Cynsational News & Giveaways

Courtney with agent John Cusick at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Congratulations to Courtney Alameda on the release of her debut novel, Shutter (Feiwell and Friends, 2015)(excerpt)! From the promotional copy:

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum.

As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens.

With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die.

Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

More News & Giveaways

Author Interview: Trent Reedy on Burning Nation by Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek: “I’ve written Divided We Fall and Burning Nation (both Scholastic) to show what happens when the bitterness over that [partisan] divide is carried out to its most disastrous potential.”

Shining a Light: Announcing the Honorees for the 2015 28 Days Later Campaign: A Black History Month Celebration of Children’s Literature from The Brown Bookshelf.

You Can’t Take Blurbs with You from Jennifer Represents. Peek: “I’ve spoken to hundreds of readers, booksellers, librarians and others, and the fact is, the vast majority of the time, the blurb is not the deciding factor about whether or not they spend time and money on a given book. It’s just not.”

Author Interview: Pat Mora on Día, Children’s Day Book Day by Amy Koester from ALSC Blog. Peek: “Spanish is the second most spoken language across our country; there are many others, of course. If we are committed to exciting all our children about bookjoy, we need to meet them where they are, as the saying goes.”

Deadlines and the Muse by Juliet Marillier from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Fortunately, the final section of a novel tends to be the easiest to write. You know the characters inside out; you know how each of them will act and react, what they will and won’t say; you know how the threads of your story will come together to make that satisfying conclusion.”

What The Incredibly Hulk Can Teach Us About Emotion in Fiction by Ron Estrada from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Most characters don’t wear their emotions on their quickly torn sleeves the way Bruce Banner does, and if they did, the resulting story would be pretty exhausting. Too much reaction dulls the impact when something genuinely serious transpires. Yet you do need to show how your character feels.”

Dealing with the Publishing Blues by Stina Lindenblatt from QueryTracker. Peek: “Try writing something for yourself that no one will see. Experiment with a style you’ve always wanted to try or experiment with a new genre. If you’re on deadline, try writing a short story (or if you’re a fast writer, a novella). Have fun! But most of all, don’t set any expectations on yourself. Just let the passion you used to have for writing poke through.”

Classroom Connections: Diverse Verse by Sylvia Vardell from Booklist Online. Peek: “Following is a list of novels, biographies, and memoirs in verse, published within the last five years, that reflect diverse experiences, cultures, and characters.”

How Do I Respond to An Agent’s Status Query? by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: “The volume of emails that an agent gets in a day is large, and I’d err on the side of not adding to it unnecessarily.”

Make Your First Page Mind Blowing, Please by Hilary Wagner from Middle Grade Mayhem. Peek: “It may be the manuscript that agent of your dreams has been searching for all year, but she’ll never know it because she couldn’t get past the first boring formulaic mundane page of it and you just received a rejection email from her, faster than you could nuke your leftover pizza in the microwave.”

What Exactly is Translation? by Yumiko Sakuma, translated by Deborah Iwabuchi from The Society of Writers, Editors and Translators. Peek: “…the translator must understand the style of the author, the mood, the characters, the setting, the subtle allusions, and the core of the plot.”” Peek: Follows an introduction to the article by Deborah.

Take Yourself Seriously (As a Writer) by Kristi Holl from Writer’s First Aid. Peek: “You’re creative–true. But you’re still in business if you want to make income from your writing. And often it is poor business attitudes that keep others from taking you seriously. Do an attitude check with the list below. Are you harboring these unhelpful attitudes?”

Why I Write for Teens by Carolee Dean from SouthWest Writers. Peek: “Teen stories are compelling because teens stand at a crossroads where childhood intersects with paths of infinite possibility, yet, as we all know, once you start down one of those paths, its not so easy to change your course.”

Interview with Morris Award Finalist Isabel Quintero by Lynn Miller-Lachmann from The Pirate Tree. Peek: “As sexual as American culture pretends to be—I mean we see it everywhere: in advertising, television, movies, even in cartoons—we only see sexuality or sexual behavior as acceptable through a heterosexual male perspective, and I would go further and say that we only see sex exist as a heterosexual male fantasy.” See also 24 MG-YA Novels by Latinos in 2015 from Latin@s in Kid Lit.

2014 LGBT YA Lit by the Numbers by Malinda Lo from Diversity in YA. Peek: “What started out for me as a geeky way to see where my own YA novels fit into the broader YA market has become an ongoing research project that has nothing to do with my books, and a lot more to do with analyzing and interrogating the way mainstream publishing produces stories about LGBT teens.” See also the 2015 Rainbow List: GLBTQ Books for Teens from the The Rainbow Project, a joint project of the ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) and Social Responsibilities Round Table (SSRT) of the American Library Association.

Is Your Character a Stargazer or a Naval-Gazer?
from Christine Kohler. Peek: “Does your protagonist observe the world around him using his five senses? Or does she mutter inwardly to herself, totally self-absorbed?”

Can Better Understanding of Adolescent Psychology Help Us Craft Better Fiction? by Lee Wind from SCBWI Blog. Peek: “Teens often look to fiction for insights they might use in their real lives. So it may follow that in creating fiction, we can get insights into the characters we create by exploring real-world insights.”

A Rose By Any Other Name Could Be…a Heather by Mary Ann Rodman from Teaching Authors. Peek: “I do not know how E.B. White decided on Charlotte and Wilbur, but can you imagine them named anything else? A book called Barbara’s Web? A pig named Bob?”

What Makes a Good Math Storybook? by Audrey Quinlan from The Horn Book. Peek: “Students predict the capacity of each mitten by guessing how many marbles or beans will be needed to fill each one. A variety of mittens brought in by students could also be used for introducing relative size.”

Jill Santopolo and Follow Your Heart: Love on the Lifts by Lisa Doan from The Launch Pad. Peek: “There are more than 7 billion people in the world. So if you go on a date with someone who makes you feel bad or smells funny or spends the entire time talking about his ex-girlfriend, that’s okay. You can always try again tomorrow (or the next day or the day after that).”

10 Editorial Steps from the Agent “Call” to the Final Book by Angela Ackerman from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: “When we’re starting out as writers, we rarely look beyond the process of getting an agent. That hurdle on its own seems so huge, but truly, it’s just the beginning of the editorial journey our books will take.”

Searching for an Agent with QueryTracker by Robert Lettrick from Project Mayhem. Peek: “What is Querytracker? In my opinion, it’s the premier website for researching literary agents and familiarizing yourself with their personal tastes and quirks. It also makes for a wonderful base-camp during the query process.”

My Work Is Giving My Nighmares from Deborah Halverson at Peek: “…the story itself is giving me anxiety and causing unsettling dreams. I don’t want to spend the next several months having nightmares.”

28 Days Later

Learn more about emerging and established children’s book creators of color via the eighth annual 28 Days Later campaign, a Black History Month celebration!

Each day during February, The Brown Bookshelf will showcase an outstanding author or illustrator. Thank you, Don Tate, Kelly Starling Lyons, Tameka Fryer Brown, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Gwendolyn Hooks, Crystal Allen, Varian Johnson, Paula Chase-Hyman!

Congratulations to Brown Bookshelf co-founder Varian Johnson on The Great Greene Heiste (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2014) being named a 2015 Notable Children’s Book by the Association of Library Service to Children! See the whole list.

Cynsational Screening Room

Cynsational Giveaways

See also a giveaway of seven signed copies of We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree) at Goodreads.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Welcome back to Cynsations!

What a busy hiatus it’s been! I wrote a short story for Shaun Hutchinson‘s Violent Ends anthology (Simon Pulse), taught the VCFA winter residency, and then it was off to Chicago for The ALSC Day of Diversity at ALA Midwinter.

Now, I’m polishing a speech for this month’s Austin SCBWI meeting (details below), to be followed by critiquing manuscripts for our regional conference, and after that, my full attention will turn to my MFA students’ first packets.

Then what? Well, I’m also supposed to be foremost an author of books. At least in theory, right?

So, I’ll launch Feral Pride (Candlewick, Feb. 2015)–the final novel in the TantalizeFeral verse–and the paperback edition of Feral Curse (Candlewick, Feb. 2015) and then dive into my next YA manuscript in a big way.

Repeat after me: Living the Dream. Living the Dream!

Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature says of Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2015):

“The parts of the story where characters shift or are talking about clothes? Well, I find those parts exquisite and they make me wish I could see all of this on a movie screen. And the parts where characters from the Tantalize series join the characters in the Pride series? Well done!”

Note: Debbie also analyzes how the metaphors in Feral Pride relate to our real world.

Publishers Weekly says of Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015):

“Rather than providing tidy solutions to the characters’ dilemmas, the stories focus on the feelings of entrapment and anxiety that go along with living a lie.” Booklist says: “The balance and diversity that Angel has achieved here is marvelous, and nearly any teen who picks this up will find a bit of herself or himself—or at least a friend—inside these pages. A collection to treasure and share widely.”

 K.T. Horning of CCBC & Debbie Reese of AICL!

Note: The short story “Cupid’s Beaux” by Cynthia Leitich Smith features the characters Joshua and Quincie from the TantalizeFeral universe.

Hugs to those whose careers have been adversely affected by the closing of Egmont USA. See also An Open Letter to Egmont USA Authors from a Former Publishing Orphan from Sarah J. Schmitt. Note: Egmont USA books, including the spring 2015 list, are  available! Please show those authors your support!

Congratulations to Austin’s own Carmen Oliver on the sale of her first book, The Favio Chavez Story, to Eerdmans! See Stepping Over the Threshold: The First Children’s Book Contract by Carmen Oliver from Donna Janell Bowman.

Congratulations to Austin SCBWI RA Samantha Clark on signing with literary agent Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency, and congratulations to Rachel on signing Sam!

Congratulations to (former) WIFYR and (current) VCFA student Yamile Saied Mendez on being selected among the 2015 New Visions Finalists by Lee & Low!

Thank you ALSC, Candlewick Press & We Need Diverse Books for a great Day of Diversity in Chicago!

See ALA Midwinter Day of Diversity Recap & Reflections by Jason Low of Lee & Low. Peek: “Author Cynthia Letich Smith’s talk created a sense of urgency for me and humanized what is truly at stake. Readers of middle grade and YA novels age out every four years. How many kids have we lost already to adulthood?” Note: post provides links to the other great recaps.

My Links of the Week are:

More Cynsational Links

Jane Kurtz revises her speech (old-school style) at VCFA.

Cynsational Events

Pre-order Now!

Cynthia will speak on “Writing Across Identity Markers” at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 at the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting at BookPeople in Austin.

The SCBWI Austin 2015 Writers and Illustrators Working Conference will take place March 7 and March 8 at Marriott Austin South. Note: Cynthia will be moderating a panel and offering both critiques and consultations.

Cynthia will appear from April 14 to April 17 at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Texas Library Association in Austin.

Join Cynthia from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Saratoga Springs Public Library for a celebration in conjunction with Saratoga Reads! at Saratoga Springs, New York. Note: Cynthia will be presenting Jingle Dancer (2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001) and Indian Shoes (2002)(all published by HarperColllins).

Cynthia will serve as the master class faculty member from June 19 to June 21 May 2 at the VCFA Alumni Mini-Residency in Montpelier, Vermont.

Cynthia will speak from June 25 to June 30 on a We Need Diverse Books panel at the 2015 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco.