Monday, January 25, 2010

Spooky News

Story Secrets: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst from Holly Cupala. Peek: "I wrote this book as a love letter to my husband. It's about true love... the kind of love where you'd go east of the sun and west of the moon for each other. So this novel is very closed to my heart. It's also about polar bears, one of the coolest animals ever. No pun intended."

The Call (Yes, the call. With the agent!) by Kristina McBride. Peek: "I had spent two years writing three novels, countless hours researching agents to query, double that in time spent on perfecting the query letters, and finally, after everything, I was going to speak to an actual, real-life literary agent sitting in one of those crazy tall buildings in NYC! After freaking out for a few hours, I decided that I needed a plan."

Before Accepting Agent Representation by Kathleen Temean from Writing and Illustrating: Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children. Peek: "Don't skip this crucial step because you're worried that questions will scare him off, or that the offer won’t last. This isn't a TV promo, it's a potential business partnership. His offer is on the table, waiting patiently for your consideration and ultimate response."

Interview with Nancy Holder by Malinda Lo from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "It's just as hard to write a short story as a novel, and harder to write a comic book. The comic book form is incredibly difficult, and I'm humbled by the artistry of my betters (and grateful for my great artists). I used to prefer writing short stories, but I like the sense of continuity and flow that I can get from working on a novel. But really, what I like to do is write. "

Stages of Revision by Natalie Whipple at Between Fact and Fiction. Peek: "The plot is your base—your story relies on this as a firm foundation. If you have weak areas, you risk readers putting down your book. Because of that, my first revisions always revolve around tightening the plot." Souce: Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent.

Social Networking: What a Children's Publisher Expects: A Conversation with Donna Spurlock from Charlesbridge Marketing by Harold Underdown from The Purple Crayon Blog. Peek: ""It's always been the case (even at Charlesbridge) that a few books are your 'lead books' and they get the majority of the marketing dollars. Here it's been more of an even distribution, but when a book starts to pull ahead in sales, or we know going in that a Jerry Pallotta or Mitali Perkins is going to be working overtime to promote the book, we get behind them more financially. Authors need to do the legwork to get to that point. And it's their personality that's going to do it." Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

How to Write a Great Query Letter: An Example That Worked by Cheryl Klein, editor at Arthur A. Levine Books from Brooklyn Arden. Peek: "Gbemi [Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich ] has kindly allowed me to reprint her original letter here and annotate it...."

Top 10: Selling Your First Children's Novel by Jen Nadol from 2010: A Book Odyssey. Peek: "54% of Tenners got an agent with less than 10 queries, but 17% of us queried more than 40 agents before getting an offer. As one of that 17%, I can vouch that persistence (read: stubbornness) pays a point. "

Looking at the Agent Search by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I didn’t whine publicly about the rejections. You never know who might be reading, so it’s important to keep that frustration under control and always be professional. Have writer friends you can vent to, or set up a special locked LiveJournal account for friends to read only." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Key to Marketing Your Book: Time Well Spent by Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "Needless to say: unless you were born with more hours in the day than the rest of us, doing everything is not possible." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Be Kind to Failure by Tami Lewis Brown from Cynsations. Peek: "Creativity is all about moving into new directions. Taking chances. Being risky. Breaking the rules. And when you break those rules you're upsetting the applecart, for others and for yourself. You're grabbing failure by the neck and giving it a good strong shake."

The Writer’s Page: Hot Dog, Katsa! by Kristin Cashore from The Horn Book. Peek: "Writing fantasy happens to be all about limitations. It's about keeping to the rules; it’s about building a world that’s believable to the reader because it’s both comprehensive and consistent; it’s about assembling a body, a structure, that stands up on its own."

Official Jekel Loves Hyde Book Trailer Contest from author Beth Fantaskey. Awesome first-pace prizes include meeting the author! Deadline: March 15.

Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy with authors Laura Ruby and Anne Ursu from May 1 to May 8 from Highlights Foundation. Peek: "The Whole Novel Workshop offers writers the rare opportunity to have the entire draft of a novel read and critiqued prior to the workshop, followed by a week of intense, one-on-one mentoring."

Expert Scoop with Agent Jennifer RofĂ© of Andrea Brown Literary Agency from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story. Peek: "Ten percent of my clients are 'people of color.' Though this isn’t a primary factor in my selection process, I do find myself attracted to stories featuring multicultural characters where race isn't the issue."

In Which I Am the Bearer of Very Bad News by Kiersten White from Kiersten Writes. Note: Kiersten is the debut author of Paranormalcy (HarperTeen, 2010). Peek: "Expect submissions to be hard. Expect to be something of an emotional wreck. But expect to succeed. And work toward this success by being smart about things. What should you do while you're on submission?"

Screening Room

In the video below, YA author Lisa Schroeder talks about How to Do a Drive-By Book Signing. Short, sweet, and nicely illustrative. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Check out the book trailer for Darklight by Lesley Livingston (HarperTeen, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Lesley.

Check out the book trailers for Hearts at Stake (The Drake Chronicles) by Alyxandra Harvey (Walker, 2009).

Thanks to reader Clandestine Mariane from the Philippines for creating this fan book trailer to celebrate Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010).

More Personally

I'm thrilled to be back at Cynsations after my winter hiatus teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults winter 2010 residency in Montpelier! Note: VCFA is now accepting applications from international students!

While in Vermont, I was honored to learn that I'd been featured as Author of the Month at Fully Booked Bookstores in the Philippines! It was such a thrill to hear from so many new readers because of that great news.

Thanks to D.L. Keur from The Deepening: World of Fiction for featuring Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010).

Austin Area Events

Congratulations to the incoming Austin SCBWI regional advisor Debbie Gonzales on her new leadership role in the chapter (and to the members, who'll wildly benefit from her efforts).

Author Bethany Hegedus will speak on "scene and structure" ("If You Build It, They Will Read") from 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 13 at BookPeople in conjunction with Austin SCBWI. Note: "bring a notebook and get ready to examine Aristotle's Incline and the 7 Key Scenes every book needs. Please be familiar with Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, 2000)..., as Bethany will discuss the Seven Key Scenes used to build this gem of a book."

More Cynsational Events

The Greater Houston Teen Book Convention is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 10 at Alief Taylor High School, and admission is free! Speakers include keynoter Sharon Draper and:

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Spooky News & Giveaways

For those holiday vacationers who may have missed it, last week I posted my Cynsational Books of 2009. I'd like to highlight just a couple more: The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King (Flux, 2009) as well as The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer (Dutton, ongoing). Read a Cynsations interview with A.S.

Here's the book trailer for The Dust of 100 Dogs:

Here's the book trailer for Tenth Grade Bleeds (Dutton, 2009). Note: Heather is also highly recommended as a speaker. I had the pleasure of being on a panel with her in Westlake, Texas, last fall and was absolutely wowed by her savvy, smarts, and ability to connect with tweens.

This just in! Here's the new book trailer for Eleventh Grade Burns (Dutton, Feb. 2010).

New Releases

Here's a book trailer for Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse, 2010). Read a new interview with Lisa by Tabitha Olsen from Writer Musings. Peek: "Because I started with picture books, where you need to be succinct as possible, I do think it helped me with the verse. I seem to do well in getting to the heart of a scene and figuring out how to get the emotional truth with just the right choice of words."

Here's a book trailer for Captivate by Carrie Jones (Bloomsbury, 2010). Read a new interview with Carrie from Fantastic Book Review. Enter to win a copy of Captivate.

Welcome YA Rebels

Vloggers YA Rebels describe themselves as "seven young adult authors giving you the behind the scenes drama!" Notes: now posting regularly; video includes cameo by John Green.

More News & Giveaways

10 Things I've Learned about the Writing Biz by Charlene Teglia from Genreality. Peek: "Don’t discount your business abilities and leave that up to other people because you’re 'just a writer'. You're also an independent business person and uniquely gifted with the ability to come up with solid ideas." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

Win an ARC of Everlasting by Angie Frazier (Scholastic, 2010) from Angie Frazier: Adventures of a YA Novelist. Deadline: midnight EST Jan. 8. Learn more about Everlasting.

How I Got My Agent by Anna Staniszewski. Peek: "Sometimes you have to be willing to put one project aside, as I did, and realize that it might not be the one that's going to get you an agent/get you published/etc. That's why you should never stop writing, because you never know which manuscript will grab someone's attention."

Manuscript Blindness by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "You have to look at the worth of your scenes in terms of the whole. Do they all belong? If they do belong, have you devoted the right amount of emphasis to each?" Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Top Ten Questions Dutton Editors Ask Themselves When Looking At A Manuscript from Kathy Temean at Writing and Illustrating: Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children. Peek: "Does the action of the story move at a good pace and hold our interest? Does tension build as the story moves forward?" Source: Janet Reid, Literary Agent.

Melanie Kroupa to Join Marshall Cavendish by Lynn Andriani from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Kroupa will be joining Marshall Cavendish Children's Books as an editor-at-large on Jan. 1, reporting to publisher Margery Cuyler. Kroupa will work for the publisher, which is located in Tarrytown, N.Y., from her office in Dedham, Mass."

Mary Cole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency on Urban Fantasy by Parker Peevyhouse from The Spectacle. Peek: "Believe it or not, some of the most successful urban fantasy stories are also some of the funniest, and that has everything to do with voice. Without humor, personality and wit, 'dark' and 'gritty' will soon become 'bleak' and 'grating.'"

Congratulations to David Lubar on the release of Dead Guy Spy (Starscape, 2010), the second book in his Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie series! Peek: "Nathan Abercrombie is getting used to his rotten life as a half-dead zombie. The good thing is he doesn't feel any pain. The bad thing is his body can't heal, so he has to be really careful not to break anything. But that's hard to do when his wrestling-obsessed gym teacher, Mr. Lomux, matches him up with Rodney the bully, who's looking for any excuse to break his bones. Then one day, Nathan is approached by the secret organization B.U.M.—aka the Bureau of Useful Misadventures—which offers him a cure in exchange for his help. Nathan jumps at the chance to become the world's first zombie spy, but soon discovers that B.U.M. isn’t quite what it seems. Can Nathan trust them?" Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Marvelous Marketer: Nathan Bransford (Literary Agent) by Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "Traditionally it wasn't really the agent's job to promote books, but I think that may be changing somewhat with the times."
MG/YA SFF Virtual Conference by Tiffany Trent from Eudaimonium: Finding the Gold. Peek: "So, I want to try an experiment. I'm planning on holding a one-day virtual conference sometime in late March or April. I want this to be a truly useful conference to writers and aficionados of MG/YA SFF. Many of us see the same panels over and over again at conferences, making us feel like we've wasted time and money. How might we do it differently? What panels would you like to see that you haven't seen?"

Revision by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "...there's a time during revision where you have to be more analytical. The story is in place and the characters are real, and your manuscript feels like all the elements are fitting together. To get to this evolutionary moment in the manuscript, you had to depend on your creative side: instinct and imagination and inspiration. But now you need the analytical side that evaluates." Note: Brian shares a scene-by-scene list of questions to consider for revision. Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Comment Challenge 2010 from MotherReader. Peek: "Since it is said that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit, we’re going to run the Comment Challenge for the next three weeks — starting Friday, Jan. 8, and running through Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010. The goal is to comment on at least five kidlitosphere blogs a day."

Author Interview: Natalie Standiford on How To Say Goodbye in Robot (Scholastic, 2009) from Peek: "Once a real story starts to gel, I write a loose plot outline. Some books have complicated plots and require a more detailed outline. I always end up changing things as I write anyway. But I like to know what's going to happen so I can keep the story focused and sharpen every detail into an arrow that points toward the end."

Is Your 'But' Too Big? by John Gibbs from An Englishman in New Jersey. Peek: "Be wary of such people. Many of them carry a virus, Excusitis, a mental affliction which can kill writing dreams by causing the person suffering from it to doubt themselves and their ability. Symptoms include excessive use of the phrases like 'I wanted to be a writer, but...', 'I’ve always thought I had a book in me, but...', 'I love writing, but...'"

Writing Links from Cynthia Leitich Smith Children's-YA Literature Resources features lots to know about agents, book design & art direction, editors & publishers, education, illustration, promotion, publishing, and writing. See also Inspiration in Writing Children's & YA Books and Perspiration: Self Study.

R.J. Anderson talks about Rebel, the sequel to Knife (Orchard UK)(titled Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter in the U.S. from HarperCollins). Source: The Enchanted Inkpot. Read a Cynsations interview with R.J.

Kidlitosphere Diversity Discussion

PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge 2010. Peek: "Choose one book from/about/by or illustrated by someone from each of the seven continents – that’s: Africa; Antarctica; Asia; Australasia; Europe; North America; South America. Have the books read aloud to you or read them yourself; share them as part of a book-group or in class. Combine your choices with other reading challenges. The books can be picture-books, poetry, fiction, non-fiction...the choice is yours."

Kids of Color in Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy--a look back at the 98 books nominated for the Cybils from Charlotte's Library: Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Children and Teenagers. Peek: "Here are the kids of color I found, the ones who got enough page-time to be memorable."

More Personally

My holiday highlights included reading Nightshade by debut author Andrea Cremer (Philomel, Oct. 2010). It was my great pleasure to send in a blurb for the novel, which you can read here.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Spooky Books of 2009

Congratulations to the children's-YA authors and illustrators of 2009! And thank you to everyone who discussed and debated and cheered and championed this year's books! Just for fun, here are a few of my favorites.

Graphic Middle Grade

Joey Fly: Private Eye by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Neil Numberman (Henry Holt, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Aaron and Neil. Peek: "I love bugs and I love mysteries, so this seemed to be a great smash-up of those two ideas."

Middle Grade/Tween

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Grace. Peek: "It is an Asian-themed folktale-inspired fantasy where a brave young girl named Minli journeys to change her family's fortune, traveling farther than she ever imagined."

YA Realistic Fiction

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Viking, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with John. Peek: "Nobody would (or should) care about the 'Double Indemnity' allusion, but it got me thinking. In 'Double Indemnity,' the main character is a jaded insurance salesman. Certainly, an 18-year-old's frame of mind would be much different than his, but how?"

YA Fantasy

Ash by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Malinda. Peek: "When I began work on my second draft, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to turn the story in that direction. Did I truly want to write a 'lesbian Cinderella'?"

Candor by Pam Bachorz (Egmont, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Pam. Peek: "Even with all my preparation, I still ask myself at the start of each chapter: 'What really should be happening next? Does my story wire leave anything out? Can I skip ahead to something more interesting?'"

Evil? by Timothy Carter (Flux, 2009). Publishers Weekly said, "A book that doesn't take itself too seriously, but will leave readers with plenty to consider, as it addresses themes of morality, sexuality and faith."

Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Delacorte, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Saundra. Peek: "So Iris settled down with me to think about that--to roll that idea over with me: we don't know what other people contain. And that means no one else will ever know what we contain, either."

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon (Greenwillow, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Cindy. Peek: "I remember my first grade teacher writing my name on the board because I didn't know the alphabet, much less how to spell."

Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill (Greenwillow, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with David. Peek: "The challenge came from the setting, El Paso. I have never been to West Texas, so I needed a ton of information on places, names, locales, smells, sounds, and attitudes."

Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Marshall Cavendish, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Ellen. Peek: "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?"


Don't miss companion books/sequels to earlier YA fantasy favorites: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater (Flux, 2009); Black is for Beginnings by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Flux, 2009)(graphic format); Darklight by Lesley Livingston (HarperCollins, 2009); Dead Girl in Love by Linda Joy Singleton (Flux, 2009); and Fade by Lisa McMann (Simon Pulse, 2009).

Cynsational Notes

Quick caveats: (a) I haven't read every 2009 book published, though I did read 300+ (down from last year; note that picture books are very short); (b) to varying degrees, I know or have met some (but not most) of the creators above--if I cut everyone I knew, potential picks would be significantly reduced in number; (c) I will continue to read and feature 2009 titles in 2010 and beyond; (d) these are highlights, not predictions, not an all-inclusive list of my favorites.

Beyond that, I made an effort to sidestep bestsellers as well as previous ALA and NBA honorees, though one or two may have sneaked in. I decided not to list books by my advisees or that I read in manuscript or contributed to myself. Or put another way, yes, I loved VCFA graduate Julie Berry's The Amaranth Enchantment (Bloomsbury, 2009) and Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci's Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd (Little, Brown, 2009), but they don't need the help and/or I'm a bit too close to them for our purposes here.

Likewise, I'd like to cheer my Candlewick editor, Deborah Noyes (Wayshak) on the release of Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists, and Other Matters Odd and Magical (Candlewick, 2009). Note: in addition to my short stories in Geektastic and Sideshow, I also published a YA Gothic fantasy novel, Eternal (Candlewick, 2009).

A few quick observations... It's arguably the year of the debut author, I have an ongoing commitment to supporting new voices, and the combination of those forces definitely shows here. In terms of titles by and about diverse folks, the big news is a tentative foothold in YA fantasy, including high fantasy, and people of all backgrounds writing cross-culturally.