Cynsational News, Links & Giveaways

Feast of Fools: The Morganville Vampires (Book Four) by Rachel Caine (NAL/ Jam, 2008)(sample chapter) goes on sale next week. To enter to win a copy of the book, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by midnight CST June 3! Please also type “Morganville Vampires” in the subject line. Read Rachel’s LJ, visit her page at MySpace. Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel. Peek: “Read the classics. Don’t just read what’s out now, go back and see what used to interest (or scare) people. Some of it’s still scary, some isn’t.”

Last Call for Entries

The Cynsations grand-prize May giveaway is an autographed paperback set of all three of Lauren Myracle‘s New York Times bestselling Internet Girls novels (in chat-room-style writing)–ttyl, l8rg8r, and ttfn, all published by Amulet!

Read a Cynsations interview with Lauren. Read Lauren’s blog, and visit her at MySpace!

To enter the giveaway, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST May 31! Please also type “Internet Girls” in the subject line. Note: one autographed set will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader.

More News & Links

Padma [Venkatraman]’s Climbing the Stairs Blog Tour Finale from Mitali Perkins at Mitali’s Fire Escape. Check out the rest of the tour. Peek: “I became a citizen just over a year ago–when people ask me why, I tell them it’s because America has the best Public Library system in the world.”

How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal by Nathan Bransford at Curtis Brown. Peek: “An agent can often sell nonfiction projects on proposal, meaning you write the proposal first, then sell the project, then write the book. It mostly depends on the quality of the idea and its marketability, your platform, and your writing ability.”

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: fights censorship and defends First Amendment rights of comic book professionals.

John Michael Cummings: official site of the debut author of The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel, 2008). Includes biography, published works, and contact information. See also JMC Notes, John’s blog. From the promotional copy: “Young Josh knows there is something about the tall Victorian House on the Harpers Ferry Hill, the one his father grew up in, that he can’t quite put his finger on—ghosts he can’t name, mysteries he can’t solve. And his impossible father won’t give him any clues. He’s hiding something. And then there’s the famous John Brown. The one who all the tourists come to hear about. The one whose statue looms over Josh’s house. Why does he seem to haunt Josh and his whole family? When the fancy Richmonds come to town and move right next door, their presence forces Josh to find the answers and stand up to the secrets of the House, to his father—and to John Brown, too! The historic village of Harpers Ferry comes alive in this young boy’s brave search for answers and a place of his own in this brilliant first novel by John Michael Cummings.”

“To celebrate the release of Up All Night by Peter Abrams (HarperTeen, 2008), an anthology containing short stories by Peter Abrahams, Libba Bray (author inteview), David Levithan (author interview), Patricia McCormick, Sarah Weeks, and Gene Luen Yang], HarperTeen is offering aspiring authors the chance to write their own story to be included in the paperback edition. Submit an original short story about a character that stays up all night. The story must take place in the course of a single life-changing night. All stories must be between 5,000 and 10,000 words (12 pt font, double spaced, one inch margins) and all contributing entrants must be between 14 and 19 years old as of April 2, 2008. Download the official entry form (PDF). Entries must be postmarked by October 1st and received by October 7th.” Source: readergirlz.

Question of the Week Thursday: Lisa McMann from Robin Friedman’s JerseyFresh Tude. Robin asks: “Did your publishing experience turn out as you expected?” Peek: “Like any new author knows, there are thousands of new books coming out every month and publishing houses have a lot of authors to tend to. So I knew that if I wanted Wake to get attention, I had to help make it happen.”

Why I Love My Agent by Jenny Han at The Longstockings. Peek: “The first person to really impress upon me the importance of this was Sarah Weeks, our old writing teacher from New School. She told me that it was vital that I have an agent before stepping into the big bad publishing world.”

An Interview with Agent Stephen Barbara of the Donald Maas Agency by Lisa Graff from The Longstockings.

2008 Writers’ League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference has announced its roster of agent/editor speakers. Youth literature professionals include: Kathleen Anderson (YA) of Anderson Literary Management; Lilly Ghahremani of Full Circle Literary (YA); Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger (YA); Stefanie Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary (multicultural children’s and YA); Natanya Wheeler of Lowenstein-Yost Associates (YA); Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. (children’s and YA; scroll for description). Reminder: the deadline for the Writers’ League Teddy Award is June 30.

Texas Non-Fiction Writers: an online community for authors in Texas. A place where writers can swap ideas, ask questions, get critiques, enter writing contests and keep in touch with news affecting non-fiction writers. TNFW also sponsors a first-class autumn writers’ retreat in the Hill Country. Membership is free during 2008.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #75: “Knoxville Girl,” Kerry Madden from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “Honestly, I don’t think I’m quite finished with the Weems family yet, but I was terrified of writing ‘manufactured mountain novels,’ so I wanted a break to think about more Maggie Valley stories and what they could be.” Read a Cynsations interview with Kerry.

“Down the Publishing Path” with Harold Underdown from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Note: “Harold answered a huge collection of questions about editors, publishing, and getting a break.” Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Fear of Regrets from Darcy Pattison’s Revision Notes. Peek: “I’m afraid to submit, because I might get rejected. Yes. So what?”

The Horn Book Magazine has revised the order in which it lists the books in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Read a Cynsations interview with Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book. See the preceding conversation.

Soup’s On: Debbi Michiko Florence in the Kitchen Interview from Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup. Peek: “I think the most frustrating experience for me was not knowing when to stop researching and start writing. I whined to friend and author Jerry Spinelli and he gave me this advice: ‘You can sit on the bench and study the game forever, but you’ll never score until you take off your sweats and start shooting.'”

Hilary Highland: official site of the author of The Wreck of the Ethie, illustrated by Paul Bachem (Peachtree). Don’t miss her school-visit information!

Lobster Press: new blog from the “award-winning publisher of books for children, teens, tweens, and families.” See also the publisher’s official site and teen-page on MySpace!

Attention Youth Literature Bloggers: the 2008 Kidlit Bloggers Conference will be Sept. 27 in Portland, Oregon. Source: childrensbookbiznews.

Managing Expectations by Caroline Hickey at The Longstockings. Peek: “If you aren’t prepared for the reality of being an author, which often means working for many years on several books, slowly building an audience and a name and relationships with booksellers and librarians, and stomaching a lot of disappointments as you watch other new books come out and get more attention than yours, then you need to ask yourself if you really want to be a writer, or if you just want the cache of being published.”

Looking “Underneath” the Imagination Process of Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008) from Lynn E. Hazen at Imaginary Blog. Peek: “For me, the key has always been faith. I simply have faith that if I sit there long enough, the words will come to me. But I’ve also learned (the hard way) that the words that come aren’t always beautiful and lyrical and all of that. That falls into that category called revision. So, I’m gentle with myself in a number of ways.” Read Cynsations interviews with Kathi and Lynn.

Pre-School Through High School? Non-Fiction Picture Books Across the Grades by David Schwartz at Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. See also Does writing fiction affect the non-fiction writing process? by Padma Venkatraman at I.N.K.


Check out Rogelia’s House of Magic by Jamie Martinez Wood (Delacorte, 2008).

The Irondequoit Public Library’s Teen Advisory Board created a book trailer for one of my favorite books, Shug by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster, 2006). See my recommendation of the novel. Source: The Longstockings.

Author Interview: Eric Luper on Big Slick

Eric Luper on Eric Luper: “Aside from being an avid poker player and author, Eric Luper, has had his share of interesting jobs, including: dry-cleaning store manager, medieval castle restorer, bartender, predatory bird cage cleaner, paperboy, and factory worker (at a factory that stamps out those shiny cellophane things that go around potted plants).

“Faced with the decision being a starving artist or a not-so-starving artist, Eric ran off to school to become a chiropractor. He spends the remainder of his time pursuing his writing. He currently resides in Albany, New York; with his wife and two young children. Big Slick (FSG, 2007) is his first novel.”

Read Eric’s LJ!

How would you describe yourself as a teenager?

As a teen, I was something of a searcher. I had a core group of friends, but I grazed in different social circles. I was a reasonably good student, but found that I thrived in extracurricular activities and my part-time job. I loved making money…and spending it.

As opposed to so many other authors, I was not an avid reader as a teen. Nor was I an avid writer. All that came later.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer? What helped you the most? What might you do differently, given the opportunity?

I had no idea I was interested in writing until I got to college. I mean, I always loved storytelling vehicles such as film and television and role-playing games, but it wasn’t until my freshman composition class at Rutgers where I began to sense that writing was something I might like to do. It developed from there, and I ended up shifting from biology major to English major.

What has helped me most, I think, is that I’ve been too stupid to stop. Persistence goes a long way when you’re a writer. So does humility. When you’re starting out, it’s not easy to admit you suck, but it’s the only way a writer gets better.

Holding my work up to the standards of the publishing industry has helped, too. Self-publishing might work for some, but all those rejection slips forced me to raise my game.

What is it about young people as fictional heroes and/or as an audience that especially appeals to you?

This is an interesting question, Cynthia. So many important decisions, life-altering decisions, are made during adolescence. It’s a time when society expects us to learn and grow from our mistakes. Teens get do-overs and that makes for great fiction. Plus, emotions run so high during those teen years. Hormones pour through the wrinkles in our brains like gravy over mashed potatoes. I can’t imagine a better age to write about!

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

It took a long time for me to trust my own voice. Until Big Slick, I had been writing what I thought editors wanted to see. I was chasing trends and trying to fill voids in the publishing world. If I read an article that there was a scarcity of boy-protagonist chapter books, I’d run off and write a boy-protagonist chapter book. Although all this “chasing” never led to a contract, it helped me hone my craft and find my voice. It readied me.

This may sound odd, but when I sat down to write Big Slick I had to actively give myself permission to write the book that needed to be written. I shook out my arms and told myself to forget the trends and the expectations and to just write the book I’d have wanted to read over and over again when I was a teen. It was a very different writing experience for me–it was very liberating–and one I’m still getting acquainted with.

Congratulations on the success of Big Slick (FSG, 2007)! Could you tell us a bit about it?

Big Slick starts off with Andrew Lang already in a hole and spiraling downward. He’s stolen money from his family’s dry-cleaning business to enter a poker tournament in an illegal card room, essentially throwing good money after bad.

When he loses the tournament, Andrew gets desperate. He devises different ways to get the money back before his father notices it’s missing, but every attempt lands him in deeper trouble. Throw a geeky best friend, a hot co-worker and a kick-ass muscle car into the mix and, well, you get Big Slick.

A lot of people like to pigeonhole Big Slick as a “poker novel,” but to me it’s more than that. It would be like calling “The Breakfast Club” a “detention movie.” It would be like calling “Roadhouse” a “dopey movie about a saloon.” Okay, I’ll give you that last one. In any event, you don’t have to be a poker fan to enjoy Big Slick. At heart, it’s a story about a good kid’s struggle to figure out how to salvage, and ultimately strengthen, the relationships he’s damaged as a result of a string of bad decisions.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

A friend called me up and urged me to watch poker on television. I told him I couldn’t imagine anything more boring than watching other people play cards. He insisted and I relented.

After learning the rules and watching a few hands, I was hooked. It really is interesting to watch poker. There is a lot of deceit and trash-talking. There is pushing and pulling and huge swings of fortune. All things that make fiction so exciting.

It was then that I conceived the idea of a teen sitting at a poker table in a smoky, illegal card room filled with a bunch of less-than-savory adults. The image stuck with me and I wrote a short story, which turned out to be the first chapter of Big Slick.

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

I became acquainted with poker and wrote chapter one at the very end of 2003. It sat on my hard drive for months until the rest of the characters and some plot ideas had a chance to take shape in my head. I sat down to write in earnest in the spring of 2004. The first draft only took four or five months, but revisions took much longer. My contract offer with FSG came in the summer of 2005 and that put me on-track for a September 2007 release.

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

This novel was fraught with challenges, but the biggest challenge is one I’ve already touched upon–giving myself permission to write the book that needed to be written. This was a huge hurdle for me. Every time I sat down at that the computer, I had to remind myself to let go of all the voices in my head, those internal editors, who like to talk me out of writing from within myself.

There was also the matter of sounding smart about poker and figuring out what an illegal poker room is really like. Through the course of writing this book, I played online, in home games, huge casinos, and, yes, at seedy underground poker rooms. I tried my best to bring those colors to this novel. And fortunately I never lost my shirt!

Your bio indicates you’re an avid poker player (which also comes through in the novel). Tell us a bit about your poker life.

I don’t play nearly as much as I used to and, as such, my poker skills have waned. But I can still hold my own. The game of Texas Hold ’em is quite simple and quite complex at the same time. That is the beauty of it. There’s always something new to learn. And if you have a head for numbers, it can be really fascinating.

My biggest weakness in poker is that I’ve never been able to separate the chip from the dollar amount it represents. Good players (as well as addictive gamblers) don’t see $10 when they look at a poker chip. They just try to make the smart bet–the right bet for the situation. Me, I see a cheeseburger deluxe or ten downloads on iTunes.

Do you outline first? Do you just begin writing and see where it goes? Or, put another way, are you a plotter or a plunger and why?

I am a plunger who is completely envious of plotters. I wish I had some idea of where my characters were headed before I set out on the journey. It would save me tons of time and scores of pages that have ended up in the trash can. The trouble is that whenever I try to plot my story, I inevitably diverge from the plan within a chapter or two. So, I gave up on that.

Here is my current method: I create a few characters that intrigue me and then I put them in a terrible terrible situation. Just as soon as they start to get a handle on the situation, I throw some other terrible terrible obstacle in their way. I keep doing that until I get to the end of the story.

When I’m writing, I feel like a vengeful god. If my characters knew it was me pulling the strings, they’d just look up and say, “Dude, what the hell?”

What was it like being a debut novelist in 2007? What surprised you the most?

There were so many great books that came out in 2007, it was hard to keep up. The talent just keeps coming and the bar is getting higher and higher. The young adult shelves are populated with brilliant writers. But the world of children’s writing is also so welcoming. The listservs, the bloggers, all the great conferences. Children’s authors are so supportive of each other, and I value that community a great deal.

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

Great question! I’d tell myself to start writing in earnest sooner. I took a good decade off after college where I didn’t write a darned thing. I feel like I missed an opportunity, not only to get published earlier, but to grow as a writer. But, I’m only 38, so I suppose it’s not so bad! At the least, I should have taken my author photo back then so I would have more hair!

What advice do you have for YA novelists?

Write what is true to you. Forget what you hear about industry trends and gaps in the marketplace. Don’t write a vampire book just because there are a bunch of really popular vampire books out right now. Don’t write a picture book because you heard a librarian mention they are becoming more popular again. The best writing comes when you are tapping into a very uncomfortable place within you. Find out how to get at all that good stuff and let it come out through whatever story you’re telling.

Do you work within a community of writers (a critique or workshop group), with an editorial agent, or solo before submitting to a publisher? Why? What are the benefits to you?

I have various circles that see my work before it goes to my agent, and ultimately my editor. I participate in a live critique group and an online critique group. I also have a few renegade readers who read my stuff. They are all people I trust implicitly, and I take their comments very seriously. However, I am sensitive to the fact that decisions made by consensus are often not the best decisions.

The final changes on anything I do come from me, and every change I make must improve the work in some way. I find it extremely helpful, though, to have fresh eyes on my writing. I’ve read my own words so many times the sentences often stop making sense to me!

As a reader, so far what is your favorite YA novel of 2008?

I haven’t read a whole lot of 2008 releases yet, but my favorite novel I’ve read since January has got to be Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner (Random House, 2007). I call it “Curb Your Enthusiasm procreates with teen fiction, and the resulting baby gets injected with massive amounts of steroids.” And no, the novel has nothing to do with William Shakespeare. But it’s fresh and funny, it’s filled with heart and situations that could make a sailor blush.

What do you do when you’re not in the book world?

Outside my writing life, my plate is pretty full. I’m an author by night, but by day I am a chiropractor. I own an office and work a full week there. I also have two young children and spend at ton of time with them.

It seems like a lot, but all the activity forces me to be regimented with my writing. I wonder how much time I would waste if I were a full-time author! As for hobbies, I suppose skiing is my favorite. I also enjoy weekending up in Lake George on the warmer weekends. Come find me on the boat in Log Bay if you’re ever up there!

What can your fans look forward to next?

My second novel is entitled Bug Boy (FSG, 2009). It is the story of a young apprentice jockey in 1934 Saratoga, who is pressured to tamper with a horse. It’s a gritty little book. I guess I love writing about the underbelly of society.

In many ways, this book was more challenging to write than Big Slick, and I’m proud of the results. Not only did I have to learn a ton about horse racing, but I had to learn about life in 1934. It’s a roller-coaster of a story and has a lot of contemporary parallels that sprang up as I was writing. I’m in the editing phase on this one and look forward to it hitting the shelves next summer.

I’m also around 2/3 of the way through my third novel. Think contemporary. Think edgy. Think ka-pow! Sorry, but I can’t say any more than that. It’s still like a little creature that scurries further into the darkness as soon as you shed any light on it. Give me a few months and maybe I’ll be ready to talk.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Get in touch! I love to hear from readers and librarians and teachers. I also love to get out (in my copious free time) so contact me via my website if you’re interested in a school or library visit or having me come and speak at a conference!

Editor Interview: Abigail Samoun of Tricycle Press

Abigail Samoun on Abigail Samoun: “Abigail Samoun is a project editor with Tricycle Press, the children’s book imprint of Ten Speed Press, in Berkeley, California, where she has worked since 2000.

“Abigail has edited board books, picture books, middle-grade fiction, and early young-adult novels. These include the 2003 SCBWI Golden Kite winner for best picture book text, George Hogglesberry: Grade School Alien by Sarah Wilson, illustrated by Chad Cameron; and the 2004 New York Public Library Ezra Jack Keats award-winner, Yesterday I Had the Blues by Jeron Frame, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

“Abigail edited the middle grade series Edgar & Ellen, which has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide, been translated into eight languages, and launched a cartoon series on Nickelodeon.

“Before entering the wild world of children’s publishing, Abigail received an MA in French Studies and Journalism from New York University and worked jobs as far a field as a lingerie salesperson, a wrapper (as in gifts, not hip-hop), and an intern at the Bronx Zoo. None of these jobs was nearly as exciting as editing children’s books.

“To learn more about Abigail, the books she edits, and Tricycle Press, visit”

What kind of young reader were you?

It’s funny but I don’t remember being around books much before I came to the U.S. from France when I was seven years old. I had a really mean first grade teacher in Paris. Her name was Madame Robinet, which roughly means “Mrs. Water Faucet.” Her temper ran hot—oui, oui. It was the 1970’s but apparently Dr. Spock had yet to introduce the concept of child psychology to the French teaching establishment. I learned to read in her class, but it wasn’t a joyful experience.

Then, when I got to the States, there was a transition year where I was learning to read and write in English. It was a strange experience because I could understand English perfectly since my mother had always spoken it to me, but I’d always answered her in French. So that first year, I had to learn how to form English sounds—the “th”s were, of course a problem and for a few years I went around saying “zee” and “zat.”

It wasn’t until third grade that I discovered books. It started with my mom reading me the Oz books—a chapter every night before bed. Then, in fourth grade, I had a genius friend who was not only a musical prodigy but also a nine-year-old novelist. So, of course, I had to write a novel, too. I got to page 16. She got to page 55. She was deemed the more serious of our literary duo, but I continued to write stories throughout the rest of grade school.

In fifth grade, we moved to a small town in Sonoma County. That’s when I really started devouring books on my own. I loved the Ramona books, Anastasia Krupnik, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, all the Judy Blume books. That’s probably why I love working on middle-grade fiction so much.

What inspired you to make children’s book editing your career focus?

I made a pact with myself when I was ten: “Don’t ever forget what it feels like to be a kid. Adults grow up and forget what it’s like. But you’ve got to remember.” And I did.

I’ve always carried that with me. So I think that’s part of the reason why I ended up in children’s books. It was a way to remember and honor that experience of being a child. I didn’t do it consciously, though. I studied journalism in college, and I thought I’d end up working for a newspaper or a magazine.

But then a friend recommended Ten Speed because someone he knew had published with them. They had an opening in the kids’ books department. I thought, “well, I’ll try it out for a few months and then maybe I can transfer to adult books when a position opens up.”

Eventually, I worked part time for the adult division for a while, dividing my time between picture books and cook books, but I quickly realized that kids books were a lot more fun.

Children’s literature, despite Harry Potter, is still seen by most people—if they consider it at all— as the less serious, less important product of the publishing industry. But there’s a humility in serving the less powerful in society.

To me the beauty of working in kids’ books is that kids don’t care about a celebrity author or illustrator, they don’t care if it’s high literature, they don’t care about the writer’s ego, or New York Times reviews—they just want a good story.

Their experience of reading is more pure, more about the reason we’ve told stories since we formed language thousands of years ago. To me, what happens between storytellers and their audience is a type of magic.

How did you prepare for this career?

The best preparation I had for this job was taking a creative writing class every semester in college. I learned how to critique manuscripts in those classes—I learned the basics of story elements such as characterization, plot, tension, and development.

I also learned how hard it was to write something and put it out there for public consumption. This has been helpful in working with writers because I know a bit about what goes into the process and how difficult it is. I admire writers tremendously.

More generally, I prepared for this career by being a lover of books. I thought of favorite authors as kind of abstract friends—when I looked at my bookcases, it felt almost like I was looking at a family photo album. It was always reassuring and comforting.

I even shelved my books according to which writers I felt would get along. Margaret Atwood next to Gail Godwin, Italo Calvino next to Borges, Kundera next to Norman Mailer. It made complete sense to me.

What do you see as the job(s) of an editor in the publishing process?

A lot of what we do is manage the process. It’s a little bit like event planning: you find out who’s going to help put the party together (designers, copyeditors, proofreaders), you make sure everything stays on schedule (ceremony begins promptly at two o’clock), you put out fires (the caterer’s flambé), you choose formal or informal dress (hardcover with jacket or without?), you balance the budget, you do quality control, etc., etc.

I spend about 5% of my time actually editing text. Most of what I do is plan, coordinate, give feedback, and keep the various players on track and on schedule.

In a more philosophical and grander sense, I see my role as encourager and champion of talented artists. I feel a responsibility to give them an opportunity and to push them to do their very best work.

What are its challenges? What do you love about it?

Challenges: Since the editor, as manager and champion, is usually at the center of a project— with the author communicating to her their needs, the illustrator theirs, the publisher theirs, the sales people theirs—it’s not always easy making sure everyone is happy. There’s a lot of juggling involved.

What I love about the job is working with creative people, finding an exciting story and sending it on the road to publication, pairing it with just the right illustrator—and having the opportunity to support artists in a society where they receive very little support.

If you could go back in time to your beginning-editor self, what advice would you give her?

That’s an interesting question. I was very nervous when I first started out. Talking on the phone with an illustrator or author was something I had to psychologically prepare for and I would often grip the phone receiver so tightly, my hand would be numb afterwards.

I think I would tell my twenty-five year old self to trust her instincts, relax, focus on what’s important: helping artists do their best work.

How have you seen the business change since you started in publishing?

When I started in 2000, it felt like the independent bookstores were losing the battle to the chains. They’re still battling, but there have been some inspiring victories.

Here in the Bay Area, communities came together to save Kepler’s, a legendary bookstore in Menlo Park. The big giants, Barnes & Noble and Borders, are showing that they’re not invulnerable to market forces. Specialty and gift sales have become more important—the success of some of our strongest titles, such as the Urban Babies Wear Black series, owes largely to gift accounts.

There’s a lot of pessimism right now about picture books. Fiction is still the hot item. But I don’t think this is the beginning of the end for picture books. To me, it feels like a natural cycle.

The social climate is such that verbal language is eclipsing visual language at the moment. I think we’re in more analytical times, with a lot of insecurity about our political and economic situation. Things will change.

There’s a tarot card that often provides me with both comfort and warning: the Wheel of Fortune. What goes up, comes down; what comes down, goes up. Picture books will have their day again.

What do you think of those changes? If you could make a change for the better in the publishing world, what would it be? Why?

Even in our indie publishing house we talk very little about children. We talk about librarians, teachers, parents, uncles, grandparents, reviewers—but seldom to we ever actually talk about children.

Even though kids aren’t the ones with money in their pockets I really think that in some mysterious way, they’re the ones who decide the ultimate success of a book.

If I could change something in the publishing world, it would be to give kids more of a voice about what they want to read.

For those unfamiliar to Tricycle Press, could you offer an overview of the house and its philosophy?

Tricycle Press is fifteen years old this year. I think that means we’re now officially older than most of our readers. We’ve grown tremendously since I came to the house eight years ago.

When I started in 2000, we had eight frontlist titles. This fall we have fifteen. Our fiction list is really taking off, and we’re publishing our first young adult novel, which I’m proud to say I edited and art directed.

I’d be hard pressed to say what really makes a book a Tricycle book. Other houses seem to have a clearer sense of their brand. Ours is a more eclectic list than most. But I would say that our guiding principle has always been quality–quality of text and quality of artwork.

I think, too, that we’re especially open to new and up and coming artists. We’re one of the few houses that still accepts unsolicited manuscripts. In my years at Tricycle, it’s been a special thrill of mine to introduce many first-time authors and illustrators to the picture-book community.

Among the artists who made their picture book debuts with us are Nathalie Dion, Tatjana Mai-Wyss, Kevin Serwacki, Enrique Moreiro, Raul Allen, Mikela Prevost, and Mark Fearing–you’ll be sure to see more from these talented folks.

If you had to pick just three, what are Tricycle Press’s don’t-miss titles of 2008? And why?

Just three? Hmmm…

The young adult novel I mentioned above is a definite “don’t-miss.” Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen (of Mermaid Mary Margaret and Buzz Bumble fame)(author interview), leads you through the emotional territory of a fifteen year old who has spent almost his entire life in foster care. The events of the book take place over the first few weeks of summer vacation and explore the developing trust and affection between Shifty and his eight-year-old foster sister, Sissy, who serves as both his conscience and his partner in a series of unlikely escapades.

Both Shifty and Sissy are drawn with sensitivity and nuance, I missed them after I shipped the book to the printer—-but Lynn also brought to life characters that didn’t even speak: Chance, an infant and the third child in the foster home, and Lester, a cat who, as Shifty says, “can’t even meow right.”

Shifty is a story you feel in your gut–it has that power now and will have that power ten, twenty, fifty years from now.

I’ll be brief with the other two: Ocean Wide, Ocean Deep by Susan Lendroth is a story I had to fight for. It’s a “quiet story,” and it took me two years to convince my publisher to sign it.

It’s about a little girl in 19th century Cape Cod whose father goes away to sea for a year. She waits—children and women did a lot of waiting in those days–for her father to return, observing the passing seasons, imagining the exotic harbors her father is visiting. The text is lyrical and heartfelt. The illustrations by newcomer, Spanish artist Raul Allen, are quite simply breathtaking. His style is unlike anything I’ve seen before–classic watercolor textures (his ocean waves look like Turner’s) and beautiful lines, all finished digitally, layer upon layer.

Third story—-well, I’ll cheat. The Day We Danced in Underpants is actually a spring book, but since it’s one of my all-time favorites, I’ll throw it in. Sarah Wilson wrote a lively farce, set in 18th century France (okay, I’m a little biased) full of delicious word play and a rhythm so catchy I’d find myself humming it in the car. Catherine Stock (A Spree in Paree) painted flamboyant, Watteau-inspired scenes with bright, collaged costumes, fancy hairdos, and a fair amount of mayhem. It’s delightful, zany fun.

Do most of your manuscripts come directly from writers or through agents?

I’d say 50/50. A lot of the manuscripts I receive directly come from authors with whom I’ve cultivated a relationship.

What recommendations do you have for writers interested in working with you? With your house?

Familiarize yourself with our list: request our catalog, browse our website (, read our books. This will give you a good sense of the type of work we publish. You can also come to conferences–I speak at several every year—and hear a little more about what it’s like to publish with us. I’ll be speaking at the SCBWI annual in LA this summer—so come say hello!

Author Interview: Michelle Meadows on Pilot Pups

Visit Michelle Meadows! See photos of her recent signing at the National Air and Space Museum.

Congratulations on the release of Pilot Pups, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Simon & Schuster, 2008)! Could you tell us a bit about it?

Pilot Pups is a rhyming adventure story about toy dogs who go on a special search-and-rescue mission. I think it celebrates the power of the imagination, the secret life of toys, and the wonders of transportation.

I’ve read stories about real-life search-and-rescue operations, and I find it fascinating how teams pull together to help when someone is missing–whether it’s an adult hiker or a small child who gets lost.

I was trying to create a situation where readers would be eager to follow along with the Pup heroes to find out who they are searching for. And of course you have to read the book to find out!

What was your initial inspiration for writing Pilot Pups?

For years my son has had stuffed animals sitting on top of his bookshelf. He especially had a lot of toy dogs and various aircraft. I wrote this story after imagining that the toy dogs on my son’s shelf climbed into an airplane and took off.

Also, I had been circulating a totally different manuscript about puppies for a couple of years with no luck. That manuscript got rejection letters, but some editors did comment that they liked aspects of it. So Pilot Pups was my attempt to write something completely new and better, but still with pup characters.

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

From spark to publication was about three years. I spent a couple of months thinking about the concept and writing the book. About three weeks after my agent (Rosemary Stimola)(agent interview) sent the manuscript out, she called to tell me that she had received multiple offers. She sold Pilot Pups in an auction, which was very exciting.

Soon after that, my Simon & Schuster editors let me know that they had chosen Dan Andreasen to illustrate. Dan has done great illustrations for many other books, including Sailor Boy Jig by Margaret Wise Brown (Margaret K. McElderry, 2002).

What did Dan Andreasen‘s art bring to your text?

Dan’s illustrations really helped bring the story to life, and he brought a tremendous amount of creativity to the project. I was delighted when I first saw the sketches, and I think that young children will enjoy studying and revisiting the pictures.

We last spoke in May 2003 about the publication of your debut picture book The Way the Storm Stops, illustrated by Roseanne Litzinger (Henry Holt, 2003). Looking back, what has that book come to mean to you? What did you learn about being an author from your debut experience?

The Way the Storm Stops will always be very special to me because I wrote it after rocking and singing my son to sleep during a big thunderstorm. He was about two then, and now he is 11.

I think my debut experience taught me that there is so much more to being an author than writing a particular story. I learned the importance of connecting with children through school visits and talking with them about the importance of reading and writing.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I have several more rhyming picture books in the works, and I’m not quite sure in which order they will come out. But following Pilot Pups, you can look out for Biker Pups, in which the pups are motorcycle police officers who bring order to the toy town. I also have a forthcoming book about a mouse who gets lost and another book about some pigs who love to make noise. And keep your fingers crossed for me as I continue to work on some new projects in the early-reader genre.

Cynsational News, Links & Giveaways

PaperTigers offers three great new features:

“Great Expectations: Breaking Down the Wall of Assumptions” by Debbi Michiko Florence; peek: “It’s not enough that a main character in a book is Asian-American in physical description, but he/she should also share that melding of cultures.”

interview with Linda Sue Park by Aline Pereira; peek: “I have always been grateful that I started my writing life with poetry. I feel strongly that the discipline of writing in poetic form for many years taught me to pay the closest attention to language and to make every word count.”

interview with author-publisher Icy Smith of East West Discovery Press by Marjorie Coughlan; peek: “We are an independent publisher specializing in multicultural and bilingual children’s books with a mission of promoting history, culture, and social justice.”

More News & Links

Interview with Elizabeth C. Bunce by Julie M. Prince of Off to Turn Another Page… at The Edge of the Forest. Peek: “Don’t get me wrong—I’m a huge fan of girls with swords! But there are many ways to be heroic, and I wanted to show a quieter sort of heroism, one that girls who maybe aren’t tomboys could relate to, and one that hasn’t traditionally been as visible in fantasy for young people.” See also Julie’s interview with Linda Urban; and Time for Prom (or Not) by Little Willow of Bildungsroman.

Book Buyer Blogs: Voodoo Curses and Refreshments from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “It is better to be a brand-new author with nothing but fresh-faced innocence, a big grin and a shiny new book, than to be a ho-hum writer with a few books that have lousy-to-meh sales histories.” Note: includes factors for reconsideration and more.

The Summer Blog Blast Tour 2008 Schedule from Chasing Ray–don’t miss out!

Presenting…Claudia Gray: an author interview from Journey of an Inquiring Mind. Peek: “I’ve been a vampire fan for a long time, and I really enjoyed the TV show ‘Alias,’ which had an immortality cult as the baddies, so I suspect I’ve spent more time than most people thinking about how weird/difficult/great/bizarre it would be never to die.”

Finding Flow in a [Writers’] Group by Helen Hemphill (author interview) at Through the Tollbooth. Note: quotes a few of my favorite Austin authors–April Lurie (author interview), Frances Hill Yansky and Brian Yansky (author interview). See also Kimberly Willis Holt on her perfect “first reader” and a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

ACPL Mock Geisel: a discussion of the year’s best early reader books from Allen County (Indiana) Public Library. Source: Children’s Book Biz.

An Interview with Agent Rosemary Stimola by Siobhan Vivian from The Longstockings. Peek: “I want to see an author grow and blossom and move along with them through different stories. Want to be a part of that ascent.” See also a Cynsations interview with Rosemary.

Debut author Shana Burg offers a new blog! Peek: “Please join me to explore civil rights issues, examine historical tidbits, and sit beside me as my first book hits the shelves.”

Monthly Special: Heroes from The Horn Book. Read a Cynsations interview with Horn Book editor Roger Sutton.

Present Your Portfolio Like a Pro by Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Peek: “Feel free to jazz up your portfolio to show some personality, but keep in mind, the main thing is to keep it simple and clean so that your artwork can truly shine.”

Question of the Week Thursday: Jill Esbaum from Robin Friedman’s JerseyFresh Tude. Robin asks: “What are the differences between writing picture books and novels?” Read Cynsations interviews with Jill and Robin.

Children’s Writing Web Journal: From the Editors of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers. Note: recent posts include: a link to “YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Simon Rose Interview;” a loaded “Video Interview with Walter Dean Myers;” a link to “10 flagrant grammar mistakes” and much more.


Author Susane Colasanti at Creative Visualization is sponsoring an exciting contest! The second runner-up will receive a signed copy of When It Happens (Viking, 2006). The first runner-up will receive a signed copy of Take Me There (Viking, 2008). The grand-prize winner will have their writing published in her third book, Waiting For You, which will be released next summer. The grand-prize winner also will receive a signed copy of Take Me There. Learn how to enter!

Win a copy of the picture book In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa (Harcourt, 2008) from Susan Taylor Brown. Deadline June 1. Learn more about entering. Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.

Three Cynsations readers won copies of Violet by Design by Melissa Walker (Berkley Jam, 2008) this week: Jenny in North Carolina; Megan in Louisiana, and Swapna in Virginia. Note: some folks queried as to whether international entries are eligible, and the answer is always yes.

The Cynsations grand-prize May giveaway is an autographed paperback set of all three of Lauren Myracle‘s New York Times bestselling Internet Girls novels (in chat-room-style writing)–ttyl, l8rg8r, and ttfn, all published by Amulet!

Read a Cynsations interview with Lauren. Read Lauren’s blog, and visit her at MySpace!

To enter the giveaway, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST May 31! Please also type “Internet Girls” in the subject line. Note: one autographed set will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader.

Shooting Stars Mag is giving away a Sanguini’s T-shirt and a marked-up hardcover copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008). Note: Sanguini’s is the vampire-themed restaurant featured in the novel. I made notes in the margins about the writing of the book, the characters, the Austin setting, and much more! The deadline is midnight EST May 31. See more information! And thanks to the Shooting Stars!

On a related note, Jamie has created an “I Never Drink…Wine” fan image celebrating Tantalize and its literary roots in Dracula by Bram Stoker (1987). She suggests using it as wallpaper; I’m using it on my desktop.

More Personally

Cynsations works differently than many blogs–it’s pre-formatted and scheduled up to five months in advance. Consequently, it’s difficult for me to participate in blog tours without “bumping” interviews that are already in the queue. However, I’m happy to highlight tours in Friday’s news-and-links round-ups. Please feel free to write me with related announcements.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001)(Listening Library, 2001) is included among books featured in Booktalking Authentic Multicultural Literature: Fiction, History, and Memoirs for Teens by Sherry York (Linworth, 2008).

From the promotional copy: “Bring authentic multicultural booktalks to your students by using this well-researched, easy-to-use book of recommended titles and talks.

“Offers a focus on contemporary multicultural fiction, history, and memoirs. Highlights award winning, well-written fiction. Allows the library to serve and reach underserved populations. Recommended titles and talks written by some of the best authors around. Inspire your NCLB subgroup students to read by booktalking these culturally responsive books! Indexed by subject, title, and by author.

“Encourage secondary students to read more, read thoughtfully, and think critically. Engage all students, promote cross-cultural understanding, increase diversity, and help prevent dropouts.”

Congratulations to Amanda King, whose fresh and fascinating Gothic fantasy YA novel manuscript has made it to the final round in a contest in conjunction with the Writers League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference!

Greg and I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian last weekend at The Alamo Drafthouse Theater on South Lamar. I recommend it. I liked the departures from the book–yes, including the romance–and didn’t mind it’s “more serious” tone. I plan to see it again at the theater. Austinites: the Drafthouse is serving a Narnia-themed menu. See also “From Page to Screen: Andrew Adamson’s ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian'” by Anita L. Burkam from The Horn Book.Finally

Take a peek at Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard (Candlewick, 2008)(inside spread)! From the promotional copy: “‘Me hungry!’ the boy pleads. ‘Me busy,’ say his preoccupied mom and dad. So the boy decides to go hunting, setting his sights on an elusive rabbit, a prickly porcupine, a too-mean tiger, and finally, a like-minded mammoth who’s more than happy to help. With comical, energetic illustrations and a simple, repetitive text, this child-friendly tale will have little listeners fully engaged right up to the funny final twist. An inventive Stone Age boy takes matters into his own hands in a humorous, satisfying story for every young child who wants something now.”

Check out the video trailer for Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fisher (Dutton, 2008)! Learn more about the Class of 2k8, and read “Introducing Debbie Reed Fischer and Braless in Wonderland:” an author interview from Alex Flinn at alixwrites. Peek: “I wanted elements of Alice in Wonderland to be woven throughout the story, so the title had to reflect that. Miami Beach is very Wonderland-esque.” See also a Cynsations interview with Alex.

And wouldn’t you just die to read Soul Enchilada, a debut novel by David Macinnis Gill (Greenwillow, 2009)?

Author Interview: Lisa Schroeder on I Heart You, You Haunt Me

Lisa Schroeder, a native Oregonian, is an expert juggler of all things, including kids, work, writing, cooking, and cleaning. But when her arms get tired, you’ll probably find her curled up in a corner with a cup of tea and a good book.

She’s the author of the picture book, Baby Can’t Sleep, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli (Sterling, 2005) the young adult novel, I Heart You, You Haunt Me (Simon Pulse, 2008), and two forthcoming books, Little Chimp’s Big Day (Sterling, 2010) and Far From You (Simon Pulse, 2009).

Visit Lisa’s Little Corner of the Internet, check out her MySpace page, and learn more about the Class of 2k8! See also the 2k8 blog and visit The Class of 2k8 at MySpace!

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

Lots of stumbles, like most writers. I started out writing picture books, and around the 100th rejection (on various books), I received an offer from Sterling on my picture book, Baby Can’t Sleep.

For the first few years that I was seriously writing and submitting, I didn’t think I’d ever write a novel, even though I’ve always loved reading novels for kids and teens.

But then the picture book market took a nose dive, and I was ready to challenge myself and try something new, so I decided I’d never know unless I tried.

I ended up writing three mid-grade novels over the course of a couple of years, none of them published. I see those books as my schooling. With each one, I learned things about novel writing, the publishing industry, and a lot about myself as a writer. I still hope I can publish a mid-grade novel someday, because I have such strong memories of reading books at that age.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me was the book that landed me an agent and became my first published novel.

Congratulations on the release of I Heart You, You Haunt Me (Simon Pulse, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about this new title?

It’s a novel-in-verse about a fifteen-year-old girl, Ava, whose boyfriend dies and comes back to live in her house as a ghost. More than a ghost story, however, I believe it’s a story of love, loss, healing, and hope.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died but loved her so much, he didn’t want to leave her. I got up the next morning and started writing. It was an amazing thing. I wish it’d happen more often!

I’ve always loved verse novels but hadn’t ever tried writing one. When I sat down to write, that’s how it came out. I think the verse created a special atmosphere for the story.

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

Let’s see, I had a first draft finished in like six weeks. That was in the spring of 2006. I was so excited about the book, and the story came really easily, which was a real gift. After that, I spent some time revising, had some trusted writer friends read it and give me comments.

By the fall, I felt it was ready to go out. I queried a couple of agents, and had some, uh, interesting responses. One agent told me flat out that with such a low word count, I didn’t have a novel, I had a novella. Another one told me he wouldn’t know a great verse novel from a lousy one, so he definitely wasn’t the agent for me.

I kept querying, mostly getting rejections, so I decided to try a couple of well-known editors. I had two requests really quickly, which gave me a new hope.

I tried a couple of more agents, and mentioned I had some requests from editors in my letters. I had a quick response from Sara Crowe (agent interview), asking for the full manuscript. A couple of weeks later, she offered representation. I was thrilled!

I did some revisions for her, then she sent it out in November of ’06. We got some rejections, and one revision request, wanting me to make the story darker and scarier. I thought about it a long time, but ultimately, I decided that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. I have to thank that particular editor, however, because she gave me some other suggestions that resonated with me, so I incorporated them into the story and they really improved my manuscript!

In March, 2007, we received an offer from Simon Pulse. A few weeks later, I had an editorial letter, with a due date fast approaching. They were working toward a publication date of January 2008, so we had to work quickly. The editorial letter was fantastic, though. I could tell my editor really got my book, and all of his suggestions made the book much stronger.

I’m excited to share that a couple of weeks ago, I sold another novel-in-verse to my editor at Pulse, tentatively titled Far From You. It’s slated for publication some time in 2009!

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

The actual writing of the book came pretty easily for me. I’d get up in the morning, eager to write, grudgingly go to work, and then when I got home, I’d race to the computer to get back to the story. That had never happened to me before. It was awesome!

I was a little worried about the believability of the ghost. I did some research–reading message boards and watching ghost specials on TV and just hoped that I wasn’t doing anything too far fetched.

In general, a verse novel is challenging because it should be poetic, but it also needs to be accessible. It’s a fine line at times, and I’d often find myself asking, is this poetic enough, and if not, how can I make it more poetic? Some dialogue is necessary of course, and that’s when it can be particularly difficult.

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

I would probably tell her to stop worrying so much about publication and instead, worry about writing the best book possible. I think when you’re first starting out, you’re hungry for validation of some kind. But sending books out too early is one of the worst things you can do.

I would also tell her to not be afraid to try new genres, new formats, new stories, because that’s how you learn and grow as a writer.

Mostly, I would tell her what I’ve told myself all along. Keep working hard. Keep writing. Keep believing. It does pay off. It really does!

National Children’s Choice Book Awards Announced

NEW YORK, NY-–The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with the CBC Foundation, announced the winners of the first annual Children’s Choice Book Awards at a gala in New York City, hosted by Jon Scieszka, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Children across the country voted for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, school libraries, and at Close to 55,000 votes were received.

The Children’s Choice Book Award winners are as follows:

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year

Frankie Stein written by Lola M. Schaefer (author interview), illustrated by Kevan Atteberry (Marshall Cavendish)

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year

Big Cats by Elaine Landau (Enslow Publishers)

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year

Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee (Scholastic)

Illustrator of the Year Award

Ian Falconer, Olivia Helps with Christmas (Simon & Schuster)

Author of the Year Award

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Scholastic)

The Children’s Choice Book Awards program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read. The program is a new component of Children’s Book Week, the longest running literacy event in the country.

About the Children’s Book Council

The Children’s Book Council, established in 1945, is the nonprofit trade association of publishers of trade books for children and young adults in the United States. The CBC promotes the use and enjoyment of trade books for young people, most prominently as the official sponsor of Children’s Book Week, the longest running literacy event in the country. The goal of the Children’s Book Council is to make the reading and enjoyment of books for young people an essential part of America’s educational and social goals, as well as to enhance the public perception of the importance of reading by disseminating information about books for young people and about children’s book publishing.

Editor Interview: Dana Goldberg of Children’s Book Press

Dana Goldberg on Dana Goldberg: “I was born and raised in New York City, and I’m a New Yorker at heart. I moved to the Bay Area in the summer of 1997, after graduating from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature (Spanish and English) and Literary Translation, and I’ve been out west ever since. Everyone thought I was crazy for leaving New York since I knew I wanted to pursue a career in publishing, but I was fortunate enough to find employment with Jossey-Bass (then a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster), then Weldon Owen (a cookbook and lifestyle publisher), and finally Children’s Book Press. I’ve also worked for a literary agent in New York and a literary translation journal in San Francisco.”

Were you an avid young reader, or did you come to this love later in life?

To say I was a bookworm as a child would be a gross understatement. I was very fortunate in that my mother was an early childhood educator, and there was a constant supply of books in our apartment. My dad also regularly took my brother and me to the public library. In general, my parents stressed the importance of reading and education.

What inspired you to enter the field of children’s publishing?

It was a combination of my own passion for reading as a child, and my exposure to the children’s book industry while in college. For three summers I did a part-time internship with Liza Pulitzer-Voges at Kirchoff-Wohlberg in New York. She represents wonderful people, like Bob Barner, Lois Ehlert, and Anne Miranda. I also love that in children’s books, the art and design are integral to the process and the product.

Could you summarize your career to date?

My first paying publishing gig in the Bay Area was working as a part-time editorial assistant for Two Lines, a journal of literary translation. I got my first full-time job at Jossey-Bass, though it was really like having two jobs. I worked (rather schizophrenically) two days a week for the foreign rights manager and three days a week as a publicist.

I was there for about a year and a half before moving to an editorial and production assistant position at Weldon Owen, where I worked on a series of large format, beautifully illustrated and photographed cookbooks.

I left Weldon Owen in 2000 to become an editorial and production assistant at Children’s Book Press. Through some serendipitous timing, I moved rather quickly to being Assistant Editor, then Editor, and finally Executive Editor, which is my current position.

What led you to Children’s Book Press?

I discovered Children’s Book Press while researching publishing companies in the Bay Area when I first moved out here. I even applied for a part-time publicist job at CBP, but didn’t get it.

It seemed like the perfect place for me to be, in that it combined a lot of my interests (children’s books, bilingualism, Spanish and English literature, forward-thinking artwork, a social justice focus).

Three years after applying for that publicist position, I came across the listing for the editorial assistant position, which I interviewed for and got, and the rest is history.

What challenges and opportunities did you encounter at the company?

Working at CBP allows me to work with some really amazing people—not just my colleagues at the Press, but the authors and artists and designers I work with on producing the books.

It’s truly a privilege to shepherd their stories to fruition, to be a part of their creative process, and also to get to know them as people. In terms of challenges, that’s easy…money!

We’re a nonprofit independent press that primarily serves the school-and-library market.

As schools and libraries have seen their budgets shrink over the past several years, and as the book buying public has abandoned the independent bookstores that have also been the backbone of support for us, we’ve struggled at times to be able to continue to do what we do.

We’re lucky in that, as a nonprofit, we can fundraise and write grants and such, but there’s a lot of competition out there for funding, and it’s not always the most reliable revenue stream.

How would you describe the list? What sorts of books do you publish?

We publish multicultural and bilingual picture books, written in what we call “the first voice”—meaning the authors and artists who create the books come from the community they are representing in their work. We publish in four broad categories: books from the African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American communities.

CBP initially published a lot of folklore, but now our list focuses on fiction and poetry, generally set in the contemporary U.S. and aimed at around a third-grade audience (though we do also offer books for kids that are in the four-to-six-year-old range). Family stories, immigration, historical fiction, the power of imagination, superheroes, neighborhoods, intergenerational stories…we’ve got them all.

If you had to highlight three recent titles that would give us a feel for the list, which would you choose and why?

On My Block (2007), our most recent multicultural anthology, because it highlights a huge spectrum of diversity as well as being beautifully designed. My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo (2007), because of the stunning artwork, and Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon (2007), because it’s just a fabulous piece of poetry and a great read-aloud.

Which would you recommend to writers for study and why?

I would definitely recommend Juan Felipe Herrera, especially books such as Calling the Doves (1995) and Grandma and Me at the Flea (2002). He has an incredible poetic sensibility and a truly magical imagination, and is a real pro at showing rather than telling.

I’d recommend Uma Krishnaswami‘s books, Chachaji’s Cup (2003) and The Closet Ghosts (2006). She’s immensely gifted at creating real characters and wonderful dialogue, and she has a great natural sense of story.

I’d also point to Lucía González (The Storyteller’s Candle (2008)), Jorge Argueta (A Movie in My Pillow (2001)), Xochitl and the Flowers (2003)), Moony Luna (2005), and Amy Lee-Tai (A Place Where Sunflowers Grow (2006)) for how to present historical information in a warm, engaging, sensitive way.

Who are your new voices, your rising stars, and your big names?

Let’s see… New voices: Malathi Michelle Iyengar. Rising stars: Lucía González, Maya Christina Gonzalez. Big names: We’re publishing a book in 2009 by Diego Rivera’s daughter, Dra. Guadalupe Rivera Marín. She’s writing about her childhood memories, which will be illustrated with her father’s artwork.

What do you see as your jobs in the publishing process?

In a general sense, my job is to find and nurture new, emerging, and established voices, and to help those writers and artists bring their stories and their vision to fruition.

In a more specific sense, my jobs are many. At Children’s Book Press, because we’re so small, each person essentially functions as his or her own department.

So my job as Executive Editor includes: building the editorial and production budget; finding authors and artists; acquiring new stories for publication; manuscript development; art direction (to some extent, along with the book designer); and project management.

What are your challenges?

Juggling the book schedules, making sure my authors and artists are delivering on time, figuring out what we can do with our sometimes-limited nonprofit budget.

One of the biggest challenges we all face is reigning in our desire to do more. Currently we’re limited by our budget to publishing only four new hardcovers a year, but we’d all like to be producing more titles each year.

What do you love about it?

I love working with fantastically creative people! We’re so lucky to work with such generous storytellers and artists, and I am so thankful I get to be involved in how their work develops.

I love the range of stories and styles and histories I get exposed to in doing this work.

I love that each book represents a completely new adventure, a new relationship (even when I’m working with an author I already know well), and a new learning curve.

And I love producing books that do some good in the world.

How has publishing changed–for better and worse–since you entered the field?

For the better…. Publishers are finally making (limited) room for authors and artists of color and for bilingual books, which I think is a very good thing, although I don’t think they’re always as thoughtful about it as they could be.

For the worse…. The market is so glutted—we’d all be better off if publishers were publishing fewer books of higher quality. The booksellers, the reviewers, and the public wouldn’t be quite so overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of what’s out there, and the books themselves would benefit from more attention and a longer shelf life, I think.

Also, there’s obviously been a huge negative impact on independent bookstores in the last ten years due to certain online retailers (ahem) and the expansion of the big chains, which hits small presses especially hard.

What global improvements would you like to see and why?

I’d like to see independent presses be able to survive on their own and not keep getting swallowed by huge conglomerates that seem to be only incidentally interested in the making of books.

I’d like for people to walk the walk and not just talk the talk—a lot of people say they support independent bookstores in their communities but then go spend their money elsewhere.

Of course, these are probably not very realistic improvements to expect, but a girl can dream.

Why is it important to make a special effort to publish books with diverse characters and themes?

Because that’s the world we live in! All children deserve to see themselves reflected in the pages of books. It’s a powerful thing to be validated like that, and it helps get them–and keep them–engaged and excited about reading. And all children benefit from reading about kids with lives and experiences and histories that are different from their own.

Bilingual books?

Unfortunately, there’s a segment of our population that insists we should be a monolingual nation, which is so limited and so not reality!

Bilingual books are important because many, many children in this country are growing up in households where their parents are bilingual, or maybe their parents don’t speak English well or not at all. Bilingual books allow those families to read together, to share that important experience together.

Some people may resist the idea of bilingualism as a positive value, but it’s obviously something we believe in and which we promote in our books.

How has multicultural publishing evolved over time?

Back in the 1970s, when Children’s Book Press was founded, there wasn’t much in the way of multicultural publishing for children. Harriet Rohmer, who founded CBP, started by traveling to Latin America, transcribing and then publishing stories (folktales, myths, etc) from the oral traditions of various Latin American countries. The Press focused heavily on international and multicultural folklore and was one of the few, if not the only, publishers to do so at the time.

The rest of the publishing industry took quite a while to catch on, to realize there was a market out there for those kinds of stories. CBP eventually shifted its focus from folklore to more contemporary stories, and other publishers have followed suit, though many of them still publish quite a lot of folktales.

What is the landscape now?

I think the multicultural publishing fields has just exploded over the last 15 years—though as a share of the entire industry, it still represents a very small share.

But I do think that some of the bigger houses have realized that there is money to be made, that the Latino population (for example) is a huge, mostly untapped market, and so they’re trying to capitalize on that.

As I said before, in some ways I think that’s great, and in some ways it’s challenging for us because it does create more competition.

What new directions and/or continuing challenges are out there?

In terms of new directions, we’re looking to move into bilingual board books and books aimed at kids who aren’t yet reading on their own.

There’s a huge need out there for bilingual materials for that age group; that’s what we’ve been hearing from experts in the early literacy field. Some day I would love for us to be able to move into chapter books and YA as well…

Our continuing challenges have to do with there being seemingly no end in sight to the budget pressures that are being put on our teachers, school districts, and librarians, who make up the biggest share of our customers.

How do you work to ensure that your books are accurate and respectful of the communities they depict?

Our motivation for publishing work in the first voice—written and illustrated by people who are part of communities they represent in their work—is to keep our books as culturally accurate, sensitive, and authentic as possible.

I’m not saying there isn’t more than one way to be authentic. But for us, this idea of first voice is a very important principle. We also have various trusted readers who review our manuscripts while they’re in development.

And in terms of bilingual books, we run the text by a bilingual copyeditor and a host of native readers to ensure as much as possible that the translation is not just correct, but also as smooth, poetic, and beautiful as the original language.

How does Children’s Book Press work with teachers and librarians to connect books to young readers?

We used to do quite a bit of direct programming with classrooms, after school programs, and libraries, but now we try to partner with organizations who are already doing direct service work with kids.

We’ve also developed relationships with quite a few teacher-education programs to connect student teachers to our books, so that they know how to maximize their use in the classroom.

We’ve developed free online teachers guides for many of our books, available on our website.

We’ve also been involved in things like helping to plan San Francisco’s annual Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros (Day of the Child, Day of the Book) festival.

What qualities do you look for in a manuscript?

An engaging voice, believable dialogue, action that compels you to keep reading, economy of language, showing rather than telling.

I love it when manuscripts teach me something new, or that have a fresh, sparkling take on a subject I already thought I knew something about. I love manuscripts that have a clear sense of purpose. I love manuscripts that are intelligent, that respect the intelligence of the reader, and that don’t talk down to kids.

How can writers/illustrators submit their work for consideration?

Guidelines are on our website, and I’d encourage aspiring authors to read them carefully before submitting.

Any submission recommendations or pet peeves?

Do your research! We are pretty specific in terms of what we look for and what kinds of books we publish, and it’s always disheartening to see how many people submit stories to us with apparently no idea as to what we publish.

As for pet peeves… A lot of people submit stories about food, or about situations involving school bullies, classroom contests, talent shows, etc.

I’m kind of over those topics as vehicles for promoting inter-cultural understanding. But then again, if someone were to come up with some really and truly original take on those themes…

Please describe your dream author.

One who submits a perfect first draft that needs no tweaking whatsoever! Just kidding. One who delivers on time, is thoughtful about his or her work, passionate about their subject and their craft, diligent about deadlines, and pleasant to work with on a personal level. A sense of humor never hurts, of course. That goes for authors and editors alike, actually.

Please describe your dream illustrator.

I’ve actually been lucky enough to work with a few artists I’d consider “dream illustrators”… The same principles I outlined in the previous question apply to illustrators, as well.

Do most of your books begin as submissions from writers, writer-illustrators, or agents? Why?

Most of our books begin with the author, and we choose the artist. We’ve had a few instances where the author and illustrator are the same person (Carmen Lomas Garza, for example, or, more recently, Maya Christina Gonzalez).

I think it’s just really rare to find individuals who are equally talented at both writing and illustrating. It seems much more common that people identify as writers or as visual artists.

Also, we work with a lot of new and emerging talent, so most of our authors and artists come to us before they find representation.

Looking back on your career to date, which of the books you’ve worked on stand out most in your memory and why?

Every book is a unique, amazing experience, but a few recent ones that stand out are:

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow (2006), because of the author and artist’s connection to the subject matter (the Japanese American internment during WWII) and the access we were given to the author’s grandmother’s sketches and artifacts (Hisako Hibi, a prominent Japanese American artist who was interned during the war with her family).

On My Block (2007), an anthology of 15 different visual artists creating artwork and stories about special places in their lives, from their childhoods, or from family memories, which was a project I had wanted to bring to fruition for years, since I first became an editor at CBP.

And The Storyteller’s Candle (2008)(author-illustrator interview), a book about Pura Belpre, the first Latina librarian in New York City, because she has been such a hugely influential figure in the librarian community, and we love our librarians!

The author, Lucia Gonzalez, is a librarian and a storyteller with a strong connection to Pura’s legacy, and Lulu Delacre, the artist, created beautiful collage art using a copy of The New York Times from the period when the story is set, during the Great Depression.

What do you see in your professional future? The future of Children’s Book Press?

I’d love to be able to continue learning and growing and contributing to the children’s book field.

Children’s Book Press is looking to move into publishing board books, and maybe someday we’ll even move into chapter books or young adult…. along with publishing the picture books we’re already known for.

What do you do outside the world of children’s book publishing?

I do a lot of reading, cooking, and singing/playing keyboards in a gigging band.

When my schedule permits, I love to hop back home to New York for my fill of museums and real bagels, or further afield to places like Italy. Actually, it’s been way too long since I’ve taken a vacation like that.