Sunday, May 08, 2011

Spookycyn is an Inactive Blog

Thanks for surfing by! I'm sorry, but Spookycyn is no longer an active blog.

However, I'm letting it remain here for those who might want to peek at the pre-existing posts.

For news of children's and YA literature, visit Cynsations!

To learn more about my spooky books, check out Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren's Story.

And for more reading suggestions, check out Gothic Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Romance, and Urban Fantasy for Tweens and Teens.

YALSA's Teens Top Ten Nominees, Including Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I'm honored to report that my new novel Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) is among the 25 titles nominated for YALSA's Teens' Top Ten! See annotated list (PDF).

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 sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

"Readers ages twelve to eighteen will vote online between Aug. 22 and Sept. 16; the winners will be announced during Teen Read Week."



Cynsational Notes

Check out the readers guide and book trailer for Blessed!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Spooky News & The Owl Keeper Giveaway

Children's Choice Book Awards Announced (PDF) from The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with Every Child A Reader, and the CBC Foundation. Rick Riordan was named author of the year, and David Wiesner was named illustrator of the year. See the complete list of winners.

An Address and a Map Discovering Your Genius as a Writer by Tim Wynne-Jones from The Writers' League of Texas. Peek: "...I’m talking about the genius that each of us possesses to some degree: a natural ability or capacity or quality of mind; the special endowments which fit each of us for our work."

The Interminable Agency Clause by Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware. Peek: "...language inserted into an author-agency agreement whereby the agency claims the right to remain the agent of record not just for the duration of any contracts it negotiates, but for the life of copyright." See also On Agency Agreements by Jennifer Laughran from Jennifer Represents...

Book Talking and Preparing for Focus Meeting by Little, Brown editor Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. Peek: "....because I only have between 1 and 2 minutes to present each title, the presentation needs to be really tight. I want to touch on the summary of the book...."

Twitter Tutorial: The Long Version by Lynne Kelly from Will Write for Cake. Peek: "It's not okay to pitch your novel or query an agent or editor via Twitter, but following them is a great way to find out what's going on in the publishing industry and with their own work...."

Castellucci Joins 'Los Angeles Review of Books' as YA and Children's Editor by Wendy Werris from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "'So few venues review YA and teen books regularly, and even then it’s usually bestsellers and known authors, so this is an opportunity to assign reviews to the quieter books and older titles,' Castellucci says."

From Publishers Marketplace: "Nikki Loftin’s debut novel The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, pitched as Coraline meets Hansel and Gretel, about a young girl whose seemingly delightful new school hides frightening secrets, to Laura Arnold at Razorbill, in a two-book deal, for publication in Summer 2012, by Suzie Townsend at Fineprint Literary Management (World)." Congratulations, Nikki!

Attention New Yorkers: anticipated budget cuts in NYC would effectively shut down many libraries, reduce hours and staff. Please stop by your local library or click to your local library website to sign a petition to save the libraries. See Queens Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and New York Public Library.

Career Planning: Who, Me? by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "...making a writing budget–the nuts and bolts of figuring out how much income you need, where it’s going to come from (all possible sources,) and what to do to get it. You’ll want to study this too." Note: Kristi references Chip MacGregor's excellent post Strategic Planning for Writers, but her pep talk/insights/summary are worth considering, too.

Author Advances: How Much You'll Get and When by Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard. Peek: "If you sell a book to one of the big six publishers, and it's a single book deal, and it's something deemed more quiet or literary, you may see $7,500-$10,000. if it has a bigger commercial hook, but still seems a little risky, you may get $15,000." Note: keep in mind that authors also make money from royalties, sub rights sales, public speaking, etc.

From Publishers Marketplace: "Brian Yansky's Fighting Alien Nation, the sequel to Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, which continues the story of the survivors of an alien invasion, again to Candlewick, with Kaylan Adair to edit, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world English). Congratulations, Brian!

Career Insurance: Five Ways to Sell Your Next Book Before Its Written by Roni Loren from Fiction Groupie. Note: emphasis on series writing. Peek: "Unless you're writing the next blockbuster of the century, one book does not a career make. One book is just the gun going off at the starter gate." Source: QueryTracker.netBlog.

For Writers: Race and Science Fiction and Fantasy by Mary Anne Mohanraj from Whatever. Peek: "...it’s easy to be paralyzed by that fear, to retreat back to only writing characters who are just like you, or so vague that they can’t possibly be mistaken for anyone real. But again — that makes for bad fiction. If you’re going to write well, you have to get past those fears." See also Your Process of Creating Characters Across Culture or Class from Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape.

I Live in the Middle of Nowhere. How Can I Promote My Book? by Kristina Springer from Author2Author. Peek: "...it's hard to get a book faced out at the book store for more than a couple of months. So what can I do?"

Giveaway Reminder

Enter to win a signed copy of The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones (Delacorte, 2010). First prize: a hardcover copy. Second and third prize: paperback copies.

To enter the giveaway, comment at this link or email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Owl Keeper" in the subject line. Deadline: midnight CST May 27. Note: Author sponsored; U.S./Canada entries only.

See also Christine on Writing Scary But Not Too Scary for Tweens.

Hunger Mountain Critique Auction

Hunger Mountain Critique Auction: Bid for a chance to win critiques from authors, illustrators, and agents from picture books to YA and beyond. See details on:

Note: Hunger Mountain is the Vermont College of Fine Arts Journal of the Arts, featuring an in-depth focus on children's-YA literature.

Spooky Screening Room

Edit Letter Fun: Butcher or Coddler? from lynnekelly2000.



More Personally

This week I turned in my revision of my upcoming YA Gothic fantasy novel, which will be the next fully prose addition to the Tantalize series.

To the left, we see Bashi in the guet room, helping to guard the manuscript as I read through it, tweaking text.

To the right, we see Leo, lounging on Greg's copy of the draft in the parlor. Greg, the kitties, and I read the manuscript out loud to catch typos, missing words, and other minor issues. I'm especially include to skip right over two-letter words like "to," "of," "on," and "so."

See also Official Writer Cat Bios.

I'm pleased to announce that actress Kim Mai Guest will be reading as the character Quincie P. Morris for the audio edition of Blessed for Listening Library/Random House.

Kim Mai also performed as Quincie in the audio production of Tantalize (Listening Library, 2008).

Reminder: all blurb requests must come from editors or agents. Never authors. No exceptions.

Tantalize Reviewed by Anna from Troublingly Good Teen Lit. Peek: "This book could help teens who find themselves with more responsibility than they can handle, or whose parents/guardians are absent. It could also help teens who feel they may have a drinking problem."

Personal Links of the Week:


Spooky Events

Authors Jennifer Ziegler and Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak to YA readers at 2 p.m. June 18 at Bee Cave Public Library in Bee Cave, Texas. Mark your calendars for book talk and pizza!

The Chills and Thrills Book Tour will be stopping at 2 p.m. May 15 at BookPeople. Turn out for authors Mari Mancusi, Tera Lynn Childs, Sophie Jordan, Jordan Dane, Lara Chapman, Jennifer Archer, and Tracy Deebs.

The First Annual BooksmART Festival will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 11 as part of Arts & Letters Live from the Dallas Museum of Art. Peek: "Come spend the day with authors, illustrators, musicians and actors, and enjoy talks, workshops, gallery tours, and entertainment, designed to appeal to every member of the family and every age group." Featured children's-YA book creators include Rick Riordan, Norton Juster, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Wiesner, Jerry Pinkney, Gene Luen Yang, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Duncan Tonatiuh, Antonio Sacre, Joe McDermott, Jan Bozarth, and Ann Marie Newman.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Guest Post: Christopher Golden on Shared Vision: Writing with a Co-author & The Secret Journeys of Jack London

By Christopher Golden

One of the many curious things about being a writer—especially a novelist—is the number of people you encounter who believe they could do your job, that the only thing that separates you from them is that you bothered to sit down and write a book, and though they’ve got that bestseller in them, they just haven’t made the time for it yet.

That’s not everyone, of course. Some people look at writers as if we’re strange objects behind glass in some museum display that ought to have a plaque to explain our purpose.

This isn’t a complaint, mind you. Both reactions are fascinating and sometimes amusing.

But I’ll tell you something that’s even more fascinating to me. When it comes to collaborations—two authors writing a novel together—even the just-haven’t-had-time-to-write-my-bestseller crowd seems to get that curious look on their faces, that what’s-that-odd-animal expression that comes over people who encounter the giant South American rodent at the zoo for the first time, the thing that looks like it should only exist in The Princess Bride. Due, presumably, to the fact that I regularly collaborate with other authors, I get that look—and that question—a lot.

“How does that work?” “How do authors write a book together?”

People really do seem mystified by the idea that two people can create one voice. Actors create a scene together, musicians perform a song together and write music together…but you don’t often seen painters working on the same canvas.

Perhaps that’s where people draw the line. Maybe, even subconsciously, a novel is perceived as a solitary work, much like a painting. And I suspect for a lot of writers, that is absolutely true. I suppose many—even most—writers have difficulty imagining creating a piece of fiction that is a shared vision, but it’s simply never been a problem, or even a question, for me.

Writing, I am fond of saying, is a solitary occupation, and I am not a solitary person. In the nineteen years since I quit my job (at the tender age of 25) and became a full-time writer, I have collaborated with more than half a dozen different writers, and those experiences share certain fundamental qualities. In each case, my collaborators were my friends first, and they were all writers whose work I respected and admired.

More often than not, such collaborations don’t arise from a conversation that even vaguely resembles what you might imagine. They don’t start with, “hey, we should write something together sometime.”

Nearly always, they begin with conversations about mutual interests, or drinks and dinner, or a stupid joke on an elevator…something that leads to an idea being born, sometimes in jest, and then a moment when you look at each other, both thinking, hey, that’s not a bad idea. We could really make something out of that. And if it’s something both authors are enthusiastic enough about, then you do it.

I first met Tim Lebbon via e-mail, when I asked him to contribute a short story to an anthology of Hellboy short stories I was editing called Odder Jobs (Dark Horse, 2004). That, I believe, was in 2003.

It feels like we’ve known each other much longer, but we didn’t meet in person until a World Horror Convention in New York City in 2005. I’d been cooking up the plot for a novel I wanted to write called Mind the Gap (Spectra, 2008), but because it was set in London and very much a British story, it felt to me like something I wanted to collaborate on with a British author.

As soon as I met Tim, I felt a kinship with him. We became fast friends and it seemed like serendipity. I told him about the concept for Mind the Gap and he jumped on board immediately.

That novel became a series of four loosely connected urban fantasy novels collectively called The Hidden Cities. They are Mind the Gap, The Map of Moments (Spectra, 2009), The Chamber of Ten (Spectra, 2010), and (coming later this year) The Shadow Men.

While I’m proud of the work we did on those books, especially The Map of Moments, which I think is one of the finest things either of us has ever written, collaboration or not, those books were born “on purpose,” if that makes sense. We wanted to create ideas, to build stories, all of that.

Which brings me around to The Secret Journeys of Jack London (Harper, 2011).

World Horror Convention, Toronto, 2007. Tim and I were at dinner with a large group of friends and colleagues. Thai food. Drinks. Tim was talking about his novelization of the movie "30 Days of Night" and somehow the subject of vampire polar bears came up. [Tim pictured.]

Yep. Vampire polar bears. The very thought of it sparked an instant excitement and enthusiasm in me—not necessarily vampire polar bears themselves, but all of the images and ideas that flooded into my brain at that moment.

Back up. My father was in the Coast Guard during the Korean War, stationed on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Some of my favorite pictures of him were taken during that time of his life. My parents were divorced when I was eleven, and my father died when I was nineteen.

I always wished I could have talked to him more about Alaska. Despite his many flaws, I romanticized Alaska and that part of his life in my mind.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that Jack London has always been my favorite “classical” writer, from the time I first read “To Build a Fire” and The Call of the Wild (1903) in middle school. Jack London inspired me with tales of the frozen north, with darkness and ice and stories told around fires and rough men in rough terrain and the purity and savagery so perfectly melded in the image of a wolf.

In the eighth grade, I wrote a paper called “Atavism in the Works of Jack London.” Fairly certain I got an A. It’s still around here somewhere, if I can only track it down.

Another aside. Also in middle school, I used to run across advertisements for some liquor or other in magazines, and the ads would have bits of poetry quoted from the works of Robert Service—all of them about the same sorts of things that were so central to the works of Jack London. The frozen north. Grim and determined men. The wild.

I can remember those snippets even now. “I have clinched and closed with the naked north, I have learned to defy and defend. Shoulder to shoulder we have fought it out, but the wild must win in the end.”

The Wild.

Robert Service became my favorite poet. I bought collections of his work. I quoted him in my second novel. Then, about ten years ago, my uncle gave me a packet of letters he’d found that my father had written to his Aunt Marguerite during his time stationed on Kodiak Island. He’d been romancing a girl there, and her father had taken a liking to mine. The man had given my father a book that had become my father’s favorite…a collection of poetry by Robert Service.

Full circle.

It’s all wrapped up in one strange cycle for me. Jack London. Robert Service. My father and me.

Back to that Thai restaurant in Toronto and someone says vampire polar bears and all of this goes through my head in a single moment. I look at Tim and say something about how we could do that. Jack London in the Yukon fighting vampire polar bears. Tim says we could do a whole series of them, a trilogy. I say: The Secret Journeys of Jack London.

Because, you see, he loves Jack London, too. He has had the same childhood imaginings of adventures in the frozen north and the grim and determined men of the Yukon and the noble wisdom of wolves. And we both love monsters.

The story started to grow right then, for both of us. After dinner, we walked back to the convention hotel, plotting Jack’s adventures. I think, in that moment, we were both twelve years old again. As adults, going back and rereading the works of Jack London, we’ve discovered even greater depth than we had seen as kids, though I believe we both recognized the power of Jack London’s themes even then.

So we collaborated.

I know, I know. We’re the weird things behind the glass museum case. How does it work? We plot together and we talk—a lot. We started with an outline and then one of us starts writing, does the first chapter and sends it to the other. We get on the phone again (well, on Skype) and talk about the chapter, and then what needs to come next, how far the next chapter should take us, how much we should keep to or stray from our outline, and then whoever is next at bat takes the next chapter.

And it grows. Like that.

It’s The Secret Journeys of Jack London. The first book is The Wild, and that’s out now.

VOYA and Booklist love it, and we love them for loving it, because it’s meant a great deal to us. It’s come from a very personal place that collaborations sometimes don’t come from.

The second book is The Sea Wolves. We’re starting the third one soon. White Fangs. And yep…vampire polar bears.

See, even though these are Jack’s journeys, they’re our journeys, too. And we’re loving every minute of them. [Christopher pictured.]

Maybe some of you still have that curious expression on your faces, wondering how two authors collaborate on a novel together.

Maybe for some of you, I haven’t explained it well enough because I haven’t gone into the mechanics of it thoroughly.

But, really, it isn’t about mechanics, and when it comes to how two writers can create a shared vision, I think I’ve explained it perfectly.

Cynsational Notes

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973) was adapted into a film of the same name in 1987.

This video features celebrated comic artist Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and award-winning novelist Christopher Golden, talking their illustrated novel, Baltimore (Random House, 2007).

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Book-spine Poem

Check out this book-spine poem by Christy Cochran, an Austin Independent School District librarian. Copyright 2011, reproduced with permission.

It reads:

Cosmic
Notes from the midnight driver
On the run
Magic steps
One false note
Dark fire
Eternal


Isn't that cool? Thanks, Christy! Support Texas librarians.

In a Similar Vein: Vampire Books





In a Similar Vein: Vampire Books by Heather Brewer from The Guardian. Peek: "Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd, explains the allure of writing about vampires and suggests some of her favourites."

Guest Post: Christine Brodien-Jones on Writing Scary But Not Too Scary for ‘Tweens

“If you look up before you get the light on, It will be there.
"The Thing. The terrible Thing waiting at the top of the stairs.”
--Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (1990)

By Christine Brodien-Jones

Shortly after Cynthia invited me to write a guest post, I was cleaning out a filing cabinet and ran across my old stories from elementary school. They confirmed what I already knew: I’ve always loved writing tales that terrify and scare.

I grew up reading myths, fairy tales and fantasy. I was a fan of horror movies. Not surprisingly, these influences—vampires, mummies, ghosts, monsters—followed me into adulthood. They began turning up in my fiction.

When writing fantasy for young readers, I find myself revisiting those old frights. Evoking the altered insects in sci-fi films like “Them!” (1954)(ants mutating into man-eating monsters), I created the Usk Beetles in The Dreamkeepers (Macmillan, 1992) and giant scorpions in The Scorpions of Zahir (Delacorte, 2012).

If I think about readers of my books, I imagine Megan, eleven years, sitting under a tree reading her favorite novel, The Magician by Michael Scott (Random House, 2008).

Megan has a child’s sense of wonder and a teen’s rebellious yearnings—and she adores old-fashioned adventures with heroines who save the world. At eleven, she’s at that magical in-between age of the ‘tween, a marketing concept that wasn’t around a generation ago. Maybe what draws her to fantasy is a wish to be brave: by confronting imaginary monsters she slays her own demons.

But Megan, dreamily turning the pages, isn’t concerned about conquering her fears. Her head is filled with incantations, leygates and immortal elixirs. She’s on Chapter Three, lost inside her own adventure, waiting for the magic to take her down a road she’s never traveled, to strange and wondrous lands.

And she doesn’t mind getting a little scared along the way.

I grew up in a house where the stairs creaked at night and I knew someone—or something—was making its way up. I still shudder at the memory. If you write what scares you, it may just happen—what my husband calls a ‘goosebump’ moment, what some British fuddy-duddies call ‘getting the collywobbles’: that delicious instant when the hairs prickle on your neck, your stomach goes hollow and you feel a catch in your throat.

Images from books haunted me as a child, long after I closed the covers: Kay’s heart turning to a lump of ice in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Bluebeard’s wife unlocking the forbidden door, Meg Murry’s confrontation with IT in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (FSG, 1962). “The wolves are running,” says the old man to Kay Harker on the train in The Box of Delights by John Masefield (Heinemann, 1935). I still go shivery, recalling that phrase.

‘Goosebump’ moments in my book The Owl Keeper (Delacorte, 2010) occur when Max sees the misshapens (genetic experiments gone wrong) approaching the house where he and Rose are hiding, and also when a plague wolf surprises the two children inside a tower, just when they thought they were safe.

Fantasy storylines are sometimes dark—but not too dark for younger ‘tweens. Many authors use humor to take the edge off the scary parts, as in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl (Viking, 2001) books, Suzanne CollinsGregor the Overlander (Scholastic, 2004) series, and The Witches by Roald Dahl (Cape, 1983)(amusing book, but those witches are fearsome).

There’s a fine line between ‘goosebump’ and horrific.

My editor Krista Marino discouraged me from having the scientists in The Owl Keeper extract the eyes of mutant skræks, saying it was too frightening for young readers. I later remembered my ten-year-old son’s nightmares after reading John BellairsEyes of the Killer Robot (1986), where a scientist tries to take out Johnny Dixon’s eyes. Shudder!

When describing hopeless situations, things can be bleak but not totally without hope.

Certainly there can be loss, tragedy, even death, but for ’tweens fantasy books tend to have upbeat endings. And hope, according to Lloyd Alexander, author of The Chronicles of Prydain (Henry Holt, 1964-1968), “is an essential thread in the fabric of all fantasies.”

‘Tween reader Megan turns the page, shivering as her heroine flees the Dark Elders. The magic is working, the world needs saving. I watch (from behind my computer screen) as she disappears into Chapter Four.

Cynsational Notes

Christine Brodien-Jones, a graduate of Emerson College, Boston, is a former teacher and editor, and lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband Peter.

Her post-apocalyptic children's fantasy, The Owl Keeper (Delacorte, 2010) comes out in paperback (Random House Yearling) in April 2011 and has been licensed to Scholastic Book Club for Fall 2011.

The Scorpions of Zahir (Delacorte), an adventure/fantasy set in Morocco, will be published in Summer 2012.

She is represented by Stephen Fraser of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones (Delacorte, 2010). First prize: a hardcover copy. Second and third prize: paperback copies. To enter the giveaway, comment here or email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Owl Keeper" in the subject line. Note: if you comment, be sure to include an email address (or link to one) where you can be reached. Deadline: midnight CST May 27. Note: Author sponsored; U.S./Canada entries only.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cynthia Leitich Smith Signs Three-Book Deal with Candlewick Press

From today's issue of Publishers Marketplace:

"New York Times bestselling author of Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed Cynthia Leitich Smith's YA novel Smolder, to Deborah Wayshak at Candlewick Press, in a three-book deal, for publication in 2013, by Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown Ltd. (world English)."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spooky News & Giveaways

Enter to win Blessed (Candlewick, 2011), an ARC of Tantalize: Kieren's Story, and more from Jen Bigheart at I Read Banned Books. U.S. only; ages 13-up. Deadline: midnight CST, April 25.

Check out the Blessed Readers' Guide.

Check out the previous books in the series, Tantalize and Eternal.

Shop the Sanguini's Store at Cafe Press; images designed by Gene Brenek.

More News & Giveaways

Interview with R.L. La Fevers by Jen Wrote This from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "I approach the merging of history and fiction with the idea that my first job is to tell a great story; the history must serve the story, not the other way around."

Debut Novel Expectations by R.L. LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "Middle grade novels in particular, rarely come out of the gate with the same big splash potential that YA novels can engender."

New Agent Alert: Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Associates from Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents. Seeking: "literary fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, thrillers, mysteries, YA, and middle grade."

The Whole Novel Retreat, presented by the 9th Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop, will take place Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 in Santa Cruz, California. Faculty include agent Joan Slattery of Pippin Properties and Susan Van Metre, senior VP and publisher at Abrams/Amulet and an MFA instructor in Writing for Children at The New School in New York. Application deadline: May 15 (later applications will be accepted until June 25 or until the workshop is filled).

How Authors Get Paid from Cinda Williams Chima. Peek: "The fun begins when I discuss royalties. Royalties are monies authors get for each book sold. I say to the students, 'Let’s say you buy a hardcover book for $18. How much of that do you think the author gets?'"

Congratulations to Tim Crow, winner of the Joan Lowery Nixon Award at this spring's Houston SCBWI conference. Manuscripts are nominated by conference faculty and then a winner is chosen to work on his writing for a year with author Kathi Appelt, in memory of Joan's tradition of mentoring.

Spooky Screening Room

Check out the video for Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Delacorte, 2011). See excerpt.



More Personally

After numerous events, I'm spending the next month deep in the revision cave, working on book 4 in the Tantalize series. Please hold off on any non-critical correspondence until I flash the green light. (By "critical," I mean you're drowning, bleeding or on fire.)

I've already posted my photo report from the Texas Library Association annual conference and the YA A to Z conference, sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas. But here's a couple more fun pics from the festivities!

Joy Preble at Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar & Grill.

Margo Rabb, Varian Johnson and Mandy Robbins Taylor at the Hyatt Regency.

Thanks again to everyone involved with both conferences! See also Greg's report!

Happy Easter and a belated happy Passover to those who celebrate, and many blessings to everyone!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spooky News

Interview with Holly Black by Malinda Lo from Diversity in YA Fiction. Peek: "...I think the tricky thing about fantasy is that issues in the magical world should ideally both remind us of issues in our world, but not parallel one thing so closely that it appears to be merely that thing in disguise."

Twelve Tips for Twitterphobes by R.L. LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "Today’s post is for those of you out there who haven’t yet tried Twitter or who have given up on it or who are just plain flummoxed by it."

Skype Authors: Partnering with schools and book clubs through virtual visits to support education worldwide. Suzanne Williams writes: "The authors on the site have pledged to contribute 25% of their fees for any Skype visits booked through the site to a charity that supports education in the developing world. For 2011-2012, that charity is Camfed, and they will be raising money to provide school supplies to elementary students in Malawi. I'm still adding authors to the site and hope to have a group of 20 - 25 participating authors within the next month or two."

What If Your Characters Don't Want Anything? by Charlie Jane Anders from io9. Peek: "If the plot happens in spite of your characters' desires, that makes those desires more important." Source: Gwenda Bond at Shaken & Stirred.

Agents mull change to AAA code of practice by Charlotte Williams and Benedicte Page from TheBookseller.com. Peek: "Literary agents are privately ­discussing removing a clause ­preventing them from acting as publishers in the UK Association of Authors' Agents constitution." Source: Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent.

As Nike Says: "Just Do It" by Erin Vincent from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "...I understand that you are busy with a million other obligations. But if you want to write – if you want to be published – you have to start. Right now. Don’t put it off any longer, because trust me, it will never be the right time."

Congratulations to Rubin Pfeffer of East West Literary for signing Kari Baumbach, and congratulations to Kari for signing with Rubin! Note: link to Rubin includes a substantial video excerpt of his presentation at a Highlights Foundation workshop; he offers insights on technology-driven changes in publishing as a business.

You Need a Complete Manuscript by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "The only exception to this rule is if you’re writing older non-fiction, like something for the middle grade or teen age rage or a reference book/textbook. And picture books from author/illustrators..."

The Elusive Advanced Reader Copy by Mary Lindsey from QueryTracker. Peek: "If authors say no to requests, it's not because they don't want you to have an ARC, it's because they are expensive and hard to come by, and in today's market, the buzz from that ARC might be the only publicity that author gets."

Social Networking and Your Picture by Jessica from BookEnds, LLC. Peek: "One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is the use of your book’s cover as your profile picture." Note: your mileage may vary.

Team 'Hunger Games' talks: Author Suzanne Collins and director Gary Ross on their allegiance to each other, and their actors by Karen Valby from Entertainment Weekly.

Making It Through the Middle by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "...if you don’t get through middles, you’ll never get to the end–and be published."

More Personally

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by M.G. Buehrlen from Young Adult Books Central. Peek: "Book four is still untitled, but it will feature characters from all of the previous books. Expect more adventure, humor, chilling suspense, and moments that may well inspire Quinice/Kieren and Zachary/Miranda shippers to swoon."

Lost Souls? from Book Moot ("Smith does not focus on any individual religion or faith here but the story reflects a belief that we all possess a spirit that can be imperiled. For teen readers, that is not a bad thing to ponder.").

I'm on a revision deadline and spending the week at the annual Texas Library Association Annual Conference and the YA A to Z Conference, sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas (more on all that to come), but first here's a quick look at my comings and goings around town.

Highlights of late include lunch at the Shoal Creek Saloon with Austin author-illustrator Salima Alikhan. Read a Cynsations interview with Salima.

Last weekend, I had coffee with Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA student Melanie Crowder at BookPeople.

Afterward, we continued upstairs to the children's section for Jo Whittemore's launch party for Odd Girl In (Aladdin, 2011).

Jo give a warm, upbeat, funny PowerPoint presentation and then signed books for her many eager fans.

More Personal Links of the Week:

Friday, April 08, 2011

Spooky News

Folktales and Fairy Tales--for Teens by Chris Eboch from The Spectacle. Peek: "To update a traditional folk or fairytale, she (Natalie M. Rosinsky) suggests setting the story in a new location. You might also change the point of view, for example telling a princess story from the prince’s viewpoint. Humor is another bonus."

7 Rs of Positivity for the Unpublished Novelist by Lydia Sharp from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Writing fiction is emotionally taxing work. When you’re feeling especially low, remove yourself from everything." Source: An Englishman in New Jersey.

Vermont College of Fine Arts invites published authors with teaching experience to apply for part-time visiting faculty positions in its highly-acclaimed MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program. The College seeks a number of prospective faculty members who can be hired in the coming years to meet expected growth. Faculty positions require presence, readings, lectures, and leading workshops on campus for 11-day residencies every six months. Faculty oversee independent study work for the six months between residencies, thus allowing educational work to be interwoven with the activities of home, community, and personal artistic practice. Applications will be reviewed on criteria including publications, teaching experience, literary nominations and awards, and education. An advanced degree is preferred but not required.

5 Tips for a Successful Reading by Marianna Swallow from Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents. Peek: "When presenting, reading from plain paper is easier than reading from a book. And when you do, speak from your gut." Note: with books for young readers (versus adults), I'd say a two-to-three minute reading is long enough--maybe five, if you're theater trained. You can go longer, presenting with illustrations, but it's okay to edit down even a picture book text for length.

Check out the new giveaways at TeensReadToo!

Q&A with Author Carrie Ryan by Cyndi Hughes from the Writers' League of Texas. Peek: "When I first started writing with the goal of making a career out of it I gave myself ten years in which I’d write, revise and submit and then move on to the next project. After ten years, if I still wasn’t published then I could re-evaluate my plan." See also An Original Carrie Ryan Short Story Available as an E-book from Random House via The Compulsive Reader.

Agent Advice: Holly McGhee of Pippin Properties by Ricki Schultz from Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents. Peek: "As a parent and as a writer, it’s our duty to prepare kids for the world. That means telling and talking the truth."

Zen and the Art of Manuscript Submissions by Jeannie Mobley from EMU's Debuts. Peek: "Submission is the part of the process that completely and utterly exposes us all to the most brutal noise and clutter in the world– the voices of self doubt and criticism that come shrieking in like Valkyries onto the bloodied battlefield of our creative minds (because what fruit salad is complete without some Old Norse Paganism?). But here is my point..." Source: Liz Garton Scanlon.

Elements of a Successful Fiction Platform by Christina Katz from Writer's Digest. Peek: "What does a successful platform really look like for a fiction writer?"

Attention Teachers, Librarians, Book Clubs! Randy Russell, author of Dead Rules (HarperTeen, June 2011) have teamed with independent bookstores across North America to giveaway $2,000 in free books to Support Teen Reading. You can participate here to receive a free pinback button for early participation (while supplies last) and be eligible for new books from your nearest indie bookstore (not to mention the iPod nanos and $200 in iTunes credit).

Once Upon a Backstory by Peek: "...figure out what past events made them who they are today or shaped their behavior. Only then will your characters have depth, and their actions will be realistic to who they are."

Readergirlz and Figment will Rock the Drop in honor of Support Teen Lit Day, next Thursday, April 14th. Find out how you can join in here!

Kidlit for Japan Auction

Kidlit4Japan is hosting a children’s-YA literature auction to benefit victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. A daily auction preview appears weekdays at 8 a.m. EDT. New items appear hourly from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Items include signed books, advance reader copies, artwork, critiquing services, book-related swag, author visits, the chance to name a character in an upcoming book, etc." Currently available items include:


Spooky Screening Room

Concubines, Eunuchs, and Fury by Cindy Pon from Diversity in YA Fiction. Peek: "Much of Fury of the Phoenix (HarperTeen, 2011) takes place in the inner court of the Palace of Fragrant Dreams, where the concubines reside, inspired by the actual concubine quarters of ancient China. When I was revising the novel with my editor, she actually crossed out 'thousands' once and wrote 'hundreds?' above it."



More Personally

Thank you to Elizabeth Wrenn-Estes and her Library and Information Science class at San José State University for your hospitality during our online visit on Tuesday night! Special thanks to Mardi Veiluva for tech training and assistance!

So What's It Like to Live with a Writer? from Salima Alikhan. Note: my husband (and sometimes co-author) Greg Leitich Smith and I chime in.

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Maureen McGowan from Get Lost in a Story. Peek: "My series includes not only werewolves, but also werecats, wereopossums, werebears, weredeer, and werearmadillos. If you could shift to any animal form, which would you choose and why?" Discuss at the link.

Thanks to Debbie Reese for this shelf shot of Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) at the Urbana (Illinois) Free Library! Debbie blogs at American Indians in Children's Literature.

Link of the week: YA Books to Movies List compiled by Naomi Bates from YA Books and More.

Spooky Events

The annual Texas Library Association Annual Conference will be April 12 to April 15 at the convention center in Austin. Check out the list of Austin author signings. Notes: (a) Take a Chance on Art and enter a raffle to win the illustration "Space Age" by Melanie Hope Greenberg to benefit the TLA Disaster Relief Fund; see more information; (b) Cynthia Leitich Smith will be signing Blessed and other titles at 11 a.m. April 13 in the Author Signing Area.

Erin Murphy Literary Agency Wine Social will be at 3 p.m. April 16 at BookPeople in Austin. Peek: "Come meet Erin Murphy as well as some of the authors she represents."

YA A to Z Conference, sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas, will be April 15 and April 16 at the Hyatt Regency Austin (208 Barton Springs Road). Cost: $279 WLT Members, $349 Nonmembers (through March 15). See more information. Note: conference faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Cynthia will serve as the interviewer at "Meet the Author: Gail Giles" and as a panelist on "Going Graphic: Writing Graphic Novels" with Hope Larson, moderated by K.A. Holt. Last call! Register today!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Spooky News & Giveaways

Attention Writers! Send a photo of yourself with a dinosaur (a museum skeleton, recreation, gas-station logo, made from Legos, whatever) to Greg Leitich Smith for inclusion in his upcoming blog series, Writers and Dinosaurs. You don't have to be published to participate! See link for details. See also Greg on The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

Spooky Blogger Tip: Respect authors' copyright. Keep quotes to under 5o words or ask permission to post a longer excerpt.

Reminder: Teen writers/English teachers! Teen writers are encouraged to enter the Hunger Mountain Young Writers Contest. Three first place winners will receive $250 and publication! Three runners-up will receive $100 each. Note: I'm honored to be this year's judge. See link for more information. Hunger Mountain is the Vermont College of Fine Arts journal of the arts.

Creative Confidence by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "You are the only person on this planet who is going to care the most about your creative output and your career. Sure, you will get people in your corner, like your agent, your editor, your mentors, your friends and family, you cat, and your fans, who will care about your books or whatever else you do, but nobody will care about it half as much as you."

Making the Most of Writer's Conference Critiques by Jennifer Ziegler from Chasing Tales. Includes insights from agent Erin Murphy, editor Stephanie Elliott (formerly with Random House/Delacorte Press, now with Sparknotes), former Austin SCBWI regional advisor Meredith Davis, author Dorothy Love, and Writers' League of Texas executive director Cyndi Hughes. Peek from Erin: "It’s perfectly fine to talk it out with the critiquer to solidify your ideas, or to ask if you can have a moment to make a clear note to yourself so you don’t lose the train of thought and can go on to make use of all the time in your session."

Interview with Translator Laura Watkinson by Sarah Blake Johnson from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "...if a foreign-language publisher is trying to sell something like a YA novel, it makes little financial sense for them to have the whole book translated and time is also an issue, so they’ll usually have just an excerpt translated to take along to the book fair. An excerpt is typically around twenty pages...may be packaged with extra information about the author, such as a bibliography and perhaps an interview."

Your Platform Equals Opportunity by Greg Pincus from The Happy Accident. Peek: "Every time you create content, every time someone visits your blog while you’re asleep, every time you have an interaction…opportunity is created. You form a relationship, sometimes very brief and sometimes one that builds and builds."

Why Love Matters by Danyelle Leafty from QueryTracker. Peek: "...do you want just any old agent? Someone who might enjoy your story without ever having loved it?"

A comprehensive list of U.S. college- and university-sponsored or -hosted children’s and young adult literature conferences, festivals, and symposia compiled by Chris Barton from Bartography.

Publishing Industry News compiled by Kathy Temean from Writing and Illustrating. Peek: "Abrams will launch its third imprint Appleseed Books, a new imprint geared towards babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, in Spring 2012." Round-up includes recent job appointments/promotions, a new interactive online book club for tweens from Simon & Schuster, and more.

Spooky Giveaways

Last Call: Enter to win a signed copy of Throat by R.A. Nelson (Knopf, 2011). To enter the giveaway, comment here or email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Throat" in the subject line.

Deadline: midnight CST April 1. Note: Author sponsored; U.S. entries only.

25 Days of Giveaways: Day 20: Tantalize Series by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Bookaholics Book Club. Giveaway includes:

-plush bat toy;

-chubby bat stickers;

-author-autographed postcard for Tantalize: Kieren's Story (featuring not-yet-public cover art for the graphic novel, illustrated by Ming Doyle);

-Sanguini's button;

-Sanguini's magnetic menu wipe board.

Eligibility: U.S. only. Deadline: 7:17 p.m. Friday, April 1. See link for entry form and more information. Note: Sanguini's is the fictional vampire-themed restaurant that appears in Tantalize, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren's Story.

Spooky Screening Room

Check out this author video interview with Jennifer Lynn Barnes from RT Book Reviews. I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer and hearing her speak at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. Learn more about her novel, Raised by Wolves (Egmont USA, 2010).



At the SCBWI-Wisconsin novel retreat in Madison last weekend (details below), I had the pleasure of connecting with one of my favorite YA authors, Deborah Lynn Jacobs. Check out her trailer for Choices (Roaring Brook, 2007).



More Personally

I've had a few questions of late about traveling to writing/books events with only a backpack for trips under four days.

Here's the scoop: Traveling by air, I've had to deal with missing luggage for up to five days.

If I'm on the road, that leaves me with only the outfit I've got on. (Even if shopping sounds appealing, author-speaker schedules are such that I may not have an opportunity to do so.)

Plus, most airlines are charging fees for checked bags. I'd rather not deduct that from my earnings, and, I'm reluctant to pass that cost onto my hosts.

So, I pack my toiletries in a Ziploc bag (making sure to squeeze the air out), roll up mostly travel-knit garments, and plan to wear no more than two pairs of shoes on the trip. I also tend to take outfits that can be hand-washed and hanger-dried overnight.

From there, I slip in whatever is necessary--printed speeches, schedules, giveaways, manuscript, etc. The pack still fits beneath the seat in front of me, which is key with regional jets. Beyond that, I recommend using both shoulder straps. The pack will be heavy, and you're less likely to pull a muscle.

What else? After a fair number of such long-distance treks, I'm returning to writing (and more events) here in Central Texas for the next few months. Check out the schedule below.

But first, I'd like to offer a huge thanks to everyone at Lee County Library System in Fort Myers, Florida for your hospitality at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival! Thanks also to those folks who turned out for my presentation and/or signing!

Personal highlights included meeting Alice Hoffman, Eric Litwin, and Jennifer Lynn Barnes (see video above) as well as reconnecting with Phil Bildner. I also had the opportunity to catch Sara Shepard and Rosemary Well's talks.

I had such a terrific time at An Evening with the Authors at the Royal Palm Yacht Club, an affiliated event, and staying the Hotel Indigo--lovely with excellent service. Beyond that, Fort Myers is one of the friendliest towns I've ever visited!

Another mega thank you goes out to the coordinators and participants at last weekend's SCBWI-Wisconsin novel retreat at the Bishop O'Connor Center in Madison!

Special thanks to RA Pam Beres, ARA Judy Bryan and Ann Angel for bringing me in to teach the workshop. I'm still wowed by the writers I met, consider myself their forever cheerleader, and came home with warm memories.

School Library Journal says of Blessed (Candlewick, 2010): "Off-handed humor, clever wordplay, and a host of supernatural beings will delight fans of Smith’s Tantalize (2007) and Eternal (2009, both Candlewick), the two novels that precede this one, though Blessed can certainly be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel."



Links of the Week: Fight Multiple Sclerosis with author Lindsey Leavitt, Don't You Need a Gown Made of Golden Books?

Cynsational Events

Erin Murphy Literary Agency Wine Social will be at 3 p.m. April 16 at BookPeople in Austin. Peek: "Come meet Erin Murphy as well as some of the authors she represents."

The annual Texas Library Association Annual Conference will be April 12 to April 15 at the convention center in Austin. Check out the list of Austin author signings. Notes: (a) Take a Chance on Art and enter a raffle to win the illustration "Space Age" by Melanie Hope Greenberg to benefit the TLA Disaster Relief Fund; see more information; (b) Cynthia Leitich Smith will be signing Blessed and other titles at 11 a.m. April 13 in the Author Signing Area.

YA A to Z Conference, sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas, will be April 15 and April 16 at the Hyatt Regency Austin (208 Barton Springs Road). Cost: $279 WLT Members, $349 Nonmembers (through March 15). See more information. Note: conference faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Cynthia will serve as the interviewer at "Meet the Author: Gail Giles" and as a panelist on "Going Graphic: Writing Graphic Novels" with Hope Larson, moderated by K.A. Holt. Spaces are still available! Register today!