Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win one of two copies of Gone by Michael Grant (HarperCollins, 2008). From the promotional copy:

“In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. Gone.

“Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no Internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.

“Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

“It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…”

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Aug. 11!

More News

Author Interview: Annette Curtis Klause from Reviewer X. Peek: “Each book has its own time. Some of the creating is done before I even actually touch the keyboard, and each book has its own length of time before it reaches critical mass and I can start to write. I need to know enough about the book to begin—it might be seeing the setting in my head well enough to walk in it, or the character coming alive in my head, or I know the mood or the sound track.” Read a Cynsations interview with Annette.

Take a peek at literary agent Barry Goldblatt’s client retreat from YA author Jo Knowles. Read Cynsations interviews with Barry and Jo.

Newbery Trivia from Linda Sue Park. Peek: “This quiz is for zealous Newbery fans only–good luck!” The Horn Book Web Watch suggests consulting a list of winners. Read a Cynsations interview with Linda Sue.

BitterCon: Urban Fantasy Expectations: Fantasy or Romance? from KG’s Booklog. Note: For my own related work, I use the term “Gothic fantasy” genre bender. “Urban” seems an off fit as my next two short stories are set in small towns, and “Gothic” implies a certain dialog with old-school literary precedents, which is definitely ongoing. That said, I’m a fan across the board.

Crossing Bok Chitto receives 2008 American Indian Youth Literature Award: a great report with photos on the ceremony and celebration from Cinco Puntos Press.

Dark Subjects by Susan Kuklin at I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: “Interviews work particularly well when facing dark subjects, such as boy soldiers, Nazi youths, or teenagers on death row. Nevertheless, dark subjects can be difficult on many levels.”

Ghostly Tidings by Madeline at BookKids Recommends. Check out her suggested ghost stories and suggested favorites of your own!

Going to Market: Jennifer Laughran on being a Bookstore “Gatekeeper” from the Class of 2k8. Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

Author Debbi Michiko Florence is holding a drawing in honor of the summer Olympics in Beijing, China. “The first prize is a signed hardcover copy of China: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book (Williamson Books, 2008) and an official Beijing 2008 Olympic pin, featuring the Temple of Heaven. The second prize is a signed paperback copy of China and a window decal that reads ‘USA: The Road to Beijing 2008.'” Deadline: 8 p.m. PST tonight. See details. Read a Cynsations interview with Debbi.

Do you have links to Booksense on your site? Remember to change them to Indie Bound, a new program for shopping at and otherwise supporting independent bookstores.

Interview with Marlene Perez on Dead is the New Black from Debbi Michiko Florence. Peek: “I love stories of the supernatural, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, etc. and then somewhere I read that a real-life psychic investigator had daughters who were psychic, too. The first thought that popped into my mind was that I’d hate to be the only non-psychic in a family of psychics and the story just grew from there.”

Author Sharon Darrow debuts her LiveJournal. Sharon Darrow is a fellow faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She writes in pose and poetry for picture book through YA readers. Read a Cynsations interview with Sharon, and surf over to welcome her to the kidlitosphere!

International Association of School Librarians Conference: Beyond the Book Session Notes from Audiobooker: Confessions of an Audio Book Addict.

No Flying, No Tights: a graphic novel review site for teens. See also The Lair for Teens and Adults and Sidekicks for Kids.

Swan’s Island Library (Maine) was destroyed in a July 24 fire, believed to have been started by lightning. Note: “The loss of the library building and its contents is devastating for the island. Much of the historical contents of Seaside Hall, including photographs, old town reports, artifacts, and more, were moved to the library last year and are now lost forever.” Donations are now being accepted for the rebuilding of the library. See more information.

Check out this book trailer for Monster Blood Tattoo by D. N. Cornish (Putnam):

Author Kathi Appelt’s official website has been redesigned. Surf over and take a look!

PENPals: A Correspondence with Markus Zusak and Susan Campell Bartoletti from PEN American Center. Peek: “Their conversation through more than a dozen messages in over a month ranged from children and dogs to research techniques to the crippling doubts that writers battle.” Source: fuse #8 production.

Author Interview: Nora Raleigh Baskin on The Truth about My Bat Mitzvah from Jewish Books for Children. Peek: “This book is very much my story, although in my case, it wasn’t that my Jewish mother was unobservant, but that she had died when I was three years old.”

Author Interview: Christopher Golden on Soulless (MTV Books, Oct. 2008) from Little Willow at Bildungsroman. Peek: “I’ve never seen or experienced anything that has convinced me that spirits are real, but I’d like to. I did take a photograph in France a few years ago that any rational person would have to agree seems to show a specter of some kind. But it isn’t incontrovertible proof, and that’s what I’d need.” Learn more about Soulless.

Enter to win August book giveaways at TeensReadToo!

Author Ellen Wittlinger is a guest at the K. L. Going Forums. Surf by to ask a question or catch up on the conversation. Read Cynsations interviews with Ellen and K. L. See also a new interview with Ellen from the Class of 2k8.

Kidlit Central News: Children’s Writers from the Central United States. Note: having been raised in large part in Kansas and Missouri, I especially applaud this effort!

Author Videocast: Terri Clark Teri talks about Breaking Up is Hard to Do (Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, 2008), which she co-authored with Niki Burnham, Ellen Hopkins, and Lynda Sandoval. The video below is the first of a four-parter; don’t miss the rest here.

Why I Never Ever Multitask: the Magic of Mindfulness or Quality of Quantity by Robin Friedman, originally published in Blush magazine (PDF file). Read a Cynsations interview with Robin.

Glossary of Important Literary Terms Which I Could Find In a Craft Book If I Could Bring Myself To by Carrie Jones at Through the Tollbooth. Note: look for continuing posts. Peek: “Amazonaddictionitis.” Read a Cynsations interview with Carrie.

An Interview from Elizabeth Scott on Living Dead Girl by Pam B. Cole from ALAN. Peek: “I think it’s easy to get outraged over a child’s abduction, but it’s also equally easy for us to see something—someone—that makes us uncomfortable, a moment or an expression that give us pause, and to do nothing.” Read an excerpt (note: PDF and for ages 16-up).

City of Glass (McElderry, March 2009) excerpt by Cassandra Clare from her MySpace blog. Read a Cynsations interview with Cassandra.

War: a thematic bibliography of picture books, fiction, and non-fiction with specified age level from Claire Gross at The Horn Book. Source: Read Roger.

GCC Presents…Lara Zeises from Sara Hantz: Teen Fiction Writer. Peek: “Sometimes when I’m giving presentations people ask me how I became an authentic teen writer, like did I eavesdrop on kids at the mall, or did I read a lot of teen magazines? And my answer is always the same: I didn’t really have to work at the teen part. That’s my voice, that’s my sensibility.”

Interview with Debut Author Daphne Grab by Debbi Michiko Florence at One Writer’s Journey. Peek: “I wanted to write about a girl who was dealing with a sick parent. My dad had a degenerative illness, and it was such a huge and life changing experience for me that I wanted to write a book about it; not a memoir, but something where I could tap into my feelings from my experience.”

SCBWI Nationals: a series of posts by Alice Pope at Alice’s CWIM Blog. Don’t miss: Cecilia Yung: Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask an Art Director; Emerging Editorial Voices Panel; All About Agents; Michael Bourret: The Long Haul; and more!

A radio interview with Julia Durango, author of The Walls of Cartagena (Simon & Schuster, 2008) and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, author of The Floating Circus (Bloomsbury, 2008) by Rick Kogan at WGN Chicago. Listen here. Read Cynsations interviews with Julia and Tracie.

Children’s books: The G-rated apocalypse from The Take-Away: Susan Beth Pfeffer, author of post-apocalyptic childrens books, Life as We Knew It (Harcourt, 2006) and The Dead and the Gone (Harcourt, 2008), and Dr. Frank Gaskil, child psychologist. Read a Cynsations interview with Susan. Note: Susan rocks this interview!

Question of the Week: Ally Carter from Robin Friedman’s JerseyFresh Tude. Robin asks: “Did your publishing experience turn out as you expected?”

Pitch Clinic: Editorial Anonymous’s Temporary Blog (May Be Taken Down at Any Moment). Note: check it out while you can!

Choosing Among Projects from Nathan Bransford–Literary Agent. Peek: ” There’s a major dilution effect–the more projects described in a query, the less each one stands out.” Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

The Dual Audience for Picture Books from Darcy Pattison’s Revision Notes. Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.


“The primary focus of ArmadilloCon is literary science fiction, but that’s not all we do — we also pay attention to art, animation, science, media, and gaming. Every year, dozens of professional writers, artists and editors attend the convention. We invite you to attend the convention especially if you are a fan of reading, writing, meeting, sighting, feeding, knighting, and all the other things folks do at a sci-f/fantasy convention.” Note: I’ll be on the program (not sure of the specifics yet), and I hope to see y’all there!

“Five Things To Consider When Plotting a Novel” with Helen Hemphill from Austin SCBWI on Aug. 16 at Barnes and Noble Westlake. Helen is the author of the middle grade novel Runaround (2007) and the young adult novel Long Gone Daddy (2006), both published by Front Street. Her new novel, The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones (Front Street, 2008), will be published this fall. Helen holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College.

April Lurie will celebrate the release of her latest book, The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine (Delacorte, 2008), with a book signing from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Barnes & Noble in Round Rock! Note: see you there!

More Giveaways

Enter to win a copy of Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Creatures by Dr. Ernest Drake, illustrated by Douglas Carrell, Nicholas Lenn, and Helen Ward, edited by Dugald A. Steer (Candlewick, 2008)(inside spread)! To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by midnight CST Aug. 11! Either: (a) name your favorite monster and briefly explain why; or (b) share your favorite line from Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(note: include the page number and whether you’re quoting from the hardcover or paperback; a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! is collecting favorite quotes, so this should help). Please also type “Monsterology” in the subject line.

More Personally

Author Kimberly Willis Holt writes that children’s book author and youth literature supporter Colleen Salley is “not doing so well.” Kimberly adds: “Yesterday was her birthday. Her children said they will read every card that she receives. Coleen has many friends that I know would love to send her a card.”

Here’s the address: St James Retirement; ATTN Coleen Salley; HCE 503; 333 Lee Dr.; Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808. See Kimberly’s report. Note: please spread the word.

More personally, my upcoming short story “Cat Calls” will appear in an anthology now titled Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists, and Other Matters Odd and Magical (Candlewick, July 2009). Note: the original working title was “Cabinet of Curiosities.”

A friend of Cyn? Keep in touch with me at Blogger, LiveJournal, MySpace, JacketFlap, and most recently, Facebook!

Author Interview: Zu Vincent on The Lucky Place

Zu Vincent holds an MFA from Vermont College, where she began writing a story about fathers and daughters that became The Lucky Place. She was awarded Harcourt’s post-grad semester at Vermont College in 2006.

Her essays and short stories have appeared in several literary journals and anthologies and her features in such magazines as Harper’s, Yoga Journal, and Flyfishing. She’s written for BenBella Books, Harcourt, Signet, and Plume–with new essays and books coming from Scholastic, Salina Bookshelf, and the ALAN Review.

Craft-wise, how did you approach your apprenticeship as a writer?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. As a kid, I stashed my stories in a top drawer and read every book I could get my hands on.

Once I stopped stashing my efforts, I cut my eyeteeth on the short story, writing them for literary journals. I apprenticed to a Hollywood producer and wrote scripts. I worked as a stringer for an alternative weekly. I did art and travel writing. I wrote for the Internet and for national magazines.

So, I mostly learned by doing. Short stories, for instance, are a great teacher, especially when it comes to subtext and the power of irony. And freelancing can be really good for the fictional soul.

New worlds open up to you through research and travel. And you get to know people, which is a writer’s dream. People are so generous in interviews, willing to give of their emotional selves if you’re just willing to listen. It’s a pretty humbling experience, being handed their stories.

You hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. Why did you decide to embark on formal study? What did you gain from the experience?

I don’t think you can ever stop learning more about your art. An advanced degree in creative writing just felt like a natural part of the process. I’d heard really wonderful things about Vermont College. It’s one the most respected programs of its kind. Walking through those doors you know why. The Vermont College writers’ community is so caring and the faculty amazing, you can’t help but dig in.

And that translates into an intense writing experience. It sounds ironic that a low-residency program is intense, but it is. They set some rigorous goals but you also throw yourself into learning for its own sake. And your passion for the work ends up being the real measure of what you accomplish.

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

It’s funny, but it can take a long time for a story to jell; yet once the voice starts pouring out, it feels like no time at all.

At Vermont College I worked on this story of a girl with two fathers as my creative thesis, and that became The Lucky Place. But I’d actually met my characters, Cassie and Jamie, before. I’d written about them in a short story, although in the story they had different names. Which is to say, the idea of their lives was haunting me when I sat down to write The Lucky Place.

So maybe the hitches to publication were subterranean.

Congratulations on the release of The Lucky Place (Front Street, 2008)! Could you tell us about it?

It begins with this little girl whose father forgets her at the races when she’s three. I wanted to know what happens to her as she grows up.

Cassie’s been abandoned, but she thinks it’s her fault because she didn’t keep her dad’s hand and was lost in the crowd. That takes a real toll on her, and she just wants to hold tight to everyone she loves, her mom and brothers and stepdad, yet her family keeps slipping away.

What does it take to survive for this particular girl? She seems very ordinary. But who is really ordinary underneath? Like most young people, Cassie has a vivid imagination that leads her in to trouble, and insight.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

The books I love are novels about getting to know yourself and others on a deeper level. With stories that show a greater understanding of who we are. That happens when we discover ourselves in the characters, when they make us laugh or cry or say, Ah-ha! Now I get it! And what drives me to read is also what drives me to write.

Besides that, The Lucky Place is a coming-of-age story, and I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories. I think that time in our lives stays with us out of all proportion to the actual years we live it. It’s where we first discover how to love, how to be in life. That was my larger inspiration for The Lucky Place. That and the magic of childhood, and what happens when that magic comes up against reality.

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

I mentioned that I was working on The Lucky Place while at Vermont College, and the novel sold before I graduated, thanks to Carolyn Coman, who passed it on to Front Street. And I was lucky because my wonderful editor, Joy Neaves, loved it and felt it was right for her list.

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

The book is written in vignettes, which is just how it came out, so I didn’t want to mess with it. I wanted to create a cinematic feel that speaks to the pace of life today, to give some punch, but also some poetry. But I didn’t know if I could pull it off. You have to write quick scenes which give glimpse after glimpse of your characters that eventually add up to a complete story.

At the same time, each vignette has to stand on its own, as a kind of story within a story. And Cassie’s voice needed to mature through these scenes as she grew older, to reflect her emotional growth.

The other challenge was Cassie herself. She’s an observer, she takes things on and holds them inside. The trick was to reveal and motivate her in The Lucky Place by portraying everyone around her through her eyes.

Your novel is marketed to ages 12 and up, but features a younger protagonist. What about the story makes it more appropriate for YA readers?

I believe young adults are wise and intuitive, and I put my trust in them as readers and didn’t hide anything in this book. Both the subject matter and the voice are pretty mature. And even though Cassie’s story ends here when she’s twelve, I’m finding it speaks to a lot of adults, too.

Besides, our younger years are right with us, nipping at our heels when we’re young adults. We very much care about who we are and where we came from, even as we’re becoming independent. And we grow up figuring out so much more than we’re given credit for.

I think readers will identify with Cassie and how she feels discovering and dealing with so many unpleasant truths.

What is it like being a debut author in 2008?

It’s amazing. I wrote the novel I wanted to write, and Front Street made it into a beautiful book. It’s now on the young adult shelves, which are a really exciting place to be. Young adult literature has exploded in the last few years.

And young adult and children’s writers are a special breed. This is hitting home right now, being part of Through the Tollbooth. And also as a member of the Class of 2k8.

I’ve gotten to know debut novelists from all over the country, and we really do have a great writer’s community. We share our knowledge and support and help each other get word out about our books. It’s a thrill to see everyone’s novels doing well.

But the very, very best thing is the response I’m getting from readers. Knowing that someone has taken the time to invest in Cassie’s story and then been touched enough to write to me. That’s incredible!

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

I learned pretty early that life is precious, and that to respect yourself you have to respect your dreams. So I wouldn’t advise anything different. I’d advise the same thing. To stick with your dreams.

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

The balance is ultimately inside, I think. To me, that means if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing creatively. That goes for promotion and all its variations. If I’m giving a talk, I want to put my heart in it. If I’m writing a blog entry, I want to shine it up until it evokes something I’ve really thought about. This way, promotion becomes part of the work instead of something that takes me away from it.

That’s one way to find the balance. The other way, for me, is an absolute need to write. After a few days of not writing, life looks less colorful. I sulk like a kid who can’t go out and play. So, I have to go out and play!

What can your fans look forward to next?

I’m always writing more than one thing at a time; right now I’m working on two novels. One is a companion to The Lucky Place. I just couldn’t put this family away.

I’m also completing what I think of as a literary mystery that involves a kidnapped boy and a senile old lady who has to fight herself to save him.

Cynsational Notes

from reviews of The Lucky Place…

“A stunning fiction debut by an author to watch.” —School Library Journal

“Fans of Nancy Werlin‘s Rules of Survival (2006)[author interview] are a natural for this sad but hopeful story.” —Booklist

Podcast Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith about Tantalize

A Podcast Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Liviania Smith from In Bed with Books II at Internet Voices Radio. See the Aug. 3 interview. Note: it’s a substantial podcast, about 40 minutes long, and, if you’re so inclined you also can listen in on some of our post-question-and-answer chatter.

I had a great deal of fun doing this interview. The focus is Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and the upcoming books and short stories to follow it. I also talk about diving into the YA Gothic fantasy market, the writing life, my geekiness, my respect for romance writers, pre-writing, my early mentors, courage, stretching my “brand,” blogging, and my treaty with ducks.

Peek: “I do not recommend that people quit their day jobs until they have things like contracts and agents.”

Note: the early, scary debt I refer to in the interview was made up of student loans from law school.

“Liviania Smith is a nineteen-year-old college honors student and blogger. You can find her book reviews at” Liviania is also funny, charming, and very, very smart.

Visit In Bed with Books at MySpace!

More News

Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008): a recommendation by Reading Junky. Peek: “Readers who become hooked on Tantalize will be happy to learn that a second book is underway–Eternal [Candlewick, March 2008]. It can’t show up in bookstores soon enough.”

Reminder: Tantalize is now available not only in hardcover, but also newly in paperback from Candlewick Press and on audio from Listening Library. An excerpt of Eternal (Candlewick, March 2009) is in the back of the paperback edition. Check out the readers’ guide and background bibliographies.

Author-Illustrator Interview: Michael Wright on Jake Stays Awake and Jake Starts School

Visit Michael Wright.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer and an illustrator? How did you come to each? Where did you study and/or otherwise develop your skills?

I’ve always loved to cartoon, which to me means writing as much as drawing. I just relate to the blend of the two art forms.

I got serious about a creative career when I was accepted in the art department at the University of Utah. When I graduated, I figured I should try to do something reasonably respectable with my degree, so I went into advertising. I started as an art director, but after a while, worked as a writer as well.

I still did oddball cartoons for my own and friends’ amusement.

One day, my sister Ellen found a box of my cartoons in a closet in my home, and she said, “I think I could get these published.”

I thought she was nuts (still do), but I told her, “Have at it.”

In a few weeks, she got a contract signed for a line of greeting cards with Recycled Paper Products. Even though the money wasn’t great, the cartoons getting published meant a lot more to me than my advertising work.

A few years later, I still didn’t take cartooning seriously, or advertising for that matter, so I moved to doing set-and-graphic design for TV news. I started my own company, and it was during this time that I was hired by a producer to draw some storyboard ideas for an open to a new Fox TV comedy show. The show producers liked the look of the boards so much they thought I should do some short-form cartoons in the show like The Tracy Ullman Show had done with the original Simpson’s shorts. I told them I’d love to.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really know the first thing about producing character animation or the costs involved. After a while, I started running up a bit of a production bill and the cartoons just didn’t seem that funny to me. The producers wanted a certain style of humor that I didn’t relate to, but I did my best to keep them happy and I soldiered on as best I could. Before too long it became apparent that the cartoons were lame, they never saw air (thank God), and I went back to TV news work.

How was your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

It was in the days right after 9/11 that I started wondering if I was doing something valuable enough with my life. That’s when I had an idea come to me for a kids’ book, Jake Stays Awake (Feiwel & Friends, 2007). I jotted down the concept and drew out the spreads as time permitted. I figured, if nothing else, it was a fun creative exercise.

I finished it about a year later and plunked it in my closet with the hopes that someday, someone would find it and publish it. How’s that for dopey?

Anyway, it languished in my closet for a few years when I drug it out at a dinner party we were having. I showed it to a friend of mine who was there who worked at the parent company of a publisher. He seemed to like it. He took the comp and showed it to a friend who worked that publisher. And Holy Buckets, they bought it! They even got me an agent to put the deal together. All was grand with the world.

But soon enough, I started to get comments from the editor that certain changes needed to be made. The character was too fat. His hair needed to be wavy. The story needs changing.

What started out being a great experience was quickly reminding me of my rotten experience at Fox. I decided instead of going along to keep everybody happy, I stood my ground and got everybody unhappy.

After a year of wrestling with agents and editors, they handed me my book back, I released my agent, and my book went back into my closet.

That is, until a couple of years ago when my mom called and told me to bring myself and my book to a cocktail party she was going to at her neighbors. “They have a friend who’s an agent; she might be able to help you,” she said.

Always the dutiful son, I attended, met Paula Allen “the agent,” she saw the book, agreed to be my agent, and sold it to Fewiel & Friends in record time for their debut list.

Jean Feiwel has turned out to be an incredible editor. Great instincts. Makes changes that need to be made. Leaves things alone that should be left alone.

I’ve finished up my second book, Jake Starts School, which comes out this summer.

I’m hammering away at a third book in the Jake series. I’d tell you what it will be about if I knew yet.

What advice would you offer to beginning writer-illustrators?

Keep a journal. Ideas are precious; give them a place to fall out of you un-self-consciously. Stand up for what you think is good. Don’t be like everybody else; otherwise, you’re not really all that necessary.

If this is your true joy, stick with it. Even if it means working at “Team McDonald’s,” keep your dream alive.

By the same token, don’t be like some of those contestants on “American Idol,” the ones who stink but don’t have a clue. Take honest criticism from people who you respect. If enough people tell you that your stuff isn’t all that hot, it may not be, but then again…

Teen Fest Slumber Party at the Austin Public Library

I had the pleasure of participating in a “slumber party” during Teen Fest at the Carver Branch of the Austin Public Library this past Saturday. The other featured speakers were fellow Austin YA authors April Lurie (Texas shirt below) and Jennifer Ziegler (Astros shirt below).

The focus was books and writing for teen girls. There was a nail-polish table, games (truth or dare), and a passionate reading contest, followed by a book signing.

Pajamas and pillows were optional, and most of the lively crowd was decked out in sleepwear. [Note: making an effort to avoid showing YA reader faces on the ‘net, but it was an amazing group.]

Thank you to Michelle (blue shirt above), Alison (striped PJ bottoms above), Jenn and everyone at the Austin Public Library who played a role in the coordinating the event! Thanks, too, to April, Jenny, and the young readers in attendance! It was an honor to join y’all!

Cynsational News & Giveaways

The grand-prize giveaways for August are three autographed copies of My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson (Flux, 2008)! Read a Cynsations interview with Varian.

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Aug. 30! One copy will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (please indicate), and the other two will go to any Cynsational readers. Please also type “Rhombus” in the subject line.

You also may enter to win a copy of Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Creatures by Dr. Ernest Drake, illustrated by Douglas Carrell, Nicholas Lenn, and Helen Ward, edited by Dugald A. Steer (Candlewick, 2008)(inside spread).

From the promotional copy: “Do krakens really lurk below the ocean waves? Do griffins command the air above? In a fascinating new discovery sure to rival the ground-breaking Dragonology, the intrepid Dr. Ernest Drake turns his inquisitive gaze from dragons to other so-called mythical creatures.

“Included are:

* a removable letter from Dr. Drake;
* multiple foldouts, flaps, and pull-outs;
* textured “samples,” including sea serpent skin and a feather from a winged horse;
* sundry booklets — including riddles to tell a sphinx;
* a cabinet of curiosities containing yeti fur, a hippogriff feather, and more.

“For anyone who has ever wondered whether legendary beasts still wander among us, this lush look at an astounding array of creatures offers everything a true believer would want to know.

“A second major volume by the esteemed Dr. Drake–a lavish exploration of fantastical beasts, from yetis to unicorns.”

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by midnight CST Aug. 11! Then you may either: (a) name your favorite monster and briefly explain why; or (b) share your favorite line from Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(note: include the page number and whether you’re quoting from the hardcover or paperback; a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! is collecting favorite quotes, so this should help). Please also type “Monsterology” in the subject line.

Additional giveaways are ongoing. See below for more information.

Note: international entries are eligible. If you have won a giveaway in the past, you also are still eligible to enter.

This Weekend

Slumber Party @ Teen Fest: YA authors April Lurie (author interview), Jennifer Ziegler (author interview), and Cynthia Leitich Smith will join forces in a “lively, intimate discussion about books and writing for teen girls” at noon Aug. 2 at Carver Branch Library/Austin Public Library in Austin, Texas!

The event will include a book signing, “games, snacks, beauty tips, and even a passionate reading contest. Pajamas and pillows optional!”

More News & Links

August is Piper Reed Month from author Kimberly Willis Holt at Jambalaya. Good news! Piper Reed Navy Brat was released last week, Piper Reed and the Great Gypsy comes out Aug. 19, there will be more Piper Reed books, and Kimberly is sponsoring weekly book giveaways through August, including a classroom set of Piper Reed Navy Brat for Educators. Learn more here. Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Young Texas Reader: Reviews and notes on Texas books, media, internet sites, and other formats intended for or otherwise adaptable for the youngest readers through high school from Will Howard “retired Texana Librarian.” Recent posts include Texas alphabet books.

On to the Agent!: an interview with agent Erin Murphy from the Class of 2k8. Peek: “If we’re uncertain which direction to go with revisions, we might test the waters with just one to three editors to start with, so we can try a different version if needed.” See also a Cynsations interview with Erin.

At the Editor’s Desk: an Interview with Andrew Karre, acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Worldwide and Flux from the Class of 2k8. Peek: “I think it’s a good illustration of how capricious and gut-level publishing decisions can be.” Read a Cynsations interview with Andrew.

Author Visit Show-and-Tell from children’s author Kim Norman at Author School Visits by State! Read a Cynsations interview with Kim.

Sarah’s Blog from Greenhouse Literary Agency. Peek: “Greenhouse is a new literary agency with a difference. We exclusively represent and manage the careers of authors writing fiction for children, from first readers through middle grade to sophisticated teen fiction.” See also New Agent Interview: Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary from Alice Pope at Alice’s CWIM Blog.

Editing versus Copyediting from Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. Peek: “…before you go and amend the complaint to “What was the copyeditor doing,” here’s how this process works (actual process may vary, but this is one example).” Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Must-Read YA Titles: compiled by YA author Margo Rabb from Books, Chocolate, Sundries. Peek: “One commenter asked me to recommend YA titles that would give an adult a sense of the richness of the genre.”

Award Winning Writer Libba Bray: author of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Laura L. Johnson from Peek: “Bray attended [The] University of Texas, Austin, graduating in 1988 with a degree in theatre and high hopes of a playwriting career.” Read a Cynsations interview with Libba.

The Tenners or 2010: A Book Odyssey: a new LJ group co-founded by Lindsey Levitt and Heidi R. Kling. They are currently accepting members, and the only requirement is that the author has a book debuting in 2010. “It’s a relaxed, fun and supportive community with no dues or obligations.” If you’re interested in joining, send an email to heidi (at) seaheidi (dot) com (reducing spaces and replacing (at) and (dot) with the appropriate symbols. Be sure to mention your publishing house and book title.

Call for Debut Authors for the 2010 CWIM…from Alice Pope. Peek: “I’m beginning to work on my lineup for the 2010 edition–which means I’m looking for a few debut authors and/or illustrators to feature in my annual First Books article!” Deadline: Aug. 8. a publisher site for news and discussion of science fiction, fantasy, and all the things that interest science fiction and fantasy readers.

Cory Doctorow: Nature’s Daredevils: Writing for Young Audiences from Locus Magazine. Peek: “There’s a consequentiality to writing for young people that makes it immensely satisfying. You see it when you run into them in person and find out that there are kids who read your book, Googled every aspect of it, figured out how to replicate the best bits, and have turned your story into a hobby.” Source: April Henry.

Just Us Books: Celebrating a 20-Year Legacy: an interview with Cheryl and Wade Hudson by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story. Peek: “Founded on the principle of cultural authenticity, Just Us Books has helped pave the way for the diversity in children’s books we see today. The black-owned, family-run publisher has sold millions of books and given many black illustrators and authors — including me – their start in the field.” Read a Cynsations interview with the founders of The Brown Bookshelf.

Books That Make You Go, “Oh!”: The Secret to Creating Tension by Brenda A. Ferber from The Prairie Wind. Peek: “One way is to put your character into a life-or-death situation. But what if you are telling a quieter story than that?” Note: includes a case study of Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (Little Brown, 2008). Read Cynsations interviews with Brenda and Sara.

Sell, Sell, SELL! by Lisa Schroeder at Author2Author. Peek: “…here’s the thing. The truth I’ve only recently realized. I don’t just want to be a published author. I want to be a successful published author. There’s a difference, you know? A big difference.” Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

The Disconnected: Who these 3.8 million people are, and why libraries need to help them by Kathy Degyansky from Library Journal. Peek: “Roughly 3.8 million people nationwide between the ages of 18 and 24 are neither in school nor employed, according to the National League of Cities. That translates to one in six adults in this age group.” Source: Librarian Activist.

Booklists: Young Adult Speculative Fiction (Fantasy and Science Fiction) from Library Booklists. See more YA Fiction Booklists and Children’s Fiction Booklists. Note: of use for building collections, studying craft, and identifying something to read.

Body Image Month with Author Melissa Walker at readergirlz. Note: “Melissa Walker will be chatting live at the readergirlz forum” at 6 p.m. PST/9 PM EST Aug. 28.” Read a Cynsations interviews with the readergirlz divas and with the newest diva, Mitali Perkins.

Check out YA author John Green on the audio taping of his upcoming novel, Paper Towns.

After the end of the world: a bibliography of post-apocalypse-themed titles from YA author Janni Lee Simner at Desert Dispatches.

Reader Questions about Writing, etc. from Words on Words by debut YA author Maggie Stiefvater. Note: questions about craft, business, and Maggie, future Queen of American and debut author of Lament: the Faerie Queen’s Deception (Flux, 2008). Peek: “I really like It lets you find agents that represent your genre, take e-subs, and are members of AAR.”

A Lovely Land’s Tragic Past: Ottawa author [Julia Durango] digs into historic record to pen children’s novel by Melissa Garzanelli at The Times [Ottawa, Illinios]. Peek: “All of the setting locations are real, from the Jesuit Mission to the Leper Colony to the Inquisitor’s Office, and most of the characters are based on real people from that time period. I took the most artistic license with my main character, Calepino. All we know about him from the archives is that he was an African translator who spoke 11 languages.” Learn more about the book.

Question of the Week Thursday: Robin Wasserman from YA author Robin Friedman’s JerseyFresh Tude. Robin asks Robin: “Can you tell us about your road to publication?”

Making Stuff Up For a Living: YA author Saundra Mitchell’s official website. Includes 5 Minute Interviews with established and debut authors, soundtracks, behind-the-pages secrets, links, and information about her Emerging Screenwriters program for young screenwriters. Saundra’s books include Shadowed Summer (Delacorte, 2009)(book trailer below). See 5 Minute Interviews with: Sarah Prineas, Tiffany Trent, Rachel Vincent.

How Do I Find an Editor’s Name for Submission? from Darcy Pattison’s Revision Notes. Peek: “You mention that is important to list the name of the submissions editor; however, I am finding this piece of information extremely hard to find.” Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Agent Advice: Lilly Ghahremani of Full Circle Literary from The Guide to Literary Agent’s Editor’s Blog. Peek: “I would love to do some children’s, YA, or middle-grade books about the Middle East. Multicultural books are appearing about a variety of ethnicities, but I’m not seeing them about Middle Easterners as much as I’d hoped.” Source: Alice’s CWIM Blog. Alice notes, “Ghahremani is interested in children’s, YA, or middle-grade books about the Middle East, as well as graphic novels.”

Interview: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes by Little Willow at Bildungsroman. Peek: “Writing to me is a form of discovery; I uncover the plot and the characters as I go along. Naturally, this often results in a very messy first draft, since I sometimes don’t know where I’m going until half-way in, but that’s what editing is for. I write to find out the story. Once I have a completed draft, then I outline.”

“I Want a Divorce” from Allison Winn Scotch at Ask Allison. Peek: “I am a divorcee. This will come as news, however, to my husband. No, really, I have divorced an agent, and like many divorcees (both from their agents and their spouses), I am so much the better for it. So I do speak from experience here.”

The Role of Dialogue and Narrative by children’s author Jan Fields from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Peek: “Dialogue should not be used to replace action. Many newer writers have all action take place “off stage” and we only know about it because a character thinks about it or talks about it. Imagine if a movie did that.”

YA authors Mary E. Pearson (The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Henry Holt, 2008)(author interview)) and Nancy Werlin (Impossible (author interview)) talk to each other about their new books. Source: Ed Spicer at Ed Spicer’s Teen Book Reviews. See more of his author videos.

Upcoming Events

Children Should Be Seen: The Image of the Child in American Picture-Book Art: “An exhibition of the best American picture-book art of the last decade, ‘Children Should Be Seen: The Image of the Child in American Picture-Book Art,’ makes its West Coast debut” from July 1 to Sept. 14 at the Central Library’s Getty Gallery (630 W. Fifth St.) in Los Angeles.

“The primary focus of ArmadilloCon is literary science fiction, but that’s not all we do — we also pay attention to art, animation, science, media, and gaming. Every year, dozens of professional writers, artists and editors attend the convention. We invite you to attend the convention especially if you are a fan of reading, writing, meeting, sighting, feeding, knighting, and all the other things folks do at a sci-f/fantasy convention.” You can find me at:

“Vampire Friends”: a panel Aug. 16 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Phoenix North. Description: “The vampire mythos seems to resonate with something deep in human nature–sexuality, for one thing. Why is it so powerful, and how can the sub-genre stay fresh?”

“Challenges of Writing Genre for Younger Readers”: panel Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Description: “How does writing for young adults differ from writing for adult readers? Our panelists discuss whether it’s harder, easier, or pretty much the same, but with a different label.” Note: I’ll be signing books that same day from noon to 1 p.m. in the Dealer’s Room.

“Five Things To Consider When Plotting a Novel” with Helen Hemphill from Austin SCBWI on Aug. 16 at Barnes and Noble Westlake. Helen is the author of the middle grade novel Runaround (2007) and the young adult novel Long Gone Daddy (2006), both published by Front Street. Her new novel, The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones (Front Street, 2008), will be published this fall. Helen holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College.

April Lurie will celebrate the release of her latest book, The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine (Delacorte, 2008), with a book signing from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Barnes and Noble in Round Rock! Note: see you there!

The Texas Book Festival: An Unfolding Narrative: Interested in Participating?: how to submit a book for consideration by the Texas Book Festival. Peek: “The Texas Book Festival typically presents between 175-180 authors, some from Texas and some from the United States and abroad. The Festival’s Author Selection Committee routinely selects authors who are published in the year the Festival takes place, but books published 18 months prior to the start of the Festival are eligible.”

More Giveaways

Shooting Stars Mag offers Tantalize giveaway contest! Deadline: Aug. 1 at midnight EST! See also Genre of July — Vampires at Genre of the Month. Note: hurry! Last day to enter!

Attention: members of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace! I’m giving away a copy of Zombie Blondes by Brian James (Feiwel and Friends, 2008). Read a Cynsations interview with Brian. All members of the group are eligible to win. Bonus points will go to those who make a comment on the forum by midnight today!

The winners of the Cynsations grand prize giveaways for July–two signed copies of Wake by Lisa McMann (Simon Pulse, 2008)–were Lenore in Kansas and Aimee, a teacher in Texas.

The winner of the autographed copy of A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (Delacorte, 2008) is Elaine in Alberta, Canada. Read a Cynsations interview with Shana.

The winners of the two signed copies of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley (Greenwillow, 2007) were Becky at the Orange City Public Library in Iowa and Kate in Maine.

More Personally

Thanks to all who joined me at Wednesday night’s ALAN chat and/or blogged about it! Most appreciated! Couldn’t make the chat? Log-in troubles? Read the transcript! Thanks again to David, ALAN, and all who participated!

Thanks to Jama Rattigan and Cornelius at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup for their report from the Virginia Barnes and Noble! It was a treat to see Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and many of my favorite titles on the shelves.

It’s come to my attention that one of the world’s great women (Carrie Jones) wrote “‘Xanadu’ is one of the WORST musicals ever. Seriously.” As someone who has cured many a writer’s block dancing in the dark to the “Xanadu” soundtrack, I respectfully disagree. I’m telling you: dancing, darkness, “Xanadu.” Works every time. Read a Cynsations interview with Carrie.

As long as I’m spilling secrets: if a cat sits on a manuscript of its own free will, the book will sell. Note: this is not why I have four cats.

Even More Personally

Welcome to my newborn niece, Olivia, and congratulations to her proud parents, Jamilya and Keith! Olivia is the daughter of my brother-in-law and his wife. I’m honored to be her auntie.