Texas Sweethearts: Jo Whittemore, P.J. Hoover & Jessica Lee Anderson

Cynsations officially welcomes The Texas Sweethearts: Three Authors Who Write for Kids and Teens to the kidlitosphere! Peek: “We’re from the awesome state of Texas—Austin to be exact. (For you non-Texans, that’s the nice, shiny star in the center of the state.) We’re entertaining, engaging, and we want to make a difference.”

Meet sweethearts Jo Whittemore, P.J. Hoover, and Jessica Lee Anderson, and learn more about their books. Check out their speaking schedule, invite them to visit, and read their blog.

Today I’m honored to be their first “Featured Sweetheart!” In a short interview with P.J., I talk about my early writing/publishing mentors, being active in the writing community, and offer advice to new voices seeking their first book deal. Thanks, P.J., Jessica, and Jo!

If you’d like to nominate a “Featured Sweetheart” for their blog (someone who has made a difference in the world of youth literature), please see more information.

Check out this video celebrating The Texas Sweethearts:

Cynsational Notes

The ongoing Bridget Zinn Kicks Cancer! Auction features a related critique: The Texas Sweethearts Writing Critique: Three Authors, Three Sets of Eyes, Three Helpful Opinions: Peek: “What could be more helpful than a critique to strengthen your story? Three critiques! Multiple-published members of The Texas Sweethearts—Jo Whittemore, P.J. Hoover, and Jessica Lee Anderson—will individually critique your query letter, synopsis, and first three chapters (up to 30 pages).” Bidding ends Dec. 11.

Craft, Career & Cheer: Bruce Hale

Learn about Bruce Hale.

Could you describe the best experience you’ve had working with an editor?

Working with Michael Stearns, first at Harcourt, then at HarperCollins, has been my best editorial experience so far.

(So it’s all the more disappointing that he’s quit editing for agentry.)

Maybe you never forget the editor who first opens the door and ushers you into that club of published authors.

Michael bought my Chet Gecko (Harcourt, 2001-) series, thus earning my undying gratitude and my first-born male child.

But more than that, he fulfilled most of my ideas about what a relationship with an editor should be. He was, by turns, cheerleader, critic, brainstorming partner, advisor, and champion.

With Michael, I felt like I was a two-headed writer–that second head giving me the perspective on my own work that is so tricky for most of us to achieve.

One thing I particularly liked about Michael was his twisted sense of humor–so close to my own. He knew when to push a joke in the story and when to back off. And while he didn’t always know what that joke was, he would make comments like “this could be expanded” that helped me discover the humor on my own.

In his editorial letters, he posed questions rather than offering solutions. Although I occasionally complained, it was good for my growth as a writer, since I needed to discover the solutions myself.

One of my favorite times with Michael was brainstorming the Chet Gecko Detective Handbook (and Cookbook): Tips for Private Eyes and Snack Food Lovers (Harcourt, 2005).

We took a break from the IRA conference and retired to a San Francisco coffee shop, where we just tossed ideas around.

“Oh, it’d be fun if…” and “Why don’t we do something like…?” bounced back and forth over an hour or so. Fevered notes were scribbled on scraps of paper. Laughs were laughed, much tea and coffee was consumed.

It was very much like working with a co-conspirator, which is my vision of what an editor should be. Often he saw what I was trying to say, even when I couldn’t quite express it. And that kind of teamwork is rare in my experience.

In the end, Michael “got” my stories. That’s it. And that, above all, made him a pleasure to work with.

How do you define professional success?

For me, success is an ever-moving target. Although I’m happy to have experienced some of it, the definition keeps changing, the longer I work as a writer.

Initially, success for me meant getting published–period. Then it morphed into getting published with a major national house. After I’d accomplished that happy aim, the goal became landing on a bestseller list, and then earning a living doing what I love. And on and on the goal moves…

Today, I feel most successful when one of two things happens:

1. When I get an e-mail from a reader saying something like, “I used to hate reading, but since I read your book, I love reading.”

That is so satisfying–the feeling that you’ve reached somebody and made a difference to them. Stories are satisfying to write, but ultimately the communication feels most complete when you hear how a reader enjoyed your work.

2. When I read an advanced reader copy of my latest book and know that the story is done, that it has come through me, and that it is about to enter the world.

At that point, I can tweak the words a little bit, but the tale is essentially in final form. What a relief.

Completing a story is a full-on challenge, every time, and when I reach that stage where I’ve written it as well as I can, I savor the moment. That’s success–expressing what you set out to express.

Cynsational Notes

In the video below, “Bruce Hale delivers the opening keynote of day two of the 2009 SCBWI NY conference with a song.”

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children’s-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.

Eternal Is Now Available from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available in paperback from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand! See more information from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand.

The companion book, Tantalize, also is available in both hardcover and paperback from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand.

Note: the type style is much more elaborate than on the Candlewick (US) hardcover, mimicking the Walker Books (UK) cover, and there’s also a photo of part of an angel instead of a whole, stand-alone wing.

CLASSIFIED ADS: WANTED Personal assistant to Her Royal Highness. Duties: Whatever is asked, without hesitation, including but not limited to secretarial / administrative, household, defence, blood donation, driving, companionship, prey disposal, and love slavery.

“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 theatre wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight.

“Meanwhile, Zachary, her reckless and adoring guardian angel, demoted to human guise as the princess’s personal assistant, must try to save his girl’s soul before all hell arrives, quite literally, on their castle doorstep.

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

Check out the Eternal blog buzz, interviews, reviews, and readers’ guide. Note: my most recent interviews may be found at Tu Publishing (Cynthia Leitich Smith on Living in a Multicultural World) and HipWriterMama (Writing the True with Cynthia Leitich Smith).

Note: the Dec. 1 publication date is found on the publisher website. If the book hasn’t reached your local store or library yet, please follow up there for more information. The bookseller or librarian should be able to look it up for you.

Eternal Trailer