Author Interview: Kathi Appelt on The Underneath

We last spoke in May 2007, shortly after the release of My Father’s House (Viking, 2008). Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the story?

It’s actually two stories that come together at the end, the first being the story of a kitten who has been charged with keeping an enormous promise. The second is an older story about a very cranky snake who has been imprisoned in a jar for a thousand years.

Some think that there’s a third story in the stand-off between the villain, Gar Face, and a hundred-foot-long alligator.

So, it’s stories within stories, kind of like those Russian nesting dolls.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I was working on a new collection of short stories to follow Kissing Tennessee (Harcourt, 2002). The premise behind the collection was that each story would be about an object of great importance to the individual characters.

In one of the stories I created a boy who found a kitten that had been nearly drowned in the nearby creek. The kitten itself was not the object, rather it was the kitten’s bell that became supercharged.

Once I finished the story, it kept haunting me. I loved the boy and the relationship he had with this cat; and I also loved the cat.

On top of it, the setting of the deep East Texas woods seemed full of mystery and intrigue. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a larger story there, so I began to stretch it out.

I sometimes use taffy as an analogy since each time I visited the story it felt as though I was pulling at it, twisting and pulling.

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

All told it took me three years to finish. In that time, there were a couple of major events.

One was the WriteFest conference in Austin. We were required to have at least 60 pages of a middle grade or young adult novel in order to be accepted. [Note: Greg and I hosted and led this workshop].

I have to say, coming up with those 60 pages was hard. I was working on them right up to the deadline, and I think the last 45 of those 60 pages were pretty awful. And the first 15 were only a step above awful.

Still, I managed to get there, and it was in the getting there that I become more convinced that I could actually write a novel.

I had started several novels, but always got jammed up and stuck about 20 pages into them. I have a whole drawer full of novel-beginnings. Great characters, great setting . . . uh . . . no plot.

So WriteFest was the first major event.

Then I took an on-line novel-writing class through writers-on-the-net with Dennis Foley. I consider Dennis a master teacher. His patient guidance was exactly what I needed to move through the early stages of a full draft. He was great, and I recommend his classes without hesitation.

Something else I should probably mention was that my agents, Emily E. van Beek (agent interview) and Holly McGhee, had challenged me to write a book that would “crack open the heart.”

I kept trying to move deeper and deeper into a place that would do that, crack open the heart. In the process, I found that I had to visit my own heart, to crack it open, too, in order to find the heart of my story. It wasn’t pretty, I’ll say that.

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

The hardest thing for me is always maintaining the narrative thread. My entire career has been built on picture books, poetry, essays, and short stories. Note the emphasis on “short.”

Writing long, writing something that maintains a narrative thread for more than a few pages, has always been difficult for me.

It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to write this in very short scenes that I overcame that hurdle. I decided to honor my “inner writer” if you will, the one who knew how to write well in short segments. That’s why the book is told in very short scenes and chapters.

During the writing of it, I also became acutely aware of the setting, so even though I had lived in East Texas for a short time, I had to revisit it. I had to stomp around in it a bit. I spent a lot of hours researching the history of the region, too.

With that, I paid attention to the Caddo people and learned as much as I could about them. One of the things that appealed to me was their incredible artistry. They were and still are master potters. Here’s a photo of an ancient jar [scroll to “rare late Caddo head pot”]. That particular jar just made me happy.

But there was another jar (the large black one on the left), made by a contemporary potter, Jerilyn Redcorn, a Caddo artist who has spent her life studying and recreating the pottery of those early Caddos. This one, with its engraving on the side, affected me in a different way.

If you look closely at Ms. Redcorn’s engraving, you will see the image of three animals all in one–a snake, a hawk, and a panther. The jar design inspired the creation of my shapeshifters, Grandmother Moccasin and Hawk Man, as well as Night Song.

In my research, I’d found only fleeting mention of shapeshifters in Caddo stories and history, and I was careful in the book to make sure that the shapeshifters themselves were entirely my own–not Caddo or reinterpretations of their beliefs. But if my shifters had lived a thousand years ago, then they would certainly have encountered the Caddo people.

One of the things that was most important to me about the Caddo was their reputation for friendliness, which I think can be seen in that first old jar. The name “Texas” comes from a Caddo word that means something akin to “friend.”

If my family of shapeshifters took on their human forms and found their way to a Caddo village, it was highly likely that they would have been welcomed.

So, the region itself, with its history of artistry and its thriving nature, was full of possibility for me. The swamps, for anyone who has ever been near them, have a very primordial feel about them, as if they’ve been there forever, before time, before humans, before everything. And this feeling of ancientness was one I tapped into time and again.

The woods themselves became almost a character in the book, and it was wonderful to explore them on the page and in my imagination. Thus, the trees became sentient, the observers of all that happened there.

Another challenge for me was making the jump from a story that originally featured a boy as the main character, a realistic story, to one that featured talking animals.

I never set out to write an animal fantasy, even though I don’t really think the story is fantasy so much as it is magical realism.

Still, learning to take on the personae of the animals was a stretch for me. How, for example, would an alligator talk? What would snake-speak look like on the page? Could I inhabit the thoughts and feelings of a broken down old hound dog, and how would that sound and look?

And then there was Gar Face, a man who was rejected by the rest of the world and basically found his own kingdom in the deep backwaters of the swamp. And of course, Gar Face rejected the outer world, too.

He was loosely based upon a man I knew many years ago, someone in our family, and putting him in the story was like meeting him again all these years later. Not necessarily a sweet memory.

You asked about logistics and I have to say that keeping the timeline straight was a constant issue for me. There was the contemporary story of Puck, then there was the one that started a thousand years ago, and then there was Gar Face’s story that began 25 years ago, which was also the moment that lightning struck the old pine tree.

At one point, I got so tangled up in keeping the various timelines that I finally tapped my brother-in-law Daren’s shoulder to help me make sure that it made sense. He’s an engineer and I figured that if anyone could check the times, it would be Daren. He was a great help. Logic is his strong suit, which is a happy thing for me.

What delighted you most about the process?

I loved watching the story unfold, and I fell in love with the characters themselves. But maybe even better than that was the “village” of the story.

So many people took time out of their own writing lives to read it and to give me their thoughts, so many gave the story such careful consideration, and the book is so much stronger because of that. A number of my friends and family members were generous in their listening and coaching.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with your Greg when, after listening to me talk, told me he thought the story belonged to the cat. He wasn’t the first person to say so, but there was something in his saying it that convinced me that it was so.

And beyond the readers, there were also people like the Park Ranger at Caddo Mounds State Park in Athens, Texas; and the archeologist who talked to me about the Caddo pots. There were also people in the Texas Parks department who answered questions about the flora and fauna of East Texas.

What was the most painful?

There came a point in which my agents, Holly McGhee and Emily E. van Beek, told me that the boy had to go. They felt that the story had grown around him, and he was no longer the main character, nor was his role integral anymore.

Considering that it was this boy who was the original voice for the story, it was very difficult to essentially cut him out. In addition, the boy reminded me a lot of my own son, Jacob, which made it even harder to take him out.

So that was tough. It was also very difficult to dispatch the mother cat, as well as to write the scene in which Ranger gets so badly beaten by Gar Face.

I have to say that during the writing of this story I came face to face with every doubt, every kernel of resistance, every form of self-sabotage that I’ve ever encountered in my writing life.

At times the story felt so much bigger than anything I was capable of writing.

Then, as I mention in my acknowledgments, Tobin (M. T.) Anderson called me and said, “You should always write what you think you can’t.”

For some reason that I can’t really explain, his saying that was exactly what I needed in order to push through to the end of the tale.

And then there were the revisions. I printed out at least ten full drafts and rewrote it two or three times for my editor, Caitlyn. So, the book took many revisions.

Congratulations on being a finalist for the National Book Award! How did you react when you heard the news?

How did I react? I felt like I had swallowed a star, that glittery.

Put mildly, the novel has had a rave reception. How are you riding that emotional tidal wave?

I’ve been so humbled by the response. Gosh, I feel immensely grateful. It seems like every day I get a nice e-mail from someone who has taken the time to write to me to say how much they loved the story. I’m fairly certain this is what authors live for, to know that someone loved their story.

My favorite was from a mom who read it out loud to her daughter and when they were finished they read it again. Then the daughter started making up her own stories with the kittens and Ranger. It makes me immensely happy to think that there is a seven-year-old girl who is extending Ranger and Puck and Sabine’s story, extending their lives.

But I confess that the attention is also a distraction. I’m really trying to get the next book on paper, and I’ve had a hard time focusing. Lately I’ve made my husband Ken disable our modem when he leaves for work in the morning. That way I’m not tempted to cruise around on Amazon reading the reviews. (Which, I promise, is a weakness and not healthy).

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you first started the book, what would you say?

Frankly, I’m surprised that none of my writer pals told me to “shut up and write,” so I’d hope that if I could go back I would do less whining and more writing.

What can your fans look forward to next?

The next novel is tentatively called “Keeper,” and all I can say is that there may or may not be some merfolk involved. There is another good dog named B.D. which is short for Bird Dog, and another dog named Too. (Okay, his real name is B. D. Too, but everyone calls him Too). Other than that, there’s a boat and a great beach bum.

It’s set on or near Galveston, which is where my grandmother lived and also where I spent my growing-up summers.

Cynsational Notes

Additional interviews with Kathi about The Underneath area available at Becky’s Book Reviews and from Kimberly Willis Holt.

Hill Country Book Festival

The first annual Hill Country Book Festival was Oct. 11 at the Georgetown Public Library in Georgetown, Texas. Participating authors/illustrators included Liz Garton Scanlon, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Don Tate, P. J. Hoover, and Deborah Frontiera.

First up, we have my husband and sometimes co-author, Greg Leitich Smith, entering the library. Gorgeous, isn’t it? (I’m talking about the library this time).

Here’s a peek at rising star Liz Garton Scanlon, wowing the crowd. Read a Cynsations interview with Liz.


Illustrator Don Tate reads his wonderful picture book Black All Around, written by Patricia Hubbell (Lee & Low, 2003). Read a Cynsations interview with Don. Note: you can also find Don at The Brown Bookshelf!

And here’s Don again with debut author P.J. Hoover, who will launch her first novel, The Forgotten Worlds Book 1: The Emerald Tablet (Blooming Tree/CBAY Books, 2008) at 4 p.m. Oct. 26 at BookPeople in Austin.

10th Anniversary Feature: Sarah Prineas

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, I asked some first-time authors the following question:

As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?

Here’s the latest reply, this one from author Sarah Prineas:

My book came out on June 3rd, and it’s been an odd, crazy time.

While promoting that book, I revised book two in the series and finished book three, which goes off to my editor shortly.

There isn’t a whole lot of time, I’m finding, to bask in the glow of having a book out. Publishing has a hungry maw, and we writers need to have new manuscripts ready to throw into the maw, to be chewed up and spat out as finished books.

What I’ve found, given that situation, is that there’s no waiting around for a muse to visit or for inspiration to strike. A professional writer has to work hard to have manuscripts ready for chewing, and if she doesn’t, well, then she doesn’t have a career, just a book.

I’m in this for the career.

After finishing the first book, I worried a little about choking, since I wasn’t absolutely sure what the second book was going to be about, but since then I’ve learned that I can write into the void, and that I enjoy writing as an act of discovery.

I’ve also learned to write no matter where I am. I still don’t have a home office, so I move around the house, from kitchen table when I’m home alone, to comfy chair in my bedroom when the house is full of kids.

My publisher has been sending me to lots of events, and I’m finding that I can write during the down times; in fact I get lots done in hotel rooms and airport waiting areas.

The other thing I’ve learned is that my ideas about how publishing worked were kind-of naïve. My book deal worked out, as my agent said, “the way deals are supposed to happen but never do.” No angst or heartache involved.

But I’ve learned that even though publishing is partly run on the love of books, it’s also a cut-throat business. If I don’t keep writing books, this business will leave me behind without a thought. It’s a tough lesson, but an important one, for me.

The final thing I learned is that once a book is out, the author has to let it go. You just can’t control how it’s going to do out there in the big world, so you might as well focus on the next project.

Read a Cynsations interview with Sarah.

Bella’s Book Club, readergirlz, YA Authors Cafe

Visit Bella’s Book Club: a real book club at the Allen County Public Library, Tecumseh Branch, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

You can check out and comment on their post on Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(Listening Library, 2008)! Peek: “The book is cleverly written, and sectioned into portions like a restaurant menu. Clearly, the author intends for us to savor and enjoy the ‘meal’ as we digest this book!”

See also discussions of Blood and Chocolate (film and novel), the Vampire Kisses series, and more. Upcoming topics include The Vampire Diaries, the Twilight series, the Blue Bloods series and many more.

Reminders

readergirlz celebrate Teen Read Week with Night Bites!

The YA Authors Cafe celebrates Teen Read Week with the following authors, discussing their “Books with Bite” and more!

Today, I’m talking about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(Listening Library, 2008)!

Just for inspiration, I’ll re-run the Tantalize trailer, designed by almost 18-year-old Shayne Leighton (happy birthday, Shayne!); read a Cynsations interview with Shayne:

Author Interview: Maggie Stiefvater on Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception

Maggie Stiefvater on Maggie Stiefvater: “I’m a 26-year old with a serious Peter Pan complex, an addiction to sweet tea and cookie dough, and an obsessive love of music. When I’m not hanging out with my tolerant husband and two toddlers, I’m either writing, reading, rocking out on some sort of musical instrument, creating art or generally frolicking. I’m all about the frolicking.”

What first inspired you to write for young adult readers?

The aforementioned Peter Pan complex means that I really relate to teen lit–teens still believe in their dreams and still have a furious passion for life, which I respect and hope I never lose.

I taught a lot of art workshops to adults before I went full time with my writing, and adults say “I’m too old to do this” all the time. Or “If things were different, I’d try to… [fill in the blank].”

Teens still risk everything. That makes for awesome fiction, compelling characters, and lots of angst. You just can’t get quality angst in adult fiction.

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

I wrote the manuscript as “The Queen’s Bidding” when I was in college. I tinkered with it for a while and then sent it to publishers–for some reason I’d decided that agents were cheating and I wanted to do it all on my own. Yes, that’s the sort of college girl I was.

Anyway, I got some nice rejection letters and a really nice revision request from Andrew Karre at Flux.

It seemed that in the first version, my main character was too middle grade, and she also was entirely without a spine. Also, there was not nearly enough angst and nookie, though I didn’t realize this at the time.

Anyway, at this news, I clapped my hands and danced around and revised the manuscript. But I didn’t push the revisions far enough and Flux didn’t buy it.

For some reason, I don’t remember being suitably crushed by this news. I was revoltingly hopeful at this stage that I was getting close.

There was good news, anyway: Andrew had gotten me on the path of reading current popular fiction (see my vehement exhortations below) and a whole new world was opened to me. Of course! TQB was lame! I could do better! I wrote another novel which I decided kicked TQB’s butt and sent it out.

Andrew sent me an email that said in a friendly editorial way (essentially the only way he ever says anything), “Let’s talk.” I clapped my hands and danced, thinking this was going to be The Call…and then listened to him say that he still wasn’t ready to give up on TQB.

I still to this day don’t know if he ever completely read the novel I wrote after TQB. But it didn’t matter, because this time when he waved TQB at me and shouted, “Make it tighter! Older! Edgier!”

I knew how to make it happen. I rewrote the first three chapters from scratch, newly injected with angst, nookie, and actual three-dimensional characters and a few months later, I had a brand new baby contract.

And my husband said: “Yay! We’re getting a new mattress.” And we did.

Oh, and I asked Andrew to change the title, because now that I had college behind me, “The Queen’s Bidding” sounded an awful lot like a masochistic porno to me. So it became Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception, which sounds a lot more PG-13.

What was most useful to you in developing your craft? What, if anything, do you wish you’d done differently?

Read popular current fiction in my genre. I wish I could put that in all caps. When I first started my writing journey, I read a lot, especially library books.

I spoke those infamous words: “I could write better than this!” Yeah, look at my competition. I was reading fiction I’d randomly picked off a library shelf, fiction that was twenty and thirty years old. The stuff that wasn’t popular enough to have a request hold on it. What does that tell you?

So I got better by writing a lot, but the biggest help was when I started to read currently hot YA titles. It was like I was blind and someone put the “tighten-prose-gripping-plot” glasses on me.

Congratulations on the publication of your debut young adult novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception (Flux, 2008)! Could you tell us a bit about the book?

Basically, an incredibly musically talented teen girl (not based on me, thank you very much) meets an intriguing musically talented boy and proceeds to fall in love in short order. Sucks that he’s a faerie assassin, and she’s his next mark. Homicidal faeries and teen angst abound. Rated MN for Moderate Nookie and PG-13 for a decent amount of blood-letting. All in good fun, of course.

What was your initial inspiration for the story?

Ever since I read about fairies with homicidal leanings in Katharine BriggsAn Encyclopedia of Faeries (Pantheon, 1978), I have been determined to use them in young adult fiction.

From twelve years old on, I worked them into practically every piece of fiction I wrote. I was officially obsessed. I used to go out and stand beneath our beech tree and hold four leaf-clovers in hopes of making one appear.

Yes, I know. In retrospect, it sounds like a terrible idea. But back then…

What was the timeline between spark and publication?

Messed up, that’s what it was.

No, actually, I believe the actual moment of me querying Andrew to me getting the contract was two years–almost to the day. The time between me querying him for the second novel and getting the contract was only six months.

And truthfully, neither the first iteration of Lament nor its ill-fated companion book were professional enough to see the light of day, no matter how badly I might have wanted it at the time.

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

The biggest challenge was changing the entire manuscript from third person to first person. Because Dee is so shy, a lot of what’s going on happens inside her head, so Lament had to be totally rewritten to reflect that.

What is it like, being a debut author in 2008? What do you love about it? What has surprised you most?

It’s a disgustingly exciting time to be a new YA author, because–shock!–people have figured out that YA is hot.

In the last year, I’ve watched the young adult section of my bookstores double. No longer am I tiptoeing around Spot on the Farm to get to my YA. (No offense to Spot).

The most surprising thing is how fast my book deal has turned into a career.

At the beginning of this year, I had one book under contract. By the end of next year, I’ll have three novels in bookstores. I can’t decide if this makes me want to celebrate or wig out.

And what I love? Ohmigosh. Opening that box of ARCs and seeing my book. My book! With covers! Flux wasn’t joking–they really are publishing it!

If you could go back in time and talk to your beginning-writer self, what would you tell her?

1. Young Maggie, cut the melodrama. In your fiction and in real life. Seriously.

2. If you have a pile of form rejection letters, it’s time to stop what you’re doing instead of wasting more postage.

3. Research your agents better so you won’t pay that woman $50 to be your agent when you’re 17.

4. Sweet pea, wait til you’re in love to write a love scene. You’re only going to die of embarrassment and laughter when I (I being older, wiser Maggie) rediscover it later.

5. Continue to laugh in the face of all authority figures who tell you that it can’t be done. It works out pretty well for you, in the end.

What advice do you have for Gothic fantasy writers?

Keep it real. I always wanted to type that! No, really, I do mean it though. The more out of this world your supernatural bits are, the realer (more real?) you need everything else to be.

If we as readers feel grounded in the real world–smell the exhaust, feel the humidity on our fingers, see the chubby check out lady–when you introduce a supernatural element, we’ll go crazy with happiness. Seriously.

And also, don’t forget that setting plays a huge role in Gothic/moody fantasies. I like to imagine my novels as movies–every scene takes place in a different setting that would be easily differentiated in a movie. Don’t pick an arbitrary season or location for your novel. They’re as important as characters.

Do you work with a critique group? If not, who are your early readers?

I have three awesome critique partners, but I didn’t always. I actually “dated” a bunch of a critique partners, trading pages with them, until I found three that read the same kind of fiction as me, wrote the same sorts of fiction as me, and didn’t mind that I said things like “splat-shmear” when describing gory scenes.

Two of my critique partners, Brenna Yovanoff and Tess Gratton, and I have a fiction blog at http://www.merryfates.com. We each contribute a piece of short fiction every week–it’s a great writing exercise.

Anyway, that’s off topic. The point is that they are ruthless with my fiction. I send them a draft and they tell me straight up how it sucks and what they think needs to be done to reverse the suck. Their honesty is absolutely crucial to me!

As a reader, so far what are your favorite young adult books of 2008 and why?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press ’08) is my favorite of 2008. It’s a brutal YA that’s sort of a cross between “The Most Dangerous Game” (do teens still have to read that in school?) and “Survivor.”

The characterization is just amazing. And it’s completely addictive. I finished it in one day, gave it to my husband, and he finished it in a day. It’s going to be hot.

What do you do outside of the world of YA literature?

Before I became a full time writer this year, I made my living with my art (www.portraitswithcharacter.com).

So I still do a lot of colored pencil art when I’m not writing, and I teach colored pencil workshops. I’m also, as mentioned earlier, a music addict, and I play Celtic harp, piano, tin whistle, guitar, bodhran, and write a lot of music too.

In college, I had a Celtic band, Ballynoola, that toured around for a few years and made a now totally impossible to find album, Driven to Distraction. I have to confess that that’s my next goal…when my kids get into school, it’d be nice to have a band again and maybe throw together a nice studio album even if I never toured again.

I also like to cook. Because I like to eat. And the two go together. I try and keep food descriptions out of my novels, but I notice when I go back over them that they get in there anyway.

And of course I hang out with my husband and two toddlers (ages 3 and 4). My husband is pretty easy-care/wash-n-wear, but you wouldn’t believe how much time the two womb fruits take up.

What can your readers expect from you next? (I’m begging for a companion book here–begging!).

Beg no more! Ballad: The Gathering of Faerie (Flux 2008) is due out next fall and is narrated by another character from Lament. I don’t know if I should say who, because it’s a little spoilery–but I can tell you, Cynthia, that it’s the character you’re hoping for. It involves a king of the dead, a vampiric faerie muse, and plenty of thwarted and unthwarted love to go around.

Also, Shiver (Scholastic 2009), a love story about a girl and a boy who turns into a wolf every winter, is coming out in Fall ’09. My first hardcover and also my favorite bit of writing to date! Very exciting.

10th Anniversary Feature: Carolyn Crimi

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, I asked some established authors–folks I’d featured early on–the following question:

Over the past decade, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned about your craft, the writing/artistic life, and/or publishing, and why?

Here’s the latest reply, this one from author Carolyn Crimi:

Before I was published I imagined that the life of an author would involve, um, writing. Just writing.

I actually believed I’d earn a living from my advances and royalties alone.

Hey, don’t laugh! That’s not nice.

I had a hard lesson to learn, and that is that writers are asked to give talks. You could even say that writers often earn more money doing public speaking than they do on their craft.

I know! It’s crazy! But there have been many times in my writing career when I have felt more like a public speaker than a writer.

If people ask me what my advice is for new writers, I tell them to write, read, and join Toastmasters. Improv classes also help with public speaking.

I go to conferences just to watch authors present their material. How do they use their hands? How often do they use anecdotes? Do they read their lecture or do they have it memorized?

Because when it comes right down to it, authors who present well will be in high demand and they’ll sell more books.

So that’s what I’ve learned. Oh, and don’t picture the audience naked. That’s a lot scarier than actually doing the talk.

Read a Cynsations interview with Carolyn. Read Carolyn’s team blog (with Andrea Beaty and Julia Durango), Three Silly Chicks! Note: you also can subscribe to the Chicks’ LJ syndication.

Celebrate “Books with Bite” at the YA Authors Cafe

The YA Authors Cafe celebrates Teen Read Week with the following authors, discussing their “Books with Bite” and more!

Surf by the Cafe every day this week to learn more about the books, the authors, and to join in on the discussion!

Monday, Oct. 13- Kimberly Pauley, author of Sucks to Be Me (Mirrorstone, 2008)! From the promotional copy:

So, you think your life sucks?

Try being Mina Hamilton. Her parents are vampires, which would sound cool if they weren’t so bo-ring and parent-like. And now Mina has to decide whether or not she wants to be one too…in a month. As if high school wasn’t bad enough, now she’s got to go to vampire classes with a bunch of freaks who actually want to drink blood (Gross! As if sushi wasn’t bad enough.). And she can’t even tell her best friend about any of it, not with a bunch of red-tape-loving vampire bureaucrats breathing down her neck.

How’s a girl supposed to find a prom date and get through school with all this blood-sucking drama going on?

Tuesday, Oct. 14-Annette Curtis Klause, author of Blood and Chocolate (Delacorte, 1997) and Freaks, Alive on the Inside! (Simon & Schuster, 2006, 2007)(excerpt). From the promotional copy of Freaks!

If this is a dream, why does she seem so real?

Though Abel Dandy was born to circus performers and grew up in a troupe of odd and inexplicable people, he has never felt limited by his normalcy–until now. Realizing he’ll never be more amazing than the talented oddities around him, Abel can only dream of living a life richer than his own.

But in his dreams a mysterious woman beckons him, calling him passionately by a name he doesn’t know and speaking in a language he’s never heard, but fully understands. Compelled by these visions and yearning to be more than ordinary, Abel embarks on a journey more frightening and wondrous than he ever imagined….

Wednesday, Oct. 15-Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008). From the promotional copy:

Classified Ads: Restaurants Sanguini’s: A Very Rare Restaurant is hiring a chef de cuisine. Dinners only. Apply in person between 2 and 4 P.M.

Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her hybrid-werewolf first love threatens to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. And just as she and her uncle are about to debut Austin’s red hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef.

Can Quincie transform the new hire into a culinary dark lord before opening night? Will Henry Johnson be able to wow the crowd in fake fangs, a cheap cape, and red contact lenses? Or is there more to this earnest fresh face than meets the eye?

As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything?

Thursday, Oct. 16, Kristopher Reisz, author of Unleashed (Simon Pulse, 2007)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

Daniel Morning seems perfect — handsome, charismatic, intelligent.

But living up to everyone’s expectations has cost him the right to make his own decisions. The urge to shatter those expectations is beginning to gnaw at his insides.

Then Daniel meets Misty and her pack of outcasts– her twin brother Marc, her best friend Valentine, and brooding Eric. Finally, Misty lets Daniel in on their little secret: She and her friends have learned to shapeshift, and have been prowling the night as wolves.

Daniel falls in love with the primal sensation of shifting, just as he’s falling in love with Misty. The freedom to follow his most basic instincts is like nothing he’s ever felt. But Daniel will slowly realize that such freedom comes at a price…

Friday, Oct. 17, A.M. Jenkins, author of Night Road (HarperCollins, 2008). From the promotional copy:

For a heme like Cole, life is a tightrope existence in which sunlight is his deadly enemy and one mistake could trap him underground, staring at the inside of a coffin lid, for eternity.

After a century of wandering he may still look like a teenager, but he’s known in the heme community for being observant, meticulous, and controlled—a master of life on the road.

When Cole is asked to take a newly created heme out for training, however, his usual caution may not be enough. If Gordon, the rookie who really is in his teens, can’t cut ties with his old life and accept his new limitations, Cole will have to discreetly dispose of the kid—the same way a mad dog would be put down for the safety of society.

Cole thinks he can handle it. But no matter how carefully he plans, or how much he thinks he’s in control, accidents still happen… Saturday, Oct. 18, Marlene Perez, author of Dead Is The New Black (Harcourt, 2008). From the promotional copy:

Fashion statement…or something freakier?

The first installment of this creepy, campy paperback original series introduces the psychic Giordano sisters—and their very strange hometown, Nightshade, California.

Teenage girls are being mysteriously attacked all over town, including at Nightshade High School, where Daisy Giordano is a junior.

When Daisy discovers that a vampire may be the culprit, she can’t help but suspect head cheerleader Samantha Devereaux, who returned from summer break with a new “look.”

Samantha looks a little…well, dead, and all the popular kids at school are copying her style.

Is looking dead just another fashion trend for pretty popular Samantha, or is there something more sinister going on? To find out, Daisy joins the cheerleading squad….

Reminder

Be sure to also participate in readergirlz’s “Books with Bite” series celebration of Teen Read Week:

Author Snapshot & Book Giveaway: Deborah Noyes on The Ghosts of Kerfol

The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2008). From the promotional copy:

In her classic ghost story “Kerfol,” Edith Wharton tells the tale of Anne de Barrigan, a young Frenchwoman convicted of murdering her husband, the jealous Yves de Cornault.

The elderly lord was found dead on the stairs, apparently savaged by a pack of dogs, though there were no dogs–no live dogs- at Kerfol that day.

In this remarkable collection of intertwining short stories, Deborah Noyes takes us back to the haunted manor and tells us Anne de Barrigan’s story through the sympathetic eyes of her servant girl.

Four more tales slip forward in time, peering in on a young artist, a hard-drinking party girl, a young American couple, and a deaf gardener who now tends the Kerfol estate. All these souls are haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol–the dead dogs, the sensual yet uneasy relationships, and the bitter taste of revenge.

In an enthralling work of Gothic suspense, an Edith Wharton story inspires five connected tales set in the same haunted manor over the centuries.

We last spoke in November 2007. Congratulations on the release of The Ghosts of Kerfol (Candlewick, 2008)! Could you share with us the story behind the story?

I originally set out to retell a handful of classic American Gothic tales for a Candlewick collection, and Edith Wharton‘s “Kerfol” [(1916)]–one of my all-time favorite ghost stories–was one of them. But that project stalled out.

I’d already learned while writing my adult historical novel (a re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter (1850) from the point of view of a character not Hester Prynne), that the soul of a story by Hawthorne is the voice of Hawthorne.

Same turns out to be true, of course, for Poe and Henry James and Edith Wharton. And if you aren’t going to do something new with material like that, there’s no point messing with a good thing.

I talked it over with my editor, and instead we set out to really inhabit the story we both liked best of the bunch, and the haunted house of its title.

I love stories where a house or a locale or an object are a main character in the story, so I started there.

In the movie “The Red Violin,” a single haunted object gets passed from hand to hand and wreaks havoc through history, a different psychological or emotional havoc for each recipient, depending on what they bring to the mix, and I used that framework here. So “The Red Violin” was my biggest influence after Wharton.

Last but not least–her dogs! The better part of Wharton’s haunting is carried out by nonhuman spirits. For an animal person like me, this rings resoundingly true. I know her story stuck with me as long and as powerfully as it did because of those spectacular ghostly dogs. Silent and unnerving, they don’t appear bearing fateful messages from the beyond. Instead they mirror whoever encounters them, reflecting what’s good or bad or timid or courageous in them. Just as (I believe) animals do in everyday life.

Enter to Win

Enter to win one of three autographed copies of The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2008)!

To enter, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Oct. 21!

OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Oct. 21! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win.

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 “Kerfol” in the subject line. Read a previous Cynsations interview with Deborah.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Check out readergirlz’s “Books with Bite” series celebration of Teen Read Week; see the awesome trailer below:

The 2009 Red Dirt Book Festival has called for proposals. The theme is “Imagine Oklahoma: Read, Write, Talk.” Submit your proposal here. Deadline: Dec. 1. Note: the 4th annual Red Dirt Festival will be held in Shawnee, Oklahoma; Nov. 5 to Nov. 7, 2009 at the Expo Center and on the campuses of Oklahoma Baptist University and St. Gregory’s University.

Author-Illustrator Tip: consider dedicating one page on your site to each of your titles, and include cover art, all author and/or illustrator bylines with links to official sites, publisher, publication date, link to publisher dedicated page, hardcover/softcover/both, ISBN.

Behind the Pages of Shadowed Summer: a vlog from author Saundra Mitchell. Smart, interesting, and smokin’ cool.

Behind the Pages of Shadowed Summer

Book Business: Creepy Cool by Lori Atkins Goodson from ALAN Online. Peek: “…it’s the term I use for books that are a little edgy, a little unpredictable, a little uncomfortable to read, and incredibly engaging. “

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards: check out the 2008 winners and honor books, photos of the ceremony, and audio. Video coming soon. Source: Read Roger.

Bubble Stampede! Two Authors, Two Books, and a 9-month Conversation about…aack!…Promotion: a LJ from authors Laurie Purdie Salas and Fiona Bayrock. Source: Mitali’s Fire Escape.

Can a bad review end your career? by Tess Gerritsen from Murderati: Mysteries, Murder, and Marketing. Peek: “I recall hearing about the time Stephen King got a PW review that was so brutal, so nasty, that it almost made him stop writing entirely.” Source: Elizabeth Scott’s Blog. Note: My feeling is that youth publishing is a bit more forgiving; markets may vary.

Jillian Cantor: official site of the debut author of The September Sisters (HarperCollins, 2009). Learn more about Jillian.

Caution: Authors, Illustrators, and Publicists: remember that book reviews are copyrighted by the review source. You may not reproduce them without permission. Note: Greg suggests keeping quoted excerpts under 50 words and offering full attribution with a link. See the U.S. Copyright Office for more information.

Shrinking Violet Spotlight: Lisa Chellman, Librarian by Mary Hershey from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: “Without further ado, here’s my advice for authors on how to impress their librarians in all the wrong ways…”

Children’s Literature Author & Illustrator Booking Service: “assists schools, museums, conferences and other organizations in identifying authors and illustrators for speaking engagements.” Source: Cachibachis.

The Class of 2k8 School Librarian Contest: The Class of 2k8 is sponsoring a giveaway just for school librarians. First Prize: the winner’s choice of a full set of the 27 Class of 2k8 books or a free author visit from a Class of 2k8 author in his/her region (if available)! Two Second Prizes: A $50 gift certificate from Indie Bound (formerly BookSense) plus three books from the Class of 2k8 to add to your school library. Three Third Prizes: Three books from the Class of 2k8 to add to your school library. To enter, send the Class your favorite anecdote about books, reading, or your life as a school librarian! Try to keep it under 200 words, because they’ll be posting some of entries on their blog during November. Feeling shy? They’ll also take a quote about books or writing from your favorite author instead. E-mail your anecdote or quote at contests@classof2k8.com. Please be sure to include your name and contact information at your school with your entry. Entries will be accepted from Oct. 1 to Nov. 10. Winners will be drawn randomly from among all entries and announced on Nov. 24. Note: if you pass this on to other school librarians and they mention the referral, you and your school will be entered in the drawing twice!

Check out the book trailer for Dragon Wishes by Stacy A. Nyikos (Blooming Tree, November 2008). Source: Buried in the Slush Pile.

Clueless: Ask and You Shall Receive from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “Mother of God, this is what your agent is for. March yourself into the bathroom right now, look yourself in the eye, and say to yourself, ‘My agent is my guide and counselor and representative…'”

“In Defense of Adverbs” by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Peek: “Virtually any novel you pick up will use adverbs. They aren’t evil when used by a writer who is giving scrutiny to every word to be certain it’s the correct word for the job. If you don’t believe me, look at these quotes from Newbery winning books…”

“Getting to Know My Characters” by Mary Atkinson from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “Gradually, over a series of drafts and revisions, meanderings and false starts, the mom began to emerge. I tried to push her away. I didn’t want her in my story. It was too sad, too hard. I wanted Tillie to have a happy story.”

“Go for It!” encouragement and words of wisdom for “very beginning writers” by Kathryne B. Alfred from The Longstockings. Peek: “Especially when starting out, give yourself tons of space to write badly. In fact, as you’re starting out, don’t even ask yourself (or–and this is important–anyone else) whether what you’re writing is good or bad. At this point, all that matters is that you’re writing, and enjoying it.”

The Other Side of the Fence by Lauren Lise Baratz-Logsted at The Red Room. Peek: “Although her book isn’t even out yet, when she tries to share good news with certain friends, they no longer seem happy for her. The sad truth is, some of them probably aren’t.”

Kekla Magoon: debut author of The Rock and The River (Simon & Schuster, 2009). Note: Kekla is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Monster Month of Giveaways — Ghost Week from Brooke Taylor. Featured books include Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell; Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer; A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb; Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz; Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley. Note: zombies are next week!

Native American Heritage Month is coming soon! Please consider celebrating by featuring the Native Youth Literature widget on your blog.

Outgoing GLIBA President Issues “Call to Arms” by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Children’s booksellers were out in full force throughout the weekend, with some general booksellers expressing an interest in expanding their inventory by stocking more ‘recession-proof’ children’s books.” Source: Sea Heidi Write.

Pretty Monsters by Colleeen Mondor from Bookslut. Recommended spooky reads for the season.

Reading in Biology: More than a Textbook Thing! from Mrs. H’s Classroom at DonorsChooose.org: a teacher requests donations to buy books to supplement her biology class. Peek: “Each book I would like to purchase has backing with in the curriculum; Double Helix – DNA/genetics; PEEPS – parasites; Eva – ethics and ecology. I want to get students reading in all my classes; even my college Biology one, but I need the funding. That is where donors come in.” Note: if I’d had a teacher like that, I probably wouldn’t have stopped taking science after biology.

Revision from the Agent’s Perspective by Sara Crowe from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “If the author is deciding between a few different ideas for a next book it can be helpful to have me look at drafts of chapters and synopses to try to help figure out what idea to develop first. I always tell my clients to send material to me when my feedback will be useful, and I think that point is different for each writer.” Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Congratulations to author Liz Garton Scanlon for signing with agent Erin Murphy, and congratulations to Erin for signing Liz! I wish you both many wonderful books together. Check out Liz’s report on the great news, and read Cynsations interviews with Liz and Erin. See also an additional interview with Erin that Liz cites.

Author Elizabeth Scott–whose Living Dead Girl (Simon Pulse, 2008) is absolutely riveting–is sponsoring a giveaway. Peek: “…all you have to do is tell me what young adult novel out there you wish you had a copy of, or that you’ve been wanting to buy but haven’t, and you could get that book for free!” Deadline: midnight EST tonight! Read a Cynsations interview with Elizabeth.

Watch the book trailer for Stop Me If You’ve Heard this One Before by David Yoo (Hyperion, 2008).

Teen Fiction Café: “the ultimate YA author hang-out.” Contributors include: Amanda Ashby; Lauren Baratz-Logsted; Teri Brown; Jessica Burkhart; Liza Conrad (Erica Orloff); Linda Gerber; Sara Hantz; Stephanie Kuehnert; Alyson Noel; Kelly Parra; Wendy Toliver; Melissa Walker; Sara Zarr.

Things to Consider Before You Sit Down to Write a Poem by Julie Larios from The Drift Record. Peek: “Many writers believe that poetry is language that has been artificially torqued and manipulated, and that prose is the most natural (thus, easiest?) of forms for our thoughts, but the effort to state what we think in an articulate and organized manner (witness the effort involved in writing a good essay) is extremely difficult.” Read a Cynsations interview with Julie.

Happy birthday to Through the Tollbooth: Thoughts on Writing for Children and Young Adults!

Tips from a Picture Book Author from Emily Marshall at Author2Author. Peek: “I think many people in the Awaiting an Agent stage go through this daily. Trying to figure out when to put a book in your drawer. Is it a certain number of agent rejections? A certain number of revisions and then rejections?”

Tween Literature: a essay of musing related to a bookseller panel, “led by the owner of a children’s bookstore, and my fellow panelists were a child psychologist, a librarian, and the author of a ‘clean YA’ novel” from Bookavore. Peek: “When a parent specifically asks me about a book, I tell them as much as I know about it. If I don’t know, I ask the children’s book buyer, or I check the Internet for more information, or I suggest a book that I am familiar with. My magic word is ‘content,’ as in, ‘This book has mature content’ or even just ‘This book has content.'” Source: Laurie Halse Anderson.

Unassigned: What to Read this Month for Fun by Allie Costa at Spark Notes. Recommends four new releases for October. Peek: “This book [My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel] celebrates the modern family without shame, without dysfunction or exaggerated angst.”

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
: a Book Blast Book Giveaway Contest from The Kids’ Book Club Book. 25 copies will be given away. Deadline: Nov. 15. Must be 18 to enter.

V-Blogging: Kidlitophere 2008 Conference in Quick from Elizabeth Bird at A Fuse #8 Production. Note: unexpectedly brought tears to my eyes–love you kidlitosphere!

Untitled from Elizabeth Bird on Vimeo.

Congratulations to Emma J. Virján on the release of her debut book Nacho the Party Puppy (Random House, 2008). You can meet Emma at the upcoming Texas Book Festival!

When all the wrong wishes come true: an interview with Justine Larbalestier by Heidi Henneman from BookPage. Peek: “‘What if there was such a thing as a parking fairy, but you were too young for it to be useful?'” Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

Why I Write YA Fiction
by Karen Mahoney. Peek: “I remember how brave I could be at 17, while now – as an adult – I am much more cautious and (try to) think things through before acting. There’s a fearless quality to many teenagers I have known.”

YA YNot?: a new social network from TeensReadToo! See my page on the network! Enter to win one of the many October giveaway books at TeensReadToo!

Want A Book Dedicated To You? (Contest!) from author Linda Joy Singleton. Peek: “the prize will be to have either Dead Girl 2 or Dead Girl 3 dedicated to you. Yup, that’s right–your name on the opening page of a published book. Plus an autographed copy of the book when it’s published.” Linda Joy is looking for a book trailer and great promo ideas. See details. See also a new interview with Linda Joy from Enchanting Reviews; peek: “They could cast my characters as cartoons if that’s what it would take to sell to Hollywood.”

Congratulations to the fantabulous Lisa Yee on five years of author-ness! Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Vote for Ethiopia Reads

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, a native of Ethiopia and children’s literacy advocate, has been named a Top 10 Hero of the Year by CNN. Mr. Gebregeorgis was selected from more than 3,000 individuals nominated by viewers throughout the year. Finalists were selected by a Blue Ribbon panel of judges that includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall and Deepak Chopra. The Top 10 Heroes will be recognized in CNN’s “All-Star Tribute” to air on Thanksgiving.

Yohannes was first recognized as a “hero” by CNN in May for his work championing children in Ethiopia. A former political refugee who worked as a librarian at San Francisco Public Library, Yohannes is the co-founder of Ethiopia Reads, a non-profit organization that works to create a reading culture in Ethiopia by connecting children with books. In a country where 99% of schools have no libraries, Yohannes and Ethiopia Reads are improving lives, one book at a time.

Vote for Yohannes, then visit Ethiopia Reads web site for more updates. Note: please consider yourself encouraged to pass on this announcement and these links!

From Oct. 12 to Dec. 15, Yohannes will visit cities across the United States, sharing his story and vision for Ethiopia Reads. Cities include Washington, DC; San Francisco; Seattle; Kansas City, Kan.; Denver; Albuquerque; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; and New York.

More Personally

Thank you to my hosts at last weekend’s inaugral Youth Literature Festival, sponsored by the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign!

Special thanks go to: Violet J. Harris, Alex Schmidt, and everyone at the college; librarian Patricia M. Palut of Bottenfield Elementary; librarian Sherri Bolen of Holy Cross School; Robert Warrior of Native American House; Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature and her colleague LeAnne Howe of the American Indian Studies Department, who hosted an informal social; and my festival escorts Lizz and Haeny!

Highlights of the weekend included the school visits on Friday, the reception at the University of Illinois President’s Mansion, meeting Kim Reis-Schultz (an Eastern band Cherokee jingle dancer), and visiting with fellow author participants such as Marc Aronson; Susan Campbell Bartoletti; Jennifer Holm; Richard Van Camp, whose picture book What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?, illustrated by George Littlechild (Children’s Book Press) is highlighted here; and Janet Wong, among others. The Spurlock Museum was also a great venue.

“Brown…(but not) like me” by Paula Chase-Hyman from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story. Peek: “Today I want to shine the light on a small sampling of other brown authors writing for children. Most featured below are writing exclusively in the YA realm.” Note: It was such an honor to see my tween novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) featured on the blog! Thank you! Read an interview with the founders of The Brown Bookshelf.

Thank you to John Bard of Children’s Book Insider and Write4Kids.com for featuring Cynsations as a recommended blog in the Oct. 9 Children’s Writing Update! Peek: “Cynsations is one of kidlit’s most widely read and respected blogs, and with good reason. It’s chock full of interviews, publishing news, links and recaps of the best of the blogosphere and lots, lots more. It’s a wonder to behold and an absolute must-read.” Jeepers, I’m blushing!

Thanks also to the LJers who replied to my quandry about cuts and long posts. Apparently it’s a Mozilla glitch, and at those who replied didn’t mind that I’m sharing so much good news at once.

The winner of my Books with Bite Teen Read Week Giveaway is Jennifer at Natrona County Public Library in Casper, Wyoming! Martha won a signed paperback copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2008), a signed copy of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, 2008)(exclusively to Borders/Waldenbooks), a Sanguini’s T-shirt, and 25 autographed Tantalize bookmarks! Notes: Sanguini’s is the fictional vampire restaurant in Tantalize. YALSA’s Teen Read Week 2008 is Oct. 12 to Oct. 18, and the theme is “Books with Bite.”

The winner of the www.cynthialeitichsmith.com 10th anniversary giveaway is Laura in Colorado! Laura has won paperback copies of four books with a special meaning to me: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1958); Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977); Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (1997); and Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (2008)(signed).

In other recent giveaway news, you can check out the fabu T-shirt–designed and donated by Angela at Pickled Pixel Toe–that HipWriterMama won from Cynsations here!

Online Events

Reminder: I’ll be appearing twice to discuss Tantalize and related forthcoming books in October on the Eye4You Alliance Island at Second Life. From School Library Journal: “There will be two appearances, the first on the main grid of Second Life (for those 18 and over) on Oct. 14, and again on Oct. 28 on the teen grid of Teen Second.” See more information.

National Events

Author Kimberly Willis Holt is will appear at 2 p.m. Oct. 11 at The Big Read in St. Louis. Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Attention Ohio: Teen Read Week Author Visit: Rachel Caine. Vampires only come out at night – or do they? Find out at special appearances by Rachel Caine, author of the Morganville Vampires series. In keeping with this year’s Teen Read Week theme, “Books With Bite @ Your Library,” Caine will discuss the history of vampires, including fun facts. An open registration for grades 7-12 will begin Oct. 1 and is limited. To register, call 330-744-8636, ext. 149. Boardman, 9:30 a.m., Oct. 14; Poland, 12:30 p.m., Oct. 14. Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel.

The Tenth Annual Jewish Children’s Book Writers’ Conference is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 23 at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Avenue) in New York City. The fee is $95 before Nov. 1, $110 after Nov. 1 and includes kosher breakfast and lunch. Featured speakers are associate agent Michelle Andelman of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, publisher David E. Behrman of Behrman House, executive editor Michelle Frey of Alfred A. Knopf and Crown Books for Young Readers, editor Larry Rosler of Boyds Mills Press, director Joni Sussman of Kar-Ben Publishing, and illustrator’s agent Melissa Turk of Melissa Turk & The Artist Network. Award-winning author Johanna Hurwitz will give opening remarks, and the day will include sessions on publishing and writing in Israel, the Sydney Taylor Book Award and Manuscript Competitions, and individual consultations with editors and agents from past conferences. The registration form is available for download (PDF file). Call 212.415.5544 or e-mail library@92Y.org for additional information or to request the form by mail. The final registration deadline is Nov. 17.

Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) Workshop in San Antonio Nov. 24 to Nov. 25. An event I utterly adore for the depth of discussions, sophistication and dedication of the attendees-leadership, and wonderful company of fellow YA authors. Note: NCTE stands for “National Council of Teachers of English,” which has a preceding conference. Details on my signing and speaking schedule to come.

Texas Events

Tantalizing news! As the author of a novel set at a fictional vampire-themed restaurant here in Austin, I feel compelled to announce that Austin Restaurant Week is Oct. 12-15 and Oct. 19-22. Try the city’s hottest fine dining locations at a discount, and don’t forget to make reservations! Equally exciting: Paggi House reopens this weekend!

Following a chocolate reception for educators at 1 p.m., authors Shana Burg and Kristi Holl will be reading and signing their books Oct. 11th at Barnes & Noble at Northwoods Shopping Center in San Antonio. Read a Cynsations interview with Shana.

The first annual Hill Country Book Festival will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Georgetown Public Library (Georgetown, Texas). Participating authors/illustrators include Liz Garton Scanlon, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Don Tate, P. J. Hoover, and Deborah Frontiera. The Biscuit Brothers also will be performing! See schedule.

John and Hank Green are appearing in cities across the U.S. Check out the schedule and the play list for John’s new release Paper Towns (Dutton, Oct. 2008), which I just started. From the promotional copy: “When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.” Read a Cynsations interview with John.

Rick Guzman (Austin) will speak at the Oct. 18 meeting of the CenTex Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers in Round Rock, Texas. “Book Publishing Contracts: What You Need to Know” will discuss what to look for, what to avoid, and what it all means. “Guzman’s law practice includes publishing interests, and he writes biographies of famous Latinos, most recently George Lopez: Latino King of Comedy (Enslow, 2008).” Source: Writers’ League of Texas. Note: this event was rescheduled due to Hurricane Ike.

Celebrate the release of The Forgotten Worlds Book 1: The Emerald Tablet by P.J. Hoover (Blooming Tree, 2008) at 4 p.m. Oct. 26 at BookPeople in Austin, Texas!

R. L. Stein’s Halloween Party will begin at 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Austin Children’s Museum (201 Colorado St.). R. L. Stein will read and tell a communal (audience-participation) ghost story at 3:30 p.m. and sign books from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event is free, but space is limited to 350. Costumes welcome. Note: Barnes & Noble will be selling books; sponsored by the Texas Book Festival in cooperation with the museum.

Texas Book Festival will be Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 in Austin. UPDATE: authors to be featured at the 2008 festival include: Kathi Appelt; Shana Burg; Melissa de la Cruz; Heather Vogel Frederick; Shannon Hale; Varian Johnson; Laurie Keller; Christopher S. Jennings; Marisa Montes; Yuyi Morales; Lauren Myracle; Margo Rabb; Tanya Lee Stone; Philip Yates; Paula Yoo; and Jennifer Ziegler. See the complete list.

“Connections & Craft: Writing for Children and Young Adults:” hosted by Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI Nov. 15 at A & M United Methodist Church in College Station, Texas. “Editor Joy Neaves, agent Emily Van Beek, editor Kim T. Griswell of Highlights, and author Cynthia Leitich Smith comprise our faculty for this day-long event. Published BV-SCBWI authors will also conduct a hands-on Writers’ Workshop.” Download the brochure. Read a Cynsations interview with Emily.

Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) Workshop in San Antonio Nov. 24 to Nov. 25. An event I utterly adore for the depth of discussions, sophistication and dedication of the attendees-leadership, and wonderful company of fellow YA authors. Note: NCTE stands for “National Council of Teachers of English,” which has a preceding conference. Details on my signing and speaking schedule to come.