Cynsational News, Giveaways & San Antonio Report

Enter to win one of two autographed copies of Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 2008). From the promotional copy: “When Chris Collins and Winston Coggans take off on a post-graduation cross-country bike trek, Chris’s hopes are high. He’s looking forward to seeing the country, dodging a dull summer at a minimum wage job, and having one final adventure with his oldest friend. The journey from Hurricane, West Virginia to the coast of Washington state delivers all those things…and more.

“So much more that when Chris returns home without Win at the end of the summer, he’s certain their 10 year friendship is all but over. But when an FBI agent begins asking questions—and raising suspicions about Chris—he learns that saying goodbye to a friend like Win is never as simple as riding away. Shift offers an adventure story and a missing persons tale spinning around a single question: What happens when you outgrow your best friend?”

Read a Cynsations inteview with Jennifer.

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 Dec. 9! OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 9! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win. Please also type “Shift” in the subject line. One copy will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of YA literature (please indicate in entry); the other will go to any Cynsational reader.

Enter to win a copy of Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series, edited by Rick Riordan with Leah Wilson (BenBella, 2008)(PDF excerpt)! Read a Cynsations interview with Rick. 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 Dec. 2! OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 2! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win. Please also type “Demigods and Monsters” in the subject line.

The winner of an autographed copy of Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006) was Heather in Florida!
The runner-up winners of the CD audio edition produced by Scholastic Book Club were Rebekah in Oklahoma and Amy in Texas. Note: no tape entries; wow, does nobody use tape players anymore?

More News

The Writer’s Studio…with Lisa Yee from The Friday Book Report: Tony Abbott’s Blog. Peek: “There are, wait, let me count—one, two, three, four—there are four mugs stocked with pens. (I never use pencils.)”

Letter from Vicki Cobb — On Multimedia from Marc Aronson of Nonfiction Matters at School Library Journal. Peek: “It’s an opportunity for self-expression, combining language arts, performing arts and the potential for stardom while (and here’s my not-so-hidden agenda) learning something about science.”

Writing for Teens and Middle Grades with YA Author Gaby Triana from Jan. 5 to– March 2. “Intense, weekly writing with direct feedback from the author of teen novels, Backstage Pass, Cubanita, The Temptress Four, and Riding the Universe (HarperCollins)[see book information]. Focus on creativity, fresh expression (voice), characterization, and publishing basics in the book market. Each week, you will complete a writing assignment to be critiqued and returned to you for review and revision with thorough, personalized comments and line-editing. By the end of the course, you will have revised your strongest piece which will be evaluated based on readiness for submission to publishers. This is not a beginner’s English course. This is a hands-on workshop for anyone serious about developing already good writing skills, so a basic handle on grammar and spelling is strongly recommended! 8-week course – $375. Ages 15 and up. No refunds. For more information and/or registration form, contact Gaby.

Professional Writers: Traits and Practices from Michael Sampson and Cynthia Leung. “A survey about how writers practice their craft.” “Throughout the U.S. writing is being “taught” in ways that violate the process of how many of us write, or so we think. This research will document what writers do as they create their stories. Perhaps our findings can influence how the craft of writing is taught? Please share with us in the hope that this will happen. You may choose to keep your responses confidential, if you wish.”

My Role as a YA Author by Varian Johnson from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “…the anonymous poster calls on authors to ‘use their gift to steer some attitudes in the right direction.’ But in the case of abortion, what is the right direction? As an author, is it my right to dictate what someone should or shouldn’t feel on the matter, especially on an issue that continues to divide our country?” See also Falling Leaves Retreat Editors Respond by Nancy Castaldo, who asks the following editors to illuminate their paths to their careers: Caroline Abbey (Bloomsbury); Elizabeth Law (Egmont); Alexandra Penfold (Paula Wiseman); Sarah Shumway (Harper); and Jennifer Yoon (Candlewick).

19th Annual Children’s Illustration Show from R. Michelson Galleries. See also the Exhibit Page!

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has temporarily halted acquisitions, according to Publishers Weekly. However, Tracy Marchini of Curtis Brown reports: “I’ve heard from a trusted source that the HMH halt on acquisitions applies only to adult titles at this point.”

Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard (Candlewick Press, 2008): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: “…terrifically fun illustrations and sparse ‘caveboy’ style prose.”

EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection from Nora Rawlinson, co-founder and editor and Fred Ciporen, co-founder and publisher. Source: Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys.

Making Diamonds by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Peek: “Sometimes people want to know, do I always have to have a big conflict in my story? What if they’re no real problem? Does every story have to be formulaic?”

More Personally


Check out my lovely thank you gift from Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI. See Research To Write by Samantha Clark at Day by Day Writer a report on the Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI conference on Nov. 15, which includes some of my thoughts on setting. See also parts one and three of her report on the conference. Note: part three offers insights into author Kathi Appelt and agent Emily van Beek‘s relationship and the writing of The Underneath (Atheneum). Read Cynsations interviews with Kathi and Emily.


Last Thursday, Greg and I packed up again (sorry, Mercury!) to go to San Antonio for the Express-News Children’s Book and Author Celebration and the NCTE/ALAN conference. (I can’t begin to list all of the amazing folks we saw, so I’ll just do my best to highlight a few).


According to the Express-News, the “fifth annual literary event features children’s book authors and illustrators talking about their careers and latest books. Speakers included: M. T. Anderson (above); Kathi Appelt (above); Pam Muñoz Ryan; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Carmen Tafolla, and artists C. S. Jennings and Terry Ybañez.” The event benefited the San Antonio Library Foundation’s Born to Read initiative. Special thanks to Steve Bennett of the Express-News, to Deb and Robert Ferguson for the lovely reception, and to my author escort, Nancy Strehlow!

(Kathi, thank you again for my faerie wand! Tobin, I hope your cold is better!).


Greg and I stayed Friday night at the historic Fairmount (pictured) and Saturday through Monday night at The Westin, both of which are located on the River Walk. The most awesome thing about the Fairmount is that it has a hotel dog concierge, who greeted us at the door!”


On Saturday, Candlewick hosted a YA Fiesta with Marc Aronson, Patty Campbell, Rita Williams-Garcia, P. J. Haarsma, and Tobin Anderson at Charles Court! I had the privilege of sitting with CP editors Sarah Ketchersid and Hilary Van Dusen as well as Jim Blasingame of Arizona State (above), Peter Goggin, also of Arizona State, Marge Ford (AKA marvelous moderator) of Youngstown State, and Angela Beumer Johnson of Wright State.


At ALAN, I spoke with Melissa Marr and Rick Riordan on urban fantasy (again, moderated by Marge), and Greg spoke with Cory Doctorow and David Yoo on boys reading (moderated by Bonnie Kunzel, pictured above). Both panels went really well! It was my first time to meet Melissa, whose work I adore. Both she and Rick were gracious and inspiring.


Here’s Greg (above) with Elaine Scott (author interview).


Say hello to John Green (author interview)(above).


David Levithan (author interview) and Coe Booth (above).


Walter “The Giant” Mayes (author interview)(above).


Neal Shusterman (above).


Barry Lyga (author interview)(above).


“New Voices in Young Adult Literature” Donna Freitas, Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, and Suzanne Crowley (author interview)(above).


Vermont College of Fine Arts alumni were at the heart of the action. Here’s Debbie Gonzales with Greg (above).


Cindy Faughnan and Vanessa Ziff (above).


Helen Hemphill (author interview)(above). Check out “Considering Gender…,” Helen’s latest article at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “…here’s a list of things to consider before you being writing across gender…” See also Two Writers Writing Across Gender with Varian Johnson and April Lurie.


Speaking of VCFA, here’s a mid-report photo celebration of my faculty colleague, Rita Williams-Garcia (author interview) and friends.

First, we have Rita with Marc Aronson (author interview) and Patty Campbell (above). The trio spoke on a panel about Marc and Patty’s new book, War is…: Soldiers, Survivors, and Storytellers Talk About War (Candlewick, 2008). Rita is a contributor. Favorite moment: Rita referring to herself as the “love child” of “Mother Peace” AKA Patty and “Father War” AKA Marc.


Next up we have Rita with author Tanya Lee Stone (author interview)(above). Tanya spoke on a breakout panel on Positive Depictions of Sex in Young Adult Literature with David Levithan (author interview), Laura Ruby (author interview), and Lara M. Zeises (author interview).


And finally, here’s Rita on the River Walk (above). Note: I hadn’t seen Rita in person for a whole year–can you tell I missed her?

Greg’s editor, Alvina Ling of Little, Brown (above). (Thanks for the amazing brunch at La Mansión del Rio, Alvina!).


Highlights of the ALAN conference included Laurie Halse Anderson‘s speech. See Speak Up About Speak!

Don’t miss NCTE/ALAN photo reports from authors Laurie Halse Anderson, Mary E. Pearson, and Greg (who details more of our goings-on). See also photo reports from Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.

Huge thanks to: Candlewick Press and Little, Brown; David Gill, Marge Ford, and the ALAN officers, board and conference planners; and everyone who took part in a great event! Thanks also to everyone who stopped by my signing at the Candlewick booth–I’m honored!

Reminders

rgz Blog-O-Hunt for Native American Heritage Month: a reminder from HipWriterMama. Deadline Nov. 30. Peek: “The first 25 correct entries will win rgz buttons and bookmarks!”

Fifth Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts will be March 27 to March 29, 2009. Featuring: author Kathi Appelt; author Elise Broach; and editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic. Includes: lectures; organized workshops; writing exercises; one-on-one critiques with one of the guest authors; one-on-one critique with guest editor (extra fee); open mike; discussions; room and board. Cost: $450. Registration begins Dec. 1. For more information, contact Sarah Aronson.

Take a Chance on Art: purchase one or more $5 raffle tickets to enter to win illustrator Don Tate‘s painting “Duke Ellington,” and support the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. Note: it’s especially important this year in light of devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. To learn more, read interviews with TLA librarian Jeanette Larson and illustrator Don Tate.

Hurricane Ike Recovery Fund for Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas. Peek: “The Children’s Department, Technical Services, Circulation Department and Operations were located on the first Floor and all are gone. [emphasis added]” See more information. Note: Please consider yourself encouraged to pass on this blurb and link. The media has moved on to other stories, but efforts to deal with the aftermath are ongoing.

Hurricane Ike Library Relief: “Following the destructive visit of Hurricane Ike, Blue Willow Bookshop [in Houston] is initiating a nationwide campaign to rebuild the library collections of Anahuac High School, Freeport Intermediate School and, closer to home, the Alief Hastings 9th Grade Center. These schools lost more than 75% of their collections. Our goal is to have 1,000 books to deliver to these libraries by Dec. 1.”

10th Anniversary Feature: Ellen Booraem

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 Ellen Booraem:

My time as a published debut author has just started as I write this. But I set out on this road five years ago, and the experience has been rife with revelations.

Being a member of the Class of 2k8 has been a crash course in publishing.

As readers of Cynsations no doubt recall, this is an on-line marketing collaborative for debut authors of middle grade and young adult novels published in 2008. There are 27 of us, with diverse backgrounds and experiences that we share daily on a Yahoo email loop and a blog.

My savvier 2k8 classmates have opened my eyes to the variety, richness, and power of the Internet. I never thought I’d have a blog or a Web site, or would be so enthusiastic about both. I had no idea that resources like Cynsations even existed!

Overall, though, the most far-reaching lesson came early, years before the Class of 2k8 was a glimmer in cyberspace.

Although I’ve written for a living for thirty years—mostly as a reporter and editor for rural weeklies–I got serious about novel-writing fairly late in my career.

I’d tried twice before to quit my job and write fiction, thinking I could freelance to pay the bills. Each time I got scared or bored or both, and allowed the freelancing to take over.

This third time, starting in November 2003, I was determined that I would keep my butt on that chair until I wrote a decent novel. About a month in, though, the inevitable morning came when I sat down, looked at the screen, and went blank. The panic rose like flood waters.

Uh-oh, I thought. Here we go.

This time, though, I pushed down the panic, opened a new document, and just started typing whatever came out of my brain about my main character, regardless of whether it made sense. A half-hour later, I was back at work on the manuscript, head clear and jitters banished.

Later, I modified the technique by writing “journals” in the voices of various characters–very illuminating for the story, and a healthy break from the daily slog.

I’ve written another novel, which I’m now revising for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and I’m still managing to trick my brain into working.

For years as a reporter, I warned sources to expect a phone call with last-minute questions when I was writing whatever story involved them.

“My brain engages only when my fingers start typing,” I’d tell them.

This turns out to be just as true for fiction-writing–if I get the fingers moving on a keyboard, even if they’re typing gibberish, eventually the brain sputters and coughs, smoke puffs out of the stack, and I start to chug along, the little novelist that could.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win a copy of Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series, edited by Rick Riordan with Leah Wilson (BenBella, 2008)(PDF excerpt)! Read a Cynsations interview with Rick. From the promotional copy:

How are the Greek gods like your middle school principal?

Would you want to be one of Artemis’s Hunters?

Why do so many monsters go into retail—and why are they never selling anything a demigod really wants?

At the beginning of The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson tells us to stop reading: if we suspect we, too, might be demigods, we should put the book down right away. But how can we, when the world he lives in is so much fun?

Spend a little more time in that world—a place where the gods bike among us, monsters man snack bars, and each of us has the potential to become a hero.

Contributors: Kathi Appelt; Rosemary Clement-Moore; Paul Collins; Cameron Dokey; Sarah Beth Durst; Jenny Han; Carolyn MacCullough; Sophie Masson; Elizabeth M. Rees; Nigel Rodgers; Ellen Steiber; and Elizabeth Wein.

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 Dec. 2!

OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 2! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win. Please also type “Demigods and Monsters” in the subject line.

Enter to win an autographed copy of Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006)! Four runners up will receive audio productions of the book either on tape or CD (Scholastic Book Club, 2007)!

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 Dec. 8! OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 8! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win. Please also type “Santa Knows” in the subject line, and specify whether you prefer tape, CD, or either. Visit www.santa-knows.com!

The winners of The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins, 2008) were Christine, a librarian and tutor from Pennsylvania, and Rhonda, a Cynsational reader (and grandma) from Maine.

Jingle Dancer [by Cynthia Leitich Smith] Giveaway sponsored by Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature. From the publisher promotional copy: “Jenna, a contemporary Muscogee (Creek) girl in Oklahoma, wants to honor a family tradition by jingle dancing at the next powwow. But where will she find enough jingles for her dress? An unusual, warm family story, beautifully evoked in Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu‘s watercolor art.” Deadline: Nov. 29. Learn more about Jingle Dancer. See details on the giveaway. Note: I’ll gladly send a personalized bookplate to the winner!

More News

Virtual Writers’ Conferences by Donna Gephart at Wild About Words. Peek: “…when you need a boost of inspiration and information, explore these virtual writers’ conferences until you’re able to make it to the real thing.” Read a Cynsations interview with Donna.

The winner of the National Book Award in Young Peoples Literature is Judy Blundell, author What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic); finalists were: Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Chains (Simon & Schuster); Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum); E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion); and Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf).

2008 Winter Blog Blast from Chasing Ray. Highlights include: M. T. Anderson from Finding Wonderland: the WritingYA Weblog. Peek: “I believe that the language we use not only defines us, but in some way delimits and infuses what we see in the world around us.” See also the Holiday Books Recommendation Event.

WBBT Interview: Tony DiTerlizzi by Miss Erin. Peek: “I feel that working in the fashion that was used in creating the Spiderwick books allows the collaborators to use all of their tricks, talents and point of view to create the best book possible. And doing so creates a final story that neither Holly nor I would create on our own–it truly is a hybrid.”

Congratulations to the YA authors who made the latest Texas Library Association’s Tayshas list! Highlights include: Flight by Sherman Alexie (Little Brown); The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (HarperCollins)(author interview); Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 2008)(author interview); City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (McElderry, 2007)(author interview); Derby Girl by Shana Cross (Holt); Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (Atheneum, 2008)(author interview); The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2007)(author interview); Right Behind You by Gail Giles (Little Brown)(author interview), Paper Towns by John Green (Dutton)(author interview); My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson (Flux)(author interview); Bliss by Lauren Myracle (Abrams)(author interview); Breathe My Name by R. A. Nelson; The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick)(author interview); The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (Holt)(author interview); Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott (HarperCollins)(author interview); Impossible by Nancy Werlin (Dial)(author interview); and Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (Little Brown)(author interview).

Congratulations to the authors whose books made the Texas Library Association’s Lonestar List. Highlights included: The Compound by S. A. Bodeen (Feiwel and Friends, 2008)(author interview); The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas (FSG, 2008); The Found (The Missing, Book One) by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster, 2008)(author interview); The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (Holt, 2008)(author interview); the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt, 2008)(author interview); Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster, 2008); and How Not to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2008)(author interview).

Food: a bibliography of recommended picture book and non-fiction reads from The Horn Book.

Author Heather Vogel Frederick is now on LiveJournal. Welcome, Heather! Source: Jo Knowles. Read a Cynsations interview with Heather.

The Great American Query Letter: Smoothly crafted letters aren’t fooling this agent by Stephen Barbara from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Imagine my chagrin: one minute I’m intrigued by a smoothly crafted query letter, the next I’m staring down at a crackpot writing sample. For a literary agent who receives some 5,000 queries a year, this is a disastrous turn of affairs.” Read a Cynsations interview with Stephen. Source: April Henry.

The Breathtaking Collages of Ed Young in Wabi Sabi (Little Brown, 2008): a feature by Mark G. Mitchell from How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator. Peek: “‘It’s flexible and alive. With other mediums you often get tight too quickly, then you get attached to it and it’s hard to change. Collage was something I used for sketching in the past. Now I use it to finish my work.'” Read Cynsations interviews with Ed and Mark.

Cover Art Interview with Saundra Mitchell on Shadowed Summer from Book Nymph. Peek: “I used to think I wanted a more classic typeface like Trajan for my cover, but I have grown to love the typeface they used for my title. It’s called Cult, and it’s so distinctive.”

The D-Word by Sarah Sullivan from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “…how do you effectively capture a historical time and place without ‘letting your research show,’ by overloading the text with background information?”

Challenges and Rewards by Cynthia Lord. Peek: “Most authors who write about serious subjects will make some people angry or hurt, and I am no exception.”

Query Clinic
from Editorial Anonymous. See also Synopsis Language.

Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog recommends: Swords: An Artist’s Devotion by Ben Boos (Candlewick, 2008); Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times by L. Brittney (Feiwel & Friends 2008); Keeper of the Grail (The Youngest Templar, Book 1) by Michael Spradlin (Putnam, 2008); Lincoln Shot: A President’s Life Remembered by Barry Denenberg, illustrated by Christopher Bing (Feiwel & Friends, 2008).

The Power of Youth from the Personal Blog of Shana Burg. Peek: “I want to shine the spotlight on a book for young readers called Witnesses to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights by Belinda Rochelle (Puffin, 1997).” Note: Congratulations to Shana, whose debut novel, A Thousand Never Evers (Delacorte, 2008) was included among the Amazon Editors’ picks for middle readers! Read a Cynsations interview with Shana.

On Encouragement by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “That night, in my hotel room, I woke up in the middle of the night, and thought, what am I doing here? I almost got up and drove home at three in the morning! Fortunately, I didn’t act on that impulse.” Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Our Secret Society by Margo Rabb from Books, Chocolates, and Sundries. Peek: “Our (not-so-secret-anymore) Delacorte Dames & Dude Society is featured in Publisher’s Weekly! Here are a few outtakes from our photo session.” Note: very cute author group pics! Read Cynsations interviews with Shana Burg, Varian Johnson, April Lurie, Margo Rabb, and Jennifer Ziegler.

Cover Stories: Dead Girl Walking by Linda Joy Singleton from Melissa Walker. Peek: “Flux/Llewellyn often asks the author for cover suggestions. Then they let the art department and whoever is at their top secret meetings make the decisions (okay, the meetings probably aren’t top secret, but as as author who would love to know what really goes on, they always sound mysterious to me).” Read a Cynsations interview with Linda Joy.

Selling Nonfiction With and Without an Agent by Marianne Dyson from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Peek: “To be more appealing to editors, send in your query with a list of sources, photos, and interview subjects. An article or book proposal with quotes and photos will win every time over one without those things!” Read a Cynsations interview with Marianne.

Writing for ALA Book Links: “Writers interested in submitting to Book Links should have a strong background in children’s literature and should study the magazine for its style, approach, and focus prior to sending a manuscript.”

Project WISE 2009 – Call for Authors: The Writers’ League of Texas seeks authors who want to participate in the 2009 season of Project WISE (Writers In Schools for Enrichment), a program designed to put children’s authors in Austin-area public schools at no cost to the school. This program is funded by the Writers’ League of Texas and by the City of Austin. Authors are paid an honorarium of $300 for each three-hour visit to a school. Application deadline: Dec. 2. Note: You must be a current WLT member to be considered. See more information.

Isinglass Teen Read List hosted at the Barrington (NH) Public Library. Note: click relevant link on Teen Zone page. Highlights of the 2008-2009 list include Beastly by Alex Flinn (HarperCollins, 2006)(author interview); Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale (Henry Holt, 2006)(author interview); Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2004)(author interview); Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham (Candlewick, 2007)(author interview); Warrior Heir by Cinda Chima Williams (Hyperion, 2006)(author interview).

Something Real
by Mary E. Cronin at Tell It Slant. Peek: “But one goal still sticks clearly in my mind: I wrote that I wanted to have a poem published in a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology some day.” Note: sweet, inspiring, and LBH is one of my favorite people. So there.

Congratulations to Jessica Leader on the sale of Nice and Mean to Kate Angelella at Simon Mix!

Congratulations to Meredith Davis on being accepted to the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults! Meredith is the founder of Austin SCBWI.

Mitali Perkins Interview from Mother Reader. Peek: “I like to cross borders and shatter stereotypes, so I decided that in a book by a Boston-based writer of color published in New York, it would be good to make Sparrow’s dad a Republican. I wanted to reach out to readers in red states who don’t often see people in books who vote like their parents.” Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

What Color is Your Revision?
from R. L. LaFevers. Peek: “I’ve discovered a enormously helpful new revision tool.” Note: I’m going to try this for Blessed Candlewick, TBA)!

Interview with Elizabeth Scott from Becky’s Book Reviews. Peek: “…the heart of Living Dead Girl is all about the moments where we see something–someone–that gives us pause, those moments where we know something is wrong…and turn away. That was, and is, the hardest thing to think about.”

More Personally


Just for fun, here’s one more pic of the Austin SCBWI Holiday Party at BookPeople–illustrator Erik Kuntz, Zack Proton author Brian Anderson, illustrator C. G. “Clint” Young, and YA author Thomas Pendleton AKA Dallas Reed (yes, he’s a man of mystery).

Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) has received a couple of lovely online mentions of late!

In The Next Dead Thing by Donna Freitas from Publishers Weekly, Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston says “She’s having success with Melissa Marr‘s novels, the Blue Bloods series from Melissa de la Cruz, as well as Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith and Beastly by Alex Finn.” Source: Michelle Meadows.

In a recent interview with Tami Lewis Brown at Through the Tollbooth, agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary listed Tantalize among her favorite horror novels and said, “Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith is brilliant in mixing horror with food. A winning combination that somehow really works. The final scene, between Quincie and Kieren, is… Well, you’ll just have to read it!” Read the whole interview.

readergirlz and ALA YALSA also partner each year on Operation Teen Book Drop, which asks publishers to donate 500 copies of a title to affiliated hospitals to be distributed among their young adult intensive care and oncology patients. I was thrilled to learn that Candlewick has committed to donating Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)! More on that later!

Please come see me at NCTE/ALAN! Details below!

On a dare, Lauren Myracle faces her fear of doing the ‘Thriller’ dance in public…”

Events

NCTE and 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. Please stop by the Candlewick booth at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, where I’ll be signing ARCs of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and look for me at the ALAN Panel – “Gods, Foods, and Tatoos: The Mixed Mythos of Fantasy” on Monday at 2 p.m. ish at the Marriot Rivercenter (Salon E, Third Floor Room). I’ll be speaking with Melissa Marr (author interview) and Rick Riordan (author interview).

American Identity in Children’s Literature: a symposium to take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Newberry Library in Chicago. “Four scholars will discuss the development of ethnic or multicultural children’s literature, which seeks to diversify the all-white world of children’s literature.” Speakers are: June Cummins-Lewis, San Diego State University; Debbie Reese, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Michelle Martin, Clemson University; and Phillip Serrato, San Diego State University. Source: American Indians in Children’s Literature.

More Reminders

Take a Chance on Art: purchase one or more $5 raffle tickets to enter to win illustrator Don Tate‘s painting “Duke Ellington,” and support the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. Note: it’s especially important this year in light of devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. To learn more, read interviews with TLA librarian Jeanette Larson and illustrator Don Tate.

Hurricane Ike Recovery Fund for Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas. Peek: “The Children’s Department, Technical Services, Circulation Department and Operations were located on the first Floor and all are gone. [emphasis added]” See more information. Note: Please consider yourself encouraged to pass on this blurb and link. The media has moved on to other stories, but efforts to deal with the aftermath are ongoing.

Hurricane Ike Library Relief: “Following the destructive visit of Hurricane Ike, Blue Willow Bookshop [in Houston] is initiating a nationwide campaign to rebuild the library collections of Anahuac High School, Freeport Intermediate School and, closer to home, the Alief Hastings 9th Grade Center. These schools lost more than 75% of their collections. Our goal is to have 1,000 books to deliver to these libraries by Dec. 1.”

Author Interview: Linda Joy Singleton on Dead Girl Walking

We last spoke in April 2007 about The Seer series (Llewellyn, 2004-). Could you update us on news of your writing life since that time?

Well, at that time I was getting a little nervous about what would sell next since I’d finished the fifth The Seer. I happened to mention my Dead Girl Walking book in an email to my editor, and he suggested I turn it into a series.

So a three-book Dead Girl series (Llewellyn/Flux, 2008-) was contracted in summer 2007. Since then I’ve been writing the books. As I’m typing today, in another window are revisions for number two, Dead Girl Dancing, and when these are done, I’ll return to writing the third book, Dead Girl in Love.

I’ve been very lucky to find such a supportive publisher as Flux.

Congratulations on the publication of Dead Girl Walking (Flux, Sept. 2008)! Could you fill us in on the story?

In 1988, I came up with the idea of a girl having an out-of-body experience then returning to the wrong body. I subbed this around for a few years, then put it aside.

I brought it back a few times only nothing clicked until last summer when my previous editor at Flux, Andrew Karre [now at Carolrhoda], pointed out my heroine was too whiny and, if I’d rewrite her plus add more paranormal danger to the plot, he’d offer a three-book contract. I am forever grateful for his insight and delighted with the finished book.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I was curious what it would be like to live someone else’s life. Also I’ve always had a fascination with otherworldly topics like astral projection, psychics, and near-death experiences.

When I came up with idea 20 years ago, I loved it but didn’t realize it would take some years to hone my craft to do justice to the idea.

If you want to see an example of early writing compared to more seasoned writing, I posted the original first page in comparison to the published first page over at my LJ.

The first plan was for Dead Girl to be a middle-grade book with a light tone about a girl who falls to her near-death while trying to rescue a cat from a tall pole. Her real body would have died, and she would have had to deal with making a completely new life. When I ultimately sold it as a series, the ending drastically changed.

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

Rewrite more before submitting (I was always so impatient and subbed too soon). Also to learn more about craft. And to write the books I truly want to write rather than leaning toward those I thought would be easier to sell. But I really can’t regret any of the packaged or ghost-written books I wrote as they were all learning experiences and I truly loved every book.

What special advice would you offer to those interested in writing a series?

Write one really strong first book that could stand alone. Dead Girl Walking was meant to be a single title, but I was flexible with my editor’s suggestions and happy to stretch Amber’s body-changing adventures into a trilogy.

Other than your own, what your three favorite YA titles of 2008?

Good question! I love to read juvenile books and get excited when I discover exciting new titles.

1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008);
2. Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles DeLint (Viking, 2007);
3. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2008).

Impossible by Nancy Werlin (Dial) was amazing, too. So was Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater (Flux)(author interview). Obviously there were other amazing books in 2008, these are just the ones I’ve found time and copies to read.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Dead Girl Dancing (Flux, March 2009), Dead Girl in Love (late 2009), and Into the Mirror (Blooming Tree, Oct. 2009), a middle-grade mystery.

10th Anniversary Feature: Stacy A. Nyikos

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 Stacy A. Nyikos:

I had a very forthright editor once who said, “Stories are about emotions, my dear.”

I nodded, my bottom lip trembling at the sight of the flocks of red marks soaring across my manuscript. I was having emotions. Lots of–sniff, sniff–emotions.

Of course, what she was trying to tell me was that emotions guide a story as much as–if not more than–plot, character, and sequence of events. Emotions have to be consistent. You can’t have a sad character who suddenly gets happy, which is what I’d done.

As I deleted, I promised my now very distressed character we’d get out of the mess I’d gotten her into, but we had to get through trials and tribulations first. She wasn’t happy, but she went along.

The story became all the richer both for the consistency of emotion that drove it, and the happy resolution it produced in the end. Dragon Wishes (Blooming Tree, 2008) became about redemption in the face of loss, not about running away from it.

For me, emotion is one of the core foundational blocks of a story. A story based on a driving emotion takes on a life outside of the sum of words and paragraphs that make up the narrative. It lives and breathes through the feelings evoked in my readers, lingering well after the words begin to fade.

TSRA Literature Awards

TSRA Literature Awards for Children

Awarded by the Texas State Reading Association.

Winner: When is a Planet Not a Planet? The Story of Pluto by Elaine Scott (Clarion)(author interview).

Honor: The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley (HarperCollins)(author interview).

Honor: Lightship by Brian Floca (Richard Jackson/Atheneum).

TSRA Literature Award for Young Adults

Winner: Derby Girl by Shauna Cross (Henry Holt).

Honor: Repossessed by A. M. Jenkins (HarperCollins)(author interview).

Honor: The Red Queen’s Daughter by Jacqueline Kolosov (Hyperion).

Honor: Feels Like Home by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo (Laurel Leaf/Random House).

Author Feature: Marilyn Singer

Marilyn Singer on Marilyn Singer:

“I have written over eighty books in many genres for toddlers to teens, as well as articles, poetry for adults, teaching guides, filmstrips, film notes and catalogs. I like to write lots of different stuff because it’s challenging and it keeps me from getting bored.

“For four years I taught high school English. I have a B. A. from Queens College and an M. A. from NYU. I am the former host of the AOL Children’s Writers Chat and the current co-host of the ALSC Poetry Blast at the ALA annual conference, which will be going into its sixth year in 2009. In addition, I have appeared as both a participant and as a moderator on many panels at ALA and other conferences.

“My current interests include: ballroom/Latin dance; dog training; birdwatching; hiking; going to the theatre and seeing films; and reading. I live in Brooklyn, New York; with my husband Steve Aronson, our standard poodle Oggi, a cat named August, two doves, and a talking starling named Darling.”

What first inspired you to write for young readers?

Some kids have imaginary friends. I invented characters. What I mean by that is that I made up beings that I knew were made up, specifically Lightey the Lightning Bug and his friends. I’d sit in the bathroom, flashing a flashlight on the ceiling, and telling stories about them. Many years later, I wrote those stories down.

Then I wrote more stories and realized that they might appeal to kids. From that batch came my first picture book, The Dog Who Insisted He Wasn’t (Dutton, 1979).

I sold The Lightey Stories later on as a novel (The Lightey Club (Four Winds, 1987). I remember very well being a kid—in my heart I still am—so that’s why I like writing for us…them…us.

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

Well, my path was actually smooth at the beginning. I was fortunate enough to have my first book accepted quickly—as well as my next two books.

But then things got bumpier. A lot bumpier. In fact, you name a bump, and I’ve gone over it: books that were delayed or canceled for a variety of reasons ranging from illustrations that didn’t work out to imprints that folded; books that did get published, but didn’t sell well; long stretches without sales so that I’ve contemplated trying to find another career; editors who left, resulting in books in limbo or those lack of sales, etc.

Actually, I think that editors leaving is a particularly big bump. I believe that the relationship a writer has with an editor is extremely important. Your editor is your mentor and advocate, and to lose her or him can be traumatic. Over the years, many of my editors have moved on (I hope I didn’t push ’em into it), and it never gets easier when they do. Although they’re irreplaceable, there are other editors who become new mentors and advocates.

So, with all the bumps, I keep riding along, changing tires as necessary, consulting a map, trying not to lean too much on my horn.

You’ve published more than 80 books for children and young adults! How did you do it? What is your writing schedule like?

I don’t know how I did it. I’m not joking. I mean, I know that I have a lot of ideas and that I write a lot—pretty much every weekday, but with no fixed hours—and that I’ve met a lot of editors over the years who have been encouraging.

One thing I do know is that I am persistent. If a manuscript is rejected, I send it elsewhere, and I keep working on other things. Jane Yolen (author interview) has been a great role model for me—she believes in sending out lots of manuscripts to better your chances of making a sale. I think she once said you’ve got to have a dozen out there to sell one.

But, to be honest, it’s kind of a mystery to me where many of my ideas came from and how I turned them into manuscripts. Some of those have been published, but I’ve got loads of manuscripts that haven’t been.

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

When I first started writing, I went to the Bank Street Writers’ Lab, a critique group which was very helpful to me.

I don’t have a group now, but I do have some trusted critics. Number One is my husband, Steve Aronson, who doesn’t mince words. For poetry, I sometimes ask some of my talented poet friends such as Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kristine O’Connell George, and Joanne Ryder for their honest opinion—and they tell it to me straight.

Looking back, which three of your books are closest to your heart and why?

That’s a tough question to answer, but the three that immediately come to mind are: The Dog Who Insisted He Wasn’t, because it was my first published book; Turtle in July (Simon & Schuster, 1989), my first poetry collection; and The First Few Friends (HarperCollins, 1981), a young adult novel about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, which got really good reviews and probably sold about three copies. It was about the sixties, published in the eighties, and probably before its time in terms of what was acceptable YA literature.

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

Well, obviously, reading great writers is always valuable. Good critique groups are, too—so the Bank Street Writers’ Lab was really important to me. I was a member for a number of years at the beginning of my career.

The immensely talented editors I’ve had have been incredibly helpful. For example, Simone Kaplan basically taught me how to write very young picture books. Debby Pool, formerly of Carus Publications, showed me how to write non-fiction articles, which was useful in writing longer non-fiction books. Liz Gordon, my editor at Harper for a long time, never let me get away with being self-conscious or mushy in my novels.

There are so many more fab editors I’ve known—too many to mention. I can’t stress enough how helpful editors can be, and that any writer worth her/his salt will always process their advice and be willing to revise.

Off hand, I can’t think of anything I would’ve done differently, except being born rich, the better to support my writing habit.

Could you please update us on your recent back list, highlighting as you see fit?

Let’s see. City Lullaby, a picture book published by Clarion and illustrated by Carll Cneut, got a great review in the New York Times and made Time Magazine’s list of the top ten children’s books of 2007.

Venom, a non-fiction book about venomous and poisonous animals, published by Darby Creek last year, won an Orbis Pictus Honor Book award.

Another non-fiction book, Eggs (Holiday House, 2008), with gorgeous illustrations by Emma Stevenson, came out this spring and has gotten quite good reviews.

So, I’m pretty happy about my recent back list.

Congratulations on the publication of Shoe Bop!, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata (Dutton, 2008) and First Food Fight This Fall and Other School Poems, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa (Sterling, 2008)! Let’s start with Shoe Bop! What was your initial inspiration for the story?

Most times I come up with my own ideas for books, but sometimes my editors suggest ideas. Lucia Monfried and Margaret Woollatt of Dutton Books were looking for a manuscript for Hiroe Nakata to illustrate and asked me to write a collection of poems with a connecting storyline in prose about a little girl going shoe shopping, so I did. I had fun visiting children’s shoe stores in my neighborhood for inspiration.

What was the timeline between spark and publication?

Because Hiroe Nakata was already signed up, the book came out quite quickly—under two years, I believe. That is an atypical situation. It can take a long time to find an illustrator and then get on that illustrator’s schedule.

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

Well, I’m not a big shoe shopper, but I do understand how any shopper can be both excited and daunted by a huge variety of something. And I do like the possibilities that shoes suggest.

The challenges involved researching that variety and those possibilities and writing the poems in the voice of a young girl. I’m always conscious of voice and being consistent with it.

Another challenge was connecting the poems with a short prose through-line. I’d never done that before. Lucia and Margaret were particularly helpful in making sure I did a good job with that.

Funnily enough, when I started working on the book, my husband and I began to take ballroom/Latin dance lessons (which we’re still doing!), and I bought my first pair of dance shoes with special suede soles for moving easily on the floor. That helped me understand shoe shopping the most.

What did Hiroe’s art bring to your text?

I love Hiroe’s art. It’s got the right zip and palette, and the characters are terrific. Her shoes make me want to buy shoes!

Now, let’s move onto First Food Fight This Fall and Other School Poems! How did that topic come to you?

This book had quite a different genesis from Shoe Bop!

Many moons ago, I had a wonderful editor named Michele Coppola, who has since left publishing.

We were sitting on a plane together, returning from the ALA conference, and I seem to recall talking about last days of school, first days of summer, or something to that effect.

Michele said, “That would make a great book.”

We discussed it the whole flight home. I turned the conversation into a manuscript. But it didn’t entirely work for Michele, so she never published it.

Much later on, I showed it to another brilliant editor, Meredith Mundy Wasinger at Sterling, and she suggested that I make it the final poem in a collection of poems about school. That was the spark I needed. I created characters, each of whom has an arc—growing, developing during the course of a school year—and I used different poetic forms for their voices.

I had a great time writing this book, though it was certainly challenging. Meredith pushed me in all the right directions.

Again, what was the timeline?

This one took quite a while. From the time I finished the poems to the time my publisher found an illustrator was several years alone.

And again, what were the challenges?

As I said, school is a universal topic, which is both good and bad. It’s easy to fall into clichés, which I did not want to do.

So I focused on the characters instead and let them tell me their stories and lead me to the poems. Creating unique voices for each was tricky, as was writing in so many forms.

And what did you think of Sachiko’s illustrations?

She outdid herself! I love them so much that I’m buying a piece of the art. Sachiko did collages for each. I’m going to buy the school bus piece, which has appliqué flowers and other items on it.

What advice do you have for those writing poetry for children?

Whenever I’m asked this, I always say the obvious—read a lot and write a lot.

Be observant, be idiosyncratic. Every good poet will tell you the same thing: a poem has to make the reader see something in a new way. But to do that, the poet has to have seen it in a new way herself/himself.

On my web site, I’ve posted Ten Tips for Writing Poetry.

What other thoughts would you like to share on the topic of poetry for young readers?

I like to laugh a lot, but I don’t think that all poetry for kids has to be funny. And I don’t think it’s all about wordplay either. I think it’s really necessary to look at the world through your own eyes (and other senses) and to convey that to readers.

I also believe that sometimes kids are more sophisticated than adults give them credit for. Poetry can be indirect, but kids can often understand the metaphorical in their hearts before their minds get it. That doesn’t mean a poet writing for children should be abstruse. It means not dumbing down your writing. It’s a neat trick to be both clear and figurative.

What advice do you have for those authors whose body of work includes many different kinds of books?

I don’t want to wag a finger, but I really do think that if you’re going to write in different genres, you need to take each of them seriously and hone your craft in each. Then you have to encourage your publishers to use the word “versatile” as often as possible and hope the critics use it, too.

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

This is an interesting and difficult question to answer. Because things went smoothly at the beginning, I would say that I didn’t realize how rocky the road was going to get.

So, if I could go back in time, I would tell myself that there’d be lots of ruts ahead, but to never forget—and you will forget sometimes—that you really do love the destination (and, often, the journey) and to keep driving.

What can your readers expect from you next?

I have quite a few more poetry books coming out, including: one about holidays for dogs; another featuring a poetry form that I invented; a third about kids’ games and play; a fourth called A Full Moon Is Rising, a world tour with a full moon as the star; and last, but not least, The Boy Who Cried Alien, a science fiction tale told through poems, some of which are in a made up alien language.

Also being published are a board book and several picture books, including Check-Up, about visiting the doctor; I’m Your Bus, with a school bus protagonist; Tallulah’s Tutu, about a girl in ballet class; and What Is Your Dog Doing?, which asks and answers that question.

Austin SCBWI Holiday Party; Brazos Valley SCBWI Conference


About 200 people descended on the second floor of BookPeople last Thursday night for the Austin SCBWI annual holiday party!


To kick off the festivities, author-poet Philip Yates read from his latest book, A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas (Sterling, 2008).


Author and VCFA student Lindsey Lane coordinated a group photo in support of Amadi’s Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot, illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo (Tilbury House, 2008)! See Lindsey’s report!


Greg (pictured signing) spoke on a picture book panel with Philip, author-illustrator Don Tate, and debut author-illustrator Emma Virjan in the amphitheater. Author Brian Anderson served as the moderator. Note: my whole-panel pics turned out blurry, but you can find one at Don’s blog.


Author Lila Guzman, debut author Shana Burg, debut author P. J. Hoover, author Helen Hemphill, and author Jo Whittemore await the beginning of the middle grade/YA panel, moderated by regional advisor Tim Crow.

Later, I spoke on a YA panel with authors Jennifer Ziegler, April Lurie, Margo Rabb, Brian Yansky, and Varian Johnson. This one was moderated by author Julie Lake (thanks, Julie!), but I couldn’t get a picture because I was busy participating.


VCFA graduate Debbie Gonzales and VCFA student and author Anne Bustard.


Author April Lurie with VCFA student and author Varian Johnson.


Tammy Tate and author-illustrator Don Tate.


Chris Barton models the F&G of his debut picture book, The Day-Glo Brothers (Charlesbridge, 2009), “the true story of how young Bob and Joe Switzer invented those eye-popping oranges, yellows, and greens.”


Author Jerry Wermund, illustrator Christy Stallop, and Greg.


Author April Lurie, Author Jennifer Ziegler, and Greg. If you peek over April’s shoulder, you can see debut author-illustrator Emma Virjan.


Author Julie Lake and regional advisor Tim Crow. Thanks to Tim and his whole crew of volunteers!



And thank you, BookPeople! What an amazing night!


The next day, I received a tasty get-well treat from my fellow faculty members at Vermont College of Fine Arts–a chocolate foot to help my real one get better!


Then it was time to pack my bags! This past Saturday, Greg and I had the honor of being on the faculty of “Connections and Craft: Writing for Children and Young Adults:” hosted by Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI at A & M United Methodist Church in College Station, Texas. Other faculty members included Pippin Properties agent Emily van Beek, Highlights editor Kim T. Griswell, and author Sherry Garland. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring Bashi, our medium-sized tabby.


We had great fun staying at the home of Kathi and Ken Appelt, who’re getting ready to leave this week for the National Book Awards dinner in New York. Thank you, Appelts, and congratulations again, Kathi! Here’s Ken in the kitchen, making music.


And here’s Kathi (author interview), along with her agent, Emily van Beek, at the conference. I’ll be seeing Kathi again later this week at The San Antonio Express-News Children’s Book & Author Celebration. See: Author Might Have a Classic or a National Book Award Winner by Vincent T. Davis from The News-Express.


Stars of the Brazos Valley group also include authors Kathy Whitehead and Sherry Garland.

Kathy is modeling her picture book biography, Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008).

Sherry is modeling her historical picture book, The Buffalo Soldier, illustrated by Ronald Himler (Pelican, 2006).


Janet Fox is modeling Get Organized Without Losing It (Free Spirit, 2006).


Highlights of the weekend included meeting editor Kim T. Griswell of, well, Highlights. Appropriate, don’t you think?!


The conference book sale is illustrated here by Austin-based author Lindsey Lane. Thanks to Barnes & Noble Booksellers — College Station!

And a final rousing thanks to Liz Mertz, Janet Fox, and the Brazos Valley chapter for all of their hard work, hospitality, and a five-star event!

The ABCs of School Visits – A Primer for Authors and Illustrators

By Gail Langer Karwoski
Courtesy of Sylvan Dell

When did you start doing school visits?

As soon as my first book was published, I began visiting classrooms, schools, and libraries to talk to young readers about writing. I’m a former teacher and a mom, and my colleagues–as well as my children’s teachers–invited me to speak to their students and library patrons.

At first, these visits were favors to people that I knew, so I visited at no charge. I love children (of course–that’s why I write for them!), and I found that doing an “Author Visit” was a heady experience. The kids were so enthusiastic–they made me feel like a rock star!

At a bookstore signing, the owner asked if I’d be willing to join her “Authors in Schools” team. I gladly agreed, and since she arranged stipends for her author-speakers, I suddenly had a source of income while I waited for my royalties to “earn out.”

How do schools learn about you?

At most schools, author/illustrator visits are arranged by the media specialist. Eventually, word-of-mouth will be your best advertisement. Many school media specialists subscribe to list-servs in their district or state, and–if they are pleased with your visit–they’ll transmit information about you to others. Note: Most schools only invite one author per year, so the word-of-mouth method snowballs gradually.

How do you begin?

When you present programs or autograph at public libraries, stores, and conferences, hand out your business card or author brochure to teachers and librarians. (You can arrange your own book signing events or ask the publicist at your publishing company to help.)

You can reach out to teachers and librarians by presenting a workshop at conferences, as well. To apply to be a presenter at state, regional, or national conferences, you will need to submit a proposal. Go to the organization’s website and download the application form. Consider starting with the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the Association of School Librarians (ASL). Remember that the application deadline will be about six months before the conference, and your proposal stands a better chance of acceptance at a state/regional conference than at a national conference.

A website is also a great way to spread the word. Be sure to list “key words” that will help school media specialists locate your website when they search.

If there is a children’s bookstore in your area, contact the owner to see if s/he books authors/illustrators into schools.

Some author/illustrators send out postcards/brochures to schools in a district, or they pay to join up with a service, such as http://www.author-illustr-source.com/ that advertises to schools. Others employ a booking agency. These services can be very expensive, so you would need to be available for many visits to pay off the initial investment.

What do you do in your school programs?

One good way to develop a school program is by watching what other author/illustrators do. Call the media specialists at schools in your area to see if they are hosting a visit and ask if you can join the audience.

You will discover that many authors/illustrators talk about their experience (their creating/publishing “journey”) – how their first book was researched, written/illustrated, and published. Getting a story published is a rarity, and both kids and adults are usually intrigued by the process.

People are astonished to learn, for instance, that writers usually do not find their own illustrators or that the sale price of a book does not go directly and entirely into the author’s and illustrator’s pockets.

If your book’s topic has a relationship with the school curriculum, you may want to build your program around the information that you researched when you created your story.

Include audiovisuals in your programs to illustrate what you are saying. Nowadays, most schools are able to project PowerPoint programs. All schools have an overhead projector to project transparencies.

Kids love props. I bring stuffed animals to show children the marine and river mammals in my bedtime stories, Water Beds: Sleeping in the Ocean and River Beds: Sleeping in the World’s Rivers (both Sylvan Dell). I pass around quartz crystals, like the “sparkly rock” that Julie finds in my Earth Science book, Julie the Rockhound (Sylvan Dell).

Keep your programs short enough to fit into the school schedule. Forty-five minutes is a good length for grades 3 and older. But primary schoolers (Grades pre-K through 2) get squirmy after 30 minutes. Allow a brief amount of time for questions and answers at the end of each program.

Be sure the school schedule includes 10-15 minute breaks between programs. (You may need a bathroom break. Plus, it takes time to get a group of children out of the room and bring a new group in.)

As you accumulate more books, you may want to offer different programs geared to your various titles or to the age/grade of your audience. Often, schools want authors/illustrators to do a hands-on program (a writing workshop or a drawing class) for selected participants.

It may sound like a lot of work to prepare several programs, but you can add new programs gradually. Eventually, you will probably enjoy having several programs so that you don’t find yourself saying the same thing over and over.

In addition to creating a program, do you do anything else to prepare for a visit?

Yes! I usually exchange at least four emails or phone calls with the person who is arranging my visit…

• I ask to see the day’s schedule so I can make suggestions, like grouping children by age/grade and allowing “travel time” between programs.

• I ask for directions to the school–including landmarks to help me find my way in an unfamiliar area–and instructions for parking.

• I help the media specialist arrange for my books to be on hand, if the school wants to offer book sales and autographing.

• I ask what room I will speak in. (I think that media centers provide the best atmosphere for an author/illustrator program. But a larger room may be necessary. A multi-purpose room is the next best facility. Gyms and cafeterias are often noisy and hot; they offer poor acoustics and awkward seating, but they may be the only available rooms in a school.)

• I let the school know what equipment I will need, such as a microphone if I will address large groups or speak in a gym.

• I exchange home and mobile numbers with the school contact person, in case of last-minute problems, such as a traffic jam.

What do you wear to a school?

The best advice that I’ve ever received about wardrobe in school is: Wear comfortable shoes!

Choose clothes that would be appropriate in an everyday setting where you meet the public – think conservative skirts or nice slacks. In many schools, teachers are not permitted to wear jeans (except on special occasions), so you should avoid them, too. Schools frown on revealing clothing–no cleavage or midriffs showing, no short shorts, and no skin-tight clothes.

Children enjoy bright colors, and it’s easier to pay attention to a speaker who is dressed in colorful clothes.

Since you don’t know whether you’ll be speaking in a too-cold or too-hot room, dress in layers and avoid heavy sweaters. (Generally, school rooms are overheated, rather than too chilly.)

What about book sales?

Most schools offer books for sale to students and faculty while an author/illustrator is on campus. For the children and faculty who can afford to buy a book, this is a special souvenir of your visit.

Where does the school get a supply of your books? The media specialist may:

• order books directly from the publisher;

• ask a nearby bookstore to supply them;

• request that you bring books along.

Book sales can be used as a fundraiser by the school to partially or totally offset the cost of your visit. How does this work?

The supplier provides your books at a discount (usually this is up to 20% off the cover price) to the school. The school may choose to pass on all or part of this discount to the book buyers. Or it may decide to sell the books at cover price and keep the difference. (Since schools are nonprofit organizations, they do not need to charge sales tax, so–even at cover price–buyers still receive a little savings from school book sales.)

If a school contacts your publisher to get a supply of books, it will also receive a shipping label to return any unsold books. Some schools think that returning unsold books is a hassle, so they prefer to use a nearby bookstore or request that you supply your own books.

If you are willing to bring along boxes of books, this is a great convenience for the school since you will take home any unsold copies. (Note: Usually, it will take a week or more for the school to issue a check to you to cover the cost of all books sold during your visit.)

What happens if you run out of copies when you are at school?

I take orders and send the autographed books after my visit.

You will be very busy on the day of your visit and so will the media specialist, so you will need a helper to take charge of book sales. Suggest that the media specialist designate a paraprofessional or a parent volunteer to take book orders, collect checks and money, issue change, and sort books into piles by grade and homeroom.

Be sure to bring along a pen for autographing. I like to use black click-top Sharpies since they make clear, sweeping, fast-drying lines on my picture books. (I always bring an extra, in case the first Sharpie runs out of ink.)

How much money do you receive as a stipend?

My stipend has increased over time. When I began, I charged $300 per day. That included four-to-five programs of 45-minutes each, plus autographing and lunch with selected students. Over time, I raised my rates–usually by $50-100 each year.

Today, with nine books in print and a decade of experience as a visiting author, I average about 25 school visits each year, and at the end of the year, my stipends usually exceed my income from royalties.

In general, authors and illustrators charge more as they accumulate:

• years of experience doing author visits;

• books;

• awards.

Most authors/illustrators set a stipend based on a certain number of programs per day. Typically, the base rate seems to be for three programs per day, with an extra fee for a fourth program. (I learned the hard way that it’s wise to specify how many programs you are willing/able to do. When I first started, I sometimes let schools cram in as many programs as they wished. I discovered that I was inviting abuse–some schools scheduled me for seven programs, with no breaks, and by the end of the school day, I could barely utter a sentence.)

Usually, authors/illustrators agree to autograph books while on campus, for no extra charge. You may be asked to have lunch with selected students or to be interviewed by the school news team; if you are willing, these “extras” are also part of the basic fee for the day.

Distance is also a factor in setting a fee. Most authors/illustrators charge less, as a courtesy, for schools in their home district. By the same token, they usually charge extra if an airplane ride is involved. Some speakers build travel/lodging/meals into their “long distance” rate; others specify the stipend and add “plus travel/lodging/meals.”

Who makes the arrangements for lodging and who purchases airplane tickets?

Usually, the author books his/her plane, but the school arranges the lodging at a nearby motel. The school usually provides lunch on campus.

Before you visit a school, discuss the amount of your stipend. Some schools will need you to create a simple contract, so they have a “paper trail” for their bookkeeper’s records. At most schools, a check for your stipend will be ready for you on the day you arrive.

If you don’t need the money, is there any reason to do author visits to schools?

My goodness! Is there an author/illustrator who does not need the money?

In addition to income, author visits are beneficial in many ways:

• Writing/illustrating is a solitary occupation. It’s reinforcing to meet the youngsters, teachers, and librarians who are enjoying your books.

• Being around kids is the best way to keep current about what kids are learning, laughing about, and interested in. Your stock of info about kids will help you select future writing topics and create age-appropriate imagery.

• Usually, schools sell copies of your books for you to autograph while on campus. These book sales are nothing to sneeze at–at one school visit, a hundred or more books may sell! While bookstores return “older” books to make room for the newest titles, your books are the latest and greatest whenever you visit a school. Many authors manage to keep their books in print because they visit many schools.

• School visits forge lasting relationships between teachers and librarians and your books. These adults are likely to follow your career, recommend your books to others, and purchase your future titles.

• Best of all, school visits transform kids into lifelong readers. When a child can “touch” the human hand behind the printed page, books become deeply personal and important. After meeting an author/illustrator, a child feels a special connection with a book. Eventually, this spark grows into a fire that lights a lifelong love for reading.

What if you have stage fright?

If you are nervous about speaking in public, you are not alone–lots of people hate to stand up and speak in front of a group of people, especially strangers.

If you are worried about public speaking, start small. Offer to pay a free visit to one classroom. Notice what the kids react to, what makes them giggle or gasp. Adjust your program so that you know it has audience appeal. Nobody is forcing you to become an author/illustrator in a speaking environment, so stick one toe in the water and see how it feels. You’ll probably be surprised and delighted by the result.

I think that public speaking gets easier the more you do it, and children are reassuring listeners. They wear their enthusiasm on their faces. Kids think that all adults are confident experts on every topic–they do not expect grownups to make mistakes or be nervous. Their confidence in you will be contagious–pretty soon, you’ll feel it, too!

About Sylvan Dell Publishing

Sylvan Dell picture books with science, math and nature themes excite children’s imaginations through fun stories, vibrant artwork and a three-to-five page ‘For Creative Minds’ educational section in the back of each book. But that is just the start…what really makes the books unique, is their tremendous amount of free, online educational material available for cross-curricular learning, including: 30-80 page Teaching Activities, Interactive Reading and Math Quizzes, and much more. They have 57 authors and illustrators on the Sylvan Dell team, and their 35 titles have been honored as nominees, finalists, or winners of more than 50 book awards. Sylvan Dell eBooks, available in English and Spanish, are wonderful for use with in-classroom projection or interactive whiteboards (Smartboards) and are ideal for Spanish language classes and ESL students at all grade levels.”

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win an autographed copy of Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006)! Four runners up will receive audio productions of the book either on tape or CD (Scholastic Book Club, 2007)! From the promotional copy:

Who knows if you’ve been naughty or nice?

Santa knows, that’s who.

But not everyone believes in Santa Claus.

Consider Alfie F. Snorklepuss. He thinks he’s proven that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Alfie thinks there is no way that Santa could do all the things he’s supposed to, like deliver billions of presents all over the world in one night or know what every little kid wants.

When Alfie starts spreading the word that there is no Santa Claus, he makes someone very unhappy: his little sister Noelle.

And so Noelle turns to the only person who can help her. The one person Alfie thinks doesn’t exist: Santa Claus.

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 Nov. 24! OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Nov. 24! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win. Please also type “Santa Knows” in the subject line and specify if you prefer tape, CD, or either. Visit www.santa-knows.com!

Enter to win one of two copies of The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins, 2008)! 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 Nov. 17! OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Nov. 17! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win.

One ARC will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (please indicate) and one will go to any Cynsational reader. Please indicate status. Please also type “Porcupine Year” in the subject line.

More News

Attention Cynsational Readers: one of your own is trying to compile a list of multicultural science fiction children’s books, graphic novels, and movies! If you have any suggestions, please email me (scroll and click on the envelope or LJ, MySpace, and facebook subscribers may leave a comment. Thank you! Note: help!

Association of Jewish Libraries Podcast: a new program, which “will include material recorded at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention, as well as recordings of Jewish literary events across North America. A wide range of topics will be covered, from the academic to the hands-on, from children’s literature to technology.”

Knucklehead featuring Jon Scieszka from Jon Scieszka on Vimeo. Source: Confessions of a Bibliovore.

My years with Roald, by the “love of his life” by Elizabeth Day from The Guardian. Peek: “Felicity Dahl was married to the much-loved children’s writer for only seven years, yet 18 years after his death she still finds life ‘hell’ without him. As the inaugural Roald Dahl award for children’s books is set to be announced, she recalls the great man’s seductive charms, his impish generosity – and his habit of having pink milk for breakfast.” Source: Gwenda Bond.

One Simple Question: Siobhan Vivian, Author Same Difference from Ypulse Books. Peek: “I’ve never really felt very adult or particularly grown up. I am constantly embarrassed, awkward, sweaty, pimpled. These are the “bad” parts of adolescence, the things we hope to grow out of.”

Donna Freitas and the possibilities of faith in YA by Sara Zarr at Good Times and Noodle Salad. Peek: “Why do you think there are so few mainstream YA books that feature characters who have a positive relationship with their religious faith and/or traditions?” Learn more about Donna’s debut novel, The Possibilities of Sainthood (Frances Foster, 2008). Note: very much looking forward to this one!

Tough Times and the Publishing Industry Stimulus Package from Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. Peek: “This isn’t a time for cheaping out on the authors you love. Publishers are going to be making very tough decisions about which authors are going to survive and which will be dropped. They’re being extremely selective about supporting new authors. You can do your part by buying new, asking for new books for the holidays, and encouraging your friends to do the same.” Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Politics & Prose Opens Section for Older Teens by Paula Chase Hyman from the Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “The article goes on to say that the section was conceived to help prevent older teens from bypassing the young readers section for the adult section, located upstairs.”

Check out this trailer for Margaret Peterson Haddix‘s new middle grade series, The Missing (Simon & Shuster (author interview):

Fifth Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts will be March 27 to March 29, 2009. Featuring: author Kathi Appelt; author Elise Broach; and editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic. Includes: lectures; organized workshops; writing exercises; one-on-one critiques with one of the guest authors; one-on-one critique with guest editor (extra fee); open mike; discussions; room and board. Cost: $450. Registration begins Dec. 1. For more information, contact Sarah Aronson.

Deliciously Clean Reads: “anyone can recommend books as long as they are free of sex, profanity, and graphic violence.”

Graphic Tales from Colleen Mondor at Bookslut. Peek: “It’s a dark slightly subversive delight that never ceased to amaze me. Mostly it’s just very, very cool and I do hope that it doesn’t get overlooked in the masses of YA fiction for teen girls.”

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Brian Lies at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “I show drawings from books I’m working on and talk about the seemingly endless revisions I do in both words and pictures, but also show one of my second-grade drawings, to prove that it’s more a question of hard work and time commitment than it is about being born talented.”

And My Skin is Getting Thicker by Allison Winn Scotch from Ask Allison. Peek: “Here’s the thing. I can’t defend myself. I can’t write this reviewer a letter and say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry about that. It wasn’t carelessness, it was something I truly wasn’t aware of. Oh, and by the way, if you’re going to critique me for a mistake, can you get the details of the book right in your review too?'”

Native American Heritage Month: Book Lists and Resources from Wild Rose Reader. Note: thank you to WRR for including my site among your listings.

Please join me in welcoming Donna Bowman Bratton to the kidlitosphere! Donna is an Austin-based children’s writer, and in her inaugural post, she writes: “I’m a born questioner. I am curious, persistent, determined, and easily entertained in a room of strangers or in a room of solitude. I also feel deeply.”

Here’s a book trailer for the much-buzzed YA, Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Harcourt, 2008)(Source: Sarah Miller):

Featuring Dimitrea Tokunbo from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “I started doing self portraits (one a month) using acrylic paints in part to find a new technique and in part to stay in touch with my inner artist. By the time I got to my third self portrait…”

Blurbs I: Getting from Lauren Lise Baratz-Logsted at Red Room. Peek: “A blurb is not the back-jacket description of a book; it’s not the inside-flap description of a book. It is a quote from an established author, the purpose of which is to help promote the book at hand.” Note: mileage varies, but I expect blurb requests to come from editors or agents, not authors.

The Art of Phyllis Hornung Peacock: official site for Austin-based illustrator. Titles include A Place for Zero (Charlesbridge, 2003) and What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? (Charlesbridge, 2004). See also Phyllis’ blog!

Strange Machines: Website of Authors: “Dallas Reed and Thomas Pendleton (They’re the same guy… Shhh, don’t tell anyone!):” official site of a new Austin-based YA author. Check out his LJ and MySpace page. Read a Cynsations interview with Thomas. Note: SLJ says of his latest, “Horror fans will be thrilled by Mason’s story.”

Contract Limbo! Next Stop, the Lake of Fire from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “An unagented author should be a wee bit more pointed (but still pleasant and professional–try to express polite concern rather than escalating frustration and panic. Frustration and panic are common qualities in authors (and yes, I know sometimes it’s the editor’s own fault), but they’re unattractive qualities).” See also: The Personal ‘No-Comment’: In Which We Need Some Better Terms for Rejections. Note: don’t miss the comments.

Thematic Book List: Everybody Needs a Home from The Miss Rumphius Effect. Peek: “…these books are not focused on habitats, but the actual shelter/home in which animals live.” Note: for review consideration, this blog accepts “both poetry and nonfiction for young readers through middle grades.”

How Much Money Does a Writer Make from Laurie Purdie Salas. Peek: “…most children’s writers I know who actually make a living off of writing do it by cobbling together an income from many different sources.”

Texas Book Festival Photos
from Margo Rabb. A first-rate photo report on the event!

Exiled! From Tragedy to Triumph on the Missouri Frontier by Louise A. Jackson (Eaken Press) has won the WILLA award for “the finest children’s book about the women’s west published in 2007.” The award given annually by Women Writing the West and is judged by librarians and historians. Read Louise’s blog at the (Springfield, Missouri) News-Leader. Peek: “I grew up on a small ranch in Central Texas, spent most of my adult life in Wyoming and have lived in Missouri for 14 years, of which the last seven have been spent in Springfield.”

Take a sneak peek at The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton (Charlesbridge, 2009).

Who’s on Your Team? by Allison Winn Scotch from Ask Allison. Peek: “…in many ways, I really believe that your success as a writer is largely due to whom you choose to surround yourself with.”

Agent Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency from Kidlit Central News. Peek: “At ABLA, we’re hearing encouraging news from publishers about the state of the industry, and I recently read that juvenile sales are up. However, in terms of selling manuscripts, we are seeing the economy affect advances, and we’re seeing more hesitation on the part of editors to take books that are not in stellar shape to acquisitions.”

Children’s Book Insider Highlights Great Blogs of the Day:

Best Illustrated Children’s Books 2008: a slide show from The New York Times. Source: Elizabeth O. Dulemba.

Another Austin Treasure: Children’s Book Authors by Lindsey Lane from Good Life Magazine (PDF). Peek: “Austin hosts one of the most vibrant children’s book writing communities in the country…” See also Alison Dellenbaugh’s additions to the recommendations. Read a Cynsations interview with Lindsey, and learn more about Texas Children’s and YA Authors and Illustrators.

Diane Roberts — author/puppeteer: official site of the author of Made You Look and Puppet Pandemonium (both Delacorte). Diane makes her home in Fort Worth.

Native Voices by Debbie Reese from School Library Journal. Peek: “As we approach 2009, stereotypical images of American Indians as bloodthirsty savages and tragic, heroic warriors still strike fear and evoke sympathy as they traipse across the pages of children’s books.” Note: article includes an bibliography of reading recommendations for elementary through high school readers.

The Bradford Novels: a new blog celebrating The Bradford Novels by Micol Ostow (Simon Pulse, 2009-). Peek: “My editors and I developed this blog to give readers a sneak peek into the months leading up to a book launch. As we get closer to G-day (GoldenGirl), aka Book #1, Day), you’ll find author videos, question-and-answers with other YA authors, brilliant insights on the writing life from yours truly (if I do say so myself), outtakes from photo shoots, cover stories, contests, and more, more, more!”

Check out the trailer for Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (St. Martins, 2008).

read this b4 u publish 🙂 by Max Leone from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I am of that population segment that is constantly derided as ‘not reading anymore,’ and is therefore treated by publishing companies as a vast, mysterious demographic that’s seemingly impossible to please. Kind of like the way teenage boys think of girls. The reason we read so little in our free time is partially because of the literary choices available to teenagers these days.” Note: emphasis here seems to be more on tween than upper YA, and the bottom line here seems to be to “stop parenting and write something fun.”

An Interview with Candlewick Editor Jen Yoon by Brian Yansky from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “The one quality that draws me into a manuscript is voice. That trumps everything else for me.”

Meet Kimberly Pauley from Through the Looking Glass Book Review. Peek: “I definitely didn’t write it to be a ‘message book’ but I wanted some good messages to be in there, if you want to find them. There are a few, to me…like being true to yourself and not doing things just because people expect you to…standing up for yourself and your friends and for what you feel is important…that things are better when you communicate…that family and friends matter…and that girls can be strong individuals with minds of their own.” Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Michelle Moran on How to Promote Your Book from Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. Peek: “Like galley covers, not all galley print-runs are equal. A lead title might have anywhere from a thousand to ten thousand galleys printed up for every type of reviewer imaginable, while most other novels will have between a hundred and two hundred.” Don’t miss part two.

More Personally

Thank you to Julie Moody at KUT 90.5 FM for interviewing P. J. Hoover and me about the Austin SCBWI holiday party! Thank you to the whole youth books crew at BookPeople for their hospitality and to RA Tim Crow and his volunteers for all of their hard work! And an extra special thanks to all the members of the community–especially teachers and librarians–who turned out for the celebration! Look for pictures next week!

Candlewick Press has updated its site to include new author bios! Here’s mine.

Seeking Spooky Author Blogs: my spookycyn blog has been getting spiffed up for the release of Eternal (Candlewick, Feb. 2009). I’ve broken some windows and added some cobwebs, and along the way, I’ve also added a blogroll featuring YA authors who write spooky cool fic of any stripe. Please surf over to confirm that your own blog and/or that of your favorite scary writer is listed. If not, just email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with the author name and blog URL. Thanks!

Carol, a teacher librarian from Iowa, sends this link to a photo of a jingle dress that reminded her of Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000).

Due to extraordinary busy-ness, Cynsations will not post tomorrow; however, I’ll be back online Monday. Don’t miss my NCTE/ALAN conference schedule below!

Events

Acclaimed author and National Book Award recipient, M. T. Anderson will be at BookPeople in Austin, Texas; at 7 p.m. Nov. 21. He discuss his books, sign copies of his work, and answer questions from the audience. There is limited space for this event. If you would like to attend, you must RSVP to rsvp@bookpeople.com to reserve a spot. Reminder: Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld will be appearing at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at BookPeople!

NCTE and 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. Please stop by the Candlewick booth at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, where I’ll be signing ARCs of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and look for me at the ALAN Panel – “Gods, Foods, and Tatoos: The Mixed Mythos of Fantasy” on Monday at 2 p.m. ish at the Marriot Rivercenter (Salon E, Third Floor Room). I’ll be speaking with Melissa Marr (author interview) and Rick Riordan (author interview).

Reminder: Vote for Yohannes and 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!

More Reminders

Take a Chance on Art: purchase one or more $5 raffle tickets to enter to win illustrator Don Tate‘s painting “Duke Ellington,” and support the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. Note: it’s especially important this year in light of devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. To learn more, read interviews with TLA librarian Jeanette Larson and illustrator Don Tate.

Hurricane Ike Recovery Fund for Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas. Peek: “The Children’s Department, Technical Services, Circulation Department and Operations were located on the first Floor and all are gone. [emphasis added]” See more information. Note: Please consider yourself encouraged to pass on this blurb and link. The media has moved on to other stories, but efforts to deal with the aftermath are ongoing.

Hurricane Ike Library Relief: “Following the destructive visit of Hurricane Ike, Blue Willow Bookshop [in Houston] is initiating a nationwide campaign to rebuild the library collections of Anahuac High School, Freeport Intermediate School and, closer to home, the Alief Hastings 9th Grade Center. These schools lost more than 75% of their collections. Our goal is to have 1,000 books to deliver to these libraries by Dec. 1.”