grow up in a church community and always wanted to write a character in that soil in a way that wasn’t an alarmist story about cults or clergy-abuse (though there have been some good ones dealing with those things), but just an everyday kind of life in which church is part of the tapestry along with school and home.” Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Being Stubborn by Brian Yansky from Brian’s Blog: Random Thoughts on the Art and Craft of Fiction Writing. Peek: “Contrary to movie and TV show notions of reality, most people do not have a dream that fills their life. They have desires. Every single one of us has those and we have them all the time. But the big dream is rare. If you have it, you will not be understood by most people.” Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

The Storyteller’s Inkpot from five award-winning authors, all professors at Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Contributors: Anne Ursu; Mary Logue; Ron Koertge; Marsha Wilson Chall; and Marsha Qualey. Read Cynsations interviews with Ron and Marsha.

Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel by by K.A. Holt (Random House 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: “…a clever and fun middle grade adventure, both funny and action-packed. Altogether, an excellent debut novel.” See K.A.’s Holt’s Online Disaster.

“The Vampire’s Assistant” Giveaway from the Compulsive Reader. Peek: “‘The Vampire’s Assistant’ is a cool new movie releasing late this month, based on the books by Darren Shan, and I am hosting a giveaway for some cool swag!” Deadline: Oct. 23. Read a Cynsations interview with Darren.

It’s Self-Promotion Month! at Three Silly Chicks. Note: “Is there something you’d like to promote today? A new book, blog, website or hairstyle? If so, say it loud and say it proud, Peeps! We’d love to hear about it!”

Call for Submissions from literary agent Sara Crowe at Crowe’s Nest. Note: Sara is back from maternity leave and calling for queries from prospective clients. She talks about her YA literature tastes, initial representation queries from now clients, and what about those letters/manuscripts appealed her. Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Authors on Twitter from Blogging YA. See also Children’s Picture Book Authors & Illustrators on Twitter from Tara Lazar at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). Note: find me at

Giveaway of S Is For Story by Esther Hershenhorn, illustrated by Zachary Pullen (Sleeping Bear, 2009) from Esther Hershenhorn at Teaching Authors: Six Children’s Authors Who Also Teach Writing. Peek: “All you need do is (1) read and consider the twenty-six A-to-Z words I selected to best represent a writer’s life and process (listed below), then (2) submit via the comment form at the end of this post, using twenty-five words or less, the lettered entry you would have included and let us know why.” Deadline: midnight Oct. 12. See details.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick: An Interview from Pat Esden. Peek: “It’s a darkly romantic story about a girl who falls for a fallen angel with a dark agenda to become human. It’s being labeled as a paranormal romance, but it has a strong psychological suspense element.”

Mapping Banned Books in the U.S. from Jason Boog from GalleyCat. Peek: “This map is drawn from cases documented by the ALA and the Kids’ Right to Read Project, a collaboration of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.”

2009 Nominations are now open for the Cybils 2009: Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. Peek: “All kids books published in English between Oct. 16, 2008 and the close of this year’s nominations are eligible. Nominations close at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 15.” Note: much easier procedure this year! However, please double check the publication date of your nominees, especially if you’re like me and read a lot of ARCs…

Spooky Season/Beyond Reality Giveaway

In celebration of the “Read Beyond Reality” theme of Teen Read Week, which is scheduled for Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, and the spooky season now upon us, I’m offering the biggest, winner-take-all Cynsational giveaway ever, with an emphasis on Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and spectacular read-alikes! You can enter to win: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009); Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors (Walker, 2009); Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse, 2009); How to Be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead by Amy Gray (Candlewick, November 2009); Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (Harcourt, 2009); Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler (Simon Pulse, 2008); and Vamped by Lucienne Diver (Flux, 2009). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type “Read Beyond Reality” in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I’ll contact you if you win).

You will get an extra chance to win for each of the following: (1) you blog about the giveaway and link to my related announcement posts at Cynsations at Blogger, LiveJournal, JacketFlap, MySpace or Spookycyn (send me the URL to your post with your entry); (2) you post the link to your Facebook page or tweet it (find me at Twitter and Facebook and CC me on those systems so I can take a look); (3) you are a YA teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (indicate school/library with your entry); (4) you are a book blogger (teen or grown-up)(include the URL to your blog with your entry message). Deadline: midnight CST Oct. 30. Good luck and stay spooky!

Cynsational Winners

The winner of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009), signed by contributors Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, is Sara in Illinois. The winners of Not Like You by Deborah Davis (Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, 2009) are Brittany from Hall Memorial Library in New Hampshire, Lisa in Florida, Sandra in Texas, and Tashia in Michigan. The winner of Cromwell Dixon’s Sky-Cycle by John Abbott Nez (Putnam, 2009) is Joseph in Arizona.

Liz Garton Scanlon Book Launch

Author Liz Garton Scanlon–along with a standing-room-only crowd of cheering fans–celebrated the release of her picture book, All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/S&S), with storytime and signing on Sept. 26 at BookPeople.

Here’s a peek at the festivities!

Liz signs for fellow Austin writer Erin Edwards, as the line flows all the way back around the screen and beyond. For her presentation, Liz asked that younger children gather in the front on the floor so that she could read to them directly while Marla’s illustrations were simultaneously beamed onto the screen so the large group of grown-ups could follow along.

Austin SCBWI founder Meredith Davis smiles with author/educator Debbie Gonzales. See Debbie’s report on the festivities at Simple Saturdays. Read a Cynsations interview with Debbie.

Author Polly Robertus models All the World!

And so does author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell, standing with author Chris Barton. Congratulations to Chris on last week’s sale of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, “the story of a man who in ten years went from teenage field slave to Reconstruction-era Congressman” to Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Read Cynsations interviews with Mark and Chris.

Fellow author Jessica Lee Anderson popped in for the event from this weekend’s Pecan Street Festival. Note: Jessica (Border Crossings (Milkweed, 2009)) and P.J. Hoover (The Forgotten Worlds Book 2: The Navel of the World (CBAY, 2009)) will co-host a joint book release party at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 at BookPeople. Read Cynsations interviews with Jessica and P.J.

Don’t miss the All the World book trailer below.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: “This gem of a picture book follows a family through a summer day, highlighting in rhyming groups of four the interrelatedness of small and large things.”

More Personally

Congratulations to fellow Austinite Megan Prescott on the release of Squirrel and Oak: A Story of Hope, illustrated by Megan Prescott and Cheryl Wawrzynowicz (Halo, 2009)! This rhyming, self-help picture book focuses on grief/healing. Peek: “The story was inspired by the author’s real life experience of losing her mother and brother within a month of each other when she was 19 years old.” Learn more.

Welcome to the incoming attendees of VCFA Day in the Lone Star State! And a special cheer to fellow incoming faculty members, Kathi Appelt, Sharon Darrow, and Uma Krishnaswami as well as to event coordinator Debbie Gonzales!

Cynsational Events

“Beyond Daily Life” readergirlz Chat will feature Cynthia Leitich Smith (Eternal), rgz diva Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), and Lisa McMann (Wake) on Oct. 21. “It all happens at the rgz forum ( beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (7 p.m. Mountain Time, 8 p.m. Central Standard Time, 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).” See the whole readergirlz “Read Beyond Reality” chat schedule for Oct. 19 to Oct. 23. See also more information. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

The Texas Book Festival take place Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in Austin. Featured children’s-YA authors include: Jessica Lee Anderson, Libba Bray, Janie Bynum, Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Keith Graves, Heather Hepler, K.A. Holt, Jacqueline Kelly, Rick Riordan, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Rene Saldana, Jr., Tammi Sauer, Liz Garton Scanlon, Anita Silvey, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Samantha R. Vamos, Rosemary Wells, Kathy Whitehead, Mo Willems, and Sara Zarr. See the whole list! Note: I’ll be speaking on a panel “Deals with the Devil: Writing about Faustian Bargains” with Daniel and Dina Nayeri from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Texas State Capitol Building, signing to immediately follow.

SCBWI-Illinois’ Fifth Annual Prairie Writer’s Day: Brick by Brick: The Architecture of Our Stories will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. Speakers include: Stacy Cantor, associate editor at Walker; Nick Eliopulos, associate editor at Random House; T.S. Ferguson, assistant editor at Little, Brown; Yolanda LeRoy, editorial director at Charlesbridge; Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author and Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member; and Michael Stearns, agent and co-founder of Upstart Crow Literary. Read Cynsations interviews with Yolanda and Michael. Note: Michael has recently changed literary agencies; you can now find him at Upstart Crow Literary.

Destination Publication: An Awesome Austin Conference for Writers and Illustrators is scheduled for Jan. 30 and sponsored by Austin SCBWI. Keynote speakers are Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and Caldecott Honor author-illustrator Marla Frazee, who will also offer an illustrator breakout and portfolio reviews. Presentations and critiques will be offered by editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, author-editor Lisa Graff of FSG, agent Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Literary, agent Mark McVeigh of The McVeigh Agency, and agent Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Advanced critique break-out sessions will be led by editor Stacy Cantor of Bloomsbury. In addition, Cheryl and author Sara Lewis Holmes will speak on the editor-and-author relationship, and Marla and author Liz Garton Scanlon will speak on the illustrator-and-author relationship. Note: Sara and Liz also will be offering manuscript critiques. Illustrator Patrice Barton will offer portfolio reviews. Additional authors on the speaker-and-critique faculty include Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Jacqueline Kelly, Philip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler. See registration form, information packet, and conference schedule (all PDF files)!

2010 Houston-SCBWI Conference will be held on Feb. 20, 2010 at the Merrell Center in Katy. Registration is now open. Faculty includes Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author and Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member; Ruta Rimas, assistant editor at Balzar & Bray/HarperCollins; Patrick Collins, creative director at Henry Holt; Alexandra Cooper, senior editor at Simon & Schuster; Lisa Ann Sandell, senior editor at Scholastic; and Sara Crowe, agent at Harvey Klinger. Note: “All the speakers will be doing critiques. Critique spots are limited.” See registration and information. Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.