Guest Post: Monica Brown on Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

By Monica Brown
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Over the years, I have become known for writing children’s biographies—in 2004, my first picture book, My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz, illustrated by Rafael López (Rising Moon, 2004) won the Américas Book Award and a Pura Belpré illustration honor, and with that launch, I was off and running.

As a professor of Latino/a and Latin American literature, it was my pleasure to introduce writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda not only to college students, but to children, who I found understood the concept of magical realism better than most adults!

Along the way, I wrote fictional stories as well, including Butterflies on Carmen Street/Mariposas En La Calle Carmen, illustrated by April Ward, translated by Gabriela Baeza Ventura (Piñata Books, 2007) and Chavela and the Magic Bubble, illustrated by Magaly Morales (Clarion, 2010).

During this period of intense productivity and publication, I wrote a story that had a very special place in my heart and mind.

What happens when the biographer becomes an autobiographer? I found out when I created the character of Marisol McDonald, a biracial girl, who, like me, often confounds those who think of race and culture in uncomplicated terms. I knew from experience what happens to children who don’t fit into any one box, and I was determined to see that Marisol’s story was told, for my sake, my daughters’ sake and for the millions of children who are proud of the multiplicity of their identities.

The story was “easy” to write—it flowed with all the humor and mischievousness of my own children, growing up in a close community of cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends, in a place where conversations (and lives) skated across languages and borders. We spoke Spanish, English, and sometimes—both.

I’ll never forget when my swimming teacher asked if I spoke “Peruish” or when my cousin’s new girlfriend informed me that I must be one of the “dark ones” in the family.

Monica and her daughters

The list goes on and on, and I see certain experiences being repeated with my own daughters. When my daughter Isabella was little and out and about alone with my Scandinavian-American husband, he would be asked questions such as, “Is your wife foreign?”

In the hospital where Isabella was born in eastern Tennessee, the nurses happily informed me that they had nicknamed my daughter “the little Eskimo.”

I wondered about the source of that particular nickname until the day the women mopping my hospital room floor approached me to tell me how beautiful my daughter was.

“Thank you!” I replied, in complete agreement.

She and I talked for a long time about our children, and I found out that she was . . . Native Alaskan.

Like me, she had married a European-American and our daughters were true mestizas. She, I, and my daughter Isabella had something else in common—none of us fit into neat ethnic boxes.

Through the process of writing and reflecting, I realized that Marisol’s story wasn’t just about race, or even culture, but it was about being a nonconformist—a spirit that was driven by different weather patterns, desires, and a unique view of the world.

Thus, my manuscript, “Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match” was completed and much to my disappointment, it did not find a home. Having published over eleven picture books with small, medium, and large publishers, why was this manuscript the most challenging to place?

Monica writing at her kitchen table

Considering the paucity of books representing the biracial experience, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.

It is my firmly held belief that writers must become good friends with rejection, and I experienced it with this manuscript.

Apparently one can write an “edgy” picture book, and in my case, the edge came from attempts to write honestly about teasing, skin color, language, and insecurity.

Happily, Children’s Book Press of San Francisco took the chance with Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina, illustrated by Sara Palacios, translated by Adriana Dominguez, and she is now out and about in the world.

I’ll leave you with the final thoughts I share with my readers in the authors note:

People sometimes ask us “what are you?” and, yes, sometimes even say that we “don’t match.” But we know better. Our mothers told us that we were Americans, yes, but also citizens of the world.

My life (and I’ll bet yours too) is bound up with the history of many peoples, and like Marisol McDonald, I open my arms wide and embrace them all.

Monica at her university office.

Cynsational Notes

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios, translated by Adriana Dominguez (Children’s Book Press) is a 2012 Pura Belpré Award honor book in illustration. See the full slate of 2012 Youth Media Award winners and honor books from the American Library Association.

Check out the curriculum guide for Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match.

Don’t miss Children’s & YA Books with Interracial Family Themes by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Children’s & YA Literature Resources.

NAACP Image Awards Youth/Teens Outstanding Literary Work

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The 43rd NAACP Image Awards Youth/Teens Outstanding Literary Work: Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin); Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary by Jerdine Nolan, illustrated by Sadra Strickland (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman); Jesse Owens: I Always Loved Running by Jeff Burlingame (Enslow); Kick by Walter Dean Myers, co-authored by Ross Workman (HarperTeen); Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury).

Cynsational Notes

Kekla Magoon on Truth, Inspiration, and Camo Girl from Cynsations. Peek: “The story’s themes of friendship, loyalty, fitting in, and self-acceptance all rested very close to my heart, but when people asked why I wrote the book, I found myself hemming and hawing.”

Co-authors Interview: Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman on Kick from Cynsations. Peek: “I…saw, first hand, that the experience of writing increases the ability to write. Ross wrote much more convincingly at the end of this project than he did at the onset. I believe that structure helps in the writing process and working with Ross on Kick served to reaffirm this in my mind.”

The 2012 ALA Youth Media Awards are currently being announced live. Look for more Cynsations coverage of children’s-YA book award winners, honor books, finalists and lists in the days to come.

Awards: NAACP Image, Orbis Pictus & Zolotow

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The 43rd NAACP Image Awards Children’s Outstanding Literary Work: Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander, illustrated Tim Bower (Sleeping Bear); Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome (Schwartz & Wade); Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson (Balzer + Bray); White Water by Michael S. Bandy, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (Candlewick); You Can Be A Friend by Tony Dungy and Lauren Dungy, illustrated by Ron Mazellan (Little Simon). Watch Feb. 17 for the winner!

NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children from The National Council of Teachers of English: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin); honor books: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade); Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Sons by Harold Holzer (Calkins Creek); Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, illulstrated by Julie Paschkis (Henry Holt); Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust by Ruth Thomson (Candlewick); The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low). See also Recommended Books.

Patrick McDonnell Wins 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Me … Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown, 2011) is the fifteenth annual winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. The award is given by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will be presented on March 3 in Madison.

Cynsational Notes

2012 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards to be Announced Jan. 23 from PaperTigers. Peek: “The ALA will host a live Webcast from the Dallas Convention Center beginning at 7:30 a.m. CT, Jan. 23. Virtual seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Information will also be posted to the ALA Twitter account @alayma and Facebook account.”

See Friday’s Cynsational News & Giveaways for more recent children’s-YA book award announcements (Edgar, Sydney Taylor, Scott O’Dell).

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations 

Congratulations to Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler on The Future of Us (Razorbill, 2011). From the promotional copy:

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long—up until last November when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh’s family gets an America Online CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook…

But Facebook hasn’t been invented yet.

Josh and Emma are looking at their profiles fifteen years in the future. Their spouses, careers, homes, and status updates—it’s all there. But it’s not what they expected. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right—and wrong—in the present.

Cynsational Notes

Attention, Texans! Jay and Carolyn will appear today (Jan. 22) at 2 p.m. at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston and at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Jan. 23) at BookPeople in Austin.

California readers, check out the rest of their tour schedule!

Become a fan of The Future of Us on Facebook.

Vote in Round One for the 2012 Teen Choice Book of the Year

Source: TeenReads
at Cynsations

 Nominations for The Children’s Book Council “2012 Teen Choice Book of the Year” are being accepted on until Feb. 15. Readers are being asked to list up to five of their favorite books of 2011; the five titles that receive the most votes will become finalists to be entered in a second round of voting. From there, teens will vote again to determine the ultimate winner — the 2012 Teen Choice Book of the Year.

N. Am. /Aus./NZ cover
U.K. cover

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick/Walker) is a nominee!

If you liked the novel, please consider voting for it–along with your other four picks–to reach the finals.

See the full list of nominated books. (Remember, write-in titles are still being accepted.)

Vote for your favorite books here!

Voting eligibility: international. Anyone between the ages of 12 and 18 can vote.

Deadline for voting in the nominating round: Feb. 15.

Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship

Source: Pen America Center
at Cynsations

PEN American Center is accepting submissions until Feb. 1 for the $5,000 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, given annually to an author of children’s or young-adult fiction.

The Fellowship is designed to assist a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career to complete a book-length work-in-progress. Past recipients include Lucy Frank, Pat Schmatz, Carol Lynch Williams, Theresa Nelson, Diane Les Becquets, Graham McNamee, Lori Aurelia Williams, Franny Billingsley, Amanda Jenkins, and Barbara Shoup. See details.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

2012 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: “…goes to Jack Gantos for Dead End in Norvelt, published by Farrar Straus Giroux. The award, created by Scott O’Dell and Zena Sutherland in 1982 and now administered by Elizabeth Hall, carries with it a prize of $5000, and goes to the author of a distinguished work of historical fiction for young people, published by a U.S. publisher; and set in South, Central, or North America.” See more awards news below.

Micro-level Revision by Paul Greci from Project Mayhem: From the Manic Minds of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “I read it out loud—multiple times. If my characters are making faces or moving in other ways while they speak I act these things out to see how they look and how they feel.”

From Sketch to Final Art: I’m Bored by Debbie Ridpath Ohi from Pixel Shavings. Peek: “They loved the monster hat on the girl. We decided to make the girl’s mouth look more interesting; Justin and Laurent suggested making it look a bit more like the monster’s, maybe echoing the shape.”

YA Market Ripe for Digital by Caroline Horn from The Bookseller. Peek: “While children’s e-book sales saw a marked rise during the Christmas period, they remain a “very small” part of the overall children’s market, said Simon & Schuster Children’s publisher Ingrid Selberg. Selberg pointed to the young adult market as the obvious digital growth area in 2012.” Note: U.K. market. Source: ACHOCKABLOG.

Weaving in Symbolism by Stina Lindblatt from Seeing Creative. Peek: “For example, if the scene takes place in a room with green walls, you won’t be thinking that the director wanted to reveal the subtext of life. But you can guarantee someone behind the scenes purposely picked that color because of what it symbolized and not because it was her favorite color.”

Poetry Friday Roundups from Kidlitosphere Central. Peek: “Each week, a blogger is tasked with rounding up the Poetry Friday posts around the blogosphere. Here are links to the bloggers who will be taking on that task in the weeks ahead, as well as links to past round-up posts.”

Three Ways to Handle Time in a Novel by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: “Setting details are a great way to make these time periods clear: is the sun or the moon rising? Are there Christmas ornaments on the street lights or are the daffodils just peeking out of the soil?”

Writing Q&A: Using the Insanity Defense in Your Story by Leslie Budewitz from Peek: “The underlying premise is that a person cannot be held responsible for criminal behavior if mental illness prevented him from understanding that his actions were wrong. This inquiry focuses on the defendant’s mental status at the time of the crime.”

Author-Illustrator Interview: Joyce Wan by Tarie from Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind. Peek: “I work mostly in the digital medium so I’m usually on my computer. I’ll use my light table for the concept stages of developing a book and for creating book dummies. Hanging on the wall behind my desk is my inspiration board where I pin up printouts of stuff I’m working on, postcards, photographs, quotes, scraps of paper, fabric – anything I find that resonates with me. I think it’s really important to create a space for yourself that nurtures your creative spirit.”

Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer/Owls See Clearly at Night by Julie Flett (Simply Read): recommendation by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children’s Literature. Peek: “Flett is Metis. Her language, Michif, has prominence in the book. For example, on the ‘A’ page, she’s got the letter ‘A’ and ‘Atayookee!’ Beneath ‘Atayookee’ is the phrase ‘Tell a story’, which is what Atayookee means.”

YA Houston: Houston area authors writing for teens. Includes Crystal Allen; Dotti Enderle; C.C. Hunter; Sophie Jordan; Lynne Kelly; Mary Lindsey; Christina Mandelski; Jenny Moss; and Joy Preble.

Submit a Photo of Yourself with a Dinosaur to Greg Leitich Smith to take part in his series of blog posts featuring children’s-YA authors, illustrators, and other members of the community (booksellers, teachers, publicists, etc.) with dinosaurs to promote your books or other bookish pursuits and in celebration of Greg’s upcoming release, Chronal Engine (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Note: it doesn’t have to be an actual, living dinosaur…because that would be challenging. See examples.

Vermont College of Fine Arts Writers in Residency: Q&A with Libba Bray by Tami Lewis Brown from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “Ultimately, it comes down to, as always, doing your due diligence of finding out who your characters are, finding the heart and the humanity. Be an observer of the world–can you just imagine how something feels? It always gets back to human nature.”

New Covers and Black Heart Excerpt from Holly Black. Peek: “This has proven to be a tricky series to find the right jackets for, and I am really excited by this new direction. It was described to me as the sort of cover that might go on a very modern edition of The Great Gatsby, and I think that’s a fantastic way of looking at them.”

Cynsational Author Tip: create an author vitae, listing your books and other published writing, publishers, awards and honors, significant speaking engagements, teaching experience, judging experience, professional affiliations, and education. Keep it updated.

Skype! Skype! Skype! An Interview with Laurel Snyder by Greg Pincus from The Happy Accident. Peek: “…last year when I saw author Laurel Snyder announce that she was going to do 100 Skype visits in 100 days along with her book launch, I thought it was a fantastic, if exhausting sounding, idea. Now that the visits are over, I asked Laurel a few questions about the experience – the logistics, what she learned, how it did (or didn’t) help her and her book.”

Diversity Matters: A Q&A with Debut Author Ellie Daines from Tracy tall tales & short stories. Peek: “With literature, sometimes a book is presented in the media as being say, a Muslim story or an African story, when essentially it’s a universal story which we can all relate to it, no matter what race or social background we come from.”

Author-illustrated Keith Graves: Ace Kids’ Yarn Spinner by Mark G. Mitchell from How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator. Peek: “Reviewers have used words like ‘zany,’ ‘quirky,’ ‘twisted’ and ‘rowdy’ to describe his pictures and stories that are also just plain funny and kid-friendly.”

The Value Rubric: Do Book Bloggers Really Matter? by Beth Kephart from Publishing Perspectives. Peek: “Book blogging takes time. And while some bloggers have certainly found ways to monetize their efforts (a move that is not without its own complex controversies), a substantial number of the bloggers are still doing what they do for the simple love of books, and for the chance to turn someone’s head toward a story they have loved.”

2012 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards to be Announced Jan. 23 from PaperTigers. Peek: “The ALA will host a live Webcast from the Dallas Convention Center begining at 7:30 a.m. CT, Jan. 23. Virtual seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Information will also be posted to the ALA Twitter account @alayma and Facebook account.”

All the World Loves Marla Frazee from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “Marla…sees illustrative work as, partly, a type of ‘product’ – involving decisions with regards front cover design, font, layout, size, and format. These aspects have a commercial component inherent in the illustrator’s work: they implicate the book’s marketing possibilities, and where the book may be placed on the bookstore’s shelf.” Note: with regard to Marla’s recent stint as illustrator-in-residence at Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

The 2012 Edgar Nominees in the Best Juvenile and Young Adult Categories from the Mystery Writers of America. Juvenile: Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger (Abrams – Amulet); It Happened on a Train by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster); Vanished by Sheela Chari (Hyperion); Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic); The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (Egmont); and YA: Shelter: A Mickey Bolitar Novel by Harlan Coben (G.P. Putnam’s Sons); The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (G.P. Putnam’s Sons); The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall (Knopf); The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines (Roaring Brook); and Kill You Last by Todd Strasser (Egmont).

2012 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Michael J. Rosen and Robert Sabuda, author and artist of Chanukah Lights (Candlewick, 2011), Susan Goldman Rubin, author of Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein (Charlesbridge, 2011), and Robert Sharenow, author of The Berlin Boxing Club (HarperTeen, 2011), are the 2012 winners of the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award. The awards were announced at the mid-winter meeting of the School, Synagogue and Community Center Division of the Association of Jewish Libraries.

An Interview with Melodie Wright (A QueryTracker Success Story) on signing with agent Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency from Peek: “I checked Literary Rambles religiously and only queried agents who specifically said they wanted YA mystery either on their L.R. profile or on their agency web site. I also looked over their client list and tried to read excerpts of books to get a feel for what kind of writing those agents favored.”

See also more links for writers from Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing.

Highlights Foundation Workshop

Founders Workshop: Making the Web Work for You from March 4 to March 8.

Peek: “It takes more than a stellar book to make an impact in today’s publishing climate. Media promotion (through websites, blogs, social media, social cataloging, Skype, and podcasts) is integral to successfully launching a children’s book and a writing career!

“Join our team of social marketing gurus, Laurina Cashin and Bobbie Combs, We Love Children’s Books consulting firm; Lindsey Leavitt, Princess for Hire series; and Katie Davis, host of the podcast, Brain Burps About Books, for a workshop guaranteed to improve your social savvy on the web.

“For those just starting out, learn about website design and innovative, painless marketing techniques. For those ready to take self-promotion to the next level, receive guidance in gaining an audience, establishing a brand, and developing a book launch that gets noticed.

“All participants will learn about integrating technology into school visits, how to establish guidelines with publishers for promotion, and opportunities for social networking beyond Facebook.”

Special guests: Jules Danielson (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast) and Paul Chrichton (Director of Publicity for Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing).

Bobbie Combs, co-creator of We Love Children’s Books, says: “Gone are the days when authors and illustrators would ask ‘Do I need a website?’  Now it’s unthinkable that a professional would not have a website (or a blogsite, Facebook page, or other web presence.)  It’s not enough, though, to create your site and just let it be.  We’ll discuss updating your site (how often?) to keep it relevant, marketing your site to connect you with the larger children’s book community on the web and give you tips for analyzing your site traffic, maximizing the ‘reach’ of your site and making your site content sparkle.”

See more upcoming Foundation Workshops.

Cynsational Giveaways

Grand Prize! Enter for a chance to win:

A runner-up will receive signed copy of Love? Maybe. And sweet treats.

To enter, comment on this post (click the previous link and scroll) and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with “Love? Maybe.” in the subject line. Author-sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada). Deadline: midnight CST Jan. 31.

Plus three $15 iTunes Gift Cards!

Enter to win an author-signed Tantalize: Kieren’s Story postcard, Tantalize: Kieren’s Story bookmark or Diabolical bookmark! Up to 20 total! Plus, the occasional Tantalize series button or bat stickers or nifty surprise! And three lucky winners will receive a $15 iTunes gift card!

Teachers, librarians and book clubs also may enter to win one of five sets of 10 Tantalize: Kieren’s Story bookmarks or one of three sets of five Diabolical bookmarks!

Please indicate your related affiliation in your entry. I.e., Suzy Q, school librarian, Austin Independent School District. To enter, comment on this post (click the previous link and scroll) and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with “Tantalize Series Bling” in the subject line. Author-sponsored. Eligibility: international. Deadline: midnight CST Feb. 1.

Last Call! Enter to win one of ten signed copies of Bittersweet by Sarah Ocker (Simon Pulse)(excerpt)! To enter, comment on this post (click the previous link and scroll) and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with “Bittersweet” in the subject line.

If you include in your comment a thought on the video at that link, you’ll receive two extra entries! Publisher-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Jan. 23.

More Giveaways

Last call! Enter to win an ARC of Touched by Cyn Balog (Delacorte, Aug. 14, 2012) from The B-log Blog. Peek: “Nick Cross always listens to the voice in his head. Because if he doesn’t? Things can go really, really wrong. Like the day he decided to go off script and saved a girl from being run over…and let another one drown. Trying to change the future doesn’t work. But this summer at the Jersey Shore, something’s about to happen that Nick never could have predicted. He meets a girl named Taryn and finds out about the Book of Touch. Now the path that he thought he was on begins to shift…and there’s no way to stop things from happening. Or is there? In a life where there are no surprises, nothing has prepared Nick for what he’s about to discover–or the choice he will be forced to make…” Deadline: midnight EST Jan. 20.

Interview with Caroline Starr Rose and May B. Giveaway by Literary Rambles. Peek: “…I learned from that disastrous manuscript that regardless of the history, the story had to belong to the character; I couldn’t beat historical facts into my readers’ heads. I went into May B. trusting that if I kept my protagonist’s perspective and understanding of her world, enough history would organically seep in.” Deadline: midnight, Jan. 28.

Interview with Barney Saltzberg & Book Giveaway by April Halprin Wayland from Teaching Authors. Peek: “In my school visits I talk about a dog of ours who was accidentally locked in my studio. She attempted to climb out the window and stepped all over an illustration I had finished. I thought the artwork was ruined. After careful reflection, I found I could turn each paw print into a cloud.” Enter to win Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg (Workman, 2010) from Teaching Authors. Deadline: 11 p.m. CST Jan. 25.

Last Call! Canterwood Crest Initiation Giveaway from Jessica Burkhart. Grand prize includes a 20-minute Skype session or phone call with the author. Deadline: 11:59 EST Jan. 20. Eligibility: U.S. only.

Reminder: Enter to win an ARC of Article 5 by Kristen Simmons (Tor, 2012) and The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (Margaret K. McElderry, 2011) from Tabitha at Writer Musings. Winner will be announced Jan. 28. Note: learn more about Article 5 and The Pledge.

Reminder: Jean Reidy is celebrating cabin-fever creativity and the release of her latest picture book Too Princessy!, illustrated by Geneviève Leloup (Bloomsbury, 2012) by hosting a Boredom Buster Blog – chock full of rainy day ideas from parents, teachers, caregivers, babysitters, writers and other folks like you. Send in your favorite ideas and be entered to win one of five prizes, including a $100 bookseller gift card and autographed books. The drawing will be Feb. 29.

Facebook Contest: Grand Prize: Free School or Library Visit by Jan Brett to Anywhere in the World from PR Web. Enter at Jan’s facebook page. Deadline: April 9. Source: ACHUKA.

This Week’s Cynsations Posts

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani (HarperTeen, 2012). Source: YA Books Central.

How Do I Make a Book Trailer? by Hazel Mitchell from Along the Right Lines. See also (below) the book trailer Hidden New Jersey (Mackinac Island Press).

Just for fun… For those of you who’re members of the Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults community, the explanation behind this video is self-evident. For our friends, it’s traditional for upcoming graduating classes to name themselves and then announce that name at the residencies. With that in mind, presenting, the VCFA WC&YA class of Jan. 2013…. Source: Through the Tollbooth.

More Personally

My most enthusiastic congratulations to 2012 winter graduating class of the Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults! Please keep in touch, and know that I’m your forever fan.

This week has been quiet, filled with writing as I close in on the end-of-the-month deadline for Smolder. With that in mind, please hold off on any non-critical questions, pitches or event correspondence until February–thanks!

What else? Because “Joyful Noise” wasn’t at the Alamo Drafthouse Austin, my husband Greg and I made the hike to the the pricy but plush iPic Theaters at the The Domain. (I had to see it–my whole Dolly Parton fan-girl thing!) I had shrimp, mozzarella & complimentary popcorn, seated in an extended recliner with a pillow and blanket.

Great service, and yes, I kept thinking that Marie Antoinette would consider the whole experience wildly indulgent. Really.

As for the movie, great for families with older kids, extraordinarily wholesome, the mildly “edgy” parts somehow made it seem more so. I loved it.

Having fun at ALA? Stop by the Candlewick Press booth to sign up for a Where’s Waldo 25th Anniversary Giveaway (prize includes a gift pack, Waldo books, and a standee) and/or to pick up a spring 2012 galley — like Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith!

On a related note, look for Diabolical (Candlewick, Jan. 24, 2012) among “GL’s Books We’re Crushing On” in the Feb./March 2012 issue of Girl’s Life Magazine! Source: Vivian Lee Mahoney.

Book Chic says of Diabolical: “Overall, just a fabulous book with an action-filled plotline and an amazing climax with some sweet romance as well. I cannot wait for the next book in the series!”

Mingey House Blog says of Diabolical: “You don’t have to read all the other books to understand it or love the book; in general it was just fantastic! Most of the things you might not understand she explains in good detail that’s not too long. It is also a decent length, and the way it is put together is just perfect.”

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott from Julie Hedlunch – Write Up My Life. Peek: “This book has fantastic voice (as a book named Holler Loudly should).”

Personal Links:

From Greg Leitich Smith:

Re: Greg Leitich Smith:

Cynsational Events

My Vicious Valentine: Spine-tingling YA Author Panel, featuring Jordan Dane, P.J. “Tricia” Hoover, Mari Mancusi, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and L.A. Weatherly—moderated by Sean Petrie–will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at BookPeople in Austin. Join us when six top YA authors dish on the devilish, gab about ghosts, and soar with the angels in this panel celebrating spine-tingling stories, supernatural creatures, and perhaps scariest of all, true love.

See Cynthia’s upcoming events in Albuquerque, Tucson, Sandy (Utah), Southampton (New York), and Montpelier (Vermont).

Mark your calendars for Alex Flinn’s Upcoming Tour.  She’ll be appearing at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville on Feb. 14, at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston Feb. 15, and at Barnes & Noble in Round Rock (Texas) Feb. 16.

Note: Due to volume, I can’t feature the author/illustrator events of all of my Cynsational readers, but if you’re Austin bound for an appearance here, let me know, and I’ll try to work in a shout out or two. Thanks!

New Voice: Caroline Starr Rose on May B.

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Caroline Starr Rose is the first-time author of May B. (Schwartz and Wade, 2012)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

I watch the wagon

until I see nothing on the open plain.

For the first time ever,

I am alone.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s homestead—just until Christmas, her pa promises. But when a terrible turn of events leaves her all alone, she must try to find food and fuel—and courage—to make it through the approaching winter.

This gorgeous novel in verse by Caroline Starr Rose will transport you to the Kansas prairie—to the endless grassland, and to the suffocating closeness of the sod house where May is stranded.

May’s eloquent yet straightforward voice, and her bravery, determination, and willingness to risk it all will capture your heart. 

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

As a reader I devoured everything from Ramona to Scarlett O’Hara, Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle series to L. M. Montgomery’s Anne and Emily books.

(One summer I took home two grocery bags full of L.M.M. books on loan from a friend. I can proudly claim to have read every single book she’s written — journals and all).

The books I read became a huge part of my world. I played Nancy Drew with friends, clomping around in too-big high heels and collecting “clues” for a mystery I was sure would unfold if I just studied my surroundings carefully enough. I made maps of Lloyd Alexander‘s Prydain, one for each book in his chronicles, and, with a friend, journeyed through this mysterious land.

And then there was Laura Ingalls Wilder. My dad started the series with me as a little girl. I began to call my mother “Ma” (really!) and started talking about Laura as if she were someone I knew personally. As my reading progressed, I’d stay one chapter ahead of my dad.

When I discovered Laura’s dog, Jack, was going to die, I didn’t want to continue. Somehow hearing that chapter read aloud was too painful to imagine. When my father wanted to read, I’d give an excuse until gradually he no longer offered. I finished the series on my own when I was a little older. My childhood babysitter, also a huge Laura fan, would also read those later books to me.

As an adult I told my dad why we’d stopped reading the Little House series. Since then I’ve used the phrase “when Jack died” with him to describe those childhood instances that, now with my own children, I’ll notice but not fully understand — those times when my boys might say or do something that feels out of character and where I realize, if I think through their motivations, hopes, and fears, I might uncover what’s really going on in their worlds. 

As a historical fiction writer, what drew you first–character, concept, or time period? In whichever case, how did you go about building your world and integrating it into the story? What were the special challenges? Where did you turn for inspiration or support?

Historical period, most definitely. I knew I wanted to write about the frontier and my own strong pioneer girl (thanks again to Laura Ingalls) and trusted a character would emerge as I studied.

My first attempt at writing had been historical fiction, and I learned from that disastrous manuscript that, regardless of the history, the story had to belong to the character, and I couldn’t beat historical facts into my readers’ heads.

I went into May B. trusting that if I kept my protagonist’s perspective and understanding of her world, enough history would organically seep in.

I poked around with some scenes I thought the story needed but quickly found the writing wasn’t right. I wasn’t close enough to the character. I wasn’t telling the story as honestly as I could.

Continuing with my research, I picked up Elizabeth’s Hamsten’s Read This Only to Yourself: The Private Writings of Midwestern Women, 1880-1910 (Indiana University Press, 1982). Reading these women’s first-hand accounts was like finding a magic formula; their stark, terse, matter-of-fact way of sharing their lives showed me May’s voice. I began writing again, this time in verse, and the story fell into place.

Beyond Hamsten’s book, there are several things that influenced the storyline: my curiosity about children with learning disabilities and how they might be schooled in an era before our own, my interest in survival stories like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (Bradbury, 1987), and the challenge in trying to write about solitude (like the prison scenes in my favorite-book-of-all-time, The Count of Monte Cristo (1844-1845)).

One special challenge was locating where May’s sod house stood. There’s a reference in the story to Tom Sawyer, so the book had to take place in 1876 or later.

I wanted her in a part of western Kansas that wasn’t very developed and was semi-close to a railroad. It was also necessary to have wolves around.

The first place I located May was outside of Dodge City, where she would have been smack dab in the middle of the Chisolm Cattle Trail — not exactly the solitude I was looking for (I also wasn’t interested in telling the sort of rowdy cowboy story that Dodge City brings to mind). The story couldn’t take place much beyond 1880 because in order to have wolves, buffalo still needed to be prevalent; by 1880, these animals were widely wiped out.

Gove County, Kansas became a good location: the railroad (and therefore surrounding communities) was still relatively new but old enough to have been there before 1880; the short-grass country of western Kansas supported sod houses; and wolves, while not spotted everyday, would have still roamed in packs at this time.

Cynsational Notes

Debut Writers of the Class of 2k12: Caroline Starr Rose: an interview by Janet Fox from Through the Wardrobe. Peek: “200+ direct rejections from editors over 11 years; 75+ agent rejections.”

Check out the book trailer for May B. by Caroline Starr Rose. See also Video Reading: May B. by Caroline Rose Star from Cari’s Book Blog.

Book Trailer: Girl Meets Boy, edited by Kelly Milner Halls

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations   

Check out the book trailer for Girl Meets Boy, edited by Kelly Milner Halls (Chronicle, 2012).

The paired contributing authors are: Cynthia Leitich Smith and Joseph Bruchac, Ellen Wittlinger and James Howe, Terry Trueman and Rita Williams-Garcia, Sara Ryan and Randy Powell, Terry Davis and Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Kelly Milner Halls and Chris Crutcher.

Don’t miss the Girl Meets Boy discussion guide from Chronicle Books.

Sweet Giveaway: Signed Copies of Love? Maybe. and The Cupcake Queen

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Grand Prize! Enter for a chance to win:

A runner-up will receive signed copy of Love? Maybe. And sweet treats.

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with “Love? Maybe.” in the subject line. (If you’re on LiveJournal, I’m also taking entries via comment at the Cynsations LJ.)

Author-sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada). Deadline: midnight CST Jan. 31.

From the promotional copy of Love? Maybe.:

Just because Piper’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day does not mean she’s a romantic. In fact, after watching her father and then her stepfather leave, she’s pretty sure she doesn’t believe in love at all. 

Then her friends concoct a plan to find them all Valentine’s dates, and somehow Piper finds herself with the most popular guy in school. But true love never follows a plan, and a string of heartfelt gifts from a secret admirer has Piper wondering if she might be with the wrong guy.

In this heartwarming romance, true love is more than a maybe – and it might be closer than you think.

From the promotional copy of The Cupcake Queen:

A confection of a novel, combining big city sophistication with small town charm.

When her mother moves them from the city to a small town to open up a cupcake bakery, Penny’s life isn’t what she expected. Her father has stayed behind, and Mom isn’t talking about what the future holds for their family. And then there’s Charity, the girl who plays mean pranks almost daily. 

There are also bright spots in Hog’s Hollow—like Tally, an expert in Rock Paper Scissors, and Marcus, the boy who is always running on the beach. But just when it looks as though Penny is settling in, her parents ask her to make a choice that will turn everything upside down again. 

A sweet novel about love, creativity, and accepting life’s unexpected turns.

Check out this Cupcake Queen trailer by MRCPLStaff.