Author-Bookseller Interview: Kathy L. Patrick, The Pulpwood Queen

Learn more about Kathy L. Patrick.

Could you please begin by telling us the story behind your story?

My story really begins when I was downsized from my dream job. I was book publisher’s representative, and as I was the last hired, I was the first let go.

When independent bookstores started closing in my territory due to the influx of big-box chains, I lost my territory base.

That’s how my memoir begins, my first book, The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life (Grand Central Publishing, 2008), with the first chapter titled, “When life hands you a lemon, make margaritas!”

Yes, one door was firmly shut, but another window of opportunity flew open and I jumped right in.

How did you come to launch Beauty & The Book?

Beauty and the Book, “the Only Hair Salon/Book Store in the country,” perhaps the world, began because of something my sister said.

I called her when I lost my job–whining to her about “now what in the world was I supposed to do?”–when she told me, “Open up your hair salon again, you always did well doing hair.”

You see, I put myself through college doing hair, but for me, it was always a means to and end. I never thought it would be my life’s profession.

I told my sister doing hair would probably bore me to death. I had done everything you could do doing hair, and besides, I could not imagine my life without talking books.

She then told me, matter of fact, “Well, do the book thing, too!”

Beauty and the Book was born Jan. 18, 2000, and this year, we celebrate our 10th anniversary!

I have found that combining my two passions of creating beauty and talking books has helped me find my life’s true purpose, promoting literacy! There is great beauty in books, so I am now all about helping people find their beauty without and within!

What makes the place special?

Beauty and the Book is not just a Hair Salon/Book Store, it is a community center. Not a day goes by that some girl group, book club, or group of individuals don’t come by just to have an experience, whether getting a beauty service, talking and shopping for books, or just hanging out! Nobody stops by for just a minute as, the next thing you know, the morning or afternoon is gone. I want people to know that Beauty and the Book is their home away from home.

I always tell folks, “I’ll leave the hair dryer on for ya!”

Talk to us about tiaras!

Shortly after I started Beauty and the Book, I was asked to come join the local book club. I was ecstatic! I had always wanted to be in a book club as there is nothing more in the world I love to discuss more than a good story.

At the end of the meeting, I gushed, “Thank you, thank you so much for inviting me to your book club,” when the hostess grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me into the galley of her lovely antebellum home.

She proceeded to tell me, whispering, that all though they had invited me to join their club, that the invitation was for only as a guest. There were eight members in their book club period.

Unless someone moved away or died, that was it!

Horrified, I begged their pardon and quickly excused myself.

As I drove home, I was mortified that I had obviously invited myself into a private club. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, if there is ever going to be a book club that I would want to be a part of, I guess I will have to start it myself.

So I did. The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas were born March 2000 with the motto, “where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule.”

We would not be an exclusive book club but an inclusive one. The tiaras came about because, as a child, I dreamed of wearing the crown like Miss America. But as I grew from child to teen, I soon learned that there are certain physical attributes that you have to have in order to be in the competition. One of them was a waistline and of that I was sorely lacking.

I felt it completely unfair that I, a product of the no-waistline gene, would not be able to compete in the Miss America pageant no matter how hard I tried. So I decided as a middle-aged woman, that I would crown all women queens, if they would only be readers.

We would be the beauty “within” queens, as we all know true beauty comes from within!

What kind of programs do you sponsor?

I tell everybody I sponsor our annual Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guys Book Club convention, which we call our Girlfriend Weekend, always held the third weekend in January, but really this is just my way of saying that I work all year for free to make this event happen.

We now have currently 265 chapters of The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs that run from Alaska to Florida, New York to California, and everywhere in between nationwide. Also, we are now an international book club as we have members and chapters in nine foreign countries.

We are the largest meeting-and-discussing book club in the world, which means we all read and meet in our own chapters to discuss the books that I select.

What makes our book club so inviting is I also arrange for teleconferences with the authors, if their schedules permit, and/or arrange visits with the authors if they are in the vicinity.

Each chapter takes on its own literacy endeavors, and I encourage them to do so. My chapter in Anchorage, Alaska; flew me up for their first anniversary and to help them start the first ever Pulpwood Queen chapter in a women’s prison.

I myself lead a chapter at a local homeless shelter where I lead a life-writing class.

I have a chapter is South Louisiana that funds and entire school in Nicaragua with textbooks and Bibles.

The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas partnered with our local Rotary Club to help start the Dolly Parton Imagination Library literacy project here in Marion County. Now for every child born in my county, a book is sent every month free to that child until they start kindergarten. That is 60 books, a library free to get them reading ready for school.

I am encouraging all my chapters to help initiate this incredible literacy project. I myself volunteer to read at schools, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, wherever, because in order to lead, you must set an example. People learn most by actions not just words.

So we not only talk the talk for literacy, we do walk the walk and literally–most of my chapters do in the American Cancer Association Relay for Life.

How about programs specifically tailored to young readers and/or involving children’s-teen authors?

Yes, a couple of years ago I started Pinecone chapters for younger readers and the Splinters chapters for teens and college age. This began with my two daughters, and I encourage other chapters to lead by example and get their children involved in reading together and out loud to smaller children.

How do you choose books for Splinters and Pinecones?

Most of the books are sent to me by the authors or recommended to me by fellow independent booksellers and bookstores.

What are some recent choices?

Last year’s Pulpwood Queen Children’s Book of the year, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2008), went on to be a finalist for the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

This year’s winner was Melissa Conroy (Poppy’s Pants (Blue Apple, 2009)), who we were fortunate to have on a panel with her father, New York Times Bestseller Pat Conroy at our Girlfriend Weekend.

The “Poppy’ of her book is based on her father Pat Conroy and the relationship with his granddaughter, “Penelope” in the book. It was a real treat to have them both speak of her outstanding children’s book.

[Above, authors from left to right, Melissa Conroy, Pat Conroy, and Janis Owens at Beauty and the Book Girlfriend Weekend 2010.]

Who are some of the folks (authors or otherwise) that have visited over the years?

My book club prides itself on helping undiscovered authors get discovered in a big way. Some of the authors we have selected have then gone on to super-stardom including: Jeannette Walls of The Glass Castle (Scribner, 2009), Charles Martin of Where the River Ends (Broadway/Random House, 2008), Michael Morris of Slow Way Home (HarperOne, 2003), Ron Hall of Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together (Thomas Nelson, 2008), and Cassandra King of Queen of Broken Hearts (Hyperion, 2007).

Many other authors we have selected (but yet not had grace our doors) have too gone on to superstar status, including: Ann Packer of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier (Vintage, 2003), Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love (Viking, 2006), and most recently, Kathryn Stockett of The Help (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2009).

Then because our book club has received so much media attention and great features, such as, “Good Morning America,” “Oprah,” Newsweek, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times, we have been fortunate to have some real celebrities and New York Times best-selling authors grace our doors including: Linda Bloodworth Thomason, Rue McClanahan, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Kinky Friedman (who was running for governor at the time), Kelly Corrigan, Elizabeth Berg, and my all-time favorite author in the whole wide world, Pat Conroy.

Would you like to share any favorite memories?

One of my favorite memories was riding in my mini-van with the late, great, Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist and author Doug Marlette.

Doug had written his first book, The Bridge (HarperCollins, 2001), and I was taking him around to all my book clubs in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

As we were driving down I-20 from Choudrant, Louisiana; headed home, Doug turned to me and said, “Kathy, do you always have paparazzi trail you on the road?”

When I inquired what in the world was he talked about, he told me, “Look to your left!”

I turned to see a little white compact car driving right beside me with the driver leaning across the passenger seat madly clicking photos of us in the van while he was driving.

He passed us, honking, and I turned to Doug, dumbfounded.

He continued, “Well, I knew you were becoming famous, but that takes the cake.”

I am paraphrasing here as it is very doubtful that Doug would say “take the cake,” but you get the idea. We laughed about it all the way home.

Later, when I got on my computer to check my emails, it was photographer Shane Bevel, a friend that worked for the Shreveport Times. He emailed me that when he saw my mini-van, he knew I must have had an author on board with me so he decided to have some fun with it!

To this day, I would give anything for those photographs as that was the last time I was with Doug in person. He was killed a couple of summers ago in a tragic hydroplaning car accident. He was only 57, and I will miss him dearly.

I created The Doug Marlette Award, given each year to a person for a lifetime of promoting literacy so that author and friend would never be forgotten. This year, that award was given by his best friend and author Pat Conroy to Arkansas bookseller, my mentor, Mary Gay Shipley.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, his distorted sense of humor, which was the same as mine, and his intelligence and grace. Yes, that was a memory I will cherish forever!

You’re also an author in your own right! Congratulations! Can you tell us more about The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life?

I have dreamed of being an author my whole life as there is nobody I admire more than those who can take a great story and put it to paper for print. Never though in a million years would I have dreamed that this would come into fruition because I guess I thought you had to be born somewhere other than a small town in Kansas. I thought you had to have a better education than me, though I continue to be a life-long learner.

It seemed a dream way out of my reach, but in fact, I got a call from a publisher asking me to write my story.

To make a long story short, then I had an agent call me to represent me, which led to me then taking my book proposal to New York to shop to major publishing houses.

This did not happen overnight. From start to finish, it took six years. But I am proud to say that my life story in books was published by Grand Central Publishing, formerly Warner Books. It is my story on how books saved me and how I am on a mission to promote literacy one book, one author, one book club chapter at a time.

But that’s not all. My book is a resource book for anyone who has an interest in reading. I have had almost a dozen state library associations endorse me by having me come and speak to their organizations and continue to do so.

At the end of each chapter, I tell the reader, if you like this story, perhaps you would like these books and list them. I give advice on how to start a book club and what to do and not to do.

I also listed all of my book club selections from inception to publication date.

There are recipes as each month our book club prepares a meal to go along with our read and so much, much more.

It’s kind of one-stop shop for readers, and I think you will find my story so inspiring, you too will be able to find your life’s purpose through reading great books!

What do directions do you foresee in your future?

Of course, I want the Pulpwood Queen Book Club program to continue forever, long after I am gone. I kind of see myself as this trailblazing woman–like Juliet Low of the Girl Scouts meets Mary Kay of Mary Kay cosmetics! Like Miss America, who is always touting “world peace,” I do believe that that can happen if we become a more literate and reading world!

My book has been sent forth out into the world kind of like The Little Engine that Could. It’s a book to show that I think I can, I think I can, I know I can create a better world through reading. My book is helping me get the message out in a bigger way, but when I dream, I dream big!

I want my own talk show! Yes, I want it to be called “Beauty and the Book,” and I have the perfect co-host, author, Robert Leleux of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy (St. Martin’s, 2008)!

A former East Texan and the most wonderful literate, witty, brilliant man I know to do this show where we show people that reading is not only important, it’s big-time fun!

For the last couple of years, Robert and I, dubbed BOBKAT, have been running our Girlfriend Weekend like a talk show!

We have taped these and are willing to show the world that Reading Is The Best Entertainment in the Whole World!

Most films these days are based on books, and we have a really quirky and fun way that is different, but in order to understand, you just have to see it to believe it!

Oh, and if my book were made into film, of course, I would choose Meryl Streep to play me as like Barbie, she can really portray anybody. I told you I dream big!

So I invite everyone to come on board our “Little Engine That Could” Pulpwood Queen Program to promote authors, books, literacy, and reading!

Joining forces with people such as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, connecting people in a book club (who may have never had that relationship if it wasn’t for sharing a good read) is my goal!

I just want to shout it from the mountaintops, but I have to admit a television show would be a whole heck a lot easier; don’t you think?

[Kathy L. Patrick shown as as Tippi Hedren Barbie from Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Birds” at Happy 50th Birthday Barbie Party Girlfriend Weekend 2010]

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes, for anyone reading this, no matter what you have been made to believe, you can make a difference!

If a small-town Kansas girl with big dreams and at times big hair can do it, so can you!

I may not take myself very seriously–I mean who does when you are over 50?–but I do take the importance of literacy and reading very much so.

Won’t you all join me on this wonderful road to reading?! It all begins with one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page! Then once I get you reading, I am going to have you writing too.

I never knew who I really was until I wrote my book. I have come full circle and found myself and my purpose in life through reading and writing.

And just remember, that writing your story does not have to be for publication, it can be just for you and your family and friends.

Besides, a story not written is a library lost to your family and friends.

Nobody can tell your story better than you, and it’s just like my favorite quote says, “The world is made up of stories, not atoms” (Muriel Rukheyser).

Life is all about the story, our relationships with others and how we connect. And now my friends, that is my story and I’m sticking to it!

Tiara Wearing and Book Sharing,

Kathy L. Patrick
The Pulpwood Queen

[The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas as Wizard of Oz characters at Somewhere Over the Rainbow Great Big Ball of Hair Ball Girlfriend Weekend 2010.]

Learn more about the Pulpwood Queens, and read Kathy’s blog.

Pretend you’re Oprah, and check out this awesome video:

Editorial Assistant Interview: Andrew Harwell of Dutton Children’s Books, a division of the Penguin Young Readers Group

Andrew Harwell is an editorial assistant at Dutton Children’s Books, a division of the Penguin Young Readers Group.

What were you like as a young reader?

I loved big, sweeping books, especially the classics. I remember running around my school playground with Robinson Crusoe [by Daniel Defoe (1719)] and Wuthering Heights [by Emily Brontë (1847)] tucked under my arm.

Then I discovered the Redwall series (1986-2010), which – when I realized that so many massive books followed some of the same characters –seemed the most sweeping adventure of all. I quickly became hooked on series fantasy.

How did you come to make children’s-YA literature a career focus?

It may not be surprising after that last question that I ended up studying the classics in college. German philosophy, world literature – not what you’d call “light” reading.

Whenever I had a spare moment, I always gravitated towards the kids’ section of bookstores because that’s where all the fun books were.

Then, I began to realize that the children’s and YA books I loved so much were tackling some of the same questions as those big, heady books I was studying, only the YA books were making those questions accessible for a new generation.

In that vital capability (and in the fun of it, too!), I saw a dream career, and here I am today.

What does an editorial assistant do?

In many ways, publishing is something you can only learn by doing.

I often think of being an editorial assistant as being an editorial apprentice. I get to work with authors on manuscripts and hunt for illustrators for picture books, and I get to do a lot of copy-writing, too, but at the same time, I get to see and assist other editors’ processes firsthand.

Everyone has a slightly different method of doing things, and I love getting to see multiple editorial approaches even as I work on my own.

Can you describe a typical work day?

Lots of reading, lots of writing, lots of e-mails, and a few meetings. That might sound like a workday at any number of jobs, but the difference is all my brain-power is going towards making good books better. So even when I’m at my desk for hours at a time, my mind might be in a totally make-believe world or even – gulp – back in high school.

What do you love about your job?

I love working with people who care about books. A single person’s passion can go a long way, and it is endlessly rejuvenating to work in a field where many such passionate people are working for something we all agree matters.

What are its challenges?

We start working on books long before they’re ever in stores, and we continue to keep up with them long after they hit shelves. Sometimes, I forget what year I’m actually in! It’s terribly confusing.

What makes Dutton special?

Dutton is one of the oldest continually operating children’s book publishers in the United States, and it is such an honor to be a part of that tradition.

From Winnie-the-Pooh and Judy Blume to Ellen Raskin and Jean Craighead George, Dutton has published some truly incredible books over the years, and I love having names like those to look up to when I’m considering a potential project or working with an author to make our new books stand the same test of time.

Do you have any advice for writers submitting their manuscripts for consideration?

Remember: a strong concept might catch our attention, but we’re still looking for a complete, well-written story.

Take your time and make sure that epiphanous idea is supported by strong characters who grow and change.

It can seem tempting to jump on hot trends when you’re looking to get published, but there will always be room in the marketplace for well-told, satisfying stories, and those are the ones that stand the test of time.

Could you highlight just a few of the recent/upcoming books from the list?

In two short months, Dutton is publishing John Grisham’s first ever children’s book, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.

This fall, we’re launching the first in an exciting new trilogy called Matched [by Allyson Condie] that is going to take young readers by storm.

And also coming fall 2010, the anxiously awaited finale to The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series [by Heather Brewer], Twelfth Grade Kills. It’s going to be an epic year.

Everyone’s speculating about the future of publishing, especially with regard to e-books. What do you see in the crystal ball?

Publishers do so very much for books. We are gatekeepers, yes, and distributors, too, but we are also value-adders and scale-amplifiers, and I see those roles remaining important even in new media.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win Vampireology: A Genuine and Moste Authentic Ology (Candlewick, 2010)! From the promotional copy:

Long before the term vampire was born, long before Bram Stoker fictionalized this being’s ways, blood-drinking demons were banished to Earth by Michael’s host of Angels, or so the Bible describes.

Now this rich, mesmerizing resource, written in 1900, sheds light on what happened hence to the three vampire bloodlines — especially the tortured souls known as the Belial. Interspersed are booklets, flaps, and letters between a young paranormal researcher who discovered the book in the 1920s and an oddly alluring woman who seeks his help. Among the phenomena explored are:

* vampires’ genealogical origins, attributes, and range

* myths about the making of vampires

* secrets of vampires’ powers and shape-shifting skills

* tips for spotting vampires, protecting oneself, and fighting back

* case studies of famous vampires — and vampire hunters — through history

* a shocking overview of vampires “living” among us

Explore (if you dare) the true history of the Fallen Ones — and follow the fate of a 1920s investigator lured by a beauty with violet eyes.

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type “Vampireology” in the subject line. Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the title in the header or comment on this round-up; I’ll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: midnight CST April 30. Note: U.S. entries only.

Cynsational Winners

The winners of Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (Knopf, 2010) are Karen in California, Jennifer in Wyoming, and Kristen in Oregon. Read a guest post by Margo on Short Stories and Novels – Different Animals, Different Taming Techniques.

The winners of How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2010) are Amy in Utah, Mark in New Jersey, and Lena in Texas. Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

The winners of the T-shirt tie in to Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Hyperion, 2010) are Lauren in Pennsylvania and Jude in Massachusetts. Both winners also will receive a copy of the novel! Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel.

National Cowboy Museum Announces Wrangler Award Winners of the 49th Annual Western Heritage Awards

Oklahoma City– For the 49th time, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum announces the Western Heritage Awards. The awards honor and encourage the legacy of those whose works in literature, music, film and television reflect the significant stories of the American West.

The Western Heritage Awards are presented at a black-tie banquet at the Museum, set for April 17. Each winner in attendance receives a Wrangler, an impressive bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback. Awards presented in 2010 are for works completed in 2009. Qualified professionals outside the Museum staff judge all categories. Qualified professionals outside the Museum staff judge all categories.

There are seven categories in the literary competition. They include Western novel, nonfiction book, art book, photography book, juvenile book, magazine article and poetry book.

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams (McElderry, 2009) is the Outstanding Juvenile Book. The novel, published by McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, tells the story of Cam O’Mara, grandson and younger brother to championship bull riders. Cam is more interested in skateboarding and focuses on making his tricks perfect — that is until his older brother Ben comes home from the war — paralyzed.

Williams, a former elementary school teacher, writes a moving story of one family’s struggle to live with the life changing effect of war and injury. Cam promises Ben to carry on the family tradition of bull riding if Ben promises not to give up. Will 8 seconds and $15,000 help the family heal? Find out in Williams’ book written for grades 7 through 10.

Read a Cynsations interview with Suzanne.

More News & Giveaways

Cover Stories: So Punk Rock by Micol Ostow, with art by David Ostow by Melissa Walker from readergirlz. Peek: “The committee who chose the cover was torn and it took them a while to decide on the final cover because in essence, all 3 covers are very similar in their feel and look with slight variations in the imagery.” Read a Cynsations interview with Micol and David.

Bologna Book Fair–Illustrators, International Youth Library and more book sightings by Sarah Johnson from Through the Tollbooth. Note: one of a series of posts that takes you inside the fair.

Constant Cussing
by Natalie Whipple from Between Fact and Fiction. Peek: “To me, swearing is like caviar or a really good bleu cheese—a little goes a long way.” Source: Nathan Bransford.

The dark heart of modern fairytales: A slew of recent literary fiction with young adult protagonists is at last restoring fairytales’ socially subversive origins from The Guardian. Peek: “The world of the other, of gods and demons, fairies and tricks, is there to teach us about this world, the world of families, houses, love and hate, happiness and sorrow.” Source: @mitaliperkins.

Writers and Technology: a new blog by Anindita Basu Sempere. Peek: “This blog is a space in which to explore the relationship between writers and technology, covering everything from software for writers to new forms of storytelling.”

Read Alikes: Ecological Disasters by Karin Librarian from Karin’s Book Nook. Peek: “I love disaster movies/books. My favorite movie is ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and I’m always up for a new book that throws me in a world of death and destruction.”

Retelling Traditional Stories by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: “Because I was writing for an Indian publisher, I could also make some assumptions about audience. I didn’t have to worry about whether readers would ‘get it.’ I could give myself permission to write in the kind of voice a storyteller might employ to speak to an audience, while assuming certain commonalities in framework and context.” Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

In the Past or Present by Tabitha Olson from Writer Musings. Peek: “To have a completely effective story told in present tense, the characters must be in the moment, not the author.”

“It Suddenly Dawned on Her”: Improving Your Character Epiphanies by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: “The term ‘epiphany’ was originally a religious term referring to the physical appearance of a deity. In fiction, it’s the point at which truth appears before a character; the character learns or understands something.” Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Russian Books for Kids
from Chicken Spaghetti. Peek: “All these great picture books concerning Russia, Russian folk tales, and Russian-American experiences.”

M.T. Anderson: new official author website. Includes insights from M.T. on his books, the text of several of his speeches, including On The Intelligence of Teens. Peek: “…the one thing which still causes people pause – the final hurdle – the last frontier – the one element which still gets a few adult readers up in arms about whether a book is appropriate for kids – is intelligence.” Read a Cynsations interview with M.T.

Co-op Redux
by Eric from Pimp My Novel. Peek: “In a digital environment, you won’t have front-of-store promotions, aisle endcaps, or tables of discounted titles; instead, you’ll have banner ads, e-couponing (those of you who subscribe to the Barnes & Noble or Borders coupon e-mails will be familiar with these), front-page splashes and placement…” Source: Elizabeth Scott. See also All About Co-op from Nathan Bransford.

Sonia Gensler: a new official site from the author of The Revenant (Knopf, 2011). Note: this author lives in Oklahoma and has a cat. Both good signs.

Thoughts on Writing: The Very First You by Seanan McGuire. Peek: “While I am happy to allow that you can definitely style yourself after someone, I don’t think that anyone can be the next insert-name-here.”

Author/Illustrator Reminder: you may own the copyright to your book, but you don’t own it to reviews published about it. Do not republish them online (or elsewhere) without permission. Keep quotes short, attribute, and link to the source.

Congratulations to Beverly Patt on the upcoming release of Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook, (Marshall Cavendish, April 2010). Peek: “German-American Louise Kessler, 14, starts a scrapbook when her best friend, Dottie Masuoka, leaves for the Japanese internment camps. Louise’s scrapbook includes items from her life ‘on the home front’ as well as Dottie’s letters and drawings from the internment camp. Together, their intertwined stories tell of a friendship that even war cannot tear apart.” Note: the book has already received a starred review from School Library Journal and has been named to the Great Lakes, Great Books Spring 2010 List. Read a Cynsations interview with Beverly.

Featured Sweetheart: Verla Kay from The Texas Sweethearts. Peek: “The most important thing about my [Children’s Writers & Illustrators] message board (to me) is that it stays a “clean and safe” place for writers and illustrators to share information. That can be a tough job, and it’s an impossible one for just one person to do.” Read a Cynsations interview with Verla.

What Makes a Science Fiction/Fantasy Book YA? by Peni R. Griffin from Idea Garage Sale. Peek: “If the bearded wise man wears a lab coat, it’s science fiction, even if there’s no scientific justification for what he does. If he wears a robe, it’s fantasy, even if the things he does are rooted in theoretical physics.” Read a Cynsations interview with Peni.

Author/Illustrator Tip: when presenting with others on a panel or at a reading, be gracious, mindful, and respectful of everyone’s time with the microphone. You’ll be more fondly remembered by your peers and the event planner, if you do.

Jennifer Laughran, Agent Extraordinaire: an interview by Margie Gelbwasser. Peek: “I would love some funny wonderful classic-feeling Middle Grade fiction, like The Penderwicks [by Jeanne Birdsall] or Andrew Clements. It is extremely hard to write. ” Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

How Much Can You Take? by Kristi Holl from Writer’s First Aid. Peek: “…you need to block out what you read about ‘overnight successes’ in the publishing business.”

Naming Your Characters by Alex Flinn. Peek: “Characters who are outsiders or who defy trends get names that reflect that, unusual names.” Read a Cynsations interview with Alex.

YALITCHAT by Kelly Hashway from Kelly Hashway’s Books. Peek: “I originally thought Twitter was a place for people to post all the mundane details of their day, and yes some people do this. However, I only follow agents and other writers, and the ones I follow tend to tweet about useful things.”

10 Book Design Terms Explained by Carol Brendler from Jacket Knack. Peek: “Foil: ‘A metallic or pigmented coating on plastic sheets or rolls used in foil stamping and foil embossing.'”

Canadian First Nations Literature: a celebration from Papertigers. Features include: an interview with author-Literacy advocate David Bouchard by Marjorie Coughlan; interview with Patty Lawlor, Program Coordinator of “First Nation Communities Read” by Sally Ito; and a peek into the illustrator’s gallery at the work of C.J. Taylor and Julie Flett.

Win an Advanced Copy of Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader and More! Deadline April 8. Open to citizens of the U.S. and Canada.

Attention Traditionally Trade-Published Texas Children’s-YA Authors & Illustrators: please check your listings on the immediately previously linked page and let me know if you have any corrections/added. Please note that the page is updated monthly. Thanks!

Reminder: this week Cynsations featured: new voice Y.S. Lee on The Agency: A Spy in the House (Candlewick, 2010)(“what happened to smart, unconventional women in the period. If you weren’t a good little girl, and you didn’t have a lot of money, what on earth happened to you?”); Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook on Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, & Conversations (Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2010)(“when our son, jaime, began to write and publish for young readers [see Jaime Adoff], i wanted to get out to conferences with him…to introduce him to old friends and colleagues, share a platform, enjoy a joint reading and our spirited public conversations….i began to re-enter the world of books and publishing…”; Writing Across Formats: Marion Dane Bauer (“I don’t think the emotional reality has changed for our young people, but the same emotional realities are being housed in very different vessels.); and the cover art for Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, Nov. 11, 2010)(ages 4-up).

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster). See also Jasper Dash Desktop Wallpapers.

Check out the book trailer for White Cat by Holly Black (The Curse Workers)(McElderry, 2010).

Check out this book trailer for The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf, 2009). Source: A Fuse #8 Production.

Check out the book trailer for Mistwood by Leah Cypess (Greenwillow, April 27, 2010).

Check out the latest trailer, featuring upcoming releases, from The Tenners:

In case you haven’t heard, there’s this series about a boy named Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic). Source: Cool Kids Read.

From Teen Librarian Adriana Melgoza

Attention YA Authors: “This summer teens at the Alhambra Civic Center Library will be invited to participate in a unique reading program called ‘Making a Difference @Your Library.’ We hope to encourage teens to actively participate in events that will inspire them to make a difference in their community. Part of our incentives will of course be books, so we are asking young adult authors who can spare a copy of their books (signed is better!) to please donate one to our cause. The teens and the staff at the Alhambra Library greatly appreciate all your help!” Note: “We will be running publicity in the city’s community events newspaper, “Around Alhambra,” and will be sure include author’s names/books in our summer reading flyers and print material.” Mailing address: Alhambra Civic Center Library; Attn: Adriana Melgoza; 101 S. First St.; Alhambra, CA 91801.

More Personally

What fun I had at the salon party for Maddie’s Purple Party at Embellish Nails & Boutique in Westlake, Texas, in celebration of the release of Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson (Delacorte, 2010).

Our hostess was Varian’s wife Crystal.

She created an amazing tie-in scrapbook for the novel.

And served cake!

Here, Crystal gives one of many purple scarves (we all got one) to Cyndi Hughes, director of the Writers’ League of Texas.

We also all had manicures with purple nail polish. Here’s Vanessa.

And Jo Whittemore. April Lurie and Frances Yansky are farther down.

Mary Baker of Embellish did a first-rate job.

Check out Donna Bowman Bratton‘s purple stylings.

And Julie Lake‘s.

Shalou looks at the scrapbook.

Then Varian himself arrived to join the festivities.

He chatted with the ladies.

Cake was served.

And everyone showed off their nails.

You see what I mean.

Did Varian himself get a manicure? I’ll never say.

But Debbie Gonzales won the big giveaway drawing.

The rest of us received goodies, too!

Take a peek!

Then on Saturday, the action moved to BookPeople, where Varian threw a joint launch party with April Lurie.

Didn’t they look nice?

Check out their books!

And cover art cake!

Crystal shoots some photos.

Tim Crow visits with Meredith Davis.

Jo shows off her new release, Front Page Face-Off (Aladdin, 2010), April’s The Less-Dead, and Varian’s Saving Maddie (both Delacorte, 2010). See also Coffee Break Tuesday with Jo Whittemore from Debbi Michiko Florence.

The featured authors interviewed each other.

Lindsey Lane and Greg Leitich Smith.

Frances and Brian Yansky visit with Margo Rabb.

The famous Delacorte Dames and Dude–April, Bethany Hegedus, Varian, Jenny Ziegler, and Margo.

In other news, highlights of the week included receiving these books from Richard Van Camp. Read an interview with Richard Van Camp by Judith Saltman from Papertigers. Peek: “Family, identity, culture, and the essential question: “What does it mean to be Dogrib?” I was raised away from the Dogribs because my parents were taxidermists in Forth Smith…. So, because I’m half White and half Dogrib, family and identity are recurring themes in my writing.”

Even More Personally

I spent much of the week reviewing sketches for the Tantalize graphic novel, and now I’m back on deadline for the final round on Blessed (both Candlewick).

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Brigid Gorry-Hines from Cafe Skill. Peek: “I was geeky—very into comic books and ‘Star Wars,’ which I saw over 300 times. I drove a red 1968 Mustang Coupe. I miss that car.”

In Which Kaz Reads Stuff by Karen Mahoney. Peek: “If you love vampires and werewolves but are getting a little tired of the same-old, same-old, give Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) a shot.”

Cynsational Events

The Greater Houston Teen Book Convention is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 10 at Alief Taylor High School, and admission is free! Speakers include keynoter Sharon Draper and Cynthia Leitich Smith.

The Texas Library Association Annual Conference will be April 14 to April 17 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. Note: I’ll be speaking from 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. on the “A Conversation Between Books and Technology” panel with Jay Asher, Corey Doctorow, Maureen Johnson, and Jude Watson. Then I’ll sign books from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. See a schedule of Austin authors at TLA.

Release party – author Chris Barton will celebrate Shark v. Train, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Little Brown, 2010) at 1 p.m. April 24 at BookPeople in Austin. Read a Cynsations interview with Chris.

Moments of Change: the New England SCBWI Conference will take place May 14 to May 16 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. See conference schedule, workshop descriptions, manuscript critique guidelines, and special conference offerings. See faculty bios. Note: I’m honored to be participating as a keynote speaker!

New Voice: Y. S. Lee on The Agency: A Spy in the House

Y. S. Lee is the first-time author of The Agency: A Spy in the House (The Agency Trilogy: Book One)(Candlewick, 2010)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation.

Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test.

Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there?

Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?

I’m supposed to be an expert on the Victorian era. But while researching my PhD thesis, I realized I didn’t know much about daily life in the 1850s.

Take the Great Stink of 1858, for example. We know the bare facts: toilets flushed right into the Thames, and Londoners pumped the water straight back out for cooking and bathing. People thought the smell made you sick – not germs. And future prime minister Benjamin Disraeli fled the House of Commons one day with a handkerchief over his nose, so evil was the stench.

Juicy, right?

But vivid as they are, these facts don’t tell what it was like in individual houses; for people who lived and worked and walked around the city every day; for those who lived beside the river. This squelchy, sticky reality is the Victorian period you don’t read about in nineteenth-century novels or diaries, and that’s why I chose the Great Stink as the backdrop for Spy.

However, I didn’t want to write an entire novel about sewage; for one thing, it’s hard to identify with it as a character. And I also wondered what happened to smart, unconventional women in the period. If you weren’t a good little girl, and you didn’t have a lot of money, what on earth happened to you?

Women’s choices were grim, even for the clever. You could be a governess (underpaid, powerless – look at Jane Eyre, and remember that’s a happily-ever-after story!). You could live with your rich relatives as a semi-servant (Jane Austen has a lot to say about that). You could try for a job as a clerk (and earn half what the man next to you did, for doing the same work – some things haven’t changed that much).

And to do any of these jobs, you had to be respectable, educated, and extremely long-suffering. Just thinking about it makes me want to scream.

So this is where I’ve gone my own way. If you’re curious about the nitty-gritty of Victorian domesticity, I highly recommend Judith Flanders’s The Victorian House (Harper Perennial, 2003), an absolutely gripping account of daily life in each room of a nineteenth-century home.

On germs and cholera epidemics, I love Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map (Penguin, 2006), which came out after I’d researched Spy, but devoured anyway.

But my “greatest coup” in writing Spy was leaping away from history and imagining a bold, alternative fate for a girl like Mary Quinn.

As a historical fiction writer, how did you capture the voices of the era? What resources did you turn to? Did you run into challenges translating the language of the era for today’s young readers? What advice do you have for other authors along these lines?

[Photo from The Agency cover art photo shoot.]

Oh, I’m still proud of this one: I queried UK agents as a test of authenticity, and it wasn’t until my agent offered representation that she realized I wasn’t British!

Clearly, having spent most of my adult life reading English literature helped with this act of ventriloquism.

Also, living in England gave me a first-hand understanding of the rhythms of British speech, and how Byzantine their regional and social distinctions can be.

So I was confident about how English my narrator sounded. But there was the additional problem of transposing the language back in time 150 years.

In practice, this means preserving the cadence of an English sentence – swift, staccato, with emphasis in different places than an American one – while using appropriately nineteenth century vocabulary. At the same time, the meaning has to be clear.

I often tried to define things in context: you may not know what a hansom is, but if I tell you that a man hailed one, climbed in, and asked the driver to take him to Bedford Square, it becomes perfectly clear that it’s a taxi cab. My vocabulary came straight from the great Victorian novelists: Dickens, Eliot, the Brontës. But I disagree with them in one respect.

In most Victorian novels, people speak in perfect, grammatical sentences (unless they’re working-class characters, in which case their speech is often spelled out fo-net-ick-ly – a major pet peeve of mine. It’s patronizing.) Did educated people never use slang, or contractions, or run-on sentences? And did the poor struggle to speak in their mother tongue? I think not.

Instead, I’d argue that people in Victorian England spoke more vividly and casually than we think – more “you and me” than “thee and thou.” And this is what I’ve tried to do in Spy.

Cynsational Notes

From Candlewick Press: “Y. S. Lee has a PhD in Victorian literature and culture and says her research inspired her to write A Spy in the House, ‘a totally unrealistic, completely fictitious antidote to the fate that would otherwise swallow a girl like Mary Quinn.'” Y. S. Lee lives in Ontario, Canada.”

Read an excerpt. See also more photos from The Agency cover art shoot!