Friday, May 24, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Author Interview: Tim Tingle on How I Became a Ghost from The Edmond Sun. Peek: "My great-great-grandfather...was 10...when his family began the long walk (The Trail of Tears) to what is now Oklahoma. I wanted to write a book based on these family memories that a young reader would enjoy, with humor and discovery, with snow monsters and shape-shifting panthers."

Author Insight: The Write Mood from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "Sometimes the simple act of writing becomes challenging. How do you make yourself write when you aren’t in the mood? Do you ever reward yourself at milestones?"

African Youth Literature: What Visibility in the International Market? by Mariette Robbes from PaperTigers. Peek: "While catering for their local readership, publishers in Africa also wish to be known internationally and to have business with publishers from others countries."

Seven Questions for Literary Agent Gemma Cooper from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek: "If you expect publishing to be in its own weird timezone, then you won’t be as surprised when it goes through stages of being crazy-manic and then deathly quiet. Be patient and go with it."

The Cabinet of Curiosities: short fictions for the young and mischievous. Highly recommended.

New Voices Award from Lee & Low. Peek: "...award-winning publisher of children's books, is pleased to announce the fourteenth annual New Voices Award. The Award will be given for a children's picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500."

The Core of the Verse Novel from Marion Dane Bauer. Peek: "Because experimenting with new methods and styles is the best way to stay fresh in the midst of a long career?"

Tips for Tackling BEA from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "...we know a lot of you are headed to NYC to attend. We've thought back on past experience and each of us has come up with some last minute tips that could help if you prepare and have an enjoyable show."

Diversity on the Page, Behind the Pencil and in the Office by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "In doing research for books, he (illustrator London Ladd) recommended that creators develop a relationship with others so that they can understand them better. 'It would enhance your work,' he said."

Kidlit Cares for Oklahoma from Kate Messner. Peek: "...because Oklahoma needs help right now, given the magnitude of damage from this week’s EF5 tornado. Please consider making a donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Effort now. If you donate at least $10, I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a signed book."

Parragon Publishing India Unpacks High School Horror Fantasies from All About Book Publishing. Peek: "Parragon is one of the largest visual book publishers operating out of 35 countries worldwide. The company has tied up with the best printing facilities in the world and its books are printed in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Europe, USA and other locations."

Pack(ag)ing It Up from Gwenda Bond. Peek: "No one I know who's done this kind of work has any illusions about the downsides going into it. Though I have heard horror stories about people it has worked out pretty awfully for or who were made to expect things that didn't materialize. But I will also say that not everything I've heard is a horror story."

Interview with Award-winning Author Don Tate by Brittney Breakey from Author Turf. Peek: "Speaking earns decent income and allows for promoting my books. But it also steals valuable time away from book making."

Is Our Culture Becoming Too Critical and Open? from Jody Hedlund. Peek: "...we're seeing an increase in readers sharing their thoughts about books more publicly (instead of privately or in the confines of book groups). And hence with the increased openness, we're also seeing more negativity (as well as positivity)." See also an Open Love Note to Debut Authors about Hurtful Online Reviews.

Turning Story Opening Don'ts Into Dos by Angela Ackerman from The Bookshelf Muse. Peek: "If you want to start with action, you’re probably a plot type person. Go ahead! You do need to show your main character in an interesting situation (notice I didn’t say dangerous, just interesting) where their own personality shines through."

Deepening Character: a Conversation with Cliff McNish from Notes from the Slushpile. Peek: "We’re prepared to forgive even villains a great deal if they make us laugh. It works doubly so for our heroes. Keep them seeing the amusing side no matter what happens."

Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards

By Lena Coakley

The 2013 winners for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards were announced on Thursday at North Kipling Junior Middle School in Etobicoke, Ontario, where students gathered for a celebratory presentation.

Winner of the Children's Picture Book Award Category: A Hen for Izzy Pippik by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Marie Lafrance (Kids Can Press).

Winner of the Young Adult / Middle Reader Award Category: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen (Tundra Books).

Aubrey Davis, Marie Lafrance and Susin Nielsen are all first-time winners of this award.

Cynsational Giveaways

The winner of Ball by Mary Sullivan was Joy in Manitoba, and the winner of Nothing But Blue, Me, Penelope and Country Girl, City Girl, all by Lisa Jahn-Clough was Deena in New York.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

This has been one of my favorite work weeks ever!

I had an opportunity to review copy-edits on Feral Curse (Book 2 in the Feral series) from Candlewick Press and Walker Books (writer in action). And I had the opportunity to celebrate Austin debut YA author Lindsey Schiebe (reader in action) and connect in person with two amazing groups of teens and the librarians who lead them to reading success (author in action)!

Members of the Wolves Cedar Park High School Reading Group arrive in style at the Barnes & Noble Arboretum in Austin.
Reviewing the set-up with librarian Chris Kay (see her photo report on the event!)
Chatting with Cedar Park readers about reading and writing
Answering questions about the writing life
Wow! I was presented with a gorgeous plaque! What a thrill!
Posing with the top readers at Cedar Park High.
Dinner with blogger JennRenee, Greg Leitich Smith and public librarian Jane Dance at Louisiana Longhorn Cafe (we had fried and grilled alligator as an appetizer) in historic downtown Round Rock.
Chatting with the Round Rock Public Library Teen Book Club
Posing with the Round Rock Public Library Teen Book Club.
Bethany Hegedus, me, Jo Whittemore, Nikki Loftin & Cory Putnam Oakes at Lindsey Scheibe's launch for Riptide!

Cynthia Leitich Smith on Writing for the Long Haul from Janni Lee Simner from Desert Dispatches. Peek: "I have a respectful patience for the inner artist but always hold her accountable." Learn more about Janni's Writing for the Long Haul blog series.

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on the upcoming re-release of the Peshtigo School books (Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo & Tofu and T. Rex (originally published by Little, Brown) from IntoPrint Publishing, LLC! See more information.

Congratulations to Lindsey Lane on the sale of "Particles" to FSG! From Publishers Marketplace: "exploring themes of loneliness and interconnectedness from multiple viewpoints, set in or around a remote pull-out on a rural Texas highway where a particle-physics-obsessed teenage science genius disappeared..."

Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tracy Wolff, Mari Mancusi, and Emily McKay at 1 p.m. May 25 at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Voice & Giveaway: Laurie Boyle Crompton on Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains)

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Laurie Boyle Crompton is the first-time author of Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) (Sourcebooks, 2013) and looks forward to the release of Adrenaline (FSG/Macmillian, 2014) and The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High (Sourcebooks, 2014).

From the promotional copy of Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains):

When comic-obsessed Blaze stands up to her evil ex, he posts a racy picture of her online and a battle of epic proportions ensues. 

Before she knows it, Zap! Thwack! Pow! Blaze becomes the target of intense bullying. 

She must learn to channel her inner-superhero if she hopes to gain the ultimate victory; rescuing herself.

Read an excerpt of Blaze.

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?

As a debut author I’m in a unique (and extremely blessed!) position of having three books under contract with two different publishers so I have pressing deadlines all over the place.

Publisher deadlines are very effective motivators, but I still need to set my own deadlines along the way. Breaking a huge revision project into stages such as, “By Friday I will finish compiling research,” or “I have two weeks to do a final manuscript read-through,” makes things much more manageable.

It works well that I’ve always been able to convince myself that my own deadlines are ‘real’ which is probably helped by the fact that I’m a little bit gullible.

When I find motivation lagging I try to tune in to the inspiration that drove me to write the story in the first place. That initial spark is something that should continue to burn throughout the process.

I also try not to think about the book going public. When you write edgy YA, imagining your mother or grandmother reading your work can tend to stifle creativity. Of course, this game of pretending nobody will ever read the book grows harder as the process draws closer to publication day.

The writer’s worst enemy in the late stages is a little thing called perfectionism. The final read-through can be brutal since it’s the last time for making changes. It’s difficult to let go and release your book into the world, but there comes a point where you just need to decide on the word you have changed back and forth with each draft and accept the fact that you won’t be able to tinker with this story anymore. Then the best thing is to turn focus to the next project.

How did you go about connecting with your agent? What was your search process like? Who did you decide to sign with? What about that person and/or agency seemed like the best fit for you? What advice do you have for other writers in seeking the right agent for them?

I love talking about my wonderful agent! The day I signed with Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency was the day things turned around for my writing career.

Mind you, I still had a long path before getting that first publisher yes (and six months later the second one!). But I’m constantly telling writers they need the right agent, not necessarily the right now agent.

My path to publication had many twists and turns, and I know that feeling of wanting to get your polished manuscript in front of editors, like, now! But as tempting as it can be to jump on that first agent offer, be sure you listen to your gut before signing on the dotted line.

I learned this lesson the hard way. After working on my craft for a number of years I got my first offer from a reputable children’s agent and I was thrilled. Finally, here was someone who would get my book in front of editors! I was on my way! But on my way to where? It turns out I was in for three years of heartbreak and insecurity.

That agent happens to be great for some people and we split on the best of terms, but looking back it should’ve happened much sooner. I do not in any way blame that first wrong agent for those early manuscripts not selling, no agent sells every manuscript they take out on submission. But there were many signs along the way that we were not a good fit.

We parted ways. Within two months I had an offer from a new agent at an established agency on Blaze (then titled "Fangirl"). She seemed very nice and said all the right things, but I didn’t quite feel that love that I’d heard other authors talk about. I let the offering agent know that I had a few other partials out and here is the other piece of advice I try to tell any writer who will listen: in addition to contacting those agents with partials, I also wrote to all those with queries who I hadn’t heard back from, letting them know of the offer.

This actually turned into a few full requests, including one from my absolute top choice; Ammi-Joan Paquette. It turned out, she hadn’t received my original query but she was intrigued by my book and asked to see more. As things progressed towards her offer of representation, I came to understand that agent love that other writers talk about. And I certainly feel it still.

So authors, when you get an offer take the time to contact those agents you’ve queried! At the worst it will save busy agents time reading a query for a book that’s already spoken for. And at best, well, you just never know.

Cynsational Notes

Visit Laurie's LiveJournal.

Enter to win a signed copy of Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) by Laurie Boyle Crompton (Sourcebooks, 2013). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America, U.K. and Australia.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Guest Author Interview: Eric A. Kimmel on Marketing Manuscripts to Publishers

By Laini Bostian
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Librarian Laini Bostian blogs at The Made Up Librarian. Today she talks to Eric A. Kimmel about authors marketing their manuscripts to publishers.  

Learn more about Eric from Scholastic.

Eric: About writing and marketing, it’s never one or the other. Professional writers do look to the market. They have to. There are always compromises and adjustments to be made during the composition process and during the revision and editing processes.

The key is how does the author feel about making the changes. If you go too far and say "yes" too often, you may come to a point where it’s no longer your book.

Also, some editors will tell you upfront that they may not be the one to handle a particular manuscript. It isn’t doing anything for them, or the changes they’d suggest would turn it into an entirely different story. Sometimes the writer can go along with that. Sometimes we can’t.

I’ll give you a recent example that just happened with the manuscript I’m sending out. I originally conceived it as YA. Several of the editors who've responded so far made the point that it didn’t feel like a YA. It felt more like middle grade.

My agent Jennifer Laughran called to talk to me about it. The editors may be right, she said. YA is edgier. The characters are older. There’s more sex and drama. My main character is finishing middle school. You might call the story YA, but it’s definitely on the younger edge of the spectrum.

It’s borderline between age markets, and as Jenn pointed out, “The border is where you don’t want to be.”

Editors can’t fit it into a specific genre. They can’t predict its audience or what it will do.

That can be the kiss of death these days.

What Jenn suggested is marketing, not literary advice: Take it down a couple of years. Forget YA and go for middle grade. It would be easy. The changes would be mostly cosmetic.

She also pointed out that the YA genre is glutted right now. It’s been so successful that everyone’s writing YA. Meanwhile, there’s a definite shortage of middle grade fiction.

So guess what I’ve been doing this past week? It’s a change I can live with. I see the point. It actually suits the characters, the story, and me more.

Are these revisions marketing decisions? You bet! Are they artistic ones? Definitely yes, because I feel comfortable with them and actually think the manuscript is better for my having made them.

Laini: So, if this work does not sell, will you be upset? What should young writers do? What would you say to them?

Eric: I’d be disappointed, but it’s happened before. There’s nothing you can do about it. On to the next.

However, that doesn’t mean you give up. Set the manuscript aside. Maybe you can do something with it later. Times change, so a manuscript no one wants today may become a hot item in a couple of years.

The advantage I have over young writers is I know the drill. A similar rejection could be devastating for a beginner. But again, so what? Will you quit and never write anything again?

Guess what? Nobody cares. Real writers suck it up and start something else. The ones that are only in it for a payoff will find something else to do.

What should young writers do? Write! They think they’re going to get rich? That editors owe them something because they scribbled out a manuscript? That they don’t have to revise?

Well, they’ll learn, and they’ll be better writers for it. And if they decide to spend their time doing something else, what of it? I guarantee there will be no shortage of writers or good books.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Voice: Polly Holyoke on The Neptune Project

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Polly Holyoke is the first-time author of The Neptune Project (Hyperion, 2013). From the promotional copy:

With her weak eyes and useless lungs that often leave her gasping for air, Nere feels more at home swimming with the dolphins her mother studies than she does hanging out with her classmates. 

Nere has never understood why she is so much more comfortable and confident in the water than on land until the day she learns the shocking truth—she is one of a group of kids who have been genetically altered to survive in the ocean. These products of the "Neptune Project" are supposed to build a better future under the waves, safe from the terrible famines and wars and that rock the surface world.

But there some big challenges ahead of her: noone ever asked Nere if she wanted to be part of a science experiment; the other Neptune kids aren't exactly the friendliest bunch, and in order to reach the safe haven of the new Neptune colony, Nere and her fellow mutates must swim across hundreds of miles of dangerous ocean, relying on their wits, their loyal dolphins and one another to evade terrifying undersea creatures and a government that will stop at nothing to capture the Neptune kids ... dead or alive.

Fierce battle and daring escapes abound as Nere and her friend race to safety in this action-packed marine adventure.

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

I've been writing professionally for over twenty years now, and I do like to write in my little office (usually supervised by two lazy cats), but I can make myself write anywhere.

Ellie and Luna
I'm also a big believer in the "bio-rhythms" of writing. Different people definitely have different times of day when they are most productive. Between 8 and 11 o'clock in the morning is my magic time when the words and phrases flow easily. Noon to two or so is a barren, frustrating desert, and then my creativity starts flowing again around three in the afternoon, just when I have to pick up my kids from school.

I knew a successful romance writer whose most productive time was literally from midnight to four or five in the morning. She lived a completely nocturnal lifestyle when she was on deadline, but luckily she was single and could cater to the whims of her personal bio-rhythms!

Most of us have jobs and family obligations which keep us from writing at our most productive time. But if you want to be a professional writer, you have to protect that time as best you can.

Sometimes you get stuck having to produce at a time of day when those creative juices don't flow as easily, but if you're a pro, you still put yourself in front of your computer at home, in the car, at the office cafeteria, or at your kid's school gym between games and make the words come or, at the very least, get some useful revising done.

As a science fiction writer, how did you go about building your world?

The Neptune Project takes place almost entirely in the sea, and one of my favorite compliments from a teen reader was, "I had no idea all that cool stuff was down there."

There is lots of "cool stuff" in the ocean, and I went to great lengths to build an undersea world so vivid that my readers could see it, hear it, feel it, and taste it.

Fortunately, I've been a scuba diver for many years, and I was able to describe from personal experience the light and the visibility and the currents one often encounters beneath the waves. I went to the websites of dive companies which operate in waters I didn't know, like the Vancouver Island area, and I studied their photos and read comments from their guests to collect more visceral details to convey what it's like swimming around in such cold, dark waters.

Even though the entire premise of humans breathing water may seem preposterous to some, I wanted to make it seem as believable as possible. I had to do a ton of research and found out that what we can already do in terms of genetic engineering is both amazing and frightening.

We truly are on the brink of being able to create custom-designed children and genetically-enhanced super soldiers. Creating humans who can breathe in the sea isn't preposterous at all.

Finally, I tried to tap into my own teen years and imagine what it would be like if I were fourteen and suddenly was forced to live in the ocean. What would I notice, what would astound me, and what would I miss from my life on land?

Effective world-building often comes back to the simplest details.

In one of my favorite scenes, my characters float in a circle eating their lunch of raw fish and kelp while they talk about the food from home that they miss, like ice cream and freshly-baked bread. I hope in that moment, my teen readers do realize how hard it is for my characters to have to live in this strange new undersea world for the rest of their lives.

Event Report: Lindsey Scheibe & Riptide

Lindsey signs Riptide
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Debut YA author Lindsey Scheibe launched Riptide (Flux, 2013) yesterday at BookPeople in Austin. From the promotional copy:

For Grace Parker, surfing is all about the ride and the moment. Everything else disappears. She can forget that her best friend, Ford Watson, has a crush on her that she can’t reciprocate. She can forget how badly she wants to get a surf scholarship to UC San Diego. She can forget the pressure of her parents’ impossibly high expectations.

When Ford enters Grace into a surf competition— the only way she can impress the UCSD surfing scouts—she has one summer to train and prepare. Will she gain everything she’s ever wanted or lose the only things that ever mattered? 

Read a Cynsations New Voice interview with Lindsey.

Lindsey with Austin SCBWI founder Meredith Davis & Bee Cave librarian Michelle Benavides
Austin authors Jo Whittemore, Nikki Loftin, Jennifer Ziegler, Greg Leitich Smith, Bethany Hegedus, Salima Alikhan & Cory Putnam Oakes catch a wave.
Cory and writer-photographer Sam Bond
Debut YA author Lindsey Scheibe
Here I am, getting into the surfer spirit!
Author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell & author Julie Lake
Lindsey tells stories of her own surfing adventures.
Lindsey Scheibe signs for fellow Austin author (& fellow Lindsey), Lindsey Lane.
Here I am, sandwiched between Austin SCBWI ARA Samantha Clark & Salima
Erin Edwards & Jo mug for the camera; Austin SCBWI RA Shelley Ann Jackson waits behind them.
Samantha, Shelli Cornelison & Meredith at Lucy's Retired Surfer Bar in Austin
Salima, Bethany & Samantha at Lucy's
Greg, Salima, Erin, Nikki, Lindsey, her husband, Meredith, Bethany, Samantha & Shelli at Lucy's

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Event Report: Joy Preble & The Sweet Dead Life

With Joy, modeling her bling & book!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Joy Preble spoke to Austin SCBWI about The Sweet Dead Life (SoHo Teen, 2013) at BookPeople on Saturday. From the promotional copy:

"I found out two things today: One, I think I'm dying. "And two, my brother is a perv."

So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her sixteen-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what's left of the family by working two after-school jobs—difficult, as he's stoned all the time. 

To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.

Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn't survive the accident at all. He's an "A-word." (She can't bring herself to utter the truth.) 

Soon they discover that Jenna isn't just dying; she's being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother's mysterious depression and father's disappearance.

Greg Leitich Smith, E. Kristin Anderson, Nikki Loftin
Joy, P.J. Hoover, Cory Putnam Oakes, me & Jessica Lee Anderson
K.A. Holt, Lindsey Scheibe, Shelli Cornelison
Don Tate, Varian Johnson & Greg
Mari Mancusi wins Joy's angel trivia quiz
Joy signs for Cory
After party at Shoal Creek Saloon

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