Cynsational News & Giveaways

Diversity in Fantasy Mine by Cindy Pon from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: “I called this the ‘diversity in fantasy mine,’ because our diverse world cultures is such the perfect place to turn to for inspiration in fantasy writing. It’s been done before Tolkien and since. Silver Phoenix, my debut, was inspired by ancient China. On the flip side, it’s also a land mine.” Read a Cynsations interview with Cindy.

On Platform from Janet Reid, Literary Agent. Peek: “A lot of writers tell me they have blogs as part of their platform. I look at the blogs. If there are few or no followers, and no comments, the blog isn’t platform.”

The Electric Kool-Aid Conflict Test from The Intern. Peek: “If you stab your own manuscript with that toothpick and need to read an entire chapter before being able to identify some kind of internal or external conflict, you might have a problem.”

Secret Agent by Brian Yansky from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “Some friends who came over for dinner asked what I’d been up to. I could have said discovering unbelievable essential secrets in the world and emotional violence and struggling with the future, but I thought this might make them uncomfortable.” Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

April Workshop Contest from The Longstockings. Peek: “The Longstockings will select one lucky writer (at random, from the emails we receive) to submit a maximum of 25 pages. We’ll all critique the writer’s piece and a few weeks later, that writer will receive a document compiling the helpful notes, suggestions and praise from The Longstockings!” Note: team members include Coe Booth, Daphne Grab, Lisa Greenwald, Jenny Han, Caroline Hickey, and Siobhan Vivian.

GoodReads or BadFeelings? by L.K. Madigan from Drenched in Words. Peek: “It seems like more experienced authors – Sara Zarr, Mary E. Pearson, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and John Green, for example – already had this figured out. They do not rate or review books on GoodReads. Their profiles exist on the site, but they are not active users. They do plenty to promote authors on their own blogs.” See also An Open Love Letter to Debut Authors About Hurtful Online Reviews from Cynsations.

Writing a Query Letter with Voice by Suzette Saxton from Peek: “So we all have it in our novels. Which means you must maintain the same voice in your query letter. Unfortunately, many of us fail at this.”

The Secret Strength of Killer Queries – Specificity from Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. Peek: “here’s what I think is one of the very most important thing to do in a query: be as specific as possible. Allow me to be even more specific: be as specific as possible about the right things.”

Catherine Balkin of Balkin Buddies writes: “My computer analyst husband was in the World Trade Center on 9/11. After that experience, Charlie went back to school and became a nurse. In his spare time, he’s been working on computer programs that might benefit hospitals. He recently submitted two related programs to a contest sponsored by Livescribe. Whoever gets the most votes wins.” To vote, click thumbs up here and here, up to once daily through March 31. Note: Charlie also is Balkin Buddies’ computer expert and business consultant.

Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld Join Me to Talk About Their New Book by Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “Our first effort was a failure, but an interesting one. We wrote a graphic novel-style story where the train is noisily going over a bridge, which antagonizes a shark in the water below. This, theoretically, starts their feud. It’s visually interesting, but far too contrived.” Note: Release party – author Chris Barton will celebrate Shark v. Train, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Little Brown, 2010) at 1 p.m. April 24 at BookPeople in Austin. Read a Cynsations interview with Chris.

Cynsational Author Tip: if your blog, at least in part, serves as a promotional tool, consider including your byline on the main page. It shouldn’t take a reader more than two clicks to find out who you are. Likewise for team blogs, perhaps list all team members on the main page and/or clearly identify the author of each post.

Greg Recommends

Here’s a round-up of recent recommendations by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog.

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Books by Abby McDonald (Candlewick, April 2010)(12-up). Peek: “…an engaging voice that will leave readers with an appreciation of the outdoors…” Read the whole recommendation.

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halprin by Josh Berk (Knopf, 2010)(ages 12-up). Peek: “…a wry mystery that illuminates the social intricacies and mayhem of high school.” Read the whole recommendation.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Delacorte, 2006)(ages 12-up). Peek: “…an elegant and sweet story of one girl’s quest for independence and family. ” Read the whole recommendation.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Dial, 2010)(ages 10-up). Peek: “…a rich story amid a fascinating and disturbing construct of societal engineering gone awry.” Read the whole recommendation.

Jump by Elisa Carbone (Viking, May 2010)(ages 12-up). Peek: “Joined by a gorgeous and mysterious boy from her climbing gym by the name of “Critter” (who has a secret past of his own), she hitchhikes across the country on a quest for the perfect rock and self-discovery.” Read the whole recommendation.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Delacorte, 2009)(12-up). Peek: “Can they solve the mystery of the maze and make it home? Or will they be trapped there forever?” Read the whole recommendation.

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman (Front Street, 2010)(ages 8-12). Peek: “Houtman skillfully captures Eddy’s voice and the racing of his thoughts as he is continually interrupted by those he doesn’t understand.” Read the whole recommendation.

Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors (Little Brown, May 2010)(ages 8-12). Peek: “Homer is soon propelled into mystery and adventure as he and his sister run away to the dangerous City, where they encounter the evil Madame le Directeur of the Natural History Museum, and Homer undertakes a quest to find a pirate treasure map with some of Drake’s former colleagues.” Read the whole recommendation.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (Amulet, 2010)(ages 8-12). Peek: “a brilliantly funny and zany novel, full of heart and wit and middle school agnosticism. Enjoy it readers will.” Read the whole recommendation. Read a Cynsations interview with Tom.

Hans Christian Anderson Award Short List

Five authors and five illustrators have been selected from 55 candidates submitted by 32 national sections of IBBY [International Board on Books for Young People] for the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen Award.

The award, considered the most prestigious in international children’s literature, is given biennially by the International Board on Books for Young People to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made lasting contributions to children’s literature. The winners will be announced on March 23 at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

The five short-listed authors in alphabetical order are:

– Ahmad Reza Ahmadi from Iran

Ahmad Reza Ahmadi’s fascinating short stories speak poetically about humanity, love, nature and peace for children and young adults.

David Almond from the United Kingdom

Italic David Almond’s works are deeply philosophical novels that appeal to children and adults alike, and encourage readers by his use of magic realism.

– Bartolomeu Campos de Queiros from Brazil

Bartolomeu Campos de Queiros as an author of poetic prose and playful poetry is highly admired for his commitment to beauty and art.

– Lennart Hellsing from Sweden

Lennart Hellsing is an outstanding poet, who shares the pleasure of language through his mastery of rhythm, word games and invented words.

– Louis Jensen from Denmark

Louis Jensen is a powerful storyteller and entertainer who combines magic and reality.

The five short-listed illustrators in alphabetical order are:

Jutta Bauer from Germany

Jutta Bauer creates a harmony between the verbal and visual language, using a philosophical approach in her originality and creativity.

Carll Cneut from Belgium

Carll Cneut’s amazing works powerfully narrate stories in his highly recognizable visual language.

Etienne Delessert from Switzerland

As a pioneer of modern picture books, Etienne Delessert’s impact on many great illustrators around the world can be recognized. His blending of magic and realism, grotesque and close-ups, has created a distinctive style.

Svjetlan Junakovic from Croatia

Svjetlan Junakovic presents beautiful compositions that are expressive and emotional, while at the same time playful, imaginative and evocative.

– Roger Mello from Brazil

Roger Mello’s world is a rich spectrum of techniques, imagination, colour and inspiration that is considered innovative, fascinating and intriguing.

A full list of candidates can be found at

The ten members of the 2010 Jury were led by Jury President Zohreh Ghaeni from Iran. They are: Ernest Bond (USA), Karen Coeman (Mexico), Nadia El Kholy (Egypt), Maria Jesus Gil (Spain), Jan Hansson (Sweden), Annemie Leysen (Belgium), Darja Mezi-Leskovar (Slovenia), Alicia Salvi (Argentina), Helene Schar (Switzerland) and Regina Zilberman (Brazil). Elda Nogueira from Brazil represented IBBY and Liz Page acted as Jury Secretary.

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting (HarperCollins, 2010).

A recommendation of One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins, 2010). Read a Cynsations interview with Rita.

Inspiring! Source: Alma Alexander.

Check out the book trailer for How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart (Delacorte, April 13, 2010).

Austin Scene

Last weekend, the star of the Austin youth lit scene was author Jo Whittemore, celebrating the release of Front Page Face-Off (Aladdin, 2010) at BookPeople. See Jo’s report on the event!

Jumping Genres by Jo Whittemore from The Spectacle. Peek: “…my agent at the time noticed that most of the positive responses we received from editors had to deal with my humor and characters. So my agent asked me to try writing a contemporary [realistic] piece.”

Here’s Jo again, smiling with YA author April Lurie. April’s latest book is The Less-Dead (Delacorte, 2010). Read a Cynsations interview with April.

Front Page Face-Off revolves around a school newspaper, and at the event, Jo tied into that setting and situation with a newspaper-themed sign.

And newspaper-themed candy bar wrappers!

Check out the cover art, depicted in the icing on the cake.

Fans included author-illustrator Emma Virjan.

YA author Varian Johnson and his fellow VCFA grad Anindita Basu, who was visiting from Boston. Varian’s latest book is Saving Maddie (Delacorte, 2010).

YA author Brian Yansky and author-illustrator Frances Hill Yansky.

Austin writers E. Kristin Anderson, Debbie Gonzales, and Jessica Lee Anderson.

Celebrating Shayne

Remember teen actress-writer-filmmaker-rising star Shayne Leighton, who did the official book trailers for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)? She writes with exciting news about her film “The Incubus.”

Shayne says: “‘The Incubus’ is set to be released in select cities starting Sept. 9! If you want ‘The Incubus’ to be shown in your city, request it at your local theater!” Note: the official teaser web series begins April 8.

From the promotional copy:

How can an entire town of 500 just disappear?

Marnie Rose has lived in the same small town her entire life with her uncle and guardian, Walter, the town’s preacher at the local church.

Things don’t change much until new neighbors move in across the street from the Rose house, and things start to get a little weird.

Are these less-than-friendly neighbors just shy, or do they have some other motive?

Changes begin to occur in the town. Folks are beginning to feel a lot more tired than they used to. People are getting sick more easily, while these mysterious new people seem to thrive as though they are “sucking energy.”

It’s up to Marnie Rose and her new found love, Raphael, to stop his clan from wiping out another small town. Will she finish their unfinished business or remain haunted by these beautifully dangerous spirits?

Read a Cynsations interview with Shayne.

More Personally

I’m signing off Cynsations a couple of days early this week, but I’ll be back on Monday!

Shawnee Mission West grad has vampire tale on a best-seller list by Mará Rose Williams from The Kansas City Star. Peek: “Eternal, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, a Shawnee Mission West graduate, debuted at No. 5 on the Times’ best-seller list for children’s paperbacks this month.” Note: nothing here we didn’t know, but it’s fun to be featured in a hometown newspaper.

Author Appreciation Week: Jessica Lee Anderson & Cynthia Leitich Smith by E. Kristin Anderson from The Hate-Mongering Tart. Peek: “They are people who love their community, and who embraced me immediately when I moved here and became a bookseller.”

Reminder: Bid to win a critique by me, author Cynthia Leitich Smith, of the first 10 pages of your novel in progress to benefit Young Adult (& Kids!) Book Central. I’ll provide extensive comments on the manuscript, an overview letter, and, if applicable, suggest both additional resources for study and marketing strategies. Bidding begins at $10. Auction ends at midnight CST March 30. Bid here! See additional items & services available at the auction!

Reminder: As part of Café Skill’s first ever You Do the Interview series, Karey Shane is hosting a giveaway of Eternal (Candlewick, 2010) and an opportunity to interview me, author Cynthia Leitich Smith. Peek: “If the thought of coming up with questions feels daunting, no worries. I’ll be happy to talk you through it. I’ll forward the questions on to Cynthia and she’ll send me back her answers.” To enter, simply comment here.

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win one of three newly released paperback copies of How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2010)!

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type “How Not To Be Popular” in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the title in the header or comment on this round-up; I’ll write you for contact information, if you win).

One copy will be reserved for a teacher/librarian/university professor of youth literature (please indicate affiliation in the body of your entry message); the other two will go to any Cynsations readers.

Deadline: midnight CST March 31. Note: U.S. entries only. See also a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

In celebration of the release of Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Hyperion, 2010), enter to win a Hex Hall T-shirt (size small, medium, or large)! To enter, just email me, message me or comment me with “Hex Hall” in the subject line. Deadline: March 31. Note: U.S. entries only. Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel.
Cynsational Events

Joint release party – YA authors Varian Johnson and April Lurie will be featured in a joint book signing at 2 p.m. March 27 at BookPeople in Austin. Varian will be signing Saving Maddie, and April will be signing The Less-Dead (both Delacorte, 2010). Note: in the photo above, Austin readergirlz host Bethany Hegedus gets ready to do a video interview with Varian and April.