Darque Reviews features Tantalize

Kimberly Swan at Darque Reviews writes of my YA Gothic fantasy, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007): “With an intriguing murder mystery to capture the reader’s attention, Ms. Leitich Smith fuels her captivating tale with a heavy paranormal influence and a sweet first time love.” Read the whole review.

In a new interview with me she inquires: “Quincie has some very unique friends and acquaintances in Tantalize. If you had the ability to turn into any one of them, which would you choose, and why?” Read my answer and the whole interview.

From now until midnight Oct. 31st, stop by Darque Reviews and share what your plans are for Halloween for a chance to win one of two copies of Tantalize. To double your odds, share the title and author of your favorite paranormal read. Be sure to check back at Darque Reviews on Nov. 1st for the winners!

Author Interview: Pooja Makhijani on Mama’s Saris

See Pooja Makhijani on Pooja Makhijani.

Congratulations on the publication of Mama’s Saris (Little Brown, 2007)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

As I write in my author’s note, the colors, patterns, and fabrics of my mother’s saris fascinated me. I wrote Mama’s Saris after realizing that my own obsession with my mother’s fancy clothes was not unique. It seemed as if each of my female friends–regardless of ethnicity or age–remembers being enthralled by her own mother’s “grown-up clothes.”

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

I finished the first draft of Mama’s Saris in the summer of 2002 on a family hiking trip. I wrote the final two lines of the text in my notebook while sitting on a boulder in the middle of the Delaware River. I revisited the manuscript years later, in early 2004, and spent an entire weekend revising the text. Several weeks later, I sent the manuscript off to Little, Brown. (I had worked in publishing for several years after college and used my professional network to find the right editor.)

A few months and many revisions later, I got “the call.” Mama’s Saris had been purchased!

Elena Gomez worked on the illustrations for well over a year, and I had the opportunity to see her vision of the book from the sketch stage. Through my editor, she was open to suggestions regarding cultural appropriateness and cultural accuracy. She even asked for photographs of my wedding festivities for reference.

It has taken a while for the book to hit shelves, but I am thrilled to share it with the world.

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

Though the text really resonated with Elena, her initial sketches featured all the female characters in the book with their heads covered with the pallus of their saris. In many South Asian subcultures, women do cover their heads as a sign of modesty or respect. However, this wasn’t the case in the family I had imagined in Mama’s Saris. The family in my head had a mother who lived in suburbia and wore “gray sweaters and brown pants” to work everyday. As I said, Elena was receptive to my thoughts and we found a solution that worked for both of us.

What did Elena Gomez’s illustrations bring to your text?

Where do I begin? When I was shown Elena’s final art, I was struck that her visual interpretation of Nanima (the narrator’s maternal grandmother) was identical to the vision of Nanima that I had in my head while I was writing. We were really on the same proverbial wavelength.

Casting a wider net, could you tell us about your other writing?

I have edited a non-fiction anthology, Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America (Seal Press, 2004). The collection of essays explores through a child’s lens, the sometimes savage, sometimes innocent, and always complex, ways in which race shapes American lives and families. I am deeply interested in using memoir and storytelling to discuss and deconstruct the idea of race and continue to use the book to conduct writing workshops for young adults on this topic.

Your site includes resources related to South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora in Children’s Books. How would you describe the current state of this body of literature?

Well, it’s so much better than when I was a child! Growing up, I would search library shelves in the hopes of finding a character “like me”. I never had much luck. Elementary school teachers and librarians would hand me copies of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling in the hopes I would identify with the little Indian boy raised by animals.

I didn’t.

Today, however, kids scouring libraries and bookstores today will find a good handful of realistic contemporary stories, set in specific South Asian or South Asian diasporic cultures, as well as a South Asian literary magazine for children, Kahani.

It seems to be heading in the right direction.

What improvements have we seen?

Over the past few years, I’ve seen a maturation of themes. No longer are authors writing about familiar–and often tired–immigrant tropes. Marina BudhosAsk Me No Questions (Atheneum, 2006)(author interview) details the experiences of two Bangladeshi teenagers, Nadira and Aisha, whose father is arrested and detained at the Canadian border. Mitali PerkinsFirst Daughter series (Dutton, 2006, 2007) features feisty blogger Sameera Righton, the nation’s first Muslim-American First Daughter. Uma Krishnaswami‘s picture book, Bringing Asha Home (Lee & Low, 2006)(author interview) is about a biracial Indian-American boy who finds his own way to bond with his sister while his family awaits her adoption from India.

What challenges exist, and how can we address them?

As you know, the CCBC compiles annual statistics on the number of books published annually by and about people of color. Over the years, the numbers have grown, but multicultural literature (most generally) still represents a small percentage of the overall number of books published for children and teenagers.

I wish I knew how we might address these challenges. I think once people of various races/ethnicities/cultures become a critical mass in the publishing industry (editing, publicity, sales, marketing, bookselling), more of these stories will make it to the bookshelf.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Nothing earth-shattering here. Read in your genre and find a friend to read your writing who can provide you with constructive, encouraging feedback. Don’t let rejection get your down; this business is full of it.

How about picture book writers in particular?

Read lots of picture books and understand the constraints of the container. Unless you are an illustrator, know that process is very collaborative. Realize that picture books aren’t “easy to write” because they are shorter; the genre presents its own challenges and it’s difficult to get it right.

What can your readers look forward to next?

I am slowly working on a YA novel. I am honing my presentation, “More Than Monkeys, Maharajahs and Mangoes: An Overview of South Asian Literature for Kids,” so that I can provide more teachers and librarians with an overview of representations of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora in children’s literature and tools to select authentic books for their classrooms and communities.

I am researching the lives of two American writers: Dhan Gopal Mukerji (1890-1936) and Jean Bothwell (?-1977) with the hopes to publish biographical profiles of both. Mukerji is considered to be the first successful Indian American man of letters in the United States and, in 1928, was awarded the Newbery Medal by the American Library Association for his middle-grade novel, Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon. He is the only South Asian American to have won the prestigious award. Bothwell, a Methodist missionary who worked in India, wrote over 60 fiction and nonfiction books focused on that country.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I am not writing, I can be found reading, watching past episodes of “The Office,” noshing my way through New York City with my husband or volunteering for Girls Write Now, a wonderful NYC-based non-profit which pairs teenage girls with professional writers in one-on-one mentoring relationships.

Cynsational Notes

See also Books: Interview with Pooja Makhijani on Mama’s Saris from SAJA Forum.

Vamp to Vamp: Authors Marta Acosta and Cynthia Leitich Smith

Author Interview: Marta Acosta on Happy Hour at Casa Dracula and Midnight Brunch from my Gothic-fantasy-and-writing-life blog, Spookycyn.

Here’s a sneak peek: “I love screwball comedies, comedies of manners, comic romances, all that stuff. So I wanted to write a story with an impoverished, independent young woman trying to make her way in the world. I also wanted to spoof the vampire conventions of these angsty, supernatural creatures. My vamps know how to throw a party, laugh, and fall in love.”

This interview is half of a discussion that the two of us are having vamp to vamp, blog to blog. See also her brand new interview with me, and leave a comment at Cynsations LJ to win a prize. A winner will be chosen on Friday!

Cynsational News & Links

Golden Wood Studio: the art of Ruth Sanderson: the author-illustrator launches her redesigned official site. Don’t miss the galleries and shops.

Jill Santopolo debuts her official author site. Jill’s first book is Alec Flint, Super Sleuth: The Nina, the Pinta and the Vanishing Treasure (Orchard, July 2008).

Writing Picture Books from Marisa Montes. Note: I’ve featured this link before and will again; offers an excellent overview and insights. Read a Cynsations interview with Marisa on Los Gatos Black on Halloween.

Artist to Artist (nonfiction) and Kidlitosphere Conference Recap from Planet Esme. Note: I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t make the conference. I hope everyone had a brilliant time!

Congratulations to Writers’ League of Texas Teddy Award winners: Grandpa for Sale by Dotti Enderle and Vicki Sansum, illustrated by T. Kyle Gentry (Flashlight, 2006) in the short-works division and Long Gone Daddy by Helen Hemphill (Front Street, 2006)(author interview) in the long-works division. In the short-works category, the finalists were: Blue the Bird on Flying by Becky Due (Due Publications, 2006) and The Man Who Named the Clouds by Julie Hannah and Joan Holub, illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye (Albert Whitman, 2006). And in the long-works category: Journey to the Alamo by Melodie Cuate (Texas Tech, 2006) and Alpha Dog by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2006)(author interview). The awards ceremony will be held during the Texas Book Festival, Nov. at 3 p.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.030. Read Cynsations interviews with Dotti, Helen, and Jennifer.

David Davis has moved his official author site. David’s latest release is Librarian’s Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Jim Harris (Pelican, 2007).

The Lacapa Spirit Prize–a literary prize for children’s books about the peoples, cultures, and landscape of the southwest–is accepting submissions for the 2008 prize.” Source: American Indians in Children’s Literature.

Children’s Author Mahtab Narsimhan: official author site features biography, photograph, links and blogspot address (excerpt from book coming soon). Mahtab’s first published book is The Third Eye (Dundurn Press, 2007).

National Geographic is sponsoring a Planet Contest in conjunction with David Aguilar‘s books. The contest encourages kids to create a mnemonic or slogan to help remember the order of the (now 11) planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Eris; and the winning entry will be included in David’s spring 2008 book, 11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System.

Jo Knowles on Lessons from a Dead Girl at the YA Authors Cafe. Read the interview and ask Jo questions.

Hot Off the Press: A Sneak Peek at Publishers’ Newest and Hottest Titles from CBC Magazine.

Sound Off!: The Possibilities of Podcasting (PDF) by Anne-Marie Gordon from Book Links.

Carte Blanche: Social Networking R Us by Michael Cart from Booklist.

Unriddling the World: Fantasy and Children: features links to Horn Book “articles on fantasy by Susan Cooper, Gregory Maguire, Philip Pullman, Lloyd Alexander, and others.”

More Personally

November is celebrated as Native American Heritage Month. While I recommend integrating Native studies throughout the calendar and curriculum (likewise, African Americans can be featured at times other than February), I recognize that many teachers and librarians are seeking related resources right now. Please note that I offer a section of my official site on Native youth literature. See my titles: Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001)(Listening Library, 2001), and Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002) as well as educator guides/lesson plans. Don’t miss the free readers’ theater from Indian Shoes! See also Teaching Respect for Native Peoples (reproduced with permission from Oyate) and American Indians in Children’s Literature.

Here’s a sneak peek at my blurb for My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson (Flux, 2007)(excerpt). Note: I must admit the post made me misty–thanks, Varian! (And Don, too, for the lovely comment).

Reminder: Attention MySpacers! On the online events front, I’m honored to be featured tonight Oct. 29 as one of 31 Flavorite Authors by the Readergirlz! I’ll be chatting about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

Thank you to Mathews School in Austin and BookPeople for your hospitality and enthusiasm at my school visit last Thursday! After my presentation, inspired by the fictional vampire restaurant in Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), students broke into groups to devise menus for fictional restaurants catering to the following audiences: werewolves, werecats, werearmadillos, wereoppossums, and were-turkey-vultures (the types of shape-shifters featured in the novel). The results were inspired (and a little creepy!).

Plan to attend the Twenty-Fifth Annual Children’s Book Festival and the Twenty-First Annual Young Adult Conference hosted by The Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University Nov. 3 in Huntsville. Featured speakers are: Joan Bauer, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, and Mo Willems.

Attending the Texas Book Festival Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Austin? I will be among the YA authors featured at the Not-For-Required Reading Event from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar). Authors also will include: Sherman Alexie, Jacques Couvillon, Adrienne Kress, April Lurie (author interview), Perry Moore, Neal Shusterman, and Brian Yansky (author interview). Note: I’ll be a little late as I’m driving in from Huntsville that evening with Greg and Mo. I’ll also participate with authors Adrienne Kress and April Lurie on the “Tough Girls” panel, moderated by author Julie Lake, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in Capitol Extension Room E2.012. See schedules for Saturday and Sunday.

Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure 2007

As you know if you’ve been visiting any children’s book blogs for the past few weeks, Robert’s Snow is an online auction that benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. More than 200 children’s book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. The snowflakes will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to cancer research. You can view all of the 2007 snowflakes here.
Jules and Eisha from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast have found a way for bloggers to help with this effort, by blogging about individual illustrators and their snowflakes. The idea is to drive traffic to the Robert’s Snow site so that many snowflakes will be sold, and much money raised to fight cancer. The illustrator profiles have been wonderful so far–diverse and creative and colorful. And there are lots more to go. Here’s the schedule for Week 3, which starts Monday. As previously, this early schedule links to the participating blogs, instead of to the individual posts. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far. Also not to be missed is Kris Bordessa’s post summarizing snowflake-related contests to date over at Paradise Found.Monday, October 29

Tuesday, October 30

Wednesday, October 31

Thursday, November 1

Friday, November 2

Saturday, November 3

Sunday, November 4

Please take time out to visit all of these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. And, if you’re so inclined, think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert’s Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.See also the following note from Elaine Magliaro of Wild Rose Reader:

Note to Blog Readers about Blogging for a Cure: When Jules of 7-Imp put out her call in September for bloggers to interview/feature artists who had created snowflakes for Robert’s Snow 2007 at their blogs, a number of artists had not yet sent in their snowflakes to Dana-Farber. As time was of the essence to get Blogging for a Cure underway, we worked with the list of artists whose snowflakes were already in possession of Dana-Farber. Therefore, not all the participating artists will be featured. This in no way diminishes our appreciation for their contributions to this worthy cause. We hope everyone will understand that once the list of artists was emailed to bloggers and it was determined which bloggers would feature which artists at their blogs, a schedule was organized and sent out so we could get to work on Blogging for a Cure ASAP. Our aim is to raise people’s awareness about Robert’s Snow and to promote the three auctions. We hope our efforts will help to make Robert’s Snow 2007 a resounding success.

Author Interview: Amanda Marrone on Uninvited

From Simon Pulse: “Amanda Marrone grew up on Long Island, where she spent her time reading, drawing, watching insects, and suffering from an overactive imagination. She earned a BA in education at SUNY Cortland, and taught fifth and sixth grade in New Hampshire. She now lives in Connecticut with her husband, Joe, and their two kids.”

What were you like as a young adult?

Awkward! I was very shy, always had my nose in a book, and I was a little too much like my main character in Uninvited (Simon Pulse, 2007), Jordan.

While this story is in no way autobiographical, Jordan and I do share some traits. I was a total social phobic, something I’m happy to say I got over! I loved being outside—walking in the woods, watching insects—-something I still love. We even have hissing cockroaches among our menagerie of pets, although my husband is always afraid they will escape. I haven’t told him about the time I found a baby roach crawling on the computer one day!

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer—a picture book writer-illustrator, but I’m not one of the “I’ve been writing stories since I picked up my first crayon” writers. I have a really bad pencil grip, and back in the day, writing long hand, or even using a typewriter—was exhausting.

If it weren’t for computers I wouldn’t have finished a book. I wrote and illustrated two picture books. The third turned into a novel, and I realized that was where my comfort level was.

Getting published for me was mostly kismet. After sending out two novels to just a handful of editors, I took an online young adult writing class, and the instructor suggested her agent. I queried the agent, she took me on, and the first person she sent it to bought it. It was very quick, but the editor was leaving for a two-week honeymoon—in Europe, and I think that got the often-slow process speeded up.

Congratulations on the release of Uninvited (Simon Pulse, 2007)! Could you tell us about this new title?

It’s not a typical vampire story. When my agent pitched the story, she didn’t even mention there was a vampire—she said it was a YA with a paranormal twist—which I think is a good description. But the story follows Jordan’s struggles to take control of her life or open the window to her ex—a new vampire.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I was working on a middle grade novel, and I suddenly pictured a boy coming up to a girl’s window asking to be let in. I immediately knew she was scared to open her window, but that it was tempting. I banged out the first chapter–which essentially stayed the same after revisions, but I needed time to figure out what I had written, and what direction it would go in. Months later I started chapter two.

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

It was probably four years between spark and publication. I needed to think about the book for a bit, but my husband also got a new job, we moved to another state, and my daughter has cerebral palsy and there were things to take care of for her. I wasn’t writing every day or even every month, but the story was in the back of my mind percolating.

Once we moved to Connecticut, I started in again. When the book was done, I won first place in the YA division of the Tassy Walden Awards for aspiring Connecticut children’s authors. That was a real confidence booster as the judges were agents and editors. A year later, I took that YA class, and then things moved along quickly. But I started the first chapter of Uninvited in 2001, revised the finished novel in 2004, and it sold in 2005.

In contrast, I wrote my second book, Revealers, in a few months and I’m waiting to hear back from my editor about revisions.

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

While I was well read in vampire lore, I dug a little deeper for the book. The biggest challenge I had was what to include? I had to anticipate what my audience knew about vampires—I didn’t want to do a vampire 101, but I also wanted to include enough information so those who where in the dark about vamps could follow along. I was surprised to hear from one reader who hadn’t known vampires had to be invited it. I had thought that was common knowledge.

How did you find out you’d sold your first book? What did you do to celebrate?

My agent called me—she said it was a good offer, but we didn’t have to accept it right away, and she could even shop the book around elsewhere while the editor was out of country. I nixed that idea, and said to accept the offer. After a lot of happy screaming, my husband and I did the usual champagne-and-fancy-dinner thing to celebrate.

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

Keep the faith! Friends and family often cheer you on when you start writing, but when it doesn’t happen overnight or if years have passed—well, some lose their support. For every true overnight success, there are dozens of authors who’ve been toiling to perfect their work for years. You can’t make it happen if you give up. Take classes, network, join a critique group–join SCBWI.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing Gothic fantasy?

I’m so impressed writers are finding new stories to tell with age-old characters. It’s a lot of fun to read everyone’s different takes on the vampire, werewolf and fairy legends.

What is it about the young adult audience that appeals to you?

It’s a tumultuous time—I still feel what I went through vividly. I like the discovery of the age—the way people change and hopefully assert themselves. How they develop their own identities.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I just turned in my next YA, Revealers, to my editor. It’s due out sometime in 2008. It’s about five teen witches who hunt vampires, werewolves and demons as a public service—only it turns out their coven has a dark secret worse than any of the creatures they hunt. The first chapter is in the back of Uninvited if anyone wants a sneak peek.

I just started a new paranormal YA I’m excited about. It’s a murder mystery/ghost story set at a small New England amusement park.

Author Interview: E. Lockhart on Dramarama

E. Lockhart is the author of Dramarama (Hyperion, 2007), Fly on the Wall (Delacorte, 2006)(excerpt), The Boyfriend List (Delacorte, 2005)(excerpt) and The Boy Book (Delacorte, 2007)(excerpt), all novels for teenagers.

We last spoke in November 2005 about the release of The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver)(Delacorte, 2005)(author interview) and Fly on the Wall (Delacorte, 2006)(author interview). Do you have any updates for us on those titles?

The Boyfriend List is out in paperback with reading group questions and an interview in the back. Its sequel, The Boy Book, came out in hardcover last September. Fly on the Wall pubs in paperback in November, with a spanky new cover.

Could you fill us in on The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them (Delacorte, 2007)? How does it relate to your previous work?

The Boy Book is the sequel to The Boyfriend List, and it was most awesomely fun to revisit Ruby Oliver as a character–her neuroses, her footnotes, her overactive analysis of every situation.

In this book, Roo confronts secrets about her friend-boy not boy-friend Noel, mysterious notes from her ex-boyfriend Jackson, the villainy of her ex-friend Cricket, the horrors of the school retreat, and the exploitation of hooters everywhere. Oh, and there are penguins. Preview it here.

I am starting the third book in this series…um… tomorrow.

Congratulations on the release of Dramarama (Hyperion, 2007)! Could you tell us about this new title?

Dramarama is the most campy, the most glittery, the most theatrical of my books. I spent three summers at drama camp, and the novel is about two Ohio teenagers–one straight, one gay; one female, one male; one white, one black–who spend the summer at a prestigious musical theater camp. They’re best friends going in, and their friendship goes through a lot of changes and traumas as they encounter theatrical jealousies, mean directors, baby divas, hot guys and unitards.

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

I sold this book on the strength of some anecdotes about drama camp told to an editor at lunch. Donna Bray from Hyperion. She had amazing faith in me that I could make a book out of a few ridiculous stories. I hadn’t even known it was a book idea until she told me.

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

Mainly, I had to put in more hormones and cute guys. The first draft was too focused on theater and ambition and competition. All that’s in there, still–but now there’s kissing, too.

More seriously, sometimes people ask me how it felt to write Demi–not my narrator (Sadye), but the other central character in the book. He’s a seventeen-year-old African American homosexual boy from an upper middle class background. I am none of those things except that I once was seventeen.

The answer is, I just wrote him. He is in me, somewhere. He is bits and pieces of people I know, or have known; he is, in many ways ME–the way he feels about certain things, the way he speaks, his passions, his sense of humor–just as all my characters are. He is also flamboyant and sometimes campy, so I pushed myself to make sure that although Demi flirts with stereotypes, and as a theatrical person, plays around with different aspects of his identity, he is not himself a stereotype but a complicated guy. But honestly, I do that with all my characters. Push myself that way. It was not really different because Demi is black and male–it’s just that people ask me about writing him.

Over the past two years, how have you grown as a writer?

I am just at the start of a new book, and I have forgotten entirely how to write anything.

But then, I always feel this way at the beginning.

I guess now I know not to panic when I feel this way.

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

I would ask, What are you angry about? And tell myself to write about that.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing young adult fiction?

Do not write down. Do not write lessons or morals. Write a story. You can figure out what it means afterward.

What recent books would you suggest for study and why?

For study of writing fiction? When I first started writing fiction I took apart the first thirds of these three novels: Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving; David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.

I broke down the way those authors created suspense and character–how they used flashbacks and forwards–how they established voice and atmosphere while moving the plot along. Those are three pretty perfect books in my opinion, but I’d say go do that with any few books you dearly love.

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

I try to schedule blocks of writing time where I promote nothing in any time consuming way. For example, right now I’m writing and basically not promoting or speaking until January, when I have a pre-pub tour. Then I’ll have a working draft and can rewrite as I promote my next couple books in the spring.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I am so excited for spring:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks comes out in March (Hyperion) and then How to Be Bad, co-written with Lauren Myracle (author interview) and Sarah Mlynowski in May (Harper Collins).

We are going on a big tour that month, all three of us, and I’m inordinately thrilled about traveling across the country with Sarah and Lauren, meeting readers.

How to Be Bad is a novel in three voices: each of us wrote a different character. It’s set in steamy hot Florida in August, and it’s about three girls who hit the road in search of love, redemption and adventure. And get more than they bargained for.

Here’s the promo copy for Disreputable History. And other than that, my lips are sealed. There is top secret stuff in this book, I tell you!

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

“Writing for Children and Young People” with Laura Atkins

Oct. 31st – Nov. 21 (4 weeks)

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brighton Writers’ Centre

£44/£40 concs, Friends of THE SOUTH £40/£36 concs

Have you ever thought about writing for children or teens, or started to write a picture book or novel but felt you needed more direction or help?

This series of workshops will offer a great deal of group work and support, with focused themes, writing exercises, and sharing of books and strategies. Whether you are already an experienced writer for children, or have always felt it was something you wanted to try, this could be the perfect way to develop your writing aspirations.

Laura Atkins has been a children’s book editor, a judge for the London Writer’s Competition, and has taught at both undergraduate and MA level. She runs children’s literature conferences and events including directing the first Brighton Children’s Book Festival in April 2007 in partnership with THE SOUTH. This workshop follows her first successful workshop series in 2006 which turned into an on-going writers’ support group. For more on Laura Atkins, visit her website: www.lauraatkins.com

Booking and Information

Book your place through THE SOUTH, either on their website (www.thesouth.org.uk) or by emailing Ella Burns: ella@thesouth.org.uk

The workshop will run at THE SOUTH, Brighton Writers’ Centre, 49 Grand Parade, Brighton BN1 3RR, a 10 minute walk from Brighton station. There is pay and display parking in nearby streets and free parking after 6 p.m.

Author-Editor Interview: Nina Hess on A Practical Guide to Monsters

Nina Hess on Nina Hess: “I’m senior editor at Mirrorstone, an imprint of fantasy fiction for young readers which I launched at Wizards of the Coast in 2004. I’m also the author of A Practical Guide to Monsters (Mirrorstone, 2007) and Whose Feet? (Random House 2003). I’ve been a children’s book editor for almost ten years and a writer for as long as I can remember.”

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

My first book, written at age 8, was a picture book manuscript entitled “The Gingerbread People.” My mom gave it a rave review. I’ve always loved children’s books, and I secretly read them all through college.

After graduating, I found a way to take my secret reading habit and legitimize it by becoming an editorial assistant at Harcourt Children’s Books, working for Anne Davies. She taught me everything I know about children’s books.

Various circumstances brought me to Seattle years later, where I worked as an editor at Wright Group/McGraw-Hill, editing and writing early readers for the educational market. There I really cut my teeth on writing books for kids.

I also enrolled in a terrific Writing for Children class at the University of Washington taught by Kathryn Galbraith, Meg Lippert, and Laura Kvasnovsky (author-illustrator interview). In that class, I wrote an early reader called Whose Feet? which became my first trade book published by Random House in 2003.

Congratulations on the publication of A Practical Guide to Monsters (Mirrorstone, 2007)! Could you give us an overview of the book?

Thank you! The book covers all sorts of monsters, from the commonly known (and well-loved) vampires and werewolves, to mythological creatures like chimeras and medusas, to the more obscure creatures like beholders and otyughs. Those last two are some of my favorites in the book, because they’re simultaneously disgusting and cute! The beholder has eleven eyes, each with different powers, and the otyugh eats trash!

What’s not to love?

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

In 2003, I joined Wizards of the Coast to launch a new imprint of fantasy fiction for kids, which we named Mirrorstone. Wizards of the Coast has been publishing fantasy for adults for many, many years. But they are probably best known as the publisher of games, including the Dungeons & Dragons game.

In many ways Dungeons & Dragons is more than a game, it’s a guided storytelling session, and as a result, it’s full of some amazing fantasy lore and creatures. The game isn’t meant for a very young audience, but I thought young readers would adore a book about these creatures and all the intricate lore related to them.

So I proposed to our editorial director that we do a line of picture books for kids featuring all of these wonderful fantasy monsters.

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

The initial proposal, which we first talked about in 2003, was for one book on dragons followed by one on monsters. I signed up Lisa Trutkoff Trumbauer to write A Practical Guide to Dragons (Mirrorstone, 2006), and then our managing editor suggested that I write A Practical Guide to Monsters, partly because I had direct access to our vast monster library for research. (Yes, we really have a library in our office filled with monster resources!)

A Practical Guide to Dragons came out in October of 2006, and to the delight of everyone, it hit the New York Times best seller list a few weeks later. It stayed on the list for 14 weeks, which was a record for our company. By that time, I had finished writing the Monsters book and had handed it off to editor Stacy Whitman (editor interview), who worked with art director Kate Irwin, and book designer, Lisa Hanson, to turn the manuscript into a book (about a six month process). When the book hit the New York Times best seller list, we were all celebrating!

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

I worried about making sure the details were accurate. Even though it’s a fictional book, it’s presented as nonfiction. I consulted with our monster experts at Wizards, and did a lot of research to make sure the monsters felt “real” and stayed true to their origins.

We also had a relatively tight timeline to work with, and we weren’t able to publish the books early enough to secure advance review copies. But Random House is our distributor, and they were fans of the Practical Guide books from the very beginning. Their support really helped make the book a success.

What is it about monsters that’s so fascinating?

It’s probably partly the psychological function that Bruno Bettelheim talks about; I’m guessing that he would say that monsters and the stories surrounding them help children to process fears. Young readers who are a bit scared of monsters can find lots of useful information in A Practical Guide to Monsters for how to defend themselves that may help allay their fears.

But, really, people are probably fascinated by monsters because they are just plain fun. The book is filled with a huge diversity of monsters, with many different awesome powers that you can imagine you have. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy imagining they’re a beholder, who can freeze people with their petrifying eye ray?

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

As an editor who writes, it’s very hard to turn off that self-editing instinct. So I would tell my internal editor “Stop criticizing me!” And then my internal editor would tell me not to tell it what to do.

What can your fans look forward to next?

On the writing side, I’m working on a bunch of picture book projects that have yet to see the light of day. Editing-wise, we’re launching the Supernatural Rubber Chicken series by D.L. Garfinkle (author interview), with illustrations by Ethan Long in June 2008 and I’m continuing to edit new books in the delightful Time Spies series by Candice Ransom.

Practical Guide fans can look forward to two more Practical Guides coming soon, A Practical Guide to Dragon Riding (by Lisa Trumbauer) and a Practical Guide to Wizardry (by Susan Morris).

SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008

SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008
March 29 and March 30, 2008
Bologna, Italy
In cooperation with the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is happy to announce that Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant, creators of the graphic novel/comic book ARIOL; Paul O. Zelinsky; Fiametta Giorgi, editor Mondadori publishing; Pauline Mermet, editor Bayard BD; and Martha Rago, art director HarperCollins join the list of speakers for the 2008 SCBWI Bologna conference, to be held March 29 and March 30 at the Bologna Book Fair site in Bologna, Italy.

Speakers also include:

Tracey Adams, literary agent
Val Brathwaite, art director, Bloomsbury UK
Stephen Barbara, literary agent
Babette Cole, author-illustrator
Steve Chudney, literary agent,
Pat Cummings, author-illustrator
Kathleen Duey, NBA-finalist author (interview)
Susan Fletcher, author
Susanne Gervay, author
Candy Gourlay, author
Katherine Halligan , editor, Scholastic UK Ltd
Laura Harris, publisher Penguin Australia
Jana Hunter, author-illustrator
Susanne Koppe, literary agent
Nancy Miles, literary agent,
Sarah Odedina, publisher, Bloomsbury UK
John Shelley, illustrator
Bridget Strevens-Marzo, author-illustrator
Cecilia Yung, art director, Penguin Putnum US
and others from the world of children’s publishing

Register at: http://scbwi.org/events.htm

For more information about the conference or speakers, please contact Erzsi Deak at Bologna@scbwi.org