Illustrator Interview: Gene Brenek on Images of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Eternal

Gene Brenek is the illustrator behind the tie-in designs for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) used on T-shirts and other items available from the Sanguini’s store at Cafe Press.

Gene is an author, illustrator, and advertising professional. In 2009, Gene received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

He makes his home in sunny Austin, Texas; with Michael and John-John. (One’s an international spy, the other coughs up fur balls. Unfortunately, Mr. Brenek’s not at liberty to disclose who is who.) Read a previous Cynsations interview with Gene.

You last spoke to Cynsations in February 2007 about designing the Sanguini’s logos for Tantalize. What is new in your writing and artistic life since then?

This past January, I received a masters in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College. Currently my writing is at both ends of the spectrum, in terms of age. I’ve just finished an alphabet book and a YA psychological thriller. Maybe I could combine the two, do a psychological-thriller-alphabet book along the lines of Ed Gorey, one of my all-time favorite author-illustrators.

In the interim, you have added new Sanguini‘s T-shirts! Could you tell us about your approach to them? Note: Sanguini’s is the fictional vampire restaurant from Tantalize.

Sure. I felt like the original designs captured the spooky aspects of Tantalize. And yes, I added a couple of new designs in that same vein (pun intended).

However, I also wanted to explore the humor that I found throughout the novel. I thought that Quincie would be the type of girl who would display an “I Heart Baby Squirrel” or a “Drop In For A Late Night Bite” [see image] T-shirt at Sanguini’s. I think Quincie’s like most teens I know, very savvy when it comes to marketing.

Thanks so much for the new designs to celebrate Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)! Give us the full creative low-down. What were your sources of inspiration, and what where the major challenges along the way?

The biggest challenge was creating a style for the Eternal designs that was unique to this particular story, while at the same time keeping the essence of what I had already created with the Sanguini’s artwork. This meant keeping the red-and-black color palette.

The designs originated right out of the characters if you will. Daddy Dracul deserved an old-school crest [see below]. The type of artwork that seemed like it had been in the family since the days of yore when Vlad, The Impaler was skewering anything that moved.
Miranda’s sensibilities determined the other designs. She’s a girly-girl princess who knows how to swing a battle-axe. I started playing around with the shape of a tiara. It reminded me of an upside-down bat and things just came together for me [see below].
I got such a kick out of the descriptions of Joshua and Zachary. According to Zach, being blessed with good hair is one of the assets to being an angel. I had to use a typeface that really captured the essence of heavenly hair. As much work as these guardian angels do, they deserved their own T-shirt [see below].
As a YA reader, what were your favorite books of 2008?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (Holt, 2008)(author interview),

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008),

Pretty Monsters
by Kelly Link (Viking, 2008),

Zombie Blondes by Brian James (Feiwel & Friends, 2008)(author interview),

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen (author interview).

And finally, if you could be a character in my Gothic universe, who would you choose and why?

Probably Brenek. There’s something about his character that appealed to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

No honestly, I was a big fan of Joshua. I’m a sucker (pun intended) for sidekicks that have a great sense of humor about them. Plus, practically everyone else seemed to have a big target on his back. I love to read about characters in danger, but I wouldn’t want to be one.

I like angels that have a bit of a sarcastic streak. I’m hoping we see more of Josh in the next book. (Hint, hint.)

Cynsational Notes

Enter to win an Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway. First prize includes your choice of T-shirt. Deadline: midnight CST tonight. See details.

See Gene’s T-shirt designs for Tantalize.

See Gene’s T-shirt designs for Eternal.

Thanks, Gene!

Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway Package

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick) goes on sale Tuesday, Feb. 10!

In celebration of the final countdown, you’re invited to enter to win an Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway Package!

2 First Prizes

One signed copy of Eternal
One Eternal T-shirt (choices below)
1 dragon finger puppet
1 bear finger puppet
bear stickers
guardian-angel token
signed bookmark

2 Second Prizes

One signed copy of Eternal
bear stickers
guardian-angel token
signed bookmark

12 Third Prizes

bear stickers
signed bookmark
signed bookplate

Here’s a peek at prizes! Don’t miss the T-shirts and contest details below!

Here are the Eternal T-shirts, designed by the amazing Gene Brenek. From his bio: “Gene Brenek is an author, illustrator, and advertising professional. In 2009, Gene received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He makes his home in sunny Austin, Texas; with Michael and John-John. (One’s an international spy, the other coughs up fur balls. Unfortunately, Mr. Brenek’s not at liberty to disclose who is who.)”

Princess Dracul (above).
Closer look at the Princess Dracul logo (above).

Royal Bat (above).
Closer look at the Royal Bat logo (above).

Dracul crest (above).
Closer look at Dracul crest (above).

“I Heart My Guardian Angel” (above).
Closer look at “I Heart My Guardian Angel” logo (above).

Note: other colors and products are available. See the whole list.

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope–if the link doesn’t work, message me for the actual email address) and (1) include your name; (2) include your snail/street mail address; (3) include your preferred T-shirt design style and color; (4) include your preferred T-shirt size; (5) write “Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway” in the subject line; and (6) answer the following question:

First, some background: Eternal is the second book in a three-set of companions that also includes Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) and Blessed (Candlewick, TBA). The novels are set in a multi-creature-verse that includes vampires, shapeshifters, angels, ghosts, etc. In Eternal, we find out that the vampire hierarchy is located in Chicago. In Blessed, which I’m writing now, we may go to the U.S. Wolf pack.

So here’s the question: Where do you think that the U.S. Wolf pack should be located and why?

Want to double your chances to win? Post an announcement about this giveaway on your blog, website, or other online venue and send me the URL! Note: I’ll be sure to thank you with a link. Here’s text you can (but don’t have to use):

Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway Package: in celebration of the Feb. 10 release of Eternal (Candlewick), author Cynthia Leitich Smith is giving away several prize packages, some including signed copies of the novel, tie-in T-shirts, finger puppets, stickers, guardian-angel tokens, and more! See details here.

Deadline midnight CST Feb. 9! All Cynsational readers are eligible to win!

Cynsational Notes

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.

Eternal Trailer

Note: Please do feel free to share the trailer with fellow readers. Facebook users can see a higher-resolution version of the trailer here.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Winners of the Cynsations Giveway of signed Eternal ARCs are: Olivia in Connecticut; Michelle in New York; Jocelyn in North Carolina; and Jennifer, a YA librarian in Wyoming! Congratulations to all of the winners! Your copies will go out on my next trip to the post office. Note: didn’t win? See an opportunity immediately below to win a final copy from Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central and look for my next post (later today) on the Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway from Cynsations!

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!

February giveaways at Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central also include five copies of 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares (Delacorte, 2009) and ten copies of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (Harcourt, 2009 ).

Read a Cynsations interview with author Kimberly Pauley of Young Adult & Kids Book Central about her own fang-ful novel, Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe)(Mirrorstone, 2008).

More News & Giveaways

Interview with Justina Chen Headley from Debbi Michiko Florence. Peek: “A couple of days later, I bumped into his mom and I was telling her what a great job she had done parenting him because he didn’t let his birthmark get in his way. She looked at me and said, ‘That’s because he’s a boy.’ That got me thinking: what would it be like for a girl to be under constant scrutiny?” Enter to win a copy of Justina’s latest YA novel, North of Beautiful (Little, Brown, 2009) from Debbie. Deadline: Feb. 13. Read Cynsations interviews with Justina and Debbi.

KidLitosphere Central: The Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Note: “KidLitosphere Central strives to provide a passage to the wonderful variety of resources available from the society of bloggers in children’s and young adult literature.” Special thanks to the board: Pamela W. Coughlan, Director, of MotherReader; Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy; Kelly Herold of Big A, little a; Anne Boles Levy of Cybils; Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

Something Very Smart Writers Do by Janet Reid, Literary Agent. Peek: One of my favorite editors dropped me a quick email today to ask for more info about the author of a book of mine he’s considering. I had a couple lines on file from the query letter, but nothing really zippy and exciting. What to do?”

It’s Not the Books That Are Dog-Eared: Program at Library Spurs Young Readers by Charity Corkey from The Washington Post. Peek: “The program aims to promote the self-confidence of young readers by having them practice the skill in front of a friendly, nonjudgmental dog, said Beth Weisman, media officer for the Loudoun County library system.” Source: Public Education Network.

Celebrating the Debut of Shadowed Summer: enter to win one of three awesome prize packages in celebration of Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Delacorte, 2009). Grand prize is the Extremely Haunted Gift Bag! It contains: A signed copy of Shadowed Summer, with a limited edition matte jacket; a vial of Haunted perfume oil from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab!; a leather-bound, hand-stitched journal; a blackpaper spell book & gel pen; a playable Ouija board keychain; an engraved river stone; a Shadowed Summer bookmark; a Shadowed Summer T-shirt; a Fresh Films T-shirt; a Fresh Films DVD; a bottle of Tabasco Red Hots; and Tabasco Spicy Chocolates! Deadline: Feb. 9. See details here. See also an interview with Saundra from Jessica Burkhart’s Blog. Peek: “I love the going-away time, when I actually leave my desk and slip into the world I’m writing. It feels like a physical leaving- but it also leads to my least favorite part, which is ending the book.”

Writers Together: Where Your Voice Will Be Heard: a new author promotional site from C. L. Freire. Peek: “C. L., an author herself, knows full-well the importance of marketing oneself, and how difficult it can be at times. A strong advocate of “Letting your voice be heard,” she wanted to give writers a place to come, meet, discover new authors, and be introduced to the work of authors of different genres.” Learn more about the launch. Note: See my author spotlight!

An Interview with Stephanie Greene by Tami Lewis Brown at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “The Lucky Ones (Greenwillow, 2008) is considered upper middle grade. I’ve seen it in the YA section of book stores, but it’s in the JF section of our local library. I think this is because it not only deals with a 12-year-old girl’s awakening awareness of her body, her sister’s antics with drinking and sex, and her parent’s troubled marriage, but because of the writing, itself.”

Inkheart the movie by Claire E. Gross from The Horn Book. Peek: “…the movie embraces the book’s own pace and tone; and the result feels if not exactly fresh then at least individual.”

How Can We Encourage Reading Aloud? from Jen Robinson’s Book Page. Peek: “What do you all say to the idea of some sort of international campaign to encourage reading aloud to kids? A campaign for literacy, if you will, but one focused specifically on the benefits of parents and teachers reading aloud to kids.”

Author Jennifer Ziegler (part two): by Madeline from BookKids Recommends. Peek: “Today, I’m going to focus on Jennifer’s lesser known works – her teen mass market publications.” Don’t miss part one. Note: it’s so awesome that BookKids celebrates and supports local talent!

self-doubt – see, doubt of self by Sara Zarr at Teen Fiction Cafe. Peek: “Try to show yourself at least the decency and compassion and wisdom that you’d show a friend. This may involve a lot of talking to yourself, but that’s okay.” Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

The Necessity of Thinking Time
by Justine Larbalestier. Peek: “I’m more and more convinced that many of the people who can’t get started because they only have an idea but no plot or characters, or a plot but no setting or characters etc, are simply not ready to write that particular story yet.” Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

Typealyzer: a quick personality analysis for your blog. Source: Tara Lazar.

Congratulations to author Lisa Yee on the launch of Absolutely Maybe (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2009)! From the promotional copy: “Meet Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut, named for two Miss Americas and her mother Chessy’s favorite brand of mascara. Chessy teaches the students in her charm school her Seven Select Rules for Young Ladies, but she won’t tell Maybe who her real father is–or protect her from her latest scuzzball boyfriend. So Maybe hitches a ride to California with her friends Hollywood and Thammasat Tantipinichwong Schneider (aka Ted)–and what she finds there is funny, sad, true, and inspiring…vintage Lisa Yee.” Get the whole behind-the-scenes scoop from Lisa. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

28 Days Later, 2009: a Black History Month Celebration of Children’s Literature from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story: check out the amazing authors and illustrators to be featured in the Brown Bookshelf’s latest awareness-raising campaign. Read a Cynsations interview with the founders of the Brown Bookshelf.

The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: “celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. AAAS and Subaru are pleased to sponsor these prizes, which promote science literacy by drawing attention to the importance of good science books.” See the 2009 winners. Source: Miss Rumphius Effect.

Interview with Neil Gaiman: a podcast from Just One Book. Peek: “His book Coraline will be released as a movie on February 6th of this year, and yesterday, he won the 2009 Newbery award for The Graveyard Book. On this edition of Just One More Book!!, author Neil Gaiman talks about blogging, giving his books away for free on the Internet and keeping his fans up to date using Twitter.”

Adding Dimension to the Storytelling by John Clark from The New York Times. Peek: “During the title sequence of [the film] ‘Coraline,’ Henry Selick’s latest stop-action animated movie, two hands disembowel a doll and then reassemble it with needle and thread.” Note: see movie trailer below.

Caldecott Honor is Sweet reward by Dagney C. Ernest of Village Soup. Peek: “Monday morning, Melissa Sweet of Rockport, a children’s book illustrator and author, got one of the calls everyone in her field dreams about…only she didn’t actually get it.”

Supergirl: Interviewing Debut Author Liz Funk by Lauren Baratz-Logsted from Teen Fiction Cafe. Peek: “I had always felt a lot of pressure to be perfect and I felt like there was always a better version of me that I could become—more successful, prettier, more desirable, at a better college, etc. etc.—and I’m pretty sure I had that impression and those self-depreciating thought patterns from the media. I had just always been thinking about these pressures on teen girls.”

No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia from readergirlz book buzz. Diva Justina Chen Headley says: “No Laughter Here is an important must-read for girls today. One that will make girls think about our rights as women. About what makes us women. About what we can do to advocate for those without voices.” Download this month’s readergirlz poster. Learn more about Rita. Mark your calendar to discuss the book with author Rita Williams-Garcia! She’ll be chatting live at the readergirlz forum at MySpace on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. PST/9 p.m. EST. The chat will last for about an hour. Check out the readergirlz roundtable on No Laughter Here. Read a Cynsations interview with Rita, and check out Jump Up for Rita week at Through The Tollbooth.

Poetry and Multicultural Awards by Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children. Peek: “My ‘Everyday Poetry’ column in the January issue of Book Links looked at last year’s major multicultural awards and paired each winner with a book of poetry, including the Coretta Scott King award, Pura Belpre award, American Indian Youth Literature award and Asian/Pacific American award. There wasn’t room for everything I wanted to include, so I’ll share the rest with you here.” Read a Cynsations interview with Sylvia.

Small Graces: A Painting a Month for the FCB: a monthly art auction to benefit the Foundation of Children’s Books from author-illustrator Grace Lin. Peek: “The original paintings (done by me, Grace Lin) will all be illustrated small bits of wisdom (inspired by the collecting I’ve been doing for on my personal blog for Fortune Cookie Fridays). There will be a new painting a month for the year of 2009.” Read a Cynsations interview with Grace.

News from the American Indian Library Association from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature. Peek: “… [Sherman] Alexie‘s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will be coming out in paperback, and that its publisher (Little, Brown) will provide free copies to every tribal library in the United States.”

2008 Nominees: The Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. Juvenile category nominees include The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown) and YA nominees include Paper Towns by John Green (Dutton). Read Cynsations interviews with Tony about his nominated book and with John about his previous title, An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006).

The Spectacle: authors talk about writing speculative fiction for teens and pre-teens. Members are Parker Peevyhouse, P. J. Hoover, Jo Whittemore, Greg R. Fishbone, and Linda Joy Singleton. Read Cynsations interviews with P. J., Jo, Greg, and Linda Joy.

Understanding children caught between cultures: an interview with Julia Alvarez by Alice Cary at BookPage. Peek: “‘Displacement is just part of the human story,’ she says. ‘You don’t have to be an immigrant to write about that, because we’ve all felt it.'”

Guest Blogger Sherri L. Smith: On Passing and Identity from Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog. Peek: “So, then, how do you walk away from who you come from when they are encoded in your DNA? If Ida Mae marries a white man, will she still worry that their first child’s skin will be dark like her mother’s, or her brothers’? Will the baby’s heritage show itself in the genes? Or just in a familiar smile, a way of laughing that twists Ida’s heart because it sounds like the brother she left behind?”

Welcome back, Buried in the Slushpile! Cheers to you and your young reader (in progress)!

The Unenthusiastic Agent from Allison Winn Scotch at Ask Allison. Peek: “My agent hasn’t been able to sell my manuscript, and I’m getting less than positive vibes from her now. Is it possible to take the manuscript to a new agent, or do I have to give up on this book? Should I find someone new regardless?”

Marvelous Marketer – Jay Asher (Author of Th1rteen R3asons Why) from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children’s Book Author. Peek: “The book clubs are a great way to get a number of students talking about your book when you can’t travel to their schools.”

The Quest for Authenticity: A writer reveals how she finds the heart of a story by Tanya Lee Stone from School Library Journal. Peek: “Nonfiction writers go to great lengths to offer their most truthful work. Sometimes it is the story behind the story that reveals those lengths.” Read a Cynsations interview with Tanya. See also Conversations with Dead People: Mysterious deaths always seem to delight by Kathleen Baxter from School Library Journal. Peek: “Murder. Mysterious deaths. Mummies. They all add up to a ‘can’t miss’ booktalk.”

A Letter From A Bookseller from M. J. Rose at Buzz, Balls & Hype: Because there are over 175,000 books published a year and they can’t all get reviews in the NYTBR. Peek: “Last year when a big California indy was closing, I read a news story with mournful words from neighboring authors who were so sad. When I looked up their websites, only 2 had a link to the struggling indy now forced to close.”

Black History Month, Jewish Style by Heidi Estrin from The Book of Life: “a podcast about Jewish people and the books we read.” Peek: “[Richard Michelson] won the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award for his picture book, As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr & Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, and we’ve brought him back to talk about this new title.” See also: a podcast on The Sydney Taylor Book Awards. Peek: “an audio interview with Kathe Pinchuck, chair of the awards committee, to give you a sneak peak into the inner workings….”

Congratulations to Jenny Moss on the release of Winnie’s War (Walker, 2009). From the promotional copy: “A debut novel set against the backdrop of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Life in Winnie’s sleepy town of Coward Creek, Texas, is just fine for her. Although her troubled mother’s distant behavior has always worried Winnie, she’s plenty busy caring for her younger sisters, going to school, playing chess with Mr. Levy, and avoiding her testy grandmother. Plus, her sweetheart Nolan is always there to make her smile when she’s feeling low. But when the Spanish Influenza claims its first victim, lives are suddenly at stake, and Winnie has never felt so helpless. She must find a way to save the people she loves most, even if doing so means putting her own life at risk.” See also DebReviews Presents: An Interview with Jenny Moss from 2010: A Book Odyssey.

Can You Query if You’re an Unpublished Novelist and Your Novel Isn’t Finished? from Nathan Bransford at Curtis Brown. Note: probably the shortest post I’ve ever highlighted, but it actually makes an important point that seems lost on a lot of folks. Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Contest: Win a role in my latest short story from author Libba Bray. Peek: “I am having a lot of fun writing my little rock-n-roll vampire story. But I have a problem: I can’t seem to come up with a name for my main character or any of the characters really. Nothing that’s sticking. Nothing that feels right. Quel tragique! So why not offer you guys the chance to be characters in my story?” Deadline: Feb. 7. Read a Cynsations interview with Libba.

Recommended Reading List from Locus Online: great picks for YA speculative fiction fans.

The 2009 Winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children is Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by David Craig (Abrams). The award is given by the National Council of Teachers of English. See honor books and more information. Note: Shelley is one of my fellow faculty members in the MFA program for Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Be Still My Heart: A Shameless Guide to Sweet, Sexy Romance Novels for Teens and Tweens by Donna Freitas from School Library Journal. Peek: “…fair warning: I’m going to be shameless in my offering of romantic bliss, even in its cheesiest, most blush-inducing form, because there’s a worthwhile place for these books in our kids’ imaginations.”

Pam Bachorz: official site of the debut author of Candor (Egmont, Sept. 2009). Peek: “As far as she knows, Pam has never been brainwashed. Or maybe that’s just what she’s supposed to say.”

President reads book to schoolkids: CNN reports that “President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made a surprise visit to a local charter school, joking that they wanted to get out of the White House. During their visit, the first couple read a copy of The Moon Over Star [by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial, 2008)– a book about the 1969 moon landing — to 25 stunned second-graders at the Capital City Public Charter School.” Source: Annette Simon. Note: to see the Obama’s reading and learn more about their visit to the school, see Second-graders brighten Obama’s Daschle-dashed day by Dave Cook from the Christian Science Monitor. Read a Cynsations interview with Dianna.

Thanks to Gottawrite Girl for a great run, and good luck with your writing!

Cover Art for The Less-Dead (Delacorte) by April Lurie from April Afloat. Note: take a sneak peek! Read a Cynsations interview with April.

Monthly Special: Love Stories: a bibliography of recommended YA novels from The Horn Book.

A Dirty Little Secret: Self-censorship is rampant and lethal by Debra Lau Whelan from School Library Journal. Peek: “…70 percent of librarians say they won’t buy certain controversial titles simply because they’re terrified of how parents will respond.” Source: Brent Hartinger. Note: the only one of my titles anyone has objected to my presenting? Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). Also, is it just me, or was this an especially awesome issue of SLJ?

Picture Books in Hard Times
from Mitali Perkins at Mitali’s Fire Escape. Peek: “picture books depicting families experiencing economic hardship.” Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

Congratulations to Kathi Appelt, whose Newbery Honor Book, The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008), marked her debut on The New York Times Bestseller List this week, coming in at #9 in the “Chapter Books” category! Read a Cynsations interview with Kathi.

Art for Cats: Top illustrators and New Yorker cartoonists have contributed original art and limited edition prints to save cats and kittens from certain death. Starting bids for most pieces are set at $100 or less — well below their actual value. Featured artists include Cynthia von Buhler, author-illustrator of The Cat Who Wouldn’t Come Inside (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).

The Hollow by Jessica Verdy (Simon Pulse, 2009) is coming soon! Note: I love snail mail.

Cyn-Related News, Reviews & Interviews

YA Wednesday: Eternal from Omnivoracious: Hungry for the next good book. Peek: “Eternal plays skillfully with questions of life and death, fall and redemption, and what it means to save and be saved.”

Author Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith from Kimberly J. Smith at Cool Kids Read. Peek: “Eternal is set in Austin, Dallas and Chicago, as well as a fictional North Shore Suburb of the Windy City.”

Author Uma Krishnaswami asks: “What made you go from picture books to culturally grounded middle grade and tween books, to urban vampire fantasy? Just how many Cyns are there in your head?” Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

Special Edition: The Cynsational Cynthia Leitich Smith from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children’s Book Author. Peek: “Consistency is more important than an all-out blitz. Sure, you’ll probably want to shout it from the rooftops when you finally hold that new novel in your hands. But in the long run, it’s more important to look for regular ways to highlight it as long as it’s in print.”

Author Name Pronunciation Guide: Cynthia Leitich Smith from Note: in case you want to hear my voice and find out more about my name or other authors’ names!

Enter to Win one of 10 Copies of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella, 2008) from Teen Libris. Peek: “…we’re giving away ten copies to bring some heat to the middle of your winter. (Not body heat, obviously, because– vampires!).” Immortal features my short story, “Haunted Love.” Deadline: Feb. 10.

Highlights of the week included receiving an ARC for Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists, and Other Matters Odd and Magical, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2009), which features my short story, “Cat Calls.”

It was a treat to see Eternal featured in the February issue of “My Borders Monthly!” It’s listed under “dark and thrilling reads” among awesome new releases including pal Lisa McMann‘s Fade (Simon & Schuster) and pal Janni Lee Simner‘s Bones of Faerie (Random House). Talk about great company!

Thanks to Betty Jo Tucker’s Blog for recognizing Cynsations as a Brilliante Weblog! Thanks also to Kimberly J. Smith at Cool Kids Read for Counting Down the Days Until Eternal and announcing last week’s ARC giveaway! Speaking of thanks, cheers also to Gwenda Bond!

If you want me to see a post related to Eternal (or anything else), please email me with the link. (I do not do Google Alerts as I’ve observed that they lead to insanity). Thank you!

Here, Kitty Kitty!: my amazing web designer, Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys, has given my cats an online presence that’s actually worthy of them. As these are the two most preferred pages by elementary readers, I’m especially thrilled. Check out the Official Writer Cat Bios, Kit Lit: Cat-Themed Picture Books, and suggest more books for Mercury and Sebastian to review. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

So, do you think I can find anyone who wants to go with me to see this? Note: of course it was a hint!

Cyn’s Events

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.'”

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.

Interview: Shayne Leighton on the Eternal Trailer and “The Incubus”

You’ve heard of rising stars?

Eighteen-year-old actress-director-writer Shayne Leighton is more like a rising constellation!

Today’s she’s back at Cynsations to discuss her latest book trailers and to tell us about her latest personal project, an upcoming film, “The Incubus.”

I had the pleasure of taking a sneak peek at her screenplay, and Shayne’s story is a fierce, fascinating mythology twist certain to seduce dark romance fans, both the hopeful and the horrified…

[See a previous Cynsations interview with Shayne]

Welcome back! Thank you for designing new book trailers for my novels Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)!

Let’s talk about Rain first. What were the challenges in creating that trailer?

The Rain is Not My Indian Name trailer actually was one of the easiest trailers that I have cut. Because the plot was bright (though bitter-sweet), there were not so many twists and turns to portray in this book preview, so in turn, the trailer was just nice and light and a lot of fun to make.

The music helps a lot too, and when the rhythm of what I am editing to is fairly simplistic, the cutting tends to go a lot smoother.

round 5

How did we approach the Eternal trailer–in terms of text, images, etc.?

Well, this trailer is a bit different than the other trailers I have cut for you, in that this book has yet to be released, and so it really has to do the job of capturing the audience even before they see it in the bookstore.

It is vital that the general story be told without giving away too many secrets. So you mailed me a copy of the ARC so I could familiarize myself with the mood and feel to better portray it on screen.

You also gave me a rough list of the textual aspects that you wanted to see in the trailer as well as the royalty-free piece of music, and I went from there.

We both found royalty-free stock images online that fit in with the characters and plot and even used some art elements from the book itself.

How did you try to relate the mood of the book to the trailer?

Eternal is very dark and even sexier, in my opinion, than Tantalize was. It seemed to have a more “grown up” feel overall and had many motifs to make you shiver as you read it.

So for these reasons, the trailer had to be just as titillating, if not more. In this trailer, you’ll see a lot of quick cuts, flashing colors and dark, symbolic images because that is kind of what spins through your head as you read this book. I actually even had to add an effect to the bass line in the music because the song was not dramatic enough to begin with!

[Note: Please do feel free to share the trailer with fellow readers. Facebook users can see a higher-resolution version of the trailer here.]

What technological skills/gains were applied to this trailer that weren’t available for the last two?

There are a lot of new things happening in this book trailer. I have an updated version of the program that I used and a better sense of a lot of technical things like picture resolution.

All in all, what an audience will see more vibrant colors, cooler transitions, and a better picture quality.

What do you hope prospective readers take away from it?

I hope they get excited by it. Dark, romantic thrillers are my favorite, so I just basically want prospective readers to feel enticed to go out and read this book.

When you last spoke to Cynsations readers in April 2008, you were excited about “Guardian of Eden.” What new do you have to tell us about that project?

We took the film to an international film festival and even walked away with an award! I was sixteen at the time, so that was really a cool thing, considering my experience at that time. I took a whole lot away from that project. I met and grew to love a lot of people that I will never forget, and I learned a lot.

What’s next up for you in terms of your film career?

I actually have a few exciting things going on. I was accepted into the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, School of Film and Television. There is also an online series being released on YouTube by Aberdeen Soldier Productions that is featuring me.

But the thing that I am most excited about is my plan for a new feature film and television pilot, “The Incubus.” I am collaborating with Marcie Gorman (previous owner of a successful Weight Watchers franchise in Florida) who has signed on to be my executive producer as well as many other exciting industry professionals.

I had the honor of reading your script “The Incubus,” and you do such a great job with the characters! Could you tell us a little more about it? Where will the project go from here?

I had a lot of fun writing it. The screenplay only took me about a month to write, because once I get an idea, I just sit down at my computer and the words are almost projectile from my brain to the screen. I have lovingly named this phenomenon, “word vomit.”

Basically it’s a cool story about a girl whose town gets haunted by these ghost-people, or “incubus,” and she had to try an exorcise these things before everyone in the town, including herself, has all of their energy sucked from them. It falls under the dark romance category.

We are starting production soon, but my plans for the project are to make it a television show on Showtime or HBO. So if we get a lot of people talking about it and wanting to see it, the chances of airing it would drastically increase! So please support us, and tell your friends.

As for now, I am trying to just stay optimistic and shoot for the stars.

What is the timeline for the film?

We start filming in late February and go all the way to the first week of April. I should have something close to final by the time summer rolls around, but the film-making industry is a bit hairy sometimes, so you never know.

What will be your role(s) in bringing it to life?

Much like my last film, I wear many hats. I wrote, am directing, and starring in this film again. And until we get a publicist signed on…I am doing most of the publicizing as well.

How did you approach the story?

I wanted to stick with what I’m good at, thrillers. But I also wanted to do something no one has touched upon. Movie theaters and bookstores today are filled to bursting with vampires, werewolves, and boogeymen. And I didn’t want to go there again, even though I love that kind of thing.

My English teacher, who is also very into mythology, had brought up the topic of succubi in class one day. They’re beautiful female spirits that come in the night and derive sexual energy from young men. It had intrigued me, because it sounded like such an interesting parallel to the common ghost or vampire, with a very dark twist.

Upon doing further research, I stumbled across the incubus, which is the male counterpart of the succubus. I was hooked, and my brain starting going a million miles a minute with ways of how to contort this creature into a really cool PG-13 rated story.

I made the title “Incubus” unisex to both genders and basically created my own creature, which is a human spirit that did not, for whatever reason, pass on from its physical body, and continues to walk the Earth, feeding on living human emotion and life energy since it lacks emotion of its own. It needs happiness, sadness, excitement, lust, anger, vengeance, and any other emotion just to survive. What an interesting parallel to the human condition.

What were the challenges?

We have yet to even step foot on set, but we have already overcome a few obstacles. One was finding a DP or director of photography to shoot the film. We found an amazing one, Rochelle Kadkhodear. On one of our audition days, we were even incidentally locked outside of our studio. We had to audition two actors in the studio parking lot before the locksmith even got to the building!

I was struck by your use of the past. Flashbacks can be tricky. What advice do you have for writers in integrating them?

Flashbacks can indeed by tricky, and I don’t enjoy when they are overused. Actually, I think that flashbacks are kind of a cheap way of giving information to an audience.

However, when crucial details of your character’s back-story needs to be laid out in order for your readers or audience to understand what is happening or will happen, use them with grace and caution. I like to make them fleeting and almost dream-like, as if the character was being haunted by their past…and not just as if I am shoving a chunk of back-story in your face with a corny montage.

What else is new in your life? How goes the planning for college? What are your goals on that front?

I have so many things in my life figured out…except for this topic. I have many career goals, but few higher-learning goals, which needs to change.

I am going to Chicago the last weekend of January to audition for performance schools like Julliard and Boston Conservatory. I’ll keep you posted on what happens next.

I’m still praying for someone to call me from LA and offer me a roll in their next major motion picture. Quincie in Tantalize the movie, perhaps?

As a YA reader, what were your favorite new books of 2008?

I really thoroughly enjoyed Cassandra Clare‘s City of Ashes (Margaret K. McElderry, 2008) and greatly look forward to City of Glass (Margaret K. McElderry, 2009).

Book Trailer: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Second Code Option)

For those having trouble connecting to the Facebook code, here’s the trailer on YouTube. The resolution is not as high, but you’ll be able to see it at least. Thanks for your patience!

Coming Feb. 10, 2009; from Candlewick Press

Eternal trailer produced by Shayne Leighton. Trailer music from Music Library, Dracul crest by Gene Brenek (illustrator interview), and images from Shayne, Stock.xchng: The Leading Free Stock Photography Website, and Public Domain Please feel free to share!

Cynsational Notes

Return tomorrow for an interview with Shayne on the making of the Eternal trailer!

Enter to win an ARC of Eternal (see details)! Deadline: Feb.5.

Eternal and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) are set in the same universe, but feature different main characters. The two casts will crossover in Blessed, which is in progress now. A graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize from Kieren’s point of view also is in the works.

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 Tastefully Tantalizing.

Book Trailer: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Coming Feb. 10, 2009; from Candlewick Press

Problems with the code? Try the next post for this version instead!

Eternal trailer produced by Shayne Leighton. Trailer music from Music Library, Dracul crest by Gene Brenek (illustrator interview), and images from Shayne, Stock.xchng: The Leading Free Stock Photography Website, and Public Domain

Cynsational Notes

Return tomorrow for an interview with Shayne on the making of the Eternal trailer!

Enter to win an ARC of Eternal (see details)! Deadline: Feb.5.

Eternal and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) are set in the same universe, but feature different main characters. The two casts will crossover in Blessed, which is in progress now. A graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize from Kieren’s point of view also is in the works.

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 Tastefully Tantalizing.

Author-Editor Interview: Teresa Harris

Teresa Harris on Teresa Harris: “I grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, a town with a lot of trees, a great library, and two great independent children’s bookstores. I spent a lot of time in the bookstores and the library–but never in the trees. Suffice it to say, I read a lot. And when I wasn’t reading, I wrote, mostly stories about a pair of time-traveling cats named Buster and Twinkles.

“Many years later, I went on to study English and Comparitive Literature at Columbia University, where I also wrote, this time about a pair of fraternal twins named Buster and Twinkles, of course.

“After college I attended Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I received a masters of fine arts in writing for children and young adults. My first novel, Treasure in the Past Tense, will be out in 2010. I still live in Teaneck, New Jersey, with my family and work in children’s editorial at HarperCollins.”

What kind of young reader were you?

I would like to say that I was the kind of kid who read a lot and read everything. Unfortunately, I was the former and not the latter. I was a picky kid: I didn’t like foods that stretched–I took the cheese off of my pizza–and I (mostly) only read series.

To that end, I read first the Baby-Sitters Club, then the Sweet Valley books, and lastly, The Sleepover Friends. There was some R. L. Stine in there, too, for good measure. Of course, one does outgrow series eventually.

That is when I discovered Richard Peck, who I read–and still read–voraciously, Katherine Paterson, Cynthia Voight, and Virginia Hamilton.

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

This question used to terrify me because I felt I never knew the answer.

Now, I do.

When I look back on my life, it seems that the books that had the most effect on me were the books I read when I was young.

I’ve read some brilliant adult fiction over the years, everything from commercial books to classics. However, it was Bridge to Terabithia (HarperCollins, 1977) that taught me about death, friendship, and imagination. And today, though I still read adult fiction (sometimes), the books that have kept me up until I’ve finished the last page have been books written for young people.

How about editing specifically?

Even as a child, I loved the mechanics of storytelling. I loved the idea of first creating worlds and subsequently, people to populate them.

As I got older, I began to think more and more about how these things were done. How do you create believable characters? How do you create a believable world? Suddenly, I looked at books as more than a form of entertainment and escapism. I began to look at the structure of a story, the ins and outs, and began to pay closer attention to when things worked–and how–and when they didn’t.

By the time I was a junior in college, it became clear to me what job I wanted to do.

How did you prepare for this career?

In undergrad and graduate school, I took a lot of writing workshops, in which you are critiqued and do some critiquing of your own. Reading and dissecting other people’s work–and having the same done to yours–is a great way to learn about editing.

I also read a lot, just about everything I could get my hands on. I read PW, SLJ, and Kirkus Reviews as much as I could. If a book’s summary intrigued me or it got a few great reviews, I’d check it out of the library immediately.

I’ve found that if you want to work in publishing, it is important to know where the market is and which books are getting buzz, even before you land the job.

How did you you break into the publishing?

Publishing is a tough industry to break into because it is so competitive. However, interning at one of the publishing houses is always a great way to break in. I interned at Random House when I was in undergrad, and ended up working there two years later.

How did you get from day one to your current position?

As an editorial assitant, I’m still on the lower end of the publishing food chain. However, I will move up by acquring and editing great books!

What do you see as the job(s) of an editor in the publishing process?

I think an editor’s primary jobs are to know and anticipate the market and to actively seek and nurture new writing and illustrating talent.

What are its challenges?

The market is fickle; what’s hot now may not be hot when the book is released, and you may have a dud on your hands. Sometimes you absolutely love a writer or illustrator’s work, the book comes out, and no one else does. And that’s hard, believing in someone or something so much and not have others agree.

What are its rewards?

It is incredibly rewarding when everything comes together–great writer/illustrator, great book, great response. It’s like winning the lottery.

Will most of your manuscripts come directly from writers or through agents? Why?

Because I’m just starting out and don’t have many agent contacts, most of my submissions come directly from writers. However, in the future, I think there will be more of a balance between unsolicited manuscripts and agented submissions.

As a writer who knows how hard it is to land an agent, I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point in my career in which I won’t accept manuscripts directly from writers. Sometimes you find good stuff in the “slush.”

What recommendations do you have for writers in the submission process? What are pitfalls to avoid?

I think it’s important to do your research. Find out as much as you can about and agent or a publishing house and its editors. Have they published a book similar to yours recently?

Work hard on your query letter, especially the part in which you describe your work. Take a look at flap copy. Well-written flap copy should make you want to stop everything and read that book. You should aim to write the description of your work like good flap copy.

Also, follow the rules. If an agent/editor says to send only three chapters, send just the three chapters. If they don’t want email submissions, don’t email your submission. And, for the love of all things holy, make sure you get their name and title right!

Could you tell us more about your specific interests? What kind of manuscripts are you looking for?

I am interested in all kinds of fiction, but especially in multicultural novels. I’d like to edit and publish stories from every possible perspective.

I’m also interested in humorous picture books with short, snappy texts, and high-concept young adult novels, in the vein of Madapple by Christina Meldrum (Knopf, 2008), Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008).

What titles would you recommend for study to writers interested in working with you/the house and why?

Uri Shulevitz‘s Writing With Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books (Watson-Guptill, 1997) because picture book manuscripts require such skill and, unfortunately, the majority of the ones I receive lack that certain magic: the unique voice, brevity, and page-turn-ability. There are also a few novels I suggest to writers as study for voice: Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2000), Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller (Penguin, 2004), and Repossessed by A. M. Jenkins (HarperCollins, 2007)(author interview) are a few.

So often I receive manuscripts with voices that simply don’t jump off a page. Talk to four different people, and they all sound different. Story should be like that, each with a unique, unmistakable voice.

How would you describe your tastes as a reader?

I tend to read more “quiet” fiction. I love novels about family and everyday people going through everyday things. However, I also like to read some fantasy and, on occasion, some “chick lit.” It all comes down to voice and writing. If I like both of those in a book, I will read anything.

Could you describe your dream writer? Illustrator?

My dream writer is someone innovative and flexible. The market changes, tastes change and writers have to be prepared for that. Therefore, my perfect writer would be someone very skilled in the craft who is daring and ambitious, who can stretch their imagination–and writing abilities–to write in more than one genre.

What do you do outside your editorial/publishing life?

When I’m not working, I’m working on my own writing. Right now I’m revising my debut novel while also trying to write something new. Not an easy feat, to say the least.

You wear more than one hat! You’re also a newly contracted author in your own right. Could you share with us the working title, publisher, and just a hint of what’s to come in your debut novel?

The working title of my novel is Treasure in the Past Tense and will be published by Clarion Books in 2010.

My novel is about a girl named Treasure who wants nothing more than to have a stable home. But with Treasure’s mother, Lisa, that’s just not possible.

Lisa’s always on the run, from bill collectors, land lords, her past and her present.

Soon, Treasure’s grandmother, Granmda Celeste, tells Lisa that she has to send Treasure and her sister away while she gets her life together.

That is how Treasure (12) and Tiffany (6) find themselves down in Black Lake, Virginia, with their crabby Great-aunt Grace.

Treasure in the Past Tense is a story about family and finding a home where you least expect it.

Publisher Interview: Patricia Aldana of Groundwood Books

Patricia Aldana was born and brought up in Guatemala. She came to Canada in 1971, after attending university in the United States.

She founded Groundwood Books in 1978. Groundwood’s mandate was and has remained the publication of the highest quality Canadian children’s books for all ages. Increasingly this has meant finding and developing authors from all of Canada’s peoples–from the first people to the latest arrivals.

Established as a publisher in the United States in 1996, Groundwood also publishes a list of Spanish language books, Libros Tigrillo, and is dedicated to bringing North American children the best books from around the world, especially those coming from outside the mainstream of world publishing.

Patricia Aldana has been the publisher of Groundwood Books since its beginnings, and the list is acknowledged to be a reflection of her discernment.

Groundwood Books authors and illustrators have won an unprecedented 19 Governor General’s Awards, as well as numerous other Canadian and international awards. Groundwood is known in Canada and around the world as the publisher of the very best Canadian books for children and for its commitment to its authors and illustrators. As one of the early pioneers in the industry Groundwood helped to set a very high standard in Canadian children’s publishing.

Aldana is active in Canadian and international organizations. She is President of IBBY (elected 2006)(International Board on Books for Young People, an NGO comprised of reading promotion organizations from 72 countries ) and Canada’s representative to the Inter American Publishers Group. She was the founding president of the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries and the Organization of Ontario Publishers. She was president of the Association of Canadian Publishers for two years in the late seventies and on the founding board of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

Aldana’s international work through IBBY has focused on bringing children and books together, especially in countries which have not had a reading tradition. She was a leader in establishing the IBBY Fund for Children in Crisis, which is running projects in Lebanon, Gaza, and Colombia for children who have suffered extreme trauma due to war and civil disruption.

In all these cases, such children are using books to learn to speak about their experiences, to understand what has happened to them, and to find a way to move past the trauma.

In the IBBY Yamada workshop program, publishing and reading promotion skills are being taught in workshops in countries around the world ranging from Mongolia, to Bolivia, to South Africa, to Uganda and Rwanda.

Aldana has been invited to speak on children’s books in such countries as Singapore, Japan (at the National Diet Library), at the International Federation of Library Associations in Pretoria, South Africa, as well as in Malaysia, Brazil, Cuba, Iran and Colombia.

What kind of young reader were you?

Voracious. My mother also read to me for years.

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

A lack of books for children in Canada.

How did you prepare for this career?

I worked in a children’s book store and at various publishing houses in many different capacities before starting my company.

What do you love about it?

Being able to bring books that would otherwise never be published to children in Canada, the U.S., and around the world.

What are its challenges?


Could you tell us a bit about Groundwood Books?

Groundwood is a small independent children’s house that specializes in Canadian authored books, Spanish language books, translations from around the world, and a non-fiction line aimed at young adults.

What makes Groundwood special, different from other houses?

We publish voices of people who are marginalized–Black, Native, Hispanic, or less well known international voices. We believe that children’s books should tell the truth.

We are driven by the quality of the writing and art, and by the uniqueness of the voice–not the market.

In addition, we believe children want to know about the lives of people different from themselves. We also believe that they need to know about these lives.

With regard to U.S. writers, do you take submissions from agents, from writers directly, or both?

We only accept submissions from Americans who are Hispanic, of African origin, or Native American. They can come from an agent or the author.

How should illustrators approach you?

The same applies.

What back-list titles do you feel most embody the spirit and philosophy of the house (and why)?

Angel Square
by Brian Doyle; The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis; The Illustrator’s Notebook by Mohaddin Ellabad; Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki; The Black Book of Color by Menena Cottin and Rosaria Farias.

What new titles should we look for?

Off to War and Children of War by Deborah Ellis; The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter; My Great Big Mamma by Olivier Ka, illustrated by Luc Melanson.

Over the course of your career, what are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the field of publishing books for young readers?

The abandonment of the once great British and American houses of the tradition of the editor-driven list for a new reign of TV tie-ins, merchandising, and the need to make more and more money.

What are the bright signs? The challenges?

Some wonderful books continue to be published, but we are drowning in the over-publishing of mediocre books that no one needs. It is almost impossible for an independent house like Groundwood with our mandate to survive.

What do you do outside your editorial/publishing life?

Travel, IBBY, grandchildren, opera.