Friday, January 18, 2013

Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Looking for ALA Award Predictions? Try Fuse #8 at School Library Journal and Educating Alice. See also Notable Children's Books, 2013 Discussion List from ALSC Blog.

Children's-YA Book Awards: A Demographic Survey by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: " generalize, last year's award-winning books were mostly about white people and created by white people."

Fantasy and Originality or Tolkien Stole My Idea by Katherine Catmull from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "I want you. Not your surface politeness or charm, not your bland social gestures, not what you think I want to hear. I want your meat. I want your juice. I want your weirdness, your voice, your truest thing."

Find Someone Who Is a Stakeholder in Your Writing Life: Find a Few Someones by Kate Gale from Glimmer Train. Peek: "Find someone who believes in you. The kind of stakeholders you need fall into three categories..." Source: Jane Friedman.

Marketing Strategies: Who? Access? Willing by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "Basically, the agent–and ultimately the publisher–want to know a couple simple things. Who do you know, what access do you have to potential readers (online or offline), and what are you willing to do?"

Why You Should Critique Other People's Queries by Sarah Pinneo from QueryTracker.netBlog.  Peek: "It is the rare query which contains only mistakes I’m past making for myself. There’s always something to learn." See also Query Letters from Mette Ivie Harrison.

Top Ten Things One Writer Learned About Social Media by Colby Marshall from Mystery Writing Is Murder. Peek: "Social media doesn't create a fan base--it keeps one."

Dramatic Point of View in Historical Fiction Picture Books from Donna Bowman Bratton. Peek: "Whereas most picture books are written in close third person point of view, allowing the reader to get inside a character's head, dramatic point of view is more from the narrator's vantage point, as if he/she is telling a story as it unfolds, and taking us along for the ride."

Outside Author Control from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "What behind the scenes process that authors don't usually have a hand in but affects how your novel is represented, such as audiobook narration, cover design or marketing, scares you most?"

Diversity 101: Not Injun Joe by Joseph Bruchac from CBC Diversity. Peek: "You can also turn to well-prepared Native American people themselves, teachers, librarians and writers, tribal leaders and respected representatives of their own nations. (But do not make the mistake of assuming that any random Native American will know everything about Indians or even about his or her tribal nation.)"

The Children's Digital Market: Still Uncharted Territory by Gale Habash from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "The Bowker study had some surprises, most notably: 84% of YA books were purchased by consumers 18 or older – and a full 35% of YA books were bought by consumers aged 18-29, by far the largest demographic."

Embrace the Naked by Robin LaFevers from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "...if you think that it’s scary to intentionally put more and more of yourself on the page, to become more and more vulnerable, you’re right."

International Book Giving Day is Feb. 14. Get ready!


The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is announcing the publication of The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children.

Formerly known as the SCBWI Publications Guide, the new book is a completely revamped and updated edition, with a new look, new name and a full complement of current, essential articles on all aspects of the children’s book publishing industry.

New and relevant articles feature such topics as maximizing social media, creating book trailers, best practices in independent publishing, and grassroots promotion.

A highlight of The Book is the up-to-the-minute Market Survey, which includes a comprehensive house by house listing of editors, art directors and key personnel. Other useful surveys are The International Market Survey, The Book Reviewers Directory, The Agents Directory, and a unique feature called Edited By, in which editors have been personally surveyed to provide a history of their recent acquisitions. Key resources include an annotated bibliography of essential reference books for any aspiring children’s book author or illustrator, as well as a current listing of bloggers, reviewers, grants and awards.

The 300-page comprehensive, hands-on tool is designed to guide children’s book writers and illustrators through their publishing careers. The Book is available in hard copy and online to SCBWI members.

Egmont U.S.A.

Egmont U.S.A. this week announced the appointment, effective immediately, of Andrea Cascardi to the new combined role of Managing Director and Publisher.

Andrea joins Egmont U.S.A. from the Transatlantic Literary Agency, where she has represented many bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators, including Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool, Mary Casanova and Mary Nethery. Prior to that, Andrea was a highly respected children’s publisher, beginning in the editorial department at Houghton Mifflin and most recently as Associate Publishing Director at Random House Children’s Books for the Knopf and Crown imprints.

Cally Poplak, Managing Director of Egmont Press, who has been managing the U.S. business from London, said: “I’m delighted that Andrea is joining us to take on this new combined role. She has the strategic vision, business experience and creative background to accelerate Egmont’s growth in the US, and I’m very much looking forward to working with her to build on our first few years.”

As this role encompasses the M.D. and Publisher, there will no longer be a separate Publisher role, and Elizabeth Law is therefore leaving after five years with the company.

“Elizabeth has made a tremendous contribution to building Egmont’s list, and we are enormously grateful for the passion she has put into the business,” said Poplak.

This Week at Cynsations
Austin SCBWI

Newly agented Meredith Davis spoke on "Holding Onto the Heart of Your Story" at the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting last week at BookPeople. Meredith is the founder of the chapter and a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Me with Meredith Davis & Betty X Davis (no relation)
Austin SCBWI members hard at work on a writing exercise.
Incoming RA Shelley Ann Jackson and illustration chair Amy Farrier.
Writers and illustrators gather at Lucy's Retired Surfer Bar after the meeting.
With outgoing ARA Carmen Oliver
Celebrating Meredith signing with Alyssa Eisner Heinken of Trident Media Group.
Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Study with me in snowy Vermont!
Join Cynthia (and many more!) Jan. 19 at Young Adult Keller (Texas) Book Festival (YAK Fest) in Keller, Texas. See more information from I Read Banned Books.

Join Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith (and many more!) Feb. 2 at Montgomery County Book Festival. Check out the art contest; deadline: Jan. 18.

2013 Novel Writing Retreat for Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers will be March 15 to March 17 at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Peek: "This year's retreat will feature faculty Cynthia Leitich Smith, Lauren Myracle, and Candlewick editor Andrea Tompa."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Voice: Erica Lorraine Scheidt on Uses for Boys

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Erica Lorraine Scheidt is the first-time author of Uses for Boys (St. Martin's Press, 2013)(blog; see also). From the promotional copy:

Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. 

From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. 

Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. 

Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical, Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt is a story of breaking down and growing up.

Who has been your most influential writing/art teacher or mentor and why?

Pam Houston. Hands down. She’s the most generous reader I’ve ever known. Listening to her read from an essay or a story or a novel she admires is powerful. It makes you lean in and listen. It’s in how she reads a sentence. The attention she brings to it. Absolutely.

Pam Houston taught me how to read.

I spent two years in the graduate writing program she runs at University of California at Davis and I think it was no one thing, no particular workshop or piece of writing. It was watching her work on Contents May Have Shifted (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012) and teach and make her life and be an artist in the world that had such a profound impact on me.

And even now, four or five years later, she says things that speak directly to my own struggles. She recently posted this:

I just sent this to one of my favorite writing students who has been wrestling hard with a novel this summer and is getting a little beat up: “You are in the vertiginous, vomit-inducing forest of not knowing. It is supposed to suck in there. But you already know that. You also know it is the good news.” I realized I was writing to myself, as well as him, as I begin the terrifying next project.

And I think about that all the time. I think about it every time I get to the vertiginous, vomit-inducing forest of not knowing. But I know it’s the good news. That’s what I learned from Pam.

As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a teacher has been a blessing to your writing?

I’m not a teacher but a teaching artist and I feel exceptionally fortunate to work with young writers. The six years or so that I spent volunteering at 826 Valencia have changed what I believe is possible—both in terms of writing and in creating community. Every day a young writer shares his or her writing for the first time and that moment changes everything. 

Imagine! Things start tumbling out after that. You are not alone! You made a beautiful thing! You put language together in surprising and truthful ways!

I’m awed by it every time.

And then, young writers surprise themselves. They’ll fight against rewriting, they’ll think it’s impossible to come up with anything else, but once they do, they’re amazed by what they can create.

What comes from working on a piece of writing is always so much more than either of us could have foreseen.

I get a lot out of preparing for a workshop. It pushes me to read closer and think about why a story works. What is it about the first sentence? What promise is made about the story? Why did the writer end it there? What can we learn from this?

And selfishly, an hour with a group of teens—who unlike adults often write to write, not to get published—is the perfect antidote for my myriad writer’s insecurities and worries and my little library of hurts. I always come out of a workshop like, hell yeah, let’s go write a sentence!

Downtown High School Students from 826 Valencia

Cynsational Notes

Erica has a studio at Headlands Center for the Arts.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Signed Books Giveaway: Keeping Up with the Smiths

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Keeping Up with the Smiths Book Giveaway!

The Montgomery County (Texas) Book Festival (Feb. 2) is giving away a signed copy of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Diabolical (Candlewick, 2012) and Greg Leitich Smith’s Chronal Engine (Clarion, 2012)! One set of entries per person. Eligibility: U.S. only. Deadline: Jan. 20.

Enter here!

About the Montgomery County Book Festival

Listen and speak with more than 40 authors. There will be an opening keynote speaker and a closing keynote, with a special presentation during the lunch hour. Ten different panels will each repeat twice during three breakout sessions.

There will be a Teen Zone where teens can go to mingle with authors, make crafts and pick up prizes and freebies.

The event also will include concessions, pizza lunch, book vendor, and D.J.

Closer to Dallas?

Reminder: Join Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith Jan. 19 at Young Adult Keller (Texas) Book Festival (YAK Fest). See more information from I Read Banned Books.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Voice: Lenore Appelhans/Jennewein on Level 2 & Chick-o-Saurus Rex

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Lenore Jennewein is the author of Chick-o-Saurus Rex, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein (Simon & Schuster, 2013). From the promotional copy: 

The humorous story of a little chick who proves his mettle to the farm's big bullies when he discovers he has a very mighty lineage. 

Lenore Appelhans is the author of Level 2 (Simon & Schuster, 2013)(teacher's guide). From the promotional copy:

In Level 2, the liminal place between our world (Level 1) and heaven, seventeen-year-old Felicia Ward spends her days in her pod reliving her favorite memories - until she gets broken out by Julian, a boy she knew when she was still alive. 

There’s about to be an uprising in Level Two, and Julian wants to recruit her to the cause. 

But unsure whether she can trust Julian, and still in love with her boyfriend Neil on Earth, she finds herself torn between two loves—and two worlds.

In case you haven't guessed, Lenore and Lenore are the same person.

Looking back, are you surprised to debut in 2013, or did that seem inevitable? How long was your journey, what were the significant events, and how did you keep the faith?

Not only am I debuting a novel (Level 2) in January, I am also debuting a picture book Chick-o-Saurus Rex (under the name Lenore Jennewein) with my illustrator-husband Daniel Jennewein.

The novel has somewhat of a charmed history, but the picture book was a long time in coming.

Daniel and I started working on our first picture all the way back in 2004. It was our learning book, and we tinkered with it for years (on weekends since we both had demanding full-time jobs) before we discovered SCBWI.

It was through SCBWI that I discovered I could submit this picture book for a professional manuscript critique. The critique stung because it showed us that we needed to do another complete overhaul on it before we could submit it to editors.

Eventually, we realized that as much as we loved this first book, we had to move on. Some books are never meant to be published, and this was one of them. We began developing a second project, one that got some good feedback from art directors at several publishers, but unfortunately never sold.

It was the SCBWI Bologna conference that put things in motion for us. Daniel’s artwork caught the eye of HarperCollins Art Director Martha Rago which eventually led to his first book contract for Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? written by Audrey Vernick (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, 2010).

As for me, the conference got me interested in YA and I started blogging about books at Presenting Lenore. For the next few years, I read hundreds of YA novels – which gave me a sense for what works and what doesn’t. I also met many authors, several of whom became like mentors to me, and were very encouraging when I started writing Level 2.

The next pivotal event was the SCBWI New York conference 2011. I participated in the round table event, which led to an agent offering rep for the picture book Daniel and I were collaborating on (our third project together).

We ended up signing with a different agent, one who knew I was also working on a novel. He read it, loved it and sold it by the end of March. Meanwhile, Daniel and I had developed our fourth picture book and he sold that too.

So here I am with two debut books coming out in 2013 and I couldn’t be more thrilled, surprised and grateful.

As a paranormal writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time paranormal reader? Did a particular book or books inspire you?

Teacher's guide to Level 2
My novel, Level 2, is set in the afterlife, so that automatically classifies it as paranormal, though I never really thought of it that way. It’s a bit of a mash-up actually, because about one-third takes place in this sort of sci-fi afterlife and the other two-thirds take place within the main character’s memories – her contemporary life back on earth.

I do tend to prefer novels with paranormal elements rather than those with full-blown paranormal universes. I enjoy that twist on the familiar – the examination of a world similar to ours except for “the thing that (subtlety or not) changes everything”.

I think that’s why I’m so drawn to high-concept dystopian novels.

What would our society look like if love were outlawed? (Delirium by Lauren Oliver (HarperCollins 2011)).

What would be important to us if we knew we’d die by 20 years old? (Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011)).

How would our relationships change if only teen girls could get pregnant? (Bumped by Megan McCafferty (Balzer + Bray, 20110).

The afterlife world of Level 2 was inspired by my love of dystopian literature (I’ve dedicated six entire months on my blog to dystopian novels). I’d been playing with an idea for awhile that incorporated memories as currency in the afterlife, but I was stumped as to how to implement it.

My a-ha moment was the thought: “What would a dystopian afterlife look like?”, and everything developed from there.

Monday, January 14, 2013

In Memory: Gerald McDermott

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Obituary: Gerald McDermott from Publisher's Weekly:

"Author, illustrator, and filmmaker Gerald McDermott died on December 26 at age 71. McDermott was a devoted, lifelong artist and was avidly interested in world mythologies.

"Early in his career, he created animated short films based on folklore and was a friend and colleague of mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell, becoming the first fellow of the Joseph Campbell Foundation."

‘Anansi the Spider’ Author/Illustrator Gerald McDermott Dies at 71 from School Library Journal:

"His first children’s book, the Caldecott Honor Anansi the Spider (Holt, 1972), based upon his animated film, retold the traditional West African tale of the clever and mischievous trickster..."

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