Cynsational News & Links

Reminder: I’m a 31 Flavorite author for October! I’ll be chatting Oct. 29 at the readergirlz MySpace group forum about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). To participate, friend the readergirlz site, and their group forum; we are celebrating YALSA’s Teen Read Week. Read a Cynsations interview with the Readergirlz Divas. Here’s the schedule:

Week One
1. Meg Cabot
2. Tiffany Trent
3. Brent Hartinger (author interview)
4. Lorie Ann Grover (author interview)
5. K.L. Going (author interview)
6. Nikki Grimes

Week Two
7. Ellen Hopkins
8. Justina Chen Headley (author interview)
9. Chris Crutcher
10. Ann Brashares
11. Sarah Mlynowski
12. Cecil Castellucci (author interview)
13. Kirby Larson

Week Three

14. Tanya Lee Stone (author interview)
15. John Green (author interview)
16. Sara Zarr (author interview)
17. Deb Caletti
18. Rachel Cohn
19. Kirsten Miller
20. Mitali Perkins

Week Four
21. Sonya Sones
22. Lisa Yee (author interview)
23. Carolyn Mackler
24. E. Lockhart (author interview)
25. Janet Lee Carey (author interview)
26. Gaby Triana
27. Lauren Myracle (author interview)

Week Five
28. Holly Black (author interview)
29. Cynthia Leitich Smith (author interview)
30. Dia Calhoun (author interview)
31. Stephenie Meyer (author interview)

Attention Texas College Students! Enter the Writers’ League of Texas annual College Horror Story Contest for the chance to win $200 and publication. The entry fee is five dollars per submission plus League membership ($15 for students). Deadline: Oct. 31. See details, guidelines, and entry form. Note: “Entry form may be printed and must be included with submission.”

Author April Lurie launches her recently redesigned website. April is the author of: Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn (Delacorte, 2002)(excerpt)(author interview), Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds (Delacorte, 2007)(excerpt)(author interview), and The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine (Delacorte, 2008); see more on April’s books.

In a recent review of Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds, The Philadelphia Inquirer says, “April [the character, not the author] is in touch with her dark side, but she’s upbeat and athletic too, and never hesitates to cream the guys in her neighborhood at tennis. She has a matter-of-fact feminism that made me smile, an ability to stand up for herself that feels fresh, easy, youthful, and empowering.” Read the whole review.

Go see author David Lubar on The Campfire Weenies Book Tour. See The Curse of the Campfire Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales (Tor/Starscape, 2007). If you’re in Kentucky, Ohio, Washington, California, or Illinois (or can get there), check out the complete schedule! Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Mark your calendars! Children’s Book Week is scheduled for Nov. 12 to Nov. 18. See history, materials, and how to promote at the Children’s Book Council site.

YA Author/Title List: A Few Names and Titles to Get You Going by Mechele R. Dillard at

More Personally

Congratulations to Kerry Collins, co-author (with Jana Seely) of Faces of Hearst Castle (Hearst Castle Press, 2007). “Faces of Hearst Castle offers a close look at over forty specially selected objects from William Randolph Hearst’s art collection…”

Author Greg Leitich Smith will join me in sharing “Santa Knows Story Structure,” a discussion of arc in the picture book, using our recent release Santa Knows, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006) among others. The event is sponsored by Austin SCBWI and will begin at 11 a.m. Sept. 9 at the Barnes & Noble in Round Rock.

Reminder: If you would like a signed Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) bookmark and/or a bookplate for any of my titles, please feel free to write me with a snail/street address. If you are underage, you may send a parent’s/guardian’s work street address. Check with them first.

Author Interview: Ann Angel on Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories About Beauty

Ann Angel on Ann Angel: “I’m a writer of young adult fiction and nonfiction with books that include Such A Pretty Face: Short Stories about Beauty (Abrams, 2007), Robert Cormier: Writer of the Chocolate War (Enslow, 2007). A biography of Amy Tan will be coming out with Enslow in 2008, and a biography of Janis Joplin, tentatively titled ‘Under the Influence,’ will be published by Abrams in 2009.

“When I’m not pushing a deadline, I’m teaching writing at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin or working with some of the greatest local writers through SCBWI-Wisconsin. You can also find me hanging out with my husband Jeff and whichever of our four twenty-somethings happens to be wandering around the house. You can read more about my years as one of nine kids growing up in Wisconsin on my website.”

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I earned a degree in English Education and worked as a junior high teacher while pursuing a master in arts in journalism. So I began my career as a teacher and then a journalist writing for newspapers and magazines. I was the reporter that the Milwaukee Sentinel would send to cover nursing homes, schools and foster care stories because I loved learning everything I could about people. On the other hand, I was awful at writing about government. I just couldn’t figure out what was so important about housing codes, or election practices, or tax incremental finance districts.

My own kids were adopted from around the country and then the world at a time when little was written on the subject. I wrote stories and read them to my kids to help them understand their own beginnings. Some of those stories became my first publication, Real For Sure Sister, an early chapter book published by a small adoption and foster care press, Perspectives Press, in 1989.

From there, I began teaching college classes and working as a writer-for-hire and freelance editor with school supplemental publishers such as Raintree Books, Gareth Stevens, and the Sight and Sound Division of Disney-owned Webster Publishing, where I wrote the front matter and games at the end of the Hercules sight and sound books.

But I really wanted to get back into fiction and realized I needed more training. I joined the ranks of the first graduating class of Vermont College’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. There I wrote a young adult novel manuscript, “Bella’s Spirit Guide” (which is being viewed, maybe even as we speak–or I as write this, by an editor I love to work with). That was the first of six novel manuscripts I’ve completed and which my agent has.

Congratulations on the release of Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories about Beauty (Abrams, 2007)! Could you tell us about this new title? Who are the contributors? What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

It was in the spirit of mentorship between new and known writers that I came up with the idea of creating an anthology that brought the work of new writers into the world alongside that of known writers. In the spirit of the program, it made sense to work on stories about beauty.

I loved the beauty of mentorship and ultimate friendships that formed at Vermont College. But with four children who don’t look like one another and because of teaching in a women’s college, I saw the effect of our culture and media’s idealization of impossible standards of beauty.

It made sense to create a book that offered readers the chance to expand on their own visions of beauty. And so, Such A Pretty Face was born. Contributors include: Ron Koertge (author interview), who wrote a story about the unwritten rules of beauty; Mary Ann Rodman, Norma Fox Mazer (author interview), Chris Lynch, J. James Keels, Ellen Wittlinger (author interview), and Jamie Pittel, who wrote stories that recognize how we stack up in a world that prizes physical beauty; Tim Wynne-Jones (author interview), Lauren Myracle (author interview), Louise Hawes (author interview), and Anita Riggio, who wrote stories about seeing beauty even in the ugliest of situations; and Jacqueline Woodson, who wrote a story about finding beauty in difference.

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

I look back and find that, while I can recall the moment I came up with the idea of this anthology, I can no longer put a year to it. (I think this is similar to the way our minds work when we forget the pain of childbirth or a wicked accident.)

I imagine the idea formed shortly after I graduated from Vermont College, which goes all the way back to 1999. It took almost two years to find the stories and work with writers to create stories that wouldn’t repeat specific themes or plots.

The collection sold to Abrams with the help of my agent, Barry Goldblatt, in 2005. Susan Van Metre, executive editor of Amulet, the imprint for Abrams Books for Young Readers, and I collaborated on final revisions over the next year. The book made its debut last May.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

I was amazingly fortunate to know writers who believed I could make this happen. They encouraged me and, in turn, gave me their very best writing efforts. Every one of them turned in stories filled with heart and soul and memorable characters.

In the few cases where I asked writers for major revisions, they willingly took the challenge and, each story became stronger, better, more in line with the anthology’s theme. Once the anthology was sold, working with Susan, my editor at Abrams, proved that working with a great editor is a dream. But in between gathering the stories and finding a publisher, I admit, there were moments of panic, anxiety and outright hopelessness on my part.

At first the idea had been to use the anthology to create a young adult writer’s scholarship out of the proceeds. Because of political reasons I won’t go into here, that idea died.

A few publishers looked at the anthology and, while they loved the idea of a collection on beauty, some didn’t want unknown writers, others had a different vision for combining fiction and nonfiction.

It was truly fortune when Susan Van Metre saw the collection and shared the original vision of new and known writers working together to create the collection. But, because of the length of time that had passed since the stories were collected, I discovered some writers had sold their stories or had worked entire novels around their stories. I found that Susan and I were, sometimes, working on brand new stories trying to find the perfect space and order to the collection.

Meanwhile, I was putting together a reader’s guide and an introduction for the book. I loved every step of putting this collection together. It was a creative high to work through the process.

I did have one moment of absolute panic, though, when Susan called and said I had to kill the “teacher-ly or academic” introduction I had originally written. She asked for my own turning point story. My first reaction was to tell Susan, “No one reads introductions anyway.” In the end, I wrote a true story about how, as a truly insecure and dorky teen and the sister of one of the beautiful girls, I was set up to believe I had actually captured the attention of one of the beautiful guys only to learn the beautiful girls had paid him five dollars to kiss me.

Before I sent the story to Susan, I asked my sister to read it and okay it. I should note my sister’s only culpability was that she couldn’t stop the other beautiful girls from carrying out their humiliating plan. Katie told me that it was a beautiful story, and I could certainly have her permission to put it in the book. But she said, “I don’t remember it.” She added, “So it isn’t true.” I remember saying to her, “Oh, Katie. But it is.”

Since then, Katie and I have talked a lot about growing up together and growing up being such different personalities. We both agree our individual turning points are the stories we each recall. But I was amazed to learn she was just as scared and insecure and sure the world found her wanting as I.

What challenges are inherent in putting together an anthology?

The challenge I was most aware of initially was that I wanted the stories to explode traditional ideals of beauty in a way that would make readers think about their own definitions and expectations and possibly change the ways they viewed beauty. I was looking for stories with characters that were real and funny and sad. But the stories needed to be different from each another in a way that each made readers think in new ways.

I received so many excellent stories from both new and known writers. It was really tough to make selections and then to send stories back to writers when they were well written and unique. But I often found myself writing letters that said the story, as strong as it was, really only dealt with beauty on a peripheral level or it was a story that was too close in theme or plot to a story I already had accepted.

What did you learn from the process?

I think the experience gave me confidence in knowing what is good and what is interesting. But I also learned more about my own writing, about what works and doesn’t work, and about how some ideas and ideals are more easily accepted by the world than others. Finally, I learned I love putting together anthologies and I hope I have a chance to do this again.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’d like to tell you I bungee jump and sky dive–I have a sister who actually does those things. The truth is I teach. I do laundry. I cook. I love to cook. I often find myself at the mall where I say I’m doing fashion research for fiction I’m working on, but I’m probably either heavily into retail therapy or a mall addict. Jeff and I travel, usually to warm climates where he gets a little stir crazy and finds things to do like climbing cliffs or exploring underwater caves full of rocks covered with sea urchins, or para-kiting. I, meanwhile, stand on the beach with my book and stare down into the water or up into the sky feeling a little sick at how high he’s going.

We just went to Italy where I was amazed at all the graffiti and open air markets where knock-off purses and sunglasses are sold. I can’t wait to go back.

What’s next in your writing life?

I’d love to sell some of my fiction and I’m currently working on a novel about two sisters. But I’m also deep into research for Under the Influence, the life and times of Janis Joplin. My deadline is fast approaching. I tend to always be working on one piece of fiction in conjunction with a piece of nonfiction.

Thanks for the chance to talk about Such A Pretty Face and all the wonderful writers I’ve gotten to work with so far. I really, truly, hope this is just the beginning of a trend in anthologies.

Author Interview: A.M. Jenkins on Beating Heart and Repossessed

A.M. Jenkins on A.M. Jenkins: “I live in Benbrook, Texas with my three sons. Novels: Breaking Boxes (Delacorte, 1997); Damage (HarperCollins, 2001); Out of Order (HarperCollins, 2003), Beating Heart (HarperCollins, 2006); Repossessed (HarperCollins, 2007); Night Road (HarperCollins, spring 2008). I also do freelance work for educational and trade companies; I’m currently working with Tiffany Trent on a fun project called Queen of the Masquerade, a book in the Hallowmere series (Mirrorstone, August 2008).”

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I’m wary of speaking about publication in a way that encourages treating it as a writing goal. Personal goal, yes, but it’s not like once you’re published you’ve got it made and can relax and enjoy the rarefied air whilst dishing out advice to the great unwashed. Plus, the publication “path” is seldom straightforward. It usually doubles back on itself, forks off in different directions, or comes to a grinding halt in the middle of nowhere. IMHO, writing is about moving forward, and the real path for beginning and experienced writers alike is one of learning, stretching, and improving what’s on the page.

With that in mind, my answer is:

Stumbles: rejection, rejection, rejection. Always rejection.

Sprints: Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel, California Young Reader Medal, L.A. Times Book of the Year Finalist, ALA Top Ten Best Books, Booklist Editor’s Choice, BCCB Blue Ribbon Books, BBYA, Quick Picks, PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship.

Congratulations on your recent releases–Beating Heart: A Ghost Story (HarperCollins, 2006) and Repossessed (HarperCollins, 2007)! Let’s start with Beating Heart. Could you fill us in on the story?

Beating Heart is the story of a dead girl and a living guy. She thinks he’s hot, but also believes he’s the one who killed her. He has his own problems, romantic and otherwise, and now he’s also unwittingly being stalked by a ghost.

What was your initial inspiration for writing Beating Heart?

Some years ago there were a couple of movies that came out fairly close together, both with dead main characters who didn’t know they were dead. (and the audience didn’t know either, till the end). I thought about that dead MC scenario a lot, about how it would be difficult to do that in a novel because you usually use physical details to ground the scenes and to provide info about the emotional aspects of the story. The fact that I was too short-sighted to see a way to do this made me want to figure out a way to do it.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

For me, the first hurdle was getting past the idea of grounding scenes in the traditional sense–after all, if the point-of-view character has no physical body there is no concrete scene to set. The second hurdle was getting the story to move along, when its MC (main character) had no sense of the passage of time, no dialog, no interaction with anyone or anything. She also was an unreliable narrator, to the point where the reader would have no clue what was going on. It was clear fairly quickly that the story would need to be nailed down somehow in order to be more than a collection of wispy impressions.

Your use of alternating point of view in prose and poetry was brilliant! Could you talk about this decision?

It was purely trial and error. Once I decided that the story had to be nailed down in order to work, I tried adding in a second point-of-view character in real time.

I thought at first that alternating the dead girl’s “floaty” voice with more traditional prose sections would be too jarring, so I went through a phase where I tried the manuscript out as half-graphic novel (real-time guy), half “free verse” (dead girl).

From there I eventually came to see that the real-time parts might work if I could take my graphic novel script and turn it into a flat-voiced, removed, third-person prose that didn’t compete with the dead girl’s sections, which were as evocative as I could make them.

So I’d like to claim brilliance, but unfortunately I’m more along the lines of the proverbial monkey with a typewriter.

Moving on to Repossessed, could you tell us about this title?

A demon is sick of doing his job in hell, and decides to take an unauthorized vacation by hijacking a teenage guy’s body and using it to experience physical life.

Again, how did the idea come to you?

I spend quite a bit of time in the car because my kids have to be dropped off at different schools, so I think a lot about things like whether there’s really a Satan, and what’s the point of having a hell, and whether I should stop and get a Milky Way at the Texaco.

What were the challenges in writing this story? The thrills?

This story was probably the most straightforward thing I’ve ever written. The challenge came in making the book more than just “The demon experiences A, B, C, D, etc.” so that the reader would continue to want to read it–and, frankly, so that I’d continue to want to write it.

How did you get in touch with your inner demon-fallen angel? Or put another way, I found the voice irresistible. Did it come to you fully formed or did you have to fight for it, and if so, how did it finally emerge?

The voice was the easiest part. I would guess it’s probably the closest to my own voice, out of anything I’ve written. I’m just snarkier and less grammatical than the demon is.

Are you a plotter or a plunger, or does it vary from book to book?

I am a plunger who is always trying to stretch my abilities. Someday I hope to learn to plot. It hasn’t happened yet.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I’m trying to think of any advice I’d offer my old self, but nothing is coming to mind because I’m pretty sure my old self wouldn’t have listened. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t think any advice on earth would have kept me from making them. And I don’t think I’d have learned from advice as well as I’ve learned from experiencing the ups in all their glory and the downs in all their horror.

If I had to give somebody else advice, I’d say it’s generally a good idea to focus on the work more than on getting/being published. The ironic thing is that once you focus on the work, you increase your odds of getting/being published.

And I will share my all-time favorite quote about writing, by Barry Moser: “I would rather have the two-hundred fifty-six imperfect books that mark the vectors of my journey through my art form than to have one perfect book that marks nothing but its own perfect self.”

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing horror/gothic fantasy? Which books would you suggest for study and why?

These are tough questions. On one hand, it’s extremely important to be aware of what’s already out there so you know what’s been done, and who bought it (editor/publisher-wise). On the other hand, you don’t want to accidentally soak up somebody else’s style. There’s so much great fantasy on the shelves that it’s already hard enough to find something unique to say and a unique way to say it.

I suppose that a writer of horror/gothic fantasy has to walk a line between being familiar with the market, and being too derivative. I think everyone has to figure out what works for their own writing process and not feel worried that they’re doing it the “wrong” way.

In my own process, I try to avoid reading fiction that’s even remotely similar to what I’m currently working on. However, I read as much related nonfiction as I can get my hands on–and I tend to wander pretty far afield, because I never know what book is going to have a chapter or paragraph that sparks something, or provides a detail that helps me create a world.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I deal with my family, mostly. Otherwise, I work out, then eat enough to counter any effects of working out. I e-mail friends. I watch TV (anything related to any manuscript I’m working on, plus various anime series, “Robot Chicken,” “Top Chef,” “Project Runway,” “Ghost Hunters,” and anything involving Jane Austen, Mount Everest, or 18th-19th century naval life). I also read, mostly non-fiction and some manga series.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

There’s not a lot to balance because I don’t do much promotion. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes grunt-work type of person.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Night Road is a book about two “vampires” who take a third newbie “vampire” on a road trip for training purposes. This is the manuscript that was awarded the PEN/Phyllis Naylor fellowship.

Queen of the Masquerade is the fifth book of ten in Hallowmere, a fantasy/historical series by Tiffany Trent.

Cynsational Links

Award-winning YA author Amanda Jenkins from

Cynsational News & Links

Debut Author of the Month: Kim Norman from Alice’s CWIM Blog.

The Cookie Theory: Author’s Secret Weapon or Crummy Mess? from pixie stix kids pix: Thoughts, Observations, and Ideas About Children’s Books. An article about the “(sometimes tricky) relationship between booksellers and authors.”

Author Tanya Lee Stone launches her newly redesigned website. Tanya’s books include A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2006, 2007), Up Close: Ella Fitzgerald (Viking, 2008), and Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Viking, 2008). Read a Cynsations interview with Tanya.

Latino Books from The Horn Book. Recommended titles.

Math and Science in Fact and Fiction from CBC Magazine.

Open Topic: Your Favorite Characters at the YA Authors Cafe.

One Question, Ten Answers with the Authors of Click (Scholastic, 2007): One Novel, Ten Authors: David Almond, Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Margo Lanagan, Gregory Maguire, Ruth Ozeki, Linda Sue Park (author interview), Tim Wynne-Jones (author interview) from the Scholastic website.

Read-alikes: Kick-Ass Heroines by Diana Tixier Herald from Booklist. Recommended titles.

Take a sneak peek at Dan Andreasen’s art by for Pilot Pups by Michelle Meadows (Simon & Schuster, May 2008).

Arthur Slade: a profile by Dave Jenkinson from the Canadian Review of Materials. Visit Arthur’s site, blog, and LJ. Read a Cynsations interview with Arthur.

Tales from the Slush Pile at Publishers Weekly. Just in case: Chris Raschka.

“Why Teach Reading?” by Timothy Shanahan from the International Reading Association.

“Writing YA in the UK”: on online chat with Terie Garrison Sept. 13, sponsored by the Institute of Children’s Literature. ICL says: “Terie Garrison has written the Dragonspawn Cycle, a fantasy series for young adults, published by Flux. A native San Diegan, she moved to Manchester, UK, in 2000, where she’s also a senior level technical writer for a software company and has written a variety of magazine nonfiction.” US Times: Sept. 13; 9-11 p.m. Atlantic; 8-10 p.m. Eastern; 7-9 p.m. Central; 6-8 p.m. Mountain; 5-7 p.m. Pacific. See chat registration information.

More Personally

I’m happy to announce I’m a 31 Flavorite author for October! I’ll be chatting Oct. 29 at the readergirlz MySpace group forum about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). I’d love to hang out with you for an hour. Just friend the readergirlz site, and their group forum, We are celebrating YALSA’s Teen Read Week. There’s a different author hosted every night, so make some time in October to chat. See you there!

Fresh Voices of YA: Cynthia Leitich Smith Interview from Book Chic.

Thank you to Michelle and friends at the University Hills branch of the Austin Public Library for your hospitality! Last night’s event included decorations inspired by Sanguini’s, the fictional vampire restaurant in Tantalize! Audience members self-identified as predator or prey and received bat-shaped or leaf-shaped name tags. The menu was Italian (pizza!) with thematic sweets (bat-shaped brownies and squirrel-shaped chocolate and peanut butter brownies). I was wowed, too, to be presented with a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses!

Thanks also to David at Hastings in Round Rock for last Saturday’s wonderful table signing. I loved the red curtain, carpet, and table cloth as well as the Italian sausage and cheese.

If you know author J.B. Cheaney, could you please ask her to email me? Thank you.

Librarian Interview: ALA President Loriene Roy

Loriene Roy on Loriene Roy: “I am a Native of Minnesota, enrolled on the White Earth Reservation, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. I was born in Cloquet, Minnesota and raised in nearby Carlton, Minnesota, population 810.” See Loriene’s blog.

Congratulations on becoming the new American Library Association president! What does the ALA president do? How long is the term? Could you paint us a broad picture?

The term is one roughly year, from the close of one annual conference to the close of the next one, though I also served a year as President-Elect and also will serve a year as Immediate Past-President. It is an elected, volunteer position. The Position includes serving as the Chair of the ALA Council (180 members), Chairing the ALA Executive Board and ALA Executive Committee Meetings, representing the Association (66,000 members), making appointments to some committees, responding to media calls (about 5-10 a week), writing a monthly column for American Libraries, attending conferences and events, evaluating the ALA Executive Director, trying to accomplish activities related to a personal platform, etc.

What inspired you to seek the position?

I saw this service as an opportunity to involve students, bring attention to indigenous library services, and learn a great deal.

Could you tell us about your path to this point in your career? What inspired you to become a librarian-educator?

I had a previous career working as a medical radiologic technologist (X-ray tech) in community hospitals. I was interested in providing patients with health care information. The closest degree I could find was one in librarianship where my first aim was to be a medical librarian. I ended up working in a public library instead. Two years later, I had an opportunity to return to school to work on a doctoral degree. I then started applying for faculty positions as I neared completion of that degree. ALA is the largest general organization in librarianship, so it was a logical place for me to begin professional service. I served on my first ALA committee in 1990.

What current issues are important to you within the field and why?

ALA has key action areas. I am concerned with issues related to diversity–increasing the number of students of color in library and information science programs, increasing the number of faculty of color, attention to multicultural library services. I’m interested in how we can support the literacy needs of indigenous peoples and how we can develop an international network of indigenous librarians.

You’re a force behind If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, a national reading club for Native children. Could you tell us about this organization? How about its history, its goals?

Sara Long was President of ALA in 1998 and provided us with $5K in seed money to start If I Can Read. It has grown from one location to 28. We work with tribal school libraries in 12 states to assist them in promoting reading as a life long leisure activity. It is a volunteer service program; we work with the tribal school librarians on activities they are interested in. Many want new books for their collections. We help others plan reading programs such as “Battle of Books” competitions, scary story open-mike events, family reading nights. Our goal is to help indigenous children become successful readers for life.

How have you seen it grow and change over time?

We still find great demand for our help Schools still want resources but more are interested in reading promotion activities. Also, there’s more interest in working with teenagers.

How can we offer our support?

Of course, like other service programs, we are always in need of funding to cover elements like postage. We still deliver new books to schools. Schools would also love to have visitors.

As a reader, who are your favorite authors and why? Favorite titles?

I have lots of favorite authors and try to read widely. I am a big fan of Louise Erdrich and Maori writers like Robert Sullivan, Patricia Grace, Allen Duff, and Witi Ihimaera. This year I am trying to rad a lot of ALA book award winners–Alex Award winners and Printz award winners to start with. I try to read bilingual books, especially Spanish/English. And I listen to lots of audio books.

What can we expect from you next?

This year I will be responding to lots of media requests related to many aspects of librarianship, so you might see my name in newspapers, on National Public Radio, and on television. I’m scheduled to do an NPR taping on 25 Sept for the program, “Tell Me More.” We’ll be talking about Banned Books Week.

I’m also creating several demonstration projects this year to illustrate my commitment to libraries Celebrating Community, Collaboration, and Culture. We are designing an international celebration of indigenous children’s reading and culture to take place in April 2008 during National Library Week. We are enrolling 50-100 schools around the world that serve indigenous children to share information about their schools, how they learn about their cultures through reading, and their needs. We hope to be able to deliver books to at least some of the schools as well as reading incentives.

I’m here in South Africa for two conferences and have met with some school librarians so that we can add schools in Zimbabwe and South Africa to the project. The celebration is called A Gathering of Readers.

Library of Congress Announces Award-Winning Authors To Participate in Seventh Annual National Book Festival

The 2007 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by Mrs. Laura Bush, will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th streets (rain or shine). The festival is free and open to the public.

“This will be the seventh year of this extraordinary celebration of the joy of reading and the creativity of America’s writers and illustrators,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “The National Book Festival brings authors and readers together to share the stories that touch their minds and hearts. Tens of thousands of book lovers see firsthand how reading changes lives and how our country, its citizens and its libraries promote reading in imaginative and inspiring ways.”

“The National Book Festival welcomes all Americans to the National Mall to celebrate reading and meet with some of America’s most-loved authors from across the country,” said Mrs. Bush. “Readers of all ages can discover the joys of new books and fall in love again with old favorites.”

The 2007 National Book Festival is made possible with generous support from Distinguished Benefactor Target; Charter Sponsors AT&T, The Amend Group and The Washington Post; Patrons AARP, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the James Madison Council and the National Endowment for the Arts; and Contributors Barnes & Noble, the Library of Congress Federal Credit Union, Marshall and Dee Ann Payne, NBA/WNBA, PBS, Penguin Group (USA) and Scholastic Inc.

This year about 70 well-known authors, illustrators and poets will talk about their books in the following pavilions: Children; Teens & Children; Fiction & Fantasy; Mysteries & Thrillers; History & Biography; Home & Family; and Poetry. Festival goers can have books signed by their favorite authors, and children can meet ever-popular storybook and television characters and NBA/WNBA players appearing on the festival grounds throughout the day.

Authors and illustrators of books for children and teens include Coretta Scott King award winner Ashley Bryan; Newbery Medal winners Patricia MacLachlan and E.L. Konigsburg; 2007 Caldecott winner David Wiesner; M.T. Anderson, winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; Gene Luen Yang, who received the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults; and Rosemary Wells, the recipient of numerous awards and citations.

In the Teens & Children pavilion, the national student winners of the Letters About Literature program will read their personal letters to authors who inspired them. Sponsored by the Library’s Center for the Book with support from Target, this reading and writing promotion program invites young readers in grades 4-12 to write personal letters to authors, past or present, who have changed their views of the world or of themselves. Each year, winners are selected at the state and national levels. As the project’s corporate sponsor, Target awards the six national winners and their parents with a trip to the National Book Festival to share their winning letters with the festival audience.

“It is inspiring to see the number of young people whose lives have been positively affected by a particular author or book,” said Laysha Ward, vice president, community relations, Target. “Through its comprehensive support of early childhood reading, including the Letters About Literature program and the National Book Festival, Target is helping to instill a love of reading in kids as the foundation for lifelong learning.”

The Pavilion of the States, sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), will highlight reading, literacy and library promotion activities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and several American trusts and territories. Representatives from the states and territories will welcome families and children interested in learning about writers and reading programs nationwide. IMLS representatives will also be providing information about its library initiatives, including the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program to recruit and educate the next generation of librarians. The Big Read programs in the states, sponsored by IMLS and the National Endowment for the Arts, will be featured in the pavilion.

In the popular Let’s Read America pavilion, there will be a wide variety of fun-filled reading promotion activities developed by festival sponsors for children.

The Library of Congress Pavilion will feature a variety of interactive family-centered activities illustrating the depth and breadth of the Library’s extraordinary collections available online. Computers will be available for both children and adults to explore the Library’s acclaimed Web site at Information about conserving photographs and valuable documents as well as the Library’s digital preservation program will be provided. The Library will share the latest technologies in film and audio preservation developed for its new Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va.

In addition to planning a range of activities for this year’s festival on the National Mall, the Library is offering a variety of ways for people around the country to participate in the event online. This summer, the Library will launch the National Book Festival Young Readers’ Online Toolkit ( to bring the festival into libraries, schools and homes across the country. The Toolkit will feature information about National Book Festival authors who write for children and teens, podcasts of their readings and teaching tools and activities for kids. This interactive resource also shows educators, parents and children how they can host their own book festivals.

Available again this year will be downloadable podcasts of interviews with popular participating authors. The Library will also present same-day coverage of the morning presentations on its Web site. All of the authors’ presentations will be available on the Library’s site the week following the festival.

In addition to the same-day webcasts, the Library will again collaborate with Book TV on C-SPAN2 to televise events taking place at the festival. The C-SPAN2 Book TV Bus, a mobile television studio with a multimedia demonstration center for the public, will also be on the National Mall.

Leading up to the festival, will host a series of online chats with authors appearing at the National Book Festival. These text-based discussions can be viewed daily, starting on Monday, Sept. 24, on the site at The schedule of chats and authors’ names will be posted on the site and the Library’s site at Participants can submit questions in advance or during the live discussion. Authors’ responses will be posted while the program is airing or at a later date on’s online discussion archives. Washington Post Radio will also be interviewing authors prior to the festival day.

The artist for this year’s festival is Mercer Mayer, whose work brings a magical quality to the 2007 National Book Festival poster. Mayer will be among the authors and illustrators speaking in the Children’s Pavilion. Posters featuring his digital painting will be available free of charge at the festival.

The Junior League of Washington will again have hundreds of volunteers to help with the National Book Festival.

A preliminary list of participating authors, illustrators and poets, their books, and other activities in each presentation pavilion follows. For more information about them and the festival, visit

Children’s Authors (sponsored by AT&T)

* María Celeste Arrarás, “The Magic Cane”
* Ashley Bryan/Jan Spivey Gilchrist, “My America”
* Carmen Deedy, “Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale”
* Mercer Mayer, “The Bravest Knight” and “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet”
* Megan McDonald, “Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday”
* Judy Schachner, “Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones”
* Rosemary Wells, “Red Moon at Sharpsburg” and “Max’s ABCs”
* David Wiesner, “Flotsam”
* Jacqueline Wilson, “Candyfloss”

Teens & Children (sponsored by Target)

* M.T. Anderson, “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1”
* Holly Black, “Ironside”
* E.L. Konigsburg, “The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World”
* Gail Carson Levine, “Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand”
* Patricia MacLachlan, “Edward’s Eyes”
* Patricia McCormick, “Sold”
* Shelia P. Moses, “The Baptism”
* Cynthia Leitich Smith, “Tantalize”
* Gene Luen Yang, “American Born Chinese”
* Letters About Literature

Cynsational Notes

More information about participating authors and illustrators listed above and those in the adult genres is available at the National Book Festival site.

This will be my second time appearing at the festival. I presented Rain Is Not My Indian Name at the 2002 NBF.

Author Interview: Andrew Nance on Daemon Hall

Andrew Nance on Andrew Nance: “I was born in Texas and raised in North Carolina. As a teen, I was pretty wild and had a bunch of good friends. I got into radio in my early twenties and worked up and down the east coast from Florida to Maine (I worked with Stephen King‘s sister-in-law, a newscaster, at a country station in Bangor).

“I was working at a small Florida station in 1983 when a competitor called me at home, wanting me to come right away for a job interview. I had been working on this old Harley Davidson I had at the time and was covered in grease, but they said that would be okay. So I went.

“I remember walking into the station, and there was this girl on the air–you could see her through the studio window–and I thought, Wow! She’s hot!

“I later learned that she took note of me, too. She saw me come in all covered in motorcycle grease, and turned to the person next to her and said, ‘Are we really going to hire that?’ I’d never been referred to as a ‘that’ before.

“But I got my revenge and married her several years later, heh-heh. She’s now a middle school drama teacher, and we have two teenage sons. I retired from radio in 2001 and have been focusing on my writing ever since.”

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

Daemon Hall started out as a short story collection. I’d written about half of the stories and was looking for a creative way to present them. I was talking it over with my oldest son; he was in the fifth or sixth grade at the time and had this Japanese candle holder that held about a dozen candles. So, we decided it’d be cool to get a group of tale-telling teens in a haunted house swapping stories, and, after each ,they’d blow out a candle until the final would be told in the dark.

When I finished the manuscript, I sent it out to various publishers and agents. Eventually, Paula Morrow at Carus Publishing asked me to do a rewrite on spec, but she wanted me to approach it not as a short story collection, but as a novel. When I finished, I really liked how it was evolving. Unfortunately, Carus decided to stop carrying YA titles, so I was once again adrift in the sea of unpublished authors (Isn’t that a Rick Riordan title–no wait that’s The Sea of Monsters).

It turned out to be for the best because after a year and half sitting on her slush pile, Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt picked it up and liked it.

Before signing me, she put a challenge to me; do another rewrite and trim seventy-five pages in the process. Seventy-five! I didn’t think I could do it, but figured it would be good experience. She knew what she was talking about because it really was a much better book after that. So, now it’s out, and I’m crossing my fingers for good sales.

Congratulations on the release of Daemon Hall (Henry Holt, 2007)(excerpt)! Could you fill us in on the story?

A famous horror author for teens, Ian Tremblin, holds a short story writing contest for his readers. The winner will get a book publishing deal.

Tremblin selects five finalists, including the protagonist, Wade Reilly, and gathers them together for one night in Daemon Hall, a mansion that is rumored to be haunted. The plan is for them to tell stories all night, and Tremblin will pick a winner in the morning. Their only light source comes from nine candles.

After each story, they extinguish one candle, making the ambiance darker and even more sinister. Then things begin to occur in Daemon Hall, and they come to learn they’re not only telling horror stories, but they’re a part of one, as well.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

We can go back decades for the initial inspiration. I grew up telling ghost stories. Whenever I had a babysitter, I took it as my personal goal to scare them so much that they’d beg me to quit telling stories. I usually succeeded.

But when I wanted to read a book that was scary (I’m talking back in the late sixties as a preteen and into the seventies as a teen), the selection was sadly lacking. Every time I tried a so-called horror for teens it suffered from either the Scooby-Doo Syndrome (not a real monster, but someone in costume) or the Casper Effect (not a terrifying ghost after all, but a friendly, misunderstood spook).

What I’m writing now is what I would liked to have read when I was a teen.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?

I’ve been very blessed in life and have enjoyed every stage of it. I particularly had a great time as a teenager, you know, good friends, getting a taste of freedom, always out there looking for adventure. I think that mindset just sort of stuck with me (my wife calls it “arrested development”).

I do a lot with teens: working with the youth group from my church; helping my wife, who is a middle school drama teacher; taking school groups on ghost tours. Like most YA writers, I have a great deal of respect for teens.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

You know what? I’d go back to when I was a teenager trying to figure out what to do with my life. I eventually got into radio, which is a fun profession, but I didn’t love it. I kind of fell into it because I have a good voice, sense of humor, and musical knowledge.

My dad always told me I could do whatever I wanted, but deep down I didn’t believe him. I didn’t realize he was right until just a few years ago. So maybe it was a delayed start, but I’m finally pursuing my dream. I hope any teens who read this will take it as a lesson to follow their passion.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing horror?

Horror is the ultimate in good versus evil. It’s natural to focus on the terrible, frightening stuff that goes on. But if you look closely at horror stories that really connect, they’re about normal, everyday people (like us) who find themselves in incredible and terrible situations. They have to find courage and strength within themselves to fight back, so that, hopefully, good will triumph.

The fact that the good guys don’t always win is another reason horror can be so compelling–you just never know until that last page.

When writing, I pay particular attention to pacing. The suspense shouldn’t build too fast–or too slowly for that matter. As for the narrative, I want readers to see what is happening in their minds. I’ve had several people say, “When I read it I thought this would make a great movie.” Hopefully that means they’re seeing it as they read it.

Horror also needs occasional surprises, something that makes the reader stop for a moment and say, “Where the heck did that come from?”

Which books would you suggest for study and why?

I wish I could be unique and pull out some obscure title but, as most writers would tell you; Stephen King‘s On Writing (2000) and The Elements of Style by Strunk and White need to be the first two books in any writing library. I think King could write a restaurant menu and make it a compelling read, he certainly did so with a how-to-write book. It’s not only entertaining and informative, but every time I read it, my battery gets charged up and I’m eager to get back to the keyboard.

Barbara Seuling‘s How to Write a Children’s Book and Get it Published (2004) is a good read for someone just starting the journey into the jungle we call children’s publishing. It’s simple and straightforward and tells you what you need to do after writing the book and how to go about doing it.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

My family is very active in our church. In fact, faith and family are the things that helped me most on the road to getting published.

St. Augustine, Florida is a wonderful historic town and I do some tourist related work which includes playing a pirate captain on the schooner Freedom, a big beautiful ship. Flagler College, a liberal arts college in town, has a respected communications department, and I use my experience to volunteer at their radio station. I sometimes work with students, but mainly I’m the jazz music director and have a weekly airshift.

Theater is a whole lot of fun and I find myself on stage in local productions from time to time.

What else? I like motorcycles, scuba diving, tattoos, golf, and poker. Oh, and as a tie in to Daemon Hall, I do, on occasion, take part in paranormal investigations.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Another paranormal adventure with Wade, Demarius, and Ian Tremblin is in the works.

After that, I’m not sure. I do have three other manuscripts that are completed for the most part. Two are horror and one I wrote for my drama teacher wife, so it deals with a school musical production.

As for my immediate plans, I’m going to the beach with my copy of your book, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). I’m about fifty pages from the end–what a great summer read.

Cynsational News, Links & Return

Welcome back to Cynsations! The blog will be posted on a building schedule as we slide into fall. If y’all could spread the word that it’s steadily reemerging, I’d appreciate it!

At the moment, interview questions are out to the first round of to-be-featured publishing pros.

If you had a pending interview from last spring, please feel free to turn in your answers at any time. Thanks!

Thanks also to everyone at SCBWI Nationals for your hospitality during the recent 36th annual summer conference in Los Angeles! As promised, links related to my two presentations on the Internet and children’s-YA writing have been posted to Spookycyn.

The Hero’s Journey: A Full Day Writing Workshop with author Dr. Lila Guzman is scheduled for Oct. 20 at Wild Basin Reserve in Austin. See details at Austin SCBWI. Read a Cynsations interview with Lila.

Children’s Authors and Illustrators Meomi (Vicki Wong and Michael Murphy): official site for the Octonauts picture books features bibliography, links and other octogoodies. Meomi’s books include Octonauts and the Only Lonely Monster (Immedium, 2006) and The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade (Immedium, 2007). Site features info on the book, characters, and octogoodies.

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market E-Newsletter: “sign up to receive a free monthly newsletter featuring news, tips, market information, Q&A and more straight from CWIM to your inbox.” Source: Anastasia Suen.

Diane Gonzales Bertrand‘s bilingual novel The Ruiz Street Kids/Los muchachos de la calle Ruiz recently won two awards in the best bilingual children’s book category – 2007 Skipping Stones Award and an International Latino Book Award. Read a Cynsations interview with Diane.

Rachelle Burk teaches an adult education course in Writing for Children in East Brunswick, New Jersey; and is published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for children (see website for list). She minored in creative writing and has years of experience critiquing manuscripts, many which have subsequently been published. She is a writing mentor for an annual Teen Arts event, critiquing manuscripts for high school writers. Rachelle offers critiques of picture books, chapter books, articles, and poetry for children. She will point out your strengths and weaknesses, and provide feedback on plot, pace, voice, dialogue, character development, style, and structure. When needed and/or requested, writers will receive line-editing such as word choice, and suggestions on where to cut. Manuscripts are accepted by email. Fees start at $25 for a 5 page manuscript. For complete fee information, log onto and click on Critique Services, or email at

In the Coop with Dori Chaconas from Three Silly Chicks. Here’s a sneak peek: “For me, humor is magnified when it takes place in a non-humorous situation. If every line in a story is a funny one, the whole thing feels diluted because the funny lines compete against each other. But if you can have a handful of funny lines or situations scattered throughout a story that has some serious or soft tones, the humor stands out like a giggle during a stuffy speech.”

Watch this video from the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund and Ethiopia Reads. It features the Mesgana dancers, an Ethiopian dance troupe. In conjunction with Ethiopia Reads and COEEF, the concert helps to raise funds to promote literacy and cultural growth in Ethiopia. They are currently on tour across America. Read a related interview with author Jane Kurtz.

Sara Miller: new official site of the author of Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller (Simon & Schuster, 2007)(excerpt). Notable pages include Writing Process and Publishing.

The ABC’s and XYZ’s of Publishing: sponsored by the North Central/Northeast Texas Chapter of SCBWI Oct. 13 in Arlington, Texas. Faculty includes: Bonnie Bader, editorial director at Grosset, Dunlap and Price Sloan; associate art director Laurent Linn of Henry Holt; screenwriter David Rosenberg; illustrator Chris Schechner, art director for Pockets; and agent Debbie Carter.

Teen fiction writer and avid reader Cheryl Rainfield writes about teen and children’s books on her new blog, offers resources for book lovers, and reviews of children’s and teen fiction. She’s also started a monthly Pay-It-Forward book giveaway.

Single Novel Plotting Template from PBW Stories: Paperback Writer’s Fiction Blog. Source: Getting There from Here by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Young Adult Author Melissa Walker: official author site features biography, blog, articles, interviews, links, etc. Walker’s books include Violet on the Runway (Berkley JAM, 2007), Violet by Design (Berkley JAM, 2008) and Violet in Private (Berkley JAM, 2008).

An Interview with Jo Whittemore from Debbi Michiko Florence. Here’s a sneak peek: “When it comes to writing a trilogy, the challenge comes in bringing something new and fresh to each story. New scenarios must be posed and new characters must present themselves. But that’s also the fun part of a trilogy! Another challenge is maintaining a certain consistency with the major characters I’m carrying through from the previous books. The characters must develop, to be sure, but they can’t develop too much or too differently than what the reader is used to. For example, I can make a cowardly character a little braver by the second book, but I can’t have him busting down doors and picking fights. It would be too incongruous.” Read also a Cynsations interview with Jo.

More Personally

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #34: The Kidlitosphere’s Sweetheart, Cynthia Leitich Smith. A new online interview! I’m honored!

In August, I received the good news that the trade edition of Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000), has gone into another printing. Thanks to all for your support!

Attention Kansans! I look forward to speaking at the Kansas Book Festival Oct. 5-6 in Wichita (schedule TBA). Featured authors also will include J.B. Cheaney (author interview), L.D. Harkrader (author interview), Kimberly Willis Holt (author interview), Dian Curtis Regan (author interview), and Greg Leitich Smith. See the complete list.

Austin-area readers, mark your calendars! I’ll be speaking and signing at the Hastings Books, Music, and Video in Round Rock (2200 S. I-35) at 6 p.m. Aug. 18. In addition, I’ll visit the University Hills branch of the Austin Public Library from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 23.

My spring YA Gothic fantasy release, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), was listed in the Austin American-Statesman as a top 10 best seller at BookPeople.

The Voice of Youth Advocates called Tantalize “[e]ntertaining, intriguing, and original.”

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books cheered, “[Readers] will be well rewarded with an impeccably paced suspense story, a sexy romance, and a tough and witty heroine.”

And The Bloomsbury Review announced, “Cynthia Leitich Smith is the Anne Rice for teen readers. . . . Smith has a vivid imagination, and her intricate plot keeps readers guessing until the very end.”