Cynsational News & Links

Rita Williams-Garcia interviews the National Book Award finalists: Sherman Alexie; Kathleen Duey; M. Sindy Felin; Brian Selznick; and Sara Zarr. See also Cynsations interviews with Rita, Kathleen, and Sara.

Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure

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. Please stop by to view all the 2007 snowflakes here.

Interviews and features on participating illustrators are being posted throughout the kidlitosphere.

Oct. 22: Mark Teague at The Miss Rumphius Effect; Sharon Vargo at Finding Wonderland; Christopher Demarest at Writing and Ruminating; Rose Mary Berlin at Charlotte’s Library; David Macaulay at Here in the Bonny Glen.

Oct. 23: Carin Berger at Chasing Ray; Marion Eldridge at Chicken Spaghetti; Sophie Blackall at not your mother’s bookclub; Erik Brooks at Bildungsroman; Brian Lies at Greetings from Nowhere.

Oct. 24: Elisa Kleven at Rozzie Land; Consie Powell at Becky’s Book Reviews; Jimmy Pickering at Shaken & Stirred; Frank Dormer at What Adrienne Thinks About That; Sheila Bailey at Lizjonesbooks.

Oct. 25: Julia Denos at Interactive Reader; Rebecca Doughty at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy; Brian Floca at A Fuse #8 Production; Margaret Chodos-Irvine at readergirlz.

Oct. 26: David Ezra Stein at HipWriterMama; Juli Kangas at Sam Riddleburger’s blog; Ginger Nielson at Miss O’s School Library; Margot Apple at Jo’s Journal.

Oct. 27: Julie Fromme Fortenberry at Your Neighborhood Librarian; Sarah Dillard at The Silver Lining; John Hassett at cynthialord’s Journal; Abigail Marble at Please Come Flying.

Oct. 28: Ashley Wolff at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy; Barbara Garrison at Brooklyn Arden; Kelly Murphy at ChatRabbit.

Keeper of the Night Giveaway

Author Kimberly Willis Holt is giving away a signed hardcover copy of Keeper of the Night (Henry Holt)(excerpt) to each of the first three people who email her tomorrow–Wednesday, Oct. 24–with their name and snail/street mail address. Emails may be sent to her beginning at any time that day. See more information.

From the flap copy:

“Isabel’s mother died peacefully. At least that’s what Isabel likes to think since no one will talk about the truth. But the truth has a way of revealing itself at night. Ta`Ta sleeps curled up on the floor right where Mama’s body was found. Olivia wets her bed and wakes repeatedly from nightmares, and Frank starts carving his anger into his bedroom wall. It’s up to Isabel to help her family get beyond the pain and loss—to be the keeper of the night. But who will be there for Isabel and help her through to the other side?

“Set on the lush island of Guam, Kimberly Willis Holt has written a painfully beautiful story about a young woman’s struggle to protect her family after suicide hits home.”

Predator or Prey Giveaway Winners

“Alas, I can’t enter. As I approach my mid fifties, surrounded by young novelists, I find myself more and more not predator or prey, but predater.”
— author David Lubar

From Oct. 2 to Oct. 15, I invited Cynsations (also at LJ), Spookycyn, and MySpace readers to answer the following question: Are you predator or prey?

(It’s the same question asked in my recent novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), to diners at a fictional vampire-themed restaurant called Sanguini’s.)

Today I’m announcing the winners of three Tantalize prize packages. Two will go to people who connect books to YA readers (booksellers, teachers, librarians) and one will go to an individual reader.

The packages each include an autographed copy of Tantalize, a Sanguini’s T-shirt, bat and wolf finger puppets, stickers, and additional surprises!

In addition, the individual winner will receive one signed Tantalize bookmark, and the bookseller/teacher/librarian winners will each receive a stack of twenty signed bookmarks.

I’ll also send autographed bookmark stacks to runners-up in the bookseller/teacher/librarian category. Note: Due to volume of entries, I added two runner-up slots in the individual category.

WARNING: some winning entries include spoilers to the novel.

Individual Winner

“I am most definitely a predator because of my headstrong nature. I tend to love coming first, which drives me to always want to win, but if I do lose, I back down willingly and silently. This only drives me to do better the next time around, and I tend to come back with a bite.

“I am a nice person, and I am loyal and trusting to everyone I meet until they do something that would otherwise incline me not to be. If so, there are rarely such things as second chances. But in some cases there are, and they have to work twice as hard to win me back.

“I’m always there for everyone I know; I am the ear that everyone relies on to be clear and open for listening. I know more secrets about people than anyone knows.

“I love to try new things at least once, so I doubt eating a squirrel would be too hard for me. Anyways, it is all in the head…right? I believe it is, and those things you are scared of are usually the most thrilling and the most fun. So, why not experience them while you have the chance? One of my favorite quotes explains it all: ‘It is important to live life, not exist in it.’ –Wayne Newton.

“I am the predator; I take chances when the time comes, leap at opportunities that benefit me and occasionally others. I am most certainly not skittish of blood. On the contrary, it intrigues me, and I love fresh meat… BRING ON THE CHILLED BABY SQUIRREL, BRADLEY!!!

“P.S. this goes to Bradley…you can give me a drink of red wine anytime.”

–a YA reader

runners-up in the individual category

“I would, unfortunately, consider myself to be in the prey category. Over the years, I have let many people take advantage of my kindness, whether it be as small as a piece of gum, or as large as a sum of money, or a favorite book. I think that they see in me that I will lend them things or go along with them. I can’t seem to say ‘no’ to people, unless it involves controlled substances.

“‘Predators’ seem to view me as a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie that just want to get their grubby hands on and devour until all that’s left is a dribble of crumbs. Certainly, though, I am attempting to curb my prey appeal to the vast world of predators, but, as of now, I still regard myself as one of the hunted.”

–a YA reader from Washington (state)

“I would definitely be a predator, because, to be honest, I couldn’t stand to think that someone else would be brave enough to eat squirrels if I couldn’t. I would have to eat them, too, to prove to myself I could do it. Plus, I’ve always been a dominant person, and I know if I was a wild animal I would probably be a wolf or something. I’m also a naturally darker person.”

–a YA reader

Teacher/Librarian/Bookseller Winners

“I am a predator. I am headstrong, and I always stand out. I am the first to step up and take charge, and I always make myself heard. I am passionate about everything I do, but I do not take any gruff. I am confident in my own skin, and my every imperfection. That is what makes me a predator.”

–K, a bookseller from Pennsylvania

“I have not yet read your book! Want to know why? I carried it to class. That’s why! Silly me! It was snatched from my hands and is making the rounds of the students… I see it, now and then, as it passes from one set of hands to the others. So…I need to win. Otherwise I will have to wait for a long time, as I’m sure I won’t see my copy before spring break.

“Which…is just one of the reasons why I think I’m prey. I know I’m prey. I am too easy to be the predator. A sane person would just say, ‘Give it back, kids! I bought it! It is mine!’ Right?

“A predator would’ve made the school pay for it…or the kids! Yeah! That’s what a predator would do. But…I am prey, I have always been prey (all of my lifetimes), and I imagine I always will be. Well, that is okay. Can’t have predators without prey, I guess, so at least I serve a purpose.

“Then again my intent was to get them interested…so…maybe being prey is simply one effective way to get what you want (be the predator, so to speak)…if you are sly enough. *evil laugh*”

–K, a teacher from Florida

Cynsational Notes

Ten runners-up in the teacher/librarian/bookseller category have also been contacted. They’ll each receive an autographed stack of bookmarks, stickers, and–just for fun–bat tissues and vampire napkins.

I elected not to list names of the entrants (who may prefer to remain anonymous), but they are certainly welcome to shout-out their winning status, if they’d like.

Entries by predators outnumbered entries by prey by about a two-to-one margin. Interpret at will, and be careful out there.

Texas Library Association District III; Star-Lit: A Children’s Literary Festival

I had the honor of offering a presentation to members of TLA District III (Austin area/Central Texas) Oct. 19 at the new Georgetown Public Library.

My talk featured: a brief introduction to my writing; the story behind the writing of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007); a reading of my latest picture book, Santa Knows, co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006); a brief Q&A period; and a book-talk giveaway of recent and autographed titles by District III-area authors.

Highlighted authors and titles included: Runaround by Helen Hemphill (Front Street, 2007)(author interview); My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson (Flux, 2007)(ARC); Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie (Delacorte, 2007)(author interview); The Silverskin Legacy trilogy (all three titles!) by Jo Whittemore (Llewellyn, 2006-2007)(author interview); Wonders of the World by Brian Yansky (Flux, 2007)(author interview); Alpha Dog by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2006)(author interview)(excerpt).

I also made available copies of a speaker’s directory of published members of Austin SCBWI (thanks to both regional adviser Tim Crow and Julie Lake (author interview) for their behind-the-scenes help!).

Visiting the Georgetown Library was a treat. The design is marked by its natural light, generous meeting space, inviting children’s book area (featuring imaginative and inspiring murals by Austin illustrator Tony Sansevero), and enormously innovative teen area (with booths, funky low chairs, display area, and more!).

My thanks to Karen and everyone at District III for their hospitality, enthusiasm, hard work, and for all they do for central Texas readers!

Star-Lit: A Children’s Literary Festival was scheduled for the next day at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Plano, Texas. The event benefited the Dallas Bethlehem Center, and featured authors and illustrators included: Will Hillenbrand; Dee Scallan and Daniel Myers; Laura Numeroff; Bryan Collier; Kim Brown; Kimberly Willis Holt; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Greg Leitich Smith; and Tracy Dockray.

So, after visiting with TLA members, Greg and I continued north on I-35 to the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. That evening, our escort Hope brought us to the Star-Lit author reception at Dealey Plaza, where we visited the Sixth Floor Museum and then enjoyed first-rate barbecue.

The next day, we took part in the “Breakfast with the Authors” and then offered two presentations to standing-room-only crowds. Thanks to Hope, Jeff, and everyone at Star-Lit for a wonderful event! [Here’s sending a special cheer to the Lamar Middle School Book Club–I loved the photos and card!] Please learn more about the Dallas Bethlehem Center.

For a more informal take on the weekend, check out “All Roads Lead to Plano” at Spookycyn.

Cynsational News & Links

Alex Flinn, author of Beastly (HarperCollins, 2007): from the YA Authors Cafe.

From Page to Screen” David Cunningham’s ‘The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising‘ by Claire E. Gross from The Horn Book.

Diane Greenseid: Sporadic Thoughts and Activities of a Children’s Book Illustrator. Diane’s books include Waynetta and the Cornstalk: A Texas Fairy Tale by Helen Ketteman (Albert Whitman, 2007). See more titles.

Free Autographed Bookplates from Children’s and YA Authors, or How to Get Your Book “Autographed” by an Author by Cheryl Rainfield. Features information on YA/teen authors, picture book authors, and other children’s authors. See also Teen Books that Have Something to Say from Cheryl.

U.S. names entries for IBBY Honour List from the International Reading Association. The following titles will represent the U.S. on the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Honour List: Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005)(recommendation) in the author category; Jazz (Holiday House, 2006), written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers, in the illustration category; and Emil and Karl (Roaring Brook Press, 2006), written by Yankev Glathteyn and translated by Jeffrey Shandler, in the translation category.

Character Building with Alma Fullerton: a chat transcript from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Visit Alma’s site.

Children’s Book Blog Tours: “children’s book authors and illustrators now on blog tours” from Anastasia Suen.

Children’s Book Blogs Workshop: a five-day email course by Anastasia Suen for children’s authors and illustrators who want to learn about blogging.

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

Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure

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. Please stop by to view all the 2007 snowflakes here.

Interviews and features on participating illustrators are being posted throughout the kidlitospher. Just for fun, I’d like to highlight:

The First Snow: Don Tate from The Silver Lining. Read a Cynsations interview with Don.

See also illustrator interviews and/or features on: Rick Chrustowski at laurasalas; Diane DeGroat at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup; Ilene Richard at Something Different Every Day; Brie Spangler at Lectitans; Brooke Dyer at Bookshelves of Doom; D.B. Johnson at Lessons from the Tortoise; Erin Eitter Kono at Sam Riddleburger; Sherry Rogers at A Life in Books; Jennifer Thermes at Through the Studio Door; Graeme Base at Just One More Book; Denise Fleming at MotherReader; Jeff Mack at AmoXcalli; Jeff Newman at A Year of Reading; Ruth Sanderson at Book Moot; Linas Alsenas at A Wrung Sponge; Theresa Brandon at The Shady Glade; Karen Katz at Whimsy Books; Judy Schachner at Kate’s Book Blog; Sally Vitsky at Shelf Elf: read, write, rave; Matthew Cordell at Just Like the Nut; Maxwell Eaton III at Books and Other Thoughts; Roz Fulcher at Goading the Pen; Susie Jin at sruble’s world; and Susan Mitchell at Check It Out. Note: I’m catching up from having been off-line while on the road, so you may have to scroll a bit, but that will give you the opportunity to check out some of these wonderful blogs! See also Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (and other youth literature blogs) for more coverage!

Note to Blog Readers about Blogging for a Cure from Wild Rose Reader. Details the purely logistical reasons while some participating illustrators are featured and others aren’t.

More Personally

I spoke to a boo-fest bevy of teen (and grown-up) fiends at the Plano Public Library (outside Dallas) Oct. 13 about Gothic fantasy literature and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). The event room was gorgeously decorated with (paper) candles hanging from the ceiling, a Sanguini’s table set up (cake, punch, nuts, etc.), signs tying into the book, tombstones, pin-the-tail on the werewolf, a smoke machine, strobe lights, and much much, more. In addition, stations were set up for temporary tattoos (fang and scratch marks), buttons (chapter titles represented were “predator,” “prey,” “Fangs Are Us” and “Baby Got Bite”), and photos of the much-costumed guests. I also was presented a corsage (complete with teeth), and a gift bag filled with a Gothtini, framed event announcement, mug, candies, and pen. The event opened with the stations and food. Then I offered a PowerPoint presentation on my own book and recommended several other YA Gothic fantasies. We wrapped up with a signing, costume contest judging, and giveaways. Note: I don’t feature kid/teen photos online without permission, but we had a boisterous, gloriously vamp-ish crowd. Thanks to Deban and pals for a spooky fantastic event!

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.

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

Author Interview: Sylvia Vardell on Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children

Sylvia Vardell on Sylvia Vardell: “I am currently Professor at Texas Woman’s University in the School of Library and Information Studies, where I teach graduate courses in children’s and young adult literature. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1983, and have taught at universities in Texas, Nevada, Maine, and Washington. I taught at the University of Zimbabwe in Africa as a Fulbright scholar in 1989. I am married, with two children (ages 19 and 23), and I am a naturalized American citizen (born in Australia, of German parents).”

Congratulations on the release of Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children (American Library Association, 2006). Could you tell us more about the book?

This book is intended to be very practical, with strategies for sharing poetry with children ages 5 to 12 in ways that are fun and participatory. There are six chapters, and they focus on introducing major poets writing for kids, different forms and formats of poetry for young people, poetry awards, poetry promotion activities, and on how to guide children’s responses to poetry.

The emphasis is on the oral sharing of poetry, rather than on writing or memorizing poetry. Several major poets contributed essays and original poems to the book, including: Pat Mora, Jack Prelutsky, Douglas Florian, Janet Wong, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Nikki Grimes, J. Patrick Lewis (interview), Brod Bagert, Marilyn Singer, and Naomi Shihab Nye.

For anyone who wants to dip into poetry for children for the first time or to plan Poetry Month activities, I hope they’ll find plenty of helpful ideas here. I’m proud to quote the Booklist review, “Loving work has gone into making this gem of a book, which should be required reading for all children’s librarians.”

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I had the opportunity to develop a course for teachers and librarians focused only on the area of poetry for children. What fun! And although there were a few professional books about reading poetry and about writing poetry with kids, I couldn’t really find anything current about sharing poetry orally, about exploring and celebrating the sound and music of poetry for children. But the more I tried poetry activities with kids, and the more I taught my poetry class to grown ups, the more I was convinced that this was needed.

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

The idea gestated for a very long time, but the writing actually went quickly, once I started. And the turning point was making a major professional transition in my life. I moved from nearly 20 years of teaching children’s literature courses in a college of education to a new position teaching children’s literature in a library school.

This catapulted me into a more active role in the American Library Association where I encountered a “call for manuscripts” from the ALSC (Association of Library Service to Children). I submitted a proposal in the fall of 2004, the ALSC committee approved it in January, 2005, I submitted the manuscript in September, 2005, and it was published by ALA in the spring of 2006. Voila!

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

Of course the biggest challenge was finding the time to write while teaching my regular load of courses and maintaining other professor responsibilities (committees and whatnot) and a tiny bit of real life, too. Complete isolation works best for me, so when I needed a jump-start or hit a rough patch, I rented an inexpensive hotel room for a few days. (My family was great about that!) Probably my biggest worry was whether I could write for the “library market,” and I was so relieved when my editor read the first, sample chapter and loved it.

If you could suggest a couple of key poetry books at each age-range level for study, what would they be?

It’s hard to choose just a handful. My own list of favorite poetry books for kids is 30 pages long! I wrote a piece for Book Links last year that noted 15 classics of children’s poetry in honor of the magazine’s 15th anniversary. And here are a few gems that are not-to-be missed.

picture books

Lee Bennett Hopkins, comp. School Supplies (Simon & Schuster, 1996)

J. Patrick Lewis. Please Bury Me In The Library (Harcourt, 2005)

Pat Mora. Confetti: Poems for Children (Lee & Low, 1996)(excerpt)

Janet Wong. Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions (Margaret McElderry, 2003)(excerpt)

early reader

Kristine O’Connell George. Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems (Harcourt, 2004)

Eloise Greenfield. Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (HarperCollins, 1978)

Mary Ann Hoberman. The Llama Who Had No Pajama (Harcourt, 1998)

Karla Kuskin. Moon, Have You Met My Mother? The Collected Poems of Karla Kuskin (HarperCollins, 2003)

middle grade

Langston Hughes. The Dreamkeeper and Other Poems (Knopf, Reissued 1994)

Paul Janeczko, comp. Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets (Candlewick, 2002)

Naomi Shihab Nye. A Maze Me: Poems for Girls (Greenwillow, 2005)

Marilyn Singer. How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water (Knopf, 2003)

young adult

Helen Frost. Keesha’s House (Straus & Giroux, 2003)

Nikki Grimes. Bronx Masquerade (Dial, 2002)

Joyce Sidman. The World According to Dog: Poems and Teen Voices (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

Sonya Sones. Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy (HarperCollins, 1999)

So far, what are your favorite poetry children’s books of 2007?

I haven’t seen everything yet, but these are some that have really impressed me:

Leo and Diane Dillon. Mother Goose; Numbers on the Loose (Harcourt, 2007)

Jane Yolen. Here’s a Little Poem (Candlewick, 2007)(excerpt)

Doug Florian. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars (Harcourt, 2007)

John Frank. How to Catch a Fish (Roaring Brook, 2007)(scroll)

Carole Boston Weatherford. Birmingham, 1963 (Wordsong, 2007)

Stephanie Hemphill. Your Own, Sylvia (Knopf, 2007)

How has the field evolved in recent years?

Just ten years ago the Academy of American Poets initiated the observance of National Poetry Month to celebrate poetry and its place in American culture. Since then, poetry has continued to gain momentum with the emergence of Young People’s Poetry Week in 1999 sponsored by the Children’s Book Council, a focus on poetry slams as the centerpiece for Teen Read Week in 2003 sponsored by the American Library Association, and the inauguration of the Poetry Blast in 2004, a concert of children’s poets held at the annual conference of ALA.

I enjoyed the ALSC blast so much that I brought the idea to TLA (the Texas Library Association) and we’ll be hosting our fourth annual “Poetry Round Up” at the TLA conference next spring with poets, John Frank, Charles Ghigna, Juanita Havill, Alan Katz, Linda Sue Park (as a poet!)(interview), Adam Rex, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer (author interview).

What trends have you noticed?

Picture book collections of poetry have been around a long time, but the illustrations in this format are continuing to evolve, with double-page spread art becoming the norm with the poems superimposed on the images, rather than with drawings supplementing the verses. Now we have to be careful that the art doesn’t overwhelm or derail the poetry!

For young adults, the verse novel or the novel-in-verse, as it’s sometimes called, has emerged as extremely popular. I’m also glad to see some older poetry for all ages being reissued in new (often richly illustrated) formats, such as that of Myra Cohn Livingston, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes.

What other academic/critical resources do you recommend?

To be absolutely shameless, I have published another book in the area of children’s poetry just this summer. It’s entitled Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children’s Poets (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), and it’s another practical resource—this time providing one entry for each of 60+ children’s poets, with biographical information as well as ideas for using each poet’s work with kids.

I also recommend Three Voices: An Invitation to Poetry Across the Curriculum (Stenhouse, 1995) by Bea Cullinan, Marilyn Scala and Virginia Schroder; The Poetry Break: An Annotated Anthology with Ideas for Introducing Children to Poetry (H W Wilson, 1995) by Caroline Feller Bauer, and Pass the Poetry Please (HarperCollins, 1986) by Lee Bennett Hopkins (HarperTrophy, 1998).

There are also several excellent resource books written by the poets themselves, including Georgia Heard, Sara Holbrook, Ralph Fletcher, and Myra Cohn Livingston, for example.

There are also a number of excellent Web sites related to poetry (for adults and for young people) that I find so interesting and helpful, including: The Academy of American Poets; Favorite Poem Project; Poetry 180; Poetry Hill Poetry; Giggle Poetry; Children’s Book Council Young People’s Poetry Week.

In July 2006, you launched a blog, Poetry for Children! What prompted you to enter the blogosphere?

I enjoy the lively immediacy of blogs and blog postings, particularly those in the kidlitosphere. But I didn’t see any that were devoted particularly to kids’ poetry, so I thought that might be a niche I could fill. I try to post weekly with poems and background information (lots of lists of poetry books by theme or topic) that link with an event or happening of the day. In April (National Poetry Month), I posted daily—that was a challenge!

What do you like about it?

I like the discipline of it—-it pushes me to write about poetry, in particular, on a regular basis. I also like being connected with the rest of the kidlitosphere, especially on “Poetry Fridays.”

What are the challenges?

I’m worried that I’ll start repeating myself, but I check my previous postings all the time to guard against redundancy and so far, so good. I’m also learning how to reach an ever widening audience through feeds, links, and whatnot.

What’s next up for you?

I’m writing a regular column for Book Links magazine called “Everyday Poetry,” which showcases fast and easy ways to integrate children’s poetry into daily practice. I plan to keep rolling with poetry and am working on a massive “poetry calendar” project, finding poems for children for every day of the year hooked to some special or historic event each day. That’s been quite an ambitious undertaking and I’m nearly finished.

I’m also working in other areas of children’s literature and am honored to serve on the ALA Odyssey Award committee selecting the best audiobook of the year, the ALA Sibert Award committee next year (for nonfiction), and I’ll publish a children’s literature textbook early next year, Children’s Literature in Action (Libraries Unlimited, 2008).

Sarah Ellis Awarded Third Annual TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

Author Receives $20,000 – One of the Largest Prizes for Canadian Children’s Literature

TORONTO–TD Bank Financial Group (TDBFG) and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) have announced that author Sarah Ellis is the winner of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for the most distinguished English-language book of the year. Ellis’s book, Odd Man Out (Groundwood) was selected from five finalists who represent some of the leading authors of Canadian children’s literature. Ellis was awarded $20,000, one of the largest prizes for Canadian children’s literature.

All entries were judged on criteria including the quality of the text and illustrations, where applicable, as well as the book’s overall contribution to children’s literature. The book must also be an original piece of work written for a young audience.

“We are delighted to present Sarah Ellis with the 2007 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and take great satisfaction in knowing parents and young readers across the country will enjoy Odd Man Out as much as our judges did,” said Frank McKenna, Deputy Chair, TD Bank Financial Group and TD’s Literacy Champion. “This award acknowledges and rewards Canadian children’s authors and illustrators who produce creative and memorable stories that inspire the joy of reading in young Canadians.”

Ellis is an author and librarian who resides in Vancouver. Raised in a family who loved to share stories and read books, Ellis transferred that passion to a career as a librarian at the Toronto Public Library and Vancouver Public Library before starting to write her own books. Odd Man Out has already been awarded the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize (scroll) this year.

Odd Man Out is the story of Kip, a young boy spending the summer with his grandmother and five eccentric girl cousins. Ellis uses her trademark quirky characters, insight and wit to weave themes of family, memory and creative imagination into this story of a boy who struggles with his own ideas and memories.

In addition to the $20,000 awarded to Ellis, the remaining four finalists, Jan Thornhill for I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids’ Guide to the Cycle of Life & Death, Hadley Dyer for Johnny Kellock Died Today, Linda Bailey and illustrator Bill Slavin for Stanley’s Wild Ride, and Tim Wynne-Jones for Rex Zero and the End of the World, will share a $10,000 award.

Three additional children’s literature awards were presented at the awards gala. Jan Thornhill, author of I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids’ Guide to the Cycle of Life & Death received the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, author Sara O’Leary and illustrator Julie Morstad were the recipients of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for When You Were Small and Eva Wiseman took home the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People for her book Kanada.

“We’re very proud to play an important role in recognizing the best in children’s literature. No price can be placed on great books that encourage children to read, learn and ultimately improve their literacy,” added McKenna.

This year’s TD award judges included: Merle Harris, author and storyteller; Theo Heras, Children’s Literature Resource Collection Specialist, Lillian H. Smith Library, Toronto Public Library; Dr. Dave Jenkinson, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba; Norene Smiley, author; and Maya Munro Byers, owner, Livres Babar Books, Montreal.

“We congratulate Sarah Ellis on creating a story that will delight Canadian youth again and again,” said Charlotte Teeple, Executive Director, Canadian Children’s Book Centre. “We’d also like to thank TD for supporting the reading and writing of children’s books in Canada and recognizing the strong talents of children’s authors and illustrators.”

The TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for the most distinguished French-language book of the year will be presented in Montreal on October 25, 2007.

About TD Community Giving: Making a Difference Together

Children’s health, literacy and education, and the environment are the three primary areas of focus for TD’s community giving. The major flagship programs within these areas are: TD Children’s Hospital Fund, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, TD Canada Trust Scholarships for Community Leadership, and the TD Summer Reading Club. In addition, through the support of our customers and employees, TD is involved with a host of national, regional and local programs in support of diversity, arts and culture and other causes. In 2006, TD donated $33 million to more than 1,600 charities and not-for-profit organizations across Canada.

About the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (

A national not-for-profit organization and registered charity, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) was founded in 1976 to promote, support and encourage the reading, writing and illustrating of Canadian books for children and teens. With book collections and extensive resources in five cities across Canada, the CCBC is a treasure-trove for anyone interested in Canadian books for young readers.

Cynsational Notes

Sarah is the most recent of my colleagues to join the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. Tim also is a member of the faculty.

Author Interview: Melissa Marr on Wicked Lovely

Melissa Marr on Melissa Marr: “The easy version–I write; I’m a mom; and I used to teach.

“The longer version–I grew up in Pennsylvania. I tended to be too curious for my own good, so I experimented with trouble. I knew though that I wanted to teach and write some day, so I went to college and then grad school. Somewhere in there, I started bartending and teaching university–both of which were great fun. In 1998, I switched from bartending to motherhood, and in 2006 I switched from teaching to writing novels.”

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

I suppose it depends on what we consider as the starting point. I decided I wanted to write when I was 12 or so, but I didn’t really do anything about it until I was around thirty. I was afraid, so I decided to wait until I was 40 to try it. The biggest stumble was my belief that I couldn’t provide for my family and be a writer. When I did start writing novels, when I was around 30, things happened pretty much instantly.

Congratulations on the publication of Wicked Lovely (HarperCollins, 2007)(excerpt)! Could you fill us in on the story?”

I’m so bad at this part. Hmmm. It’s a story about three characters who each want something. Keenan wants to find his missing Summer Queen (who happens to be a mortal); Donia wants freedom from the curse she’s carrying (because of Keenan); Aislinn wants a normal life (but she sees faeries). Keenan and Donia are at odds, bound to compete to convince Aislinn to choose as they want/need. Aislinn is trying to hide the fact that she knows faeries are real. Ultimately, it’s a story of choices made and un-made.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

An obsession with the importance of choices? The name Aislinn? Fascination with faeries? Egalitarian issues? Being a mom? I’m not sure there’s a solitary inspiration. I can do the retrospective assessment bit, but that’s assigning meaning after the fact. At the time, I only knew that I couldn’t get the characters out of my head.

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

In late 2004, I wrote a short story that would linger in my mind for the next eight-to-nine months. Then in 2005, I wrote two novels–one that didn’t work and the one that was an evolution of that short story. That novel became Wicked Lovely. Once I started writing WL, things became blurry. I finished it in January, queried agents, picked an agent in February, sold the book in a multi-book co-acquisition (with the US and UK) in March. From starting the novel to signing with an agent to deal was six months total. It was ridiculously fast.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?

I don’t know that I think of it that way. People appeal to me. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met are those I met through teaching, so I guess it made sense to write a text that was available to this readership.

What is it like, being a debut author in 2007?

For me, it’s been surreal. I never thought much about the “being an author” part. I wrote a book. I’ve dreamed of seeing it in readers’ hands. I’d never thought about the between writing and on the shelves part. I never thought about events. I’m just not a book-signing, event, author-party kinda person. But my publishers are energetic. There was a pre-publication tour. There was a lunch date with BGI. There’s another tour coming. And, of course, there were (and will be more) events, signings, and…just things. There are things, and I had no clue how to do most of them. I regularly have great fears of failing my publishers by not doing these things well enough.

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

I’m pretty simple in that I believe that where we are today is the result of every aspect of where we were before, so I wouldn’t want to say anything to my prior self.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I hang out with my family, read, travel, go to museums, roam with my camera, get tattooed, meditate… To write, to live, I think it’s pretty important to keep the well full, so I try to sate my senses and spirit.

Luckily, my family thinks this is a fine plan, so they’re game for new adventures and cool with my going on solitary adventures. For example, we just returned from a wonderful trip to Ireland and a few days in England. I’m preparing for a work trip on my own, but that schedule also includes “go to museum” and “roam” time.

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

I’m not sure I am very good at the balance part yet. I’m lucky in that my Harper US publicist (Melissa Ditmar) and my US & UK editors (Anne Hoppe & Nick Lake) are very good at this, so they look at my schedule and sort things out so I’m not terribly dizzy. My agent, Rachel Vater, also does a great job of taking care of me.

Between the lot of them (and my at home support team), I generally know where I’m to be and what I’m to be doing. Plus, I like caffeine, so that helps.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Readers can expect to see Ink Exchange in Summer 2008. This story picks up about six months after Wicked Lovely; this one centers on the Dark Court. It’s the narrative threads of characters we meet in WL–Leslie (Ash’s friend), Irial (Dark King), & Niall (Keenan’s friend). The MCs from WL are in it, but it’s not their story. There will also be a short story in the Love Is Hell anthology in Fall 08. Then my manga series (and another novel) will be out in 2009.

Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure 2007

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.

See the whole list at Liz In Ink.

Please stop by to view all the 2007 snowflakes here.

Robert’s Snow Illustrators (more to come!)

Robert’s Snow: Selina Alko from Cheryl Klein at Brooklyn Arden. Here’s a sneak peek: “Selina’s delightful snowflake is called ‘Snow Taxi,’ and it features one of our indomitable NYC taxicabs driving up the side of the Chrysler Building on a snowy day.”

Robert’s Snow 2007: Starring Scott Bakal from Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader. Scott says: “Originally, it was a take-off of an image I created called The Snowman Realizes His Future, which recently was awarded to be in the American Illustration Annual 26. It shows a sad snowman looking up at a branch, which is his nose, sprouting leaves—a telltale sign that Spring is coming and that he will be melting away.”

Blogging for a Cure: Alexandra Boiger at Paradise Found. Here’s a sneak peek: “Since I became a parent I am always in a ‘time dilemma’, but at the same time it taught me to be disciplined about the time I do have. In short, I sit down at my drawing desk no matter what. Sometimes, on a day I didn’t feel creative things go slowly and not much valuable happens, sometimes I just needed to break the ice and all of a sudden I feel like riding a wave.”

Paige Keiser, illustrator, Robert’s Snow participant from Your Neighborhood Librarian. P Dog explains “Her interests moved to fine art and still life painting in college, and after discovering a book about N.C. Wyeth at a book store, fell in love with illustration.”

Robert’s Snow Illustrator-Janet Stevens from Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Tricia observes: “I love the wrinkled face full of personality and can just imagine getting thumped by that tail as it swings.”

Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure 2007

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.

See the whole list at Liz In Ink.

Please stop by to view all the 2007 snowflakes here.

Robert’s Snow Illustrators (more to come!)

Meet Randy Cecil by Liz Goulet Dubois from Chat Rabbit. Here’s a sneak peek: “I graduated in 1994. I was very lucky to get a paid internship as a graphic designer at Henry Holt for the summer before my senior year. It was a great experience and a great help in understanding how things work in publishing. I was a painting major so I had very little practical experience.”

Art for the Cure: An Interview with Michelle Chang from The Longstockings. Here’s a sneak peek: “Don’t obsess about your imaginary and real competition and push ahead towards the direction you want to go. You will get there eventually.”

Interview with Illustrator Kevin Hawkes by Cynthia Lord from Cynthia’s LJ. Here’s a sneak peek: “‘My second-grade teacher complimented one of my drawings,’ he told me, and when I asked if he remembered what she’d said, he thought it was, ‘You draw good monsters.'” Note: don’t miss the Big Wicked Contest for a signed copy of Kevin’s The Wicked Big Toddlah (Knopf, 2007). See also a Cynsations interview with Cynthia.

Snowflakes for Robert’s Snow: “Snow Day!” by Barbara Lehman from the Excelsior File. In sum, she says, “One event, many perspectives, the art of Barbara Lehman at its best.” Read the whole article.

Grace Lin from In the Pages… Grace says: “I thought it might be interesting for people to know that the style I painted my snowflake was inspired by Chinese Cloisonné.” Read the whole interview. Note: also enter to win a signed copy of Grace’s Cissy’s Friends (Viking, 2007) and a Cissy Doll. See also a Cynsations interview with Grace.