Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Voice: Ellen Jensen Abbott on Watersmeet

Ellen Jensen Abbott is the first-time author of Watersmeet (Marshall Cavendish, April 1, 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.

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

Like most writers, I was a voracious reader. I swallowed books whole, investing totally in the worlds of each novel.

I remember coming into the kitchen as a teenager after reading a book called May I Cross Your Golden River? by Barbara Corcoran and Paige Dixon (out of print). I was sobbing, but my mom knew me well enough to not bother asking, "Are you hurt?" Instead she said, "Are you reading another good book?"

My style of reading was highly entertaining to some of my high school friends. If the narrator said, "She smiled angelically," so did I. If it said, "She grunted and grimaced," so did I. I would get pulled out of my book by my friends, giggling at the faces I was making. It got embarrassing!

So when the main character of Watersmeet came to me and insisted I tell her story, she was, of course, the heroine of a young adult novel. And since I was devoted to C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia—I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) thirteen times!—she had to be in a fantasy.

I'm sure this is why I'm a YA author now. I think tweens and teens are much better at reading with their hearts, before they learn how to find the metaphor and interpret symbols and consider if a text is modern or post-modern. I found that kind of reading stimulating in college, but I missed the joy.

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

I find world building a wild mix of almost philosophical considerations and minute detail.

Watersmeet is a prequel to the first book I wrote and is set in the same land, Seldara. As I began to build the world of Seldara, I wondered about its origins, history, religion, myths, and heroes. That's the philosophical element.

When I sent that manuscript around, Margery Cuyler at Marshall Cavendish liked it but said it read like a sequel. So, I went back and started writing the heroic stories that I had invented as background. That book became Watersmeet—and Margery bought it!

Although it seemed like I had written hundreds of "wasted" pages, it made the world much more three-dimensional. I know how the past and the future will affect each other in Seldara, where the societies I created are headed and how deep the conflicts among them go.

On a more practical level, the world of Seldara is based on the woodsy part of New Hampshire where I grew up. But it's the White Mountains writ large—as I saw them as a kid.

And here's where the nitty-gritty comes in: creating a map so the sun always sets in the west, following a calendar so spring doesn't last for six months, researching tree types so there are no desert plants in an deciduous forest, reading up on archery so that a character who is described as a great archer doesn't miss a target a beginner would hit.

In world building, you have to follow your decisions to their natural conclusions. If one of my dwarves lives primarily underground, how can she farm? If centaurs can speak with hoofed animals (as my centaurs can), would they eat them? How much faster would a faun move across given terrain than a human?

There are lots of details to keep straight, but that's the fun of it! And the detail can be a relief from questions of what kinds of gods do these folk worship.

Spooky 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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Author Interview: Alex Flinn on A Kiss In Time

Congratulations on the release of A Kiss in Time (HarperCollins, 2009)! Could you tell us a little about the novel?

A Kiss in Time is the story of Talia, whose entire life has been devoted to the avoidance of spindles. She's been very sheltered and longs for the time when she can travel, as other princesses do. But when she touches the spindle shown to her by an old lady, she falls into a deep sleep.

It is also the story about Jack, who lives three hundred years later. His parents send him on a tour of Europe, a tour he finds very dull. So he sneaks away from the tour group to look for the beach. But he gets lost and ends up in a strange place, hidden from the world, where everything looks old fashioned, like Colonial Williamsburg, and everyone is asleep. He sees a castle, enters it, and goes upstairs. There, he sees a very beautiful girl his own age, and he feels compelled to kiss her.

Well, that's where the problems start. Talia wasn't supposed to touch the spindle, so everyone is mad at her when they realize they've been sleeping three-hundred years. And Jack wasn't supposed to kiss the princess, so they throw him in the dungeon for sullying her. But Talia comes down to the dungeon and tells Jack that she will free him from his imprisonment...if he takes her back to Miami with him.

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

I was writing another fairy tale story, one that didn't work out, and I started thinking about Sleeping Beauty. The story neglects to tell us what happens when the princess wakes up a hundred or so years later.

I grew up loving Sleeping Beauty, particularly Tchaikovsky's version, but since I grew up in New York, the tales of Washington Irving also played an important part in my life.

I remember listening to Rip Van Winkle on audio in the school library on snowy days when we couldn't go to the playground (The version I remember even had songs!). I also loved the play "Brigadoon," which is about a town that wakes for only one day every hundred years, and Woody Allen's movie, "Sleeper."

It struck me that Sleeping Beauty was really sort of the same type of story, the story of someone who oversleeps and comes back into a whole different world. I started writing this story, and I never finished the other one.

What was the timeline between spark and each publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The book was a quick write for me. Once I started writing, both characters' viewpoints came flowing out of me, which was a relief after the other book I'd struggled with.

All told, it took about eight months. Then, another year to publish. There are eighteen months between this book and my last because of the one I chucked.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing the book to life?

The main challenge of the book was to make there be some conflict, other than whether the boy and the girl would eventually fall in love, some obstacle. I was already very familiar with the underlying story, and the book was set in my hometown. I decided the conflict would come in the form of the evil fairy, Malvolia, who is very upset that Talia has been awakened by someone whom Malvolia believes is not her true love.

I tried very hard to make Malvolia a fully-realized character. In the story, Malvolia puts the curse on Beauty because she is upset about not being invited to a party. While I had dealt with party envy because I have young daughters who've been heartbroken, on occasion, at not being invited to other kids' birthday parties, I didn't really think this was sufficient reason for Malvolia to want Talia dead. There ends up being a much greater, and more understandable, reason why Malvolia hates Talia's father and tries to take it out on Talia.

Other, smaller challenges, came from the timing. How would people not know about the kingdom? What would happen once they awakened? And how would it end?

I was especially taken with with your depictions of girls and women in the story. Could you give us some insights as to how, considering the original fairy tale, you approached the novel in terms of gender and character(s)?

There are so many stories, through the years, about girls who are treated as property that can be moved around at their fathers' or later, husbands' wills.

Whether it is the Bennet girls in Austin's novels, set in England, who must live their whole lives in hopes of making a felicitous marriage to satisfy their parents and society, or the women in Lisa See's novels, set in China, who undergo painful foot binding (including the breaking of their toes) so that they can marry well, women seldom have free will.

This is particularly apparent in fairy tales. My previous fairy tale novel was inspired by the idea of Beauty (in Beauty and the Beast) sacrificing herself to save her father.

This one was inspired by the idea of Sleeping Beauty being kept a virtual prisoner to keep her away from spindles, which were both common household objects and a fairly obvious symbol of male virility.

When she finally reaches her sixteenth birthday, she is supposed to marry, which symbolizes freedom, but since she hasn't met her husband, it will really be a new form of imprisonment.

My thought was that women haven't changed that much, inside, in the past several hundred years, though society's treatment of them has in some cases. So a girl like Sleeping Beauty might be told that she can't go out, can't touch a spindle, or what all, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't scheme against it. In my story, the very first time Talia gets a bit of freedom, she pricks her finger on a spindle. But, because she wakes in 2009, the world treats her very differently.

Do you have a vision for your career as an author or take it book-to-book or both? How does that come together in your mind?

I've thought about this a lot. This book is sort of a departure for me.

My first five books were realistic fiction, and then I wrote a book, Beastly (HarperCollins, 2007), which is a modern Beauty and the Beast retelling, set in New York City. But that book would still appeal to largely the same audience as my earlier books because it was a male narrator and sort of a violent, suspenseful book.

I wanted to write another fairy tale book, for kids who enjoyed Beastly. I think it's important that, if readers like a book, that something else by me may appeal.

But A Kiss in Time is a gentler book, and it's funnier than anything else I've written. I'm working on another fairy tale book right now, but I'll probably go back to realistic books in the future, because I enjoy the impact they have on readers too. I feel a sense of loyalty to the readers of my realistic books because my books have been important to them.

Of the ways you reach out to your readers, which do you think are most effective and why?

I'm fortunate to be able to attend a lot of teacher and librarian conferences. These lead to school visit invitations which allow me to meet my readers directly.

Do you work with a critique group, a partner, or exclusively with your editor? Why does that work for you?

I work alone, but I have some friends, including authors Debbie Reed Fischer, Marjetta Geerling, and Joyce Sweeney, who read my books before I send them in to my editor.

The critique-group format doesn't seem to work for me. My books tend to work on a micro level--like, each chapter will be good--but need help on a macro level, like whether the plot is too complicated. So reading each chapter aloud doesn't get me much help. I need someone to read my whole book.

Also, I just don't like sharing my work until it is perfect in my mind. I wrote my whole first book with very little help from anyone until it was almost done, mostly because I didn't know any writers.

Then, I got a critique group for my next four books, which was mostly social for me (I still get together socially with a group of writers three-to-four times a year). The critique group was an hour away, so when gas prices soared, I stopped attending and wrote Beastly and Kiss without the group. That's when I realized I was better off on my own. I have the utmost faith in my editor, Antonia Markiet, so that helps a lot.

So far, what's your favorite YA novel of 2009 and why?

Well, it's only February [note: Cynsations works ahead], so I haven't read a whole lot of 2009 novels yet. However, I really enjoyed a first novel, Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph (MTV, May 2009), which is about a girl who is extremely shy, but who comes alive as a radio host.

I was sort of invisible when I was in high school (This was brought home to me recently, when I visited my high school to be honored for my accomplishments and realized that the teachers and administration remembered all the other honorees--which included Jeff Bezos of Amazon--but not me), so I related to the character who was a different person in her heart and mind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spooky News, Eternal T-shirt Giveaway, Kansas-Arkansas Report

Enter to Win an Eternal T-shirt this month at! Check out the available styles. Read a Cynsations interview with logo designer Gene Brenek. See the five-star review of Eternal from TeensReadToo. Peek: "This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is filled with danger, deception, humor, love, sadness, and hope."

More News

Author Libba Bray will be doing a reading of The Sweet Far Thing and chatting at from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST on April 28th.

Coveside Writing Workshop & Retreat. Peek: "Now in its eleventh year, Coveside Writing Workshop & Retreat is the uniquely intensive, uniquely intimate, hands-on writing workshop for writers of all genres. Through a pyramid of guided meditation, free-writing, editing and revision, Anita Riggio leads the writer to discover the deeply personal wellspring of images and ideas that gives resonance to writing. Established and emerging writers alike will leave this workshop exhilarated, exhausted--and brimming with stories only they can write." Dates: May 16 and May 17; June 6 and June 7; Oct. 4 and Oct. 5. Note: $325 includes lunches and a festive dinner at the author's home and studio. See more information.

Editor/Author Interview with Jill Santopolo from Holly at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "High quality writing is the most important thing to me. I love working on well-written, well-crafted books. And then the second most important thing is a cool concept—something different and fresh and unique. I always like books that project a feeling of empowerment."

Marvelous Marketer: Anastasia Goodstein, editor-in-chief of Ypulse from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Peek: "One thing we as writers know how to do that other folks trying to market products sometimes don't is writing. Blogs and other websites love good, free content. Guest post, offer to write newsletter articles, etc. and make sure your book is mentioned and/or integrated in some way (include the cover!). Work with your publicist to be able to do book giveaways combined with Q&As for blogs."

Check out this book trailer for Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender (Hyperion, 2009).

An Author's Responsibility by Tracy Marchini at My VerboCity. Peek: "I'd be interested to hear from writers, editors and agents - what responsibilities does one have if they create media for children? Where do you draw the line between age-appropriateness and censorship? How much power do you think children's media has to change the way we socialize?"

More Personally

Exciting news of late included a weekend rave review ("Romance in Eternal Rivals Twilight" by Kimberly J. Smith in the arts-and-entertainment section of The Dallas Morning News. Note: the review was originally posted at Cool Kids Read. Peek: "A true page-turner, I can't imagine any fan of gothic suspense/romance not thoroughly enjoying this--and not just YA readers either."

Entrevista a Cynthia Leitich Smith: an interview from Los Bloguitos. Peek: "Sí, mi último libro es Eternal. Estoy esperando un libro con dibujos, Holler Loudly (Dutton, 2009), que será un cuento original del sureste." Note: translated from my replies.

Event Report

Road trip! Last Tuesday, Greg and I loaded up a rental Ford and took off north on I-35, through Dallas to Oklahoma...

We stopped for lunch at the Two Frogs Grill in Ardmore. Culinary highpoint of the trip. I had the most delicious ham-and-cheese sandwich on Texas toast. Plus, talk about atmosphere!

In addition to this nifty stage, hanging above our booth was an autographed Willie Nelson guitar, which spoke profoundly to our inner Austinites.
This was followed by much more driving up through the southern plains. We could see evidence of the wildfires in Oklahoma. I looked really hard for Big Foot to no avail.

We were on our way to Ottawa High School in Ottawa, Kansas.

Thanks so much to Sheryl, the OHS librarian, and Dr. Bushman of The Writing Conference. I had such an amazing time, visiting with teens and teachers at the school that day as well as young writers who'd won or placed in the writing contest (and their families) that evening. Notes: (a) check out the Literature Festival! I spoke there in 2003. (b) what a tremendously inspiring group of YA readers! I was seriously charmed. The photo above shows an informal group right after one of my three presentations.

Dr. Bushman was a tremendous host, and he kindly invited us to relax for a couple of hours in his home. He apologized that gigantic flower was late blooming, but we didn't mind. What a huge and magical blossom it was, just waiting for our oohs and ahhs!

A Jayhawk myself, I appreciated his home decor. We're talking about a dedicated professor emeritus here. In the yard, he has blue flowers spelling out "K" and red ones spelling out "U," or at least he's working on it.

But this is the takeaway: Dr. Bushman is one of those champions of reading and writing who's touched more lives than he can ever imagine. I count myself among the lucky ones.

The next day, we were off to Russellville, Arkansas; for a local public library event. Here's Greg, checking messages at the local Fairfield Marriott. Note: apparently, pal Jennifer Holm was in the area at the same time, and we missed her. Authors really should have a national flight plan filing system for this very reason.

I gave a brief talk, and then we had pizza and pasta! It was a tremendous group of teens, tweens, and families.

This is a sort of a middle-of-the-dinner shot. Some folks are chowing down, others up and about in the library. If you look closely, you can see Greg with his mouth stuffed (ha!). I was especially impressed with the YA readers and their parents. Such great questions.

And then I did a signing with photos and other glorious happiness! Sadly, not all of my pics turned out, but I'll work on getting the URL of a boy who's campaigning to work a word of his own into the language a' la Frindle.

This library vixen is Lauren, the YA lit queen of Russellville! (Good luck at grad school!)

The next day, I hosted a workshop on "Writing for Young Readers" (here's a "before" shot) in the quaint historical building that was the original library.

We had a lovely mix of teen and adult writers. See Workshop by Justus M. Bowman from Across the Multiverse. Peek: "This character was someone I would have never come up with, so when Cynthia told each of us to write a story in 15 minutes, I grew concerned. Ha ha. It turned out okay." (Devious thing that I am...)

And afterward, Lauren and Co. rewarded us with lunch at Italian Gardens Cafe downtown.

Perhaps you're wondering what a hard-working writer does for 24 hours in the car. Well, at least 14.5 of them were spent listening to a seriously first-rate audio production of Dracula, an overdue necessity as I'm in the midst of writing Blessed. Note: it's different to listen than read. The ear hears things that the eye can't see.

Don't miss Greg's report!

Monday, April 20, 2009

YALSA's 2009 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees Include Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I'm honored to report that Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) has been included among the 25 nominees for the 2009 YALSA Teens' Top Ten List!

From YALSA: "Teens' Top Ten is a 'teen choice' list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year!

"Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country.

"Nominations are posted in April during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year during Teen Read Week (Oct. 18 to Oct. 24). Readers aged 12 to 18 can vote right here, online, anytime that week."

The 10 nominations that receive the most votes during Teen Read Week will be named the official Teens' Top Ten.

See all the nominees (PDF)! Learn more about: Kristin Cashore; Kristin & P.C. Cast; Cassandra Clare; Suzanne Collins; Isamu Fukui; Neil Gaiman; John Green; Joanne Harris; Ellen Hopkins; E. Lockhart; Zoe Marriott; Lisa McMann; Stephenie Meyer; Katy Moran; Patrick Ness; Alyson Noel; Robin Palmer; Tamora Pierce; Elizabeth Scott; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Sherri L. Smith; Lynn Weingarten; Nancy Werlin; Lisa Yee.

Thank you to YALSA and Candlewick Press!

Spooky News & Eternal T-Shirt Giveaway

Enter to Win an Eternal T-shirt this month at! Check out the available styles. Read a Cynsations interview with logo designer Gene Brenek. See the five-star review of Eternal from TeensReadToo. Peek: "This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is filled with danger, deception, humor, love, sadness, and hope."

Win a Copy of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, sponsored by Brooke Taylor. Leave a comment at Brooke's LJ to enter. Blog about the contest, and send Brooke the link (in comments) for extra chances to win. Deadline: April 22. Peek:

"Acclaimed authors Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best-selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

"With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on." Read Cynsations interviews with Holly and Cecil.

More News

Your Approximately Perfect Writing Life by Kristi Holl from Writers First Aid. Peek: "What's important to you? What would spell success for you in the writing life? Have you written down your goals? Look at each one closely. Are they truly your goals and desires?"

Interview - Elizabeth C. Bunce by P.J. Hoover at the Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: " occasionally maddening a job as this is, it's still just about the coolest gig out there. And you'll go crazy if you don't stop and remember that every once in a while." Read a Cynsations interview with P.J.

Donna Bray, co-Publisher at Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, on Title Changes from Agent Kristin at Pub Rants. Peek: "I have in the past stood up for a title that sales was unsure of--some felt, for instance, that We Are The Ship by Kadir Nelson was not obvious enough, even with the subtitle 'The Story of Negro League Baseball.' Every day, editors and publishers do support the vision and instincts of the creative people we work with–-and we bump up regularly against the demands of the marketplace, which presents more and greater challenges daily."

Marvelous Marketer - Ruta Rimas (Assistant Editor, Balzer + Bray) by Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Peek: "I certainly Google prospective authors, more so for a complete picture of the person than for knowing if they have a web presence or platform (note: authors, take down any embarrassing pictures of yourself that you do not want editors/agents/readers to see)."

Book Launch: The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen from Janet S. Fox at Through the Wardrobe. Peek: "I think one reason it took me such a long time, especially in the beginning, is that I was terrified of actually finally trying to write a novel. I kept expecting someone to come and stop me. And I often put it aside to work on other projects, or to figure out back-story, or various other things." See also Greg's recommendation of the novel. Peek: " exciting adventure and a great read, filled with treachery and mayhem, and with engaging and likeable characters." Read Cynsations interviews with Michelle and Janet.

Articles on Self-Publishing: The Need for Balance by Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware. Peek: "These hard facts are way less sexy than the vision of a brave new technological world that makes it possible for (a few) authors to bypass the traditional route to success--but they are no less real." Source: Janni Lee Simner.

Get Ready-For A Literary Agent from Tami Lewis Brown at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "The time to find a literary agent is when you are ready. That sounds so simple. It seems to go without saying. But nearly every failed agent/client relationship can be traced to that simple cause--the writer wasn't ready to sign with an agent. Any agent." See also The Myth of Querying Widely, Going on an Agent Hunt, and More Questions for Your Agent to Be or Not To Be.

Art for Art's Sake... Is Fine if You Don't Want to Be Paid from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: " shouldn't compare yourself to anyone who is doing something brilliantly unless you understand all the things they are doing brilliantly in it. Not sure you do?"

On writing verse novels by Lisa Schroeder at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I sat down to write, and what came out was sparse, poetic language. I had written three mid-grade novels prior to this one, and half of a young adult novel, all of them in prose. This verse stuff was all new territory." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

On Passive Writing by Dorothy Winsor from Kidlit Central News. Peek: " have to differentiate between passive voice, emphasis on action, and the delights of characters who shape situations rather than just respond to them."

An open letter to...people from Kidliterate because reading Children's Books Never Gets Old. Peek: "If you're not ashamed to admit you're watching 'Dancing with the Stars,' why should you be embarrassed to be seen reading The Dark Is Rising?" Source: Confessions of a Bibliovore.

Why Keep Blogging from Becky's Book Reviews. Peek: "So essentially, if you want to grow your blog, you've got to put some thought into it. Think about what your readers would like to see, hope to see."

What Josh Whedon Taught Me About Storytelling by Christine at Release the Magic. Peek: "Whedon gives us characters with whom we identify and grow to love deeply. Complex characters who don’t have a clear line of good and evil. Real people. His characters become real. Where else can a character introduced in Season 2 as the current 'big bad' come back season after season, becoming a love interest and ultimately saving the world?"

Check out this trailer for The ABCs of Writing for Children by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.

There's Good News, and There's Good News. Which Do You Want First? from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "So You've Gotten a Bad Review. The Good News Is: Nobody cares. No, really. You're the only one."

How can I become a children's book editor? from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "People who are a good fit for the job have been reading a lot of children's books (and a lot of different kinds of children's books), and have a lot to say about them."

Pics [and Report] from TLA from YA author Varian Johnson. Highlighted authors include Sara Zarr, Chris Barton, and Wendy Litchman. Read Cynsations interviews with Varian and Sara.

The Literal, Tedious Novel Draft from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: "A former student wrote to me saying she's bogged down in an early novel draft, can't seem to get past the middle, goes back to read what she's written and it feels clunky and awkward. The more she tries to push ahead, the weaker the writing gets." Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

Hardcover Deep Discount Clause (and part two) from David Lubar. Peek: "This works out to 17 cents a book. Which means that a ton of books were sold at an even deeper discount than 50%. (In the interest of full disclosure, the hardcover earned a bit more than twice that.)" Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Sources for Grant Money to Finance Author Visits from Jennifer Ward. Note: author-speakers are encouraged to feature this link. Event planners may want to bookmark it.

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (HarperTeen, 2009): a recommendation from Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: "Part action-adventure, part romance, Wondrous Strange is a thrilling, fun ride into a world of intrigue and dangerous bargains and where Celtic mythology (and Shakespeare's take on it) might be all too real."

More Personally

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on the release of the Korean edition of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (DongSanSa, 2008)! Note: We just received the author copies. I love this cover. It really conveys the idea of three alternating narrators and the comedic feel of the story. It's also been suggested that Shohei looks like Greg and Elias looks like either Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Harry Potter.

Congratulations to Rebecca (green-and-white striped shirt) on her admission to The New School's MFA program! We'll miss you! Note: here, Rebecca stands between authors Debbie Gonzales and Thomas Pendleton AKA Dallas Reed. Author Anne Bustard is to the right. This photo was taken last fall at my Halloween party.

Congratulations to Sean Petrie (shown with his girlfriend Sara) on your admission to the joint MFA program in Writing and in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts! This photo was taken at a recent Austin Youth Lit Meet-Up at Waterloo Ice House North.

Even More Personally

I'm honored to report that 2009 nominees (PDF) for YALSA's Teens Top Ten include Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)! Voting will take place Oct. 18 to Oct. 24. Note: I'll offer more information about the award program and links to the other nominees in a post to follow.

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a review from Kimberly J. Smith at Cool Kids Read. Peek: "A true page-turner, I can't imagine any fan of Gothic suspense/romance not thoroughly enjoying this--and not just YA readers either."

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a recommendation by Teen Reviewer Iulia G., age 17, from Teen Books (and beyond!) blog from the Palatine Public Library. Peek: "Regardless of your religious views, it's hard not to believe in angels after you read this novel."

Thanks to Jennifer Holm for letting me know that Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) is now available at SuperTarget. Note: given that I am known to walk into Target for, say, a bath mat and walk out with a full cart, this is especially satisfying. It's like The Great Circle of Shopping.

As readers of my YA Gothic fantasy series know, my shifters are inspired by the age of giant Ice Age mammals. For fans of Travis, the werearmadillo from Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), here's an article on the "Giant Armadilo" from the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Thanks also to Sara Shacter for letting me know that Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) is now available in paperback at Jewel grocery stores. Note: I used to shop at Jewel when I lived in Chicago. Perhaps I can see the book when I return for my visit this fall.

Extraordinary Authors from Carmen Oliver. Peek: "They [me and Kathi Appelt] reminisced about the first time the two of them met twelve or thirteen years ago at a writer's conference, and how that encounter has evolved into a friendship, a sister-like bond." Note: thanks to all who attended and blogged the event! I'll feature more links in my next round-up. See my report!

Cynsations is going on a brief hiatus. I will resume blogging on April 27. Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tantalize, Eternal Nail Designs

Remember Brittany's nails--decorated in tribute to Tantalize and Eternal and featured in my report on my signing party with Kathi Appelt at BookPeople?

Brittany, age 22 (almost 23) was kind enough to send these awesome shots so y'all could take a closer look. Check out the varying claw marks of the different kinds of shifters and the bat and the crest of Dracul and the spiderwebs. Wow.

Thank you, Brittany!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Event Report: Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith at BookPeople

It was a terrific honor to join Kathi Appelt in celebrating the release of my Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and the success of her latest novel, The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008), on Saturday at BookPeople in Austin!

The event drew more than 100 guests from all over central Texas and as far away as San Antonio and Houston!

For those who couldn't make it, here's a virtual peek.

First, Meghan, the BookKids buyer, welcomed everyone.

Then, I gave my own welcome:

Thank you all for joining us this holiday weekend.

Thanks to the BookKids staff for your hospitality.

Thanks to Anne Bustard for the yummy cookies.

Thanks to Kathi for the honor of celebrating with her today.

During the hour-long program, Kathi and I introduced one another and offered very brief readings from our latest books, followed by Q&As with each other, followed by a few short excerpts from fan mail, and then we opened it up to questions from the rest of the group.

Here's my introduction of Kathi (shown holding up art by a young reader):

It’s lovely to have an opportunity to introduce Kathi Appelt, or—since this is a home crowd, jam-packed with friends—perhaps I should just say “rejoice” in Kathi’s amazing-ness instead.

I’ve spent some time thinking back this week, and I believe that the first time I saw Kathi was at an Austin SCBWI conference some 12 or 13 years ago.

Kathi had just burst onto the children’s picture book scene with early multiple sales that immediately put her on the map of as “name” author of quality writing for the youngest readers.

There are so many wonderful and critically acclaimed titles that we could talk about, but I’ll just mention a few of my favorites—The Alley Cat’s Meow (cats!), The Bubba and Beau series, and Miss Ladybird’s Wildflowers, illustrated by fellow Texan and dear friend, Joy Fisher Hein.

But, as successful as Kathi was on that front, she didn’t limit herself to picture books.

She encouraged other writers with Just People & Paper/Pen/Poem as well as Poems from Home Room: A Writers Place to Start.

She celebrated the courage of librarians in Down Cut Shin Creek: The Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

She spoke to teenagers in Kissing Tennessee and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance.

And she shared with us the girl she was in My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoir.

These early books were cheered and awarded by the American Booksellers Association, International Reading Association, Bank Street College, and many, many others.

Today, we’re here to celebrate her debut novel, The Underneath, a finalist for the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

I mean, wow.

Let me say that again:
Today, we’re here to celebrate her debut novel, The Underneath, a finalist for the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

Kathi and The Underneath are—hands-down—the story of the year, the one that has taken youth literature in the Lone Star State to the next level.

It’s an ambitious novel of the highest caliber, drawing deep from its Texas roots. It’s the rare book that will live on as a classic. And most importantly, it includes cats.

I know Kathi as a teacher and mentor, a writer and reader, a sister and friend. She's the glittery-est of starry stars and one of Texas’s own. Please welcome Kathi Appelt.

I don't have a tape of Kathi's reading, but you can see another one below, when she appeared at the National Book Award Finalist's Reading.

After the readings, we offered a question-and-answer session with each other. For a peek into our conversation (and more), see:

Author Interviews: Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith Interview Each Other from BookKids at BookPeople in Austin.

Peek from Kathi: " matter who we are, or what our circumstances, we can choose love over fear."

Peek from Cynthia : "
My inner teen is thriving and a reminder that to be an adolescent is to be a (literal) shape shifter, to feel like the 'other,' to struggle with monsters outside and in. These readers deserve the best stories that we can give them--ones that speak to this time in their lives and ones that honor their growing sophistication."

During the event, we also showed the book trailers for Eternal and The Underneath. Above, Greg works on the tech aspect with BookKids's own Madeline Smoot while author Debbie Gonzales smiles on.

Eternal Trailer

Here's the trailer for Eternal.

Here's the trailer for The Underneath.

One of my personal highlights of the event was seeing these gorgeous fingernails, painted to coordinate with various aspects of my series. The Mantle of Dracul dragon is my favorite. Brittany, the YA reader attached to these nails, was an absolutely delight. My extra thanks to her and all the other young readers who turned out. It was awesome to see y'all there!

The crowd begins to gather. (For privacy reasons, photo IDs below will be limited to folks who I can make out clearly and are "public figures" in the Austin youth lit scene).

Here, author Erin Edwards chats with author Jo Whittemore's husband, Roger, up front. Farther back, illustrator Christy Stallop chats with author Chris Barton. Farther still at the refreshments table, Madeline and Emily visit with author Carmen Oliver (I think). Author Shana Burg is coming into view from the right.

YA author Ruth Pennebaker (black blouse, black-and-white skirt) greets author Betty X. Davis (reddish jacket).

Meghan (white shirt) and author-VCFA student Anne Bustard (lime green) at one of the refreshment tables, Madeline and Emily in the background.

Because the event was scheduled for 1 p.m. (after lunch), we went with light refreshments--coffee, water, fruit punch, fruit trays, and the world's best sugar cookies, designed by Anne to coordinate with the featured books!

Here we have the cats of The Underneath...

and the bats and angels of Eternal.

Author-illustrator Don Tate.

The still-growing crowd.

Kerry, Michelle, Nichole, and Loriene. Note: Kerry is formerly of Austin Public Library, Michelle is currently of Austin Public Library, Nichole is a rogue quasi-librarian, and Loriene is a professor at The University of Texas and former president of the American Library Association.

After the presentation, folks started lining up to have their books signed.

Authors Donna Bowman Bratton, P.J. Hoover, and Shana Burg.

Writers' League of Texas director Cyndi Hughes, author-VCFA student Anne Bustard, and librarian Jeanette Larson.

Austin SCBWI RA Tim Crow with authors Julie Lake and Brian Yansky.

Jennifer Ziegler, YA author.

BookKids's Emily and Meghan with Sean Petrie, who's newly admitted to VCFA.

YA author-VCFA student Varian Johnson models shopping at your local bookstore and chatting with YA author Margo Rabb.

Cynsational Notes

Thank you again to Meghan, Madeline, Emily, Mandy, and Topher of BookPeople's BookKids department for your hospitality! Thanks also to the one-hundred-plus book fans--kids, teens, parents, writers, readers, and librarians--who helped make it an unforgettable event! Thank you to Candlewick Press and Atheneum! And biggest thanks to Kathi. What a thrill to share a stage with you!

Signed stock of The Underneath, Eternal, and its companion book, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), is still available from BookPeople! Stop by or call (512) 472-5050 ext. 202 for more information! Note: you can request that the store ship your copy to you (for a fee).

Attention Authors: It's terrific fun to do a joint event! You may pull in a wider range of folks and make new connections with readers. The event may be livelier as you're featuring two voices, two books, and your own interactions. It's also a great way to support your local bookstore!

Attention Bloggers/Social Networkers: you are welcome to use any of the above featured photos for your own posts about the event.

Planning Notes: For an event like this, my budget was about $20 for fruit punch, and my time allocation was about 20 hours for promotion, about 10 hours for planning. Again, the rest of the refreshments were provided by the store and Anne. In the past, I have done snail mailings; however, this time, I spread the word by email, eVite, Austin SCBWI, MySpace, and Facebook. We probably lost about 25-30 otherwise for-sure attendees due to the holiday weekend, but it was the date that worked for the authors and bookstore. Big picture, there's nothing that I would've changed. The Appelt-Smith event was a huge success! Thanks again!