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1. Cynsational Holiday Hiatus

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Effective immediately, Cynsations is on winter holiday hiatus while I update my official author website for a 2016 relaunch. Keep up with children's-YA book news and resources at Twitter @CynLeitichSmith and facebook.

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2. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Interview with Sharon Gibney by E.M. Kokie from The Pirate Tree. Peek: "As a teen, I didn’t see very much at all being written about mixed race identity — particularly in fiction that teens are reading. And I definitely didn’t see transracial adoption being dealt with in a nuanced, complex way that felt real to me as a young person living through that experience."

Writing Enslaved Narratives by Don Tate from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "...as a kid, I never saw that depicted in books, so I didn’t know. Had I known, I might not have felt so ashamed every time the topic of slavery came up in sixth-grade history class." See also Writing About Family & Freedom by Kelly Starling Lyons.

Best Policies for a Streaming Author Visit from ALSC Blog. Peek: "Streaming visits allow authors to connect with more readers and are easier on your budget- sometimes your author will even speak for free!"

Adventures of a Debut Author: A Tweet Cheat Sheet from Debbie Gonzales. Peek: "Check out how easy it is to support a friend in 140 characters or less." See also Five Ways to Use Instagram as an Author by Tee Morris & Pip Ballantine from Jane Friedman.

Interview: Kevin Henkes by Roger Sutton from Media Source. Peek: "I do love the time between when I've finished a book and when that book comes out in print. I use that time to come up with an idea for the next book, so I don't mind it being stretched out."

Call for Nominations: 28 Days Later from the Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "Nominations are now being accepted for our ninth annual 28 Days Later campaign, a Black History Month showcase honoring emerging and established children’s book creators and their amazing literary contributions."

Parrotfish Needed an Update: The Rapidly Changing Language of Transgender Awareness by Ellen Wittlinger from The Horn Book. Peek: "I’ve known for several years that there were words in the book no longer considered correct and, in fact, that there was one word currently deemed offensive." See also Recommended Books on Transgender Lives and Telling the Stories of the Transgender Community by Gwen Glazer from the New York Public Library.

Five Things I Learned on Deadline by Chandler Baker from Chuck Sambuchino at Writers Digest. Peek: "It’s easy to panic on deadline. In fact, panic is the default. Sometimes I think I live in a perpetual state of panic with a little voice in my head screaming in terror."

How to Decide How Many Point of View Characters Our Book Needs by Marcy Kennedy from Angela Ackerman at Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "One technique we can use for figuring out what’s best for our individual story is to write down all the potential point-of-view characters we might want to use, and then ask ourselves the following questions."

"Reading Aloud Binds Us Together in Unanticipated Ways" by Kate DiCamillo for The Washington Post. Peek: "I wanted to let people know that we can all — young and old — connect more deeply through stories. But oddly, what happened is that as I worked to deliver the message, the message was delivered to me."

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaways

The winners of Surviving Santiago by Lyn Miller-Lachmann are Jess in Ohio and Donna in California.

More Personally

Greg with cakelustrator Akiko White.

Last Sunday Greg Leitich Smith successfully launched Borrowed Time (Clarion, 2015) to a standing-room-only crowd at BookPeople in Austin. See Greg's event report.

See also Borrowed Time Mixed Paleontology and Fantasy by Sharyn Vane from the Austin American-Statesman. Peek: "...a slam-dunk for dinosaur aficionados and will appeal as well to those who are fans of literary time travel and outdoorsy adventure."

Effective immediately, Cynsations will go on winter holiday hiatus while I update my official author website for a 2016 relaunch. Keep up with children's-YA book news and resources at Twitter @CynLeitichSmith and facebook.

Congratulations to Neil Shusterman, winner of the National Book Award in Young People's Literature, for Challenger Deep (HarperCollins)!

Congratulations to the WNDB Inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant Recipients!

Thank you to Kim Bogren for recommending my picture book Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000) at Words Reflected.

Link of the Week: Perfect Websites for Shopping for Book Lovers & Geeks by Naomi Bates from YA Books & More.

Personal Links

Slippery Words Talks to Violent Ends Contributors
Texas Book Festival Seeks Literary Director
Things I'll Never Say: Author Roundup
How "The Hunger Games" Changed Hollywood 
Open Letter to Teachers About Images of American Indians
Singapore: Lights for the Deaf & Rings for the Blind

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3. Guest Post & Giveaway: Greg Leitich Smith on Time Travel & Tracking Dinosaurs

Borrowed Time launch party at BookPeople in Austin
By Greg Leitich Smith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

There’s a line from the first "Jurassic Park" movie to the effect that the place has all the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo.

I sort of feel the same way about writing time travel fiction: You have all the major problems of historical fiction and all the major problems of science fiction/fantasy.

And in writing a dinosaur time travel novel, I found, to my surprise, that of the two, the more problematic one has been the historical – dinosaur -- aspect.

We are seeing new discoveries and new interpretations of dinosaur behavior and evolution almost weekly. In publishing, of course, there can be up to a two-year lead time from a sale of a manuscript to its publication. A lot can happen in that time.

For example, there is a dinosaur called Tsintaosaurus – long thought to have had a single horn coming out of its head like a unicorn. In 2013, however, a study was published that concluded that the “horn” was placed in the wrong position and Tsintaosaurus didn’t resemble a unicorn at all. Any manuscript set for publication that featured the unicorn became instantly outdated.

Sometimes, though, the science is less settled, as in the case of Nanotyrannus. Nanotyrannus is a name that was assigned to a specimen of a dinosaur that resembles Tyrannosaurus rex but is somewhat smaller (Hence “nano”). Although some of the evidence is ambiguous, some recent analyses suggest that Nanotyrannus was just a juvenile T.rex.

(That said, there are new specimens that some paleontologists believe may prove the existence of Nanotyrannus that have yet to be fully examined).

So, what’s an author to do?

Do your research until it hurts. For me, this involves getting as many primary sources as possible. In the case of paleontology, this means journals such as PloS One, Cretaceous Research, and the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

I tend not to trust media reports of new discoveries but sometimes they link to or you can infer a link to the original article. Most articles on the new discoveries will have a recap of past thinking on an issue.

Know your point of view. Chronal Engine (Clarion, 2012) and Borrowed Time (Clarion 2015) both feature a small tyrannosaur the point-of-view protagonist Max calls Nanotyrannus. Max does mention the ambiguity in the naming (because he’s slightly pedantic), but nevertheless continues to call it Nanotyrannus throughout.

Why? Well, first, “Nanotyrannus” is kind of a cool name and continually referring to the animal as “the juvenile T.rex” would’ve been clunky. Also, he didn’t have the wherewithal to perform an analysis of the creature to determine what species it actually was...

Don’t be afraid to make an informed judgment call – in fiction, at least, there’s room for poetic license. And, besides, the science might catch up to you. Both Chronal Engine and Borrowed Time feature a variety of dinosaurs of differing sizes in the dromaeosaur family (These are the “raptor” dinosaurs made familiar by "Jurassic Park").

In the location and era the book is set, however, the bones of only small raptors have been recovered, although there are some ambiguous teeth believed to be from larger raptors. Consequently, in the books, I feature different-sized species of raptor. And recently, paleontologists announced the discovery of Dakotaraptor, a giant-sized “raptor” dinosaur – somewhat larger than the raptors from "Jurassic Park" -- from the same era in which my books are set.

What’s a reader to do?

I tend to be the type of reader who gets annoyed by factual errors. They trip me up and make me less trusting of the author and less willing to suspend disbelief. So here’s my strategy:

Whenever I pick up a book for the first time, I always look at the first publication date (often the copyright date). I had assumed that everyone did this or learned to do this, and was surprised when I was informed this was not so.

But the original date of publication will give you a heads up on the mindset of the author, the era in which he is writing, and what facts are known (or should have been known) to him or her at the time.

For example, Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of sluggish and scaly dinosaurs in The Lost World (published 1912) is very different from the active and intelligent predators in Michael Crichton’s Lost World (1995). But I’m willing to accept Conan Doyle’s portrayal because of the era in which he was writing. (I’m also willing to accept Crichton’s featherless raptors because his book was published prior to the discovery that raptors had feathers).

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win signed copies of Chronal Engine and Borrowed Time by Greg Leitich Smith (both Clarion). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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4. New Voice & Giveaway: Christine Hayes on Mothman’s Curse

Mothman Selfie Sheet
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Christine Hayes is the first-time author of Mothman's Curse, illustrated by James K. Hindle (Roaring Brook, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Josie may live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange thing she ever sees is the parade of oddball customers that comes through her family’s auction house each week. 

But when she and her brothers discover a Polaroid camera that prints pictures of the ghost of local recluse John Goodrich, they are drawn into a mystery dating back over a hundred years. 

A desperate spirit, cursed jewelry, natural disasters, and the horrible specter of Mothman all weave in and out of the puzzle that Josie must solve to break the curse and save her own life.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level? What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

I so envy writers who are able to follow a set routine. That would be the ideal. I’d love to be more productive, more disciplined! But the truth is, while I try to spend time every day writing or revising, I often end up staring at the computer screen, reworking the same passage over and over, or finding jobs to do around the house that could easily wait.

If I go several days without any forward writing progress—and to me that can include blogging or marketing efforts—then I become anxious and unsettled.

Christine's work space
I find I have to set small, measurable goals and break big projects up into bite-size pieces to fool myself into not feeling overwhelmed. I’ll mark a deadline on the calendar, then work backward to determine how much I have to get done each day. Even imaginary deadlines can be valuable motivators!

Then I try to follow through in unconventional ways, mixing up my routine from day to day. I’ll work a few days at home at the kitchen table, another day sitting in the car at the park, another at a local café. On a few occasions when I was facing critical deadlines, I checked into a hotel to sharpen my focus and cut down on distractions.

For first drafts, I get the most done with a notebook and pen, writing things out by hand. Later, as I type what I’ve written, I’m able to self-edit, adding or cutting as needed. It’s an effective way to shape the story early on.

For the next round of revisions I often print out a chapter at a time and use a red pen to mark it up. Sometimes there are only a few usable sentences left per page once the ink dries. It’s tough to watch the word count shrink, but satisfying to see those few sentences that are able to withstand a more intense level of scrutiny.

As far as making a manuscript competitive—polished, professional—I think it’s a dichotomy. You can’t compare your work to others, because you will always feel like you fall short.

Christine's pottery collection
I love the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I see this with my kids all the time. If I were to give them each a cupcake, they’d be happy for a minute or two, but they would inevitably notice that a sibling has more frosting or less frosting or a better color of frosting or whatever. As adults, we never quite grow out of this.

At the same time, you should be reading every day—books both in and out of your genre, news articles, magazines, something. Not to compare, but to fill your mind with words of all kinds, drinking in what’s beautifully done, learning lessons from work that’s perhaps less polished, clichéd, poorly paced, etc.

Set a high standard for yourself. Maybe six months ago you wrote something and said, “This is my best work.” But then you write something new and when you revisit your earlier work you realize that you’ve grown as a writer. It’s a beautiful and amazing process.

I struggle with procrastination and self-doubt. I also tend to overthink, to tinker with passages too much, but at some point I have to stop fussing and just let go. The gauge for me is feeling like it’s the best I can produce in that moment in time, until my agent or editor gently points out the many ways a piece can be improved!

As a paranormal writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time paranormal reader? Did a particular book or books inspire you?

I’ve been fascinated with the paranormal since grade school. As a young teen, I would check out stacks of ghost story anthologies from the library. I had mostly given up on kids’ novels at that point. I found it so disappointing when I would choose a book that seemed like it was about a ghostly mystery, only to discover that the “ghost” was a fake, dreamed up by the bad guy to hide some evil plot. I craved books that celebrated the unexplained.

One book I do remember falling in love with was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (FSG, 1963). Though not precisely a paranormal story, it was full of wonder and possibility.

I had the same teacher, Mrs. Tapscott, for both fourth and fifth grades. She read to us every day, and one of the books she read was A Wrinkle in Time. She had this sweet southern voice, and she had no patience for kids who thought they were too cool to listen during reading time.

She also read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (George Allen & Unwin, 1937), The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Avon, 1969), and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (Dutton, 1959). She was an incredible lady.

I also remember seeing commercials for a series of Time Life books called Mysteries of the Unknown. I wanted so badly to own every volume. A few years ago I found one at a garage sale for a dollar. Of course I snapped it right up! Isn’t it funny, the things we carry with us from childhood?

Outside of books, one specific influence that stands out in my memory is the show “In Search Of,” hosted by Leonard Nimoy in the late 70s/early 80s. Each week they would explore an aspect of the unexplained: the Bermuda Triangle, aliens, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster. I ate it up.

Then, of course, were the slumber parties where we watched movies like "Psycho" and "The Lady in White." It was delicious, that shared feeling of fear: hiding behind our pillows, imagining footsteps outside the window—because in fact we were perfectly safe. We were seeing new facets of the world, exploring what it meant to be brave.

I think spooky books are appealing because they offer adventure, escape—a vicarious experience in a parallel world. They allow kids to view fear through a lens that hopefully makes their real-world problems a little less scary, a little easier to face.

These days I love "M Night Shyamalan" movies and the show "Supernatural." I even watch the occasional episode of "Ghost Hunters." My husband teases me about my “creepy side.” But I’ve never enjoyed slasher movies or anything gory, especially zombies. They give me nightmares!

It’s probably why I write middle grade. I love a good scare, but nothing graphic. I think what you don’t show can be even scarier than spelling out the grisly details. The movie "The Village" comes to mind here. It wasn’t well-received by critics, but it created an almost tangible atmosphere on the screen. It had gorgeous, enticing cinematography, a washed-out color palette with hints of red (“the bad color”), and an epic soundtrack. I thought it was beautifully done.

I’m also fascinated by old things and abandoned places. Every broken-down barn or rusting piece of junk tells a story. You can almost feel the history there as you imagine the ghosts that might be lingering. It’s my go-to source for inspiration.

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5. Guest Interview: Author Eric Pinder on Writing Picture Books & How to Share With a Bear

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Eric Pinder is the author of four picture books and four adult nonfiction books. His most recent release is How to Share With a Bear, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015). From the promotional copy:

The perfect thing to do on a chilly day is to make a cave. But comfy caves never stay empty for long….

What can you do when a bear takes over your cave? Try to distract him with a trail of blueberries? Some honey? A nice, long back scratch? 

How to Share With a Bear is a story about how although it’s not always easy, sharing with a sibling can be the most fun!

Congratulations on How to Share With a Bear! Tell me about the inspiration for this story.

Being a kid should automatically count as credit toward getting a degree in architecture, because we’ve all made blanket forts and blanket caves as kids. What’s more fun? I think every uncle, aunt, parent, and babysitter has had to master the architecture of a blanket cave at some point, too. Often it’s a collaborative effort, in the same way that reading a picture book is a shared experience.

For How to Share with a Bear, I had the blanket cave setting in mind from the start. The word “cave” got me thinking about real caves, and what you might find in one. That led naturally to a bear.

How or when did you make that leap in your imagination from bears being scary creatures that could eat you to being a cuddly companion?

William Faulkner’s “The Bear” was an early influence, even before I started writing for children. And no one gets through high school without seeing Shakespeare’s bear chase characters right off the stage. So we have this perception of bears as big and scary, but in childhood we’re also familiar with Fozzy Bear, Yogi Bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, and our own teddy bears.

Hear the word “bear” and you don’t know at first which you’re going to get: the terrifying grizzly or the funny, cuddly kind of bear. The very word “bear” creates uncertainty, all on its own.

Uncertainty creates tension and suspense. And suspense makes readers keep turning the pages. We have these two dueling, conflicting perceptions of bears lodged in our minds from an early age, and I think the subtle tension that evokes is what makes bears so great for storytelling.

Cat in the Clouds, If All the Animals Came Inside, Share with a Bear... I'm sensing a theme with animals and nature.

One of my earliest favorite memories is camping with my dad in Baxter State Park on a rainy afternoon when suddenly a moose stuck its head right into our leanto to say hi. I didn’t have that day in mind when writing If All the Animals Came Inside, but now that I think about it, that memory must have been an influence all along.

I know you spend a lot of time outdoors and have even written some books for grownups on that subject. Can you tell me what prompted you to write for children and what has been the biggest challenge in crafting stories for young readers?

One day a strange thing happened: Everyone in my circle of friends started having kids. Their houses were suddenly full of books by Seuss and Boynton and Silverstein. I’ve always liked poetry, and writing picture books is similar; they’re both read aloud—performed—so the sound and rhythm of each word and syllable matters. It’s almost like writing a song. Reading those old favorite books on friends’ shelves and hearing them performed out loud reminded me of how much fun they are. I had to start writing some of my own.

Writing for any age group is challenging. The biggest challenge with picture books is appealing to two different audiences at the same time: the grownup reading the book, and the child listening to them read. Re-watching Sesame Street recently made me appreciate how well they often write on two levels like that. One Sesame Street skit features a bear who is a writer. The bear’s name is Flo. It took me a second to connect the dots: Flo Bear, i.e. Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary. Clever joke! That second level of understanding flew completely over my head when I saw skits like that as a toddler, but it didn’t confuse or distract me, either. Watching it as a grownup, it made me chuckle.

What's your process like? Do your stories simmer in your head for a long time before you sit down at the computer?

I leave a plate of cookies next to my laptop overnight and hope that elves will write the story for me. Then I get up the next morning, eat one of the stale cookies, mutter about elves, and start typing away on my own. To force myself to make time to write, I’ll put background music on the CD player and make a rule: no checking email or playing Scrabble or anything else but writing until the music stops. Usually the first half-hour is agonizing, but then I’ll get momentum.

Sometimes a single sentence or an opening scene will simmers for months before the rest of the story appears. At other times, like a gift from the Muses, a whole first draft will appear on the page in one sudden creative burst. But that’s rare. I should probably bake more cookies for the Muses.

You also teach creative writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Does that also feed your creativity?

The best way to describe teaching is “exhausting but rewarding.” Lesson prep and commenting on student stories is time-consuming, but it’s worth it. Sometimes a student’s story or poem will be so good that it makes me grin the whole time I’m reading it. Just being part of a community where everyone loves books, talks about books, and asks smart questions about books on a weekly basis sparks creativity.

Of course, there are times when I wish I’d assigned less homework. (Right now, my students are probably saying, “Yeah, us too.”) It takes energy and time to critically read and edit dozens of pages of stories by others between classes, and that does leave less time and energy for your own creative work. It makes sticking to a regular writing schedule, even if it’s only an hour a day, extra important.

For most teachers the summer—blissful, leisurely summer—is the most productive season for our own writing. But the books we read and the classroom conversations we have during the rest of the year definitely fuel new writing projects.

I frequently see Facebook posts of you selling books at Farmers Markets. Tell me more about this unique venue choice.

A middle-schooler at an author event said, “Hey, my mom runs the farmers’ market. You should sell your books there.”

That’s not a venue that would ever have occurred to me, but, being a starving writer in need of money, I filed the idea away and gave it a try.

The first day I sold $200 worth of books. People like getting signed copies. Even on rainy days when I sell nothing, it’s still fun to meet and talk to people. You can tell who the teachers and school librarians are.

The best part is seeing kids who really love books. A beginning reader at one market slowly read If All the Animals Came Inside aloud to his grandma, pausing every now and then to say, “Did you write this page and this page?” and “What the heck’s a yak!?” It was like listening to a funny DVD commentary for my own book. Halfway through, he told me, “You’re actually doing a really good job writing this. So far.” Kids are the bluntest and best of literary critics.

At some markets I’m the only writer there, sandwiched between vegetable stands, maple syrup, and corn on the cob. Other towns combine farmers’ markets with craft fairs, so there are painters, wood-carvers, and photographers there, too.

One tip for doing book-signings at venues like this is that it helps to have at least three or four different books on your table. People like to see a selection and be able to browse. I’ve seen authors with only a single title at their table, and they’ve struggled. The more covers you have on display, the more eye-catching your table will be.

What's coming up next?

Another picture book with Stephanie Graegin, How to Build a Snow Bear, is coming in 2016, and The Perfect Pillow, illustrated by Chris Sheban, in 2017. The latter has animals but surprisingly no bears, which may be a first for me.

I also just finished a big revision of a creative nonfiction manuscript about adventures in teaching. That one does have bears, and wolves, and even a camel. So I guess I’m not done writing about animals just yet.

I read about the bats being cut from How to Share With a Bear - any plans for bat inclusion in future books? Or do you have something against bats?

I love bats! They eat mosquitoes and have sonar as a superpower. Sometimes a scene, like the one with the bats, is good on its own, but the story as a whole is stronger without it.

I save deleted scenes and pruned sentences in a folder called “Scraps.” Sometimes they’ll get used or adapted later in a different story.

Cynsational Notes

Both Eric and Gayleen are alums of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults program and graduated in the Winter 2011 class known as the Bat Poets.

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6. Book Trailer: My Dog Is The Best by Laurie Ann Thompson and Paul Schmid

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for My Dog Is The Best by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Paul Schmid (FSG, 2015).

From the promotional copy:

What do you get when you combine one energetic, enthusiastic little boy with his sleepy but tolerant dog? Unconditional love. 

Using simple words and spare illustrations, My Dog Is the Best celebrates the special bond that exists between a young child and a beloved family pet. It's the heartwarming story of two best friends. . . told by a boy with a very active imagination.

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7. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Five Questions for Tim Wynne-Jones by Elissa Gershowitz and Sam Bloom from The Horn Book. Peek: "For years I had wanted to write a World War II book to honor my father, whose experience of the war in Europe scarred him."

Someone Is Publishing Your Idea by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek: "...you can’t really know a book from a paragraph of description. The voice, the tone, the plot, the sense of humor, the lightness or darkness, the literary quality. All of these things happen in the execution, not the pitch."

Publisher Eileen Robinson of Move Books from Emma D. Dryden at Our Stories, Ourselves. Peek: "I want to help children see themselves in books, be changed by them, and find confidence and solace in reading, giving them an experience that might inspire them or help them inspire others."

Redefining Heroism by Jennifer Bohlman from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: "There are very few chronically ill fantasy and science fiction heroes because it seems impossible for 'chronically ill' and 'hero' to describe the same person." See also Thinking Critically, Thinking Positively by Corinne Duyvis from Nerdy Book Club.

Comment on the #17Days of Mindfulness Challenge at Shadow Mountain's Facebook page for a chance to win Silence by Deborah Lytton.

What Does Thanksgiving Make You Think Of? by Angie Manfredi from Reading While White. Peek: "...at my library, instead of another story about sharing maize, we make a conscious effort to spotlight and celebrate books by Native American authors. You can too..." See also Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City from Rich in Color. 

Review & Recipes: The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles from Jama Kim Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Peek: "They all know that deep down, the grown-ups would gladly trade their fancy dishes for a chance to sit at the table that always has the most FUN!" Note: Do you like picture books and/or food and/or art and/or...? Jama's Alphabet Soup is an adorable, creative and informative blog. Highly recommended!

Richard Van Camp's Whistle: a recommendation by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "He felt so real, and people with troubles like his require me to slow down and think about young people."

Cynsational Giveaways
This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on the release of Borrowed Time (Clarion, 2015), a companion book to Chronal Engine. From the promotional copy:

In this time-travel dinosaur adventure, Max Pierson-Takahashi and his friend Petra return to the days of the dinosaurs, where they must survive attacks from mosasaurs, tyrannosaurs, and other deadly creatures, including a vengeful, pistol-toting girl from the 1920s. 

The fast pace, mind-bending time twists, and Greg Leitich Smith’s light, humorous touch make this an exciting, fun choice for readers looking for adventure and nonstop action.

Central Texans! Join us for the book launch party at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15 at BookPeople in Austin.

In other exciting news, I look forward to joining fellow Austin YA authors P.J. Hoover, Mari Mancusi and Cory Putnam Oakes for the advanced screening of "Mockingjay, Part 2" on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Alamo Drafthouse South in Austin. Cory is hosting a giveaway of official film merchandise!

Personal Links

What College Costs This Year
Hollywood Sexism
A Teacher's Job
"Concussion" Movie and the NFL
U. of Missouri's Business-Minded Ex-President 
We Need Diverse Books on Scholastic Book Club Collaboration

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8. Author Tonya Bolden to Receive 2016 Nonfiction Award from Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C.

From The Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C.

The Nonfiction Award Committee announces the selection of noted and prolific author Tonya Bolden as the award's next recipient. The Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award is presented annually to an author for a body of work that has "contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children."

Tonya Bolden has created works of nonfiction that appeal to children and young adults, both in her topics and her accessible writing style. She has written twenty-seven books, many of which represent the African-American experience.

Her topics include the Emancipation Proclamation, Muhammad Ali, W.E.B. DuBois, as well as little known African-Americans of note, as in Searching for Sarah Rector and Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl.

"What serendipity that her latest book is set in our own backyard" said committee chair Joan Kindig about Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital. "It was meant to be!"

Committee members included Guild members Joan Kindig, professor, James Madison University (chair); Katy Kelly, author; Jewell Stoddard, children's literature specialist; and Kathie Meizner, librarian, Montgomery County Public Libraries (chair emeritus).

The event honoring Tonya Bolden will take place on Saturday, April 9, 2016; at Clyde's of Gallery Place in Washington D.C. It will include lunch and a presentation by the author followed by a book sale and signing. Tickets will be available for purchase starting in January 2016.

To learn more about Tonya Bolden and the Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C., and to make reservations for the event, visit www.childrensbookguild.org.

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9. New Voice: Danica Davidson on Attack on the Overworld

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Danica Davidson, welcome back to Cynsations and congratulations on the release of Attack on the Overworld(Skyhorse, 2015)! 

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view--first, second, third, omniscient (or some alternating combination) featured in your novel?

Usually I don't decide what point-of-view I want to use, because the story comes to me with the point of view already intact, if that makes sense.

My new book, Attack on the Overworld, is a sequel to Escape from the Overworld (author interview), and both times the story "came to me" in first person.

I'd just sold a manga book to Skyhorse Publishing and was pitching a YA series with my agent when Skyhorse asked if I could come up with a pitch for a Minecraft book.

I came up with a proposal for a fictional middle grade novel pretty quickly, because Stevie, the main character of the books, came to me pretty quickly. I didn't know his name was Stevie yet, but he was a kid living in the Minecraft world and I could picture him and I could start hearing his voice running in my head, telling his story.

I was a little hesitant at first to write it in first person, because when I took a look at the other Minecraft books out there, they all seemed to be in third person. I was bucking the trend. I tried thinking about Stevie's adventures in third person, to see if I could shift, and then the words wouldn't come. Stevie had made it pretty clear he wanted me to tell this from his point of view.

So how was I going to write as if I were an eleven-year-old boy, even though I wasn't eleven or a boy?

Well, that's the fun of it. Like actors taking on different roles, I often like to write from the point of view of people I'm not. To help me "get in character," I read my writings from when I was eleven and other books aimed for the same age group.

With the first book, Escape from the Overworld, Stevie introduced himself pretty quickly, but I was still getting to know him. For the sequel, he was like a friend and it was easier to bring out his voice.

As a fantasy writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?

I think fantasy can be a great way to creatively look at real issues in a new light. In Escape from the Overworld, the characters deal with feelings of insecurity and bullying from schoolmates. In the sequel, Attack on the Overworld, I decided I wanted to take on cyberbullying.

The setup is that Maison, an eleven-year-old girl who lives in our world, accidentally creates a portal to the Minecraft world with her computer. This is how she meets Stevie and he gets to visit our world.

But in the sequel, cyberbullies hack into Maison's computer and get to the portal. They let themselves into the Minecraft world, turn it into eternal night (this is when the monsters come out during the game) and unleash zombies on the village. Soon the village is overrun and Stevie and Maison are the only ones in the area who haven't been turned into zombies.

A realistic take on cyberbullying? Well, no. But through this creative way of talking about it, I can show how devastating cyberbullying can feel. It also lets the different characters (including the cyberbullies) talk about how cyberbullying affects them. The cyberbullies, one in particular, talk about why they first started bullying people online, and once they can understand the driving force, they can take steps to change. The book also shows how kids who are cyberbullied can stand up for themselves and go to adults for help.

A lot of the articles I've read on cyberbullying have repeated the same information and don't really have any emotion to them, because they're reporting. By giving characters these issues, I think it makes it more emotional and I hope it gets people more able to talk about cyberbullying.

Because I'm a public figure working online, I've been cyberbullied. Then I've read articles about people who have been so badly cyberbullied and so hurt by it that it's messed up their lives. This is not something we should be ignoring or dismissing.

Coincidentally, the YA series I'm shopping around is also a fantasy that takes on real life issues that teens face . . . hopefully this is something I can soon be sharing with readers as well!

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10. Book Trailer: Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies by Carmen Oliver, illustrated by Jean Claude

By Carmen Oliver
for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations

In 2012, I was working on a nonfiction picture book project about white and black spirit bears in Canada and the boy Simon Jackson who was trying to save them from extinction.

At the same time, my daughter was in fifth grade and was given the awesome task of being a reading buddy to an incoming kindergartner.

And I thought to myself wouldn’t it be funny if the teacher assigned reading buddies to a class of students but one student piped up and exclaimed she didn’t need one because she already had one, a real live bear.

That was the inspiration behind the beginning of my forthcoming picture book Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies, illustrated by Jean Claude (Capstone Young Readers, March 1, 2016).

I’m beyond thrilled that my debut picture book speaks to the importance of literacy but I didn’t intend to write a book with a message. I’m just a reader at heart who loves to get lost in stories. Reading transforms.

One of my favorite quotes is by American philosopher Allan Bloom, "If you touch the heart with one book, it can transform a life."

My intentions are to entertain and I hope that readers find humor and share a few laughs with Mrs. Fitz-Pea, Bear, and Adelaide. But if in the process they find themselves falling in love with reading, then I say, "Welcome to the club – it’s a great place to be."

I hope you enjoy the book trailer for Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies. If you do—stand on your hind legs and ROOAAARRRR!

Pre-ordering is now available through Amazon.

Cynsational Notes

Carmen Oliver is the author of picture books Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies (Capstone/Curious Fox, March 2016) and The Favio Chavez Story (Eerdmans, TBD). She’s also the founder of the Booking Biz, a boutique style agency that bring award-winning children’s authors and illustrators to schools, libraries, and special events. Born in Canada, she now lives just outside of Austin, Texas.

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11. Author Interview & Giveaway: Angela Cerrito on The Safest Lie

"The Power of Poetry," an award-winning play!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Welcome back, Cynsations reporter Angela Cerrito, and congratulations on the release of The Safest Lie (Holiday House, 2015). Could you tell us a little about the novel and what inspired you to write it? 

The Safest Lie follows the fictional Anna Bauman attempting to hide her Jewish identity and pass herself off as Anna Karwolska in Warsaw Poland during WWII. She confronts many of the same hardships and horrors children actually faced during the war. 

I was inspired to write about Anna when I learned of Irena Sendler’s covert operations to rescue children from the Warsaw ghetto.

How did you approach the research?

First, I read everything I could get my hands on in English. Next, I relied on translators to help me translate documents from Polish and German.

I applied for and was awarded an SCBWI grant that allowed me to travel to Poland for research. In Warsaw, I was able to study primary sources including testimonies of children recorded when they were staying at a home for Jewish children immediately after the war. Those first-hand accounts, documented so close to the actual events, were extremely valuable to me as a writer.

I was also able to meet and interview Irena Sendler and her biographer Anna Mjeszkowska. Reading extensively prior to the interviews was a great help because it allowed me to go deeper into the subject matter and clear up inconsistencies in my research. Also, like most biographers, Ms. Mieszkowska was very passionate about her work and eager to share research that wasn’t included in the published biography.

What were your biggest challenges in terms of craft and framing the story for young readers?

Excerpt & Educator's Guide
You’ve asked the question I repeatedly asked myself while writing this novel. How can I possibly write this story for such young readers?

I was determined to be honest, completely honest, yet it was important that I use language and experiences appropriate for young readers. This was a difficult balance. 

Some of the early versions were too bleak. Yet, there were some things I couldn’t change and still portray what children actually faced.

Over time I was able to have Anna learn about things that happened to other children rather than experience them herself. Also, as the many revisions turned into an actual novel, there was more of Anna’s past, before the war.

The turning point for me was when one of my versions introduced Jacob as a more significant character. This prompted me to explore more of Anna’s past and helped give the book the balance of honest yet hopeful.

What advice do you have for other historical fiction writers?

Advice for historical fiction writers would be the same as advice for any writer: write what you want to write in your very own way. No one else can feel your stories, no one else can imagine your words. Write.

How was writing your sophomore novel different from writing your debut, The End of the Line (Holiday House, 2011)?

I actually wrote the first draft of The Safest Lie before I finished The End of the Line. The writing process wasn’t significantly different, although The Safest Lie required many more drafts. And obviously from the long time from start to finish I took many breaks from the novel along the way.

Though the two novels are very different: The End of the Line is contemporary and features a boy protagonist at a school for troubled youth while The Safest Lie is historical and follows a girl protagonist hiding in plain sight.

They have much in common. Both characters long for their family and are struggling with identity. Robbie and Anna are both trying to find a way to be the person they were before. In Robbie’s case, he can’t forgive himself for Ryan’s death and wants to be, in his words, normal again. Anna, wishes she could be her true self though her very life depends on hiding her identity. I enjoy exploring the internal emotional conflicts of characters and their struggles with identity.

You're involved in SCBWI International and the Bologna Book Fair! Can you tell us more about your related efforts? 

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is very special to me. It was the very first SCBWI event that I ever attended. The SCBWI presence in Bologna has grown and we now have an exhibitor’s booth where SCBWI members, from anywhere in the world, can display their recently published PAL books. There is also an SCBWI Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery.

In 2016, we will display the top illustrations and for the first time ever we will have a People’s Choice Award where visitors to the SCBWI exhibit at the fair will vote on their favorite illustrations.

Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito (@angelacerrito) is an author and playwright. Her newly released novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House, Fall 2015) is based on research in Warsaw, Poland including interviewing Irena Sendler, a mastermind spy in the Polish Resistance who rescued 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. 

Her debut novel, The End of the Line (Holiday House 2011), about a boy coming to terms with his role in the death of a friend, received many awards including VOYA’s Top of the Top Shelf, a YALSA Quick Pick and a Westchester Fiction Honor Award. Her play, "The Power of Poetry," was awarded the Best Play Audience Choice award at the 2015 IMCOM Europe new play festival. Angela is a Cynsations reporter, covering Europe & beyond.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a bookplate-signed copy of The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito (Holiday House, 2015). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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12. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Native American Voices by Crystal from Rich In Color. Peek: "For November and all year round, this list is filled with some excellent books by Native authors." See also Recommended Native American Folk Songs by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature.

Emotional Wounds Entry: Being the Victim of a Vicious Rumor by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out." See also Writing (or Reading) with Feeling from Marion Dane Bauer.

Mental and Practical Planning for a Book's Release by Donna Janell Bowman from Emu's Debuts. Peek: "I am acutely aware that, in six months, when Step Right Up appears on book shelves, my words and I will be exposed to the court of public opinion. Yikes!"

Sibert Committee Looking for Great Informational Children's Books by Elizabeth Overmyer from ALSC Blog. Peek: "You’ll have to wait until January to hear our final decisions, but please send your ideas our way. While we won’t be breathing a word of our favorites, why not make sure your favorites have caught our attention?"

On Hearing Voices and Emphasizing Relationships by Gary Schwartz from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek: "They work to be funny and make funny situations, when all they need to be doing is staying with each other, listening closely and reacting honestly. That is why I often say what passes for true improvisation is comedy poorly rehearsed."

Love Letter to a Sloppy First Draft by Jael McHenry from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "So in that sloppy first draft mode, I pay no attention to things like, oh, actual geography. The city I’m writing about now doesn’t have a Gold Coast or a Beauregard Street or a Garden District, as my sloppy first draft claims." See also How Do You Finish a First Draft? by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk.

Author Interview: Greg Bancroft on Betsy's Day at the Game by Lindsey McDivitt from A Is For Aging. Peek: "My own grandfather didn’t talk much, but he talked about baseball. I was the only one to hit a home run one day at age ten, and by the time I got to his hardware store he already knew."

Publishing's Unsung Heroes: Copy Editors by  Holly Robinson from the Huffington Post. Peek: "the copy editor is a fierce, mistake-seeking hound, nosing around in every dark corner of every paragraph to make sure you get things right. Thank God."

Navigating an All-White Publishing Industry by Ebony LaDelle from CBC Diversity. Peek: "I was in middle school, and on a trip to the library, I saw a cover that spoke to me in ways I had never experienced before." See also Simmons College and Lee & Low Establish New Scholarship from Lee & Low.

Interview: Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong from Science Book a Day. Peek: "There’s such great potential for overlap between science and poetry, it was fun to gather poems that explore the usual topics of nature and animals and take it a step further– into engineering, physics, technology."

Recommendation: Chime by Franny Billingsley from Getty Hesse at Disability in Kidlit. Peek: "While Briony’s depression is never made explicit in the text, I found it obvious within the context of the story."

Cynsational Giveaways
The winners signed copies of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark are Annette in Idaho and Maria in Virginia.

The winners of signed copies of Inside the Palisade by K.C. Maguire were Claire in Ohio, Karen in Utah, and Valentina in Croatia.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

The International Literacy Association's Literacy Daily, in Getting a Fantastical View of the World by Thomas Crisp, says of the Feral trilogy by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick/Walker):

"With its focus on supernatural creatures and its subplots involving teen romance, the fast-paced and action-packed series could easily lend itself to cinematic or television adaptation."

Personal Links

CBC Diversity & LGBTI Titles
Private Lives of "Star Wars" Stormtroopers
Chris Barton: Nutcracker, Reconstruction & Leading a Curious Life
Highly-Sensitive People
Joy Castro on Sneaky Literature 
Female Mexican Conductor Makes History
K.C. Royals Win World Series
The Teen Brain: It's Just Not Grown-Up Yet
Teens Spend 9 Hours Daily with Media 
Paper Cutouts Transform Travel Photos 

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13. Guest Interview: Cynthia Levinson & Kate Hosford: Children’s Authors & Circus Fans (Part III)

By Kate Hosford & Cynthia Levinson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Earlier this week, we interviewed each other about our respective new circus-themed book releases.

Don't miss the interview about Cynthia's Watch Out for Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community (Peachtree, 2015) or the interview about Kate's Feeding the Flying Fanellis and Other Poems from a Circus Chef, illustrated by Cosei Kawa (Carolrhoda, 2015).

Here's our final installment of this series:

Why do you think circus arts—and books about them—have become so popular with kids?

Kate: I think circus arts fill a need that wasn’t being met in our culture. American kids who wanted to be physical usually turn to team sports, but if kids want an outlet that is both physical and artistic, they need to look elsewhere.

Circus arts are athletic and artistic and also provide kids with an opportunity for healthy escapism. The circus world is magical and mysterious, and by participating in circus arts, children are able to ‘run away with the circus’ before returning to their regular lives.

For kids who serious about circus arts, another benefit is that their troupe really functions as family. They are united in trying to put on the best show possible, and in many cases have also entrusted their physical safety to their fellow troupers or to crew members.

I think your book makes it very clear that the bonds that are forged through this interdependence are profound, especially if the circus is comprised of kids from different cultures who can not always fall back on a shared language as a form of communication.

Ultimately, the circus family cannot function unless each member is fully focused and committed, and this is true whether you are a performer, director, crew member, or the circus chef.

Cynthia: Kids’ lives today are closely scrutinized, demanding, and competitive. Maybe circus—both real ones and books about them—is especially appealing now because it provides ways for kids to find an alternative to their everyday situations.

Unlike the rest of their lives, circus is non-competitive. Performers have to cooperate, partly because that’s the ethos of circus and also because it’s too dangerous not to. So they take big risks but in a supportive environment.

One of my major takeaways from my research into circus is that, while it appears to be exotic, it is actually doable by a wide range of kids. They get to imagine themselves inside a world that is both fantastic and real.

Anyone can truly accomplish what appears to be the impossible.

Many of their peers seek fantasy online or in virtual worlds and compete with each other for grades or recognition. But circus kids help each other create an alternate reality, literally.

I don’t know if this explains why circus is becoming prominent but I hope these values come across in kidlit.

They certainly do in your book where the troupers seem out of this world—but they have to eat, like normal people! And the chef has to be flexible to figure out their very human needs.

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14. Guest Interview: Kate Hosford & Cynthia Levinson: Children’s Authors & Circus Fans (Part II)

By Kate Hosford
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Cynthia Levinson’s book Watch Out for Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community (Peachtree, 2015) is an in-depth look at the world of social circus —a movement that brings kids from different cultures together to perform.

Cynthia follows the story lines of nine kids in two circuses: Circus Harmony in St. Louis (comprised of suburban and inner-city kids) and Circus Galilee in Israel (comprised of Jews and Arabs).

As the kids evolve, they must overcome many physical, cultural and emotional obstacles.

Cynthia’s eye for detail, her ability to stay close to her characters, and her tenacity as a researcher makes her writing vivid, suspenseful and utterly compelling.

I couldn’t wait to see how life turned out for each one of these kids, and I’m in awe of her ability to keep all the balls in the air while researching and writing this book.

How did you conduct your research? What were some of your most memorable research experiences? What were some of the obstacles you encountered along the way when writing this book?

The research was a combination of exhilarating, onerous, and hilarious. Exhilarating because I got to spend hundreds of hours behind the scenes at circuses, seeing how kids learn to plant their feet next to their ears while lying on their stomachs, walk en pointe in toe shoes along a tight wire, and juggle clubs behind their backs.

Meghan and Hila, contortion

Also, I spent nine days living with Jewish and Arab families in the Galilee. If you’ve heard of Middle-Eastern hospitality, you’ll know what this means. The number of dishes at every meal! The multiple ways of cooking eggplant! The warm pita and fresh hummus! In addition, circus people all over the world pride themselves on welcoming everyone as family.

Circus Cynthia!
So, I moved in with the St. Louis troupe, too. All of these experiences were invaluable for immersing myself in the Middle East, the Midwest, and the universe of circus.

The research was also onerous, however, because only four of the nine kids featured in the book live in the United States. One of the Americans was in professional circus school in Canada, and the Israelis, of course, were in Israel. So, I was dealing with three time zones and two foreign languages.

Technology glitches also intervened. When I couldn’t talk with the kids face-to-face, we communicated by whichever means worked best for them—telephone, email, text, Skype or Facebook messaging and video—as long as the devices, the cell towers, and the internet connections worked. When one of those went down, so did the conversation.

Then, there was the fact that they and their coaches—who spoke, variously, Hebrew, Arabic, German, Mongolian or occasionally English—were practically my only sources of information. Unlike many nonfiction books, Flying Kids is not based on archival research.

Instead, it was a journalistic effort, with the events unfolding in recent and real time. The investigations that did not involve personal interviews and observations consisted of prowling the kids’ and the circuses’ Facebook pages and email exchanges and begging them for photos and videos.

(I did read some secondary works, which focused on the practice and history of circus, the history of the Middle East, and the growth of St. Louis.)

Frankly, the hardest factor of all was that the “main characters” were all teenagers with much better things to do than talk with me about their childhoods. I kept a log of the times that various ones of them “stood me up” (in my definition).

Cynthia practices circus tricks.
Not infrequently, what I thought was an appointment for an interview, complete with a hired translator, turned out to conflict with homework. Or rescinded cell-phone privileges. Or a mood swing. Or with an urgent need to go to the beach—the photos of which I simultaneously tracked on Facebook! I could hardly blame them.

But I gnashed my teeth. I sent so many messages to my editor explaining why I simply could not write this book that she sent me a copy of The Little Engine That Could!

The hilarious part happened when I was trying to figure out what kids aged 10-14 know about the Galilee. I asked writer friends, and one reported, "I asked my neighbor’s daughter, who is 13. Said she, ‘Isn’t that where Puff the Magic Dragon lived?’”

Actually, as amusing (and informative) as that was, the truly funny part came when I tried out circus tricks. My website has mortifying videos of me falling over a mini-tramp and rolling off of a globe.

One of the factors that makes this book so exciting is your close focus on the many story lines of performers in both circuses. Describe the challenges of building up many story lines simultaneously.

You’re right—that was very tricky. (Pun intended!) I needed a lot of “main characters” because there were two circuses (one in Israel and one in the U.S.), each with at least two major ethnic/racial groups, and a variety of skills to cover. Combining these factors led to a cast of nine kids.

In addition to the story line for each of them, I also wanted to convey a story arc for each circus, as a whole. I didn’t know when I started whether or not they had one because, as I said, the circuses were evolving as I was observing and writing about them. It turns out, fortunately, that story arcs happen in real life! Candidly, I worried that that was too many lines for readers to keep track of. But each is so distinct, I think it works.

On top of all that, not only are there multiple story lines but they also take place over a number of years. Although the book ostensibly covers 2005-2012, it actually reaches back farther than that because three of the Americans started earlier than the others. So, I was also dealing with layered timelines.

Iking flying toward T-Rock

How did your editor help with this process of making this book?

Manar and Lil
I’m thrilled to give a shout-out at every opportunity to my editor, Kathy Landwehr at Peachtree Publishers. Not only did she have faith in the project when I despaired, she guided it all the way through.

I suggested a picture book, but she sensed that it needed to be middle grade. Initially, she suggested that I write a fun book about "a year in the life of the circus,” covering just 2011-2012. That was the plan.

However, when I went to Israel in the fall of 2012 to do research, I discovered that the Lebanon War had started in 2006, first, in the Arab village where the Muslim kids in the circus live and then literally in the back yard of one of the Jewish kids. I immediately knew I had to start the story there. That made the book more historical and political.

And Kathy accepted all of that. She advised me to “write long,” which I did—and then helped me chop 25,000 words. I knew the original manuscript needed to be shortened but I didn’t know which 25,000 words to relinquish. Kathy is the behind-the-scenes heroine of this book. It would not exist or have the shape it does without her.

How did writing this book change you as a person?

I love this question! No one has asked me this before but our books do change us, don’t they?

My previous book, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March (Peachtree, 2012), gave me visceral insight into the gulfs between black and white people’s perspectives.

Watch Out for Flying Kids humbled me but also gave me more confidence. Humbled me because I really cannot do any of even the simplest tricks that the kids do.

Also, they are open to taking risks and to charging into new situations that I never had the nerve for at their age. Yet, producing this book with all of its complications gave me confidence as a writer. If I could do this one, I’m ready for more!

Speaking of which, in response to another of your questions, my next book, due out in January 2016, is a middle-grade biography called Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can. Two other books are scheduled for release in 2017.

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15. Guest Interview: Kate Hosford & Cynthia Levinson: Children’s Authors & Circus Fans (Part I)

By Cynthia Levinson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Kate Hosford’s book, Feeding the Flying Fanellis and Other Poems from a Circus Chef, illustrated by Cosei Kawa (Carolrhoda, 2015), is a complete delight.

The concept of combining cooking with circus is genius. Both activities are popular with and appealing to kids, and food brings circus, which can feel exotic and other-worldly, down to earth for children.

On top of that, the rhymes are varied, and the poetry is both fun and informative. The ringmaster’s meals are in his top hat! The juggler is growing thin because he juggles his food rather than eating it! Readers will empathize with a homesick strongman.

And, perhaps best of all, Kate conveys the true message of circus: “Everyone’s invited.”

Keep flying, Kate!

Why did you choose to write about a circus chef?

As a former dancer and gymnast, I’ve always been intrigued by circus, but when I was growing up in Vermont there were not yet opportunities for teenagers to participate in circus arts.

This changed while I was in college; in 1987, the Vermont-based Circus Smirkus, was founded, and in 1989, my father’s non-profit Project Harmony organized a youth exchange between Circus Smirkus and a circus from Tbilisi, Georgia.

I later went on to see many more amazing performances by Circus Smirkus, as well as shows by the Big Apple Circus, and Cirque de Soleil. I am also a fan of contemporary circus productions such as those from the Montreal troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main (the 7 Fingers of the Hand.) I saw their show Traces ten times in 2012!

My interest in chefs probably resulted from the fact that I developed food intolerances in my thirties and had to live on a restricted diet. Food suddenly became a complicated part of my life, and I fantasized about having a personal chef who could cook for me, leaving me to free to focus on other things.

When I was about thirty-five, I began to write picture books. My first attempt was a story about a chef with a morbid fear of onions, and my second was story about a rooftop circus. However, it took another eight years until I decided to combine these interests and write about a circus chef.

Andrew Levy, Circus Smirkus chef
Once I started researching actual circus chefs, I was hooked. There were stories about stilt walkers from Trinidad who covered all their food in ketchup, Russian performers who put mayonnaise on every dish, and if the shipments of animal food didn’t arrive, the chef would have to bake bread for elephants, and feed the tigers meat from their freezers.

At first I thought maybe I should write a nonfiction book about circus chefs, but the desire to make up my own circus won out.

I loved the idea of a chef who would have to cater to different kinds of performers with a variety of dietary and emotional needs.

After trying to write about a circus chef in a picture book format, I eventually switched to poetry, and decided to write from the chef’s point of view. After that, the initial poems came quite quickly, but it took another four years to revise them.

As part of my Fanellis book promotion, I interviewed Andrew Levy, the wonderful Circus Smirkus chef. (That interview will be on my website soon!)

Can you talk about the editing process of the book?

I first presented these poems as a workshop piece at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I received my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. The feedback was positive, so I continued to work on the poems in my fourth semester with poet Julie Larios. I will always be grateful to Julie for holding me to a high standard, while also helping me tap in to my whimsical side.

After Carolrhoda Books acquired the manuscript, I wanted to explore various poetic forms such as the triolet, pantoum and double dactyl. Editor Anna Cavallo was helpful and patient as I tried out countless versions of each poem. While these particular forms did not make it into the book, I did make sure that I had a collection with varied rhyme schemes and rhythmic patterns. It was also important to me that the poems were interwoven, so that a character introduced in one poem might make a cameo appearance in another poem. I guess this was my form of world-building.

I also showed an earlier draft of the poems to Circus Smirkus founder Rob Mermin. At that time, the collection contained a poem about a clown who was a bad-mannered buffoon. Rob encouraged me to create a poem about a refined clown, who more accurately reflected the ethos of circus clowning. I threw out my original clown poem and wrote a new poem about a sophisticated and well-mannered clown who is conflicted about having to throw pies.

Aside from that change, the cast of characters mostly remained the same throughout the editing process. The only character who didn’t make the cut was a unicyclist who couldn’t stop long enough to eat.

What do you love about Cosei Kawa’s illustrations?

I love the fact that the pictures are complex and completely original. I haven’t come across another illustrator who has a style even remotely similar to Cosei’s. His take on the circus is surreal, and I think there is a lot there for children to discover upon repeated readings of the poems.

I also love the fact that many of the images have depth to them, and his use of wacky perspectives complements the eccentric personalities of the performers.

What are some of your upcoming projects?

I am working on a couple more poetry collections, which also have interrelated poems. I have five or six picture books in process, and am beginning middle grade novel about ballet. I have now started ballet lessons, and have to stand in the middle of the class so that I always have someone to follow!

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16. Guest Post & Giveaway: Lyn Miller-Lachmann on Presenting Contested Histories in Fiction

Dana on Writing from the Marrow
By Lyn Miller-Lachmann
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Last spring I interviewed Dana Walrath about her debut YA novel Like Water on Stone (Delacorte, 2014), a story of the Armenian genocide told from the perspective of three child survivors and an eagle that observes all.

The comments that I received on my review of this novel revealed that this is still a contested history, especially among some Turkish Muslims who continue to deny the genocide.

My own novel Surviving Santiago (Running Press, 2015) addresses a contested history as well, that of the Pinochet regime in Chile. By the time the Chilean people voted General Pinochet out in a 1988 plebiscite, he’d been favored to win, his name had become synonymous worldwide with assassination, torture, and censorship.

Yet nearly ten years after his death, many Chileans continue to see the seventeen years of his rule as a time of stability and prosperity. They see the human rights violations as a necessary cost of a radical economic restructuring that has made Chile a prosperous nation. My husband’s uncle in Santiago happens to be one of those people.

Tina’s family has a different point of view. Pinochet’s forces imprisoned and tortured her father, a human rights activist and socialist, and left him disabled. But I could not write this novel without thoroughly researching and taking into account the other side.

Just as Like Water on Stone shows through the father’s musical trio that not all Turkish Muslims supported the genocide, Surviving Santiago offers a character, Tina’s aunt, who appreciates the country’s economic growth under the dictatorship while condemning oppression in all its forms.

Cynsational Giveaway

Moonbeam Award Gold Medalist
Enter to win one of two signed copies of Surviving Santiago (Running Press, 2015). From the promotional copy: 

To sixteen-year-old Tina Aguilar, love is the center of her world with its warmth and ability to make a place into a home. Thus, Tina is less than thrilled to return to her birthplace of Santiago, Chile, for the first time in eight years to visit her father, the man who betrayed her and her mother’s love through his political obsession and alcoholism. 

Tina is not surprised to find Papá physically disabled from his time as a political prisoner, but she is disappointed and confused by his constant avoidance of her company. So when Frankie, a mysterious, crush-worthy boy, shows interest in her, Tina does not hesitate to embrace his affection.

However, Frankie’s reason for being in Tina’s neighborhood is far from incidental or innocent, and the web of deception surrounding Tina begins to spin out of control. Tina’s heart is already in turmoil, but adding her and her family’s survival into the mix brings her to the edge of truth and discovery.

Romance and intrigue intertwine in Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s coming-of-age story set amidst the tense anticipation at the end of the Pinochet regime in 1989. Fans of Gringolandia will recognize the Aguilar family as they continue their story of survival and redemption.

Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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17. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Teen Books by Native Writers to Trumpet Year-Round by Debbie Reese from School Library Journal. Peek: "...don’t confine the use of books by and about Native people—or any other group—to a single day or month. We are here, it must be said, all year-round—just like everyone else. The following works for young adults should be read, displayed, and celebrated in every collection." Note: I'm honored that my Feral trilogy (Candlewick) was recommended.

Racial and Ethnic Justice in the College Writing Course by Joy Castro from Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Peek: "I create a larger context for our work by consistently alluding during class discussion to literature by writers of color. There is a literary tradition, and you’re invited to contribute, this strategy implicitly asserts to students of color."

Aces Out: Laying the Cards on the Table by Zach J. Payne from Gay YA. Peek: "Asexuals don’t face a lot of the terrible things that our gay, lesbian, and trans friends do. We don’t stand out, but we are targets." See also My Furious Brown Girl Child Response and the Difficulties of the "Diversity" Umbrella by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Note: Don't miss the continuing conversation in the comments.

Of Moons and Magic with Melanie Crowder by Jules from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: "If every element of the story is working on multiple levels, the manuscript naturally gets tighter. Fortunately for me, I am matched with an editor who allows a story to be what it wants to be, even if that means it stands apart from industry trends."

U.S. Children's-YA Literature Conferences at Colleges/Universities: a list by Chris Barton from Bartography.

Get Ready for Readukkah: Association of Jewish Libraries First Reading Challenge by Heidi Estrin from The Whole Megillah. Peek: "You pick the book – any reading level, fiction or nonfiction, Jewish in any way you choose to define it."

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaways
More Personally

Cynsations is late (and a bit abbreviated) this morning due to a central Texas storm and the fact that Cyn consequently spent an hour or so in the under-stairs restroom during a tornado warning.

Austin area readers, stay safe! Many roads are flooded and, even where they're not, visibility is dicey at best.

Congratulations to the We Need Diverse Books Walter Dean Myers Grant Recipients, including Yamile Saied Méndez (who was in my last WIFYR workshop and is now a student at VCFA).

Likewise, congratulations to the authors and illustrators of the 2015 New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books, including Duncan Tonatiuh.

Cynsational Links

In Memory: Actress Maureen O'Hara
"Dracula" by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
"Mockingjay, Part II" Trailer
Capitol Couture ("Hunger Games" In-World Fashion Magazine)
Happiest U.S. Companies Have Female C.E.O.
Panda Cubs Make Debut
Where Is Luke Skywalker?
World's Largest LEGO Exhibit
"Sherlock" Christmas Trailer
The Homework for Choosing a College
Dad Creates Halloween Costumes for Kids in Wheelchairs

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18. Last Call! WNDB Mentor Program

From We Need Diverse Books

The deadline for the WNDB™ mentorship program is Oct. 31. We are offering mentorships to four aspiring authors and one illustrator who are diverse or working on diverse books. This is an opportunity to work with some experienced and talented members of our community, and receive individual support and feedback on a work-in-progress.

What: WNDB™ is offering five mentorships, one in each of the following categories – Picture Book text (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), Nonfiction (NF), and Illustration (IL). The winners will communicate with the mentor for approximately one year in a mentor/mentee custom-defined program. This mentorship period will run from Jan. 15, 2016 to Dec. 15, 2016.

The mentors for this program are Nikki Grimes (PB), Margarita Engle (MG), Malinda Lo (YA), Patricia Hruby-Powell (NF) and Carolyn Dee Flores (IL).

Eligibility: These mentorships are available to diverse writers or any writers or illustrators who submit a manuscript for children or teens featuring a diverse main character or diverse central subject matter. (See the WNDB™ mission statement page for our inclusive definition of “diverse”).

Applicants may only apply for one of the five mentorship categories, so it is up to the applicants to research each mentor and decide which mentor/category is most suitable for their work. Applicants who do not comply with submission rules will be disqualified.

Judges’ Criteria: The first-round judges will select a pool of final applicants based on merit. Mentors will select their mentee based on merit, compatibility, and readiness/need for the mentorship as outlined in their essay. Applicants who do not comply with submission rules will be disqualified.

Cost: Free.

See Submission Guidelines & FAQ.

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19. Guest Interview: Translator Marian Schwartz on Playing a Part

Marian Schwartz
By Avery Fischer Udagawa
For Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsation

Marian Schwartz is a master translator of Russian literature into English. Active in PEN and past president of the American Literary Translators Association, she has translated more than seventy books including the bestseller The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky and a re-translation of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Recently she has added to her oeuvre the YA novel Playing a Part by Daria Wilke, edited by Emily Clement and published by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. Clement discovered the title by reading an article in The Atlantic, which has since been expanded upon by Publishing Perspectives.

Schwartz emailed with me for Cynsations from her home office in Austin, Texas.

Thank you for accepting this interview. How did you develop and cultivate your love of Russian?

First, I fell for the literature. In high school in the 1960s I studied Chekhov’s play "The Seagull," which has remained one of my favorites, and was also obsessed with the dark side of human nature, always drawn to books about concentration camps, for instance.

But I was also a budding linguist, and once I started Russian at Harvard, I was already farther gone than even I knew. What led to becoming such a prolific literary translator?

After graduate school I worked in publishing in New York. During those two years in house I learned how to copyedit and translated and published my first book. By then it was clear that I would not fare well in an office environment, so I went freelance, paying the bills by copyediting in the beginning. It’s much easier to be as prolific as I’ve been if you spend the entire day translating.

Playing a Part unfolds in a Moscow “combined theater,” which features both traditional puppetry and a company of actors. The main character, Grisha, has grown up here, and to him the theater is nearly a person—one who blinks, squints, smells, sighs, and even laughs. It was wonderful to meet this theater through your translation!

Thank you!

This novel spotlights traditional puppets, especially the Jester in a version of Cinderella. Is the lexicon of puppets embedded in everyday Russian, or did you have to learn from scratch about gesso and leg yokes, ruches and chiton, controllers and crossbars?

I knew nothing about the technical aspect of puppets when I began this project, but that’s one of the perks of being a translator: the research required to make a translation correct and complete. It’s easy to get (happily) lost learning about a new field. I read books about puppetmaking and consulted with puppeteers. I did extensive Internet image searches. There are books that require no research at all, but they’re very rare.

How did you find it rendering this novel in present tense, with jumps in voice between the first and second person? (“My heart thuds to my feet, which are suddenly heavy and weak. You want to go somewhere, but can’t.”) Is this common in Russian storytelling?

The “you want to” construction is one way English renders impersonal constructions. An alternative would be to say, “one wants to”—but that would give the text the wrong tone in this case. Russian narratives treat tenses quite differently than English-languages stories do, so tense is an important question to be decided for each text. In this case, I wanted the immediacy of the present tense for the basic story line and used the past tense for events recounted that occurred prior to the main action.

Did you linger over how to convey Russian names and nicknames? (Filipp/Filka, Lyolik/Lyonechka, Anton/Tokha.)

Russian has an extensive system of nicknaming that has to be conveyed differently in English. The English reader doesn’t know what the difference is between “Sasha” and “Sashenka,” for example. Both are nicknames, and a Russian reader knows that “Sashenka” is more pointedly affectionate, but if it’s translated that way, the English reader loses that information. To render this nuance, the translator needs to modify “Sasha”—“dear Sasha,” “my Sasha”—or demonstrate the implied affection in some other way. The possibilities are limitless.

So the emotions associated with nicknames can and should be conveyed to the English-language reader without introducing the confusion wrought by having multiple names for the same character.

How would you describe your process of translating this book?

My translating process is essentially the same, no matter what I’m translating and involves four stages: the “inspirational” stage, when I write down every idea that pops into my mind; a cross-check, when I make sure I’ve understood and rendered everything “correctly,” compile my queries, and find answers to them; a third stage, when I set the Russian aside and focus on the English; and a fourth stage, when I ask someone to read the translation to me out loud while I follow along with the original. For some books, that means a total of four passes, but some books require more than one pass at each stage.

The character Grisha in Playing a Part is probably gay, and he admires the actor Sam who is gay—and emigrating to Holland, due to lack of acceptance. Grisha’s grandfather voices this lack of acceptance, calling homosexuality a misguided choice, “popular with you theater people.” The grandfather’s rejection of gays, actors, and even a tomboy teen girl named Sasha is so complete as to sometimes seem absurd. Did he prove tricky to render?

Unfortunately, his attitude is all too common in Russia. I’ve had ample opportunity to contemplate this worldview.

I love a scene in the novel where Grisha and Sasha take handstand lessons, acting like children again—“Like when you just lived without thinking whether you were one way or another.” Did you find this to be a central scene as well?

I agree. This scene was a delight, and I particularly recall it rolling it off my keys and onto the screen. There was something true and transcendent about that moment in time that came out directly in English.

I understand that this book has been restricted to adult sections of bookstores in Russia, though to me it reads like a book for tweens. Do you know how the response has been among Russian-language readers?

I asked Wilke the same question, and she wrote: “While we were preparing to publish, I made friends with the children from Children-404 (an Internet project for homosexual teenagers that helps children who have become aware of their own homosexuality with consultations, advice, and so forth. The police have brought charges against the project many times and they’ve been taken to court to be shut down, but so far, thank goodness, none of this has come to pass), and they made the book the talisman of their movement. Later, they arranged a philanthropic action, buying up copies and sending them to children in outlying regions who needed the book but had no opportunity to buy it.”

What can you tell us about the author, Daria Wilke? Did you and she collaborate?

Wilke was very generous about answering my questions and clarifying various points, but she and I have never met. I was approached to translate the book by the publisher.

You have spoken up about rights for translators, supporting the PEN America model contract for literary translators, for example. Can you give us some background on translator rights, and explain how translators can provide more access to world literature?

Translator rights are based on the notion that the translation is written by the translator, not the author or publisher, and, therefore, the translator has a moral claim on the copyright to that English-language work.

Translators themselves are only able to provide more access to literature for works that are in the public domain, because translation rights are secondary to the overarching right to publish a work in a given language. So, for example, if Playing a Part were in the public domain—which it most emphatically isn’t!—I could seek a publisher for my translation and help get it distributed to more children. In practice, this is a rare situation.

In a way, your work reminds me of Grisha’s quiet choice to be himself in Playing a Part. “In life, as onstage, if you do nothing, then nothing happens.” What are some “somethings” you recommend translators do to increase the amount of world literature available in English?

Translators have two approaches available to them. First, they can choose books that are more likely to resonate with English-language readers and then translate them very very well. Second, they can draw attention to their own and others’ translations by writing reviews, for example, or giving interviews, keeping a blog, participating in readings and other literary events, doing outreach to schools—pretty much the same avenues for publicity open to all writers.

Translators tend to be introspective and can be shy of social media and what they see as self-promotion in general. My solution to this temperamental dilemma is to conceive of the effort as an act in support of the author and the book.

Avery Fischer Udagawa
Do you plan to translate any more titles for teen, tween, or younger readers?

I already have (when I have the details you’ll be the first to know!) and am now considering yet another. Both books were written for the tween reader, much the same audience as for Playing a Part.

Cynsational Notes

Marian Schwartz maintains a website and contributes to Words Without Borders and Subtropics, among many other publications.

Avery Fischer Udagawa contributes to the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog and is SCBWI International Translator Coordinator. She translated the historical middle grade novel J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani.

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20. Giveaway: Mysteries of Cove, Vol. 1: Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win one of two copies of Mysteries of Cove, Vol. 1: Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage (Shadow Mountain, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Trenton Colman is exceptionally creative with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and "invention" is a curse word.

Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, who died in an explosion—an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they've ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on—and quite possibly their very lives.

Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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21. In Memory: Vera B. Williams

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith for Cynsations

Vera B. Williams, 88, Dies; Brought Working Class to Children’s Books by Margalit Fox from The New York Times. Peek "Vera B. Williams, a writer and illustrator for young people whose picture books centered on the lives of working-class families, a highly unusual subject when she began her work in the 1970s, died on Friday at her home in Narrowsburg, N.Y. She was 88."

Acclaimed Children's Author Vera Williams Passes by  Fritz Mayer for The River Reporter ("upper Delaware River Valley region"). Peek: "Williams was born in 1927.... Her parents were immigrants, her father from Russia and her mother from Poland. She and her sister Naomi went to the Bronx House, a cultural and arts center started by wealthy individuals, women in particular, to help immigrant families adapt to American life."

Vera B. Williams (1927-2015) by Martha V. Parravano from The Horn Book. Peek: "Both A Chair for My Mother and “More More More,” Said the Baby were Caldecott honor books (in 1983 and 1991, respectively), and they stand out among their fellows for their contemporary, unglossy settings, their sense of inclusiveness, and the forefronting of the loving relationships they portray."

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22. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Q&A of R. Gregory Christie, author and illustrator of Mousetropolis, by Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek: "...my motivation is to bring ethnic groups together and in some ways to bring balance to historical lesson plans."

Depression and The Writer's Mind by Lucy Coats from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: "How can this job of writing, which I love, turn on me like a monstrous beast, snarling and snapping amid the greyness, leaving me unable to go near it, tearing at and trying to destroy the creative source of the words which normally come to me so easily?" See also When Dark Emotions Threaten Your Writing by Jan O'Hara from Writer Unboxed.

Am I Locked Into a Character's Nickname Once I Use It? by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: "Even devices intentionally deployed can hurt instead of enhance."

The Product or the Pitch by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "There are a million resources on how to improve your product. Unfortunately, a novel isn’t a widget. It has 50,000-100,000 moving parts."

We Need Diverse Books Mentor Program from WNDB. Reminder: The deadline to apply is Oct. 31. Peek: "...five mentorships, one in each of the following categories – Picture Book text (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), Nonfiction (NF), and Illustration (IL). The winners will communicate with the mentor for approximately one year in a mentor/mentee custom-defined program."

2015 Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers & Storytellers Award Winners by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "These books celebrate Native life and lifeways, showing the realities of who we are, but infusing those realities with love and the perseverance that characterizes us as a people."

How Did YA Become YA? by Anne Rouyer from New York Public Library. Peek: "...it all starts with a young, passionate, pioneering children’s librarian named Anne Carroll Moore."

Always an Author by Peni Griffin from Idea Garage Sale. Peek: "...just because I live in professional limbo right now doesn't mean I'm not the woman who wrote The Ghost Sitter and Switching Well - and other things less likely to generate fan mail."

The Thrill and Horror of Things That Go "Bump" In the Night by Chris Eboch from Project Mayhem. Peek: "The best horror also goes beyond the merely spooky or grotesque, and touches some deep truth."

Growing Up Cuban: Laura Lacámara and Meg Medina from Latin@s in Kidlit. Peek: "I have never set foot on the island, but in a way, I have been there every day of my life. But how do we talk about Cuba as phantom limb?"

The Many Faces of Diversity by Candy Gourlay from Notes from the Slushpile. Peek: "...from here the other side of the pond, the bookshelves of America look incredibly diverse - I always marvel at the faces of all hues smiling out of the children's departments of bookstores and libraries I visit in America. But this is apparently deceptive." See also The White Boy in the Third Row by Brenda Kiely from Reading While White.

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaways
The winner of Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott is Bev in Ontario.

More Personally

Last week's highlight was the 20th anniversary of Texas Book Festival in Austin.
Discussing Ann Angel's Things I"ll Never Say with Shelley Ann Jackson & Varian Johnson.
My Monday morning surprise? Being mentioned by Allie Jane Bruce among Some Swoon-Worthy Women in Children's Literature at Reading While White. The title is light, but the post isn't. Peek: "Good-looking men in this field, particularly White men, go straight to the top and cash in.... It's true of authors, illustrators, and librarians." A frank discussion about race, gender and career impact.

Attention Austin! Liz Garton Scanlon (In the Canyon) and Susan Kralovansky (Twelve Cowboy Ropin') will celebrate their new releases at 2 p.m. Oct. 25 at BookPeople.

Reminder! Want to read something spooky? The electronic editions of Diabolical and Feral Curse (both Candlewick), are on sale this month for $1.99!

Personal Links:

Slightly Fewer Americans Are Reading Print Books
"Star Wars" Lets Princess Leia Age Realistically
103 Year Old Dresses as Wonder Woman for Birthday
Jobs in the "Uber" Economy
"Sesame Street" Adds Character with Autism to Cast
What Did "Back to the Future II" Get Right?

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23. Guest Post & Giveaway: Beth Revis on: Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice

 By Beth Revis
 for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Beth Note: Don't miss out on the giveaway at the end of this post. And remember all orders of Paper Hearts made before Nov. 15 from Malaprops will come with a special gift--see details below! 
You can win a journal with this cover!
I wrote Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice for the writer I used to be. The questions I used to have plagued me when I was starting this career path.  

How do I get to the end? What's the proper way to structure a novel--is there even a proper way? How do I make my book stand out from all the other ones on submission?

Now, fifteen years, eleven unpublished books, three New York Times bestsellers, one self published book, and countless hours working on craft and working with other professionals, I think I finally have the answers that I needed way back then.

Unfortunately, I can't travel back in time. But what I can do is try to help others. I've been compiling articles on the things I've learned about writing, publishing, and marketing for years, first informally on blog posts, then collectively on Wattpad.

After hitting 100,000 reads, I realized that I should take Paper Hearts more seriously...and that I had not one book, but three.

Fully revised and expanded, the Paper Hearts series will feature three volumes, one each on writing, publishing, and marketing. Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice will be out on November 1, with the other two following in December and January.

Pre-order it now from: Independent Bookstore ~ Amazon ~ BN ~  Kobo ~ Smashwords

About the Book

Your enemy is the blank page. When it comes to writing, there's no wrong way to get words on paper. But it's not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won't make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.
Practical Advice Meets Real Experience
With information that takes you from common mistakes in grammar to detailed charts on story structure, Paper Hearts describes:
  • How to Develop Character, Plot, and World
  • What Common Advice You Should Ignore
  • What Advice Actually Helps
  • How to Develop a Novel
  • The Basics of Grammar, Style, and Tone 
  • Four Practical Methods of Charting Story Structure
  • How to Get Critiques and Revise Your Novel
  • How to Deal with Failure
  • And much more!
Plus, more than 25 "What to do if" scenarios to help writers navigate problems in writing from a New York Times Bestselling author who's written more than 2 million words of fiction.

Beth Note: if you pre-order the print copy from my local indie bookstore, Malaprops, you'll also get a chapbook of the best writing advice from 12 beloved and bestselling YA authors included for free!

Paper Hearts Excerpt

Write What You Know
Probably the most clichéd and oft-used phrase for any writer is the old adage, “write what you know.”

So how did I end up writing a novel that takes place hundreds of years in the future, on a spaceship populated by genetically modified people heading to a planet that might not really exist? It’s definitely not something I “know.”

Typically, we don’t really “know” our stories. Or, at least, I don’t. I’ve never been the youngest person on a spaceship, but I do know what it’s like to not fit in. I’ve never had my parents cryogenically frozen, but I still remember that moment when I realized that I’d grown up and was no longer under their safe protection.

Many times it seems that people who aspire to write teen fiction are more focused on writing teenagers than on writing characters who behave realistically. They will often do research on the outward appearances: clothing, slang, mannerisms. Very often, this is where they trip up, because that’s not the important stuff.

Focus on the stuff you know—the stuff everyone knows. We have all experienced the same things most teens have experienced: first love, first heartbreak, betrayal and fear, joy, sorrow.

This is what the writer must know—and if the writer knows this, then everything else—the characters, the plot, the world—will fall in place.

Find the beating heart of the story. Invention is a wonderful thing—a necessary thing when it comes to writing. You need to have invention, but, somewhere beneath everything that you create, you also have to write what you know. Not literally. Emotionally.

Cynsational Notes 
Beth Revis is the New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe trilogy, as well as The Body Electric, Paper Hearts, and the forthcoming A World Without You.

She lives in the Appalachian mountains with her boys: one husband, one son, and two very large dogs.

Find out more on Facebook, Twitter, or online.

Sign up for her newsletter.

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24. Giveaway: Author-Signed Poster & The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win one of two copies of The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (Shadow Mountain, 2015) and an author-signed Fablehaven poster.

Caretakers of magical preserves need to visually identify dozens of mythical and magical creatures. This book will open your eyes to a secret world most humans know nothing about. Study these pages and learn about the many magical artifacts, potions, and weapons that could potentially save your life.

Furthermore, a smart caretaker will need to know how to recognize (and stay away from) the more nefarious creatures found in this book. Most importantly, The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven will give you the inside scoop about other magical preserves around the world, including the most magical and powerful creatures known to ever exist—dragons!

Scattered throughout the book are tidbits of wisdom and counsel from previous caretakers. For example, "Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real smart ones learn from the mistakes of others."

Immerse yourself in the secret knowledge that has been handed down through the generations by reading the handwritten updates and notes scribed in the margins by the former (and current) caretakers of Fablehaven, including Patton Burgess, Grandpa Sorenson, Kendra, and Seth. Fully-illustrated, this unique encyclopedia has gathered the world of Fablehaven into one volume.

Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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25. Book Trailer: Little Tree by Loren Long

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Little Tree by Loren Long (Philomel, 2015). From the promotional copy:

In the middle of a little forest, there lives a Little Tree who loves his life and the splendid leaves that keep him cool in the heat of long summer days. 

Life is perfect just the way it is.

Autumn arrives, and with it the cool winds that ruffle Little Tree’s leaves. One by one the other trees drop their leaves, facing the cold of winter head on. 

But not Little Tree—he hugs his leaves as tightly as he can. Year after year, Little Tree remains unchanged, despite words of encouragement from a squirrel, a fawn, and a fox, his leaves having long since turned brown and withered.

As Little Tree sits in the shadow of the other trees, now grown sturdy and tall as though to touch the sun, he remembers when they were all the same size. And he knows he has an important decision to make.

From #1 New York Times bestselling Loren Long comes a gorgeously-illustrated story that challenges each of us to have the courage to let go and to reach for the sun.

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