Author Interview: Cynthea Liu on AuthorsNow!

Cynthea Liu is the author of S.A.S.S. The Great Call of China (Puffin/Speak, Feb. 2009) and Paris Pan Takes the Dare (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, June 2009). Read an interview with Cynthea from Writing for Children & Teens.

What is your relationship to AuthorsNow! – The Internet’s Largest Collaboration of Debut Children’s and Teen Book Authors and Illustrators?

I’m the founder of AuthorsNow! That means I am head webmistress, chief administration support person, financial operator, publicity chairperson, and author slave-driver!

What was the initial inspiration for creating the site?

AuthorsNow! evolved from other group efforts such as The Classes (interview), Debut 2009 (interview), and The Tenners.

I myself am a Debut 2009 member, and I love the atmosphere our group creates for middle grade and YA authors, as well as fans of children’s and teen fiction.

But as you know, there is still more ground to cover; why not build something for everyone?

Now all debut authors of major trade publishers can showcase their books, while offering a valuable resource to parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, reviewers, and other children’s book enthusiasts. I love that AuthorsNow! members are from every debut group, every class, every genre, and every year (beginning with 2009).

Does AuthorsNow! only feature content from debut authors?

While our book profiles are restricted to debut members, we plan to feature any content related to children’s and teen books that is useful for parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and book reviewers.

Got an article for teachers on how to hold a successful author visit? Know the ins and outs of using historical fiction in the classroom? Or maybe you have a method for culling out the best boy books to recommend to children.

If you’ve got the right content, we’d be happy to feature it on AuthorsNow!, crediting you and any relevant links. We receive thousands of visits each month, so don’t miss this opportunity. Email query@authorsnow.com with your ideas. We can’t pay, but we can promise you great exposure to our audience and a nice writing credit.

How did you get AuthorsNow! started?

It was fairly straightforward. “Does anyone want to join? I’ll build the site; you give me the content.” Debut authors caught on to the idea quickly. And now new authors are joining every day, giving our audience what they want to see–more debut books! Currently, we are 110 members strong. Don’t ask me where we’ll be next month!

What features does the site include?

· Book profiles–the meat-and-potatoes of the site. They’re organized so that you can find books by selecting multiple criteria including genre, age group, topic, author name, author location–the list goes on.

· Dynamic author map. You can look for a local author, and with one click, see what age group they write for, the title of their book, the genre and much more.

· Contest alerts. Giveaways include signed books, gift certificates, even a whole classroom set of books!

· Columns like debut author Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich’s “Faves on a Friday,” offering food for thought about interesting topics in the children’s and teen book world.

I truly hope AuthorsNow! will become a one-stop-resource for everything you need to know about debut authors, their books, and then some!

What plans are on the horizon?

In the coming weeks, we’re bringing new content features online.

· Author Spotlight. We’ll celebrate debut launches with a Spotlight interview specifically designed to help readers understand how an author’s book differs from the rest. Spotlights are often accompanied with a fun giveaway.

· Connect. Through freestyle blogging, our authors will share more than the typical book jacket and author bio, helping readers connect with our authors’ individual personalities.

· Movie-style ratings for member books from PG to R. Can’t tell a clean YA from a saucy one? Our ratings will help.

· Supplemental content such as quizzes and discussion guides. As the material becomes available, you bet that’ll be up on AuthorsNow!

· Original articles from readers like you. Email query@authorsnow.com.

Is AuthorsNow! just a marketing site?

No. I have a strict policy about the site becoming a free-for-all, “Look at me, look at me!” kind of place. Our members know they should tap their boundless creativity to keep it interesting and valuable for our audience.

We also go beyond the functions of an ordinary website. Collectively, we can form panels and workshops for schools, libraries, festivals and conferences.

Are you looking for something in particular? Just contact us and we’ll tap our membership to give you what you’re seeking.

Our mission is clear. AuthorsNow! strives to be a fabulous resource, not just a sales pitch.

Obviously, with such a big group, you can’t mention everyone. But could you highlight for us just a few new voices we should be looking for in 2009?

Here are a few short descriptions that highlight the range of our books.

One family welcomes a new child into the world, evoking the warmth and community of la familia through the acts of each member, including the puppy! –bilingual picture book, Before You Were Here, Mi Amor by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Santiago Cohen (Viking, March 2009)

A girl who tells fake fortunes must make one of them come true to save her father’s life. –middle grade novel, Fortune’s Folly by Deva Fagan (Henry Holt, April 2009).

Eleven-year-old “Groovy” Robinson dreams of attending culinary school until she discovers her father has gambled away her inheritance, and her own mother has had him arrested. –middle grade novel, The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (Bowen Press, Feb. 2009)

When Samar’s turbaned uncle shows up on her doorstep the week of September 11th, everyone notices, and Samar’s happily assimilated existence as an Indian-American Jersey girl is turned upside down.–young adult novel, Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (McElderry, March 2009)

Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels is convinced she can solve all her problems by getting a nose job. –young adult novel, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter (Harcourt, April 2009).

What is the criteria for AuthorsNow! membership?

We welcome debut authors from 2009 and beyond. Their publishers must be CWIM or CBC members, and the book must be debuting in the United States. Details are here.

We’ll talk more about your own books later! But for now, could you give us a hint of what to expect from your own debut?

My YA book S.A.S.S.: The Great Call of China (Speak, Feb. 2009) features an adopted teen who journeys to China to find answers to her past.

My other debut middle grade novel Paris Pan Takes the Dare (Putnam, June 2009), features twelve-year-old Paris who has moved to a small town where everyone who’s anyone takes the Dare.

Of course, you can find out all about my debut books and about a zillion others at AuthorsNow!

Author Interview: Jackson Pearce on the 2009 Debutantes

Jackson Pearce on Jackson Pearce: “Jackson Pearce is twenty-four years old and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with a slightly cross-eyed cat and a lot of secondhand furniture. She recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English and a minor in Philosophy. She auditioned for the circus once, but didn’t make it; other jobs she’s had include obituaries writer, biker bar waitress, and receptionist. In addition, Jackson coaches both colorguard and winterguard at a local high school.

“Jackson began writing when she got angry that the school librarian couldn’t tell her of a book that contained a smart girl, horses, baby animals, and magic. Her solution was to write the book herself when she was twelve. Her parents thought it was cute at first, but have grown steadily more concerned for her ever since.”

Congratulations on your debut novel! Could you tell us a little about it?

As You Wish (HarperCollins, fall 2009) is an urban fantasy about a teenage girl and the jinn granting her three wishes who fall in starcrossed-love with one another. It’s told in alternating points of view and is loosely based on Shakespeare‘s The Tempest.

When did you find out about your first sale? What happened? How did you celebrate?

I found out that someone offered on the book while driving to a colorguard rehearsal; I pulled off to the side of I-85, angering many a driver behind me.

After a few more offers came in and I decided to go with HarperCollins, I called and told my grandfather first. He thought I was joking; it took several minutes for me to convince him that there was no punchline. I actually recorded the phone call.

What else should we know about your writing life?

About my writing life? Hm, that’s tough. I’m focusing on YA and MG literature right now, I outline like a crazy person, and I sometimes I get so excited about a scene that I end up mistyping everything in my frantic attempts to get it down. I’ve started doing writing-related videos for YouTube and blog like it’s going out of style (not sure if that’s a good thing or not…).

What about being a near-debut author has surprised you the most?

How everything changes–and everything stays the same. I thought a sweeping sense of “Wow, everything is great and shiny!” would rain down on me after I sold my debut.

While I am very, very happy and excited, I still worry– just about new, different things: will I meet my deadlines, will they buy another book, will I like my cover, am I a flash in the pan?

I think selling a book really grounds you. Once you’ve realized that you aren’t guaranteed to spend the rest of your life walking on sunshine, you really begin to focus on the craft of writing and how you can improve at it.

You’re involved in the 2009 Debutantes: A Feast of Awesome! Could you tell us a little about the group?

The Debutantes are a group of YA and MG authors with books debuting in 2009. We’re not a marketing group, but rather a social group. We talk about all sorts of stuff– writing and editing and the process, but also what candy we like and what we saw on sale at the grocery store and….

All that said, we do have giveaways and contests going on– it’s hard to hang around with a bunch of like minded people and not want to make goodie bags, it seems.

What is your specific role?

I started the Debs community and mostly oversee initiating and setting up new members, site design, and general organizational type stuff. That said, I wouldn’t say I truly have a specific role; no one does. We have no officers, no dues, and no pecking order.

If you have an idea, you pretty much just post “Hey, what if we did XYZ?” and people chime in, offer to help, etc. No one is required to participate in anything, and if you need to take a month or two off for your personal life, you’ll be welcomed back with open arms.

We’ve really established a personal, community-type feel, I think in part because of our primary focus on being a social group with marketing serving as a side perk instead of the other way around.

How did the Debs come together?

We started with about 10-15 people, and now have almost 50. I was certain the number of membership requests would cool down as we got closer to 2009, but via word of mouth we’ve grown fairly steadily.

Who are your members?

A list of our members– and their relevant book/contact info– is available here.

Could you tell us a little about their works, highlighting as you see fit?

We really span the spectrum of the YA/MG genres. We have everything from lit fic (Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer (Hyperion, 2009)), chick lit (The Espressologist by Kristina Springer (FSG, 2009)), urban fantasy (Wings by Aprilynne Pike (HarperCollins, 2009)), historicals (The Season by Sarah MacLean (Orchard Books, 2009)), fantasy (Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink (Little, Brown 2009)), paranormals (Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Delacorte 2009)), boy books (Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta, Knopf 2009 )– the whole nine yards. [Note: some links require LJ log in; see also master list.]

The Debs have authors from big houses, little houses, and everything in between. We’ve been doing an ARC swap where everyone sends their ARC around to the rest of the group one by one (each person signs and writes in the ARC, so it comes back to it’s owner like a big Debs yearbook), and I haven’t read a single disappointment. Seriously–there are way to many phenomenal Debs-penned books for me to find “highlighting” anything but a daunting task.

What plans does the group have for 2009?

In 2009, we’re likely to be doing quite a few giveaways, donating to reading-related charities, and trying to connect with other writers, readers, and community watchers via topic discussions, critiques, and reviews.

But, in true Debs style, we’re also likely to be cheering each other on, shamelessly promoting other Debs’ books, and continuing to talk about life, writing, and candy.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

I didn’t feel right answering this alone, so I asked a few other Debs to chime in:

Jackson Pearce (As You Wish (Harper Collins, 2009)): Keep going– everything you put in the scrap heap is practice for a masterpiece.

Mandy Hubbard (Prada and Prejudice (Razorbill, 2009)): A published author is an amateur who didn’t quit. Don’t quit.

Rhonda Stapleton (Stupid Cupid (Simon Pulse, 2009)): Read, read, read–and when you’re done, read more.

Cheryl Renee Herbsman (Breathing (Viking, 2009)): [Don’t] try to control the form the writing wants to take…let go and let it be what it wants to be.

Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009)): Keep writing — that’s what it takes. Also, when writing, skip the boring parts.

Author Interview: Beverly Patt on Haven and the Class of 2k9

Beverly Patt on Beverly Patt: “A 40-something (okay, automatically you know I’m over 45 because no one under 45 calls themselves ’40 something’) mom of four, wife of one and writer of, well, it depends on what you’re counting.

“I cut my writer teeth in the magazine world, writing 80+ nonfiction articles, mystery stories and parenting rants.

“I was even a Teen Advice Columnist until one of the Back Street Boys‘ girlfriends replaced me. Honestly. The nerve.”

Congratulations on your debut novel, Haven (Blooming Tree, fall 2009)! Could you tell us a little about it?

14-year-old Rudy Morris would love nothing more than to own an ATV to help him escape his claustrophobic family once in a while. Ward-of-the-state Latonya would be happy to merely have a family to escape from. And Stark? Well, he just likes to fix stuff.

Put them all together and you’ve got a runaway plan that may be headed for disaster. Or even worse–success.

When did you find out about your first sale? What happened? How did you celebrate?

I found out over the phone in August of 2006. Miriam Hees, publisher of Blooming Tree Press, called me and said, “How’d you like to sell me a book?”

I screamed. Embarrassing, but true.

My son thought I’d been stabbed…

…or seen his supposedly cleaned bedroom.

My sweet, supportive hubby took me out for Chilean Sea Bass at our favorite restaurant.

My writer’s group threw a party.

And fellow Chicago debut writer Cynthea Liu took me out for Thai!

What about being a near-debut author has surprised you the most?

How really long it is between getting that call and getting that book on the shelf. And how I still don’t feel like a “real” writer yet.

You’re involved in the Class of 2k9 cooperative professional effort? What does this mean? What is your specific role?

The “Class of 2k…” was the brainstorm of 2007 debut novelist Greg R. Fishbone–he thought a group of debut children’s novelists could grab more media and industry attention together than on their own.

I was originally in the Class of 2k8. When my book got pushed to 2009, another former 2k8r, Rosanne Parry, and I took the torch and began taking applications. The early members elected me co-president while I was in the bathroom. Or something like that. (The other co-president is Albert Borris).

As to what the 2k9 group means…well, it’s this amazing group of dedicated children’s/ya novelists who have put loads of time and effort into… making a (wonderful!) group website, setting up speaking engagements, planning contests and giveaways, organizing outreach programs for under-served/needy schools and libraries, writing up reading guides/teaching guides/bookseller guidelines. Oh! And like any organization that has more than one woman on it – we have food! Well, recipes really, that go with our books.

My specific role has been dealing with the website (with my small committee) and providing comic relief.

How did the class come together? What were the criteria for membership eligibility and why?

We set up a hotmail account and put out a general call on as many places as we could – Verla Kay’s Website for Children’s Writers and Illustrators, LiveJournal, etc.

People who were interested emailed us and we sent them an application.The requirements set by previous classes were: (1) this had to be your first children’s/YA novel; (2) published in the US by a publisher recognized in CWIM. There was also a monetary contribution (for the website, print/swag, etc).

We really tried to emphasize in our cover letter that being a part of this group would take a considerable chunk of time and commitment.

Who are your members?

Ellen Jensen Abbott, Albert Borris, Lauren Bjorkman, Megan Crewe, J. T. Dutton, Susan E. Fine, Kathryn Fitzmaurice, S. Terrell French, Lisa Greenwald, Edith M. Hemingway, Cheryl Renee Herbsman, Jennifer R. Hubbard, Danielle Joseph, Ann Haywood Leal, Deborah Lytton, Rosanne Parry, Joy Preble, Sydney Salter, Fran Cannon Slayton, Lauren Strasnick, Donna St. Cyr, Suzanne Morgan Williams and moi, Beverly Patt.

Why did you decide to participate?

I actually can’t remember how it happened–maybe Jody Feldman and Marissa Dolye (2k8 co-presidents) asked Rosanne and I to start working on it? Probably.

I was living in London at the time so it’s all a blur. (Don’t I sound cool saying that?!)

What has the group accomplished so far?

A fabulous website, a handful of speaking proposals, awesome outreach and contest plans and some darn good recipes!

And not to be corny, but we’ve managed to develop a very close sense of community with each other, where each person is helping out more than the next. It’s a very special group of people–and most of us have never met!

What plans do you have on the horizon?

Well, I have a picture-story book called Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook, illustrated by Shula Klinger (Marshall Cavendish) scheduled to come out in the Spring of 2010. I am extremely excited for that and cannot say enough good things about my editor, Robin Benjamin–she’s been a dream to work with. The artwork is going to be fabulous too–I’ve been lucky enough to see some preliminary sketches.

Next, I have a few humorous picture books I’d love to sell. I’m currently revising a middle grade novel called Spirit House and hope to have a bidding war over that in the near future. Ha! And if there are any agents reading this–I’m unagented at the moment.

In what ways, if any, will your strategy differ from the Class of 2k8?

We’ve got food!

Seriously, it will be pretty much along the same lines, although we have a committed group of writers doing some incredible outreach work, which in my book, (ooo, bad pun) is really going above and beyond.

And I really do think the recipes are a fun bonus that may hook a hungry librarian or two.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Oh, gosh, I hardly feel like I can give advice–I still feel like a beginning writer myself. Truly.

I guess the most profound and, hopefully, helpful thing I can say is: It’s all input.

The books you read, the smells you sniff, the conversations you overhear, the fights you have with your husband, the rejection letters you get, the articles you write in your local (read: free) paper, the broken arm you get while walking the new puppy that everyone else promised they’d walk but they don’t and so you end up doing it and you trip over the leash….

Ahem.

Yes. Like I was saying–it’s all input.

Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith Event on April 11 at BookPeople in Austin

Mark your calendars!

Authors Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith invite you to join them at 1 p.m. April 11 at BookPeople (Sixth and Lamar) in Austin.

They will be celebrating the success of Kathi’s The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008), which was a National Book Award Finalist and newly crowned ALA Newbery Honor Book, and the release of Cynthia’s Eternal (Candlewick, 2009).

The event will include very brief readings, entertaining commentary, and a signing by both authors. Please help spread the word! Hope to see y’all there!

Read a Cynsations interview with Kathi.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Mark your calendars! Authors Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith invite you to join them at 1 p.m. April 11 at BookPeople (Sixth and Lamar) in Austin. They will be celebrating the success of Kathi’s The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008), which was a National Book Award Finalist and newly crowned ALA Newbery Honor Book, and the release of Cynthia’s Eternal (Candlewick, 2009). The event will include very brief readings, entertaining commentary, and a signing by both authors. Hope to see you there! Read a Cynsations interview with Kathi.

Attention Teachers, School and Public Librarians, and University Professors of Children’s-YA Literature! Enter to win an autographed classroom set of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) bookmarks! To enter, please email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name, the name of your school or library, and your snail/street mail address. Please type “Eternal bookmarks” in the subject line. Good luck!

Enter to Win One of Five Copies of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) from Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central. Here’s the giveaway question: “If you had a guardian angel (and maybe you do!), what would his or her name be, and what would they be like?” Contest begins Feb. 1 and ends Feb. 28. See additional details. Note: Thanks to Candlewick Press and Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central!

Eternal will be published in hardcover by Walker Books Australia and New Zealand in May 2009. See more information.

More News

2009 Youth Media Award Calls
from American Libraries. Note: have you ever wanted to listen in on a call to a new Newbery winner? Here’s your chance! (This is the one link you must click).

Recipe for success? High concept. from Waxman Literary Agency. Peek: “High concept is about making it easier for people to pick up what you’re putting down, which benefits you at every stage of the publishing game.” Source: Gwenda Bond.

Julie Berry, Writer for Young Readers: official site from the debut author of The Amaranth Enchantment (Bloomsbury, March 2009). Peek: “I’m the youngest of seven clever children, none of whom are children anymore, but they’re all still clever. I spent my early years desperate to catch up to what they were reading, and sit at the big kids’ table. Now with four sons of my own, ages 12, 10, 8, and 4, I eat every meal at the big kids’ table.”

As Ursula Nordstrom Said, “No, I Don’t Have Any Children. But I Was a Child, and I Haven’t Forgotten a Thing.” from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “There are other authors who seem to have vivid memories of a great deal of their childhoods, and can write empathetically and respectfully for a wide range of ages.”

Agent Jennifer Mattson on Magic Realism from The Spectacle. Peek: “I also think of the magic as being very gentle and often surreal – nothing ‘high fantasy’ (wizardly bolts, vampires, et cetera) about it.”

Check out the book trailer for Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), featured below! Read a Cynsations interview with Louise.

yoborobo: a new blog from author Pam Smallcomb. Pam’s books include The Trimoni Twins and the Shrunken Treasure, The Trimoni Twins and the Changing Coin, and The Last Burp of Mac McGerp (all Bloomsbury).

My Secret Weapon: eBay
by Sue Macy from INK: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: “Although there were a few photos available of citizens voting against the Games, they weren’t very interesting. So I checked eBay—and found one of the few souvenirs minted before the withdrawal, a commemorative pin.”

Congratulations to A. S. King on the release of The Dust of 100 Dogs (Flux, 2009)! From the promotional copy: “In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with “the dust of one hundred dogs,” dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact. Now she’s a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.”

Open Big
by Coe Booth at The Longstockings. Peek: “While it’s good to get to know the characters early on, some of the writers who entered the contest decided to put all of the characters in the first chapter. Occasionally it worked, especially for the ensemble novels, but most of the time it was just a confusing mess of people, making it impossible to keep track of them all.”

Grants: a listing from Jennifer Ward. Peek: “Thinking of hosting an author visit, but need some funds? Here are some terrific grants, just for educators!”

A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship by Debra Lau Whelan from School Library Journal. Note: I’m re-running this link to encourage you to take a look at the new comments that follow. Source: Confessions of a Bibliovore.

Congratulations to Stacey Jay on the release of You Are So Undead To Me (Razorbill, 2009). From the promotional copy: “Megan Berry’s social life is so dead. Literally. Fifteen-year-old Megan Berry is a Zombie Settler by birth, which means she’s part-time shrink to a bunch of dead people with a whole lot of issues. All Megan wants is to be normal–and go to homecoming, of course. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard when your dates keep getting interrupted by a bunch of slobbering Undead. Things are about to get even worse for Megan. Someone in school is using black magic to turn average, angsty Undead into flesh-eating Zombies, and it’s looking like homecoming will turn out to be a very different kind of party–the bloody kind. Megan must stop the Zombie apocalypse descending on Carol, Arkansas. Her life–and more importantly, homecoming–depends on it.” Read an excerpt. Read an interview with Stacey Jay from Welcome to the Oakenwyld: This world of ours, and worlds unseen / and thin the boundary between.

A Pen and A Nest: a new blog from author Kimberly Willis Holt. Peek: “A Pen and a Nest will also introduce you to other writers and artists and what home means to them while exploring their craft. We’ll find out where they like to write. I want to know. Don’t you? And lucky us, my pal, Kathi Appelt agreed to be the first.” See also Laundry and Writer’s Block. Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Check out this book trailer for Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne (Dial, 2009).

Cynsational Tip: make sure your publisher’s name is listed with your books on your website!

2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults from the American Library Association. See picks in the following categories: Death and Dying; Fame and Fortune; Journey > Destination; Spies and Intrigue.

The Rainbow List: 2009
from GLBTQ Books for Children and Teens. Source: Malinda Ho.

An Interview with Zetta Elliott in conjunction with 28 Days Later: A Black History Month Celebration of Children’s Literature from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “It’s interesting how often people ask if I had a brother who died of drug addiction; I don’t, and I didn’t have a grandfather who was a Tuskegee airman. Readers often want to believe that a story emerged directly from an author’s life experience, but more often than not, it’s a blend of fact and fiction.” Note: this series is currently ongoing and highly recommended.

Interview with author Joan Kremer: Second Life and writers by Debbie Ridpath Ohio from Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers. Peek: “A few days after I’d first come in-world, I happened to meet this avatar also strolling around INKsters. We got to talking, discovered we were both writers, became great friends, and from that came our desire to build our own writers’ center.”

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast #97: Ed Young: “Eisha, could you even pick your favorite Ed Young title, or would it be way too hard? ” Read a Cynsations interview with Ed.

Get ready to party in celebration of the release of Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby (Puffin, March 2008)–see below.

Multiples: a week-long discussion from Liz Gallagher at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “What’s the planning process like when you know that the book you are writing is part of a bigger whole? Do you always know when you start out? What if you just have more to say? Or what if you’re supposed to have more to say, and you don’t? And, hey, does a book with a sequel actually have to be a complete story in itself?” Read a Cynsations interview with Liz.

Marvelous Marketer – Krista Marino (Sr. Editor/Delacorte Press) from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children’s Book Author. Peek: “You can quietly build a solid fan base by keeping (and maintaining regularly) a blog and website.”

Remember that book …? from Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: “So. As a kid, I read. A lot. Many of the books I’ve completely forgotten about. Some of them, I remember liking and still remember in part. And some of them, I’ve completely forgotten about and will never remember again unless and until somethings jogs the memory. Anyway, now, being an author of youth literature, I wanted to see how some of them held up today…”

Malinda Lo: Official author site features a blog on writing and books, queer issues, food, and more. Lo’s first YA novel, Ash, will be published in September 2009 by Little, Brown. Lo is the former managing editor of AfterEllen.com (part of MTV’s Logo network), the web’s largest entertainment news site for lesbians and bisexual women.

Manuscript Critique Discount from Stacy Whitman at Stacy Whitman’s Grimoire. Peek: “We’re all dealing with tough times right now. Getting your manuscript critiqued by an experienced editor is definitely a luxury, and an expensive one at that. With that in mind, I’m offering a discount for the next month (expires March 11) on my manuscript critique services.”

Interview with Susane Colasanti from The Book Obsession. Peek: “I’m a proud New Yorker who’s in love with this city, so I was super excited about writing a book that takes place here. I wanted to infuse my passion and adoration for my neighborhood into the story. I hope my readers can feel the magic, too!”

Congratulations to Lisa McMann on the release of Fade (Simon Pulse, 2009)! From the promotional copy: “For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck. Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open–but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both. Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability. And it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a Dream Catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d even feared… ” Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Kids can help Arthur the aardvark find new friend by Leanne Italie of The Associated Press. Peek: “Through March 31, children can send in drawings and descriptions of their creations for a chance to appear on TV in a short live-action segment. The winner will also get to meet Brown, who as author and illustrator has put out about 70 Arthur titles that have sold more than 65 million copies in the United States alone.” See contest rules and entry form. Source: NCTE.

An Interview with Micol Ostow by Liz Gallagher at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “A mistake that would-be tie-in writers can make is to assume that being a fan of the show immediately qualifies you to write to for the book series. That’s not always the case. In fact, there is almost a cult of very talented writers who make a living writing tie-in stories, and I think it’s that experience that allows them to switch so fluidly between properties and to be able to write into a series voice.”

Check out this interview with Lauren Myracle on Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks (Dutton, 2009)!


Living Is Optimism
from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: “If I told someone I would get back to them in three months, my brain/workstyle would categorize that task as too far in the future to keep track of, and forget about it entirely. If I told someone I would do something in three months, it would not happen.”

TheTorchOnline.com: “an online resource devoted to news and critical analysis of fantasy-themed projects in all media: movies, television, games, books, live theater, graphic novels and comic books, and web content.” Even better: “TheTorchOnline.com is edited by author Brent Hartinger.” Read a Cynsations interview with Brent.

Awesome Authors: Carrie Jones featured in conjunction with the Bradford Blog Bash in celebration of the release of GoldenGirl by Micol Ostow (Simon Pulse, Jan. 27, 2009). Peek: “Well, a diary is for yourself. A blog is read by others (possibly). So there’s a definite private vs. public aspect. Even though I seem terribly confessional on my own blog I really keep my biggest troubles and secrets to myself. I might hint at them occasionally (like this week actually) but I never tell. That’s how I am in my un-blog life, too. I’m not good about telling the big deep hurts or truths.”

Happy Second Birthday, Shrinking Violets! Peek: “In the spirit of our birthday celebration, how about buying a book at an independent bookstore and donating it to a child, teen, a shelter, a school or public library?”

I HEART the Editorial Letter by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “For me, the hardest part of doing the revisions at first is just opening the document and starting. It can be overwhelming, because you have this letter of all the things you’re supposed to work on.”

Q & A with Virginia Euwer Wolff by Lynda Brill Comerford from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Reviewers have called my books ‘novels in verse.’ I think of them as written in prose, but I do use stanzas. Stanza means ‘room’ in Latin, and I wanted there to be “room”—breathing opportunities to receive thoughts and have time to come out of them before starting again at the left margin.” Source: April Henry.

More Personally


Winners of the Eternal Giveaways, please note that your prizes are in the mail! Here’s a peek at my crack assembly process! Thanks again to all who entered!

Thanks to Gwenda Bond for highlighting my recent interview with illustrator Gene Brenek about his designs for the Tantalize and Eternal T-shirts! Read the interview with Gene.

Thank you to P. J. Hoover and Shana Burg for being so “Bitten and Smitten” and to Liz Gallagher and for cheering the release of Eternal at Through the Tollbooth! Hugs too to Miss Madison at Prêt-a-Party for blogging the same! Please go visit our mutual friend, Miss Micol-stat!

Thanks to Hip Writer Mama for highlighting the release and featuring the trailer! Most appreciated! And thanks to Niki Burnham for dishing on the end cap at Barnes & Noble, nation-wide! On a related note, thanks too to Barnes & Noble and Candlewick Press!

Notes From The Horn Book says: “When the beautiful Zachary awakens the vestiges of Miranda’s humanity, together they raise a full-scale supernatural battle against the increasingly unstable Dracula. Eternal is not for the squeamish, but fans of the author’s delectably demonic Tantalize will lap it up.”

The teen reviewers at Justine Magazine say Eternal is “haunting,” “romantic,” “memorable.” Lane, 16, Arkansas, says: “Every girl I know would love to be loved like Zachary loves Miranda.” See all the teen reviews!

Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature cheers the release of Eternal and says: “In essence, it is important that we be open to what is being written by Native writers. Don’t pigeon hole them or their writing. Expand your expectations of what Native writers write about. Read Native writers, whether their stories are about Native life, or vampires.”

And finally, I have updated my playlist at MySpace to reflect Eternal.

Even More Personally

Happy birthday to my cousin Stacy! Happy Valentine’s day to Greg! Thanks to all of you for your support during this week’s launch of Eternal!

Coming Soon

Cynthia will be appearing at Book Roast online to discuss Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) on Feb. 19. Please surf by for a chance to win a signed copy of the novel!

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will be on a panel about “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). Peek: “Sometimes getting that first draft down is the biggest hurdle to bringing a great idea to literary life. Find out how several authors approach the first draft.” Note: “Before the program, join us at Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill, 1123 S. Congress (two blocks south of the WLT office for a ‘Mixand Mingle Happy Hour.'”

More Cynsational Events

Due to a technical difficulty, Cynthia’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.

Cynthia will be speaking on “Writing and Illustrating Native American Children’s Literature” (with S. D. Nelson) and “Monsters and Magic: Writing Gothic Fantasy Novels for Teenagers” on March 15 at the Tucson Festival of Books.

Cynthia will sign Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) at 3 p.m. April 2 at Candlewick Booth at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association in Houston.

Cynthia and Greg will visit the Barbara Bush Branch Library in Spring, Texas; at 4 p.m. April 3. Note: Spring is outside of Houston.

Cynthia will visit the YA book club at the Cedar Park (Texas) Public Library at 11 a.m. May 30. Note: Cedar Park is outside of Austin.

Author Interview: Lisa McMann on Fade

Lisa McMann on Lisa McMann: Lisa McMann is the author of New York Times bestseller Wake (Simon Pulse, 2008). Its sequel, Fade, is now available, and a third book in the series, Gone, is slated for spring 2010. Wake is a YALSA BBYA nominee, a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adults, and a Borders Original Voices Finalist.

Lisa grew up in Michigan. When she was a teenager, she worked as a blueberry picker, babysitter, bookstore clerk, and bindery worker in a printing company where she used a machine to roll gazillions of labels and stickers onto cardboard cores. She still has the paper cut scars to prove it. Now, Lisa and her family live near Phoenix where she writes from a green chair overlooking the Superstition Mountains.

Sometimes she wears a cowboy hat.

She’s not really a cowboy.

She just likes hats.

What were you like as a young reader? Who were your favorite authors? What were your favorite titles?

I went to the library with my mom every Saturday and brought home fourteen books. I read whenever I could. I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn [by Betty Smith (1943)], Little Women [by Louisa May Alcott (1868, 1869) , all the Cherry Ames nurse books [by Helen Wells], Little House series, Judy Blume (I had to hide those books from my mom, though), Roald Dahl.

What first inspired you to write for young adults?

My first manuscript (which is not published) was inspired by a documentary called “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kinder Transport.” I was so moved by the stories of the hard lives the children in the documentary faced as Jewish children escaping from Germany to England right before the Holocaust. It was such a reminder of how strong teens are.

It has always felt natural to me to write about young adults. They are so incredibly interesting and tragic and wonderful. Their lives change enormously over just a few years –there is so much to write about when it comes to teens.

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

Well, as I mentioned, Wake wasn’t my first manuscript, nor was it my second (which will never see the light of day). It’s my third, but the first to get published. It felt like a stumble at the time when manuscript #1 got so close to hooking an agent but ultimately failed to do so, but looking back, I see now that it is so important to practice writing novels.

There were sprints, as well. When I started to look for an agent with Wake, I sent my query out to twelve agents one Monday, starting with the one agent I wanted more than anyone. Within two hours, I had a request from my dream agent for the full manuscript. Two days later, I had six other requests for the full. By Friday of that week, Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich, the agent I was so hoping for, offered representation. So that went very quickly.

Looking back, what was the single best decision you made in terms of advancing your craft as a writer?

I stopped following the rules, and I stopped listening to people who tried to tell me that I wasn’t following the rules and therefore would fail.

This is not to say I didn’t accept feedback and critiques — I welcomed those as all writers must do to get better.

As a fan of Wake (Simon Pulse, 2008), I was thrilled to hear about the sequel, Fade (Simon Pulse, 2009)! Could you tell us a little about the new novel?

I’m terrified of giving away spoilers, so here is the flap copy for Fade:

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams.

They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck. Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open–but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability. And it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a Dream Catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d even feared…

Did you always intend to continue Janie’s story behind the first book? If not, how did that evolve?

When I finished Wake, I immediately did what all writers should not do (there I go, breaking the rules again): I started writing a sequel, Fade. I couldn’t help it — it burst out of me, and I decided that I had to write it even if it never got published. So I was not counting on Fade ever seeing the light of day. But my wonderful editor Jen at Pulse wanted a sequel. By the time we sold the two books, I actually had Fade finished. So that was a relief, and it worked out all right.

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

Researching police procedure turned out to be difficult, so occasionally I resorted to doing something authors call “making stuff up.” I also had to do a lot of research on illegal drugs and how to create them, which made me feel really creepy.

How do you balance being a writer with the demands of being an author (contracts, promotion, etc.)?

When I write, I focus on writing, and when I’m doing promo, I focus on promo. I like to keep jobs in their boxes.

For instance, from the time Wake came out in March 2008 until August 2008, I didn’t write anything. I focused on selling Wake (and hanging around with my kids for the summer).

I had sold book three during that time so I had that plot on my mind, which was good (I like to think about a book for a while before I write anything), but I didn’t write any of it.

Once August hit, though, my goal was to write Gone (book three), and I spent my time very focused on that.

You’re particularly adept at Internet marketing. What advice do you have for fellow authors in this regard?

For teen authors who are comfortable with it, it’s important to have an online presence, or a home in the neighborhood where your readers live. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Goodreads, Shelfari, a blog and website…whatever works for you.

Interaction is great and it’s a good use of your time, especially when you have a book that’s about to come out.

A. S. King did a great job of this as she prepared for her book, The Dust of 100 Dogs (Flux, Feb. 2009), to come out. There’s nothing like having a fan base before your book even hits the shelves. That gives you a boost when the book actually hits bookstores.

What, if anything, do you wish you could change about publishing (as a business) and why?

I wish things would go faster. I’m impatient.

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

Lisa! Stop trying to follow all the rules!

So far, as a reader, what were your favorite YA books of 2008 and why?

I loved Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (Little Brown) because Sara’s characters are so real.

The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap by H. M. Bouwman (Marshall Cavendish)(which is for ages 10+) because it’s a fresh and surprising fantasy.

The Violet series by Melissa Walker (Berkeley Trade) because who doesn’t want to live vicariously through a geeky model?

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor) because it’s so smart and because I love San Francisco.

What do you do outside the world of writing, reading, and publishing?

I like hanging out with my hubby and kids, watching reality TV, swimming and walking (great places to work out a plot), and traveling.

What can your readers look forward to next?

Wake book three (the third and final) is next, called Gone. It’s due out spring 2010. Beyond that, I have a couple of options that I’d love to see happen but nothing I can discuss yet. I will be sure to announce any news on my Facebook and website, though.

If you aren’t already my friend, please do look me up online at one or more of my usual haunts — MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Redroom, etc.

Devyn has a nice chat with Lisa:

Interview: Stephen Roxburgh on namelos: A Few Good Books

You last visited Cynsations in Feb. 2008 to talk about Boyds Mills and Front Street. Could you update readers on both and any changes in your role?

Time and tide wait for no man: I am no longer affiliated with Boyds Mills Press or Front Street. In addition to rowing the namelos skiff, I offer workshops on “Editing for Writers” through the Highlights Foundation, and I am on the faculty of this summer’s Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.

Congratulations on the launch of namelos: A Few Good Books! Could you give us an overview of what it is? What services does namelos offer?

namelos is a consortium of publishing professionals with decades of experience in editing, design, art direction, subsidiary rights, sales, and marketing.

Essentially, we identify writers and artists who have projects we think are publishable and work with them to make that happen.

Our primary service is editorial development. We support that on every level from design and art direction to marketing, publicity and promotion, and subsidiary rights. In a nutshell, we do everything a publisher does except manufacture, warehouse, and distribute books.

How does namelos work with writers and illustrators, agents, and publishers respectively? Why is it especially useful to each group? In each case, could you also give us a representative scenario for what takes place?

writers and illustrators

Here’s how we work with writers and artists.

The first step is an evaluation that enables us to determine if the project has merit or viability. If not, i.e., if we feel it is not a viable project, we’ll suggest ways that the writer might improve it and move forward, but we won’t continue to work with the author on that project.

If the project has merit and viability, we’ll say so and give some suggestions for how to develop it. The author can then proceed as she sees fit. If she wants to continue to work with us, we will discuss the next level, what goal we see, and what the cost will be.

In some cases this might be a phone conversation about the project, or it might be an assessment of a full draft of a novel with a complete editorial workup, just like what an author under contract receives from her editor when she submits a draft of a project.

Services will be incremental; each level will be assessed and priced. We won’t move to the next level unless we feel the previous level was successfully achieved. The goal is not to take money for work on projects that have no future potential for publication or to work beyond a substantially productive point.

When we get a project to the point that it is, in our opinion, publishable, we will give the author guidelines for presenting it to the industry, i.e., to agents and editors.

In summary, we are the bridge between an author with a project that needs work and that same author with a publishable project ready to be handled by an agent or sold to a publisher.

agents

Agents need publishable projects to represent, and at namelos we develop projects. Successful agents are enormously busy staying in touch with the industry and tending to their clients’ business. Few have time for the kind of sustained editorial development that many authors need to make their work publishable.

Our services are a natural and often necessary prerequisite for acquiring an agent.

Agents will direct clients to namelos for editorial development, and namelos will deliver publishable projects to agents.

publishers

Publishers have a voracious need for good books to publish.

Increasingly, their resources are devoted to the sales and marketing end of the process. Development is time-consuming and expensive.

In these difficult times, publishers are reducing staff, laying off editors, art directors, designers, and all sorts of support staff. But they still need books.

namelos is a source for books and for support with virtually every aspect of the publishing process. With in-house staff reductions and the consequent strain on resources, we can supplement publishers’ efforts for a fraction of the cost of permanent in-house staff.

Is namelos in the business of connecting projects by writers and illustrators to publishers? If so, how do you work differently than literary agents?

Our goal is to see that books we develop are well published, but our primary service is editorial development, not author representation. We will do whatever we can to see that our clients’ projects get published. In some cases that will mean helping the author or artist find representation with an agent. In other cases it will mean helping the author or artist get the project directly into the hands of an editor.

We are very well connected with agents, editors, and publishers, and we have considerable experience and credibility. The specific circumstances of each author and project will dictate the path it takes to publication.

Is it your vision that all writers and illustrators who seek publication will achieve it–either through independent or traditional publishing–with your help? Why or why not?

No. Most projects we evaluate aren’t publishable, and it would be unconscionable to pretend they are. We will tell our clients the truth as we see it, and we will not try to develop any project that we feel isn’t publishable.

Of course, if we develop a project there are no guarantees that it will find either an agent or a publisher, but if it doesn’t, it won’t be through lack of effort on our part.

What do you offer of particular interest to writers or illustrators seeking to publish independently?

First and foremost, we offer an honest appraisal of their work, its merit and its viability. Most self-published books fail because they weren’t good enough to merit publication in the first place, not because they were self-published.

If we agree to work with you, we bring a vast amount of experience in helping authors and artists make their work the best it can be. That’s the first step.

Once that has been achieved, the channels of publication are becoming increasingly varied. Technology has given us many more options, ranging from print-on-demand to e-books. Distribution channels have developed that allow individuals more possibilities to deliver their work to the public. Finally, the Internet offers opportunities for niche marketing at costs that an individual can manage.

However, publishing independently is right only for people who understand what they are getting into and who are properly motivated. For those few people, there is enormous potential. It is the new frontier.

Your website indicates that you’re available to work on marketing with self-published authors and publishing companies. How about authors whose books are published traditionally? Are you able to work in conjunction with their house’s efforts, and if so, how do you approach that?

Marketing books (and authors, for that matter) is like making omelets: it’s best done one at a time. The larger publishing houses have a great many books to promote with limited in-house resources, and not all of the books get the same attention. Some books need niche marketing, supplementary to the primary efforts provided by the publisher. We can help.

We know how to promote authors and their books. We can get the books into the hands of the right people. We also help authors promote themselves: we can build low-cost websites and show authors how to maintain them, compose press releases and promotional pieces, manage targeted (snail and electronic) mailings, etc., etc., etc.

None of this is rocket science, but it helps if you know which strategies are productive and which are a waste of time and money. We also are well connected in the marketplace.

Years of selling and marketing books have put us in touch with a wide array of teachers, reviewers, and booksellers—all people interested in books.

Who are the people behind namelos, and what does each of them bring to the mix?

namelos is a team that has worked together for many years, publishing a few good books. We bring experience, skill, enthusiasm, commitment, and integrity to the work. Our individual backgrounds and areas of expertise are catalogued on our website under “About Us.”

What was your initial inspiration for founding namelos?

Opportunity and a strong sense of the growing need for an alternative to the traditional publishing model. There are many cracks appearing across the face of our industry. We can fill some of those cracks if we remain flexible, reasonable, fair, and humble.

Why is this the right time for such a new approach?

There is a wide gap between the authors and artists who need help developing their work, and the availability of help from the industry that depends on them.

That gap is getting larger as publishers focus more and more on enormously successful franchises, seemingly oblivious to the fact that very few authors or artists start off fabulously successful. Most develop over time. I know there are exceptions. They prove the rule.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

The namelos model shifts the initial financial burden to authors and illustrators. Many will deplore this. We lament it, but see it as inevitable.

Already authors spend a lot of time and money going to conferences, workshops, correspondence courses, and graduate programs seeking editorial guidance. We cut to the chase, offering concentrated and immediately practical guidance.

The established publishing model has become exclusive: it serves fewer and fewer authors and artists even as the opportunities for reaching a public are expanding at a phenomenal rate.

We hope to serve a new model, an emerging publishing field that reflects the diversity and manifold talents of an array of authors and artists presenting their best work directly to their audience in a wide variety of ways and means.

2009 National Green Earth Book Award Winners Announced

The Newton Marasco Foundation (NMF) has announced the winners of the leading national environmental book awards for literature that inspires young readers to appreciate and care for the environment.

The 2009 Green Earth Book Awards highlight the best in environmental reading for children and young adults.

NMF, a non-profit public environmental charity, partners with Salisbury University in Maryland to honor and promote environmental books that not only raise awareness of environmental issues, but also instill a sense of responsibility for nurturing, protecting and defending the natural environment.

The Green Earth Book Award is the nation’s first environmental stewardship book award for children and young adult literature.

There are six winners who will receive this year’s 2009 Green Earth Book Awards.

Co-Winners – Picture Book Category

Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola (FSG): recounts the story of how Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Green Belt Movement, encouraged and taught villagers in Kenya to replant the life-sustaining trees that were cleared over many years.

Varmints by Helen Ward, illustrated by Marc Craste (Candlewick): striking, surreal art and a haunting, evocative text tell a mysterious tale of a threatened natural world — and a hopeful new start. Varmints tells of a pastoral world in need of protection and of the souls who love it enough to ensure its regeneration.

Winner – Nonfiction Category

MySpace/Our Planet by the MySpace Community, Jeca Taudte, and Dan Santat (Bowen Press): a valuable eco-guide that outlines the steps that we can take every single day to save our environment from damage and destruction. Geared for ages 14 and up, the book reminds us that we each have the power to make a difference and includes tips from MySpace users around the globe on subjects ranging from the clothes we buy to the food we eat.

Winner – Children’s Fiction Category

Night of the Spadefoot Toads by Bill Harley (Peachtree): newcomer Ben and his eccentric fifth grade science teacher explore the varied habitat in Massachusetts and the endangered spadefoot toads that make their home there. This story tells of a courageous and impulsive act that Ben takes to protect the toads’ habitats from land developers.

Co-Winners – Young Adult Fiction Category

Blind Faith Hotel by Pamela Todd (Margaret K. McElderry): fourteen-year-old Zoe feels like her whole world is going to pieces when her family moves halfway across the country to a run down farmhouse in the Midwest. A petty thievery puts her into a program for juvenile delinquents, and places her under the guidance of an elderly man determined to save the prairies and the indigenous plants that grow there. Funny and poignant, sharp-eyed and real, this is a portrait of a girl looking for her own true self and a place she can call home.

Write Naked by Peter Gould (FSG): when Victor sneaks off with an old typewriter to test out the saying “You have to be naked to write.” He expects solitude; instead he meets Rose Anna, a free spirit with an antique fountain pen and a passion to save the planet. Their unexpected encounter marks the beginning of an inspired writing partnership – featuring a quirky love story and an ecological fantasy featuring a tiny heroic newt. Together, the teens explore the possibility of connections – to one another, the woods outside, and the world beyond.

“Each of these books are worthy of the Green Earth Book Award because they inspire our children – our next generation of environmental stewards – to care for the earth,” said Amy Marasco Newton, president and founder of the Newton Marasco Foundation. “Whether through lively storytelling, beautiful illustrations, or timely eco-tips, these award winning books teach our youth how they can make a difference in protecting our planet. Parents and teachers can turn to these books throughout the year to give important environmental lessons to children.”

Over 100 books were submitted across the four categories. Each award includes $2,000 to the winning author and illustrator, as well as the contribution of winning books to schools and youth organizations in the Greater Washington DC area.

Since 2005, the Newton Marasco Foundation has honored 15 books with the Green Earth Book Awards and recognized 29 Honor Books. The awards are part of the annual Children’s and Young Adult Literature Festival at Salisbury University, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

See also the 2009 Honor Books.

The 2009 Green Earth Book Awards are supported by Salisbury University, Constellation Energy, Comcast, Delmarva Recycling, Affiliated Power Purchasers International, and Pepsi Bottling Ventures of Delmarva.

Awards will be presented to the winning authors on April 14 at the Ward Museum in Salisbury, Maryland.

Cynsational Notes

The Newton Marasco Foundation‘s mission is to inspire responsible environmental stewardship. NMF designs innovative programs that foster learning, appreciation and caring for our natural environment. The foundation promotes awareness and responsibility for the environment by individuals, schools, businesses and communities. The foundation educates companies on sustainable green business practices and promotes the conservation and restoration of unique community ecosystems and habitats. The foundation conducts award programs that recognize small deeds and great acts that promote environmental awareness and further sustainable, environmental solutions.

Eternal Now Available; Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith; Giveaway Winners

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 10, 2009) is now available! Read an excerpt from Candlewick Press. From the promotional copy:

“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.”

Note: Here are the answers to a few, quick questions I’ve been asked of late about this new release.

How is Eternal different from its companion book Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(Listening Library, 2008)?

The books are set in the same universe, and both are something of a conversation between me and Abraham Stoker about his classic Dracula (1897), especially with regard to such themes as redemption, gender, and the dark “other,” which in his day meant Eastern European.

That said, the most obvious difference is that they feature different main characters. (Careful readers may catch a glimpse of a Tantalize character cameo in Eternal, though.) The two casts will crossover in my next prose novel, Blessed (Candlewick, TBA), which I’m working on now. And by the way, I’m shooting for one hell of a finale. Eternal also expands the multi-creature-verse to include angels and a new type of shape shifter.

Beyond that… Tantalize is about more “common man” characters in the universe. Quincie and Kieren are high school students. She works in her family restaurant. He’s the studious son of a wedding planner (okay, mama is also a werewolf) and engineering professor. Even the vampires are well integrated into the everyday world. They have jobs, raise kids, and, sure, eat people. But not constantly and not without having to think hard about covering their tracks.

Eternal takes us to the major players–the vampire royalty, the guardian-and-arch angels. These characters on the front lines at a time when those lines are blurring. In that way, the novel is more escapist, what with its castles and ballgowns and blood-wine cellar. It’s also perhaps more romantic, more horrific, more fine detailed.

Did any personal experiences inspire aspects of the book?

When I was in ninth grade, my English teacher had the class read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859) aloud in turn over the course of the semester.

I distinctly remember grumbling that the only good parts were the first and last lines. But looking back, much of it did sink in, and fellow lit geeks will find nods aplenty in Eternal. You don’t need to know Tale or Dracula to understand my novel, but if you do, the conversation of books is in play.

Drawing again on my adolescence, it was clear that Miranda’s dream would be to become an actor. I never longed for the spotlight myself, but I distinctly remember wishing I could shrug off my more conventional high school activities and join the Thespians. I admired their talent and independence and how much happier they seemed than everyone else, especially at a time when I was often just going through the expected motions.

[Note: If you were a Thespian from my high school and are thinking, what?!, I’m sure y’all had your massive teen challenges just like everyone else. But well, you know, greener pastures. And trust me, you were much more awesome than I could’ve ever hoped to be.]

Beyond that, I set Eternal partially in Dallas, partially in Austin, and mostly in Chicago. All of these are cities that I’ve lived in and love. Miranda is from Dallas. After his “fall,” Zachary spends time in Austin, and the two finally meet face-to-face in a fictional North Shore suburb of Chicago. From there, the story also takes them into the Windy City itself.

Here’s a quick excerpt from Zachary (complete with photo illustration):


I’m dwarfed by the tyrannosaur skeleton at the Field Museum. Forty-two feet long, thirteen-feet tall at the hips. It was found buried in the Hell Creek Formation in 1990.

The last time good and evil went head-to-head, no punches pulled, the dinosaurs died out. Lava flowed in oceans as large as the United States. Tsunamis tore apart the shores. Fire engulfed forests, and the sky turned to ash.

According to Angels to Zombies and the scuttlebutt I remember from upstairs, we’re shaping up for another showdown. And this lame-ass angel?

I can’t even handle one teenage vampire princess.

Grand Prize Giveaway Winners


Congratulations to the Winners of the Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway (click link for details):

First Prize: Danielle in Utah; Brandee in California.

Second Prize: Nadine-Stella in Kentucky; Amber in Illinois.

Third Prize: Nancy in California; Colleen in New Jersey; Erica in Alabama; Beth in North Carolina; Stephanie in Oregon; Mirella in New Mexico; Shelly in Texas; Moriah in South Carolina; Zachary in Missouri; Melynda in Florida; Barbara in Texas; Kassandra in New Mexico; Karen in Washington; Carrie in Missouri; Heather in Michigan; Laura in Mississippi; Brooke in Florida; Bella in Virginia; Catherine in Florida. Note: due to the volume of entries, I added another seven third prizes. International entries were eligible, but I only received a couple of them this time.

Top suggestions for the location of the Wolf pack in Blessed (Candlewick, TBA), in order of popularity, included Massachusetts, New York state, Washington State, Texas, and the Great Lakes region. Note: all feedback is being taken under advisement. Thanks so much for the thoughtful suggestions–many of them complete with local history and links to more information. I am officially wowed!

The most popular Eternal tie-in T-shirt design, was Royal Bat with Dracul Crest coming in a close second! Read a Cynsations interview with illustrator Gene Brenek.

Thank you to the following Cynsational readers for blogging the contest: author Tracy Vaughn Zimmer; Taschima at Bloody Bookaholic; Starry Night; Katie’s Bookshelf; The YA Book Reviewer; Gone at MySpace; TBQ’s Personal Book Palace; Heather at MySpace; Anna’s Book Blog; Kitty at MySpace; Shelli at Market My Words; Brooke Reviews; Beth Revis at Writing It Out; Paradoxical: Reading, Writing, and Randomness (who keeps a running contest list); Karen Kincy at Confessions of a Wordaholic: pookas & fox-spirits & werewolves, oh my; Mary Ann at Haunting the Broken Tree and Under a Broken Tree with Ghost Girl; Carrie’s YA Bookshelf; Tales of a Ravenous Reader; Liz Garton Scanlon at Liz In Ink; writereader/Shelly Burns; smallish bear at MySpace; The Not So Closet Geeks AKA Not So CG: soakin’ up the limelight!

Note: folks who blogged the giveaway were entered twice. If I missed your link, my apologies! There were a lot of entries! Just let me know, and I’ll highlight it next time!

Another Chance to Win

Enter to Win One of Five Copies of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) from Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central. Here’s the giveaway question: “If you had a guardian angel (and maybe you do!), what would his or her name be, and what would they be like?” Contest begins Feb. 1 and ends Feb. 28. See additional details. Note: Thanks to Candlewick Press and Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central!

More Cynsational News

Eternal is the “Soup of the Day” at jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. Peek: “Set in Texas and Chicago, the fast paced narrative about the forces of good vs. evil is populated not only with vampires and angels, but werebeasts and shapeshifters, and of course, it is liberally spiced with glamor, smoldering passion, and Smith’s diabolical wit.” Note: you must surf over to check out today’s celebration soup, served in its own coffin!

Kirkus Reviews says of Eternal, “The pace of this entertaining romp is quick and the action plentiful.”

Learn more about Eternal, check out the Eternal Readers’ Guide (spoiler warning!). For those on MySpace, see my page, Tantalize Fans Unite! (a discussion group), and reader-originated character pages for Tantalize characters Quincie, Kieren, Ruby, and Brad, and the latest reader-originated page Tastefully Tantalizing.

Thanks to the YA Authors Cafe for highlighting Eternal as their “Love Bites” featured title! Surf over the cafe and add more related reading recommendations!

Thanks to Mark G. Mitchell at How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator for blogging the Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway with an emphasis on Gene Brenek’s amazing tie-in logos and designs! Read Cynsations interviews with Mark and Gene.

Cynsational Notes

Congratulations to debut author Saundra Mitchell on today’s release of Shadowed Summer (Delacorte, Feb. 10, 2009)!

More personally, I’ve heard that online pre-orders have been high, and I hugely appreciate that! Thanks so much! At the same time, I’d like to remind everyone of the importance of supporting brick-and-mortar bookstores and public libraries, especially in challenging economic times. Note: if the book you want isn’t on the shelves, ask if it can be ordered or requested through inter-library loan.

The Eternal trailer below is shown with code from MySpace, which looks much better than the YouTube version. Read a Cynsational interview with Shayne Leighton about the making of the trailer and her latest film, “The Incubus.”

Eternal Trailer