Guest Post: Elizabeth O. Dulemba on Promoting a Book App

By Elizabeth O. Dulemba
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Apps are the hot new thing.

And while they’re not exactly the same as books, they have one big thing in common… there are so many of them, it’s hard to find any particular one.

A few years ago when I came out with my app Lula’s Brew, it was early in the game and she was pretty easy to find. Sadly, that is no longer the case. And the iTunes search engine really doesn’t help.

So, how can you get your app found? Just as with books, you have to look at alternative paths than just posting it in iTunes.

Here at Cynsations, I’ve talked about “Marketing – the Snowball Effect” and building a platform from day one, so that when you have a product to sell, you have an already established audience eager to support you. Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to advertise.

Of course, in this age, word-of-mouth means blogs, twitter, email, facebook, YouTube, etc. And those are your next best bet. Shout about your app from the hilltops! But to avoid being obnoxious, try to give back while you do it. Offer a giveaway, free lesson plans, puzzles, support materials – anything that might tie in with your app that you can give away for free.

Make sure you have a link to buy your app on your website or blog. (Sounds obvious but…)

Send your app to the myriad of new app reviewers, like the biggie, Moms with Apps. Offer a few free download codes in exchange. It’s how Lula’s Brew was downloaded over 7,000 times in two days! (Over 10,000 total.)

Guest post on other blogs (like this!). Cynthia was kind enough to let me promote by offering her readers some free content about marketing! But she’s not the only one.

Lots of bloggers are looking for content to share on their blogs. Ask a few if you can be a guest blogger or if they mind hosting you on a Blog APP Tour (rather than a Blog Book Tour).

Finally, accost everybody you see with a smart phone and make them download your app. Okay, maybe not. But do be proactive. Because if you don’t sell your app, nobody will, and it will quickly disappear into the deep app sea.

About Lula’s Brew

Lula’s Aunties want her to be a witch like them. But Lula prefers to study cookbooks rather than spellbooks (and hates to fly on a broom). Lula wants to be a famous chef. In desperation, the Aunties insist she try to make one last potion. Lula secretly adds her cooking flair and in true witchy fashion creates a brew that bewitches the entire town, and her Aunties too! Download the iPad app. Also now available as a .pdf, on the Nook color, and Kindle.

See also Elizabeth O. Dulemba on “Marketing – the Snowball Effect” from Cynsations.

Author Lena Coakley Interviews Author Alan Cumyn on Tilt

By Lena Coakley
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations 

Alan Cumyn is the author of many acclaimed novels for both children and adults.

Books in his Owen Skye series have won the Mr. Christies and Hackmatack awards and were nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, and the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award. His novel The Famished Lover was long-listed for the Giller prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

He lives in Ottawa and teaches in the M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

LC: You’ve written for adults and for children, but Tilt (Groundwood, 2011) is your first foray into young-adult writing. Did you approach this book differently from your others?

AC: Every book for me starts with a character in a situation. What was different with Tilt was the way those elements came to me. Three years ago I had just arrived at Vermont College of Fine Arts as new staff, and I listened to a lecture by the brilliant Louise Hawes on “the line of desire” – what your character wants and why s/he can’t get it. Louise had us all write a letter to ourselves at a much younger age, and what sprang to mind for me was an image of myself at sixteen.

No letter emerged; instead I had to play an imaginary game of one-on-one basketball with my much younger self before we could even begin to have a conversation. Once that happened, the character was with me, and the situation soon followed: Stan is stymied in his basketball aspirations, trying not to think about his tangled home life, and hopelessly in love with someone who might not even be available. In a nutshell: adolescence!

LC: Your portrait of sixteen-year-old Stan Dart is so well observed I couldn’t help wondering if Tilt was semi-autobiographical. Is there any Stan Dart in you?

AC: Like Stan, at sixteen I was obsessed with basketball – it was a near-religion for me – and I also wrote poetry and dreamed about martial arts. And, of course, like most adolescent males, I was trapped between raging hormones and no socially acceptable outlet for sexual urges.

So a lot of the prep work for Tilt involved what I think of as exploring emotional memory – being true to the feelings of the time rather than, necessarily, the actual events.

LC: Tilt deals very frankly (and often hilariously!) with sex. You cover erections, first kisses, first sexual encounters—even the title refers to the sexual orientation of one of the characters, Janine, who may or may not be a “gwog” (goes with other girls). 

Did you ever feel that you needed to censor yourself because you were writing for a younger audience?

AC: First and foremost I wanted to be true to the feelings and situations Stan has to deal with; I wanted to write the kind of emotionally honest book that I wished I could have easily gotten my hands on when I was younger.

First sexual urges are amongst the strongest emotions many people experience; the agonies are terrible and the ecstasies are out of this world. Young people today are also exposed to – through films, TV, the Internet – more explicit content than most of us want to even think about.

So the challenge for me was to not pull my punches and yet stay emotionally true to the experiences Stan goes through. My own daughters, who were teenagers at the time, read the manuscript before I sent it off to my agent. If I was working with an internal censor, it was the parent in me trying not to alarm my own kids. But they were cool with it…. 

LC: I read that you studied writing under the great Canadian novelist and short story writer Alistair MacLeod and I know that you are also on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts. I’m wondering how your experiences as both as student and a teacher have advanced your craft.

AC: A good writer keeps learning, changing, pushing boundaries and trying new things. I had an extraordinary education in writing, especially given the opportunity to study with a brilliant writer and teacher in Alistair MacLeod, but I graduated with an M.A. in creative writing when I was only 24 – I had a lot more living and craft work to do before my stories would begin to have an impact on others.

It’s certainly also a privilege and a gift to teach; good teachers soon realize that they are learning as much, or even more, than their students.

If you’re going to explain something valuable to others you have to first figure it out for yourself. Malcolm Gladwell and others talk about the 10,000 hours of honest, hard, diligent prep work it takes to become good at anything worthwhile and difficult. Well, time studying and time teaching writing have been an essential part of my on-going education as a writer.

It’s also tremendously stimulating to be working with colleagues and students who are so dedicated and talented. Tilt is in many ways a product of my VCFA experience – I got the main idea while at a residency there, have read from early drafts to VCFA audiences, and launched the book there this summer when the first copies emerged. 

LC: What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence Tilt and your other works?

AC: I was a “reluctant reader” when young. I vividly remember the pain and effort (and disappointment!) involved in decoding all those symbols and sounding out individual words. Reading only started to make sense to me when my parents began buying me sports books.

Then I caught fire when I realized that reading could be a ticket to the adult world. So I leapt from “The Babe Ruth Story” to The Godfather, and somewhere along the way stumbled into Alice Munro and others and the realization that a good novel could take you silently, without need for a lot of conversation, into fascinating other bodies, other lives.

I read because I was hungry to understand what I was in for, what might be coming my way in the years ahead, and I write now hoping to serve the same hunger in others.

If Tilt works for a young reader, for any reader, I’m hoping it’s because the characters and situations resonate in an honest way with the delights and pitfalls life serves up. 

LC: Readers love to hear about an author’s process—what your writing day is like, how long a book takes, what the editing process is like, etc. Can you tell us a little about that?

AC: In recent years I have become unusually busy, not just with teaching duties but other adventures – I was Chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada for a year, which monopolized a lot of my attention.

So for Tilt I had to be terrifically organized and focused: writing in the mornings, staying away from email until noon (when possible), working through the weekend if family members were away.

A book takes me at least two years, and often the re-writing involves a boiling off of everything that isn’t essential to the text. Shelley Tanaka was extremely helpful as editor for Tilt in helping me sort out some plot and character tangles – I do tend to complicate things unnecessarily sometimes.

But writing for me is a joy, it’s the best part about being an author – the hours spent quietly figuring out, through language, who these people are and what they do to themselves and each other. 

LC: What are you working on now? Will you go back to writing for adults or has writing for children and young adults won you over?

AC: I like to change gears, so I am working on an adult novel now. I must say I love the flexibility, the world of possibilities, of writing for younger audiences, but I am also drawn to the elemental nature of adult concerns. Life seems to get simpler, and harder, as we go along, though we surround ourselves with complications. How’s that for a recipe for interesting stories?

Cynsational Notes

Honors for Tilt include:

In a starred review, the Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books says of Tilt: “Cumyn writes with an artless, resilient quirkiness, a wry plainspoken inventiveness that instantly animates scenes and characters.”

In the video below, Alan reads from his children’s book, Deer/Dear Sylvia (Groundwood, 2008). Featuring Kimba Gifford as Owen Skye. Directed by Jasmine Murray-Bergquist.

Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

She became interested in young adult literature when she moved to Toronto, Canada, and began working for CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, where she eventually became the Administrative Director. She is now a full-time writer living in Toronto.

Witchlanders, her debut novel, was called “a stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews. It is a Junior Library Guild selection and an ABC new voices selection.

See also New Voice: Lena Coakley on Witchlanders and Author Lena Coakley Interviews Editor Hadley Dyer of HarperCollins Canada, both from Cynsations.

Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA 2012 Winter Residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations   

Best wishes to the faculty, administrators, students and staff of the M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts as you gather over the next several days for the winter 2012 residency in Montpelier.

Hooray for visiting speakers Marla Frazee and Libba Bray!

Congratulations to new visiting faculty members April Lurie and Matt de la Peña!

Welcome to the first semester students! Good luck to the graduating class on your readings and lectures! Stay warm, have fun, learn, grow, share, and dance like Snoopy!

My thoughts are with you all!

Cynsational Notes

Due to my publication schedule, I’m on extended leave from the faculty.

Check out this 2008 video celebrating Vermont College of Fine Arts:

Giveaway: Ten Signed Copies of Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations  

Enter to win one of ten signed copies of Bittersweet by Sarah Ocker (Simon Pulse)(excerpt)!

From the promotional copy:

From the author of Twenty Boy Summer, a teen pushes the limits to follow her dreams—and learns there’s a fine line between bitter and sweet…

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances, a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. 

Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life—and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last….

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 “Bittersweet” in the subject line. If you include in your comment a thought on the video below, you’ll receive two extra entries! Good luck!

Publisher-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Jan. 23.

Cynsational Notes

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Sarah Ocker is the bestselling author of Fixing Delilah (Little, Brown, 2011) and the critically acclaimed Twenty Boy Summer (Little, Brown, 2010), a YALSA Teens’ Top Ten nominee and IndieNext List pick.

She is a championship cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm.

When she’s not writing or reading at home in Colorado, Sarah enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.

Visit her website at and find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Read chapter one of Bittersweet.

Girl Meets Boy, Edited by Kelly Milner Halls is Now Available

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations  

Congratulations to anthologist Kelly Milner Halls on the release of Girl Meets Boy (Chronicle, 2012). From the promotional copy:

What do guys and girls really think? 

Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging YA authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of “he said/she said” stories—he tells it from the guy’s point of view, she tells it from the girl’s. These are stories of love and heartbreak. 

There’s the good-looking jock who falls for a dangerous girl, and the flip side, the toxic girl who never learned to be loved; the basketball star and the artistic (and shorter) boy she never knew she wanted; the gay boy looking for love online and the girl who could help make it happen. 

Each story in this unforgettable collection teaches us that relationships are complicated—because there are two sides to every story.

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.

Cynsational Notes

Kelly Milner Halls is the author of Albino Animals (Darby Creek, 2004) and Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures That May Or May Not Exist, co-authored by Rick Spears and Roxyanne Young (Darby Creek, 2006), both YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her more recent releases include In Search of Sasquatch (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) and Alien Investigation: Searching for the Truth About UFOs and Aliens (Milbrook/Lerner, Jan. 15, 2012). She lives in Spokane, Washington.

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

Preview Girl Meets Boy below; excerpt features “Love or Something Like It” by Chris Crutcher and “Some Things Never Change” by Kelly Milner Halls:
Girl Meets Boy

Vote in the Preliminary Round of the YA Book Genre Battle

Paperback edition coming Feb. 14.

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations 

Vote for the paranormal novel Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick/Walker Books) and your other favorites of 2011 in the preliminary round of the YA Book Genre Battle, hosted by Most Important Letter!

You can vote for as many as you like and nominate additional books.

Categories include:

  • contemporary
  • paranormal
  • dystopian/post-apocalyptic
  • science fiction
  • mythology
  • fantasy 
  • mystery

Vote, volunteer, and/or nominate! Scroll to the end of the post to vote (above that, you can volunteer to help out, if you’d like to do so).

Deadline: Jan. 11.

Cynsational Notes

Cynsations reporter Lena Coakley‘s Witchlanders (Atheneum, 2011) also is a nominee in the paranormal category.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the electronic release of the short story, “Haunted Love,” by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2011) a Books on Board bestseller!

Cynthia Leitich Smith: Back Again with Another Bestseller by from Kids’ Ebook Bestsellers. Interview focuses on e-publishing, marketing, audience, and tech v. print accessibility issues for young readers.

“Haunted Love” is now available from Candlewick Press for free download via major online retailers. The story features new characters but is set in the Tantalize series universe.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

FSG, 2012

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations  

My Query Letter by Elizabeth Fama. Peek: “In July of 2010, I somehow managed to snag one of the kindest, most down-to-earth, and fiercely professional agents out there, Sara Crowe. In case my query letter had anything to do with this happy event, I publish it here for aspiring writers.”

40 Questions to Test Your Manuscript by Martina from Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing. Peek: “Whether you’re starting to plot from scratch or starting up a revision, it’s a great time to check the soundness of the idea and the different story elements.”

Does Word Count Matter Anymore? by Dawn Lairamore from Project Mayhem: From the Manic Minds of Middle Grade Authors. Note: don’t miss the continued conversation in the comments.

World Read Aloud Day: Skyping Author Volunteers for March 7, 2012 by Kate Messner from Kate’s Book Blog. Peek: “…a number of authors have again volunteered their time to read aloud to classrooms and libraries all over the world.”

The 50/50 Challenge: Support Local Booksellers by elementary school librarian Travis Jonker from 100 Scope Notes. Peek: “I’m committing to using at least half of my yearly budget to purchase books at my local independent bookstores (namely Pooh’s Corner and Schuler Books). The question is – are you with me?”

Hazel Mitchell Children’s Illustrator/Author: official website. Hazel’s illustrated books include Hidden New Jersey (Mackinac Island Press/Charlesbridge, 2012), How to Talk to an Autistic Kid (Free Spirit, 2011), and the All Star Cheerleader series by Anastasia Suen (Kane Miller 2011-2013).

Dori Hillestad Butler–2011 Edgar Winner for Best Juvenile Mystery from Printsasia. Peek: “In 2011, her book The Buddy Files: The Case of a Lost Boy (Albert Whitman, 2010) has won Edgar Award for the best Juvenile Mystery. In her interview with us regarding her award winning book, Dori talks about her concept of the plot, relationship equations, character portrayals, and her forthcoming releases along with her message for readers.” See also The Buddy Files Coloring Sheets and Teacher Guide.

Cybils: The 2011 Cybils Finalists.  Note: special congratulations to VCFA alum Marianna Baer on Frost House (Balzar+Bray/HarperCollins) being named a YA category finalist.

Free eBook: How to Choose Children’s Books by Aaron Mead from Children’s Books and Reviews. Peek: “A comprehensive list of online resources for finding excellent children’s literature, including book lists, sources of professional book reviews, and children’s literature blogs.” Note: Thanks to Aaron for including Cynsations among his recommended resources.

When You’re Bad at Something by Natalie Whipple from Between Fact and Fiction. Peek: “I do believe with all my heart that anyone can improve in something if they want to. It doesn’t matter what it is—you can go after it and do it well. It might take twice as long. You may never be as good as a prodigy. But you as a human being have the potential to succeed. It is part of all of us.” Source: Jennifer R. Hubbard.

How Do You Know If Your Agent is Any Good? by Jane Friedman. Peek: “Do you get the feeling that the agent genuinely believes in you and your work? While agents are certainly interested in a sale, they’re also interested in projects that excite them and clients they are proud to represent.”

Weighing in on Weight by Rae Carlson at From the Writer’s Desk: The Official Blog of Greenwillow Books. Peek: “Thousands, maybe millions of women have their accomplishments waved away or ignored daily, even as their bodies suffer devastating scrutiny—from both men and women. These experiences were very much on my mind when I sat down to write The Girl of Fire and Thorns.” Source: Tiffany Trent at Center Neptune.

A Brief Explanation of Film Options by Kody Keplinger from YA Highway. Peek: “When a film is “optioned” there is no guarantee it’ll be made. Basically, an ‘option’ is just that – a studio or producer or director or whatever buys the option to make the film.”

A WOW Wednesday Invitation to Writers from Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing. Peek: “…if you have any good news at all — we would love to invite you to do a WOW Wednesday guest post for us and help uplift and inspire other writers while letting us give you a little well-deserved promotion.”

Barnes and Noble Puts Sterling Up for Sale by Erin Carlson from The Hollywood Reporter. Peek: “Barnes & Noble has put Sterling Publishing up for sale, almost 10 years after acquiring the company, the Wall Street Journal reported.”

Seven Best Practices for Building an Online Presence by Daisy Whitney from Chuck Sambuchino from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “Your reputation online is real! It matters. It lives and breathes and you need to figure out what it is. Treat it delicately and carefully like you would a resume for a job and always put your best foot forward.”

Writing Comic Sci Fi for Children by Mark Griffiths from Becky at The Bookette. Peek: “Science fiction comedy (and if a cow jumping over the moon doesn’t count as that, I don’t know what does) seems to me a natural form to use when writing for children, allowing, as it does, tremendous scope for the imagination and for the inversion of the normal way of things.” Note: learn more about Mark’s new release, Space Lizards Stole My Brain!, illustrated by Pete Williamson (Simon & Schuster U.K., 2012).

Rock the Rock: web design service from Little Willow of Bildungsroman fame here in the kidlitosphere. Children’s/YA clients include author Christopher Golden, readergirlz, author Liz Gallagher, and agent Sara Crowe.

Interview with Taraneh Matloob on Outsiders Writing Across Cultures with an Insider’s Eye by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: “In Iran, we are introduced to the Western culture mainly through translation; Iranian authors rarely write about the West from their point of view. However, it is important to have Iranian multicultural authors who write about the West from the outside position because Western audience needs to know how their culture is viewed from the East. Conversely, this is true for the Westerners who write about the East.”

Reading for Pleasure by Stephen Krashen from Language Magazine. Peek: “Of the 66 respondents in Mellon’s study who claimed they never read in their spare time, 49 checked several categories of leisure reading when asked what they liked to read.” Source: Julie Lake

Author Tim Wynne-Jones has just been named an Officer of the Order of Canada (Arts/Writing). Peek: “…recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.”

The Year of Impossible Things by Jenny Martin from Crowe’s Nest. Peek: “Day by day, page by page, you must be the one to dare the impossible, emerging as the hero of your own story. Let this be the year. Your year.”

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win a “boxed set” of novels by Beth Fantaskey, including Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, Jessica Rules the Dark Side, and Jekel Loves Hyde (all Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Deadline: noon EST Jan. 10. Eligibility: international.

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.

Join Kelly Starling Lyons on her blog tour, celebrating the release of Ellen’s Broom, illustrated by Daniel Minter (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012), and comment on Kelly’s blog, her facebook author page, or any of her blog stops for a chance to win a wedding/anniversary broom courtesy of Stuart’s Creations and a signed poster of the Ellen’s Broom cover. Deadline: the a.m. of Jan. 16. Eligibility: U.S. only. See also Celebrating Us: Children’s Books About Weddings by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf.

The Way We Fall Trailer Giveaway from Megan Crewe. “Five winners chosen by random draw will receive a signed hardcover of The Way We Fall (Hyperion, 2012), a The Way We Fall journal and pen (so you can record your own life-changing events), a bottle of hand sanitizer (to keep those pesky germs away), a magnet, and a bookmark.” Deadline: 11:59 EST Jan. 11. Eligibility: international.

Audio Giveaway of Cinder by Marissa Meyer from Karin’s Book Nook. Deadline: Jan. 13. Note: listen to audio excerpt and download the first five chapters for free. See also Interview with Marissa Meyer by Ellen Oh from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: “Although I love fairy tales, I don’t think novels can get away with the same stereotyping and oversimplification that the original tales have. In ‘Cinderella,’ it’s enough for the stepmother to be given the role of ‘wicked,’ and we all take it at face value, but it’s not so easy in a book. How is she wicked? What made her that way?”

The Cynsational winner of Dreaming Anastasia and Haunted by Joy Preble (both Sourcebooks) is Delilah in Atlanta. Note: Look for a new ten-book giveaway to go live on Monday!

This Week’s Cynsations Posts:

Walter Dean Myers

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey (Dial, 2012). In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews cheers, “A fairy tale for those who have given up on believing in them, but still yearn for happily ever after.” See also the Dragonswood Blog Tour.

Check out the book trailer for Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2012). Note from Grace: “The beloved heroine of The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat has returned in a brand new story.”

Check out the book trailer for Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room, by Carol Gordon Ekster, illustrated by Kimberly Soderberg (Character Publishing, 2011).  Character Publishing is a new company, designed around the concept that parents of picture book and middle grade readers may select specific titles to nurture/role model particular traits such as courage, creativity, or logical/problem solving. See submissions guidelines. Note: Carol’s husband created the trailer.

Bison v. Woman Skating Competition, promoting Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Kathleen Rietz (Sylvan Dell, 2011). Darcy says, “This new video is an example of a YouTube Aesthetic Book Trailer, an informal, humorous video that only addresses the content of the book tangentially, but nevertheless creates interest.” See also Book Trailer: Archived Video and Purchased Music from Darcy at Fiction Notes. Note: Darcy will be speaking on the topic of book trailers as part of the pre-con Marketing Intensive at the 13th Annual Winter SCBWI Conference in New York City on Jan. 27.

More Personally

Happy New Year! This week was another one of juggling the Smolder deadline and the Diabolical launch. My goal is to bring the manuscript to a place where Greg can critique it early next week.

What else? Here at Cynsations, I’ve noticed a significant uptick in traffic. Welcome, new readers, and thanks to long-term visitors for your ongoing enthusiasm and support! 

Thanks to Mary E. Cronin for this self shot, taken at Eason’s book shop in Galway, Ireland; of the first three books in the Tantalize series! Note: the books were originally released as single titles, but are now being repackaged and marketed as a series.

Thanks to Kathi Appelt for this shot of my first book, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000), taken at Autry museum gift store in L.A.!

You can also find me at my facebook author page, twitter (@CynLeitichSmith), LiveJournal, YouTube, and JacketFlap.

Personal Links:

From Greg Leitich Smith:

Cynsational Events

Jan. 24 U.S. release date, see trailer.

Brian Yansky will be presenting “Getting Organized” at 10 a.m. Jan. 14 on the second floor at BookPeople. “Brian will be sharing his secrets of success regarding how to keep all of the loose ends of crafting a manuscript in control while attempting to balance a busy everyday life.” Sponsored by Austin SCBWI.

Vicious Valentine: a YA fantasy celebration, featuring authors 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. Whether you love love, hate it or fear it, be there for spooky cool refreshments and scary bookish fun!

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.

Check out John Green’s National Tour. He’ll be in Houston, in conjunction with Blue Willow Bookshop, Jan. 20 and in Austin, in conjunction with BookPeople, Jan. 21. See link for details on these off-site events and others across the U.S. and B.C.

New Voice: Mônica Carnesi on Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Mônica Carnesi is the first-time author-illustrator of Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2012)(blog). From the promotional copy:

On a cold winter day, a curious dog wandered onto a frozen river, and before he knew it he was traveling fast on a sheet of ice. Many people tried to help, but the dog could not be reached. 

Finally, after two nights and seventy-five miles, the little dog was saved by a ship out in the Baltic Sea.

The gallant rescue of the little dog nicknamed Baltic made international news. Mônica Carnesi’s simple text and charming watercolor illustrations convey all the drama of Baltic’s journey. His story, with its happy ending, will warm readers’ hearts. An author’s note and map are included.

Was there one writing workshop or conference that led to an “ah-ha!” moment in your craft? What happened, and how did it help you?

In October 2009, I attended the Rutgers One on One Plus Conference for the first time. I attended as an illustrator — my application consisted of samples of my artwork, and I was thrilled when I learned it had been accepted.

At every conference and workshop I’ve attended, my main objective has always been to learn as much as I can about the art, craft, and business of children’s book publishing, but at the One on One Plus, I had an additional goal: I was hoping to connect with an agent.

Visit Monica’s blog.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2009 was to promote my artwork and find professional opportunities to showcase my illustrations. With its customized format, in which attendees are paired with mentors (editors, agents, art directors, authors, illustrators), the One on One seemed like the ideal setting to get individualized feedback and advice.

Happily, I did meet my agent that day during one of the activities, the “Five on Five” session. There were five illustrators and five mentors at our table, and at one point they asked us to show our portfolios.

As a result, Teresa Kietlinski, an agent at Prospect Agency who was at the table, saw my portfolio and a month later contacted me to offer representation. That was a major step for me, but my “ah-ha!” moment happened right there at the conference when Teresa and I began talking.

As an illustrator and a visual thinker, I attempt to infuse my illustrations with a sense of narrative, but I’d struggled with the thought of myself as an author. While talking to Teresa about children’s books in general, about my background and my illustrations, she asked if I’d ever considered writing.

My first reaction would have been to say no, but that day I experienced what I can only describe as a feeling of possibility. It’s not that I had never thought about or tried my hand at writing before, but something about that conversation made it seem possible.

Throughout the day we’d heard speakers talk about the importance of challenging oneself, of experimenting and pushing limits. I spent the day interacting with other aspiring authors and illustrators and was feeling inspired as a result. That day marked a creative shift for me, one that has been challenging but also immensely rewarding.

My first picture book came about when I heard a news story on NPR in late January of 2010, an amazing and moving story: a little dog stranded on an ice floe in the Baltic Sea had been rescued by a scientific research ship and was now a member of the crew. The dog, nicknamed Baltic by his rescuers, had initially been spotted two days earlier floating on a piece of ice on the Vistula River.

When Illustration Friday, a weekly illustration challenge website, coincidentally proposed the theme “Adrift,” I knew what I wanted to paint: a little dog on an ice floe. Teresa, who by this point was representing me, saw the illustration on my blog and encouraged me to write Baltic’s story.

And I did — what might have remained only a visual interpretation of a single moment became a full-fledged story, with images and words combined in one of my favorite literary art forms: the picture book, my very own picture book.

And it all began when I attended that conference, met my agent, and had an “ah-ha!” moment.

As an author-illustrator, you come to children’s books with a double barrel of talent. Could you describe your apprenticeship in each area, and how well (or not) your inner writer and artist play together? Likewise, as an librarian-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a librarian has been a blessing to your writing? How do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

How Monica checks for consistency and flow.

I am an author-illustrator, with a full-time job as a librarian at The Free Library of Philadelphia.

When I think of ideas for a picture book, I think in terms of images. That’s how it starts, but once an idea begins to take form, I move into the realm of words.

As an illustrator it can be easy to fall in love with a drawing or a painting — too easy, in fact. If an image does not advance the story, it will probably need to be altered or given up altogether, something that can be very difficult to do if you focus too much on the art.

At some point during the beginning stages of story development, I need to bring writing to the foreground. It’s a matter of balance. Making sure my inner writer and artist “play nice” together can be challenging, but it makes the moments when they are in synch so much more gratifying.

I’m originally from Brazil and did my undergraduate studies in Rio de Janeiro, where I grew up. I studied visual arts for a year before changing majors to pursue a degree in English-Portuguese translation. I loved art school but didn’t think I had enough talent to get a job after graduation. I also loved words and language, so switching majors to translation seemed to make sense.

After getting married and moving to the United States, I went back to school and got a master’s degree in library science. But art always remained a part of my life, and whenever I could, I would take continuing education classes in drawing or painting. Then, in the spring of 2006, I took a class called “Children’s Book Illustration” and realized what I wanted to do.

Working full time does complicate things a bit – after all, there are only so many hours in the day – but being a librarian has really helped me to grow in my second career. The old advice that to become a writer or illustrator one must read, read, read is absolutely true.

Visit the Free Library.

Working in a library has helped me immerse myself in children’s literature and be aware of what’s being published every year. I’m constantly borrowing books, reading reviews, checking publishers’ catalogs.

Writing and illustrating children’s books is, in a way, a natural extension of my day job. Finding the time to do both does require discipline and planning, and it can be very intense, especially when deadlines are looming.

For my first book, I used vacation time to work on the illustrations and stay on schedule. It’s not ideal and it’s not easy, and I’m still figuring it out. So, it’s a work in progress, but it’s been a great ride!

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons & Daniel Minter

Congratulations to Kelly Starling Lyons on the release of Ellen’s Broom, illustrated by Daniel Minter (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012)!

Join Kelly on her blog tour, and comment on Kelly’s blog, her facebook author page, or any of her blog stops for a chance to win a lovely wedding/anniversary broom courtesy of Stuart’s Creations and a signed poster of the Ellen’s Broom cover. Deadline: the morning of Jan. 16. Eligibility: U.S.

Kelly will launch the book in-person at Quail Ridge Books & Music at 3 p.m. Jan. 15 in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Along with the program, craft and signing, a couple of young crooners from the MLK All-Children’s Choir will sing. To top it all off, we’ll have a beautiful wedding cake designed by local baker extraordinaire, Yummy to Your Tummy Desserts by Andrea.”

From Quail Ridge: “Can’t make it? To request a signed or personalized copy, call 828-1588 (locally) or 1-800-672-6789 or contact (at least 48 hours in advance for email) to check availability.”