Author Interview: Jill Esbaum on Estelle Takes a Bath

Jill Esbaum on Jill Esbaum: “I was the family chatterbox and story maker-upper. By first grade, I was writing my stories down. Unfortunately, in fifth grade, as I proudly showed off the Fifth Grade Pet Newspaper a couple of friends and I had created, a boy I liked pronounced it “dorky,” and splat! That easily, my writing dreams were squashed. Fifth grade, after all, was all about being cool (and let’s face it, in my light blue cat’s eye specs, I already had one strike against me).

“But I always loved books, thanks to my parents and a string of teachers who put a great deal of emphasis on reading. I devoured the Little House series, Misty of Chincoteague (and every other title by Marguerite Henry), Black Beauty, The Happy Hollisters, Pippi Longstocking, Edward Eager‘s Half Magic…and went through dozens of flashlight batteries reading Nancy Drew under the covers into the wee hours.”

What about the writing life first called to you?

My kids were all in school, and I was working sporadically as a substitute teacher’s aide. Reading mountains of picture books to my kids had awakened my hibernating imagination, and I was itching to try writing one of my own. I mean, how hard could it be? I had a computer, time on my hands, and a reasonable command of the English language.

Shortly after, I learned the true meaning of Easier Said Than Done.

What made you decide to write for young readers?

Actually, my first published piece was short fiction for a women’s magazine. It sold on its first time out, and for about eight seconds, I entertained the notion of writing some type of humor/romance series. But while adults may read and enjoy a novel, when a child reads a book that strikes a chord, he takes it into his heart forever. The possibility, however remote, that one of my stories could someday touch a child that way made writing for adults less appealing.

Besides, writing for kids sounded like more fun.

I started out publishing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in children’s magazines, and things evolved from there. That isn’t to say I wasn’t regularly submitting what I now know were pretty lousy picture book manuscripts during that time. You name it, I did it wrong. I tried not to make the same mistake twice, though, and eventually, I ran out of things to screw up.

For those new to your work, could you briefly summarize your back list, highlighting as you see fit?

Farrar, Straus & Giroux published my first two picture books, Stink Soup, illustrated by Roger Roth (2004), the tale of a girl charged with keeping her mischievous brother in line during a visit to their Grandmother’s farm, and Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-Comin’!, illustrated by Adam Rex (2005), a look at a steamboat visit to a small town on the Mississippi, circa 1867. That one was inspired by a passage in Mark Twain’s Life On the Mississippi and has garnered numerous honors.

Congratulations on the publication of Estelle Takes a Bath, illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma (Henry Holt, 2006)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

A story of my grandmother’s. In the 1920s, growing up on a farm, she and her siblings took their baths in a tin tub near the woodstove. One evening, her teenaged sister, Ruth, was mid-bath when someone knocked on the kitchen door. Ruth panicked. She jumped from the tub and ran up the stairs–naked–right past the door…where a salesman stood looking in, waiting for someone to answer.

I thought the story was funny, but a naked teenager running through the house wasn’t exactly picture book material. I finally came up with the idea of making the bather a bedraggled, mouse-hating witch, whose long-anticipated bath is interrupted by–what else?–a curious mouse. I dreamed up a way for them to kiss by accident, which would lead to hysterics on both their parts.

I couldn’t find the rhythm, though, so the story remained in my mind for more than a year before the opening lines finally came to me.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

From spark to publication was probably…four years? I finished the story itself two days after those opening lines hit the page. It’s unusual for me to finish anything that quickly, and I wish it would happen more often (or, like, ever again).

I sent it to three editors late in 2003 and received The Call from Holt the first week of February, 2004. My editor suggested that perhaps Estelle shouldn’t be a witch, and her reasoning seemed valid (marketing limitations), so I agreed. There were a few witchy details I had to change, but nothing major.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life? I’m especially interested in any thoughts you may have on writing humor.

Writing a story in rhyme is always a challenge. Every word of every line must move the story forward and convey the precise meaning you had intended. Brevity is crucial. Humor is a big plus. The rhythmic pattern should establish a mood. The rhyme has to be flawless. Ack!

I equate writing a rhyming story to attempting to solve a particularly vexing word puzzle. You know the solution is there, but finding it takes time and a great deal of hair pulling and head banging. But it’s also a blast.

For the picture book crowd, humor is very visual, so no matter how hilarious a story, a lot of the responsibility for kids “getting it” rests with the illustrator. That means the text had better communicate the humor clearly before it ever leaves your house.

Remembering all those books I read to my own kids, I try to keep the adult reader in mind, aiming for writing that is fresh and funny enough that they won’t mind reading it again and again.

What did Mary Newell DePalma’s art bring to your text?

When I received Mary’s first sketches, I couldn’t stop smiling. Her Estelle wasn’t at all the way I’d pictured her; I immediately liked hers better. And the mouse had so much personality–he was adorable. I continue to be amazed at the way she captured the story action. It’s a wild romp, with Estelle and the mouse literally leaping and bouncing across most of the pages. Estelle’s kitchen is full of funny details, and the characters’ facial expressions are priceless. Mary made this story her own in such a way that I can’t imagine it illustrated by anybody else.

What advice do you have for beginning picture book writers?

If you can keep from obsessing about publication, you’ll be much happier. Focus, instead, on making your writing the best it can be. Then find ways to improve it. Don’t be in a hurry to submit. Study books on craft. Join the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Read what’s out there, new and old, in all sorts of genres. Practice. Persist. Be patient.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read. A lot. I enjoy school visits and attending writing conferences. My husband and I like to travel, although we don’t get away very often. Each spring, I’m gung ho for my flower beds. But by late summer, I’ve lost interest (survival of the fittest around here). I do small quilting projects, wall hangings and the like, although I’ll undoubtedly tackle a full-sized quilt eventually. It’s in the genes.

I also have a picture book critiquing service. Details are available on my website: www.jillesbaum.com.

What can your fans look forward to next?

To the Big Top, illustrated by David Gordon, will be published in 2008 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). It’s set in the early 1900s and follows two adventurous boys on the day a circus comes to their town. Stanza, a rhymer illustrated by Jack E. Davis, is scheduled for 2009 (Harcourt). Stanza is a rowdy cur who terrorizes the neighborhood with his older brothers. He has a secret, though. At night, he hides way back in the alley and writes poetry. His life gets complicated when he enters a jingle contest.

More picture books are in the works. Meanwhile, I’ve finished a middle-grade novel, and I’m working on my second. After that comes a historical novel I’m excited about (also inspired by my some of my grandmother’s tales) and the development of a couple of YA ideas that have been buzzing around in my head.

I feel so fortunate to spend my days writing for kids. Until they carry me from my keyboard feet first, I’ll keep at it.

Cynsational News & Links

CBC Showcase: Learning About Families. Highlighted titles include Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2004)(excerpt). Read a Cynsations interview with Jordan.

Visit Julia Durango’s new author website, designed by Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys. Julia’s books include Cha-Cha Chimps, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor (Simon & Schuster, 2006) and Angels Watching Over Me, illustrated by Lisa Klevin (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Congratulations to Heidi Roemer on her new book, What Kind of Seeds Are These? (NorthWord Books, 2006) and her new author website! Read a Cynsations interview with Heidi Roemer.

“Wise Words, Perfect Pictures, and How to Get Them Published,” the second annual fall conference of Southwest Texas SCBWI will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 11 at St. Phillips College in San Antonio. Featured speakers include: Newbery honor author Marion Dane Bauer (author interview); agent Jennifer Jaeger from Andrea Brown Literary Agency; editor Lauren Velevis from HarperCollins; editor Alyssa Eisner Henkin from Simon & Schuster. See also Fingerprints Newsletter & Blog from Southwest Texas SCBWI.

Visit Robin Friedman‘s newly redesigned website! Robin’s books include: The Silent Witness: A True Story of the Civil War (Houghton Mifflin, 2005); How I Survived My Summer Vacation And Lived to Write the Story (Cricket, 2000); and The Girlfriend Project (Bloomsbury, 2007). The designer was Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys, who also designed my own site.

Congratulations to Debbi Michiko Florence on the sale of her first book, a nonfiction activity book on China for the Kaleidoscope Kids series, to Ideals Publishing. Read Debbi’s LJ.

Congratulations to Deborah Lynn Jacobs on the publication of her novel Powers (Roaring Brook, 2006). From the promotional copy: “When Gwen and Adrian meet, they unlock each other’s latent psychic powers. It’s too bad they can’t stand each other, don’t trust each other, and do everything they can to manipulate each other. Will they use their power to save lives? Or will it destroy them both? Written in alternating voices, this is a compelling, suspenseful novel about power in all its forms—-psychic, physical, sexual, romantic.”

“Plastic Flowers and Channelled Raisins” a talk given by editor Arthur A. Levine at a conference of Florida SCBWI from Arthur’s Blog.

Thanks to the following Cynsations LJ syndication readers for their recent comments: tamark, shelleybecker, mountainmist, and d_michiko_f cheering the release of Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), literaticat for acknowleding her link, and azang for letting me know that feed troubles aren’t limited to my own.

2007 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market

2007 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market edited by Alice Pope (Writer’s Digest Books, 2006). “If you long to see your stories or artwork in the hands of young readers, this is the book you’ll want to use.”

About ten years ago, I quit my government law day job. My goal was to write full-time for children and teenagers, even though I didn’t have so much as a rough draft to my name.

I walked from my apartment in Chicago to the Border’s at Michigan Avenue and Pearson, asked a bookseller where the writers resource section was, and soon afterward, began pulling anything that looked useful from the shelves.

I remember hesitating to buy the newly minted edition of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. After all, I had no manuscript to shop. But it occured to me that the learning curve of the publishing industry was likely as steep as my writing one.

Especially since both are moving targets, that proved to be true.

Back in my postage-stamp-sized apartment, I poured over the articles and took my pink highlighter to the publisher listings.

My first book, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins) was published in 2000. My first ‘tween novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins), was published in 2001.

It was a thrill to have my editor-author exchange with Rosemary Brosnan about Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002) featured by Esther Hershenhorn (author interview) in “Dear Writer: When Editorial Letters Invite Revision” in the 2003 edition of the CWIM.

All of which is to say, I have a particular affection for the CWIM, but the 2007 edition is the best I’ve ever seen. Articles of note include a new one by Esther, “A Writing Teacher’s Do’s and Don’ts” as well as: “Sucessful Rewriting: Viewing the Big Picture” by Sue Bradford Edwards; “Ten Tips for a Great Query Letter” by Lauren Barnholdt; The Newest Children’s Book Imprints” by Alicia Potter; “U.S. vs. U.K. Fiction” by Sara Grant; “Creating Books for the Youngest Reader” by Kelly Milner Halls (author interview); “The New Rules for Teen Lit” by Megan McCafferty;” “Mainstreaming the Graphic Novel” by Patricia Newman; and “Conquering Home Office Clutter” by Hope Vestergaard.

Additional highlighted authors include Cynthia Lord (author interview), Dorian Cirrone (author interview), Elizabeth Bluemle, and Tanya Lee Stone (author interview). I also enjoyed the Insider Report with agent Anna Oswanger.

More personally, I’m quoted on Cynsations in “Blogging for Authors & Illustrators” by Roz Fulcher. Other featured bloggers included Chris Barton, Anastasia Suen, and Don Tate. My website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com is also listed among “Useful Online Resources.”

The head genius behind the guide is Alice Pope. Visit Alice’s CWIM Blog: Not-Quite-Daily News and Musings from the Editor of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

Cynsational News & Links

I had such a lovely time at my online chat with the Institute of Children’s Literature. Thanks to moderator and ICL website editor Jan Fields and everyone who participated!

Read the transcript: “The Pre-Side of Writing with Cynthia Leitich Smith” from ICL, Sept. 14, 2006. My apologies for the typos typical of chat transcripts; my fingers were flying fast.

More News & Links

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has released a new poster in celebration of Banned Books Week, Sept. 23-30. The poster incorporates ABFFE’s FREADOM logo and depicts the Statue of Liberty reading a book. The art, by Roger Roth, is from The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History, which was written by Jennifer Armstrong (Random House, 2006). The poster can be downloaded free (PDF file) and printed as an 11″ x 17″ poster using either a color printer or the services of a local copy shop.

Reminder: The Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announces its Fall 2006 Conference, “Follow Me” (PDF). The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Texas School for the Deaf at 1102 South Congress in near south Austin. Licensing agent Suzanne Cruise has been recently added to the faculty. Other featured speakers will include agent Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency, author Bruce Coville, author-book doctor Esther Hershenhorn (interview), Clarion associate editor Lynne Polvino, illustrator Tony Sansevero, and illustrator Don Tate (interview)(blog). Faculty also includes Dianna Hutts Aston (interview) and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Learn more about the conference.

Darleene Bailey Beard: official author site includes her biography, books, and events information. Darleen’s titles include: The Babbs Switch Story (FSG, 2006); Operation Clean Sweep (FSG, 2004); Twister (FSG, 1999); and The Flimflam Man (FSG, 1998). She is based in Oklahoma.

Take a sneak peek at the cover art for Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us ANYTHING! A Mrs. Skorupski Story by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa (Upstart Books, 2006). Read a recent Cynsations interview with Toni.

Congratulations to the Children’s Media Professionals’ Forum on its one-year anniversary.

“Cultivate Good Writing Manners” by Margot Finke from the Purple Crayon. Read a Cynsations interview with Margot.

Cynsational News & Links Revisited

Reposted for Cynsations LJ subscribers only:

Now Available: Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006). Ages 4-up. Learn more.

Author Inteview: Toni Buzzeo on School Visits (part one and part two) from Cynsations.

More News & Links

Book Burger: “on a mission to connect hungry readers with tasty reads. We serve up authors and books that may not be on the bestseller list, but oughta be on your brain-food menu.” Go ahead–take a bite out of the burger!

Not Your Mother’s Book Club (Content May Not Be Suitable for Parents): launched by Books Inc., a community for YA lit teen readers. Note: “Authors, librarians, booksellers, teachers, and those who just love teen books are also welcome, but contests and other special treats are for those in grades 7-12 only.” A space to “meet each other, meet authors, talk about new books, post book reviews, post stories, and generally have fun.” See also Books Inc., The West’s Oldest Independent Bookseller.

Author Interview: Brian Anderson on the Zack Proton series from Cynsations.

Illustrator Interview: Yuyi Morales on Los Gatos Black on Halloween. See also Author Interview: Marisa Montes on Los Gatos Black on Halloween, both from Cynsations.

“Beethoven’s Five Legless Pianos Inspire Winter’s Wacky Kids’ Book:” An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Jonah Winter, author of The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven (illustrated by Barry Blitt (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2006)) by Susan VanHecke from Authorlink. September 2006. Note: For registered users (minimal fee), Authorlink also offers An Exclusive Interview With Kathy Dawson, associate editorial director at Harcourt Children’s Books, by Lesley Williams.

NikiBurnham: LJ of the sparkling YA romance author. Look for Do-Over (Simon Pulse, 2006)(excerpt). Read a Cynsations interview with Niki.

Author Jennifer L. Holm is signing her new novel, Penny From Heaven (Random House, 2006), at BookPeople in Austin, Texas; on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.

Interview with Debut YA Author Robin Merrow MacCready by Debbi Michiko Florence. Robin is the author of Buried (Dutton, 2006). Learn more about Robin. See also the interview with Robin at TeensReadToo.com.

Read new interviews with Joyce Sidman and Tanya Lee Stone by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer from The Poetry House. Don’t miss previous interviews with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, Kristine O’Connell George, Nikki Grimes, Heidi Roemer, Marilyn Singer, and Lisa Wheeler. Tracie is the author of Sketches from a Spy Tree, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005) and Reaching for the Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007). She also writes teacher guides for other children’s book creators and publishers. Read Vaughn Zimmer, Tracie’s LJ.

Reminder: The 92nd Street Y Buttenwieser Library and the Jewish Book Council are co-sponsoring the Eighth Annual Jewish Children’s Book Writers’ Conference at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan (New York City) Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final registration deadline is Nov. 11. The conference sold out last year, so register early. Learn more about the conference.

What Makes a Good Thriller: Working with Fear by Nancy Werlin from The Horn Book Magazine. Read a recent Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Check out the photos from author Jo Whittemore‘s signing for Curse of Arastold (excerpt), Book Two of the Silverskin Trilogy, which kicked off with Escape from Arylon (author interview)(both Llewellyn, 2006). The event was held at Barnes & Noble, Round Rock, which is just outside of Austin. Learn more about the photographer, author Brian Anderson. Note: my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, and I were there. So was author Varian Johnson.

Syndication Glitches

Cynsations LJ syndication readers, my apologies for the continued interruptions in the transfer. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do from my end. If this persists, I’ll look into a regular account and cross post. In the meantime, please click through on the header link. Thank you.

Web Designer Interview: Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys on the Launch of www.santa-knows.com

In celebration of the release of my new picture book, Santa Knows, co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006), it is my pleasure to announce launch of www.santa-knows.com and to share an interview with the design guru behind it, Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys. Let’s hear from Lisa…!

How did you translate Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), the book, into www.santa-knows.com, the website?

With every site design I have to be mindful of that site’s audience and purpose. And, to succeed on the Web, every site has to answer a question within a few seconds of loading: “What IS this?”

For Santa-Knows.com, the ‘audience’ might seem the same as for the book itself: the picture book ‘reader.’ Except—it isn’t.

All children’s publishing and marketing is filtered, first, through the adults who acquire and edit the books, and, next, through the adults who choose the books for the children in their libraries, classrooms and homes.

To plan a site to feature Santa Knows, we had to keep this duality in mind:

1. This is a site about a book meant to appeal to young children.

2. However, except for a precocious few, young children aren’t actually going to be reading the site–the adults in their lives are.

Hm, okay. The site needs to show some kid-appeal but needs to make it easy for adults to get the information needed to evaluate the book and perhaps buy it for a child. These practicalities drove the content you provided and the way I presented it.

And–while this may seem obvious–the site needs to show right away what it’s about–a specific book about Santa Claus. It’s not a site about Santa Claus as a popular figure, or kids’ seasonal wish lists, or even how to answer the question, “Is there really a Santa Claus?”

The navigation bar at the top says it all–the site will introduce the book, its authors and illustrator, highlight the cover art, and will list news and reviews as the book begins to build its audience. And, not least! it lets people know how, when, and where to buy the book.

What were the design considerations? The challenges?

With Santa Knows, one thing I wanted to do was show what sets the story apart from the masses of other Santa and Christmas-related material out there.

(This is a seriously funny book!)

We were very fortunate to have Steve Björkman’s funny, jolly illustrations as a springboard. I was able to pull the color scheme straight from the book art. So we have a white, snowy background, some cool light blue, hints of bright yellow-gold shininess, and, of course, green and red.

Notice, however, that the hues are slightly off what you usually see–the green is a bit sharper and yellower than the usual Christmas-y green, and the red is more of a candy-red, not the traditional berry-red. It’s a subtle difference, but it supports the slightly unorthodox tone of the story.

Steve’s cover art–which shows the author and illustrator bylines against a background of ball-ornaments–also inspired me to use a slightly different take on ornaments, this time as ‘frames’ for photos of the authors and illustrators themselves.

One challenge had to do with the treatment of the overall page space. People are viewing web pages on a variety of screen sizes and resolutions, so there are techniques to make the page seem “full” to those on the bigger displays, but still keep all the important stuff within a certain dimension, so readers don’t have to go scrolling all over the place just to read a few lines of text.

So, if you view Santa-Knows.com on a monitor capable of displaying an area larger than 800 x 600 pixels, you’ll see that there’s a blue and white “snowy” texture filling in the space on each side of the center content. It helps the page seem complete to those viewing on larger monitors, but no actual content is missing for those viewing on the smaller screens.

How about on the technological side? What were the issues and triumphs there?

I got to have a lot of fun with the art for Santa-Knows.com. I usually shy away from recommending any sort of animation on author websites, because so often the effect is cheesy. But some projects really benefit from a little animation. I thought the sparkles that glint off the title words “Santa Knows” were very appropriate. It’s like Santa himself is twinkling at us.

I did have to choose between technologies when creating the twinkles. Flash animation is very popular these days, but it does depend on having the right player installed. I didn’t want viewers to be confronted with a popup telling them they needed to install something, just to view the site. So, the sparkles are actually three instances of the same tiny .gif animation–an older technique that sometimes gets derided because it was formerly used in clumsy and inartistic ways.

What appealed to you about the project?

1. What’s not to like about Santa? It’s happy, fun material.

2. It was finite: just 5 pages to start out. I liked that the ratio of tedious labor to fun stuff was weighted in favor of the fun stuff!

3. It was a chance to work yet again with one of my favorite clients.

What was the timeline from contract to launch, and what were the major events along the way?

As you well know, some sites can take many, many months to develop, but that wasn’t the case here. From contract to launch was less than three months, and the actual development time was even less than that–only about a month–but we both had summer travel plans that interrupted the work flow.

More globally, why should authors with established author-oriented sites consider adding a book-specific site to their online marketing efforts? What are the special benefits?

Readers don’t always remember author’s names, but they do tend to remember titles or at least the main topic. Having a site devoted to one book can make finding your book–and subsequently you, the author–easier for the reader.

(Or, in the case of a picture book, for the parent, teacher or librarian shopping for that reader.)

Another way to look at it is if you write for a wide spectrum of ages, or in a number of genres whose audiences don’t tend to overlap, you are more likely to be found through a site devoted to a specific work.

Having both an author-oriented site and book-specific sites means you’re giving your readers many more ways and chances of finding you.

What are key considerations in creating a book-specific site?

The audience for a book-specific site is much more focused than for a more general author site.

With author-oriented sites, you need to take care to be very inclusive, so that all the potential audience members for the site are catered to.

With a book-specific site, you have more opportunity to shape the “brand”—all the design elements can complement the design of the book, for example.

A tougher point to consider might be whether you want to include activities or interactive elements. Kids do love games and quizzes, but the development costs can be substantial.

(My advice to authors who bankroll their own sites is to keep things simple. Make sure what you put up is the best it can be. Better to do less stuff, but do it in a really classy way, than to cobble-together a lot of disparate or amateurish elements. On the other hand, if your publisher is paying, by all means push for bells and whistles!)

You’ve been kind enough to talk to Cynsations before. But could you remind us of your services and where to find out more?

Sure! I specialize in building expressive, unique web sites for individuals (as opposed to businesses or corporations). It’s not the most lucrative way to conduct my business, but it is what I enjoy doing and do best. Most of my clients are authors, artists, and educators.

You can find my biz stuff on the web at Hit Those Keys (www.hitthosekeys.com) and I also blog intermittently on writing, design and other, more personal, topics at Wild Keys (www.hitthosekeys.net). Or, feel free to email me at inquiries@hitthosekeys.com.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I happen to believe that the Web is a very exciting medium for authors. There’s a very low barrier-to-entry—it is affordable and yet the reach is enormous.

Creating a web presence is a way to grow as a writer/artist/person. It pushes you to get over yourself and reach out. You can pull in an audience from anywhere in the world, test out new voices and material in real time, and get feedback just as quickly.

And, as ever, Cynthia, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to your readers about what I do!

Cynsational Notes

Come visit the official Santa Knows website!

Lisa also is the talented designer behind my main author site at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com.

Now Available: Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, September 2006)

Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006). Ages 4-up. Note: now available.

Alfie F. Snorklepuss doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, and he’s being a real pest about it. He thinks he’s proven that Santa doesn’t exist because there’s no way that Santa could do all the things he’s supposed to, like deliver billions of presents all over the world in one night or know what every little kid wants. And cranky Alfie is everywhere–on TV and radio, in the newspapers–telling boys and girls what he thinks is the truth.

Then, one Christmas Eve, the man in red himself packs up Alfie and brings him to the North Pole for an attitude adjustment, Santa-style….

In this sweet and funny picture book, Santa Knows reminds readers about the importance of being nice, not just at Christmas, but all year round.

Cynthia Leitich Smith was born in a snowstorm on New Year’s Eve in Kansas City, Missouri. After college, she went on to study law at the University of Michigan and in Paris. Today, Cynthia writes books for young readers, runs a large children’s literature Web site, and makes her home in sunny Austin, Texas, with her husband and coauthor, Greg.

Greg Leitich Smith was born in Evanston, Illinois, and raised in Chicago. After college and graduate school, he went on to the University of Michigan Law School. Today, Greg practices parent law, writes for kids, and lives in Austin with his wife and coauthor, Cynthia.

Steve Björkman has been drawing ever since he can remember—at home, in church, during class, and in most of his spare time. Over the past 25 years, he has illustrated over 70 children’s books, hundreds of greeting cards, thousands of advertising and editorial illustrations, and art on a variety of products from paper goods to picture frames. Steve lives in Irvine, California, with his wife and three kids.

Reminder: Tonight Cynthia Leitich Smith Chats About Pre-Writing at the ICL

Join me for a chat on the “The Pre-side of Writing” with the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Just send your questions to WebEditor@institutechildrenslit.com, and then join me on tonight from: 9 to 11 p.m. Atlantic/Canada; 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern; 7 to 9 p.m. Central; 6 to 8 p.m. Mountain; or 5 to 7 p.m. Pacific. Log in here!

Need help? See “I Want to Chat: Tell Me How” by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Cynsational News & Links

Book Burger: “on a mission to connect hungry readers with tasty reads. We serve up authors and books that may not be on the bestseller list, but oughta be on your brain-food menu.” Go ahead–take a bite out of the burger!

Not Your Mother’s Book Club (Content May Not Be Suitable for Parents): launched by Books Inc., a community for YA lit teen readers. Note: “Authors, librarians, booksellers, teachers, and those who just love teen books are also welcome, but contests and other special treats are for those in grades 7-12 only.” A space to “meet each other, meet authors, talk about new books, post book reviews, post stories, and generally have fun.” See also Books Inc., The West’s Oldest Independent Bookseller.

Every once in a great while, the relationship between Blogger and my LiveJournal syndication goes a little wacky. So, for those who were short-changed recently, I’m re-running the following Cynsational links:

Author Interview: Brian Anderson on the Zack Proton series from Cynsations.

Illustrator Interview: Yuyi Morales on Los Gatos Black on Halloween. See also Author Interview: Marisa Montes on Los Gatos Black on Halloween, both from Cynsations.

“Beethoven’s Five Legless Pianos Inspire Winter’s Wacky Kids’ Book:” An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Jonah Winter, author of The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven (illustrated by Barry Blitt (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2006)) by Susan VanHecke from Authorlink. September 2006. Note: For registered users (minimal fee), Authorlink also offers An Exclusive Interview With Kathy Dawson, associate editorial director at Harcourt Children’s Books, by Lesley Williams.

NikiBurnham: LJ of the sparkling YA romance author. Look for Do-Over (Simon Pulse, 2006)(excerpt). Read a Cynsations interview with Niki.

Author Jennifer L. Holm is signing her new novel, Penny From Heaven (Random House, 2006), at BookPeople in Austin, Texas; on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.

Interview with Debut YA Author Robin Merrow MacCready by Debbi Michiko Florence. Robin is the author of Buried (Dutton, 2006). Learn more about Robin. See also the interview with Robin at TeensReadToo.com.

Read new interviews with Joyce Sidman and Tanya Lee Stone by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer from The Poetry House. Don’t miss previous interviews with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, Kristine O’Connell George, Nikki Grimes, Heidi Roemer, Marilyn Singer, and Lisa Wheeler. Tracie is the author of Sketches from a Spy Tree, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005) and Reaching for the Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007). She also writes teacher guides for other children’s book creators and publishers. Read Vaughn Zimmer, Tracie’s LJ.

Reminder: The 92nd Street Y Buttenwieser Library and the Jewish Book Council are co-sponsoring the Eighth Annual Jewish Children’s Book Writers’ Conference at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan (New York City) Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final registration deadline is Nov. 11. The conference sold out last year, so register early. Learn more about the conference.

What Makes a Good Thriller: Working with Fear by Nancy Werlin from The Horn Book Magazine. Read a recent Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Check out the photos from author Jo Whittemore‘s signing for Curse of Arastold (excerpt), Book Two of the Silverskin Trilogy, which kicked off with Escape from Arylon (author interview)(both Llewellyn, 2006). The event was held at Barnes & Noble, Round Rock, which is just outside of Austin. Learn more about the photographer, author Brian Anderson. Note: my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, and I were there. So was author Varian Johnson.