Cynsational News & Giveaways

Calling all Goddess Girls! Enter to win an autographed Goddess Girls: Aphrodite the Beauty by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams (Aladdin, 2010)…

plus an Aphrodite the Beauty swag bag, featuring:

–24-color eyeshadow from Claire’s;

–seven lip glosses with faux rhinestones;

–multicolor bracelet;

–Goddess Girls bookmark.

From the promotional copy:

Aphrodite delights in helping mortals in love, but she’s pretty annoyed at the constant attention she gets from the godboys at Mount Olympus Academy.

When she decides to give Athena a makeover, she’s a bit unprepared for the result. She didn’t count on all the interest Athena’s new look would get. And she certainly never thought she’d find herself jealous of one of her best friends!

But when the hottest godboys at school start ignoring Aphrodite, she learns that some boys are nicer and more sensitive than others–including a mortal youth who has requested her help in winning the heart of a young maiden.

Can she put her jealousy behind her and help him find true love?

Other books in the series include Athena the Brain (April 2010)(excerpt) and Persephone the Phony (April 2010). See also a Cynsations guest post by authors Joan and Suzanne.

“The authors intertwine an enchanting mythological world with middle-school woes compounded by life as a deity or blessed mortal. The books should be popular with fans of girly, light fantasy.” — School Library Journal

To enter, just email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type “Aphrodite” 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, Sept. 9. One winner will be randomly chosen and announced here on September 10th. U.S. entries only.

The winner of a signed copy of Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth (Knopf, 2010) was Katie in New York, and the winner of Vampire High: Sophomore Year by Douglas Reese (Delacorte, 2010)(author interview) was Jason in Ohio. Both winners have been notified, and their books are on the way. Note: I’ll announce a new YA book giveaway soon!

More News

Funny Books Featuring Multicultural Protagonists by Mitali Perkins from Mitali’s Fire Escape. Peek: “Feel free to add more suggestions of funny books in the comments, and I’ll update the list.”

My Word Playground: The Reading and Writing Blog of Children’s Author Lynne Marie. Lynne writes picture books and magazine articles. Her debut picture book is Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (Scholastic, 2011).

2010 Call for Judges from The Cybils: Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. Sign-up deadline: Sept. 15. Source: Finding Wonderland.

Montana Author Launches Publishing House by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “After his latest book, The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale, was turned down by 15 publishers, Sneed Collard III, the author of 50 books for children, who received the Washington Post-Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award in 2006…has formed his own publishing company, Bucking Horse Books, and is publishing the 64-page picture book himself this fall.” Source: Alice Pope’s SCBWI Children’s Marketing Blog.

Learning from the Masters by Carolyn Kaufman from QueryTracker.net. Peek: “Every time you read a line that brings you to a breathless halt, fold the page down (or up, if you’re near the bottom of the page) to the line where the passage begins.”

Kid-Friendly Books About the Writing Process: compiled by Donna Bowman Bratton from Simply Donna. Peek: “There are wonderful books aimed at inspiring children to write and read.”

Sob Inducers by Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. Peek: “As I always tell agents and announce at writer’s conferences, I’m a sucker for books that make me cry.”

Publish Your Children’s, Tween, or Teen Fiction in Today’s Market: How to hook an agent with your ‘Once upon a time…’ and make your own fairy tale: a webinar at 1 p.m. EST Sept. 23, taught by literary agent Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency from Writer’s Digest. Duration: 90 minutes.

Peggy Clement is the debut author of Queen of the Castle, a children’s chapter book, published by Oak Tara Publishers. She is a reading teacher of over 30 years and lives in Lumberton, Texas.

Thoughts on the Fifth Anniversary of My First Book Contract by Sara Zarr. Peek: “Terrain I wanted to explore has been explored. Now the globe is spinning beneath my fingers; it’s up to me to apply pressure where I want to stop. It’s not up to me how it all might turn out.”

What High Concept Means by Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. Peek: “…[a] novel/movie/TV show’s plot can be described very succinctly in an appealing fashion.”

What Kind of Career Do You Want? by Mandy Hubbard. Peek: “The truth is, though, there are many kinds of careers. Do you want to be the Meg Cabot/James Patterson type, with a new book out every time I visit the store? Or do you prefer to be the John Green, with a book every 18 months or so? If you had to choose between Literary Acclaim and Bestseller status, which one would you choose?” Note: John, for example, has acclaim and is a best-seller, so ideally, you can pick both (to the extent such things can be controlled).

Six Months On: Emma Dryden talks about drydenbks and the state of the publishing industry: an interview from Lia Keyes. Peek: “I’d hope authors will want to learn as much as they can comfortably tolerate about digital publishing—at the very least, what the various digital options are, what their rights are when it comes to royalties and rights, and the general lingo used when maneuvering the digital landscape so they will stay apprised of what’s going on in their business…”

Daniel Powers on Picture Books: Part 1, the Physicality of the Picture Book from Uma Krishnaswami at Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: “We perceive the world around us based on the earth’s horizon, and everything we see and interact with has a physical relationship to this line, making the landscape format perfect for illustrations packed with detailed settings.”

Inside the Writer’s Studio with Janet S. Fox by Bethany Hegedus from Writer Friendly; Bookshelf Approved. Peek: “Initially I try to find my beginning, middle and ending scenes. Then I work on a template that includes the overall story structure and arc, the rising/falling action, scene and sequel.”

Interview with Amber Vilate – author, editor and publisher of Young Adult Literature Review by Melissa Buron from Book Addict. Peek: “It started out as just a small podcast where we reviewed books. The podcast has since grown to incorporate audio fiction as well as author interviews. I added a review blog last year to support the podcast. The magazine was introduced as a further extension of the podcast.” Learn more about Young Adult Literature Review.

Oregon Reader’s Choice Award: a new award from Oregon’s youth librarians and reading teachers. The junior division is fourth to sixth grade. The intermediate division is seventh to ninth grade. The senior division is tenth to twelfth grade. Note: Oregon students in grades four to 12 may vote.

Secrets to Author Promotion by Carolyn Kaufman from Query Tracker. Note: especially recommended to introverts and the self-conscious.

Congratulations to Paul Fleischman, winner of the Pen Center USA 2010 Literary Award in the Children’s-YA division for The Dunderheads, illustrated by David Roberts (Candlewick) and to finalists Kate DiCamillo for The Magician’s Elephant (Candlewick); Benjamin Alire Saenz for Last Night I Sang to the Monster (Cinco Puntos); and Liz Garton Scanlon for All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane).

Making a Picture Book Dummy by Don Tate from Devas T. Rants and Raves. Don offers photos and insights into the creation of images for Duke by Anna Celenza (Charlesbridge, forthcoming).

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the trailer for The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor (FSG, 2010), and read a recommendation of the book by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog.

More Personally

Ask Winston: Mitali Perkins and Cynthia Leitich Smith on Time Management from Kirby Larson at Kirby’s Lane. Peek: “…take responsibility for your success, protect your writing time, and remember that you’re only human. Change things up, when you need to! “

Regarding Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000), The Reading Teacher cheers in its September issue: “The illustrations gracefully complement Smith’’s heartening portrait of a harmonious meshing of old and new.”

Thank you to Carmen Oliver for featuring my book trailer for Holler Loudly (Dutton, 2010)! And thank you to Cynthia Lord for mentioning Holler Loudly among her friends’ upcoming fall books! Most appreciated.

Giveaway Reminder

Surf over to Mundie Moms to read the latest interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, and enter to win bookplate-signed copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)!

With Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) coming soon; now is a great time to get caught up on the series, if you haven’t already. Or enter to win a book to give to your local high school or public library.

All you have to do is fill out a short form. Deadline: Sept. 15; U.S. entries only.

Cynsational Events

The launch party for Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Gahan Wilson (Roaring Brook, 2010) will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople in Austin. Read a Cynsations interview with K.A.

New Voice: Stephen Messer on Windblowne

Stephen Messer is the first-time author of Windblowne (Random House, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Every kite Oliver touches flies straight into the ground, making him the laughingstock of Windblowne.

With the kite-flying festival only days away, Oliver tracks down his reclusive great-uncle Gilbert, a former champion. With Gilbert’s help, Oliver can picture himself on the crest, launching into the winds to become one of the legendary fliers of Windblowne.

Then his great-uncle vanishes during a battle with mysterious attack kites—kites that seem to fly themselves!

All that remains is his prize possession, a simple crimson kite. At least, the kite seems simple. When Oliver tries to fly it, the kite lifts him high above the trees. When he comes down, the town and all its people have disappeared.

Suddenly, the festival is the last thing on Oliver’s mind as he is catapulted into a mystery that will change everything he understands about himself and his world.

Inspired by the work of Diana Wynne Jones, debut author Stephen Messer delivers a fantasy book for boys and girls in which the distance between realities is equal to the breadth of a kite string.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you’re debuting this year?

Like a lot of avid young readers, I read everything I could lay my hands on, without much discernment or filtering.

There was lots of classic children’s literature–like The Story on Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting (1920) and Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (1934) and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Harper, 1950-1956)–but also loads of books on baseball, astronomy, and even a few historical romances (which I didn’t really understand).


I read a lot of things that were over my head as a 10-year-old boy, like Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1862) and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (Yearling, 1970). But I still read them and was shaped by them.


Eventually, I grew up and something terrible happened–I became picky about books.

But I still want to be like that un-picky young reader and read outside my narrow interests and also bring that spirit of eclecticism to my writing. It helps to have all those different resources to draw from.

When writing Windblowne, I kept a stack of books at hand, not only reference works on kites and tree houses, but also volumes of P.G. Wodehouse and The Art of Final Fantasy IX by Dan Birlew (Brady Games, 2000), and whatever else struck me as fun or conducive to sparking that unexpected idea. I want to pull lots of disconnected bits into my work and link them together.

We do this easily when we’re kids, and it’s a good challenge for us when we’re grown.


As a fantasy writer, how did you go about building your world?

There’s a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai called “Caught By the Ejiri Wind” (1831-1833), in which a group of travelers on a road have been caught by a wind gust. They lean hard into the blast as papers fly from their hands, their clothes billow, they lose their hats, leaves blow from the trees. It’s a powerful evocation of the unpredictable force of nature.

The mountain town of Windblowne in my book is constantly buffeted by vigorous winds, and everything from the construction of homes to the daily life of the inhabitants is influenced by this fact. All buildings in Windblowne are built up in the branches of giant oak trees, which are the only things that can reliably withstand the winds, particularly at night when the winds blow strongest.

In order to help me summon this sense of omnipresent wind and nature, I surrounded myself with art and objects and music that conjured up this world.

Above my desk in my study I hung a framed print of “Ejiri Wind” and a crazy colored dragon kite that reminded me of kites used in the book.

The list of music goes on and on, but one work that always helped put me in the right frame of mind was Sibelius’s 5th symphony, which has a motif inspired by the sight of 16 swans taking flight.

For my next book, The Death of Yorik Mortwell (Random House, summer 2011), I did the same thing, with a completely different set of artifacts — spooky art by Edward Gorey and spacy music from Terry Riley.

I sort of trick out my study in this way, so that when I go in to write, I’m entering the world of the book.

Interview: Elizabeth Kennedy on About.com: Children’s Books

Elizabeth Kennedy is celebrating ten years as the Guide to Children’s Books at About.com: Children’s Books.

Children’s books have played a prominent role in Elizabeth’s career in PreK-12 education. As a journalist, She has reviewed and written about children’s literature for more than eight years.

Elizabeth has an extensive background in education, having worked as an early childhood educator, elementary school teacher, museum educator, and PreK-12 arts-in-education program director over the past thirty-five years.

As a writer, her work has been recognized with first-place awards from Kansas Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women.

What kind of young reader were you?

Voracious! I have always loved to read. My favorite book as a child was The Secret Garden [by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)]. The edition I have was my mother’s. It has wonderful color illustrations. I still love it and try to reread it annually, although now I have to borrow it from my daughter. My granddaughter is already asking when her mother will hand the book down to her.


Could you tell us about your background in youth literature?

I majored in English Literature and also studied children’s literature. During my work as an early teacher, a museum educator and the program director for an arts-in-education nonprofit, I read and utilized a lot of children’s books.

When I was a child, my mother took me to the library every week. My parents read to me regularly, and I did the same with our children. When my kids were in school, one was an eager reader and the other was a reluctant reader, so reading aloud was particularly important in reinforcing vocabulary development and comprehension.

What is About.com?

About.com is part of the New York Times Company. As the company states, “About.com is an online neighborhood of hundreds of helpful experts, eager to share their wealth of knowledge with visitors.”

The About.com sites are organized into 23 different channels, including Education, Entertainment, and Health, as well Parenting & Family, where you will find my children’s book site.

What approach do you take in your coverage of youth literature?

I tend to concentrate on books for children for babies through middle school age. In addition to book reviews and subject lists of children’s books I recommend, I have developed a calendar of children’s books, with links to books and other resources related to each month of the year. It tends to be particularly popular with teachers.

I try to provide helpful advice to parents. This includes such things as how to encourage reluctant readers to read, information on the major children’s book awards and the winners, and online children’s literature resources.

My readers are also a great source of advice for other parents, providing tips on such topics as keeping kids reading during the summer and sharing stories about how they introduced children’s books to their babies and toddlers.

What do you love about it?

I love having the opportunity to read so many different books. I like learning about children’s books about (and from) different cultures. I enjoy hearing from site visitors from many different countries. I love finding wonderful books and being able to introduce them to others through my site. I am always delighted when parents and teachers tell me that my site helped them find the perfect book for a particular child or occasion.

What are the challenges?

For every three or four books I cover on my site, I read/look over about 100. Since I don’t have the time to cover everything, I am constantly making choices between this good book and that good book. I receive about 70 emails a month asking me to review books, on top of the packages of books from publishers seeking reviews that arrive several times a week.

Sometimes, I feel that I am buried in books!

However, precisely because so many children’s books are published every month, I hope my site is a helpful resource for parents, teachers and others eager to learn about good books for children.

How do you decide who and what to feature?

I feature books appropriate to the seasons and annual events on an ongoing basis. I also cover certain topics related to children’s books, like raising a reader and banned books, as well as authors, illustrators and publishers of children’s books.

I visit one or more public libraries, two major book chains and an independent bookstore one or more times a week to discover new books, and I read, read, read review copies and library books as well.

Who usually approaches you–authors, illustrators, publishers?

All of them, as well as publicists from marketing firms. I am on the regular mailing list for a number of children’s book publishers and also receive emails and news releases when they are promoting a new book or series.

Some publishers and authors use publicists from private firms to promote their books, and they send me information and query letters.

I have been hearing directly from more authors and illustrators lately, many of whom have self-published their books.

What Dos would you recommend to someone interested in pitching material to you as an online reviewer?

1. Do include information about the book in the body of the email; even better, provide a link to a Web site that includes cover art (and additional illustrations if it’s a picture book), a summary and an excerpt.

2. Before emailing a pitch, do your research. Make sure the reviewer covers your type of book and the age group your book targets.

3. Do request that the reviewer confirm receipt of your email.

What are pitfalls to avoid?

1. Don’t send attachments. For security reasons, I have been advised to never open attachments from people I don’t know.

2. Don’t expect a reviewer to review your book from a description or a PDF. My policy is that I never review a book unless I have seen it and read it.

3. Don’t write, “If you are interested in receiving a review copy of the book, let me know.” If you do that and don’t hear from the reviewer, you will never know if it’s because the reviewer didn’t receive your email or if the reviewer is not interested in your book.

4. Once you have sent a query and the reviewer has confirmed receipt of it, don’t keep emailing the reviewer. There is no need, and if the reviewer is already getting as much email as I do, it is apt to annoy the reviewer.

5. If the reviewer asks for a review copy, please send it promptly. It’s very discouraging to receive a wonderful Halloween book the week after Halloween, especially when the request was made three months before.

Do you consider self-published or e-published work?

Yes, I do consider them. However, for reasons of quality, I have not covered a great deal of self-published or e-published books. I look for good production values (paper, book design, layout, etc.) as well as excellence in the story and illustrations in every book I cover.

What advice do you have for new online youth media journalists?

You need to not only learn as much as you can about traditional children’s books, reading, literacy, and the general field of children’s literature, but right now, you also need to learn more about the various ways in which children’s books are increasingly available–from iPads and e-book readers to phone apps.

I am working on an article on the subject and have discovered that there are an enormous number of things to consider.

What were your top three favorite 2009 books published for young readers and why?

I am still discovering books published in 2009 and haven’t really made my choices, except in the case of picture books. For my nine favorites, see my feature about the Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2009.


Who are a few of your favorite authors and illustrators and why?

I keep discovering new ones, so that’s hard to answer. I’ll limit it to just a couple here.

I like the novels of Sharon Creech and Kate DiCamillo because the authors are so good at capturing the “voice” of their protagonists.

I have enjoyed Jerry Pinkney’s artwork for years and was delighted when he won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for his picture book The Lion and the Mouse (Little, Brown, 2010). His artwork always evokes an emotional response that enhances the story.

What do you do when you’re not reading and writing?

I spend time with my family, read cozy mysteries and nonfiction, serve on the boards of the Kansas Citizens for the Arts and Kansas Professional Communicators, attend arts events and take classes in kiln-fired glass jewelry.