Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win a copy of Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia edited by Herbie Brennan (BenBella, 2008)(PDF excerpt)! Read an interview with Herbie. From the promotional copy:

Why is Prince Caspian the ultimate teenager?

What does Narnia have to do with the Nazis?

How come C. S. Lewis has such a big problem with lipstick, anyway?

Step through the wardrobe…and into the imaginations of sixteen friends of Aslan as they explore Narnia, from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to The Last Battle, from the heart of Caspian’s kingdom to the Eastern Seas.

Contributors: Herbie Brennan; Deb Caletti; Diane Duane; Sarah Beth Durst; Brent Hartinger; Susan Juby; Sophie Masson; Kelly McClymer; O.R. Melling; Lisa Papademetriou; Diana Peterfreund; Susan Vaught; Ned Vizzini; Elizabeth Wein; Zu Vincent and Kiara Koenig.

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. 15!

OR, if you’re on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 15! But DON’T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I’ll contact you for it if you win. Please also type “Wardrobe” in the subject line.

Enter to win one of two autographed copies of Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 2008)! 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.

The winner 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) was M.L. in California!

More News

How to Ditch Your Fairy Interview with Justine Larbalestier from Scott Westerfeld at westerblog. A husband-wife author-author IM-style interview. See also a Cynsations interview with Justine.

List of YA Authors by State from YALSA. Peek: “…page will collect the names of YA authors and list them by state, for the purpose of helping librarians, library workers and educators to plan author visits and other such programs.” Source: S. A. Harazin. Note: you may add to the list.

“Lee Bennett Hopkins is the 15th winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. A distinguished poet, writer, and anthologist, Lee has created numerous books for children and adults.” Learn more.

Jo Knowles has a new bio page on her author website. Read a Cynsations interview with Jo.

Laura’s Review Bookshelf
: “reviewing new young adult novels and interviewing young adult authors.”

Attention Kidlitosphere Bloggers: if you have blogged about (reviewed, recommended, featured the author) of a book either by a Native American author (other than Tantalize) or featuring a Native protagonist (by anyone) sometime in 2008, could you please send me the URL to your post? Thanks!

Watch this video of Neil Gaiman on The Graveyard Book (HarperCollins, 2008). Peek: “I loved getting lost.” Me too. Source: The Horn Book.

Sci Fi/Fantasy: Ten Rules of Magic
by Megan M. at Teen Ink. Peek: “If your characters fought hand to hand, you would not expect them to escape without (at least) a few bruises. The same must be true for magic, whether those ‘bruises’ manifest themselves as physical exhaustion, emotional corruption, or unintended consequences.” Source: Journey of an Inquiring Mind.

How to Publish without Perishing by James Gleick from The New York Times. Peek: “This means a new beginning — a vast trove of books restored to the marketplace.” Source: The Authors Guild.

Ellen Yeomans: official author site includes bio, bibliography, and grief-related resources. Peek: “I am a writer and perhaps oddly enough, a farmhand. I care for sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, chickens, and a few bunnies. I love it almost as much as I love writing. The farmer I work for tells great stories when he isn’t too busy.”

Don’t miss the December book giveaways at TeensReadToo.

Blurbs II: Giving by Lauren Lise Baratz-Logsted at Red Room. Peek: “It’s a privilege to have succeeded at it so well that people actually think that using your name will help them sell a few books. Everyone who has ever pursued a career in writing with all their heart and all their will should be so lucky.” Don’t miss part one: Blurbs: Getting.

Featuring Mei Matsuoka from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “I enjoy writing and hope to continue producing more of my own stories.”

Teen Fiction with Muslim Heroes by Mitali Perkins at Mitali’s Fire Escape.

City of Glass ARC Contest, December 2008 from Cassandra Claire. Peek: “there are four categories and one ARC for winning in each category. Each category requires you to do a funky, fun or creative thing that’s somehow related to the Mortal Instruments books.” Read a Cynsations interview with Cassandra.

Best Books 2008 by SLJ Book Review Editors Trevelyn Jones, Luann Toth, Marlene Charnizon, Daryl Grabarek, and Joy Fleishhacker. Highlights include: Skunkdog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Frances Foster); Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out by the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (Candlewick); Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor); Paper Towns by John Green (Dutton); The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion); The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (Holt); Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Boyds Mills/Wordsong); and Impossible by Nancy Werlin (Dial). See also Notable Children’s Books of 2008 from The New York Times Book Review and Horn Book Fanfare: Best Books of 2008.

M. T. Anderson Challenges Young Adults with Complex Narratives from The Washington Post. Peek: “If we’re going to ask our kids at age 18 to go off to war and die for their country, I don’t see any problem with asking them at age 16 to think about what that might mean.” Source: Gwenda Bond.

In search of murder ballads and mournful cello by Deborah Noyes at Haunted Playlist. Peek: “I lack the tenacity to maintain a true blog that talks about my books (what I have to say on that count is already in my books) or my daily life, which moves at more or less the pace of drying paint, but I did want to share something along with my author-photographer sites besides the stuff I’m trying to sell you. In the process, in my small way, I get to promote great, largely indie musicians.”

Masterpiece by Elise Broach: a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: “…full of charm and intrigue…”

Interview with Kathleen Duey, author of Skin Hunger from Christy’s Creative Space. Peek: “I just finished the second book, Sacred Scars, so the worst of the timeline wrestling is over.”

Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman: a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: “…an altogether funny, thoughtful, and thought-provoking novel about life, death, friendship, and family.”

Interview with Judy Blume by Kelly Herold at Big A little a. Peek: “I think it’s easier to learn from someone you’re not trying to please, or from someone who won’t be judgmental. That’s why we have Driver’s Ed, isn’t it?”

Michael Sussman – Author
: official site for children’s author Michael Sussman, featuring biography, bibliography, reviews, events, links, thoughts on time, and palindromes. Michael is the author of Otto Grows Down, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Sterling, 2009).

Process and Product 1 by Liz Garton Scanlon from Liz in Ink. Peek: ” We want to skip ahead to product. To success. Fame and fortune. The finish line. Or do we?” See also part 2. Read a Cynsations interview with Liz.

Something Rotten Online Promo — By the Numbers by Alan Gratz at Gratz Industries. Peek: “I broke down the numbers for editor Liz and the marketing folks at Penguin, but I wanted to blog about them here for anyone curious about the promotion’s impact.” Read a Cynsations interview with Alan.

Queries That Worked by Sara Crowe at Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “What I want to highlight in the following letters is the description of the book. This is what I want to know about most, obviously — and is often overlooked in favor of a lot of unnecessary information about the writer of the letter, such as they have been writing since they were five and love Harry Potter and their grandchildren love their work.”

Wanted, Male Models: There’s a good reason why boys don’t read by Gail Giles from School Library Journal. Peek: “A boy doesn’t want to be a woman. He wants to do what a man does. And if he doesn’t see a man reading, he won’t read.” Source: S. A. Harazin. Read a Cynsations interview with Gail.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (Delacorte, 2009) Giveaway sponsored by Sharon Loves Books. Deadline: Dec. 18. Learn more about Carrie Ryan.

Uma Krishnaswami at Writing with a Broken Tusk tells us about Mumbai’s Street Children. Peek: “This 2008 attack was aimed at the rich and powerful, and it’s questionable whether anyone will even ask how many children may have died in it.” Read a Cynsational interview with Uma, and see War and Peace in Children’s Literature.

Rowling “fierce” but fair about Potter: editor by Ian MacKenzie and Nick Zieminski from Reuters. Peek: “J.K. Rowling’s first editor, who championed Harry Potter after several publishers had turned the boy wizard down, described the author as ‘fierce’ but fair to work with.” Source: The Leaky Cauldron.

Celebrate Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month with the video below. Learn more about Carleen Brice. Note: for suggestions of children’s-YA books by black authors and illustrators, see The Brown Bookshelf.

For Marcia Leonard, my editor: a poem by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. Read a Cynsations interview with Tracie.

Cheers to Topher Bradfield, children’s outreach coordinator at BookPeople in Austin, who was featured as #3 in “My Job’s Cooler than Your Job” by Rhonda Lashley in the December issue of Austin Monthly.

More Personally

After NCTE/ALAN (see Alvina Ling’s video report), Greg and I enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving holiday with a meal of turkey, faux mashed potatoes (whipped cauliflower), stuffing, and corn-on-the-cob. He’d caught a cold in San Antonio–better now, so we took it easy over the weekend.

However, we’re now revved and ready for tomorrow Austin SCBWI‘s Day with an Editor, featuring author-editor Jill Santopolo of HarperCollins, which was rescheduled due to Hurricane Ike. Jill and I will be critiquing three-page manuscript excerpts from participants in front of the group. Read a Cynsations interview with Jill.

Per the side photo, here’s an essay that was posted this week…

A Cozy Space…with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Tony Abbott. Peek: “…the second of a series about writers’ work places, we’ll take a peek into Cynthia Leitich Smith’s little writing room.” Read a Cynsations interview with Tony.

Thank you to Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature for sponsoring a giveaway of Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000). Congratulations to the winner–the Colorado River Indian Tribes Library!

Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) is clearly in good company beside Scott Westerfeld‘s Uglies (Simon Pulse, 2005)(author interview). I’m not sure if it qualifies as advice or nonfiction, but I’m not complaining.

But even better, the novel pictured is at a New England grocery store, so reader-shoppers can pick up the ingredients for the Sanguini’s menu on the way out! Thanks to David Yoo for the pics!

On a final note, my condolences to those adversely affected by the various publisher layoffs. To the wider community, keep the faith–take care of yourselves and each other. Buy books, swarm brick-and-mortar stores, support library budgets, and continue to focus on craft.


Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will be speaking on “First Drafts” at the February monthly meeting of the Writers’ League of Texas at 7:30 Feb. 19 at the League office in Austin (611 S. Congress Avenue).

Due to a technical difficulty, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s discussion of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and related forthcoming books on the teen grid of Teen Second at Second Life has been rescheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 24. See more information.


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.

Novel Secrets: A Novel Retreat in 3 Acts: “Have you always wanted to write a young adult or middle grade novel for children, but have not carved out the time to get it done? Do you have a draft of a novel written, but are looking for ideas and strategies to revise and strengthen it? Would you like the chance to meet with an editor or an agent to pitch your novel and gain critical feedback about this novel in particular and the fiction market, in general? All of this is possible if you attend…” Features authors Elaine Marie Alphin, Darcy Pattison, editor Jill Santopolo, and agent Stephen Barbara. See more information.

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.

Author Interview: C. K. Kelly Martin on I Know It’s Over

C. K. Kelly Martin on C. K. Kelly Martin: “C. K. Kelly Martin graduated from York University in Toronto with a film studies degree. She moved to Ireland in 1992 and began writing there in 1999.

“Her first book, I Know It’s Over, was published this September with Random House. It has been nominated for the ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2009 list and the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list.

“She currently lives in the greater Toronto Area with her husband.”

How would you describe yourself as a teen? Who were your favorite authors? What were your favorite books?

As a teenager I was introverted, independent-minded and big into music. Any money I had went on tapes (it was the 80’s!). My best friend and I would write notes forging our parents’ signatures and excusing each other from class when our favorite bands/musical artists were in Toronto so that we could head downtown and meet them when they did TV appearances before their gigs.

This was long before the Internet so we’d camp out overnight for concerts tickets. In line for Paul Young tickets, we made friends with the four girls in front of us and ended up hanging out with them at a lot of gigs around that time.

My grades ranged wildly–very strong in English and barely scraping up a pass in math. I don’t think I ever truly applied myself fully while in high school; I just wasn’t into it.

I had kind of a Luke Skywalker complex in that I always thought there was something more exciting going on elsewhere–England, specifically.

My best friend and I saved up summer job money to go over to London for two weeks when we were seventeen, and it was amazing. I didn’t want to come back.

I devoured the Adrian Mole series when I was a young teenager and loved all of Judy Blume‘s books too.

I remember being really into John Wydnham‘s The Chrysalids (Michael Joseph, 1955) and I reread it a year or two ago and had all the same feelings about it that I’d had in the 80’s.

In my later teenage years, I became very interested in the 60’s and read lots of nonfiction about that time, while listening to its music. One of my favorite books back then was Ray Coleman‘s John Lennon biography (Futura Publications, 1984).

Craft-wise, could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

I’ve always been a big reader, and in second grade it occurred to me that I could write down my own stories. I wrote my first books when I was seven and kept writing all through childhood.

I did a bit of writing (reviews mostly) for the school paper when I was in university but generally thought it was something I’d get more serious about in the future. I think I just wanted to concentrate on living first, but I always believed I’d get around to writing eventually.

It wasn’t until 1999, after several years of living in Ireland, that I discovered I specifically wanted to write YA. I hadn’t read any young adult literature in years–the realization came from watching “Party of Five.”

Then I started snatching up all the teen books I could get my hands on. The process of becoming a writer was largely an unconscious one–just doing what felt right at the time, learning things by osmosis from reading.

From a business perspective, could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

The first thing of note that happened to me as a writer was having my website named one of the top ten best author sites by Writer’s Digest in 2001.

I don’t know if it really scored me any agent interest, but at a time when I had no writing credits, it gave me an emotional boost to include that in my query letters.

In 2002, I landed my first agent who started shopping the YA book (the first in a trilogy) I’d begun while living in Ireland.

I finished I Know It’s Over in 2003, but unfortunately my agent didn’t like it and suggested drastic changes I didn’t agree with.

I knew then the partnership wouldn’t work. We parted ways, and I kept writing and querying other agents.

I finally had a major sprint in January, 2006 when an agent at Curtis Brown in London offered representation after reading I Know It’s Over. She submitted it to British publishers, and when she couldn’t find a buyer there, teamed up with an American agent.

That agent negotiated a sale with Random House in the U.S. in June 2006. About a year later, Random House signed up another two of my novels.

On either front, did you have mentors or peers who made a major difference for the better? If so, who and how?

In 2005, I discovered The Blue Board (writer Verla Kay‘s Children’s Writers & Illustrators Message Board), and it’s great to be able to share info there and have people sympathize over your latest rejection or celebrate your successes with you.

But my biggest continual supporter is my husband, who is also pursuing a career in children’s writing. He just gets it all and never once said “maybe this isn’t going to work.” In fact, he always said the opposite.

Having that level of understanding helped immeasurably. As hard as it was to get I Know It’s Over published, it would’ve been exponentially harder without him.

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, I Know It’s Over (Random House, 2008)(excerpt)! Could you tell us a bit about it?

I Know It’s Over is about a sixteen-year-old guy who discovers on Christmas Eve that his ex-girlfriend, who he’s still in love with, is pregnant. The history of their relationship and what happens from the moment he hears the news is revealed through his point of view.

It started out as a short story, and when I found out there weren’t many places printing YA [short] fiction, I decided, rather than abandoning it to a drawer, to flesh it out into a novel.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

The Third Eye Blind song “Ten Days Late,” which is about a guy learning that his girlfriend is pregnant. At that point I hadn’t read any books which handled pregnancy from the guy’s point of view and wanted to explore that.

After finishing I Know It’s Over, I did go on to read Hanging On to Max by Margaret Bechard (Roaring Brook, 2002)(excerpt), The First Part Last by Angela Johnson (Simon & Schuster, 2003)(excerpt) and more recently, Slam by Nick Hornby (Putnam, 2007), which are all very different books. I’m sure there’s room for yet more novels dealing with the topic from a male point of view.

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

In 2002, I wrote a short story called “Happy Families,” which morphed into the novel I Know It’s Over in 2003.

During my in-between agents period, I also submitted I Know It’s Over, along with One Lonely Degree, to the Delacorte Press contest. I received rejections for both of them at the end of April in 2005 but I Know It’s Over sold to Random House a little over a year later.

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

Emotionally the story was incredibly draining. I felt completely swept up in it and basically just followed Nick and Sasha’s lead to what felt like a natural conclusion given their personalities and situation.

I’m constantly reading nonfiction about young people–whether books, newspaper articles, questions/discussions at sex ed sites–in an effort to understand what their lives are like and what kind of challenges they face.

But personally, I think the biggest challenges related to this book were mostly after the fact, worries that publishers wouldn’t want to touch the book because of some of the things that happen in the story. And judging by the reaction from some of the British publishers, the subject matter was indeed a problem for them.

One thing I do remember having difficulty with during writing and revising over the years was keeping up with the availability of emergency contraception in Canada, where the book is set.

When I first wrote I Know It’s Over, you needed a prescription for morning-after pills, and then its status changed to behind the counter access.

I called up pharmacists a couple of months after the change and inquired whether they would give Plan B pills to a sixteen-year-old girl if she requested it, and the answers varied. Some pharmacists told me that they would dispense the pills to a teenage girl; others said she would have to come in with a parent or guardian.

Obviously this isn’t the kind of confusion you want when dealing with something as time sensitive and important as preventing pregnancy!

Also, many of the young people (and even people in their thirties) I spoke to weren’t aware the availability had changed so it wouldn’t occur to them that they could bypass a doctor and go straight to the pharmacy, even if they didn’t feel too intimidated to talk to a pharmacist.

So in the end, I decided to just leave the way Sasha and Nick deal with the emergency contraception scenario as I’d originally written it.

Incidentally, in Canada, emergency contraception rules changed yet again in May, making the drug available on pharmacy shelves with no minimum age requirement. But when I phoned around locally recently the pills were still being kept behind the pharmacy counter, although now they will give them out with any consultation.

You did an amazing job of writing across gender! How did you get into the head of a teenage boy?

Personally I don’t see gender as binary, although society does its best to put us into male and female boxes.

Definitely there are very different social rules and expectations assigned depending on our gender (and race, age, religion, class, etc.) and a core personality underneath that which reacts to those rules and expectations.

As a writer I think you have to be aware of all those things and get the specific details right for each character. For instance, I was reading an article in Shameless Magazine the other day about a sixteen-year-old straight guy who hates sports, likes knitting and is really into fashion.

If I wrote I Know It’s Over with a guy like that as a main character he would’ve had a different mindset to get into than Nick’s, at least in some ways.

But it’s an interesting question–I don’t really know how you get into anyone else’s head. Usually I have a few basic details in mind about a character, and from there, I just listen for his or her voice. I spend a lot of nights lying in bed with this voice crystallizing in my head before I even try to write anything down.

It doesn’t feel like an active thing; it really does feel like it’s just something I’m picking up on.

Your novel revolves around a teen ex-couple dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. In terms of process, how did you approach that aspect of character/plot?

I have tons of files on things like emergency contraception, condom accidents and the early stages of pregnancy still saved on my computer.

An unwanted pregnancy is something that many people have to deal with at some point in their lives (according to The National Campaign to end teen pregnancy, half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned and a third of girls in the U.S. get pregnant at least once by age 20), and usually that’s an even rougher situation for young people, who would ordinarily have fewer resources and be less emotionally prepared.

I think Sasha and Nick do the best they can, but that it’s exceptionally tough, probably even more so because, although they’ve broken up, they still have deep feelings for each other.

I didn’t want to judge them or be melodramatic; I just wanted to be true to the fact that they’re both intelligent, sensitive people who are also very young and in a lot of emotional pain.

Aside from that aim and the general research, the process is mostly an unconscious thing to me. The story seems to flow from the characters–I feel like I’m more or less transcribing it.

Your protagonist is a hockey player. Do you have a background in hockey? If not, how did you integrate the sport into your story/character?

I don’t have a hockey background but I wanted Nick, on some level, to be a typical Canadian guy. I read Face-Off! by Don Smith (Galahad Books, 1973), The Game by Ken Dryden (Macmillan Canada, 1983), and other hockey books and watched the Canadian reality show “Making The Cut” (about aspiring hockey players).

My brother, who grew up playing hockey, was the assistant couch for a team of fifteen-year-olds at one point, so he was the single biggest help. I sent him my hockey scenes, and he made sure they made sense.

What’s the greatest thing about being a debut author in 2008?

Hands down, the coolest thing is how easy it is for readers to get in touch with you and share their thoughts about your writing. It’s also been great being able to make contact with libraries and other writers through MySpace (C. K. Kelly’s page).

I find it inspiring to see all the young reviewers out there setting up their own book review blogs, making technology work to their advantage.

What has surprised you most about being a published author?

I think the big surprises are yet to come. I still feel like I’m just getting my feet wet.

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

I didn’t have any idea how good you have to be to get published when I started, and I think if I stuck to just trying to tell myself that, my past self still wouldn’t understand.

I think the best thing I could do for myself would be to go back and press copies of books like Tyrell by Coe Booth (Scholastic Press, 2006), Before I Die by Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books, 2007), Boy Toy by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin, 2007,) and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2006) into my hands.

Of course, none of them would’ve been written yet, but since I’d be crossing the time-space continuum anyway, I guess the books could come too.

You’re based in Toronto! Could you tell us about the YA writing community there?

I’m quite solitary so I can’t answer that. I’m lucky to be married to my first reader, and any other socializing with writers happens online.

As a reader, so far what are you favorite YA novels of 2008 and why?

I’m always behind on my reading. Our apartment is small (all the bookshelves are already teeming) so I’m dependent on the library for new reading material and am on the waiting list for quite a few books.

I’m sure I’ll be adding to the list, but three of my favorite books from 2008 are Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers (due out at the end of December – St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008), The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt, 2008)(author interview) and Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (Little, Brown, 2008).

I read Life As We Knew It (Harcourt, 2006) a couple of years ago, and The Dead and the Gone is just as riveting. The scenario–an asteroid hits the moon causing catastrophic changes on earth–terrifies me, and Susan Beth Pfeffer’s description of the devastation, and how her young characters deal with it, felt totally realistic. I couldn’t put it down and was tearing up when I finished it off while getting a tune-up at a car dealership.

In Sweethearts, I loved the relationship between Jennifer and Cameron–how tender and deep it was, and how Sara Zarr didn’t try to pin it down and simplify it but just let it be this amazingly profound, almost indefinable thing.

Cracked Up To Be is almost unbearably tense, but that and main character Parker, who is one of a kind, are what makes it so good. For most of the book you’re hurtling towards the moment where you’ll find out what’s screwed her up so badly. Parker’s pretty unlikeable in many ways, but you can sense the extreme amount of pain she’s in and forgive her a lot.

For the most part my favorite books are ones that provoke strong emotional reactions and these all do that. I’m also really keen to read My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson (Flux, 2008)(author interview) and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (Simon Pulse, 2008).

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

I was a film major in university and am still a big movie buff. I’m also a big theatre fan (dramas and comedies but not really musicals) and have been catching lots of productions at this fantastic Toronto theatre company called Soulpepper over the past few years.

I like snapping photos, but I’m a complete amateur, and I love doing design stuff for my website.

Aside from that I blog about all of the above–and politics, human rights and issues like sexual violence and reproductive and sexual health that inordinately impact young women.

What can your fans look forward to next?

One Lonely Degree’s coming out on May 26th. It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl named Finn who considers herself an outsider in a world of pack animals, a feeling that’s amplified by something that happens to her at a party. The only person she really trusts is her best friend, Audrey, the only other person who knows what really happened that night. When a childhood friend of Finn’s moves back to town, she develops feelings for him she’s not ready to deal with. Eventually, he starts going out with Audrey, which Finn doesn’t have a problem with because it allows her to be friends with him. But then Audrey goes away for the summer making this guy the only person in town Finn feels she can depend on, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem either, only she still has those other feelings for him, too.

The following May, I have another book with a sixteen-year-old male main character due out. It’s called The Lighter Side of Life and Death and focuses on a theatre guy who gets swept into a relationship with a twenty-three year old woman while he’s also in love with his female best friend (who no longer wants anything to do with him).

IKIO trailer

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith — Feb. 2009: Cover, Info, Excerpt, Countdown

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover art and flap copy to Eternal (Candlewick, Feb. 2009):

At last, Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die.

Elevated and adopted by none other than the reigning King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda goes from high-school theater wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight.

Meanwhile, her reckless and adoring guardian angel, Zachary, demoted to human guise as the princess’s personal assistant, has his work cut out for him trying to save his girl’s soul and plan the Master’s fast-approaching Death Day gala.

In alternating points of view, Miranda and Zachary navigate a cut-throat eternal aristocracy as they play out a dangerous and darkly hilarious love story for the ages.

Read two sample chapters.

Cynsational Notes

Eternal is set in the same universe as Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and features different main characters. The two casts will crossover in a third novel, Blessed, which is now in progress and picks up in the timeline where Tantalize leaves off. An audio edition of Eternal is also in production at Listening Library.

If you know of another YA novel featuring angels, please write me with the title, author, and publisher. I often briefly book-talk related reads at the end of presentations and/or distribute tie-in bibliographies. I’m already well set with books reflecting vampire and shape-shifter mythologies, but please also keep me in mind for these as new releases emerge. Thanks!


Please see the Eternal countdown widget below! If you would like to include it on your own blog, MySpace, or other webpage, just click “copy me” in the upper right corner. Click one of the icons (upper left, first one) to copy the code, paste it onto your page, and finally re-upload the page to display.

Publisher Interview: Elizabeth Law of Egmont USA

Elizabeth Law [pictured] began her career in children’s publishing as an assistant at Viking Children’s Books, leaving 18 years later as associate publisher of both Viking and Frederick Warne imprints.

After nearly four years as vice president and associate publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Elizabeth joined Egmont USA last year as its publisher.

Passionate about children’s books and fiction in particular, Elizabeth has enjoyed publishing and editing many authors including Andrew Clements, Dan Gutman, Adam Rapp, Linda Buckley-Archer, Malorie Blackman, and working with the estates of Don Freeman and Ludwig Bemelmans.

Note: Egmont covers shown below are not final.

What kind of young reader were you?

“Avid” doesn’t begin to describe it. My sixth-grade librarian loved me. In high school, I co-founded a children’s book discussion group with the children’s librarian at my public library. I slept with some of my favorite books tucked in beside me. You get the picture.

What inspired you to make children’s-YA literature your career focus?

I already knew I was crazy about children’s books by the time I went to college. And while I was there, at the University of Chicago, I was lucky enough to study with the legendary Zena Sutherland, who was then the editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. She told a lot of stories about her friends who were editors, including ones about Dick Jackson and Ursula Nordstrom. That’s when a light bulb went off—being an editor would combine working with the books themselves and working in business in New York, which seemed exciting to me. (And as a side note, I also met my best friend in that class. He is now the editor of The Horn Book.)

How did you prepare for this career?

I moved to New York City (believe me, that was the scariest and hardest part) and looked for entry-level jobs. I was hired to be Deborah Brodie‘s and Nancy Paulsen’s assistant at Viking Children’s Books, Frederick Warne, and Puffin Books.

In those days, the three imprints all had one editorial department. Children’s publishing has gotten a lot bigger since then.

And I want to give a shout-out to my mother. She forced me to take typing the summer after eighth grade, and I whined and whined about it. But what a useful skill that has turned out to be.

What does a publisher do?

A publisher should be thinking about his or her vision for the list. I think about what we stand for, and whether each book fits that mission. A publisher acquires and edits books, and also makes the final decision, more or less, on what gets published. We are a primary spokesperson for our list and a big cheerleader for our authors.

What are the job’s challenges?

To be honest, keeping up with the submissions! We all read a lot here, and we work with a few very trusted outside readers, but we are seeing a lot of really good stuff.

Before I entered publishing, I imagined myself pounding the desk with passion saying, “We must publish this book!” Now I realize that titles I feel that strongly about are not the norm.

A more common question is “I really enjoyed reading this, but is it different enough from what’s out there? Will it sell in bookstores and schools and libraries? Is this an author to grow?”

It can be very hard to turn down a book from an author whose work I like, or to tell someone on my editorial staff “no.” That was just as hard when I worked at Simon & Schuster as it is at Egmont. Every editor and publisher faces it, just as every writer has to hear it sometimes.

What are its rewards?

Meeting writers and artists I admire is amazing, and working with writers—feeling that I’m helpful, that I’ve given good advice and helped them express their true voice—is incredibly satisfying.

Championing a good book to sales reps and librarians and book buyers is a lot of fun, too. And seeing a kid enjoying a book I’ve had a hand in—that’s the greatest feeling there is.

Could you tell us a bit about Egmont Group and Egmont USA?

Egmont Group is a huge international publisher whose corporate headquarters are in Copenhagen. What’s great is that Egmont is a foundation, all of whose profits go to charity.

Egmont UK, a member of the Egmont Group, is a venerable children’s publisher whose trade division has a great track record with authors including Jenny Nimmo, Lemony Snicket, Helen Oxenbury, Michelle Magorian, William Nicholson, and many, many more.

Egmont USA will come out with our first list in Fall ’09. Our list will be primarily fiction from American authors, but we do work closely with our British colleagues to find books we are crazy about for both of our lists. We are passionately committed to editorial excellence and to caring for our authors.

At Egmont, our motto is that we turn writers into authors, and children into lifelong readers.

Who is heading up your editorial efforts?

Egmont has possibly the smartest, most experienced and professional executive editor in the business, Regina Griffin [pictured].

She’s had a great deal of experience in growing fiction lists, first at Scholastic and then at Holiday House, and she brought Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers, among others, to Egmont.

And Greg Ferguson is our other editor, very talented and adept—he’s a real rising star who came to us from Harper. We think we’re very lucky to have them both.

Finally, we have an enormously dedicated editorial assistant, Alison Weiss, who will probably run her own editorial line one day.

[Pictured from left to right: Greg Ferguson, Mary Albi, Elizabeth Law, Doug Pocock, Alison Weiss, Nico Medina, Rob Guzman. Missing from photo, Regina Griffin (see above), who had gone to vote when this photo was taken.]

What kinds of books will you publish?

We believe in books that are kid friendly—books children will really enjoy. My own tastes in fiction are pretty down to earth, and that’s reflected in the kind of books I like for children.

Also, I’m a sucker for romance. I wrote my B.A. paper on Wuthering Heights and I’ve read the Twilight books [by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown, 2005-2008)] several times. To quote the late, great Scholastic editor Ann Reit: “It’s all about the yearning.”

We are primarily looking for chapter books and middle grade and YA fiction, but when we see a picture book that blows us away, we can’t say no. That’s how we got Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (Egmont, October 2009).

What will make Egmont USA special, different from other houses?

We love all our books, and having a small list means we can bring each book to market with its own specific marketing plan and our full support.

At big houses, the best-selling franchises eat up so much time and attention that sometimes really good books don’t get all the attention they deserve, no matter how talented and committed the team behind them is.

Will you be taking submissions from agents, from writers directly, or both?

Right now, we can only accept submissions from agents. We’re a very small company (there are eight people in the entire U.S. office!), and we would not be able to respond to unsolicited manuscripts in a timely way. We intend to change that in the future, as we grow.

What Egmont USA titles should we look forward to? (or look for?)

We have so many good ones! I’d like to brag about a few from first-time writers.

We have an “‘Addams-Family’-meets-Cheaper-by-the-Dozen” novel called Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Venuti, a wonderful steampunk kind of thriller called Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilantes by Glenn Dakin, a novel by first-time writer Pam Bachorz called Candor, which is set in a sort of Stepford town for teens, and a novel titled Back Home [cover not final] from a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Julia Keller, about a family coping with their father coming home from Iraq with a traumatic head injury.

Also, we have a very funny novel from Allen Zadoff called Food, Girls, and other Things I Can’t Have. It’s one of the funniest novels I’ve read in years, but it’s got a lot of heart to it, too. I really believe he’s a YA talent to watch.

All of those books will be on Egmont’s Fall ’09 list.

Over the course of your career what are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the field of publishing books for young readers? What are the bright signs? The challenges?

I could talk about this for an hour, so I will just discuss one part of it.

The rewards of one of today’s great publishing franchises (a Harry Potter, a Twilight, a Chronicles of Narnia) are more lucrative than ever before—but a company can really struggle when a big series comes to an end, or doesn’t come out with a new volume for a few years.

That’s just business. Corporate “parents” and stockholders press for growth—that’s their job. But even the greatest publishers in town struggle with duplicating their big hits.

What do you do outside your editorial/publishing life?

I’m mad for the theater, and I go every chance I get. It’s fun to have a passion that I don’t work in. I can just love or hate things without any attachment.

When I read Rachel Vail or Doreen Cronin or Kirkpatrick Hill, I think, Oh, I wish I published her! Or when a book I’ve acquired and nurtured to publication doesn’t sell as well as I thought it should, it can be very disappointing.

With the theater, I have none of those conflicts. I just go and have fun. Also, I love to scuba dive.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Don’t we have the best jobs in the world?


Egmont covers are not final.

The Greenhouse Grows: Transatlantic Literary Agency Announces New Appointment

The Greenhouse Literary Agency – the transatlantic children’s agency run by former Macmillan UK Children’s Publishing Director Sarah Davies and owned by Working Partners – has appointed Julia Churchill to grow the British side of the business.

Churchill was formerly an agent with the Darley Anderson Agency in London where she built a strong reputation for spotting new talent in the children’s fiction area.

The Greenhouse launched in January 2008 following Davies’s move to the USA. Based in Washington DC and London, and representing both American and British writers, the agency specializes in fiction for children and teens (though not picture books at the moment).

It has had a string of successes through its first year with seven debut authors sold, several of them at auction. Among these have been major U.S. deals for Sarwat Chadda‘s The Devil’s Kiss and Lindsey Leavitt‘s Princess for Hire (both to Hyperion, Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 respectively). Other novels have been sold to Clarion, Farrar Straus and Egmont USA.

Davies attributes much of this success to the Greenhouse’s commitment to working editorially with authors before submission.

Sarah Davies says: “The Greenhouse’s first year has been a fabulous journey, and I’ve loved discovering, developing and selling fresh talent on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m very proud that even before its first anniversary, Greenhouse has the platform to grow. Julia Churchill is a talented and creative agent, plus she’s got the skills to work closely with authors in developing their material and helping them reach their full potential – something that has become a trademark of the Greenhouse. Her appointment will enable me to focus even more on the U.S. market, knowing that Julia is out there building our British stable of authors.”

Chris Snowdon of Working Partners says: “We could not be happier with Greenhouse’s first year, and are delighted Julia will be joining the team in January. We are well on track to achieve our goal of becoming the agency of choice for children’s authors on both sides of the Atlantic.”

10th Anniversary Feature: Jane Kurtz

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of, 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 Jane Kurtz:

In the past decade, I learned that writing is frustrating and tough and hard–and exhilarating beyond belief.

It’s been an anti-book decade. The kinds of books I care about most have suffered particularly.

What that has done is send me back to the writing itself–how much I love being a student of the craft; how much I love trying different things; how much I love getting to be part of a book world, hard as it is.

Read a Cynsations interview with Jane.