Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems On Being Young And Latino In The United States edited by Lori M. Carlson

Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young And Latino in the United States edited by Lori M. Carlson, introduction by Oscar Hijuelos (Henry Holt, 2005). From the anthologist who brought us Cool Salsa, this new collection reaches farther and deeper, chronicling the perspective of young Latinos today. Includes helpful glossary and biographical notes. Featured poets include Gary Soto. Ages 12-up.

My Thoughts

I especially appreciated:

“My Shortest Food Poem” by Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. (giving voice to an oft expressed sentiment in these parts);

“Invisible Boundaries” by Ivette Alvarez (as female as Latino in perspective);

“love” by Gwylym Cano (because of course it is; did you just meet me?);

“El Parpadeo” by Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. (which is clever and amusing);

“Tia Chucha” by Luis S. Rodriguez (because even though they are different women, Tia Chucha reminds me in some ways of my own Aunt Anne to whom I dedicated Jingle Dancer);

“Martin and My Father” by David Hernandez (emotion packed and thoughtful, it includes my favorite line of the collection: “I kissed him with a poem.”);

“In a Minute” by Robert B. Feliciano (because it’s so true).

Cynsational News & Links

The Ben Franklin Award finalists for 2005 have been announced by the Independent Book Publishers Association. See the following categories: audio book–children’s; children’s picture book; children’s book and audio book; and juvenile-young adult fiction.

Agent Nadia Cornier of the Creative Media Agency debuts her blog, Agent Obscura, and gives an example of a “fabulous query letter” (see the April 18, 2005 post).

Ella Enchanted (The Movie)

I saw the film “Ella Enchanted” last night and enjoyed it.

Despite my well documented Cinderella issues, I’d been a huge fan of the Newbery Honor Book and adore author Gail Carson Levine. It reminded me a lot of the Drew Barrymore vehicle “Ever After,” and not just because they’re both inspired by the classic tale.

“Ella Enchanted” is a fantasy, but otherwise both films (also somewhat like the title role’s Anne Hathaway‘s Mia Thermopolis from yet another Cinderella story, “The Princess Diaries”) put a modern spin on royal teens struggling with having been born into such a responsibility juxtaposed against their opportunity to affect change for the better.

In other words, substitute Ella’s ogres, giants, and elves for Danielle’s servants and gypsies, and you’ve got the societal context of the plot. My one thumbs-down was the eavesdropping snake.

Freddie Murchison-Kowalski from Greg’s books would say the United States is a ridiculously royalty-obsessed nation for a democracy and prefers that her Opa call her “senator” rather than “princess” as a term of endearment. I’m inclined to agree, but notice that I did adore Gail’s Ella, read much of Meg Cabot’s TPD series, and saw all the aforementioned films.

Story princesses do seem to have improved in modern times, though just when you think real progress is being made, on pops a “cat fight” commercial for “The Bachelor.”

Sidenote: I met Gail Carson Levine at my first TLA conference at the same publisher party where I met Joan Lowery Nixon, who invited a then nervous newcomer to join her at her table.

Author Open House

Yesterday afternoon, Greg and I were featured speakers at an Author Open House at the Howson Branch of Austin Public Library.

The program was in celebration of National Library Week. Other authors on the bill were Elizabeth Fernea, Lewis Gould, James Hornfischer, Camille Kress, J.F. Margos, Fernando Saralegui and Evan Carton.

The librarians were pitching Coretta Scott King Award Winner Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes, which will be a highlighted title for their YAYA Book Club spring 2005 Series (5 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, Howson Branch, 2500 Exposition).

We were delighted to meet with so many Tarry Town readers, including writer Cynthia Levenson. Afterward, we had a pleasant surprise when we ran into author Lisa Waller Rogers at the pharmacy.

All in all, a splendid afternoon!

Cynsational News and Links

“Getting Past the Horror: The Beauty of the Synopsis” by Lisa Keeler from the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Reminder to those entering the Hyperion Books for Children’s Paul Zindel First Novel Award, the deadline is April 30.

From The Bank Street College of Education, the 2004 Irma Simonton Black and James. H. Black Award Winners are: Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Tale written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Hyperion). Honor Books: The Firekeeper’s Son written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Julie Downing (Clarion Books); Henry and the Kite Dragon written by Bruce Edward Hall, illustrated by William Low (Philomel Books)(see photos of the book signing party!); Wild About Books written by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown (Knopf).*

A special congrats to my pal, Linda Sue!

It is also worth finding out what Greg is appalled about.

*Savvy Notice: most of these also were publisher “push” books.

Me? A Celebrity?

At TLA, I went to lunch with an author friend who said she thought that autographings were a bad idea, that they sort of reinforced “the cult of celebrity,” and the whole thing should just be about the book.

Greg countered that signings were basically a way for readers to connect one-on-one with authors, that it gave them a venue to chat a few moments.

I like to see a signature and remember that literary trade books don’t start out like widgets, that they’re art crafted in individual passion.

To me, the touch of the creator tends to rejuvinate a copy, refreshen the magic of it.

That said, the “cult of celebrity” is definitely part of the reason that it’s become so difficult to publish the kind of literary picture books (with curriculum tie-in), especially multicultural ones, that teachers and librarians appreciate most.

Cynsational Links

State librarians do anything but keep quiet from News8 Austin. A rally at the Capitol (Greg and I were there!).

To Market, To Market by author Michelle Y. Green, who also offers The 60-Second Sound Byte. Michelle’s site is possibly the best author stop on the ‘net. Highest recommendation.

Author Jane Peddicord Debuts Web Site

Jane Peddicord, author of Night Wonders (Charlesbridge, 2005), launches her official Web site.

Jane’s site features not only her debut book, it also makes mention of Special Baby, illustrated by Meilo So, which is currently under contract with Harcourt.

She offers a biography, teacher’s guide, information on author’s visits, and links (thanks for the link, Jane!).

I like how Jane features other astronomy books available from Charlesbridge. It’s gracious and speaks to the global message that great books matter!

Surf by to learn more about Jane and welcome her to the world of children’s publishing!


Some excerpts of answers from an online interview I did with a college student about creativity:

Some people are predisposed to be creative, but it is their responsibility to turn that inclination into a gift to the larger society.

My favorite (creative work) is always whatever I’m working on now, but other folks bring their own sensibilities to the equation.

An inspirational quote (from my Chicago days):

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.” — Daniel H. Burnham

Miss Lady Bird Signing at Wildflower Center

Greg and I attended a signing yesterday for author Kathi Appelt and illustrator Joy Fisher Hein of Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America (Harcourt, 2005) at the Wildflower Center here in Austin.

It was a bit of a soggy day, but the author and illustrator were as sunny as they could be. I had an opportunity to see more of Joy’s original art, chat with Kathi’s husband Ken and his brother, the charming Darren, and visit with Buda author Jerry Wermund.

I bought copies of the book for myself, my mama, and for my cousin Stacy’s children, Abigail and Alex. It’s been a tremendous journey for Kathi, Joy, and Miss Lady Bird. If you have not already done so, be sure to read my story behind the story interview with this wonderful author-illustrator team.

Cynsational News & Links

Planners, please note that Greg and I are booked through the end of 2005 and now booking events for spring and fall 2006.

“A First Lady Who Made A Difference” by Alice Cary, a BookPage Interview with Kathi Appelt; March 2005.

Joy Fisher Hein from SCBWI Houston.

“Good Groups, Bad Groups: Online Critique Groups” by Patricia Green from the Institute of Children’s Literature. See also “Three Steps to Growing Elephant Skin” by Lisa Leuck, also from the ICL.

Portraying The “Bad Boys of History:” an interview with James Cross Giblin from Children’s Book Council.

RoseEtta Stone Speaks With Children’s Book Author Kathi Appelt from

Buddy Holly Signing Party

Greg and I attended a signing party yesterday for author Anne Bustard and illustrator Kurt Cyrus of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, 2005) at BookPeople here in Austin.

Anne is also the author of T Is For Texas. Kurt also is the author/illustrator of Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water (Harcourt, 2005), which is very highly recommended.

It was quite the fete! The BookPeople marketing staff had hung records from the ceiling, and the lovely Gillian from S&S brought in a pal who sang some of Buddy’s songs. We all wore Buddy-style glasses, Anne spoke and read briefly, Kurt fielded some questions, and then the signing was on.

When Greg and I left for the Shoal Creek Saloon with YA author Brian Yansky (My Road Trip To The Pretty Girl Capital of the World (Cricket, 2003); awarded best YA novel of the year by the Texas Institute of Letters), all but one copy of Buddy had been purchased. I’m sure it sold out by the end of the event!

In addition to Brian, celebrities in attendance included: Phil Yates (author of Ten Little Mummies (Viking, 2003)); April Lurie (debut author of Dancing In The Streets of Brooklyn (Delacorte, 2002)); Annette Simon (illustrator of This Book Is For All Kids, But Especially My Sister Libby. Libby Died (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2002)), Jane Peddicord (debut author of Night Wonders (Charlesbridge, 2005)); Meredith Davis (Austin SCBWI founder), Julie Lake (Austin SCBWI RA and debut author of Galveston: Summer of the Storm (TCU Press, 2003)), and Don Tate (illustrator of numerous books, including Sure As Sunrise: Stories of Bruh Rabbit and his Walkin’ Talkin’ Friends (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)).

I’m so incredibly happy for Anne, Kurt, and for young readers who’ll be inspired by Buddy, who in his too short life somehow made his dream come true.

In more personal news, I’m hugely excited to report that Greg and I bought the cover art from Kurt, which will be proudly displayed in our foyer.

Boy howdy, it sure is fine!

Cynsational Link

Children’s Fiction: Give Them Fights, Cameras, Action by Charlie Higson from The Sunday Times.

The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver) by E. Lockhart

The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver) by E. Lockhart (Delacorte, 2005)(Listening Library, 2005). Everybody’s dumped Ruby–her boyfriend, her best friend, and all of the rest of her friends. She’s a leper at Tate Prep and the subject of unflattering scribbles on the bathroom wall. After a few panic attacks, Ruby’s parents whisk her to Dr. Z. Their visits prompt Ruby to compile a boyfriend list, the first draft of which falls into the wrong hands. Ages 12-up. Highly recommended.

Cyn’s Boyfriend List (because did you really think I could resist?)

C, who liked Joelle better;
S, who I thought when he sang “Sandy” said “Cindy” instead;
D, who kissed me on the cheek;
S2, whose mother hated me (not the last mother to do so);
J, who first French-kissed me, and I thought it was gross;
D, who was older (and from Missouri), which freaked out my parents more than it should’ve;
T, who thought that dating was like “Ground Hog Day;” you did the same thing each time;
K, a total rebound;
C2, whom I had perhaps too much in common with;
T2, who was allegedly jealous of B, even though nothing ever happened;
R, who was probably too religious;
J2, but those long-distance things are always doomed;
C2, again, because we were like that;
H, whom I was on a date with when I met my husband;
G, who I married.

Note: I have never really learned when to use “who”/”whom,” which is one of the many reasons why I value copyeditors.

My Thoughts

The Boyfriend List is sometimes funny, sometimes thoughtful, always right on mark. At first when I plunged in, I found the footnotes a distraction from the flow, but after a few more pages, I was making footnotes of my own on purple Post-Its.* My total # of purple notes: 18 (one of which is hot pink for no apparent reason; it would make more sense if it signified something “hotter” or “more girly” but it doesn’t). This is what most of them said (for a few I can’t read my handwriting):

(1) I consider myself something of a “romance” authority (see “A Reader, A Romantic” by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Making The Match: The Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time by Teri Lesesne (Stenhouse, 2003)(no, I don’t mean genre romance, though one of my best friends from law school writes them).

(2) I wish I’d read The Boyfriend List when I was a teen girl in the same way I wish a couple of my boyfriends (see above) had read Out of Order by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003).

(3) Re FN 3, pg. 45, it was somewhat mortifying to see “Back in Black” by AC/DC (1980) as a historical reference, though of course it is. I used to march into the gym to it in eighth grade back when I was on the junior high (now middle school in Kansas) drill team. Our colors were blue and black, which when you think of it more says “bruised” than “champions,” but there you have it.

(4) Re FN 6, pg. 64 and FN 7, pg. 65, excellent thematic references to great films of our time;

(5) Re “Tommy Hazard;” mine is tall, brilliant, funny, does housework, and doesn’t mind that I’m my neurotic self. He also thinks I’m devastatingly sexy.

(6) I love that the setting is not an all-white world, but it’s also not a forced 1980s kind of multicultural story. It’s a story with white, Japanese American, Indian American, Latino, etc. characters where ethnicity isn’t the whole focus. But, at the same time, those characters from historically underrepresented groups aren’t white-washed either. They just are who they are are, and occasionally that plays a role in their perspective, but more often, it doesn’t. The Boyfriend List is one of the best examples of the direction I’d like to see us going with race and ethnicity in books for kids and teens.

(7) Related to immediately above, I always had an equal opportunity/affirmative action policy when it came to really cute boys.

(8) The therapy aspect of the story was fascinating to me, being from a lower-middle class mid-to-southwestern family where the closest thing one has to it is talking to an auntie over a plate of comfort food.

(9) Re pg. 156, it’s generally but not always a bad idea to go out with an ex, something I did with: T, C2, and J2 (see above).

(10) Re FN 1, pg. 198 and FN 2, pg. 199, more excellent thematic references to great films of our time.

(11) Re FN 3, pg. 212, I thought the reference movie, “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask” had to be made up, but I googled it, and found out I was wrong. It is apparently a Woody Allen movie. I have tried to watch Woody Allen movies, and I simply want to shake the man and say “deal with it,” but I’m thinking these films have greater appeal to Manhattanities and people who don’t first think “Willie Nelson” when someone mentions music. See #8 above.

(12) I can’t remember the last time I was so personally engaged with a novel. I’m thrilled that it’s on the radar for the BBYA and Quick Picks lists. Thanks to E. Lockhart for a wonderful read!

*because I cannot figure out a way to indicated footnotes on blogger, I will have to use boring parenthesis.

Cynsational Links

E. Lockhart’s Blog: for the latest news.

Best Books For Young Adults — 2006 Nominations; updated April 2005. BBYA nominees I’ve read and recommend (so far): Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick); Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen (Atheneum); A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt); BBYA nominee that Greg has read and recommends: Pinned by Alfred C. Martino (Harcourt).

Quick Picks — 2006 Nominations; updated April 2005. QP nominees I’ve read and recommend (so far): Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick); Fade To Black by Alex Flinn (Harper)(see my site search engine for interviews with Alex Flinn); Got Fangs? by Katie Maxwell (Dorchester Smooch); A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt).

More recent don’t-miss novels: Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone (HarperCollins, 2005)(ages 12-up); Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005 (ages 8-up); Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone (Knopf, 2005)(ages 10-up); Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, 2005)(ages 10-up); Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee (Wendy Lamb, 2005)(ages 10-up).

See also this groundbreaking Native American YA anthology: Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005) and from the backlist, Comfort by Carolee Dean (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)(ages 12-up); See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004)(ages 12-up); Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004)(ages 12-up).

Cynsational News and Links

Help the Austin Public Library Foundation and recycle at the same time. will donate $1 to the Austin Public Library for each white page phonebook recycled in April, up to $10,000. Just drop off your old or unused phonebooks in the recycling bins located in all Austin Public Library branches.

Blogging TLA from Greg Leitich Smith.

TLA! All The Way!

The Texas Library Association conference in Austin has made for an exciting week.

The highlight of Tuesday’s preconference activities was a talk by Dianna Hutts Aston, who spoke about the roots of her writing and her fascination with the mysteries of life. Dianna’s talk was heartfelt, enthusiastic, charming, and at times, funny.

In addition to one of the most gracious tributes to her illustrators, she also made mention of her teachers, Kathi Appelt and Debbie Leland. I believe this was Dianna’s first conference talk, and my, did her star ever shine!

Other celebrity sightings at the talk included uber-goddess librarian Jeanette Larson, author Anne Bustard, and up-and-coming Charlesbridge author Chris Barton.

That night I also ran into author Pat Mora at the bar at the Driskill Hotel. You’ll remember that Pat’s daughter, Dr. B., is my kitties house-call vet.

Wednesday, I attended uber librarian Teri Lesesne‘s talk, the Poetry Round-Up, and author/librarian Toni Buzzeo‘s speech on collaboration.

I also ran into more people than I can name (but some of them were Marian Hale (author of The Truth About Sparrows (Henry Holt, 2004),, Laura Tillotson, Charlesbridge editor Yolanda LeRoy, and author/editor Margery Cuyler).

Then, sporting my wine-red (per request) top-and-skirt set, I joined a loud group of librarians at the Capitol to send the message that “Texans Love Libraries.” Note: I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get my own drum, you know, but that’s okay. I sure hope those legislators were listening!

Thursday, Greg and I spoke with authors Roger Leslie and Alex Sanchez on a Multicultural Humor panel and then we ducked out for a break and lunch with author/poet Janet Wong at Manuel’s on Congress Avenue.

That night at the publisher party at the Omni Hotel, I saw several folks, including Loriene Roy and her graduate students from the University of Texas, Sandra Morrow from the National Christian Schools Association, authors Kelly Bennett, Gail Giles, Kathy Whitehead, author/illustrator Kurt Cyrus, and many more!

The Little Brown folks hosted a dinner for Greg and author Varsha Bajaj (a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Award; congrats Varsha!) and welcomed our friend author/future librarian Debbie Leland as well. We went to the Bitter End, where Greg had a chance to catch up with his editor Amy Hsu.

Of course conferences are always a blur, and there’s so much more I could say. But it all boils down to this: TLA! All The Way!

Cynsational Links

The Goddess of YA Literature (AKA Teri Lesesne) posts Got Books? Great YA Reads of 2004-2005 (featured in her TLA talk).

A Day At TLA from author Anastasia Suen.