New Voice: Rebecca Behrens on When Audrey Met Alice

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Rebecca Behrens is the first-time author of When Audrey Met Alice (Sourcebooks, 2014). From the promotional copy:

When frustrated First Daughter Audrey Rhodes discovers Alice Roosevelt’s secret diary hidden beneath the White House floorboards, she’s inspired to ask herself, “What would Alice do?” Audrey’s Alice-like antics are a lot of fun—but will they bring her happiness, or a host of new problems?

It is ridiculously difficult to get a pizza delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

First Daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned. The decorations are all set, and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute for a “security breach,” squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. 

What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with?

Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless—until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter’s outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun . . . and get her into more trouble than she can handle.

Could you tell us about your writing community-your critique group or partner or other sources of emotional and/or professional support?

I’ve also found a great deal of emotional and professional support from two debut-author groups I’m a part of: OneFour Kid Lit and the Class of 2K14. The OneFours are an inclusive group of kid-lit writers debuting in 2014. Within the group, the middle-grade authors have banded together to do some group blogging (our Mad for MG feature is on the OneFour blog the first Monday of each month). I’ve loved the opportunity to read some members’ ARCs a little early—there are so many amazing debut books being published next year!

The Class of 2K14 is a group of twenty middle-grade and young-adult authors who’ve formed a marketing collective, specifically to reach out to booksellers, teachers, and librarians.

We have a few panels and events in the works and have worked hard to pool our resources for a few splashy ads and promotional videos. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get to know the talented authors in the group, and I think we all benefit from the collective experience and expertise of the group as we speed through the debut year. I’m continually impressed and grateful for the generosity of those in the writing community.

I also am very fortunate to be a part of a group of middle-grade and young-adult writers in New York City, unofficially known as “Write Night.” We meet at least one evening a week—sometimes more frequently—at a café. First, we eat and talk shop: sharing a shiny new idea, discussing how our revisions are going, updating what’s happening in the querying process, debating where a launch party should be held. As soon as plates are cleared (and coffee mugs are filled), laptops come out and we all sit at a big table and write. Sometimes for hours; we’ve been known to close down the café.

The best part of Write Night, of course, is the camaraderie. As a group, we don’t formally critique one another’s work, although critique and beta partnerships have developed within it. (And it’s great to have other writers at a table with you when you need a little help with a sentence or a scene.)

Instead, it’s an encouraging group of like-minded, dedicated people. Every writer has ups and downs at every stage of the process, and we celebrate and support each other as needed.

I do work full-time, and I have to admit that there are days when I hop the subway to go from my office to wherever Write Night is meeting, and I don’t feel particularly enthused about working for a few hours. But once I sit down with the group that always changes.

There is something so special, motivating and powerful, about looking up from your screen to see a half dozen other writers hard at work. The focus and creativity are contagious!

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of leaving a successful Write Night: a brigade of happy, hardworking writer-friends walking in the shadow of the main branch of the New York Public Library toward the subway and home.

The group existed long before I joined, and I am so thankful to have been welcomed into it.

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

My book blends contemporary and historical fiction, with about one third of the novel being composed of fictional diary entries written by a teenage Alice Roosevelt.

So I was concerned not only with capturing the voices of her era (the East Coast and particularly Washington, D.C., in the early twentieth century) but with capturing the voice of a real historical figure.

I knew when I started writing, though, that I wanted to create Alice as a fictional character. That’s partly because I’m not a historian (as much as I love history and a good research project), and partly because sometimes good fiction and factual accuracy are at odds with each other.

For this book, I knew I would want to side with storytelling.

Before I wrote any of Alice’s fictional diary, I read extensively about her life. However, I stayed away from a few things: I didn’t read the autobiography she published, and I tried not to read too much about her later life (until I’d completed a first draft). I didn’t want knowledge about what happened to Alice as an older person to color her feelings as a teenager, at least as I imagined them. I also didn’t want her first-person writing in my head as I created “my” Alice’s voice.

Word choice is tricky when writing historical fiction, particularly when writing in a first-person point of view. I spent a lot of time looking up words and terms in dictionaries (I am a huge fan of the Online Etymology Dictionary.) That gave me a good idea of what language Alice might’ve used and which terms came into usage after her time.

An example is the word fussbudget: in early drafts, Alice repeatedly complained about her stepmother having “fussbudget” ideas. But that term didn’t come into use until 1904—after the fictional diary entries, which span 1901-1903. Fussbox came into use in 1901, so I substituted that.

I’m sure there are inconsistencies throughout the novel, in terms of historical details or language. Some of them are intentional—while I wanted to make Alice’s diary entries as believable and accurate as possible, I also wanted this book to be accessible to middle-grade readers—and fun!

Rebecca on the White House grounds

I didn’t want language to get in the way of the storytelling or the characters, so I took some liberties along the way.

Throughout the diary entries, I did incorporate quotes and anecdotes from the real Alice.

Coming from an academic background, I struggled with how to attribute the research I did to find that information. Including foot- or end notes would be distracting to a reader, and complicated by how I blended fiction and fact throughout. My editor suggested that I create an annotated diary, in which I point out what’s “real” and provide information about my sources. That document, Alice For Real, is available on my publisher’s website.

I think there is a fine line, when writing historical fiction, between writing a credible and accurate period story and writing something too bogged down in the facts and details. I hope I did a good job of balancing those two elements!

My goal was to make Alice a fascinating enough character that readers might be inspired to learn more about the real Alice, her family, and her time period—or about history in general.

The Perks & Perils of Author Panels

With Jonathan Mayberry, Adam Gidwitz, Marie Lu, Jennifer Ziegler & Fred Perry

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

At conference and festival panels around the globe, children’s-YA authors share our thoughts about the writing process, the writer’s life, the creative journey, book marketing and connecting with our readers.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into favorite voices, discover new ones, find inspiration and educate ourselves about craft and the business of publishing.

For authors, it’s also a chance to raise awareness of our work, get to know one another and speak out on topics of interest.

Over the years, I’ve found myself in every role—spectator, panelist, moderator, and event planner.

Wearing each respective hat, I’ve sparkled, fallen flat, come to the rescue and said the worst possible thing. I’ve also witnessed beloved friends and respected colleagues doing much of the same.

Today, my goal is to share a few observations and suggestions, understanding that each panel—depending on its venue, audience, goals and personalities—offers its own set of demands, limitations and possibilities.

Introduce the authors.

Moderators: We would all love to assume our formidable reputations precede us. But introductions—of approximately the same length and tone per participant—set the stage and prime the audience. (For many authors, introducing and/or selling ourselves is awkward.)

Again, it’s not the credentials that matter so much as the way they’re presented.

Let’s say we’re featuring three authors, each at a different career stage. Enthusiasm and word choice can even the playing field and facilitate a more engaging conversation. Say, for example, “I’m honored to present a living legend, a thrilling new voice, and a quickly rising star.” Frame the supporting details along those same lines, and don’t forget to introduce yourself.

Announce the time and location of any tie-in signings in conjunction with the introductions and remind the audience of them at the end when you thank everyone and dismiss the session.

Authors: Just in case, be ready for the moderator to ask you to introduce yourself. Keep it short—under five sentences, and if possible, funny. Practice before you go on. No need to do a mini-presentation on your work. Leave yourself something to talk about on the panel.

Both: Mention the publisher(s) of all relevant recent book(s), no matter whether the house(s) provided author/event sponsorship or not.

Smaller panels are usually better.

With Tim Tingle and Chris Barton

Planners: You’re assembling your dream team or trying to sub-categorize a long slate or swept away by the idea of more, more, more!

But unduly large panels risk at least one participant being shortchanged.

Or there isn’t enough time to offer more than an overview of new releases and quick-hit opinions on unifying themes.

Or the program becomes stilted by the effort to keep an even pace and, therefore, skips intriguing follow-up questions or author-generated questions.

Or by the time the seventh author has answered a given question, there’s not much left to say.

A grouping of three-to-four author panelists is ideal.

Moderators: If you are trapped into a large panel, vary the order of authors to whom you address each question so nobody is consistently answering, say, first or last.

Tailor questions and answers to the crowd.

Who’s listening? Fellow writers, book creators (don’t forget SCBWI illustrators), publishing pros, teachers, librarians, kids, teens, the general public?

It can be helpful for moderators to generate a list of likely topics in advance and then for author-panelists to brainstorm what might be of greatest interest to the specific audience.

That said, don’t overdo on preparation. Enjoy the moment. Keep it mostly spontaneous. You don’t want to be mentally cycling on a specific script.

Skip the reading. Or keep it under one minute.

Audiences—especially young ones—tune out during readings.

Most authors don’t have acting experience. Odds are low that three or more author-readers, especially unrehearsed, will be able to captivate the audience for an extended period of time.

I understand the temptation to offer a quick taste of the authors’ writing and in their own voice, too. But whenever author-readers are invited, in turn, to read a page or two, invariably, one participant will go on too long.

A better option: The moderator can be the one sharing, say, a paragraph of no more than 125 carefully chosen words (or fewer) per book. This may be presented in conjunction with introductions. As part of the preparation, perhaps ask each author to suggest his or her preferred 125 words (or fewer) and go from there.

Disperse the court.

Author Greg Leitich Smith chats with fellow panelists.

A panel is a shared venue, not one in which it’s appropriate to hold court.

If one author is dominating the conversation or otherwise minimizing other participants, the moderator should step in and redirect.

Keep in mind that there’s a surreal quality to public speaking. It’s entirely possible that the self-appointed regent doesn’t even realize what he or she is doing.

Employ phrases like: “That’s wonderful, Cynthia. I love your enthusiasm for the—cough—nine books in your fantasy world. And now, let’s all hear from that adorable debut novelist who looks so terrified that she might swallow her tongue.”

Except, you know, without publicly calling out the sweet debut on her terror. Or the long-standing pro for running on. (Unless it’s me. You can throw a dead fish at me. Really, I can take it.)

If the moderator doesn’t intervene, the alpha role traditionally falls to the most well-established (or local/host) author on the panel.

Herd the audience.

Moderators: You may be hosting a big-name or hometown author or one whose fan club is crowded into the first three rows. That’s nifty.

Announce up front that any questions from the audience must be addressed to all of the participants.

Mention that specific questions for individual authors should be asked of them at their tie-in signings. Likewise, statements (rather than questions) should be reserved for this one-on-one opportunity.

End segregation.

Conversations around culture, gender, orientation and underrepresented communities are vital.


However, let’s not default to only one panel on the program where, say, all the people of color and/or Native voices are given the opportunity to speak and exclusively about how their books relate to that part of themselves.

Or put another way, let’s not exclude Shana Burg from conversations about writing African and African-American characters or Cindy Pon from conversations about writing speculative fiction.

Authors, if you do find yourself on segregated panels… Or planners/moderators, if because of circumstances beyond your control, that composition is honestly the best you can do…. Acknowledge the limitation, admit it’s problematic, and point your audience to additional books, authors and/or resources for more varied perspectives.

As a preventive measure, authors may want to ask who else is participating and perhaps make a point of thoughtfully suggesting colleagues.

Lift up.

I have publicly made the wrong call, unintentionally offended, and changed my mind after speaking. On the flip side, I’ve felt diminished and frustrated. We’ve all been there.

What to do? Laugh at yourself, lift up one another, and forgive without second thought. Or at least without third thought. Remember, our job is bigger than us, bigger than our own creative work.

We are ambassadors of youth literature.

Whatever our individual quirks, passions, predispositions and pitfalls, we’re all on the same team.

Go Team Us!

Cynsational Notes

At the Illumine banquet

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of the Feral series, which includes Feral Nights and Feral Curse, as well as the Tantalize series, which includes Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, Diabolical.

Two graphic novels, Tantalize: Kieren’s Story and Eternal: Zachary’s Story, both illustrated by Ming Doyle, complete the Tantalize series.

These adventure-fantasies are originally published by Candlewick Press in the U.S., Walker Books in the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, and additional publishers around the globe. Her series are often noted for their diverse protagonists, humor, suspense and compelling action.

Cynthia is also the author of several children’s books, including Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu; Rain Is Not My Indian Name and Indian Shoes, illustrated by Jim Madsen; all originally published by HarperCollins.

Cynthia was named a Writer of the Year by Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers in recognition of Rain is Not My Indian Name.

Cynthia has been twice featured at the National Book Festival. Most recently, she was
named the first Spirit of Texas Young Adult author by the Young Adult Round Table of the Texas Library Association and the first young adult author to be honored with the Illumine
Award by the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.

In 2013, the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators instituted the Cynthia Leitich Smith Mentor Award in
her honor.

Book Trailer: Hope Is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera (Abrams, 2014). From the promotional copy:

Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes.

Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future.

With an unforgettable voice with a lot of heart, Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is the story of a young girl who learns to accept her family and herself while trying to make sense of the world around her.

Cynsational Notes

“Herrera’s first novel is quite accomplished, with plenty of heart and humor […] Star is a unique, determined, and loving child making the best of a bad situation; readers cannot help but root for her.” –School Library Journal, starred review

“In her debut, Herrera has created a delightful narrator with a memorable voice and surrounded her with a unique supporting cast. Got fans of Joan Bauer in your neck of the woods? Send them this way.” –Booklist

“A tender and truthful novel that addresses stereotypes without promising easy answers or cookie-cutter closure.” –Publishers Weekly

See also Author Interviews with Robin Herrera.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for Invisible by Dawn Metcalf (Harlequin Teen, 2014). From the promotional copy:

Some things lie beneath the surface.


With the power to change everything.

Joy Malone wants it all—power, freedom and the boyfriend who loves her. Yet when an unstoppable assassin is hired to kill her, Joy learns that being the girl with the Sight comes with a price that might be too high to pay. 

Love will be tested, lives will be threatened, and everyone Joy knows and cares about will be affected by her decision to stand by Ink or to leave the Twixt forever.

More News

Girls Reading: What Are They Seeing (Or Not Seeing)? by Kelly Jensen from Stacked. Peek: “The girls overwhelmingly noted that they’ve not seen themselves reflected in the books they’ve been assigned to read for school and whether or not female authors or female main characters they’ve been assigned have been memorable for them.”

What to Do With a Franken Draft by Dianne K. Salerni from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “The first thing I suggest is outlining your book. Yes, outline it after you’ve written it and even if you had an outline before you started writing the thing. You may have had a plan, but what did you actually put into the manuscript?”

Why You and Me (Make That “I”) Need a Copy Editor by Rosie Genova from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: “I edit for a living, which gives me a strong command of grammar and usage, as well as a sharp eye for the typo. But guess what? I still need a copy editor for my own work.” See also Three When One Will Do by Mary Kole from

Writing Picture Books: Tips from the Top by Susan Hughes from Open Book Toronto. Peek: “…five well-known authors of award-winning picture books, Dan Bar-El, Ruth Ohi, Hazel Hutchins, Monica Kulling and Cary Fagan, generously share writing tips and suggestions.”

Passion, Strengths & Uniqueness: Build a Writing Career by Darcy Pattison
from Fiction Notes. Peek: “Why mess around writing mediocre pieces?
Instead, find the one thing that you do best and no one else can match

Rules for Writing and Life by Jane Resh Thomas from The Storyteller’s Inkpot. Peek: “Two manuscript pages is possible, even on a bad day, so write two pages, not thinking at all about their quality.”

Attention Beginners! Don’t Rush Your Writing by Tracey Adams from PubSmart. Peek: “They are in a terrible rush. They haven’t done their homework. Sometimes they don’t even have a full manuscript yet. And then, usually…nothing happens.”

When You Sense Something is Wrong by Avi from WordCraft. Peek: “Sometimes you need to make a big change. As in life, so it is in writing: big changes are hard to make. What kind of changes? A fundamental shift in plot, character, ending, beginning, middle….”

Timing the Time Travel in Your Novel by Deborah Halverson from Peek: “If your pre-time travel portion exists mostly to establish the current world so we can understand the psychological impact of leaving it, be quick about that task. However…”

Is It Okay to Mine Real Relationships for Literary Material? by Francine Prose and Leslie Jamison from The New York Times. Peek: “Writers need to be careful about putting their children in memoir or in fiction, for the reason I’ve mentioned above. We’re their custodians.”

Ditch the 10,000 Rule! Why Malcom Gladwell’s Famous Advice Falls Short by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel from Peek: “Spacing out your practice feels less productive for the very reason that some forgetting has set in and you’ve got to work harder to recall the concepts. It doesn’t feel like you’re on top of it. What you don’t sense in the moment is that this added effort is making the learning stronger.”

Tip Sheet: Picture Books are for All Ages by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The term ‘picture book’ simply refers to a book format in which art and text depend on one another for the full meaning of the book to emerge. Picture books span a wide range of intended ages. There are picture books for babies, picture books for just about every age of childhood, and picture books for adults.”

Diversity in Children’s-YA Publishing

Thoughts from a Scared, White Author on Diversity in Kid Lit from Lisa Schroeder. Peek: “I think the most important thing to remember is: it’s okay to be afraid. Do it anyway.”

Editing Across Culture
by Yolanda Scott from CBC Diversity. Peek: “…despite my best
intentions, my predominantly white upbringing, educational background,
and chosen profession have not adequately prepared me to be as racially
and culturally sensitive as I would like.”

Diversity in Children’s Literature: The Search for Missing Characters (& Authors) of Color by Sayantani DasGupta
at From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle Grade Authors. Peek: “When, in
mid-March, an attendee at the the New York City Teen Author Book
Festival asked why she had only seen one author of color speak all
weekend, no one had a good answer for her.”

See also Children’s Literature: Apartheid or Just a General Lack of Color from 90.9wbur. It’s a radio interview with Chris and Walter Dean Myers.Their respective recent articles in The New York Times (Walter’s Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?) and Chris’s The Apartheid of Children’s Literature) have been much discussed of late. In the new radio interview, Walter says:

don’t want my grandchildren to think of themselves only in terms of
slavery, the Civil Rights Movement. I want them to have a full range of
imaginative literature.”

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win!

Teachers & Librarians! Don’t miss the five-ARC middle-grade giveaway of Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (Starscape/Macmillan, September 16, 2014) by P.J. Hoover from Roots in Myth.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Hooray! I have finished Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral series). Feral Pride concludes nine novels (including two graphic novels) and three short stories set in the TantalizeFeral universe.

Book 1 of Feral trilogy
Book 1 of Tantalize series

The earliest notes for Tantalize (Book 1 in the Tantalize series) are dated 2000, and Feral Pride will come out in spring 2015.

Yes, other books and shorts were released along the way, but these interlocking stories represent a major portion of my body of work and total 458,169 words. 

Whew! Let’s pause on that number: 458,169. It’s pushing a half million.

I thought about that this week as I read Incremental Effort by Jane Leback from Query Tracker. Peek:

“It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually all about the incremental effort: one word at a time; one stitch at a time. One short story at a time. One submission at a time, one publication at a time. That’s how you’ll make a career.”

What else? If you are interested in publishing or cats (or both), check out Editors: Wrangling Cover Art from Meanjin. It’s informative and funny.

FYI: I read a nonfiction book published for grown-ups (shocking, I know)! Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss (Random House, 2013) is a thorough look at the processed foods industry. It’s fascinating, well written, and you’ll never look at the inside of a grocery store the same way again.

Kudos to Greg Leitich Smith on the rave review of Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn (Roaring Brook, 2014) from School Library Journal: “An accessible and whimsical read, this should have wide appeal.” Plus, “[t]he quirky setting and diverse characters add originality….”

My inner child will not be denied.

Dressed for Easter brunch at Crave in downtown Austin.
Soman Chainani, Laini Taylor, John Corey
Whaley &
Margaret Stohl,at LA Times Festival of Books,

Thanks to my publisher, Candlewick Press, for the above photo (and for sponsoring me for the event)! The lighting in the auditorium is a bit odd, but at least you can see us all.

Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Varian, Jenny and Greg brainstorm launch ideas at House Pizzeria in Austin.

Middle Grade Mayhem! Join Varian Johnson, Greg Leitich Smith and Jennifer Ziegler in celebrating their new novels at 2 p.m. June 14 at BookPeople in Austin.

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers will be held June 16 to June 21 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. Keynote speaker: James Dashner; faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Learn about the WIFYR Fellowship Award (deadline Monday!). See also Alison L. Randall on Choosing a Writing Conference

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith in discussing Feral Curse (Candlewick, 2014) with the YA Reading Club at 11 a.m. June 28 at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas.

New Voice: Yvonne Ventresca on Pandemic

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Yvonne Ventresca is the first-time author of Pandemic (Sky Pony, 2014)(blog). From the promotional copy:

Only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder’s sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. 

When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Lil’s worst fears are realized. 

With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak–her journalist father in Delaware covering the early stages of the disease and her mother in Hong Kong and unable to get a flight back to New Jersey–Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness.

With friends and neighbors dying around her, Lil does everything she can to survive. 

Just when it all seems too much, the cause of her original trauma shows up at her door. 

Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.

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

The premise of Pandemic is that a deadly, contagious bird flu strikes the U.S. and an emotionally traumatized teen needs to survive on her own. Most of my research focused on the logistics of a pandemic and its consequences.

Yvonne’s blog

The deadliest influenza that Americans have experienced occurred in 1918, so I started my pandemic research in that era, with books like The Great Influenza by John M. Barry (Penguin Books, 2005) and Influenza 1918 by Lynette Iezzoni (TV Books, 1999).

I also read about current emerging infectious diseases in books like Spillover by David Quammen (W.W. Norton and Company, 2012) and Secret Agents: Emerging Epidemics by Madeline Drexler (Penguin Books, 2010).

Many people don’t realize that we’ve lived through a recent pandemic that was highly contagious, but fortunately not exceedingly deadly. The H1N1 (Swine Flu) pandemic of 2009 is well-documented on the website, so I started with that illness as a rough model for some aspects of my fictional disease.

Next, I needed to figure out how a pandemic experience today would differ from one a century ago. Because of airplane travel, for instance, diseases today spread much faster than 1918 when a rural town could try to isolate itself. I made a list of realistic complications that could occur and I worked many of those into the story. For example, what happens if we lose our electricity and all the service people are too sick to make repairs?

The story is set in New Jersey, and another source of information was government preparedness documents. I was surprised to find some plans online, like the state’s “Antiviral Distribution Plan.” I also found a 2005 Homeland Security Document, “National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.”

Based on their planning assumptions, I tried to think about other complications. For example, many people think it is most likely that a pandemic would start someplace else, like Asia, and as a result the U.S. would have a warning period. What if that turned out to be untrue and we had little or no time to prepare?

I didn’t experience any roadblocks but had to fight the tendency to over-research. For example, I spent a lot of time checking the spring migratory flyways of waterfowl when I should have been writing instead. I have a whole folder on “Birds” research which I didn’t really use.

One of my best resources was an interview I did with a local health officer. I generally prefer to interview people by email or phone, but I met him in person in 2011. He spoke frankly about the H1N1 experience and gave me insight into what problems could potentially occur if a more deadly pandemic struck.

He also shared some local planning documents that were in the process of being updated based on what they learned from the H1N1 pandemic. It was educational and also inspired some ideas, like the news story Lil (the main character) sees about who should receive the antiviral first if supplies were limited.

Besides books, online searches, and interviews, I’m a big fan of automated news alerts through email. I used Google Alerts and Talkwalker (both free) to keep me updated on newsworthy items that I might have been able to incorporate into Pandemic.

As a result of all my research, I tend to wash my hands more than the average person.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Yvonne’s promotional files

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of how to promote a book and reach readers. As I waited (with cautious optimism) to hear back from my editor about the acquisition of Pandemic, I started reading marketing books and articles. (I had been saving articles since 2005!)

One of my favorite marketing books is Everyday Book Marketing by Midge Raymond (Ashland Creek Press, 2013). From my research, I made a list of possible ideas, some of which I ultimately discarded, but many of which I’m using. I think of this debut book period as the time of saying “yes.”

As in, yes I will visit that library in the town I’ve never heard of to speak about Pandemic. Yes, I will submit proposals to be on faculty at SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences. And yes, I will bowl at an event with teen readers even though my bowling skills are non-existent.

I decided early in the process to hire a freelance publicist (Rebecca Grose of SoCal Public Relations) to work with Sky Pony’s team to help promote the book. It’s been great to have her to help with the process, and she’s been an excellent source of knowledge and support. She’s been able to supplement Sky Pony’s efforts with activities like creating a press kit and reaching out to additional reviewers.

I’ve also joined an online group (UncommonYA) to support each other’s books, and a regional group (Kidlit Author’s Club) to do appearances together. It’s helpful to go through the promotion-journey with other writers.

In terms of concrete actions, I’ve developed postcards and bookmarks and swag. I created a mailing list of target libraries to let them know about Pandemic. Twitter (@YvonneVentresca) is my favorite social media, and I’ll be teaching twitter to writers at the New England SCBWI conference later in the spring.

I’ve stepped up my social media presence in general, and began blogging twice a week, with one post always geared toward teen writers. Revamping my website was gratifying as it evolved.

My other activities include guest blogging, planning my launch party, and participating in a few upcoming festivals.

My advice to other debut authors is to figure out what others are doing (through books, articles, or researching online), then do what is comfortable for you. If you like a certain form of social media better than others, focus on the one that doesn’t feel like a burden.

You should experiment, but don’t feel like you have to give the same level of commitment to every idea you try.

Overall, the promotion phase has been an enjoyable one for me. I like to think of it as a big experiment (although it’s hard to tell exactly what the results will be). I’ve created two lists to keep me sane: one of accomplishments, to keep track of what I get done each month, and one of acts of kindness, so I’ll remember all the wonderful things people have done to help me throughout this process.

Rocky and Luna in Yvonne’s office–they keep her company and bark out the window.

Cynsational Notes

See additional resources on topics related to the novel such as pandemics, preparing for emergencies, and getting help for victims of sexual assault.

Book Trailer: Don’t Call Me Baby! by Gwendolyn Heasley

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Don’t Call Me Baby! by Gwendolyn Heasley (HarperTeen, 2014). From the promotional copy:

All my life, I’ve been known as the girl on that blog.

Do you know what it’s like for everyone to think they know you because of what they read on some stupid website? My mother has been writing an incredibly popular, and incredibly embarrassing, blog about me since before I was born. The thing is, I’m fifteen now, and she is still blogging about me. In gruesome detail.

You can read my life as my mom tells it on But this story is my actual life and about what happened when my BFF Sage and I decided to tell the real truth about our lives under a virtual microscope. Thanks for reading . . . Just don’t call me Babylicious.

Guest Post: Guadalupe Garcia McCall on Writing & Teaching Poetry

Cynthia and Guadalupe at Texas Book Festival

By Guadalupe Garcia McCall
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

I love poetry, but not like other people love poetry. No.

I mean, I love poetry.

But it’s not that I just love it, I think I actually need it. Just as nourishment, and sunlight, and oxygen sustain me—Poetry sustains me. Just as religion, and family, and nature center me—Poetry centers me. Just as writing, and reading, and teaching fulfill me—Poetry fulfills me.

One of my favorite things to do in my classroom is to bring in the poetry.

I love to share great poetry, like “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, “Patterns” by Amy Lowell, and many, many more greatly beloved gems from literature.

However, I also love to share my own poetry with my students. It makes the lesson more valid when I ask them to write, and they see that I am not asking anything of them that I don’t ask of myself.

One of my favorite ways to sneak it in poetry is by tying it in with something that’s part of my curriculum. It’s actually the only way I get away with it these days…oh, how I long for a creative writing class where I can really cut loose and teach the art of writing, but that’s a blog for another day!

I recently wrote a poem called, “With a Machete, My Father,” from the point of view of the character of Nwoye in the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958). It wasn’t anything spectacular or mind blowing. It was quite a simple little poem, really, but with that one little poem, I taught point of view, poetic structure (including the “twist” at the end) and figurative language like imagery, symbolism, foreshadowing, personification, simile, etc.

As a follow up, I asked students to write a response poem to Nwoye from any other character’s point of view in the novel. They really got into the assignment, it was like we were having a dialogue on paper—a poem from them in response to a poem from me in another character’s point of view.

Complex and challenging, but fun and uniquely their own!

That’s what poetry is for me, and that’s what I want my students to discover—a unique, fun way to involve themselves and address poetry in a natural way, a way that speaks about their point of view as they explore literature, nature (including human nature), and life.

Here’s a look at that little poem for those of who are interested:

“With a Machete, My Father”

Cut him down, severed the tie
That pulls a man away from himself.

So that he might be seen as
Strong, my father ended my brother’s life.

Ikemefuna’s voice called out.
For help he called, confused, bewildered.

Sunlight filtered through the leaves
of our forest, like an ancestral spirit, witnessing.

It glinted off his blade. Metal moved
quick as lightning, loud as thunder, wet as rain.

I did not see Ikemefuna in death, but I
Felt his shadow walking quietly behind my father.

When he entered his obi, my father
Did not speak, but sat down to drink palm wine.

I know why Okonkwo mourns.
It must be hard, to lose two sons in one day.

Guadalupe Garcia McCall, February 2014

Another one of my favorite ways to share, discuss, and explore poetry is to bring in excerpts from a small collection of nature poems I have entitled, “On Prairie Road.”

I’ve been working on this collection for years. It’s nowhere near finished, and I suspect I won’t ever be finished with it because these poems come to me when I least expect them. They are little moments of truth that just hit me when I sit on my porch or meander around my property to stir and wake the poetic voice.

They are bits of life, mine and the world around me, and thus, I suspect, they will always be a work in progress.

I use these short little nature poems, these visceral snapshots, to teach theme.

I give my students a handout with three or four poems from the collection. I never know which ones I’ll use because I always try to tie them in with the literature we are reading at the time.

When I first ask students to read them, it’s a cold read, not really tied in to the book or story we’re working with.

“Just read,” I say. “Try to figure out what it means…what the poet was thinking…why she wrote it.”

(I usually don’t tell them I wrote the poems unless they ask if they are mine. Then I don’t lie, I say, “Yes, it’s part of something I’m working on,” and we move on to the lesson).

After they do the cold read, I ask them to think about theme: What is the message behind the poems, what is the author trying to tell you about life? We discuss the first one together; we stir the mud using the well known SIFT strategy (Symbols, Imagery, Figurative Language, and Theme) to try to get to the bottom of it. When we all agree on a theme, we write it down beside the poem, quoting textual evidence, of course, to tie it to the novel/story we are reading.

Next, I ask a student to read the second poem to the class. This time, they talk to their elbow partner and try to SIFT through the poem together to find the theme. When everyone has a theme written down, we share and try to come to consensus as to the theme that best relates to the novel/story.

As a third stage of the lesson, the students read the last poem by themselves, SIFT through the poem, find a theme of their own and relate it to the novel/story.

As a follow up, students write their own nature poems to try to relate the theme of the novel/story we are reading to the class.

Once again, we have that dialogue on paper, that back and forth sharing of point of view and ideas between author, teacher, and students—only this time they see that they can find courage and wisdom in nature, and in their own observations of nature and the world around them, to make connections to the text.

This lesson always works because most nature poems are universal enough to fit any novel or story. I can usually find several to match whatever literary piece we are reading at the time.

Before I started writing my own, I used a number of nature poems I loved, anything from well known nature poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay to contemporary poets like Wendy Barker was food for my classroom.

In any event, here are the three poems I used with Things Fall Apart for those of you who might be interested:

“On the Grass”
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Two eager grackles walk on stilts.
Raven heads held high. Their golden
Eyes astute, foraging for generous
Seeds to feast upon.

Then, a grub worm, fat and slippery,
Clutched in a black bird’s claw, ripped apart,
Torn open, devoured by one who knows
Its creamy, yellow guts are more substantial.

“Along the Barbed Wire Fence”
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

An oak has matured. Its golden heart
Pierced by the barbed wires of the
Barricade it has engulfed. Four lines of
Barbaric fencing, swallowed up, imprisoned

Within one hundred rings of bark. The
Anchoring posts push, pull, tug with
The passing seasons, but the oak is stoic,
Unmoved, its heavy trunk incorrigible.

“Across the Road”
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Cows migrate in unison, slowly, quietly,
Plowing against the forceful rains. Heads
Hung low, shoulders determined,
Eyes to the ground, as if in prayer.

They do not wait for the waters to rise,
The lip of the creek to curl up cynically,
Swallow them up, drag them downstream,
They walk steadily, calmly, don’t look back.

Using poetry, our own or anybody else’s, to make connections within and across texts is a fun, easy way to expose students to poetry and its value—not only in literature but also in life.

Exposing students to poetry, its depth and beauty, its relationship to the world we inhabit and the way we live and learn, is one of the best things we can do for our students. It goes beyond educating them—hopefully, it leads them to a love of poetry and a true appreciation of it.

Who’s to say? It might even someday sustain them.

Cynsational Notes

Guadalupe Garcia McCall is the author of Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low, 2011), a novel in verse. Under the Mesquite received the prestigious Pura Belpre Author Award, was a William C. Morris Finalist and received the Ellen Hopkins Promising Poet Award, the Tomas Rivera Children’s Book Award, and was included in Kirkus Reviews’ Best Teen Books of 2011 among many other honors and accolades.

Her second novel, Summer of the Mariposas (Tu, 2012), won a Westchester Young Adult Fiction Award, was an Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Finalist, and was included in the 2013 Amelia Bloomer Project List, the Texas Lone Star Reading List, and the 2012 School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year.

Her poems for adults have appeared in more than twenty literary journals across the country and abroad, and her poems for children are included in The Poetry Friday Anthology (2012), The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (2013), and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (2014), all by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

Guadalupe was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. She immigrated with her family to the United States when she was six years old and grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas (the setting of both her novels and most of her poems).

She is currently a high school English teacher in the San Antonio area and lives in Somerset with her husband, Jim, two (of three) sons, Steven and Jason, two dogs (Baxter and Blanca), and one cat (Luna).

Guest Post: Author-Editor Deborah Halverson on Setting, Wherefore Art Thou?

By Deborah Halverson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

When Cynthia graciously invited me to write a guest post for her blog, she asked if there was a particular writing craft item on my mind. Indeed, there is. And its color is blue.

Blue screen, that is. The kind they use in movie making when they film actors against a blank blue screen and then Cg in the background.

During a blue-screen shoot, the cameras capture the characters delivering their dialogue and action, but they don’t capture the setting. There is none. It’s just blue nothingness.

The scene doesn’t come fully alive until the special effects people go in and add the setting. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something I call “bluescreening” in young adult manuscripts.

I’ve been editing teen/tween manuscripts for more than fifteen years, acting as a bridge between writers and their readers, doing my best to ensure that the story the writer wants to tell is the story that reaches her readers.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed an increasing dearth of setting in the manuscripts crossing my desk. Writers are focusing on voice and plot and character arcs, and on fresh, marketable hooks—and rightly so, as these are all integral storytelling elements.

But our poor little friend, Setting . . . she’s barely there. Such a powerful storytelling tool, yet so overlooked of late. Why? What’s happened? Where did setting go?

These days writers are working their tails off to satisfy the increasingly strong call for action and faster-paced plots, with an accompanying call for characters who can shoulder that.

In the process, setting—the quiet workhorse of stories—is being short-changed. The characters are dropped in a location—a room, a park, wherever—and then it’s “Onward, ho!” to the action and the dialogue.

Where’s the sense of place? Where’s the feeling that this scene could happen nowhere else but here? Where’s the full reading experience?

Too often, I feel like I’m watching a movie for which the special affects crew has forgotten to generate the background, leaving the characters walking and talking in front of that vast blue nothingness.

That’d be a pretty big boo-boo in a feature film, wouldn’t it? So, too, in a novel.

Think about the YA/middle grade novels we love.

Without setting, we wouldn’t have Beetle’s warm, moiling dung heap sheltering us from the frosty night in Karen Cushman’s Newbery Medal-winning The Midwife’s Apprentice (Clarion, 1995).

We wouldn’t have the terrifying frozen beauty of The North in Philip Pullman’s bestseller The Golden Compass (Knopf, 2006).

We wouldn’t have Kathi Appelt’s National Book Award Finalist The Underneath at all (Atheneum, 2008).

We need setting in our stories. We need the richness that makes up setting, the sensual engagement that can only come from hearing the crunch of frosty grass under the protagonist’s bare feet, or feeling the sudden whispery kiss of a spider’s web dangling from the eaves. We’d just have a girl walking across a lawn and a creepy old house. Where’s the joy in that?

The lovely thing is, lack of setting is an easy boo-boo to fix. And when you bang that nail into place, the overall effect on the manuscript is substantial.

If you write teen/tween novels, take a look at your current work-in-progress. Is it all action and dialogue? Or have you given us enough sensory detail to fill out the space around the characters?

I’m not saying go all Henry James on your audience. Heavens, no! Few can stomach such long-winded descriptions of setting. Certainly not your average teen reader.

Instead of describing or simply naming your setting, show your character interacting with elements of it, manipulating those elements or reacting to them. Give us the sounds and smells and textures and temperatures and sensations that distinguish that particular place by having your character hearing them, smelling them, and feeling them.

Along the way, you will enrich your entire story because:

* setting influences and illuminates characterization

Imagine one character finding solace in the songs of mockingbirds on a flower-covered (and floral-scented) mountaintop, while his friend hunkers under a freeway overpass and loses himself in the sounds of the traffic, the vibrations of the ground, and the fumes of a world too busy to notice him.

* setting figures directly into plot

A dingy, mud-caked window screen blocks a character’s view of a fight outside. He faces a choice: ignore the fight, or leave the safety of his house to watch it—or to stop it.

* setting influences characters’ word choice

Trip-slipping on the gritty asphalt crumbs of a dilapidated road blurred by heat waves…. Tromping through biting snowdrifts…. Both can put foul words into the mouths of saints!

* setting affects pacing and tension

Compare the discomfort of feeling the flesh of strangers’ arms, shoulders, even cheeks, as a character shoves through a busy train station with the caress of a cool breeze on the character’s cheek as he wiggles his toes into the powdery sand of an empty beach.

* setting provides subtext and ambiance

Catholic school vs. public school, anyone? Oh, the sensory details that distinguish each of those settings.

Above all, characters need a sense of place to know how to behave. Don’t just give them somewhere to be; show how that particular place influences their mood and actions. You chose that setting for a reason, mine it so that readers can feel that sense of place for themselves.

For your audience, a rich setting is the difference between watching characters and being there with them. For you, it means more meaningful and satisfying scenes. Improving your use of setting is a win-win deal—and that’s certainly nothing to feel blue about.

Cyn & Deborah with her sons

Cynsational Notes

This post was originally published in June 2010. Past posts will be
sprinkled into the schedule for the duration of Cyn’s revision deadline.

Deborah Halverson is the award-winning author of the teen novels Honk If You Hate Me (2007) and Big Mouth (2008)(both Delacorte/Random House) as well as Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies (Wiley), Letters to Santa (available via the USPS) and Cyber World, Meltdown and Robotic World (Rubicon’s REMIX series).

She edited picture books and teen novels for Harcourt Books for ten years before leaving to write books full-time.

Deborah lives with her husband and triplet sons in San Diego, California, where she also runs her writers’ advice website and freelance edits fiction and nonfiction for both published authors and writers seeking their first book deals.

Cynsational News & Giveaway

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Christian Slater, Annie Hall, Rejection, and Me (Not Necessarily in That Order) by Shawn K. Stout from the Writing Barn. Peek: “That feeling, right there. Do you know the one? That crushing ache? The one right there in the middle of my chest that tells me in that moment I’m unloved by the universe? That’s what rejection feels like to me. Every. Single. Time.”

A Logic Model for Author Success by Sharon Bially from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Called the ‘Logic Model’…its goal is to help writers make the best decisions about where to focus their creative energies and efforts when it’s time to launch their books.”

Do I Capitalize “God” in Dialogue and Internal Thoughts? by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: “The only rigid rule for capitalizing ‘God’ in dialogue and thoughts is that you do so when using it as a pronoun: ‘Joe, God won’t like that.’ Beyond that…”

Think Before You Write by Ash Krafton from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: “Even if I were to sit down as soon as I can and start banging out the scene, it never feels quite the same as it did during its inception. I feel like I lose little parts of myself every time that happens.”

Carol Lynch Williams on The Haven by Adi Rule from wcya The Launch Pad at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Peek: “Treat writing like a job. It’s not behind the dishes or taking out the garbage. It’s your profession. You write first.”

Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale by Choctaw author Greg Rodgers: a recommendation from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature. Peek: “…the illustrations by Leslie Stall Widener are terrific. They provide the visual clues that this is a Choctaw story. The clothes the characters wear accurately depict the sorts of items Choctaw’s wear, from tops like the one Chukfi wears to the baseball cap that Kinta wears.”

The Emotional Journey of a Novel by Mary Kole from Peek: “…what we’re looking at above is the standard three-act structure but instead of tracking how the plot rises and then falls, we are tracking how the character feels during each step of the process.”

Editing for Agents by agent Tina Wexler and author Skila Brown from Literary Rambles. Peek: “Maybe the agent’s comments are prescriptive in a way that you don’t really like, but listen hard to what problem s/he is identifying and see if you’ve got another idea on how to fix it.”

What “Frozen” Teaches Us About Storytelling & Publishing by Stina Lindenblatt from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: “There are quite a few plot spoilers in this post, so if you’re planning to watch the movie, do so first.”

Cynsational Author Tip: You may own the copyright to your book, but not everything written about it.  Keep review quotes short, and as a courtesy, provide a link to the source.

A character on the autism spectrum.

Characters on the Autism Spectrum by Yvonne Ventresca from YA Highway. Peek: “At a time when one in every 68 children in the U.S. is affected by autism, it’s interesting to see how children’s literature portrays autistic characters. …odds are high that teens will have an autistic family member, or a classmate with Asperger syndrome, or a neighbor on the spectrum.”

Keeping Up with the Racing Rules by Emma D. Dryden from Our Stories, Ourselves. Peek: “We can’t wish away the fact kids are growing up fast, doing everything fast, wanting everything fast, and getting everything fast.”

Shattering the Multicultural Myth of the Market. Let’s Go! from Mitali Perkins. Peek: “We are tweeting, texting, status-ing, and insta-ing that book until our friends are convinced they must buy it right now or their quality of life will diminish.”

“Ariel” by Katherine Catmull: a new story from The Cabinet of Curiosities. Note: “about a mistreated bird and its shadow.”

This Week at Cynsations

Enter to win a signed copy!

More Personally

My Week: Travel, Events, Revision! Thank you to TLA, LATFOB, librarians, YA readers, and Candlewick Press for a blurry flurry of bookish fun.

I sent my editor my Feral Pride revision on Wednesday, and she sent notes back on the first half on Thursday. Notes on the second half will come Tuesday. I’ve been focusing on chapter one, the target of her most substantive suggestions. My goals are to orient the reader, kick off the action, and maintain in the narrative continuity–all of which are more challenging with book 3 in a trilogy and book 9 in a universe. We’re almost, but not quite there.

With authors Laurie Halse Anderson & Cecil Castellucci at The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Texas Teens for Libraries at the TLA Annual Conference in San Antonio (that’s my back in white).

See also Nikki Loftin and Lupe Ruiz-Flores on the Texas Library Association annual conference.

The post on my mind this week? The Best Bums in Children’s Fiction — Or Why Are So Many Children’s Books About Bottoms? by Emma Barnes from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: “…for the average five year old, toilet training and bed wetting are still very immediate issues, and getting oneself to the toilet on time can be a source of pride (or sometimes an embarrassing failure).”

Greg models Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn at the Macmillan booth at TLA.

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on a rave review from Publishers Weekly for Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn (Roaring Brook, 2014). Peek: “…an engaging, humorous look at humans learning that they’re not alone in the universe.”

Author blurbs also are in:

“Aliens, government coverups, bionic limbs, kooky scientists, luau pigs, conspiracy theories, and mysterious patio furniture—I don’t know about you, but these are the things I look for in a great story. Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn has all of them, plus a huge dose of humor. Read it and enjoy, but be warned: You may never want to eat roast pork ever again.” —Matthew Holm, co-creator of Babymouse and Squish

“Here is a story for everyone who has ever wondered if that brilliant green light was a UFO. It’s for everyone who has ever imagined living on Mars. In short, it’s for everyone who has ever asked the question, ‘who am I, really?’ Read it, then make your reservations at the Mercury Inn. Just don’t be alarmed if you find an alien in the refrigerator.”—Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor author of The Underneath

Don’t miss my Q&A interview this week at The Horn Book. Peek: “…of late, I’ve become intrigued by wereorcas and Dolphins. I’ve lived a largely mid- to southwestern, landlocked life, so even though most of our world is covered by water, to me it’s as alien and fantastical as anything we’d find in fiction.”

Reminder: E-volt is having a sale on Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick) for $1.99 and Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith, $2.99–discount prices will hold through April! Listen to an audio sample of Feral Nights and read a sample of Eternal.

Cheers to Dr. Sylvia Vardell on receiving the 2014 ALA-Scholastic Library Publishing Award!

Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Join Varian Johnson, Greg Leitich Smith and Jennifer Ziegler in celebrating their new middle grade novels at 2 p.m. June 14 at BookPeople in Austin.

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers will be held June 16 to June 21 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. Keynote speaker: James Dashner; faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Learn about the WIFYR Fellowship Award. See also Alison L. Randall on Choosing a Writing Conference

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith in discussing Feral Curse (Candlewick, 2014) with the YA Reading Club at 11 a.m. June 28 at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas.