Friday, December 18, 2009

New Voice: Saundra Mitchell on Shadowed Summer

Saundra Mitchell is the first-time author of Shadowed Summer (Delacorte, 2009). From the promotional copy:

Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn't have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer.

A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she's certain it's the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?


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

I was the latest in a long line of women poor in cash but rich in books.

My grandmother, who spent her childhood struggling through the Depression, cared about two things: making sure I had an orange on Christmas, and checking to see if I'd read A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (Grosset & Dunlap, 1909) yet. She waxed long and passionate about books, a love she passed on to my mother.

Mom had a huge collection at home--everything from romance to horror to literature to non-fiction. She claims she took me to get my first library card the day she found seven-year-old me, attempting to read either Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (Macmillan, 1944) or The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes (Methuen, 1913.) Whichever it was--it was 1980, and if you can't tell by the dates of the books--our wealth really was in pages.

Books passed down, books collected at yard sales, books borrowed from the library--I remember long summers of my aunts and my mother and my grandmother, all sprawled out in the back yard under the maples, each with their respective novels.

And because we had hardship with our books, as I got older, I sought out stories that reflected my neighborhood, my life.

I found Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (HarperCollins, 1977), and that helped me make sense of my father, who seemed to disappear from our family when his father passed away. It was a book I came back to when my young cousin accidentally shot himself; a book I came back to again when my younger brother died.

Bridge to Terabithia was the first book I read that told me: sometimes bad things just happen, and not just to you. It made me feel less alone.

So did The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Viking Press, 1967). Oh man, it was good reading about characters who were scraping, too. Who knew what it was like to be hungry, and pressed out of college, and given up on before you ever started.

There's a lot of noble poverty in fiction--maybe that makes other people feel better. But The Outsiders made me feel better, because I knew the kids who had to drop out to work. I knew the kids who got kicked around by their parents--they slept on our couch when they couldn't find anywhere else to sleep. Reading about other lives that looked like mine, that made me feel less alone, too.

Then there was It by Stephen King (Viking, 1986.) First of all, it absolutely cemented my distrust of clowns, but secondly, what a revelation it was! That was the book that taught me to hide ordinary monsters in extraordinary ones, the book where I discovered you can talk about the most hideous things if you fang them and put them down a sewer, and steal away a little kid's inhaler that turns out to be filled with water anyway.

If Bridge and Outsiders made me feel less alone, It hinted that if I wanted to, if I dared to, I could say something and other people might hear it.

Which is where The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (Dell, 1992) finished defining me as a reader turning into an author. The ideas that It gave me, that a book could be real and honest, and bigger than scrubby, dirty, inglorious life at the same time--that's what I found in The Silver Kiss. It was everything that interested me--broken people, the confession that sometimes things just are, and an end is an end--happy is where you find it--that there are monsters, and sometimes it's us--it really was everything; it was everything I believed in one slim volume.

And that's what I had in mind when I sat down, many years later, to write Shadowed Summer. A book that clings in young memory like A Girl of the Limberlost did for my grandmother, like Outsiders and Terabithia did for me--a book about the monsters we see, and the monsters we are, like It. A book that offers the relief of an end, even if it's not the happily ever after end, like The Silver Kiss.

Those four books kept me company as I grew up, and they're the four books that made my own first novel possible.

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?

Aside from specific titles, I've always been drawn to the idea of the paranormal, the supernatural, all things unexplained. There's so much room in there for the imagination to escape--and it's a delicious way to try to understand what is--by looking at what isn't.

I was a frequent guest of the Dewey 130s in the library--that's where Hans Holzer's ghost hunting guides could be found. How to develop ESP, stories about the Bermuda Triangle, the chupacabra, the Jersey Devil, oh, and the vicious, wicked Bell Witch! But I loved fiction too--I could slip into a good, paranormal story as easily as I put on shoes.

Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson (Viking Press, 1975) absolutely convinced me that if I tried hard enough, I could go back in time. I spent hours lying in bed, trying to erase now from myself, trying to get back to see the coronation of Elizabeth I, to see Tutankhamun gaze out at the already-ancient pyramids, to just see the whole world before it became the world I knew.

So it's not surprising that Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan (Laurel Leaf, 1981) became my next favorite- astral projection! I spent hours trying to do that, too--which of course, led to ghosts.

If there's a soul in me to get out, what happens to that when my body is done? Ghosts have become a lifelong fascination for me, because they straddle the universe--what it is to be alive, what it means to be dead.

They ask the most essential, most human questions of all, and there's so much variety. Sentimental to terrifying, longing to joyful--no matter what I'm in the mood for, I can find it in a ghost story. It's bulletproof for me.

There's an anthology that I can no longer recall the title--but there was a wonderful story about a water ghost in it. And I sit, and I think about it-- the moment the ghost glided out onto the ice and froze. It's so vivid, I can see it--all these years later, it's still so vivid, it feels real.

I love just about everything Betty Ren Wright ever wrote; Mary Downing Hahn, Lois Duncan. I love Stephen King, whose ghosts always seem to be contained in some damaged, longing character.

The paranormal continues to captivate me. Even when it's frightening, it's a strange and beautiful place to think about what it means to be alive. I don't think I can ever get tired of it.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making?

All the way on the other end, almost the opposite from writing books, is promoting books. There's nothing mystical about it, there are no arcane signs or glorious portents. It's straight-up work. I've always been a kind of an ox--I just go and go and go until there is simply nowhere else to go, and that's how I've approached promoting my novel.

After Random House's catalog came out--signaling that people could start ordering my book--I sent postcards to booksellers and libraries and schools. I couldn't stop at a hundred or two, though. In the end, I sent about 800 postcards--every single one with a handwritten message on them--to every children's indie in the U.S. and Canada, to every indie in my state and the state where my book is set, to every store specializing in horror or mystery.

I sent postcards to every single public library in my state, to every single middle and high school in my state, too. I sent postcards to the entire active membership of the Horror Writers Association!

And after the book came out, I sent more postcards--to ghost hunting societies and paranormal clubs. But by then, I also sent copies of my book. Signed copies, probably 150 total, to reviewers and bloggers, to stores that weren't stocking me in the hopes they would. To libraries, for contests, for anything. If it was a legitimate cause, I'd send a book!

To all those reviewers and bloggers, I also offered myself up for interviews and guest blogs. My general rule is--if it's on the Internet, the answer is "yes." I can't often make personal appearances, but I can show up online. I've only had to say "no" once, and I'd like to try to keep it at that number.

So my advice for other debuts is--say "yes" as much as possible. Give away as many books as you can afford to. And don't stop just because your book came out four months ago. Eventually opportunities dwindle, but as long as there's something you can do, you should do it.

Because it's my belief that people can't buy a book if they don't know about it. Sometimes it's pleasure--getting to write guest blogs is a favorite of mine; sometimes it's a pain--writing something on every postcard is a nightmare.

But that's what I do when I'm not writing the next book--I'm saying "yes" to the last one.

I'm an ox. And I think that works!

Cynsational Notes

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.

Read a previous Cynsations interview with Saundra about Shadowed Summer.

View a book trailer for Shadowed Summer:



View Shadowed Summer Secrets #1: an insight into a decision she made while writing the novel, set in virtual Ondine, La.



See also Shadowed Summer Secrets #2.



And Shadowed Secrets #3.

Spooky News & Watersmeet Giveaway Reminder

Enter to win one of three signed copies of Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Marshall Cavendish, 2009)!

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Watersmeet" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I'll write you for contact information, if you win). Note: one copy of each book will be reserved for a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature; those eligible in these categories should indicate their affiliations in the body of their entry messages. The other two will go to any Cynsations readers!

Deadline: midnight CST Dec. 31.

More News & Giveaways

Interview with Malinda Lo by Liz Burns from YALSA. Peek: "The first draft of Ash was actually straight—Ash fell in love with the prince. I gave that draft to a friend to read, and she told me that she felt that Ash didn’t have much chemistry with the prince. She did, however, seem to really like this other woman in the book!" Read a Cynsations interview with Malinda.

Submissions Guidelines from Tu Publishing: Multicultural Fantasy and Science Fiction for Children and Young Adults. Peek: "Tu Publishing is pleased to announce that we will be officially open for submissions from writers on Jan. 1, 2010. We are a small press focusing on multicultural fantasy and science fiction for children and young adults. We are specifically looking for novels for readers ages 8 to 18." See also Transracial Writing for the Sincere by Nisi Shawl from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Novel Ideas: Weaving Structure and Theme by Zu Vincent from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Here’s how Jeanne Dutton, author of Freaked (HarperTeen, 2009); Sydney Salter author of Jungle Crossing, (Harcourt, 2009); and Lauren Bjorkman, author of My Invented Life (Henry Holt, 2009), approached the structural challenges of writing their novels, and how these challenges have informed their next books." See also Writing Timeless Yet Topical Fiction with Suzanne Morgan Williams.

Discover the Life of the Children's Book Agent with Jill Corcoran (Dec. 9 to Dec. 11): an interview/workshop moderated by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "Editors email me at night, on weekends, on holidays. They work their buns off trying to find the best manuscripts and once they find the best, making them even better."

The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem (Random House, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: "...an intensely compelling and creepy novel...."

Quantity Improves Quality by Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Two years ago at a workshop, award-winning writer Jane Yolen made a statement that stunned the group of fourteen published writers who attended."

Character Invention by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "I believe in creating a character in an organic way without any preconceived notions about what he/she might become as he/she evolves in a manuscript." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

All About Writing Contests from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "Know what you're entering. Know what happens to your work in the event you win (or even/especially if you don't win). Make sure you're completely comfortable with it." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Awesome Austin Scene

Mark G. Mitchell, Don Tate, Brian Anderson, and Tim Crow.

Mark has a terrific blog, How to Be a Children's Book Illustrator. Don recently signed with The McVeigh Agency. Brian is the author of the Zack Proton graphic-format chapter book series from Aladdin, and Tim is an educator and the outgoing Austin SCBWI regional advisor.

Mark, Don, and Varian Johnson.

Varian looks forward to the release of Saving Maddie (Delacorte, 2010).

Bethany Hegedus, Brian, and K.A. "Kari" Holt.

Bethany (Between Us Baxters (WestSide)) and Kari (Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel (Random House)) are both 2009 debut authors.

Liz Garton Scanlon, Donna Bowman Bratton, and Carmen Oliver.

Liz's All the World (Beach Lane) is one of the most buzzed picture books of 2009. Donna and Carmen are published in children's magazine writing and are leaders in Austin SCBWI.

Greg Leitich Smith, Jerri Romine, Liz, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, Jennifer Ziegler, and Jessica Lee Anderson.

Jerri is an educator and a rising talent in Austin SCBWI. Tricia looks forward to the release of The Necropolis (Blooming Tree/CBAY, 2010), the third book in The Forgotten Worlds trilogy. Jennifer recently signed with Erin Murphy Literary Agency, which has a new website. Jessica formed The Texas Sweethearts with Tricia and Jo Whittemore. Jessica's new release is Border Crossing (Milkweed, 2009).

Jerri and Tricia.

Bethany Hegedus and Chris Barton.

Chris's debut picture book The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (Charlesbridge) is one of the hottest titles of 2009.

Greg Leitich Smith, Lindsey Lane, and Meredith Davis.

For the holidays, Greg recommends books by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Neal Shusterman, R.L. LaFevers, Joan Bauer, Reade Scott Whinnem, and David Macinnis Gill at BookKids! from the Crazy Folks at BookPeople.

Lindsey and Meredith are both students in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Don and Brian.

Tim and Betty X. Davis.

Betty is published in children's magazines.

Julie Lake is the author of Galveston's Summer of the Storm (TCU Press, 2003).

I hereby nominate Hemlock for Austin children's-YA writer mascot!

More Personally

Eternal: a recommendation from By the Book Reviews. Peek: "This book was great! There was always something exciting going on, and it was very easy to stay sucked into this book!"

Andrew Smith interviews YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith from The Scribblers Chronicle. Note: I talk about common threads in mythologies, the dark fantasy/paranormal "trend," where stories come from, and my current deadline. Peek: "...one of the best ways for people to process fear is from a safe distance and in the pages of a horror novel. As Annette Curtis Klause has said, it helps them to build 'coping mechanisms.' It’s what the heart hungers for, the heart of the artist and the heart of the audience."

2009 Holiday Gift Guide from Reading in Color. Note: recommendations for those who appreciate a diversity of characters/culture in their YA book reading diets. Note: I'm honored to see Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) on the list!

Cynsational Events

Destination Publication: An Awesome Austin Conference for Writers and Illustrators is scheduled for Jan. 30 and sponsored by Austin SCBWI. Keynote speakers are Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and Caldecott Honor author-illustrator Marla Frazee, who will also offer an illustrator breakout and portfolio reviews. Presentations and critiques will be offered by editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, author-editor Lisa Graff of FSG, agent Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Literary, agent Mark McVeigh of The McVeigh Agency, and agent Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Advanced critique break-out sessions will be led by editor Stacy Cantor of Bloomsbury. In addition, Cheryl and author Sara Lewis Holmes will speak on the editor-and-author relationship, and Marla and author Liz Garton Scanlon will speak on the illustrator-and-author relationship. Note: Sara and Liz also will be offering manuscript critiques. Illustrator Patrice Barton will offer portfolio reviews. Additional authors on the speaker-and-critique faculty include Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Jacqueline Kelly, Philip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler. See registration form, information packet, and conference schedule (all PDF files)! Note: only 35 spots are still available--Austin SCBWI conferences always sell out! Register today!

2010 Houston-SCBWI Conference is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2010, at the Merrell Center in Katy. Registration is now open. The faculty includes author Cynthia Leitich Smith, assistant editor Ruta Rimas of Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, creative director Patrick Collins of Henry Holt, senior editor Alexandra Cooper of Simon & Schuster, senior editor Lisa Ann Sandell of Scholastic, and agent Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spooky News & Watersmeet Giveaway

National Book Awards Report by finalist Laini Taylor from Grow Wings. Peek: "It's nice, in the Young Person's category of the NBAs, there are extra events so we get to know each other a little. I don't think the 'grownup' finalists do this--and that kind of exemplifies what it's like writing for young readers. There really is a community--a community of the kinds of people I want to be friends with. It rocks." See also a recent report on the event by [Laini's fellow finalist] Rita Williams-Garcia from Cynsations.

What Can I Expect of My Agent? by Moonrat from Editorial Ass. Peek: "You are an author whose property is making your agent money (however much or little it may be). That means that if you ask for a financial record of your account--how much your royalties have earned out, what fees have been deducted from your earnings--your agent should furnish said account with little to no dilly-dallying." See also What Do You Expect? by KT Literary.

Q&A Literary Agent Ginger Clark by Maria Schneider from Editor Unleashed. Peek: "On the children's side of my list, I represent middle grade and YA fiction, all kinds."

The 5-Question [Literary] Agent Interview: Nathan Bransford from The Writer's [Inner] Journey. Peek: "...particularly when the traditional selling tools at publishers' disposal (such as front bookstore placement, reviews, marketing, etc.) are waning in effectiveness, there's even more of a premium for the authors who are able to deliver an audience."

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #144: Featuring Neil Numberman and Aaron Reynolds from Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "Numberman uses blues, sepia tones, and some yellow to illustrate this noir-tale spoof of a fly detective, living in a city of insects, and his new assistant, a rather clumsy scorpion named Sammy Stingtail. A beautiful butterfly, named Delilah, hires them to solve a crime involving a magic pencil box, friendship, and a little bit of jealousy." Read a recent Cynsations interview with Aaron and Neil.

Reminder: Bridget Zinn Kicks Cancer Auction! Bid to Win Art, Signed Books, Editor/Agent/Author Critiques & More! Peek: "Bridget is a 32-year-old YA author and librarian who is currently being treated for stage 4 colon cancer – and her 'healthy young person between jobs' health insurance does not cover many of her expenses. Read Bridget's blog for more information." See more information. Auction I.D.: bridget Password: rules Auction closes Dec. 11. Hot new items include One Critique of a Query Plus the first Ten Pages of Your Middle-Grade or Young Adult Novel by Michael Stearns, Upstart Crow Literary, LLC.!

Marvelous Marketer: Author Maggie Stiefvater by Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "I have a handful of blogs in my blog reader that I read all the time. They’re all either: a) intensely informative on the industry, b) extremely hilarious, c) extremely snarky about the industry, d) involve strange photographs of animals doing strange things to tourists, or e) all of these things."

E-Books Made E-asy by H.L. Dyer, M.D. from QueryTracker.net. Peek: "Don't get me wrong, I love a flesh-and-blood book as much as the next bibliophile. But this is pretty durned [sic] cool, too."

Writers and Rejection: Don't Give Up! by Debbie Ridpath Ohi from Inkygirl.com: Daily Diversions for Writers. Peek: "Ellen Jackson's Cinder Edna [illustrated by Kevin O'Malley] (HarperCollins, 1998) was rejected more than 40 times before it was accepted for publication. Since then, it has won many awards and sold more than 150,000 hardcover copies." Source: Jill Cocoran.

Erin Murphy Literary Agency: "...a leading U.S. children's book agency headquartered in Flagstaff, Arizona. We focus on connections—between writer and editor, story and reader—as well as on helping our clients build their careers and grow as artists."

The 6th Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of the Fine Arts in Montpelier will be March 19-2. Faculty include author Uma Krishnaswami, author E. Lockhart, and Nancy Mercado, editor at Roaring Brook Press. For more information, email Sarah Aronson at sarah@saraharonson.com. Source: Through the Tollbooth. Read Cynsations interviews with Uma, E., Nancy, and Sarah.

Building Your Author Platform Even If You're Not Published Yet (part one and two) by Justine Lee Musk from Tribal Writer. Peek: "It's not about push: pushing your book in front of as many readers as possible. It's about pull: pulling the right readers to you." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

Won't Someone Please Think of the Children? by Carrie Ryan at Carrie's Procrastinatory Outlet. Peek: "...not talking about the difficult issues in this world doesn't make them not exist. Not letting teens read about them doesn't mean teens are somehow not going to face them." Note: authors may want to feature this link on certain book-information pages of their websites.

How To Interview an Agent by Cynthea Liu from Writing for Children and Teens. Peek: "An agent has let you know they would like to speak with you further about your work. You talk to them, answer his questions, and he offers representation." See also Going On An Agent Hunt by Tami Lewis Brown from Through the Tollbooth and Literary Agent Offers: Don't Settle! by Sarah Ockler at Sarah Ockler: Making Stuff Up. Writing It Down. Source: Alison Dellenbaugh.

IndeDebut2010: "Inde-Debut 2010 books are being published by a spectrum of Small Presses across America and range from Picture Books to Middle Grade to Young Adult. Inde-Debut 2010 is proud to support these small presses that are championing new voices, focusing on niche markets, creating whole businesses by reissuing out-of-print classics, and maintaining the tradition of printing literary fiction."
Reminder: bid to win manuscript critiques with authors, editors, and agents as well as limited edition, signed letterpress broadsides from the Vermont College of Fine Arts' Hunger Mountain Holiday Fundraising Auction. The auction features a 250-page manuscript critique with editor Stephen Roxburgh (interview); a 250-page manuscript critique with author Tim Wynne-Jones (interview); and the chance to name a character in Nancy Werlin's next novel. Items also include partial critiques by author Susan Fletcher and Micol Ostow (interview) as well as full-manuscript middle grade or young adult novel critiques by authors Carrie Jones (interview) and An Na (interview). In addition, a 50-page critique or full picture-book critique is offered by agent-author Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary (interview). All purchases are charitable in support of Hunger Mountain’s non-profit mission to cultivate engagement with and conversation about the arts by publishing high-quality, innovative literary and visual art by both established and emerging artists, and by offering opportunities for interactivity and discourse. Visit The Hunger Mountain Store. Bidding ends at noon EST Dec. 12.

Be Bold by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog. Peek: "Everything that goes into a first draft will have to be scrutinized in later drafts, but I think it's better to push on many times and just be aware that you worried about the scene a little in the first draft. It's better to make those bold choices and see where they take you."

Envisioning the Coming Year by R.L. LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "Today...we're going to talk about a different kind of activity—a highly inward-facing one: collages and vision boards. Now before you roll your eyes and think you left all that back in grade school, let me gently point out that collages and vision boards are a highly effective tool in helping focus your creative energies—either in a personal direction or in a project-related one."

More Personally

Kyra Interviews Cynthia Leitich Smith by Kyra from Throwing Up Words: Sometimes It's Your Only Option. Peek: "Once you have a whole draft, all of the answers to the novel are already hinted at in your manuscript. Your subconscious is always a step ahead of your conscious mind, so it’s important to learn how to read your own writing carefully. Over the years, I've heard any number of folks say this in different ways, most recently author Tim Wynne-Jones." Note: Throwing Up Words is a new team blog from Kyra and authors Ann Dee Ellis and Carol Lynch Williams. Please surf by and welcome them to the kidlitosphere!

What are your favorite authors giving this holiday season? by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Emily at The BookKids Blog from the Crazy Folks at BookPeople. Peek: "Of course, Cyn sent me a very comprehensive list of great gifts for all your holiday shopping needs..." Note: check out my shopping suggestions! Recommended authors/illustrators include: Ellen Jensen Abbott (interview); Marla Frazee; Robin Friedman; Michael Hemphill (interview); David Lubar (interview); John Abbott Nez (interview); Neil Numberman (interview); Aaron Reynolds (interview); Sam Riddleburger (interview); Liz Garton Scanlon; Anita Silvey (interview); and Carol Lynch Williams (interview).

Favorite Middle Grade, Tween & YA Books of 2009: a list from Greg Leitich Smith. Recommended authors include: Eduardo F. Calcines (interview); David Macinnis Gill (interview); Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger (see above); Eric Luper; Jenny Moss (interview); Micol and David Ostow (interview); Carol Lynch Williams (see above); Suzanne Morgan Williams (interview); and Rita Williams-Garcia (interview).

When Twilight author Stephenie Meyer visited my class; Why Edward Cullen & other vampires attract readers; What the next big thing is in adolescent lit by James Blasingame at The Answer Sheet: A School Survival Guide for Parents (and Everyone Else) from The Washington Post. Regarding Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), he writes: "My favorite read of the past year has been Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Eternal, which revolves around 18-year-old Miranda, and her guardian angel, Zachary. ...Cynthia has paid homage not only to various vampire classics, from Bram Stoker to 'Nosferatu,' but also to Chicago lore (Dracula is a Cubs fan, and Zachary comments in 'Blues Brothers' fashion that he is 'on a mission from God')." Note: James is an associate professor of English Education at Arizona State University, and the 2010 president of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English.

December Giveaway Reminder

Enter to win one of three signed copies of Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Marshall Cavendish, 2009)!

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Watersmeet" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I'll write you for contact information, if you win). Note: one copy of each book will be reserved for a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature; those eligible in these categories should indicate their affiliations in the body of their entry messages. The other two will go to any Cynsations readers!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Eternal Is Now Available from Walker Books (UK)

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available in paperback from Walker Books (UK). See more information from Walker. The companion book Tantalize also is available from Walker. See more information about that too. Note: that the type style is much more elaborate than on the Candlewick (US) hardcover.

Cynsational Notes

Check out the Eternal blog buzz, interviews, reviews, and readers' guide. Note: recent interviews may be found at Tu Publishing (Cynthia Leitich Smith on Living in a Multicultural World) and HipWriterMama (Writing the True with Cynthia Leitich Smith). Don't miss Cover Art Stories: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Melissa Walker.

Note: the Dec. 7 publication date is found on the publisher website. If the book hasn't reached your local store or library yet, please follow up there for more information. The bookseller or librarian should be able to look it up for you.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Spooky News & Watersmeet Giveaway

Enter to win one of three signed copies of Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Marshall Cavendish, 2009)! From the promotional copy:

From her birth, Abisina has been an outcast-for the color of her eyes and skin, and for her lack of a father. Only her mother’s status as the village healer has kept her safe.

But when a mythic leader arrives, Abisina’s life is ripped apart. She escapes alone to try to find the father and the home she has never known.

In a world of extremes, from the deepest prejudice to the greatest bonds of duty and loyalty, Abisina must find her own way and decide where her true hope lies.


Read a Cynsations interview with Ellen about Watersmeet.

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Watersmeet" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I'll write you for contact information, if you win). Note: one copy will be reserved for a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature; those eligible should indicate their affiliations in the body of their entry messages. The other two will go to any Cynsations readers!

Deadline: midnight CST Dec. 31.

Cynsational Winner

The winner of a contributor-signed copy of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, Oct. 2009) was Glenda in Kentucky. Note: the anthology includes my short story, "Haunted Love."

Note: international entries are always welcome and sometimes win, though the majority of entries still come from the U.S. (followed by Canada).

More News

"Writing Advice: Money" by Barry Lyga. Peek: "I get asked about money a lot -- how much do authors make? What percentage of the book's price comes back to the author? How do royalties work? Well, I'm going to try to de-mystify this voodoo a little bit." Read a Cynsations interview with Barry.

IndieBound Gear Store: "Rally around the celebration and wear your indie with pride! Independent bookstores are destinations of growth, choice, and surprise. Show your indiethusiasm with scribble logo and spirit line clothing!"

Finding the Right Balance In Critique Groups by Kelly Bingham from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "I have had to sort out for myself how to participate in a critique group, and how to get the most from my peers. And I'm guessing you are too. For me, I want to mix writing and socializing. And cookies. Lots of cookies." Read a Cynsations interview with Kelly.

Enter to Win a Copy of Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2010) from KarinLibrarian at Karin's Book Nook. Deadline: Dec. 20. Read a Cynsations interview with Maggie.

2010 Debut Author Challenge by KarinLibrarian from Karen's Book Nook. Peek: "The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published this year [2010].* I'm going to challenge everyone to read at least 12 debut novels! I'm hoping to read at least 30!"

The Literacy Site Shop: "When you shop at The Literacy Site store, each item you buy also helps fund books for children--at no extra cost to you!" Features a number of book-themed items, among others.

What does a map in a fantasy novel do for you?: an Inkpot Poll by Ellen Booraem at Freelance Ne'er-do-well. Peek: "In a couple of weeks, I'll be hosting a discussion at The Enchanted Inkpot about maps in fantasy novels. To help get the discussion started, I'd love it if you'd take the poll below...and then check in at the Inkpot on Dec. 14, to contribute your two cents!"

The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka (Henry Holt, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: "...a fun new take on "Hansel and Gretel," with 21st Century protagonists and all the Old World charm, err, creepiness, of Bavaria's Black Forest."

Seeing Your Mistakes
by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "Writers can’t see their own work clearly sometimes. Even the great ones. Sometimes a writer won’t see how good her work is. Other times writers can’t see where they’re failing. Sometimes writers get stuck making the same mistakes over and over because of this." See Using Your Life in Your Writing, also by Brian. Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

"Genre Prejudice" by Mary Lindsey from QueryTracker.net. Peek: "'Hating' a genre doesn't equate donning a white hood, but it is unwarranted and often unfounded, with the person degrading the genre and its authors sometimes having never even read a book in the genre (or at least not knowing he/she has read one. *wink*). A little tolerance and respect for other readers and writers goes a long way, especially when you're trying to build a potential fan base."

Class of 2k10: "a group of the hottest debut authors of middle grade and young adult fiction." Note: be sure to bookmark for future reference. Don't miss the Grad Party Giveaway in celebration of the Class of 2k9, and comment by midnight Saturday for a chance to win a book!

Finish Everything by Scott Westerfeld. Peek: "There will always be a part of your brain that wants to give up when characters aren’t behaving, when you don’t know where to go next, when the inspiration has faded. Don’t give the start-something-else part of your brain any extra leverage, or it will win every time." Source: Elizabeth Scott. Read a Cynsations interview with Scott.

Sea of the Dead by Julia Durango (Simon & Schuster, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: "Training to become a warrior himself, and trying to live up to his family's expectations, Kehl is kidnapped from barracks by the minions of the Fallen King." Ages 8-up. Read chapter one.

The 6th Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of the Fine Arts in Montpelier will be March 19-2. Faculty include author Uma Krishnaswami, author E. Lockhart, and Nancy Mercado, editor at Roaring Brook Press. For more information, email Sarah Aronson at sarah@saraharonson.com. Source: Through the Tollbooth. Read Cynsations interviews with Uma, E., Nancy, and Sarah.

First Annual Inkies Giveaway Extravaganza from Ellen Oh at The Enchanted Inkpot. Enter to win one of three overflowing themed baskets of awesome books. Categories are "fairy tales and folklore," "adventure and witchcraft," and "ancient curses, modern ghosts, post-apocalyptic." Deadline: Dec. 9.

How to Respond to a Manuscript Critique/Editorial Letter by Nathan Bransford from Curtis Brown. Peek: "An editorial letter is kind of like a radioactive substance that you need to become gradually acclimated to over the course of several days. It needs to be absorbed in small doses and kept at arm's length and quarantined when necessary until you are able to overcome the dangerous side effects: anger, paranoia, excessive pride, delusions of grandeur, and/or homicidal tendencies." Note: when I get an editorial letter, I set a heavy object on it, back away for three days, and then rewrite it, sprinkling in more praise like: "Wow, that parallel construct--brilliantly executed!" or "Gee, your hair looks nice today!" Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Marvelous Marketer: Hayey Gonnason (Publicist at Tricycle Press) from Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "We recently had a book launch party, and there was a miscommunication and books were never ordered for the event. When I found out, I had to drop everything to make sure the books were there in time for the event. In the end the launch went off without (as far as people attending knew) a hitch but little things like that come up all the time."

YALSA announces Morris Shortlist by Stephanie Kuenn from YALSA. Peek: "The William C. Morris Award honors a book written for teens by a previously unpublished author." Read a Cynsations interview with Malinda Lo.

Interview with Bookseller Caitlin Doggart of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Marissa Doyle form The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "The real value of the indies lies in the unique physical charm that each offers as their own personality. Offering a physical space to look at and touch books is the driving force behind independent bookstores." Read a Cynsations interview with Marissa.

Congratulations to readergirlz, recipient of the National Book Foundation's first Innovations in Reading Prize! "From over 150 entries, readergirlz was chosen as a program that innovatively sustains a love of reading for life."

Multiple Journals by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "I gathered my stack of mostly empty journals and read through them, deciding what 'theme' each one represented, and decided to entitle them as such. Then, depending on my need and mood, I will get out the appropriate journal."

Reminder: Bridget Zinn Kicks Cancer! Auction

Bridget Zinn Kicks Cancer Auction! Bid to Win Art, Signed Books, Editor/Agent/Author Critiques & More! Peek: "Bridget is a 32-year-old YA author and librarian who is currently being treated for stage 4 colon cancer – and her "healthy young person between jobs" health insurance does not cover many of her expenses. Read Bridget's blog for more information." See more information.

Don't miss bidding on "A Foot in the Door Critique Package" from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Raise your entire middle grade or YA novel to a new level with the help of the nine published writers at Through The Tollbooth. We'll provide a detailed, professional editorial letter on your entire novel- structure, characters, voice, everything! We'll include detailed suggestions on how to conquer your weak spots, and we'll go over your query letter and synopsis with a fine tooth comb. Everything you need to prepare for submission to editors or agents and get your foot in the publishing door. Tollboothers: Carrie Jones, Tami Lewis Brown, Stephanie Greene, Sarah Aronson, Liz Gallagher, Kelly Bingham, Sarah Sullivan, Zu Vincent and Helen Hemphill help get your novel noticed."

Note: new items include A Chapter Critique of Your Middle Grade Novel by author Jennifer Cervantes and One Critique of a Query, Plus the First 10 Pages of Your Middle Grade Novel by agent Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more about Jennifer Cervantes and Jennifer Laughran.

Auction I.D.: bridget Password: rules Auction closes Dec. 11.

More Personally

Congratulations to everyone who successfully finished (or took a hearty stab at) NaNoWriMo! Teen writers are encouraged to celebrate with Kay Cassidy!

Would you like a signed copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) or Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) for the holidays? You can find them at BookPeople in Austin, Texas. Note: the store can ship at an extra cost.

You are also welcome to email me to request a personalized bookplate for any of my books--be sure to include (a) which book (b) recipient (c) your snail mail address. Thanks!

Cynsational Submissions

If you're an author/illustrator who would like to be featured on Cynsations, take a look at the sort of folks/books I feature (traditionally published literary trade single titles and series), decide if you're a fit, and then send your books and bio information. Please do not write or call to pitch the book, write to confirm receipt, write to nudge, or otherwise contact me. Please note that I don't participate in typical online book tours; I schedule features on my own timeline. Note: This information likewise applies to publicists. See How to Get Your Book Reviewed on a Blog by Anastasia Suen at Blog Central.

Seeking a Blurb: requests should be sent via email by the author's editor or agent, as early as possible before the quote is needed. I am not interested in hearing from authors directly.

Texas Children's & YA Authors & Illustrators: if you're traditionally published, contact me about a website listing.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Eternal Is Now Available from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available in paperback from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand! See more information from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand.

The companion book, Tantalize, also is available in both hardcover and paperback from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand.

Note: the type style is much more elaborate than on the Candlewick (US) hardcover, mimicking the Walker Books (UK) cover, and there's also a photo of part of an angel instead of a whole, stand-alone wing.


CLASSIFIED ADS: WANTED Personal assistant to Her Royal Highness. Duties: Whatever is asked, without hesitation, including but not limited to secretarial / administrative, household, defence, blood donation, driving, companionship, prey disposal, and love slavery.

"At last, Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die.

"Elevated and adopted by none other than the reigning King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda goes from high school theatre wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight.

"Meanwhile, Zachary, her reckless and adoring guardian angel, demoted to human guise as the princess’s personal assistant, must try to save his girl’s soul before all hell arrives, quite literally, on their castle doorstep.

"In alternating points of view, vampire Miranda and angel Zachary navigate a cut-throat eternal aristocracy as they play out a dangerous love story for the ages."

Check out the Eternal blog buzz, interviews, reviews, and readers' guide. Note: my most recent interviews may be found at Tu Publishing (Cynthia Leitich Smith on Living in a Multicultural World) and HipWriterMama (Writing the True with Cynthia Leitich Smith).

Note: the Dec. 1 publication date is found on the publisher website. If the book hasn't reached your local store or library yet, please follow up there for more information. The bookseller or librarian should be able to look it up for you.

Eternal Trailer

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spooky News & Last Call: Immortal Giveaway

The Eyeball Collector by F.E. Higgins (Feiwel & Friends 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog.

Seven Characteristics You Need to Get Published by Carolyn Kaufman from QueryTracker.net. Peek: "The first thing every real writer needs is a willingness to learn and grow. All agents or editors—no matter how busy—are interested in quality work."

2009 Cybils Widget is now available from JacketFlap. Show your support by adding it to your blog!

Balancing Acts by Kelly Bingham from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "How do you take all those reams of writing advice, all the lessons you have gleaned from novels and books on craft, and make them balance out? Because haven't you heard pieces of advice that contrast with one another? Who is right? Who is wrong?"

Top 10 Myths About E-Books from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "...because e-books are (usually) much cheaper than print books, it doesn't take long before an e-reader pays for itself - since most hardcovers that sell for $25 or more are available for $9.99, all it takes is roughly 20 e-books for an e-reader to pay for itself."

Unlocking Your Potential by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Some of my most brilliant students gave up after a rejection or two and never were published. But I have books on my shelf from medium-talented students who refused to give up on their dreams–books published by large New York publishers."

The Importance of White Space
by R.L. LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "White space could be wielded as effectively as the most brilliant prose, and to equally devastating effect. What you leave out is as important as what you leave in."

Winners of Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books: compiled by Michael Thorn at ACHOCKABLOG. Peek: "John Fardell, Lari Don and Keith Gray have been named as this year's winners for the 2009 Royal Mail Awards, Scotland's largest children's Book Prize which is voted for exclusively by Scottish children themselves."

National Book Award Dinner Photo Montage by Lorie Ann Grover at readergirlz.

Writers' Conferences: Approaching Other Writers by Ami from Write Out Loud. Peek: "Once you’ve made a connection, the easiest way to start a conversation is to introduce yourself and ask what type of writing the person does."

Writing While White by Justine Larbalestier. Peek: "What we all have to remember when we write about people—any people—is that the risks of reinforcing stereotypes and thus hurting people is very high. So the onus is on us to do the very best job we can. We also have to remember that even when we do a wonderful job, even if we are a member of the group we’re representing, there are still people who will be offended."

Wasted by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "Here I’m referring to the idea that every manuscript does not become a published book even from writers who have published books and even from famous writers who have published books."

Choose Cybils Books for the Holidays from Jen Robinson's Book Page. Peek: "I've always felt that one of the biggest benefits that comes out of the Cybils process is these categorized lists of nominees and finalists. I hope that if any of you are planning to buy children's or young adult books for the holidays, you'll take advantage of this resource."

Cynsational Screening Room

Take a sneak peek at the film, "Beastly," based on the novel of the same title by Alex Flinn (HarperCollins). Read a Cynsations interview with Alex.

Beastly Teaser Trailer

Trailer Park | MySpace Video


The video below celebrates the New Zealand Book Council: Where Books Come to Life. Note: this is much cooler than I'm making it sound--definitely do click to view. Source: Janet Reid, Literary Agent.



Remember Shayne Leighton, the amazing young filmmaker who created my book trailers for Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)?

Here's a peek at her latest project, "The Incubus." See also a Cynsations interview with Shayne.



More Personally

Happy (American) Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it!

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win a contributor-signed copy of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, Oct. 2009)!

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Immortal" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I'll contact you if you win). Deadline: midnight CST Nov. 30.

See also a PDF excerpt of Immortal which highlights my short story, "Haunted Love." The story is set in the same universe as Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and features new characters.

Spooky Events

Destination Publication: An Awesome Austin Conference for Writers and Illustrators is scheduled for Jan. 30 and sponsored by Austin SCBWI. Keynote speakers are Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and Caldecott Honor author-illustrator Marla Frazee, who will also offer an illustrator breakout and portfolio reviews. Presentations and critiques will be offered by editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, author-editor Lisa Graff of FSG, agent Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Literary, agent Mark McVeigh of The McVeigh Agency, and agent Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Advanced critique break-out sessions will be led by editor Stacy Cantor of Bloomsbury. In addition, Cheryl and author Sara Lewis Holmes will speak on the editor-and-author relationship, and Marla and author Liz Garton Scanlon will speak on the illustrator-and-author relationship. Note: Sara and Liz also will be offering manuscript critiques. Illustrator Patrice Barton will offer portfolio reviews. Additional authors on the speaker-and-critique faculty include Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Jacqueline Kelly, Philip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler. See registration form, information packet, and conference schedule (all PDF files)!

2010 Houston-SCBWI Conference is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2010, at the Merrell Center in Katy. Registration is now open. The faculty includes author Cynthia Leitich Smith, assistant editor Ruta Rimas of Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, creative director Patrick Collins of Henry Holt, senior editor Alexandra Cooper of Simon & Schuster, senior editor Lisa Ann Sandell of Scholastic, and agent Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.