Friday, February 13, 2015

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations to Brian Yansky on the release of Utopia, Iowa (Candlewick, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Utopia, Iowa is about a small town where the supernatural meets the natural. There's some murder and mystery and mayhem in this novel. Ghosts and other creatures and humans abound. 

Some funny moments. Some sad. 

At heart, it's a story about a boy who wants to write for the movies and his struggle with leaving all he knows (family, friends, hometown) to pursue his dreams.

See also The Road to Utopia, Iowa Was Paved with Rejection by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Diary of a Writer. Peek: "How many rejections did Utopia, Iowa, get? I could probably ask my amazing agent for an exact number, but I’ll guess in the neighborhood of fifteen, including one from the publisher who ultimately accepted and published it (though not the same editor). And also--an important detail- the version she accepted was not that same version that had been rejected."

More News & Giveaways

Confronting Grief with YA Literature: An Interview with Jason Reynolds by Brook Stephenson from The Gawker. Peek: "People always say time heals. Time doesn't necessarily heal anything. It allows you to manage things. There are occasions where you feel the pain as if it just happened but you know that it's a fleeting moment."

Seven Core Values to Celebrate During Black History Month by Veronica Schneider from Lee & Low. Peek: "we like to not only highlight African Americans who have made a difference, but also explore the diverse experiences of black culture throughout history, from the struggle for freedom in the South and the fight for civil rights to the lively rhythms of New Orleans jazz and the cultural explosion of the Harlem Renaissance."

Simple Promotional Tip: Call Your Book by Its Name by Sharon Bially from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Time and again I’ve seen even the most experienced authors make what I consider to be a big publicity faux pas. It happens at readings, on conference panels and in casual conversation.It can be summed up with these two simple words. 'My book.'"

Congratulations to Isabel Quintero (for older readers) and Duncan Tonatiuh (for younger readers), winners of the 2015 Tomás Rivera Award from Latinas for Latino Lit. Peek: "Established in 1995, the award honors authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican America experience."

Official SCBWI Conference Blog from SCBWI. Note: next best thing to attending the annual winter conference in New York.

Dear Writers and Editors: Some Cautions About Selecting Beta Readers by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "Speaking to a tour guide at a museum is not enough. They are not the person with the authority to work with you. Obviously they're interested in education but there's an important distinction in what they do, and what a tribe's research board does."

Thematic Book List: Extreme Weather from The Miss Rumphius Effect. Peek: "...a list of books that focuses on storms and other conditions caused by extreme weather conditions."

Creating Fascination with a Character by Sarah Callender from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Not knowing how we are supposed to feel about a real person, in real life, is not comfortable. But in fiction? It is delicious."

Four Research Hacks for Writing Thrillers by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "One of the most common questions I’m asked as an author is, “How can you write thrillers if you’ve never served in the military/emergency services/spy agencies/etc.?"

Perspectives of Diversity in Book Reviews, Part 1: "Scarcely Plausible" by Malinda Lo from Diversity in YA. Peek: "In a novel, the writer’s goal is to cause the reader to lose themselves in the story, so anything that knocks the reader out of the story’s world may appear to be a flaw. When a diverse cast is criticized as 'contrived,' though, it’s a bit more complicated."

2015 Erza Jack Keats Book Award: winners Chieri Uegaki (new writer) and Chris Haughton (new illustrator). See honorees.  

Cynsational Giveaway

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Super busy week! I finished my speech on Crafting Diverse Books for Young Readers for tomorrow's Austin SCBWI meeting and critiqued ten partial manuscripts for our chapter's upcoming regional conference. See event details below. What's more, I'm grading my VCFA MFA students' first round of packets. Whew!

This week a sun-shiny beauty appeared in my back yard.
Thank you to readergirlz for the shout out about the upcoming release of Feral Pride (Candlewick, Feb. 24, 2015)!

The Horn Book says of Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015): "Cynthia Leitich Smith takes a characteristically paranormal approach in 'Cupid’s Beaux': “slipped” angel Joshua must decide whether it’s ethical to conceal his celestial identity and woo human Jamal.... The assortment of approaches offers plenty of surprises, and the collection can be read in one sitting without becoming repetitive."

Link of the Week: How Authors Get Paid from Mette Ivie Harrison. Peek: "This all sounds perfectly obvious, right? But a lot of people I talk to think that authors get paid a lot more than they actually get paid. This is partly because of a wide variety of misconceptions, such as...."

Now available! More coverage to come!
Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Cynthia will speak on "Crafting Diverse Books for Young Readers" at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 at the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting at BookPeople in Austin.

The SCBWI Austin 2015 Writers and Illustrators Working Conference will take place March 7 and March 8 at Marriott Austin South. Note: Cynthia will be moderating a panel and offering both critiques and consultations.

Releases Feb. 24, 2015
Cynthia will appear from April 14 to April 17 at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Texas Library Association in Austin.

Join Cynthia from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Saratoga Springs Public Library for a celebration in conjunction with Saratoga Reads! at Saratoga Springs, New York. Note: Cynthia will be presenting Jingle Dancer (2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001) and Indian Shoes (2002)(all published by HarperColllins).

Cynthia will serve as the master class faculty member from June 19 to June 21 May 2 at the VCFA Alumni Mini-Residency in Montpelier, Vermont.

Cynthia will speak from June 25 to June 30 on a We Need Diverse Books panel at the 2015 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Trailer: Dreaming In Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Dreaming In Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in) and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick Press, 2014). From the promotional copy:

A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today.

Truly universal in its themes, Dreaming In Indian will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots,’ ‘Battles,’ ‘Medicines,’ and ‘Dreamcatchers,’ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media.

Emerging and established Native artists, including acclaimed author Joseph Boyden, renowned visual artist Bunky Echo Hawk, and stand-up comedian Ryan McMahon, contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous, expressing them through such mediums as art, food, the written word, sport, dance, and fashion. Renowned chef Aaron Bear Robe, for example, explains how he introduces restaurant customers to his culture by reinventing traditional dishes. And in a dramatic photo spread, model Ashley Callingbull and photographer Thosh Collins reappropriate the trend of wearing ‘Native’ clothing.

Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing hopes for the future, Dreaming In Indian refuses to shy away from difficult topics. Insightful, thought-provoking, and beautifully honest, this book will to appeal to young adult readers. An innovative and captivating design enhances each contribution and makes for a truly unique reading experience.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Guest Post & Critique Giveaway: Heather Demetrios on Becoming the Designated Typist

By Heather Demetrios
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
For some people, starting a new novel is like that scene in "The Sound Of Music," where Maria’s tra-la-la-ing on a mountaintop, arms spread out, spinning in delirious joy.

If you’re like me, though, that blank white page isn’t cause for bursting into song.

Bursting into tears, yes. The endless possibilities are overwhelming, so many possible plots and characters to choose from—and what about voice, structure, tense and…and…and…

In order to banish the insanity and keep your freak-outs at bay, it can be tempting to hurry up and create a nice, tidy plot that you can stick characters into, much like those Velcro and felt landscapes in preschool classrooms. That’s certainly a way to go about it. And it just might work for some people.

However, I suspect that the difference between a great novel and a good novel may lie in how much freedom we give our characters.

All the fancy plot twists in the world won’t mean a thing if your reader doesn’t care about your protagonist. The best way to get them to care is to create a character who inhabits her world in such a way that the experiences she has (i.e. plot) are true reflections of her inner journey and her nature. This is how you avoid the pitfalls of the contrived plot, the unearned ending, the story that just won’t sing. So how do we do this?

First, we need to listen to our characters. This is impossible when we’re yammering on about what we want their story to be. Doesn’t your character have a say in what happens in her life?

Heather Demetrios
While I believe it’s necessary to have some general idea of where you’re going with a story before you begin, the key is to be willing to throw that whole plot out the window if you have to.

Focus on your character, allowing the plot to come from her.

Put her in a situation—then see what she does.

Maybe you want her to kill someone but she shows an unexpected reluctance to go through with the deed. See how that reluctance plays out. Get to know your character so that you can get in her skin.

You can do this by:

  • creating playlists,
  • interviewing her,
  • daydreaming about her life,
  • journaling in her first-person POV about other characters and events in the story,
  • writing scenes from the POV of other characters so that you can secretly watch her and see what she does.

These are just a few ways you can get out of your head and into the heart of your story. Chances are, you’ll come up with unexpected ideas that are specific to your character and her story, not the regurgitated plot lines of other YA books.

Something else might happen, too. Something magical.

You might feel as if you aren’t writing the story anymore, as if you are simply a conduit. If you’ve ever started writing and it suddenly morphed in amazing, unexpected ways, my guess is that this was a moment in which you—conscious of it or not—handed over the reigns to your character becoming, as Anne Lamott says in Bird By Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life, “the designated typist.”

When we become the designated typist, we let go of our need to control our novel and create space for organic work that radiates the kind of honesty that draws readers in and makes them fall in love with the characters and plot of your story.

So put the outline away, take a breath, and see what happens.

The result may just make you break into song: the page is alive, with the sound of…

You get it.

Cynsational Notes

When she’s not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband in New York City.

Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real (Henry Holt, 2014).

Her other novels include Exquisite Captive (Balzer + Bray, 2014), the first in the Dark Caravan Cycle fantasy series, and I’ll Meet You There (Henry Holt, 2015). She is the founder of Live Your What, an organization dedicated to fostering passion in people of all ages and creating writing opportunities for underserved youth. Find her on Twitter @HDemetrios.

Writespace Writing Center 

Heather will be teaching up to six intermediate and advanced students during six sessions from March 11 to April 15 at Writespace in Houston. Note: Writers arrange their own most convenient classroom times and meetings with instructor. About the class:

Feb. 3, 2015 release date!
"Sometimes it feels like a story isn’t working. The voice might feel off, or the plot seems contrived. Perhaps scenes are reading dull or your main character feels paper-thin. You might have a brand new idea that you can’t seem to get off the ground because every plot point you think of feels like a cliché.

"When a book isn’t working or a new project feels stunted, we’ve often lost sight of our work’s protagonist and secondary characters. Rather than listening to what our characters want and need, we have imposed a pre-conceived notion of what we think the book is supposed to be.

"Regardless of whether you tend to write from a plot or character standpoint, being able to tune into your characters in order to find the truth of your novel is a useful skill for any writer.

"In this six-week workshop, we’ll look at how to plot or revise your YA novel through exercises that will help you get out of your head and into the heart of your work. In addition to weekly writing exercises and submissions of your work for critique, we’ll consider new ways to access your character, such as through taking field trips with him or her, by creating music playlists, and other unique methods. Along the way, we’ll look at how this shift affects all elements of our work including voice, dialogue, structure, theme and—of course—plot.

"This course is designed for intermediate to advanced writers working in any genre within YA. If you’re looking for a challenging, dynamic workshop that will take your writing to the next level, this workshop is for you.

"Please be prepared to spend at least three hours a week on short reading assignments, your own writing, and online discussion. You will be asked to turn in two 10-page submissions of your novel for critique and to read two YA novels to enhance our discussion (if you'd like to get a head-start, please read the novels The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2011) and The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (Speak, 2011).

"Together, we’ll create a supportive community through reading one another’s work, discussing the assigned reading, and sharing insights garnered from our exercises. Expect lively discussions and lots of fun!"

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a five-to-ten page critique of your English-language young adult manuscript by Heather. Eligibility: international.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Memory: George M. Nicholson

Acquired Rights from Harper.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

George McHugh Nicholson, 1937-1950 by Shannon Maughan from The Horn Book. Peek: "Esteemed literary agent and innovative publishing executive George Nicholson...died February 3 in New York City."

Remembering George McHugh Nicholson from Children's Book Council. Peek:

"Soon after Nicholson moved to New York City in 1959, he took on a position with friend Albert Leventhal, president of Artists and Writers Guild, which published Golden Books. The position provided a valuable overview of publishing, from layout and design to manufacturing. Nicholson went on to work for the president of Dell Publishing, where he championed paperbacks of literary quality."

Literary agent George Nicholson died on February 3. He was 77. from Shelf Awareness. Peek: "Many people credit Nicholson with inventing paperback publishing for children, when he founded Delacorte Press and Yearling Books and acquired Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little from Harper for $37,500, "which in 1966 was all the money in the world," Nicholson told Leonard S. Marcus for an article in the Horn Book."

Monday, February 09, 2015

Giveaway: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win a signed advanced reader copy of Kissing in America by Margo Rabb (HarperCollins, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Acclaimed writer Margo Rabb's Kissing in America is "a wonderful novel about friendship, love, travel, life, hope, poetry, intelligence, and the inner lives of girls," raves internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love).

In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that's still so present. 

Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who understands Eva's grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head over heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the West Coast to see Will again. 

As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love.

In this honest and emotional journey that National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr calls "gorgeous, funny, and joyous," readers will experience the highs of infatuation and the lows of heartache as Eva contends with love in all its forms.

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