Poetry Books

I used to write poetry. When I was in elementary school, I even put together a collection of my poems in a little handmade book with a calico cover. I entered it in my district fair and received a white participation ribbon.

Since I’ve grown up, reviewers will sometimes describe my language as poetic. I heard that a lot about Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/Harper, 2000). But I’m more of a reader than writer of poetry these days.

Books I love include: Kathi Appelt’s memoir, My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoir (Holt, 2004), which is written in palm poems; as well as Pieces: A Year In Poems And Quilt by Anna Grossnickle Hines (Harper, 2001) ; Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Karen Barbour (Simon & Schuster, 2004); and Is This Forever, Or What? Poems And Paintings of Texas by Naomi Shihab Nye (Harper, 2004).

I want to highlight an upcoming book I’m really excited about: Sketches From A Spy Tree with poems by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer and art by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005). Tracie’s site features interviews with children’s poets such as Lisa Wheeler, Ralph Fletcher, Kristine O’Connell George, Nikki Grimes, Heidi Roemer, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. It also offers lesson plans for poetry, poetry quotes, and more.

Cynsational Links

Author Nancy Garden debuts the first book in a new series, The Case of the Stolen Scarab (Candlestone Inn Mystery #1) (Two Lives, 2004). It’s about siblings Nicky and Travis, whose two moms have recently bought and are ready to open a New England inn. But then they hear police are on the look-out for a thief who swiped a scarab from a Boston museum. When a mysterious guest arrives under dire circumstances, they’re left to wonder if he’s the thief…or a victim.

“I’m published. What now?” from author Verla Kay’s Web site. “A Web page devoted to the business end of being a published author.” An extensive author/writing resource site.

Submit Your Thoughts About Reading for possible inclusion in the book: Page By Page: The Book Of Reading In Words And Pictures by Susan Taylor Brown.

Who Wrote That? Featuring Jennifer Holm published in California Kids (September 2003) from Patricia M. Newman. Read excerpts from two of Jenni’s books, Our Only May Amelia and Boston Jane: An Adventure. Peek in on one of her author visits at Bowling Green Public Library in Kentucky.

Words Across Pictures & Picturing Words

Words Across Pictures & Picturing Words: a craft-based, full-day conference in English sponsored by SCBWI & the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Grounds on April 12, 2005. (See sidebar on SCBWI events page).

“Why I Love This Book and Published It” with guest publishers: Anne Schwartz (Random House US); Barry Cunningham (Chicken House UK); Deirdre McDermott (Walker Books Ltd UK) ; Isabelle Bézard (Bayard Editions France); Jennifer Wingertzahn (Clarion Books US); Neal Porter (Roaring Brook US).

Workshops include: “Picture the Book: From Text to Dummy” with artist/author G. Brian Karas (Atlantic); “The Craft of Revision: Examining Motifs, Compression, Structure, & Character”with author Franny Billingsley (The Folk Keeper); and “Book Reviewing: Where Pictures and Words Intersect” with author/reviewer Leonard Marcus (Dear Genius, Parenting magazine).

Cost is: 85 Euros for SCBWI members; 100€ non-members.

Registration fee includes conference, lunch, and closing cocktail. Manuscript and portfolio reviews available upon request for additional fee. First come, first-served. Please note: no refunds. Program subject to change without notice. This event is organized by SCBWI volunteers and is hosted by the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. Separate registration for the Day-Before Conference and the Book Fair. The Fair is open from April 13 to April 16, 2005. Questions? daniellecaponi@tiscali.it Register today at: www.scbwi.org

See photos from the 2004 conference on Erzsi Deak’s Web site.

Cynsational Links

Conversation With Leonard S. Marcus, author of Dear Genius, by Etta Wilson from BookPage.

On the Bloomsbury site, you can send a Folk Keeper e-card or download a Folk Keeper screen saver.

My pal, author Tanya Lee Stone blogged about me yesterday (February 27, 2005). She calls me “sparkly,” but hey now, she’s pretty sparkly herself. Tanya is the author of more than 75 children’s books (really!). Her upcoming titles include Elizabeth Leads The Way (“a picture book biography about Elizabeth Candy Stanton, who spearheaded the women’s suffrage movement”)(Holt, 2006) and A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl (Wendy Lamb, 2006), a YA which will rock your world.

Margery Cuyler’s Web site: official author/editor site. Margery’s recent titles include: Achoo! illustrated by Bruce McNalley (Scholastic, 2002); That’s Good! That’s Bad! In The Grand Canyon, illustrated by David Catrow (Henry Holt, 2002); and Skeleton Hiccups, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (McElderry, 2002), among others. For 21 years, she was Editor-In-Chief at Holiday House and has also worked at Henry Holt, Golden Books, and Winslow Press. She’s been directing the trade program at Marshall Cavendish since June 1.

Editorial Staff Changes At Children’s Publishers and News of Publishers Opening Or Closing from The Purple Crayon. A lot seems to be going on this month. Check it out.

Promotional Postcards

I spent some of the weekend helping Greg send his promotional postcards for Tofu And T.Rex (Little Brown, July 2005) to booksellers, both those on our own list, compiled over the years, and to members of the Association of Booksellers for Children.

As authors we’re eligible for associate memberships and have joined along with some other lovely people like: Franny Billingsley; Toni Buzzeo; Erzi Deak; Jennifer Holm; Kristine O’Connell George; and Kay Winters.

By the way, I actually asked a bookseller-turned-author and a librarian-turned-author when to best send said cards.

The bookseller-turned-author said to send them when the catalogs were at the stores, in other words, now for summer. For the most part, bookstores put in their original orders before reviews and what not.

The librarian-turned-author said to send to public libraries about a month before the book is released and to school libraries during the school year, but not during the first month of school. So, since Tofu And T.Rex is coming out in July, we’ll wait until October to send to those contacts.

Cynsational Links

Booktalks: Quick And Simple Blog from Nancy Keane. “See some of the booktalkers booktalks before they are published on the Web site. Make comments and give suggestions, too.”

Cinderella: Variations and Multicultural Versions from the de Gummond Children’s Literature Collection of the University of Southern Mississippi Libraries. Note: readers may remember I have some Cinderella issues, but I just have to marvel at the depth and breadth of the number of related published books.

A Cool Bit With Francesca Lia Block from Favorite Teenage Angst Books. “A never-before-published conversation from 1998.”

Sterling Printing and Copying: my main source for promotional postcards and bookmarks. I’ve also used Web Cards.

Unlikely Arithmetic: Thirteen Ways To Raise A Non-Reader from The Horn Book. A “tongue-in-cheek directive” (a PDF file).

Celebrate Everything

Greg and I have a philosophy about the writing life: celebrate everything!

Not just sales or awards, but also finishing drafts, revision requests, media attention, whatever.

It’s a challenging field with a lot of rejection, and you have to keep your spirits up. Focus on the journey. Let yourself rejoice in every step forward. And not just your own victories but your friends’ and colleagues’, too.

If you’re a beginner, your family may wonder why you’re cheering, say, a personal rejection with a request for more manuscripts. Go ahead and explain what it means.

The fact that you’re working in such a tough industry is a reflection of your courage. You’re someone who’s not afraid to pursue your dream.

That in itself is well worth celebrating!

Cynsational Links

Crossing Two Bridges: Coming Out, The Power of Images In YA Lit by Alex Sanchez (adapted from a panel discussion at the 2003 NCTE convention) from the fall 2004 Alan Review.

Graphic Novels Resources from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Subtopics include: reviews in journals; Web sites for reviews; resource books; listserv; vendors; publishers; other resources.

Humor Fiction: a recommended bibliography from Genrefluent.

Something On My Mind from author/poet Nikki Grimes. What’s on Nikki’s mind at the moment is the power of prayer. Also see Nikki’s thoughts on Wordsmithing 101.

Finally, I was talking about Period Pieces: Stories for Girls selected by Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman (Harper, 2003)(ages 8-12) a couple of days ago, and I wanted to mention that there’s another related anthology for YAs (ages 12-up), Don’t Cramp My Style: Stories About That Time Of Month by Lisa Rowe Faustino (Simon & Schuster, 2004). See the listing of contributors and read an excerpt. Featured authors include David Lubar and Han Nolan.

Author Joan Bauer

I just visited Joan Bauer’s Web site, which has all kinds of nifty features, including a link to “The Books Of Joan Bauer,” a reading guide by The Goddess of YA Literature, AKA Teri Lesesne. I’m a huge, huge, HUGE Joan Bauer fan. The woman is a genius.

My favorite of her books is Backwater because of the lawyers (Greg raved about it, too), but I also dearly love Hope Was Here, which was one of my successful Newbery predictions (I know it sounds awful, but I adore being right).

Stand Tall is also an affecting and timely title. Teachers and parents should check out the readers’ guides based on the novel (one for children, one for adults) , “How To Talk To Your Children About Tough Times” by Dr. Catherine Hart Weber. They’re designed to facilitate intergenerational communication about tragedy both in the headlines and in the home. (The PDF files took a while to download, but I have dial-up). See also Nancy Keane’s site for an audiobook excerpt.

The latest news is the upcoming sequel to Rules Of The Road, entitled Best Foot Forward.

Cynsational Links

An Interview With Joan Bauer from The ABCs of Writing For Children by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff (Quill Driver Books, 2003). Note: once had a fabulous dinner with Elizabeth and other bay area authors at The Four Seasons in San Francisco. Yum!

Children’s Picture Book Database from Miami University is a source for finding books on specific subjects (or checking out any books competing with a potential manuscript topic)(not all-inclusive; i.e., Jingle Dancer doesn’t pull up under “Native American”). Note: I found out about this on the Feb. 24 Children’s Writing Update; surf by for more helpful information and tips!

Humor In Young Adult Literature: offers links to numerous related resources, including “Humor, Seriously” by author Joan Bauer from The Alan Review.

Mail this week includes an ARC of A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005)(read Mary’s blog), which I’ve been wanting to read for a while, Humor In Young Adult Literature: A Time To Laugh by Walter Hogan (Scarecrow, 2005), and a number of publisher catalogs.

Period Pieces: Stories For Girls, selected by Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman

Period Pieces: Stories for Girls selected by Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman (Harper, 2003). An anthology collection of short stories about girls starting their periods for the first time. Contributors include: Carmen T. Bernier Grand, Erzi Deak, Johanna Hurwitz, Florence Johnson Jacob, Bobbi Katz, Uma Krishnaswami, Jane Kurtz, Kristin Embry Litchman, Linda Sue Park, Dian Curtis Regan, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Rita Williams-Garcia. (Ages 8-up). A Bank Street Best Book (starred); NYPL Women In Books for the Teenage.

My Thoughts

Kirkus did a great job describing my story, “The Gentleman Cowboy:” “Cynthia Leitich Smith tells of a kindly cowboy, barely older than she, who rescues her from her fear of heights on horseback and from being caught on said horse with no supplies or nearby bathroom.”

I remember being honored to have been invited to contribute to this anthology, which was edited by Rosemary Brosnan at Harper. A lot of informational books are available on the topic, but I’m not aware of any others that take a look at the emotional side of this coming-of-age moment and from such a variety of perspectives.

I wrote a story inspired by the summer vacations I spent with my parents in the Rocky Mountains. My dad went to Estes Park almost every year, from the time he was a kid, and he loved showing off the place. We’d stay in the same motel, shop in art galleries and trinket stores, and just soak in the views.

As I grew older, I’d spend the afternoons on two or four-hour horseback tours of Rocky Mountain National Park. I remember those perilous paths, the horses running and jumping. I’m sure lawyers have clamped down on the wilder side since then, but wow, was it ever fun!

My story begins, “I rode at the top of the world, surrounded by the snow-dusted Colorado Rockies and valleys of wildflower-speckled grass.”

Shameless name-dropping warning: The fact that so many of the authors were personal friends made this book even more special to me. Uma and Jane have visited me here at the the house, and I’ve met all of Dian’s walruses. Linda Sue and I seem to get together at conferences, the most recent being NCTE, and I’ve only met Carmen once in person at Franny Billingsley’s pre-Chicago-fire house, but we’re email buddies. In addition, I also once met Bobbi (and have her card) at a lunch that was doubly cool because Lee Bennett Hopkins was there, too.

Note: I’ve published a chapter book collection of short stories in Indian Shoes (Harper, 2002), two short stories that have appeared in anthologies, and have a couple of YA short stories under contract. So, I appear to be arguably most successful as a short story writer, which strikes me as odd since that was never a per se goal. Of course my original goal when I started writing fiction for young readers was to become a classic middle grade novelist. Instead, I’ve published a picture book, chapter book, ‘tweener, and have an upper-level YA under contract. Pretty much everything but classic middle grade, which shows the muse goes where she pleases.

More Praise for Period Pieces

“…will laugh at the embarrassment of Linda Sue Park’s girl in the white pants or feel a touch of relief at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s gentleman cowboy whose many sisters taught him how to treat a girl.” — Children’s Literature

“An honest, touching, sometimes hilarious collection.” — School Library Journal

“Whether or not they have experienced the arrival of their first ‘Georgie,’ ‘Auntie,’ or ‘Dona Rosa,’ girls will enjoy these stories–funny and self-deprecating, frank and reassuring–which may encourage them to shed embarrassment and take ownership of their bodies.” — Booklist

See my site (use the CLSCLR search engine) for The Story Behind The Story: Erzsi Deak and Kristin Litchman on Period Pieces: Stories for Girls (Harper, 2003) and Uma Krishnaswami’s site for the story behind her contribution, “The Gift.”

Cynsational News

I received a note this week from a fellow Austin children’s writer, Alison Dellenbaugh (you may remember my blogging about how she won the Oscar Mayer essay contest) and we corresponded a bit about online journaling (see Alison’s journal). We both tend to err on the side of circumspect, using our journals to say only what we would feel comfortable being overheard by anyone at, say, a writing or librarian conference.

I also heard from illustrator Janee Trasler, who wrote to say how much she was enjoying the blog. I’m quite fond of her kitty art!

Speaking of kitties, since most book folks I know are owned by cats, I’d also like to mention that if your kitty is coughing, you shouldn’t assume it’s a hairball. Kitty might have asthma and need special treatment. Bashi has asthma. But he has been doing much better since he was diagnosed and put on an inhaler by his wonderful new vet, who happens to be the daughter of children’s author Pat Mora.

Cynsational Links

Essential Reading/Personal Views: Chinese Children’s Books at the 2004 Beijing International Book Fair by Elisa Oreglia from papertigers.org. Posted January 2005. While you’re on the site, also check out the archived interview with author Laurence Yep, recent recipient of the 2005 Wilder Medal, by Leonard Marcus.

New Voices: Cara Haycak, author of Red Palms (Wendy Lamb, 2004); New Voices: Melissa Wyatt, author of Raising The Griffin (Wendy Lamb, 2004), and New Voices: Anjali Banerjee , author of Maya Running (Wendy Lamb, 2005) from ALAN online.

Out Of Order by A.M. Jenkins

Out Of Order by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003). Colt Trammel is a popular jock with a pretty, if prim, girlfriend and real problem maintaining his baseball eligibility because of grades. When green-haired Corrine transfers in, he’s intrigued, even though it’s clear she’ll never fit in and doesn’t care to. Over time, she becomes his tutor, and the two come to understand each other. Colt’s voice is unapologetically alpha male, the Texas high school setting dead-on, and his connection with Corrine refreshing. A fascinating read. Ages 12-up. Highly recommended.

My Thoughts

I was particularly pleased when Corrine enlightened Colt about the whole melon-squeezing issue on pgs. 189-190 of the paperback. Really, that’s just a service to humanity.

Hm. I wonder if Amanda ever considered “Struck Out” as a title.

Amanda is also the author of Damage, a Top Ten BBYA, and Breaking Boxes, which was a Delacorte Prize winner. She is speaking on “Rewriting and Revising the YA Novel” on March 26 at a meeting of the North Central/Northeast Texas chapter of SCBWI.

Cynsational Links

Award-Winning Author Amanda Jenkins: an interview by Sue Reichard from Suite101.com.

Interview with Debra Garfinkle from the “Secrets Of Success” column on author Ellen Jackson’s Web site. D.L. Garfinkle is the author of Storky: How I Lost My Nickname And Won The Girl (Putnam, 2005), which is a must read!

Interview with author/illustrator Kurt Cyrus on Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard (Simon & Schuster, 2005) from illustrator Don Tate’s blog (also see Don’s Web site). Not entirely by coincidence (Anne, Don, and I are all Austinites), I interviewed Anne on this blog just a few days ago.

We Love Children’s Books: offers consulting services for the children’s book industry, including Web sites, marketing pieces, writing and editing.

Pre-Publication Publicity Roundtable

Last night I participated in a “Pre-Publication Publicity Roundtable,” sponsored by the Author’s Guild. Essentially, you call in and have a workshop over the phone. It was my first one, and I thought it was fun and worth doing.

That said, I have a strong PR/media background already. It probably would’ve been even more helpful to someone who didn’t have the same pro background or was a beginner in publishing.

Otherwise, I was feeling rather blue yesterday, but I did receive a check from Scott Foresman/Pearson Education for the audio rights to Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/Harper, 2000)(ages 4-up), which cheered me up.

During my “blue period,” though, I took this quiz on “Guess The Dictator Or Television Sit-Com Character,” which revealed I’m Paula Abdul from “American Idol.” Hysterical, yes?

When I taught a writing class one summer with Kathi Appelt and Debbie Leland in College Station, the students made the same comparison. That’s cool. I’m a Paula fan!

I also finished Missing May by Lee Weatherly (David Fickling, 2004)(ages 10-up), which is one of the Edgar finalists this year, and liked it very much (read my thoughts).

In addition, reading YA author Libba Bray’s blog (Jan. 20 blog), I found out that she became a vegan for two years after watching the movie “Babe.” It made me feel more normal for giving up mammals after reading Greg’s Tofu & T.Rex (Little Brown, 2004) a kajillion times in manuscript form. We’re all from BBQ country, you know.

And as some of you may know, my 18-pound alpha cat, Mercury Boo Leitich Smith, is smitten with Haemi Balgassi’s Eliza. As it happens, news from Eliza includes a new kitten in the virtual kitty condo, named Ramona.

Cynsational Links

The YA Novel and Me: a new blog from author Gail Giles, whose titles include Breath of the Dragon (Clarion, 1997)(Gail on “How I Wrote It”), Shattering Glass (Roaring Brook, 2002)(Gail on “How I Wrote It”)(reader guide), Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters (Roaring Brook, 2003)(Gail On “How I Wrote It”)(PDF teacher guide), and Playing In Traffic (Roaring Brook, 2004)(Gail on “How I Wrote It”).

Remember how I was talking about Laurie Halse Anderson’s wonderful new novel, Prom (Viking, 2005)? You can read an excerpt online.

Author Toni Buzzeo

My friend, author Toni Buzzeo, sent me her latest title Ready Or Not, Dawdle Duckling, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial, 2005). It’s a hide-and-go-seek book about Mama Duck and her four little ducklings. (Ages 2-up).

See “Write Baby Animals And Get It Right” by Toni Buzzeo from Smartwriters.com; An Interview With Toni Buzzeo from Authors Among Us: Children’s Authors Who Are Or Have Been Librarians; The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo from By The Book: Author Interviews and Book Reviews for Kids from Julia Durango; Author Answers with Picture Book Author Toni Buzzeo from Debbi Michiko Florence; and Getting Personal With Children’s Book Author Toni Buzzeo from The Savvy Click.

My Thoughts

Toni and I met as beginning writers, both mentored by author Jane Kurtz, who introduced us. We have since traded manuscripts and supported one another through our respective breakthroughs in this business and become good friends. Toni will be staying here at Casa Smith Leitich during TLA in Austin this spring. She’s speaking on “Overcoming Roadblocks to Collaboration” from 3 to 3:50 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6.

Speaking of TLA, Greg offers a related restaurant guide.

Cynsational Links

Beyond Nancy Drew: Picture Books To YA: The Best from 1994 to 2004 from Ravenstone Press.

The Divine Miss Pixie Woods (Cecil Castellucci) from the author of Boy Proof (Candlewick, 2005). A most buzzy book in online circles. Can’t wait to read it!

Cynthia Lord’s Journal from the author of Rules (Scholastic, 2006)(see author interview, Web site). She was a winner of the SCBWI work-in-progress grant.

Marlene’s Journal from author Marlene Perez, author of Unexpected Development (Roaring Brook, 2004). Unexpected Development was a recent ALA Quick Pick. Congratulations, Marlene!

Uppity Girls and Fearless Women: No More Damsels in Distress from Ravenstone Press. A picture book bibliography compiled by Jerri Garretson.

Happy Presidents’ Day

The most presidential front list book I love this season is about a first lady: Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Hein (Harper, 2005)(ages 4-up).

I’m hoping to interview the Texas team behind this picture book biography, so cross your fingers for more info to come. I will mention now, though, that Kathi is from College Station, Joy is from San Antonio, and this is Joy’s debut book. Yay!

A couple more on-point titles are Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Simon & Schuster, 2003)(ages 5-up) and A Woman For President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Walker, 2004)(ages 7-up)(see teacher’s guide).

Teachers and school librarians should also take particular note of Kay’s My Teacher For President, illustrated by Denise Brunkus (Dutton, 2004) and find out more about the “My Teacher For President” Contest.