Cynsational News

Story Secrets: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst from Holly Cupala. Peek: “I wrote this book as a love letter to my husband. It’s about true love… the kind of love where you’d go east of the sun and west of the moon for each other. So this novel is very closed to my heart. It’s also about polar bears, one of the coolest animals ever. No pun intended.”

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Bonnie Doerr by Janet Fox from Through the Wardrobe. Peek: “The Florida Keys! What an exotic, beautiful place to set a story. Hundreds of acres of wildlife refuge surrounded me. The adorable endangered Key deer would be delightful subjects. There was a rich human success story in their survival. Wonderful science behind it. What mystery could surround them? How could teens get involved? Add a little danger, unique characters, a taste of the wild on land and sea.”

The Call (Yes, the call. With the agent!) by Kristina McBride. Peek: “I had spent two years writing three novels, countless hours researching agents to query, double that in time spent on perfecting the query letters, and finally, after everything, I was going to speak to an actual, real-life literary agent sitting in one of those crazy tall buildings in NYC! After freaking out for a few hours, I decided that I needed a plan.”

Before Accepting Agent Representation by Kathleen Temean from Writing and Illustrating: Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children. Peek: “Don’t skip this crucial step because you’re worried that questions will scare him off, or that the offer won’t last. This isn’t a TV promo, it’s a potential business partnership. His offer is on the table, waiting patiently for your consideration and ultimate response.”

Interview with Libby Schmais, author of The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein from the YA Authors Cafe. Peek: “I remember writing the first sentence and immediately liking the character of Lotus. The beginning is pretty straightforward, in the classic first person narrative ‘Call Me Ishmael’ tradition. Lotus starts with: As you may have guessed, my name is Lotus Lowenstein and this is my diary.”

Interview with Nancy Holder by Malinda Lo from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: “It’s just as hard to write a short story as a novel, and harder to write a comic book. The comic book form is incredibly difficult, and I’m humbled by the artistry of my betters (and grateful for my great artists). I used to prefer writing short stories, but I like the sense of continuity and flow that I can get from working on a novel. But really, what I like to do is write. “

Stages of Revision by Natalie Whipple at Between Fact and Fiction. Peek: “The plot is your base—your story relies on this as a firm foundation. If you have weak areas, you risk readers putting down your book. Because of that, my first revisions always revolve around tightening the plot.” Souce: Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent.

Social Networking: What a Children’s Publisher Expects: A Conversation with Donna Spurlock from Charlesbridge Marketing by Harold Underdown from The Purple Crayon Blog. Peek: “”It’s always been the case (even at Charlesbridge) that a few books are your ‘lead books’ and they get the majority of the marketing dollars. Here it’s been more of an even distribution, but when a book starts to pull ahead in sales, or we know going in that a Jerry Pallotta or Mitali Perkins is going to be working overtime to promote the book, we get behind them more financially. Authors need to do the legwork to get to that point. And it’s their personality that’s going to do it.” Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Alisha Niehaus on Editing Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne (Dial, 2010) from Before I forget…musings, ramblings, and ideas to note from author Erin Dionne. Peek: “One thing I always do is approach each draft as a new manuscript—unless I have a specific question, I don’t go back to my previous notes. This way, if one element has been ‘fixed’ by a new one, or if it wasn’t that big of an issue in the first place—or if something still feels unaddressed, I have fresher, more holistic eyes.”

How to Write a Great Query Letter: An Example That Worked by Cheryl Klein, editor at Arthur A. Levine Books from Brooklyn Arden. Peek: “Gbemi [Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich ] has kindly allowed me to reprint her original letter here and annotate it….”

Top 10: Selling Your First Children’s Novel by Jen Nadol from 2010: A Book Odyssey. Peek: “54% of Tenners got an agent with less than 10 queries, but 17% of us queried more than 40 agents before getting an offer. As one of that 17%, I can vouch that persistence (read: stubbornness) pays off…to a point. “

“Rock Bottom” by Kerry Madden from A Good Blog is Hard to Find. Peek: “…that year of writing somebody else’s story and then the grief and distraction of trying to get paid, I realized I was losing my own voice. I had hit rock bottom. I still took care of the kids and lived my life with a very patient and loving husband, but I had let my stories go in the name of money, and what a paltry sum it was. And so I returned to the first few chapters of a children’s novel I’d started called Gentle’s Holler (Viking, 2005), and those Weems’ children saved me.” Read a Cynsations interview with Kerry.

Looking at the Agent Search by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “I didn’t whine publicly about the rejections. You never know who might be reading, so it’s important to keep that frustration under control and always be professional. Have writer friends you can vent to, or set up a special locked LiveJournal account for friends to read only.” Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Key to Marketing Your Book: Time Well Spent by Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. Peek: “Needless to say: unless you were born with more hours in the day than the rest of us, doing everything is not possible.” Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Be Kind to Failure by Tami Lewis Brown from Cynsations. Peek: “Creativity is all about moving into new directions. Taking chances. Being risky. Breaking the rules. And when you break those rules you’re upsetting the applecart, for others and for yourself. You’re grabbing failure by the neck and giving it a good strong shake.”

Children’s/YA Books Set in Haiti: a bibliography compiled by Mitali Perkins from Mitali’s Fire Escape. Peek: “Stories can bring faraway people and places from the screen into our homes and hearts, and keep them there, even through information overload or compassion fatigue.” See 2009 Illustrated Books with African American Characters, also from Mitali. Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

Thematic Book List – Earthquakes by Tricia from The Miss Rumphius Effect. Peek: “The list that follows explains the science behind earthquakes. You’ll find some nonfiction titles, some poetry, and a bit of history, both true and imagined.”

Teaching Professional Development Classes for Teachers by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: “As freelance writers, we often need to look for creative ways to generate income to pay those pesky bills. One solid way for me has been to teach professional development sessions in the summer, continuing education classes for teachers which are required for renewal of their certification.” Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Kidlitosphere Immersion Week: an online class taught by children’s author Anastasia Suen. Peek: “Immerse yourself in the social media world of children’s book authors, illustrators and reviewers and have your social media questions answered in this 5 lesson email workshop. During this week you will explore: blogs, microblogs, book reviews, virtual tours, and your social media plan.” Dates: Feb. 22 to Feb. 26; March 22 to March 26. $19.99.

Myracle Worker by Debra Lau Whelan from School Library Journal. An interview with YA author Lauren Myracle. Peek: “I just like them. So yes, I guess I do hang out with tweens and teens a lot, whether at church, or my kids’ schools, or through contact with the scads and scads of awesome babysitters I’ve lured into my life. I ask them questions, I Facebook them with ‘how do y’all feel about _____’ concerns, and I actively solicit interaction on my blog.”

What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Magaly Morales (Tricycle, 2009) is the thirteenth annual winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. The award is given by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Interview with a Two-Time Newbery Committee Member Vaunda Micheaux Nelson from Spellbinders. Peek: “The secrecy is both necessary and part of the fun. I cannot tell you what went on behind the closed doors during the many hours of sequestered meetings. (Committee members need to feel free to speak frankly, knowing that their comments will not be repeated outside.) I cannot tell you what books were or were not discussed. I cannot tell you specifics about the balloting. It’s all confidential. Forever. But there are some things I can tell you about my year.” Note: Vaunda also is the 2010 winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.

The Writer’s Page: Hot Dog, Katsa! by Kristin Cashore from The Horn Book. Peek: “Writing fantasy happens to be all about limitations. It’s about keeping to the rules; it’s about building a world that’s believable to the reader because it’s both comprehensive and consistent; it’s about assembling a body, a structure, that stands up on its own.”

In Which I Am the Bearer of Very Bad News by Kiersten White from Kiersten Writes. Note: Kiersten is the debut author of Paranormalcy (HarperTeen, 2010). Peek: “Expect submissions to be hard. Expect to be something of an emotional wreck. But expect to succeed. And work toward this success by being smart about things. What should you do while you’re on submission?”

Where Have all the Folktales Gone? by author Bobbi Miller. Peek: “The question sparks this wonderful conversation among writers, editors, agents, and librarians — a gathering of wisdom from those who share the love of the traditional tale — as they explore the following questions: Have we outgrown our need for folktales? Are there contemporary complements? Where do the retold, re-imagined and refurbished folktales fit in a folktale collection? Are they folktales? What is the folklore process anyway?”

Official Jekel Loves Hyde Book Trailer Contest from author Beth Fantaskey. Awesome first-pace prizes include meeting the author! Deadline: March 15.

Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy with authors Laura Ruby and Anne Ursu from May 1 to May 8 from Highlights Foundation. Peek: “The Whole Novel Workshop offers writers the rare opportunity to have the entire draft of a novel read and critiqued prior to the workshop, followed by a week of intense, one-on-one mentoring.”

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Melissa Sweet by Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “Her mixed-media collage illustrations are detailed and exuberant, always visually appealing; her watercolors, luminous. Full of graceful details for young children and picture book aficionados alike, they clearly mark the work of an illustrator with a keen eye — for nature and for children, in particular.”

Sylvan Dell Publishing’s Blog: “…will keep you updated on all that’s happening around the Sylvan Dell offices, from new book releases and awards won to stellar national reviews and exciting technological advances. Come back often to read entries from the Sylvan Dell staff, as well as articles and advice from our authors and illustrators.”

Expert Scoop with Agent Jennifer Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story. Peek: “Ten percent of my clients are ‘people of color.’ Though this isn’t a primary factor in my selection process, I do find myself attracted to stories featuring multicultural characters where race isn’t the issue.”

Screening Room

In the video below, YA author Lisa Schroeder talks about How to Do a Drive-By Book Signing. Short, sweet, and nicely illustrative. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

In the video below, Renee Ting of Shen’s Books talks to Debbi Michiko Florence about what she loved most writing her two non-fiction titles, China and Japan. Read a Cynsations interview with Debbi.

Check out the book trailer for Darklight by Lesley Livingston (HarperTeen, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Lesley.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book trailer for Front Page Face-Off by Jo Whittemore (Aladdin Mix, March 2010). See also Jo on revision.

Check out the book trailers for Hearts at Stake (The Drake Chronicles) by Alyxandra Harvey (Walker, 2009).

Thanks to reader Clandestine Mariane from the Philippines for creating this fan book trailer to celebrate Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010).

More Personally

I’m thrilled to be back at Cynsations after my winter hiatus teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults winter 2010 residency in Montpelier! Note: VCFA is now accepting applications from international students!

While in Vermont, I was honored to learn that I’d been featured as Author of the Month at Fully Booked Bookstores in the Philippines! It was such a thrill to hear from so many new readers because of that great news.

Harley students review ‘Indian Shoes’ by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2002) from the of Rochester, New York. Peek: “Ray convinced the lady to take his shoes, a pair of sneakers with neon orange laces, instead.” Note: includes photo with student art. Learn more about Indian Shoes. Don’t miss the reading group guide and free readers’ theater.

Thanks to D.L. Keur from The Deepening: World of Fiction for featuring Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010).

Even More Personally

Congratulations to all of the ALA award winners, honorees, and list makers! See Austinites put in a solid showing in American Library Association literary awards. Peek: “Nice job, folks. Austin grows by the day as a literary mecca, but our authors really seem to do a bang-up job with kids’ stuff.” Read Cynsations interviews with Jacqueline Kelly, Liz Garton Scanlon, Chris Barton, and beloved expat Libba Bray.

Congratulations to Austin YA author Margo Rabb on the Dec. 30 birth of her son, Leo Stephen. Read a Cynsations interview with Margo.

Congratulations to Austin’s Erin Edwards on the publication of her “Oracle of Love” craft in “Disney Family Fun Magazine.”

Austin Area Events

Congratulations to the incoming Austin SCBWI regional advisor Debbie Gonzales on her new leadership role in the chapter (and to the members, who’ll wildly benefit from her efforts).

Author Bethany Hegedus will speak on “scene and structure” (“If You Build It, They Will Read”) from 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 13 at BookPeople in conjunction with Austin SCBWI. Note: “bring a notebook and get ready to examine Aristotle’s Incline and the 7 Key Scenes every book needs. Please be familiar with Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, 2000)…, as Bethany will discuss the Seven Key Scenes used to build this gem of a book.”

More Cynsational Events

From The New York Times: “‘Tea with Chachaji’ (Monday through Thursday) Inspired by Uma Krishnaswami’s book Chachaji’s Cup (Children’s Book Press, 2003), the show focuses on the relationship between Neel, a young American of Indian ancestry, and his great-uncle Chachaji, whose traditions seem more foreign as Neel grows older. Presented this week in the Bronx, the show will travel to Manhattan and Brooklyn. (Through Feb. 11.) At 10:30 a.m., Lovinger Theater, Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, at Goulden Avenue, Bedford Park, the Bronx, (212) 573-8791,; $16; $8.50 for school groups.” See more on the production from Children’s Book Press.

The Greater Houston Teen Book Convention is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 10 at Alief Taylor High School, and admission is free! Speakers include keynoter Sharon Draper and:

Note: bring money to purchase books and food.