Saturday, May 19, 2012

Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott is a Two-Time Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Selection

Wow! A letter from Dolly!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Yippee Ti Yi Yo!

My 2010 picture book, Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton) has once again been selected for inclusion in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

This literacy program serves children from birth through preschool.

See Dolly Parton's Imagination Library on facebook and find out how you can help.

Follow Imagination Library on Twitter.

See also a Pre-K teacher guide for Holler Loudly, created by Shannon Morgan (guides for kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2 are likewise available (PDFs)).

Congratulations to fellow Austinite Divya Srinivasan whose debut picture book Little Owl's Night (Viking, 2011) was also selected this year for the Imagination Library program!

More Personally

As regular Cynsations readers know, I'm a huge, long-time fan of Dolly's acting, music, and literacy advocacy. For me, one of last fall's highlights was seeing her perform live in Cedar Park, Texas.

The Forest of Reading Winners

By Lena Coakley
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

This week, the largest children’s literary event in Canada, the Forest of Reading, Festival of Trees, returned for two days of award ceremonies, workshops, author signings, and other exciting activities that celebrate the shared experience of reading. The highlight of the festivities was the announcement of the Canadian children’s books chosen for the Forest of Reading Awards.

Child readers from participating schools across the province of Ontario chose the winning books. The awards in each age category are named for a different Canadian tree. And the winners are:

The Blue Spruce Award (grades K-2)

Giraffe and Bird by Rebecca Bender (Dancing Cat Books)

The Silver Birch Fiction Award (grades 4-6)

Undergrounders by David Skuy (Scholastic Canada)

The Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award (grades 4-6)

Don’t Touch That Toad & Other Strange Things Adults Tell You by Catherine Rondina and Kevin Sylvester (Kids Can Press)

The Silver Birch Express Award (grades 3-4)

When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew by Jan Andrews, illustrated by Dušan Petričić (Groundwood Books)

The Red Maple Fiction Award (grades 7-8)

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins Publishers)

The White Pine Fiction Award (young adult)

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (Doubleday Canada)

The Blue Spruce Award
The White Pine Non-Fiction Award (young adult)

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Le Prix Tamarac (grade 4-6; French-language)

Secrets de Famille by Sylvie Marcoux (Éditions du Phoenix)

Le Prix Tamarac Express (grades 4-6; French-language)

Les Dragouilles: Les Rouges de Tokyo by Karine Gottot and Maxim Cyr (Éditions Michel Quintin)

Cynsational Notes

Slideshow: Festival of Trees draws thousands of kids to Toronto’s Harbourfront from Quill & Quire.

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.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Check out a trailer by Naomi Bates.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The B.C. Book Prizes Announced from CanLit for Little Canadians. The Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature went to Dust Lands: Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Doubleday Canada) and the Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize went to When I Was Small by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Simply Read).

Revise/Resubmit Requests by Jane Lebak from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "Receiving one of these is a positive sign: it means the agent thought your manuscript had enough promise not to reject it outright, but it still has quite a distance to go before the agent feels it's publishable."

Going Deeper: A Process Rather Than a Technique by R.L. LaFevers from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Going deeper involves exposing oneself, but by degrees rather than all at once. A sense of peeling back a little skin, one layer at a time, seeing how much it stings, acclimating, then doing the whole thing over again and revealing a little more."

The Pendulum Swings Back by Mary Kole from Kidlit Apps. Peek: "The pendulum that swung hard toward digital anxiety is heading the other way now, toward a more natural balance."

Where Genius Is: Maurice Sendak and Ursula Nordstrom by Karen MacPherson from the Evansville Courier-Press. Peek: "Theirs was a uniquely creative and close relationship that revolutionized the world of children's literature." Via Gwenda Bond.

The 2012 Golden Baobab Prize: Inspiring African Children’s and Young Adult Literature from Tarie at Into the Wardrobe. A literary award for African stories. Deadline: midnight GMT June 24.

The Fragile Stage by Coe Booth from Write at Your Own Risk. Peek: "We're still trying to figure out where we’re going, if our choices will make sense on the page, and if anyone will even want to read these novels when they're finished. I call this the 'fragile stage.'" See also Uma Krishnaswami on Training Your Inner Critic from Writing with a Broken Tusk.

My Story Book Club from Lamba Literary: Creating Excellence in LGBT Literature Since 1989. "Each month, we will introduce a LGBT work geared towards young adults with compelling discussions, polls, play lists, author commentary and trivia each week led by a guest youth moderator. At the end of the month, the author will participate in an hour-long Q&A with readers." Source: Lee Wind, see related video interview with Monica Carter, who is founding the program for Lambda Literary Foundation, on Lee's Blog, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Writing and Parenting by Stephanie Burgis from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek: "I think the years of MG fiction are the years when many kids first start really noticing the ways their moms are failing to live up to that cultural standard. friends and I were vocal in those years whenever we noticed our moms' failures. Well. Now I'm a mom, and guess what?"

Literary Agent Mary Kole Seeks Interns from Peek: "Now, I can’t offer you an agency slot or guarantee you a job, but interning for an agency or publisher is the #1 thing you can do if you’re curious about publishing, agenting, writing, or the children’s book world."

Congratulations to Cynsations Asia/Australia/NZ reporter Christopher Chen on winning the Aurealis Award for Best Picture Book in recognition of Sounds Spooky, illustrated by Sarah Davis (Random House Australia)! The winners were announced at a gala May 12 at North Sydney's Independent Theatre. See more information about the award, including more children's-YA winners, and photos and insights from Christopher.

Three Questions for Literary Agent Erin Murphy from Peter Adam Salomon, Keyboard and Camera. Peek: "Most of us...just kind of stumbled into this because of our love of books, and lo, here we are, literary agents! So let yourself love books."

Writer's Cramp: In the E-Reader Era, A Book a Year is Slacking by Julie Bosman from The New York Times. Peek: "Authors are now pulling the literary equivalent of a double shift, churning out short stories, novellas or even an extra full-length book each year." Source: Leda Schubert.

Write Now! Overcoming Writer's Bock by Chris Eboch from Write Like a Pro. Peek: "Even successful and prolific writers struggle with writer’s block. They have just figured out how to get past it more quickly.

Cynsational Giveaways

Karyn on Backstory
New YA Book Giveaway! Enter to win a signed copy of Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley (Book 2 of the Angelaeon Circle)(WaterBrook, 2012).

To enter, comment on this post (click previous link and scroll) and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Please specify if you already own one of the books and are looking to win the other. Or email Cynthia directly with "Eye of the Sword,"in the subject line. Author-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST May 21.

The winners of five first-page critiques from Penguin editor Steve Meltzer (in celebration of Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose by Tina Nichols Coury) were Cathy, Joanna, Kell, Rosie, and Sue.

The winners of The Fives Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin (Abrams, 2012) were Jen in Ohio and Tracy in California, and the winner of a critique by Joanne was Robin in California.

The winners of Diabolical bookmarks were Elaine in Georgia, Jenea in Tennessee, Lisa in Ontario (Canada), Missy in Texas, Patti in North Dakota, Selena in Wisconsin, Susan in Virginia, Tal in Jerusalem (Israel), Tracy in California, Victoria in Ohio, and Vivien in Kansas.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

KyuWon Min, 3rd Grade; see more.

This week's highlight was receiving student art in celebration of Holler Loudly winning the St. Mary's International School Book Award from Tokyo!

My focus was preparation for teaching summer workshops and making progress on my new manuscript, which will be the second book in the series to launch next winter.

Frequent readers may also notice a new "translate" and recent "popular posts" feature in the Cynsations sidebar.

I'm also watching the BBC's "Sherlock" on Sunday nights and enjoyed the "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie" on DVD (the second half of this season's "Glee" has been great, too).

Personal Links
From Greg Leitich Smith
Cynsational Events

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will appear June 30 at Bastop Public Library in Bastrop, Texas.

Interested in taking a class with Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith this summer?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Art Celebrates St. Mary's Book Award Winner Holler Loudly

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Yee haw! Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010) has received the 12 annual St. Mary's Book Award from St. Mary's International School in Tokyo.

In her letter, elementary school librarian Tammy Hays said, "This is a boy's school and Holler's antics really hit home with many of our students, especially those boys who never seem to use their 'quiet' voices."

Featured below is wonderful art, inspired by the book, courtesy of St. Mary's students:

Kenshiro H. Readiness Program, kindergarten
Ren I., 1st Grade
Wayne H., 2nd Grade
KyuWon Min, 3rd Grade
Cynsational Notes

I'm completely wowed by the students' artistic efforts and enthusiasm! Thanks to everyone at St. Mary's! It's a thrill to think of Holler visiting with y'all in Tokyo. See related interviews and Holler Loudly teacher guides for Pre-K, kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2 by Shannon Morgan.

In Memory: Jean Craighead George

Jean's latest book (Dutton, 2009)
Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Children's writer Jean Craighead George, 92, died on Tuesday. The author of more than 100 novels, she may be best remembered for her Newbery Award winning novel Julie of the Wolves (Harper & Row, 1972) and her Newbery Honor Book, My Side of the Mountain (Dutton, 1959).

From Jean's website: "She attended Penn State University, graduating with a degree in Science and Literature.

"In the 1940s, she was a reporter for The Washington Post and a member of the White House Press Corps.

"After her children were born, she returned to her love of nature and brought owls, robins, mink, sea gulls, tarantulas - 173 wild animals into their home and backyard. These became characters in her books and, although always free to go, they would stay with the family until the sun changed their behavior and they migrated or went off to seek partners of their own kind."

Jean Craighead George, Children's Author, Dies at 92 by Margalit Fox from The New York Times. Peek:
"'By the time I got to kindergarten,'" Ms. George told The Journal News of Westchester in 2003, "'I was surprised to find out I was the only kid with a turkey vulture.'" 

Cynsational Notes

Additional sources: Ginger Knowlton, Publishers Lunch. See more from Bookshelves of Doom, including information on two books to be published posthumously.

Video Interview with Jean Craighead George on her 90th birthday (July 2, 2009) by Rocco Staino from School Library Journal.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Post: Laurisa White Reyes on What Once Upon a Time Means to Me

By Laurisa White Reyes
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Once Upon A Time in Montrose, California (est. 1966) is the oldest children’s bookshop in America.

I had the privilege of working there just out of high school back in – er, never mind.

Founder and then owner, Jane Humphrey, graciously hired me – a naïve, inexperienced 18-year-old – and put me to work alongside several more mature and much more knowledgeable women, each of whom became a mentor and friend to me over the year that I worked there.

Falling in Love with Books

What I remember most about Once Upon A Time is the smell of dried lavender that permeated the air. Jane picked it herself, tied swags of it in ribbons, and kept them in baskets and hung them from the rafters.

The shop itself was simply elegant, timeless and welcoming. Jane loved stocking the store with old-fashioned toys and crafts. And, of course, there were books.

Thousands of books! Jane selected every title with care. I came to know those books well.

I fell in love with Edward Gorey’s creepy little volumes with macabre sketches and oddly humorous anecdotes. I discovered The Tao of Pooh, The Story of Ferdinand, and The Giving Tree. I became acquainted with many (at the time) new authors such as Don and Audrey Wood, Cynthia Voigt, and Chris Van Allsburg.

I spent hours upon hours with these books, running my fingers across the rows of spines, dusting them with a feather duster, and carefully repairing small tears in their dusk jackets.

I listened to Jane and the other booksellers answer customers’ questions about this book or that book, and direct them to specific titles in hopes of finding just the right gift for that very special child. However, many of our adult customers bought the books for themselves, and my own collection of children’s literature grew into a cherished library.

I still have those books today and have read them countless times to my five children.

Finally, Jane made certain that every book and every customer was treated as if he or she might be the only one in the world. Every purchase was given a special bookmark and placed in a beautiful paper bag tied with a satin ribbon and a gold seal.

When you bought a book from Once Upon A Time, you took home a treasure.

On The Path To Publication

Visit Laurisa
What did working at Once Upon A Time do for me? Well, in essence it opened up a whole new world. I had always been an avid reader. That’s why I applied to work there in the first place. But working in that magical shop with those amazing women set me on a course from which I have never turned.

This year, 25 years after Once Upon A Time, my own middle grade novel, The Rock of Ivanore (Tanglewood, 2012), will finally be released. It is a story about magic, adventure, and courage. It is the kind of story I hope children and teens won’t want to put down.

When I started writing it six years ago, I recalled the times I would pull a book off the store shelf during the quiet hours at work, turn page after page, and get so engrossed in the story that I had to purchase it with my earnings and take it home with me. I remember the books that stuck with me long after I’d read the last page, the ones I dreamed about, the ones that made me wonder what would happen next.

That’s the kind of book I wanted to write, the kind of book that kids would want to share with their own kids someday.

How The Rock of Ivanore Came To Be

The first time I read a story to my own children was the night I brought my firstborn home from the hospital. I held that little baby girl in my rocking chair and read Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss.

Reading to my kids has been a daily habit ever since. One night, ten years later, I was curled up in bed with my then eight-year-old son, Marc, preparing to read him his bedtime story. “No, don’t read to me,” he said. “Tell me a story instead.”

I told my son a story about a young enchanter’s apprentice who couldn’t do magic right. Every time he tried to cast a spell, something went wrong. Night after night our story evolved. I’d ask Marc what he wanted to hear and weave his requests, be it dragons or swords or magic, into that night’s tale.

Eventually, I started writing some of it down. A year later, the first draft of The Rock of Ivanore was complete.

Sharing Favorite Stories with My Kids

Yesterday, my four-year-old son climbed into my lap with a stack of picture books in his arms. Among them were some of those books from all those years ago at Once Upon A Time. I pulled out The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. The dust cover is torn in several places, but the book plate I’d signed with my name was still in place.

As I began reading it to my son, my memory wandered back in time to the day I discovered it on the shelf at work. My heart warmed as I held it then and I was thrilled to have it.

Why? Because my mother had read that story to me when I was a child. And someday, many years from now, my son will hold his son in his lap and read The Little House to him.

That’s what books are all about. If, as an author, I can instill a love of stories strong enough to be passed down to the next generation, then I will have accomplished something worthwhile. And I have Jane Humphrey and Once Upon A Time to thank for it.

Cynsational Notes

Laurisa White Reyes is the author of The Rock of Ivanore (Tanglewood, 2012)(excerpt), book one in the new middle grade fantasy series The Celestine Chronicles, due out in May 2012.

Laurisa lives in Southern California with her husband and five children. Publishing her first novel is a life-long dream come true.

Visit Laurisa's blog, A Thousand Wrongs. See all the stops on her blog tour.

From the promotional copy of The Rock of Ivanore:

Marcus Frye, enchanter's apprentice, sets out to in search of the rock of Ivanore, but what is it and where will he find it? 

When his path crosses that of an Agoran half-breed named Jayson, their quests become one. Their journeys soon become a race to defend their homeland from enemy invasion. 

As Marcus learns the value of loyalty and self-sacrifice, he also discovers truths about himself he never dreamed possible.

Book Trailer: Goddess Interrupted by Aimée Carter

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Interview with Executive Editor Mary-Theresa Hussey of Harlequin Teen, editor of Goddess Interrupted by Aimée Carter, & Giveaway from Jen Bigheart from I Read Banned Books. Peek: "I found out that Aimée was so young! Still in college! And that amazed and impressed me even more. And once we started talking about aspects of the story and the structure and what her intentions were, I grew even more excited by her potential."

Giveaway features "a copy of The Goddess Test, a copy of Goddess Interrupted, Goddess French tote bag, Goddess sunscreen, Goddess beach ball, and a $5 iTunes gift card." Deadline: midnight EST May 23.

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Voice: Elisa Ludwig on Pretty Crooked

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Elisa Ludwig is the first-time author of Pretty Crooked (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

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

I was a voracious reader and especially enjoyed anything quirky or a little suspenseful or scary.

Probably all of those books got mashed up somehow into a first person teen voice that I use in most of my writing, though of course it changes with the character.

I also, at one point, got really into Sweet Valley High (I remember sleeping over at my best friend’s house and we would lie on her matching twin beds and read one or two of those a night, and they were like candy.)

SVH is probably the most obvious influence on the world of Paradise Valley, which is very stratified and clear-cut and easy to digest. And, hopefully, fun.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level? What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

The discipline and the “psyching up” didn’t come naturally to me—I had to develop them over a matter of years. I just finally realized that these darn things don’t write themselves, and that if I was serious about this as a career then I simply had to accept the fact that I need to put in the time.

Elisa's work space.
I genuinely love revising, so often the first draft is the hardest part. I could revise infinitely! My instincts are getting a little bit better about what brings a manuscript to a “competitive level,” but I’m still learning so much from my fabulous agent and editor.

For me, the biggest challenge of professional author-hood is my day job, which is freelance writing, which means that I log a lot of time in front of the screen. Sometimes, I feel like I’m overusing those muscles.

To balance it all, I often work on my novels on a laptop in a separate space, away from my office desk. I also try to set small definable goals every day, as it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of a manuscript when I might only have a free hour or two to work on it.

Looking back, are you surprised to debut in 2012, or did that seem inevitable? How long was your journey, what were the significant events, and how did you keep the faith?

I guess publishing in general seemed inevitable in that I was committed to try until it happened!

Did I know it would be 2012? No.

Elisa, the summer before college.
My journey really began as an undergraduate, which is when I first got the nutty idea that I wanted to be a writer as a real life, paying job. I studied with some wonderful teachers in college and graduate school, who encouraged me just enough along the way to keep me believing. Then I got a job and I was busy establishing myself as an adult (i.e., paying the bills), and I put it aside.

In 2004, I applied for some residencies and took a couple of months off to focus on fiction again. Once I made that investment and spent time with artists who took themselves seriously, I realized this was still my dream.

The next big milestone was when I took a summer class with Julia Glass, and she suggested I think about YA fiction. That was the best advice I ever got, and I found my agent about a year and a half after that.

There have been lots of ups and downs, and it wasn’t easy, but at a certain point I knew I was close enough in terms of the work I’d put in, and that luck was the thing that would usher me past the final threshold. So I just held out for the luck! 

As someone with a full-time day job, 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?

I’m not gonna lie: I work a lot of weekends and nights. I always worked full time, and I will continue to do so. I do work from home for my day job, though, so that saves some time in terms of commuting, and I also have flexibility in terms of hours. I often get up early (6 a.m.) and get some fiction writing in before the other deadlines beckon.

Now that someone is waiting for my manuscript on the other end, it certainly helps move things along. So that’s my advice: Treat it like it’s a job. Take it seriously. Set deadlines and meet them. Someone is waiting for your book—whether they know it yet or not!—and only you can write it.

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?

I’m definitely making this up as I go along, though practically every idea I had came from the proud tradition of kid lit authors who’ve gone before me. Online, I’m tweeting, blogging (more on group blogs than on my own), Facebooking, Google Plustificating and generally trying build relationships.

The Apocalypsies has been an outrageously amazing resource—not only for tons of ideas about promotion and networking, but also as a truly supportive atmosphere with lovely, lovely people who really do care about one another. I feel so lucky to now be part of this group and I’ve made some wonderful friends.

In real life, I’m trying to get to know local authors better and attend some events, book signings and conferences, making as much swag as my budget allows and talking my book up. I’m also hooking up with some schools, libraries and bookstores to set up events.

I realized early on that it can get overwhelming, so I’m trying to focus on the parts I like most—making my trailer, for instance, was a blast. I’m sort of shy naturally, so promotion doesn’t come easily, but I am actually enjoying the whole journey from a creative standpoint.

For instance, I was excited to come up with the idea for a purse hanger key chain that says “Hang on to Your Purse” over the Pretty Crooked cover image. It’s also just very neat to wake up and see that every day it ramps up a bit more—more requests, more mentions online, new firsts, etc.

Before I was published, I really didn’t participate in the writing community, so I’m definitely trying to make up for lost time. My advice to others is to plug in to the network early and not wait until you have a book deal and focus on what’s fun about the process. 

Cynsational Notes

Find Elisa at The Nightstand, Sleuths, Spies and Alibis, and Pots & Pens.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Interview: Carol Lynch Williams on the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Carol Lynch Williams is the author of more than 20 books for children and young adults. She has an MFA from Vermont College in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is the proud mom of five daughters. Her newest novel, Waiting (Simon & Schuster, 2012), was released on May 1.

The videos featured below offer glimpses of past years at the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR). 

What is the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference?

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers--now in its 13th year--is a week-long conference held in Sandy, Utah. It's an intense program for anyone who is seriously interested in publishing books for children and teens. If you really want to publish, there will be people here who will be able to help you get the best work possible in the time allotted.

Many find this conference to be a life-changing experience as far as their career as writers or illustrators with 20 hours of morning classes and afternoon classes on craft to make better writers.

How did you come to be involved in the conference?

Almost 15 years ago, a good friend of mine, Dr. Chris Crowe (Mississippi, 1955 (Dial, 2002) and Getting Away with Murder (Dial, 2003)) asked me, "If you could attend the very best writing conference, what would it be like?"

That day was the beginning of Writing and Illustrating For Young Readers. We brainstormed for hours and came up with what we thought would be the absolute best conference that a writer would want to attend.

The conference continues to change--we're always looking for ways to make the event more successful for attendees. But one thing that has never changed is that we've always had amazing faculty, speakers, editors, and agents.

What can participants expect from the workshops?

If you are signed up to come for a full day, you can expect to be in a small classroom setting with less than 15 like-minded writers. The 20 morning hours are devoted to workshopping your groups' manuscripts. Your class will be visited by editors and agents. You learn from published writers and illustrators, and you'll have an incredible time.

Afternoon classes are devoted to learning the craft of writing and illustrating. A variety of teachers talk about what they have learned. There is a Thursday evening keynote presentation (this year we have Trent Reedy--Words in the Dust (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2011)), and there's a plenary each day where either the agent or editors speak. Several participants have gotten their start or have sold books or have found their agents at this conference. 

What highlights of past conferences come to mind?

Well, of course the final song on the last day! 

Do you have any success stories to share?

There are so many. I'll focus on only one. Matthew J. Kirby, author of Icefall (Scholastic, 2011) found his agent at WIFYR. Only days ago, he won the Edgar Award for that book! 

Could you tell us about the facilities, dining, setting, etc.?

Every faculty member that comes to the conference has the goal of helping the individuals in their class to become the best writer or illustrator possible. In all these years, we've never had even one faculty member who was not completely devoted to that goal. Our writers and illustrators are award-winning (Caldecott winners, Newbery winners, National Book Awards, Edgar winners-- just to name a few). They are smart and caring.

A couple of years back we moved WIFYR from Brighan Young University to a private school, The Waterford School, in Sandy, Utah. Now we have large airy classrooms with lots of natural light and there's a beautiful auditorium. There's plenty of parking and lovely settings all around campus. In addition, there are several places to eat not far from Waterford. If you're interested in hiking (assuming you're not too exhausted from working so hard), you'll find an array of options.

What is the cost? Is financial aid available? 

Morning classes are $495.00 (this includes the afternoon sessions). The illustrating class is $297.00 (a three-day week), and afternoon sessions are $120.00. We're working with the Best Western CottonTree Inn (in Sandy, Utah) as far as hotel accommodations go. And this year there is a $1000.00 grand prize for qualified full-time attendees. We do not offer other financial aid.

Carol's new release
What do you love about the conference?

I love the opportunity of spending time thinking about my writing, talking about books and getting to know new writers. I love the camaraderie of faculty and students, and how devoted the faculty is to helping people succeed. It's a wonderful week.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (June 18 to June 22, 2012) is for that person who really wants to succeed. You will leave the conference excited and ready to work hard. If you're in the right frame of mind, every class, every day will benefit you.

Cynsational Notes

Conference faculty include literary agent John M. Cusick, editors Ruth Katcher and Alexandra Penfold, and authors Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith.

Hunger Mountain Call for Submissions: Celebrating Sendak

By Bethany Hegedus 
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

One of children’s literature's finest and most outspoken figures, Maurice Sendak, has died at the age of 83.

To celebrate his life and his life’s work, Hunger Mountain: A VCFA Journal of the Arts is asking illustrators, authors, editors, agents, parents, young readers, teachers and librarians to contribute to "Celebrating Sendak."

Please submit anywhere between 50-300 words on any of the topics listed below to be considered for this special feature. Submissions must be received by May 20, with the piece to be published in the Children’s Literature section of Hunger Mountain in our upcoming Landscape of Literature issue.

As there will be many contributors chosen, in lieu of payment links to contributor websites/blogs will be included in the byline.
  • Impact of Maurice Sendak’s work on your own 
  • How Maurice Sendak changed your childhood 
  • Why Maurice Sendak’s work is still read 
  • Favorite Maurice Sendak book and why 
  • Favorite child reaction to a Maurice Sendak work
For this special special feature only, submissions may be sent to Bethany Hegedus, CYA Editor of Hunger Mountain, at bahegedus at Please title the email: Celebrating Sendak.

Cynsational Notes

In Memory: Maurice Sendak from Cynsations.

Video: "Bookloose" by Dowell Middle School (McKinney, Texas)

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Kudos to everyone at Dowell Middle School in McKinney, Texas; for their production of "Bookloose" in support of continued funding for their school library. Please share!

Source: April Henry.

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