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1. With All Due Respect Book Review and Giveaway

by Sally Matheny

Book Review: All Due Respect
Nina Roesner, the executive director of Greater Impact Ministries, Inc. has teamed up with co-worker, Debbie Hitchcock, to write With All Due Respect:40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens.

I’ll be giving away a copy to one of you readers this week! 

There's something for everyone for a variety of topics are covered. A sampling of the forty chapter titles are:

Communicate Respect Early
Take Care of the Temple
Use Humor When Things Get Hot
Be True to Your Word
Coach Your Kids on Navigating Conflict
Separate Your Identity




Two of my favorites are Talk Your Kids Through Disappointment, and Deal With the Person Before the Issue.

While I appreciate the one or two scriptures at the beginning of each chapter, I don’t think the overall content is “scripturally saturated” as stated in the beginning of the book.

However, the content is good, and written with a Christian worldview.

Each chapter opens up with a scene illustrating some type of situation or problem. The authors use the dialogue between characters as a tool to teach parents how to respond in certain situations. In some parts, the dialogue sounds like it’s coming from a Christian psychologist more than a parent, but nonetheless, it’s helpful. Each chapter closes with a prayer for the parent.

This book is not a Bible study. But rather a resource for parents, specifically moms, on how to communicate effectively with their tweens and teens during life’s stressful moments.

During those difficult times, if you struggle with controlling your emotions, speaking before thinking, or acting rashly, this book will challenge you to pause and pray first. Then, it gives you a springboard of ideas on how to offer guidance as you begin a healthy conversation.


Want to win this book?

Every person who has subscribed to this blog, or is following it by email, will have their name entered into the drawing. If you’re already doing one of those, you don’t need to do anything at all.

Otherwise, you can find the “Subscribe to” button and the “Follow by Email” section over there to your right. Thanks and I can’t wait to see who wins. I’ll announce the winner on Oct. 3, 2016.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255



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2. Penguin Problems: A Review & Giveaway

This penguin has problems. A lot of problems.

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3. #TrueFriends and a Great Giveaway

Back in this blog post I told y'all about a writing retreat I went to a couple of years ago.

It was at the beautiful vacation home of Kirby Larson.


(l to r) Kirby Larson with Winston the Wonder Dog, Susan Hill Long, Augusta Scattergood, and me

The amazing result of that writing retreat is that ALL FOUR of the manuscripts that we worked on there were published this year!

 
So we decided to keep the Sisterhood united and work together to help our books wing their way into the world.

We have some #TrueFriends goodies for you!

Here are 4 quick videos from us, telling a bit about our books.


And...drum roll, please...a fantastic giveaway!!


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4. THE GALLERY by Laura Marx Fitzgerald -- and a Giveaway!



The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (June 14, 2016, Dial Books, 336 pages, for ages 9 to 13)

Synopsis (from the publisher): It’s 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell?

Why I recommend it: Martha, also known as Marty, is one of the spunkiest, most determined, and funniest female main characters I've come across in recent MG fiction. Her first-person narration is always honest and often hilarious, even as she delves more deeply into the dark mystery of Rose Sewell. Like Laura's previous novel, Under the Egg, the mystery centers around art. You'll learn a great deal about art history and mythology, as well as the election of Herbert Hoover and the 1929 stock market crash. The period details are spot-on.

Favorite lines: "Here's the thing. Once I set to wondering something, my mind skips straight ahead. Like my brothers running into traffic." (from p. 13)

Giveaway details: Through the generosity of the publisher, I have one hardcover copy to give away. To enter, you must be a follower of this blog and you must comment on this post. If you mention the giveaway on social media, please let me know and I'll give you extra chances. This giveaway is only for US and Canadian mailing addresses and ends at 10 pm EDT on Sunday August 28. Winner to be announced Monday August 29. 

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5. Blog Tour: My Thoughts: The Secret Sea by Barry Lyga


4 yummy frosted maple cookies.

Cover Love:
I really like this cover, I think it would make kids want to pick up this book.

Why I Wanted to Read this:
I really like a good alternate universe book and the synopsis of this one seemed right up my alley.  Here it is from GoodReads:

Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that's crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real. . . . It warns him of danger.

One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at home--if they can even get home!

My Thoughts:
Overall this was a great read.  There were a few things in the beginning that made it a little hard fro me to get into but once I was over that hump, the book flew.

One of the things that bothered me a ton were Zak's parents.  They were so frustrating.  They were convinced that Zak was doing "bad" things so rather than talk with him, they ground him.  Then they get him a psychiatrist, but are more into blaming each other for his behavior than really getting him help. It was very hard to get over this because every scene with them made me want to throw the book!

After a pretty slow start a little twist happens that caught my interest.  Once that came about, I was much more into the book.  Once they got to the alternate universe, I was very into the book.  The author set up a great world with the alternate universe.  There are a lot of similarities between our world and the one that Zak and his friends get to, but enough differences that cause them to be very lost and confused.  The rules of the new world and society are very different than ours and they don't have a lot of time to learn them.  The author did a great job of conveying their confusion and fear.  This new universe is very technologically advanced to us and open to a lot of new ideas, but they are also very backwards in some issues.  I was glad that Khalid was able to find an ally once they got to the alternative universe and thankfully it was one willing to believe and help out.  Giving them a guide was very important.

From the start of their time in the alternate universe I felt something was off in the story Zak was being told.  I'm not sure if this was because I'm an adult and I consume a lot of content, so I'm pretty quick to develop theories, or if it was easy to deduce.  I would like to chat with someone from the target audience after they read it to see if they jumped to the same conclusion that I did.

There is a lot of action and I guess what I would call "speculative science" in the alternate universe.  None of it was over my head and the story moved along very quickly.

To Sum Up:  I think this is going to be a big hit with middle school readers.  I will be buying a copy for my library and book talking it this fall.  I already have my first reader for this story picked out and I know he will love it.

Macmillan is giving away a finished copy of The Secret Sea to one of my readers.  US only, winner will be announced on August 29.  Loading... Read the rest of this post

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6. New Blog Series: Starting with What Matters Most in Writing Workshop

Over the next eight days, my friends and I at Two Writing Teachers will share what goes into developing writers who work with agency, purpose, and independence in our Blog Series: Starting With What Matters Most. Set a reminder or mark your calendars, you won't want to miss a day of these timely posts.

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7. July 2016 Bartography Express: “Then my obsession with all-things-coyote began”: Maria Gianferrari & Bagram Ibatoulline’s new picture book

To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the August giveaway of 88 Instruments, my new book with illustrator Louis Thomas — you can sign up on my home page.

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8. A CLATTER OF JARS by Lisa Graff -- and a Giveaway!



A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff (May 2016, Philomel, 224 pages, for ages 8 to 12)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): In this magical companion to the National Book Award nominee A Tangle of Knots, it's summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don't know is that they've been gathered for a reason, one that the camp's director wants to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper's head and placed into another. And no one knows why.

With a camp full of kids, a lake full of magic, and a grown-up full of a secrets, "A Clatter of Jars" is a story of summer, family, and the lengths we go to win back the people we love.

Why I recommend it: I've been a fan of author Lisa Graff since Umbrella Summer and it's been awe-inspiring to watch her talent grow over the years. I love the magical realism of this perfect summer tale. And I adore how it all comes together in the end. You don't need to read A Tangle of Knots to appreciate this fun and sophisticated summer camp yarn, since it's about different characters, but it adds to your enjoyment if you're familiar with the first book and the Talented world Lisa Graff has created. And Cady makes a cameo appearance here!

Favorite lines: Memory is a curious thing. Some details stick in our minds like peanut butter on crackers, and refuse to budge, as much as we might wish they would. (from p. 51)

Bonus: Plenty of diversity among the large cast of characters. Plus... recipes! This time for refreshing summer drinks.

Giveaway details: Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, I have one hardcover copy of A Clatter of Jars to give away, along with a paperback of A Tangle of Knots (and if you're the lucky winner and you've already read A Tangle of Knots, I could substitute another Lisa Graff paperback). To enter, all you need to do is follow my blog and comment on this post. If you tweet about it or mention it on social media, please let me know and I'll give you extra chances. This giveaway is open to mailing addresses in the US and Canada ONLY and ends at 10:00 pm EDT on Sunday July 24. Winner to be announced on Monday July 25. Good luck!

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9. A Giveaway and A Review of Sarah Young’s Book: Jesus Calling-My First Bible Storybook

by Sally Matheny

Jesus Calling My First Bible Storybook
by Sarah Young
Today, I’m reviewing a captivating, little book for young children, Jesus Calling- My First Bible Storybook. I’m also giving away a copy! Be sure to read for the details below.

First, I want to mention the beautiful illustrations in this book. Antonia Woodward's use of color and soft lines are friendly and captivating! This forty-page, board book is full-color, cover to cover.

Best-selling author, Sarah Young, presents twenty Bible truths in this book using scriptures taken from The International Children’s Bible. 

The twenty stories are representative of most toddler storybooks. They include:

God Made Everything, Noah’s Big Boat, Baby Moses, the Ten Commandments, David and Goliath, Jonah and the Big Fish, Daniel and the Lions, Queen Esther is Brave, Jesus is Born, Jesus is Baptized, A Little Boy’s Lunch, Jesus Calms the Sea, The Prodigal Son, Jesus Loves Children, Zacchaeus, The Cross, Jesus is Alive, Jesus is Coming Again, and God’s Family.   

After the title, is the chapter(s) in the Bible where the story originates. The stories are written in a simple text so young children can easily understand them. 

Unlike Young’s other Jesus Calling books, this one is not primarily written as if Jesus is talking to you. There are approximately six, short sentences telling the story and most include some dialogue.

Then, there's just one “Jesus Calling” sentence that correlates to a scripture, which is also given.

Here's an example found at the end of a shortened version of The Prodigal Son story (Luke 15):

     Jesus Calling: When you tell Me you are sorry, I will always forgive you.

     1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins.”



I like this book and believe it to be Christ honoring. I love the illustrations and the multiple scriptures provided. Also, I appreciate the reference given for each story so older readers can go read the full text in the Holy Bible.

It’s a beautiful book containing appropriate portions of God's Word for toddlers.



Would you like a chance to win this book for a little one in your family?

I’m trying to get my words of encouragement out to a wider range of folks. You can help by sharing this blog with others by word of mouth, or with the click of a computer key.

Everyone who enters their email address into the “Follow by Email” box located on the right side of this page, will be entered into the drawing.

When I write something new on the blog, it will come to you in your email. I know what it’s like to receive more emails than you have time to read. so you’ll only get about one email a week—never more than two. 
  
If you already receive my blog posts in your email box, thank you, and you are still eligible to win. All you have to do is leave a comment below stating you are already on the email list. 

It’s as simple as that. :)


Enter by June 30, 2016. The winner will be announced Friday, July 1, 2016.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

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10. My Thoughts: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

4 yummy yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

Cover Love:  I love this cover, it's colorful and whimsical and includes so many elements from the book.  I adore it!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
When this book first came out, I saw a lot of comparisons to Savvy, which was a book I adored.  It went on my TBR list, but I wasn't able to get it read until now.  Wish I had started sooner!  Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady's past and how she became an orphan. If she's lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent. 
Romance?: No.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book.  The style it is written in makes for a quick and easy read:  short chapters told from different points of view.  The author nails all of the characters voices.  I love that the Talents each person can be simple, like accurate spitting, or more advanced, like baking the perfect cake for a person.  I bet the author had a great time deciding how people in this world can be Talented.

I loved little Cady and rooted for her through the whole book.  But while Cady felt like the main character, this was a book with multiple characters whose storylines are woven together so smoothly.  It was easy to keep track of who was who and what each one was doing.  And while I was able to make some educated guesses about where the story was going to end up, I was constantly and pleasantly surprised by the turns in the story.  And I LOVED how everything was woven together so beautifully at the end!

And all the recipes!  I am going to try some of these cakes.  Look for a future "Food From Fiction" post on that!

To Sum Up:  Awesome middle grade read.  This one is easy to get into the hands of the younger readers in my school!

Remember to enter my giveaway for a pack of Lisa Graff paperbacks!  Check out this post to enter.

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11. DIY Literacy: A Review & Giveaway

DIY Literacy will give you the tools you need to reach all your students

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12. Added to the List #24 & Road Trip Reading #1 & Weekend Reading #9 & Giveaway



Last week I was so excited to get this pack of Lisa Graff books in the mail.  She is a staple here in my library, perfect for middle school readers.  I read Umbrella Summer years ago and enjoyed it greatly.  I haven't read any of hers so this weekend, while I am at my sons' soccer tournament (a three hour drive away).  So I am taking A Tangle of Knots and A Clatter of Jars with me on the trip.  And, I already had Lost in the Sun checked out from my library to read over the summer, so I was very excited to get my own copy.  I will be reading that this summer as well!


Penguin has graciously offered to let me giveaway a set of Lisa's paperbacks:  A Tangle of Knots; Lost in the Sun; and Absolutely Almost.  Fill out the form below if you'd like to win your own copies of these awesome books!


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13. Giveaway- THE UNICORNE FILES by CHRIS D'LACEY

Hey, it's been a long time since I had a giveaway for you...but here one is! To celebrate today's release of A Crown of Dragons, the last book in the series of The Unicorne Files by Chris d'Lacey, Laura from Chicken House has kindly offered the chance to win the whole trilogy!



A Dark Inheritance: When Michael Malone discovers his supernatural ability to alter reality, he is recruited by an organization dedicated to investigating strange and paranormal phenomena. He joins in hopes of finding his father, who mysteriously vanished three years earlier. Michael's first task is to solve the mystery of a dog he rescued from a precarious clifftop -- a mystery that leads him to a strange and sickly classmate and a young girl who was killed in a devastating accident. Stakes are high as Michael learns to harness his newfound ability and uncover the deadly truth about his father's disappearance.

Alexander's Army: After the success of his first assignment from the UNICORNE agency, fourteen-year-old Michael Malone is given another unexplained mystery to solve. When UNICORNE detect strange goings-on in a comic book shop, Michael is sent to investigate- a task which is made all the more difficult by allies he can no longer trust, and an enemy he can't actually see.

A Crown of Dragons: Michael, a special agent for the secretive UNICORNE agency, embarks on his most dangerous mission yet: investigating the artefact his father was researching before he disappeared. But the truth is darker than he could’ve imagined. His father is lost in an alternative reality, and Michael is the only one with the power to save him...


If you'd like to enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Entry is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and entry closes at 12am on Friday 10 June. Winner will be chosen some time on Friday.

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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14. Nerdy Birdy: A Review & Giveaway

When I first opened Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds, I was not (yet) reading it with the eye of a writer.  I was way too smitten with the bird on the front cover.  I mean,… Continue reading

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15. Giveaway winner! Plus, a NEW Giveaway for UNIDENTIFIED SUBURBAN OBJECT by Mike Jung

I'm pleased to announce a Giveaway winner for the signed hardcover copy of THE DRAKE EQUATION by Bart King. According to randomizer the winner is:


SUE HEAVENRICH


Congratulations, Sue! Look for an email from me asking for your mailing address.

*  *  *

And I'm so excited because I have a new giveaway this week and it's also SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR!




Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung (April 26, 2016, Scholastic Press, 272 pages, for ages 8 to 12)


Synopsis (from Indiebound):  The next person who compares Chloe Cho with famous violinist Abigail Yang is going to HEAR it. Chloe has just about had it with people not knowing the difference between someone who's Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. She's had it with people thinking that everything she does well -- getting good grades, winning first chair in the orchestra, et CETera -- are because she's ASIAN.

Of course, her own parents don't want to have anything to DO with their Korean background. Any time Chloe asks them a question they change the subject. They seem perfectly happy to be the only Asian family in town. It's only when Chloe's with her best friend, Shelly, that she doesn't feel like a total alien. 

Then a new teacher comes to town: Ms. Lee. She's Korean American, and for the first time Chloe has a person to talk to who seems to understand completely. For Ms. Lee's class, Chloe finally gets to explore her family history. But what she unearths is light-years away from what she expected.

Why I recommend it: I've been one of Mike's loyal followers since, well, practically forever (in social media terms). I've always found his blog posts and tweets thoughtful and thought-provoking. He's a founding member of We Need Diverse Books (and yes, people, we STILL need diverse books!). But all of that is really besides the point because I LOVE THIS BOOK and I would love it even if I didn't know anything about the author and even if I hadn't read GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES, Mike's first MG novel, published in 2012.

Chloe's voice is pitch-perfect. You will feel you are listening to an actual twelve-year-old girl gripe about her parents and school. Her family history is wild and crazy, but makes for a fun, fast-paced read. Chloe's friendship with Shelly reminds me of actual friendships I had in junior high. And it's always refreshing to read a story in which the main character has two loving parents. Plus, this is a lighthearted, humorous novel that nevertheless delves into deeper issues of prejudice and racism. Today's kids need this book more than ever.

Favorite lines (from page 66): "The notes spilled out of the violin strings like beams of sunlight, and I got that tingly feeling I always get when I'm playing something as well as I can play, except I was just playing a scale!"




Giveaway details: I have a SIGNED hardcover copy to give away. To enter, you must be a follower of this blog and you must comment on this post. US mailing addresses only, please (so sorry!). If you mention this giveaway on social media, please let me know and I'll give you extra chances. This giveaway ends at 10:00 pm EDT on Sun June 5 and the lucky winner will be announced on Monday June 6, 2016. Good luck!


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16. Giveaway: Signed Copy of Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win one of two author-signed copies of Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Little Brown, 2016). Obtained from BookPeople. Cynsations sponsored. Eligibility: North America. From the promotional copy:

Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that's all his own. 

Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn't mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he's done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.

But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name...a name that is sure to light up the sky.

National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie's lyrical text and Caldecott Honor-winner Yuyi Morales's striking and beautiful illustrations celebrate the special relationship between father and son.

See below the book trailer, followed by the giveaway entry form. See also Towards a Common Understanding of Native Peoples in the U.S. (or, Why Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. Needs a Note to Readers) by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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17. Guest Interview & Giveaway: Translator Cathy Hirano (Pre AFCC 2016 Con)

By Misa Dikengil Lindberg, Alexander O. Smith and Avery Fischer Udagawa
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

This month, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore will feature Cynsations’ own Cynthia Leitich Smith speaking on “The Irresistible Fantastical Supernatural: Writing a World that Beckons.”

Also featured at AFCC 2016 will be Cathy Hirano, a leading translator of Japanese children’s literature into English. Hirano’s translation of the middle grade realistic novel The Friends (by Kazumi Yumoto) won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and a Mildred L. Batchelder Award. Her translations of the YA fantasy novels Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi won the Batchelder Award and a Batchelder Honor, respectively, and paved the way for Uehashi to win the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. This honor is often dubbed the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.

In addition, Hirano translated a YA fantasy novel by Noriko Ogiwara that went out of print, but drew such a fan following that it was republished with a sequel. The results are Dragon Sword and Wind Child and Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince.

Members of the SCBWI Japan Translation Group have admired Hirano for years. Three members of the group—Misa Dikengil Lindberg, Alexander O. Smith and Avery Fischer Udagawa—interviewed her for Japan-focused publications and here combine their efforts in a “pre-AFCC 2016 omni interview.”

To learn more about the topics discussed in this piece, please follow the links below it to the three source interviews. And don’t forget to enter the Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit giveaway!

Avery Fischer Udagawa: Cathy Hirano, you work as a translator in fields such as anthropology, sociology, architecture and medicine, and you live in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. Where did you grow up, and how did you come to study Japan and Japanese?

Cathy Hirano
Cathy Hirano: I grew up in Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg and came to Japan in 1978 when I was 20. I was not directly interested in Japan at the time but was invited by a Japanese-Canadian friend. My image of Japan was of a highly populated, highly polluted country that manufactured cars and cameras—not a very attractive picture. I had very little idea of Japan’s history or culture and saw traveling here as a stepping-stone to other countries in Asia, and then to the rest of the world.

But my interest in Japan and the Japanese language began as soon as I arrived in Japan. I got lost in Tokyo on my second day here and realized that if I did not acquire reading, writing and speaking skills, I would be lost forever in more ways than one.

I studied for a year in Kyoto at a private language school called Nihongo Kenkyu Center. It was very small with creative teachers who were always experimenting with new methods. I fell in love with kanji [ideograms] at that time. The concept that a “letter” could be a picture with meaning was fascinating. To help memorize them, I used to make up my own stories about how each part of a kanji combined to make the meaning of the whole. In 1979, I went on to study anthropology at International Christian University in Tokyo, which had a fantastic Japanese language program.

How did you discover and cultivate your skills as a translator?

I think it was my Japanese teachers in Kyoto and at ICU who first pointed out to me that I had some ability in this area. Reading has always been a great source of pleasure, inspiration and comfort, and when we had to do translation exercises in class, I wasn’t content with just a literal translation. I had to play with it until it sounded as natural and literary as the Japanese.

Cultivating my translation skills was very much a hit-and-miss, learning-on-the-job experience. I was hired as a translator by a Japanese engineering consulting company after I graduated.

I didn’t know any other translators when I started out, and as far as I knew there were no courses in translation. So I read as much as I could in English about whatever subject I was translating to get a feel for the right language, consulted the Japanese engineers I worked with frequently to make sure I understood, used the dictionaries and references in their library and got native speakers (including my father, who is an engineer) to read what I had written and give me feedback.

This is still the approach I use today for any type of translation. The only difference is that with the Internet, I no longer need to accumulate reference books and dictionaries. Thanks to email, I also have an extended network of friends and relatives, both Japanese- and English-speaking, who I can consult for different subjects.

You have translated a number of picture books—most recently Hannah’s Night by printmaker-illustrator Komako Sakai, for Gecko Press—as well as novels. What attracted you to children’s literature?

I fell into children’s literature entirely by accident. A friend and fellow graduate of ICU who worked in publishing asked me to review English-language children’s books for possible translation into Japanese, a dream job for someone who loves reading. She would give me a stack of books, and when I had finished reading them I would meet her in a coffee shop and tell her what I thought.

She then began asking me to translate Japanese picture books for promotional purposes. My publications of picture books started out as byproducts of the promotional translation: English-language publishers liked the translations and asked for permission to use them.

Meanwhile, when my friend’s company published an award-winning novel by Noriko Ogiwara, I agreed to read it and write a summary. This was followed by a request for a sample and finally to translation and publication of Dragon Sword and Wind Child. This then led to translating three novels by Kazumi Yumoto for Farrar, Straus and Giroux—including The Friends.

Alexander O. Smith: An essay you wrote for The Horn Book about The Friends has become a classic description of Japanese-to-English literary translation. To follow on that discussion, how do you position yourself as translator with regards to the work, the author, and your audience?

I think that my approach as a translator differs significantly for bread-and-butter translation and for literature. With the former, I am more objective. I keep a clear picture in my mind of the target reader and I focus on conveying the intent and meaning of the Japanese rather than on the style, sometimes extensively editing and rewriting the original.

With literary translation, however, I find the translation process more personal and subjective. The author has written the book for me and I’m translating it so that others can enjoy the same experience. In the initial stages in particular, I don’t worry about the readership and instead focus far more on the author, on his or her style, choice of words, rhythm—on the voice. I’m quite faithful to the original.

It is only when I go back and reread it, that I regain some objectivity and become rather ruthless. But I am still trying to convey an experience rather than just content or meaning.

Misa Dikengil Lindberg: Your first novel translation, of Dragon Sword and Wind Child, got republished with a sequel after it fell out of print. How did that come about?

I loved Noriko Ogiwara’s Magatama series and was therefore very disappointed when Dragon Sword and Wind Child went out of print.

Then my daughter grew up and fell in love with Ogiwara’s books as a teenager. Searching the Internet, she found that the English translation had received nothing but five-star reviews on Amazon. She also found used copies selling for up to five hundred dollars and one young reader who had made a website dedicated to the book. This person had even typed the entire out-of-print English translation to put on the site! I was stunned. People had actually liked the book as much as I had!

I contacted the Japanese editor to see if there was a possibility of re-doing it, although I knew most American publishers would be reluctant to publish a book that hadn’t done well before. The editor, who also loves the book, began putting out feelers.

Although we did not know this, around the same time, VIZ Media had decided to branch out into publishing translated Japanese literature and was looking for good Japanese books. One of their editors had read Dragon Sword and Wind Child when she was young and loved it.

When the editing team tried to get a copy of the English translation for review, they found that the majority of library copies had been stolen, which actually made them more interested in the book, indicating as it did how popular the book was. They eventually got a copy and decided to republish it. The original English-language publisher agreed to give them the right to publish it but not the rights to my translation. When the VIZ editor contacted the Japanese publisher, she put them in touch with me and they asked if I would “re-translate” it. Of course, I was thrilled!

Alexander O. Smith: What was it like revisiting the first volume fourteen years after your first translation? 

It was fun, embarrassing, unnerving, confirming. I started by reading it aloud to my kids and their cousins, who by then were in their mid and late teens. They loved it, thank goodness! But they also had some good laughs about some of my word choices while I found myself cringing in places where the language I’d used was stuffy and stilted.

I then went through the translation line by line against the Japanese and caught things I had missed or misunderstood—not as many as I had feared, but still. After rewriting all the trouble spots, I did a final pass through the whole book.

Although it was embarrassing to see the mistakes I had made, it was also confirming to see that I have evolved somewhat as a translator in those 14 years and that I still love to escape into Ogiwara’s world!

How was it to do the sequel?

In a nutshell, the knowledge that people were waiting to read Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince is what kept me going. Readers have power!

Misa Dikengil Lindberg: Nahoko Uehashi’s ten-volume Moribito series, about the adventures of a young female bodyguard, is the winner of numerous literary awards and has become hugely popular in Japan, even spawning anime, manga, and TV series. How did you first encounter Uehashi’s work?

Japanese and English covers
My first exposure to Ms. Uehashi’s work was in 2004, when I was asked to do a summary and sample of Beyond the Fox’s Flute. I was attracted by Uehashi’s writing style and by the fictional world she created. Around the same time, a Japanese friend told me about her Moribito series, and I found it intriguing that a children’s fantasy series was so popular even with people my age (fifty).

Before I had a chance to read the series, however, the Japanese publisher contacted me to do a summary and sample translation of the first book for overseas promotion.

This led to publication of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and later Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Arthur A. Levine Books.

How closely did you work with your editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, Cheryl Klein? What were some of the problems you worked to overcome?

Cheryl Klein is the most thorough editor I have ever worked with. She edited the translation as if it were a new manuscript submitted by an English-language author, which made some of her suggestions extremely radical. As Ms. Uehashi is also one of the most thorough and involved authors I have ever worked with on a translation, the result was definitely a team effort.

Probably the biggest problem was fitting the history of New Yogo (the fictional empire in which the story takes place) into the book in a more natural way.

When I first read Moribito in Japanese, the history stuck out awkwardly in the third chapter, slowing everything down. Until that point, the action is fast-paced and the story gripping. Then suddenly the text switches to an unnamed narrator, jumps back in time, and then jumps back to the present again.

It’s quite abrupt and would have sounded unnatural in English. So when I did the initial sample translation, I took it out (with the author’s and publisher’s permission) and tacked it on as a prologue with a note explaining that this would need to be solved during the editing process.

After playing with several ideas, the three of us finally agreed that the history basically belonged in its original location but that English readers needed more of a transition to ease them into it and keep them from getting impatient during that section.

Ms. Uehashi rewrote certain parts of the history, replacing the unnamed narrator with the more personal voice of Shuga, one of the Star Readers. So the English version is actually different from the Japanese but still written by the author.

Alexander O. Smith: The Moribito series and the Magatama series are interesting to me in that they both fit snugly within a very western fantasy genre and yet their stories and worlds are influenced by Asian history and myth. How did you navigate the process of bringing these worlds into English without losing the flavor of the original? Were you inspired, stylistically or otherwise, by any other books in English?

A hard question! For me, it’s a very intuitive process and I’m never sure if I really have succeeded in keeping the flavor of the original. One thing I try to do is read the translation out loud once I get it to a more polished state. That helps me see whether it “feels” the same.

What I’m looking for at a gut level is whether the English grabs me in the same way as the Japanese. To me, Uehashi’s voice is fast-paced, powerful, compassionate, clear and deceptively simple. Ogiwara’s voice, though just as powerful, is completely different. Her rich, lyrical images and sweeping descriptions vividly convey the emotional atmosphere. She has a knack for capturing a focal point or detail that draws in the reader and for mirroring the inner worlds of her characters’ minds and hearts in the outer world. However, this style, which is very Japanese, is less compatible with the English language than Uehashi’s.

To give one example, Uehashi’s battle scenes are graphically detailed. You know exactly when and how each bone is broken, whose bone it is and what it feels like (ouch!!). This brings home the reality of life for the bodyguard Balsa.

As for what books inspired me during the translation process, I actually strive not to be influenced stylistically by other authors so that I can remain true to the original. At the same time, however, I do read books in the same genre because exposure to good English helps me avoid an excessively literal translation.

While translating the Moribito books I found myself rereading Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series. I think what appealed was their common themes such as the search for meaning, the painful journey of self discovery and acceptance, and the fact that their voices both evoke the oral tradition of story-telling.

When translating Ogiwara, on the other hand, I was drawn to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Again, it wasn’t the style but the story’s epic nature and the use of humor to lighten a serious tale that resonated.

Avery Fischer Udagawa: Are you at work on any children’s or young adult projects now?

Yes, I am getting a start on The Beast Player (Kemono no soja), a fantasy novel by Andersen laureate Nahoko Uehashi.

Cynsational Notes: Interviewers & Source Interviews

Misa Dikengil Lindberg is a freelance writer, editor and translator. She translated the new adult novel Emily by Novala Takemoto and the story “The Dragon and the Poet” by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), one of Japan’s most beloved writers, for the anthology Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories. Her full interview with Hirano, Young Adult Fantasy in Translation: An Interview with Cathy Hirano, focuses on Dragon Sword and Wind Child and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.

Alexander O. Smith is the translator of thirty novels from the Japanese, including Brave Story and The Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabe, The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino, and the Guin Saga series by Kaoru Kurimoto. He is also known for localization and production of video games, and is co-founder of publisher Bento Books. His full interview with Hirano, Catching Up With Cathy Hirano, focuses on Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince.

Avery Fischer Udagawa translated the middle grade historical novel J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani. She serves as SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator and SCBWI International Translator Coordinator. Her full interview with Hirano, Children’s Book Translation: An Interview with Cathy Hirano (PDF, pp. 7-9), focuses on ways to get started in translation.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a hardback edition (now a collector’s item) of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano.

The design of this volume is described here by editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books: Behind the Book: Moribito Guardian of the Spirit.

See also: Moribito: Editing YA and Children’s Literature in English Translation: An Interview with Cheryl Klein by Sako Ikegami (PDF, pp. 4-7.

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18. Guest Post & Giveaway: Melissa Buron on A Book of Mermaids

By Melissa Buron
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I discovered A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning-Sanders.

During a long, hot summer, I read and re-read the stories until my mother and the public library insisted that I return the book.

I was distraught because no matter how many bookstores I searched, I never found the book again.

Forty years later, I did find the book. This time, not in a library, but in a hot warehouse full of old, used books.

I reread the book and fell in love again with the witty, crafty and of course magical mermaids. And in-between work, family and laundry, I spread the word about this wonderful book.

After all, who doesn't love mermaids? Unfortunately, the book was out of print and a used copy (if you could locate one) averaged between $200 and $350.

With this enchanting and beloved book in mind, I started an independent publishing company, MAB Media. To my joy and delight, A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning-Sanders is MAB Media's very first release.

Ruth Manning-Sanders was a fascinating person, not just because of her writing ability, but also for her way of life. She was a feminist before "feminist" was even a word. She was prolific as few authors are (more than ninety books to her credit). Her fairy tales, both original and adapted, reflected a wide range of characters, both human and non-human, of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.

In A Book of Mermaids, Manning-Sanders introduces the readers to sixteen stories of mermaids and their fantastical adventures.

Within my wide collection of fairy tales and folk tales, these are by far my favorites.

Cynsational Giveaway

Do you love mermaids? Here's your chance to win one of five free copies of A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning-Sanders and some surprise mermaid swag!

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19. March 2016 Bartography Express: “Students have clapped after hearing the book and seeing themselves.”

To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the April giveaway of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies, written by Carmen Oliver and illustrated by Jean Claude — you can sign up on my home page.

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20. SOLSC Participant Pledge

Enter to win a prize for participating in the 9th annual SOLSC!

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21. #AWTeen Twitter Chat


Join 10 YA authors from AW Teen on Wednesday, April 6th at 8 pm CST for a Twitter chat and giveaway! You can tweet your questions and follow along using the hashtag #AWTeen.

Authors:

Susan Moger (@SusanMoger), Of Better Blood (2/1) 
Anne Greenwood Brown (@AnneGBrown), Girl Last Seen (3/1)
Heather Anastasiu (@h_anastasiu), Girl Last Seen (3/1)
Laura Hurwitz (@hurwitzlaura), Disappear Home (paperback 3/1) 
Amy Allgeyer (@amy7a), Dig Too Deep (4/1)
Elizabeth Briggs (@lizwrites), Future Shock (4/1)
Dana Elmendorf (@DanaElmendorf), South of Sunshine (4/1)
S.A. Harazin (@SAHarazin), Painless (paperback 5/1)
Derek E. Sullivan (@DerekESullivan), Biggie (paperback 5/1)
Deborah Blumenthal (@deborahblu), Hurricane Kiss (5/1)

Prize: 5 participants will be randomly selected to receive an AW Teen book of their choice!

Hope to see you there!

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22. 2016 SOLSC Prize Winners

Announcing the prize winners of the 9th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge

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23. Guest Post & Giveaway: Emma Dryden on Putting the Internal Editor in a Time-Out

By Emma Dryden
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

An Editor Tries on Her Writer Hat

I’ve been a children’s book editor for over thirty years. Editing’s in my blood. Little else brings me as much joy or satisfaction as coaxing, guiding, and encouraging authors and illustrators to dig deeply and express their truest passions and richest stories.

Over the course of my career, I’ve edited well over 1,000 books, which means I’ve played some small or large part in the creative process for well over 1,000 people.

Throughout the journey, I’ve been asked many times if I ever wanted to write. The long and short answer to that question is “Yes.” But that’s easier said than done.

Being a life-long editor for others comes with a significant downside: I have an aggressive, impatient editor living inside me. She’s tough.

So much so that when serendipitous events occurred and stars aligned for me to co-write a picture book last year, I had to have it out with my internal editor and it wasn’t pretty. I started out nicely, pleadingly, but soon began to rant and swear, begging her to shut up and leave me alone so I could just put down on the page whatever I wanted, without limitation, without question, without suggestion. It’s an understatement to say my internal editor had a hard time turning off. But finally, finally she did shut up and I could start to write.

Maybe it was the looming deadline and my co-author expecting to hear from me that boosted the confidence in the writer part of me to strap my internal editor into the time-out chair. Or maybe it was exhaustion and the writer part of me just didn’t care anymore what those first sentences looked or felt like, as long as there was something on the page. Or maybe it was my trust in the writing process (goodness knows I’ve told hundreds of writers over the years to trust the process!) that eventually forced my internal editor to just darn well wait her turn.

I suspect it was all of these combined that finally allowed me to write with creative adrenaline the words and phrases that would eventually become the score for What Does It Mean to Be An Entrepreneur? (Little Pickle, 2016).

Most artists are not professional editors, but artists are always contending with some sort of internal editor—that nagging, probing questioner; that voice saying something isn’t good enough; that self-doubter.

Writing is a courageous, delicate, and precious act. Creating art of any kind is a courageous, delicate, and precious act.

Editing, eventually, is critical to the process, but not during those early moments of creativity, when the words and the sketches are barely formed and just emerging from the craftsperson’s imagination.

Through the experience of quieting down my internal editor to write What Does It Mean to Be An Entrepreneur?, I received two great gifts. One was that I was reminded of the obligation I have as an editor: To be patient, supportive, and empathetic to the myriad of feelings (euphoria and despair and everything in between!) an author or illustrator is going to be feeling during their creative process.

And the second gift I received is seeing my name in the byline of a book that springs from my own experiences starting a company and of which I couldn’t be more proud. I was in a position not only to co-write the book, but to edit it and assist in design and art direction—it was the best of all possible worlds for me creatively and professionally.

And now I know, when it comes time for me to write some more, exactly where my internal editor’s time-out chair is waiting!

Cynsational Notes

Emma D. Dryden is the founder of drydenbks, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm which she established after twenty-five years as a highly regarded children’s book editor and publisher. She works with authors, illustrators, start-ups, publishers, and app developers.

Emma has edited over a thousand books for children and young readers and during her tenure with Atheneum and McElderry Books, many of her titles hit bestseller lists in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and other national publications, and have received numerous awards and medals, including the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor. Emma’s on the Advisory Board of SCBWI and speaks around the world on craft, the digital landscape, and reinvention.

Her blog “Our Stories, Ourselves” explores the intertwined themes of life and writing. She can be followed online at Twitter @drydenbks, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of three signed copies of What Does It Mean to Be An Entrepreneur? by Rana DiOrio and Emma D. Dryden, and illustrated by Ken Min (Little Pickle, 2016). Author sponsored. U.S. only.

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24. Giveaway & Readers Interview Cynthia Leitich Smith

By Cynsations Readers
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Over the past couple of weeks, children's-yA author Cynthia Leitich Smith put out a call for questions from readers on Cynsations and Twitter. Here are those she elected to tackle and her responses. A few questions were condensed for space and/or clarity.

See also a previous Cynsations reader-interview post from November 2010. Cyn Note: It's interesting how the question topics shifted, both with my career growth and changes in publishing. Back then, readers were most interested in the future of the picture book market and online author marketing.

Craft 

What’s the one piece of advice you think would most benefit children’s-YA writers?

Read model books across age levels, genres, and formats. For example, a novelist who studies picture books will benefit in terms of innovation, economy and lyricism of language.

Writing across formats has its benefits, too. No, you won't be as narrowly branded. But you will have more options within age-defined markets that rise and fall with birth rates. You will acquire transferable skills, and, incidentally, you'll be a more marketable public speaker and writing teacher.

Are you in a critique group? Do you think they’re important?

Not right now, but I have been in the past.

These days, I carry a full formal teaching load. Each year I also tend to lead one additional manuscript-driven workshop and offer critiques at a couple of conferences. That leaves no time for regular group meetings or the preparation that goes into them—my loss.

For me, participation offered insights (by receiving and giving feedback) as well as mutual support related both to craft and career.

From a more global perspective, considerations include: whether the group is hard-working, social or both; the range of experience and expertise; the compatibility of productivity levels; and the personality mix.

The right combination of those ingredients can enhance the writing life and fuel success. A wrong one can be a serious detriment. If you need to make a change, do it with kindness. But do it.

What can an MFA in writing for kids do for me?

First, my perspective is rooted in my experience as a faculty member in the low-residency Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

With Kathi at the Illumine Gala
You don’t need an MFA to write well or to successfully publish books for young readers.

I don’t have an MFA. My education includes a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Kansas and a J.D. from The University of Michigan Law School. I also studied law abroad one summer in Paris.

Beyond that, I improved my children’s writing at various independent workshops, most notably those led by Kathi Appelt in Texas.

That said, you will likely develop your craft more quickly and acquire a wider range of knowledge and transferable skills through formal study.

My own writing has benefited by working side-by-side with distinguished author-teachers. Only this week, I heard Tim Wynne-Jones’s voice in my mind—the echo of a lecture that lit the way.

You’ll want to research which program is best suited to your needs.

Your questions may include:
Gali-leo
  • Do you want a full- or low-residency experience? 
  • What will be the tuition and travel/lodging costs?
  • What financial aid is available?
  • Are you an author-illustrator? (If so, Hollins may be a fit.)
  • Are you looking for a well-established program or an intimate start-up?
  • What is the faculty publication history?
  • How extensive is the faculty's teaching experience?
  • How diverse is the faculty and student body?
  • How impressive is the alumni publication record? 
  • How many alumni go on to teach? 
  • How cohesive--active and supportive--is the alumni community?
Talk to students and alumni about the school’s culture, faculty-student relationships, creature comforts and hidden expenses.

Across the board, for children's-YA MFA programs, the most substantial negative factor is cost.

Career

In terms of marketing, what's one thing authors could do better?

Provide the name of your publisher and, if applicable, the book's illustrator in all of your promotional materials, online and off. If you're published by, say, Lee & Low or FSG, that carries with it a certain reputation and credibility. Also, readers will know which publisher website to seek for more information and which marketing department to contact to request you for a sponsored event.

Granted, picture book authors usually post cover art, which includes their illustrators' names. But we're talking about the books' co-creators, and they bring their own reader base with them. Include their bylines with yours and the synopsis of the book whenever possible. It's respectful, appreciative and smart business.

What’s new with your writing?

I’ve sold two poems this year, one of which I wrote when I was 11. How cool is that?

I'm also working steadily on a massive update and relaunch of my official author site, hopefully to go live for the back-to-school season.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a contemporary realistic, upper young adult novel. It’s due out from Candlewick in fall 2017.

Like my tween debut, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), the upcoming book features a Muscogee (Creek)/Native American girl protagonist, is set in Kansas and Oklahoma, and is loosely inspired by my own adolescence.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to take a look at my recent contemporary realism, check out the chapter “All’s Well” from Violent Ends, edited by Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon Pulse, 2015).

What’s next for your Tantalize-Feral books?

For those unfamiliar with them, the Tantalize series and Feral trilogy are set in the same universe and share characters, settings and mythologies. These upper YA books are genre benders, blending adventure, fantasy, the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, suspense, romance and humor.

Feral Pride, the cap to the Feral trilogy, was released last spring. It unites characters from all nine books, including Tantalize protagonists.

A new short story set in the universe, “Cupid’s Beaux,” appears in Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015).

I don't have immediate plans for more stories in the universe, but it's vast and multi-layered. While I'm focusing on realistic fiction now, I'll return to speculative in the future.

Diversity

How do I make sure that no one will go public with a problem about my diverse book?

First, you can't (and neither can I).

Second, this has become a too-popular question.

To fully depict today's diverse world, we all have to stretch--those who don't with regard to protagonists will still be writing secondary characters different from themselves.

Writers of color, Native writers and those who identify along economic-ability-size-health-cultural-orientation spectra are not exempt from the responsibilities that come with that.

I'm hearing a lot of anxiety from a lot folks concerned about being criticized or minimized for writing across identity elements. I'm also hearing a lot of anxiety from a lot of folks concerned with "getting it right."

For the health of my head space, the latter is the way to go. My philosophy: Focus on doing your homework and offering your most thoughtful, respectful writing.

Focus on advocating for quality children's-YA literature about a wide variety characters (and their metaphorical stand-ins) by a wide range of talented storytellers.

I make every effort to assume the best.

By that, I mean:
  • Assume that when people in power say that they're committed to a more diverse industry and body of literature, they mean it and will act accordingly. 
  • Assume they'll eventually overcome those who resist. 
  • Assume that your colleagues writing or illustrating outside their immediate familiarity connect with their character(s) on other meaningful levels.
  • Assume that you'll have to keep stretching and connecting, too.
  • Assume that #ownvoices offer important insights inherent in their lived experiences. 
  • Assume that being exposed to identity elements and literary traditions outside your own is a opportunity for personal growth. 
  • Assume that a wider array of representations will invite in and nurture more young readers. 
  • Assume that your voice and vision can make a difference, not only as a writer but signal booster, advocate and ambassador.

If only in the short term, you risk being proven wrong. You risk being disappointed. At times, you probably will be. I've experienced both, but I'd rather go through all that again than to try to effect positive change in an industry, in a community, I don't believe in.

I've been a member of the children's-YA writing community for 18 years. Experience has taught me that I'm happier and more productive when I err on the side of optimism, hope and faith.

Do you think that agents are reluctant to sign POC writing about POC after Scholastic pulling A Birthday Cake for George Washington?

No need to panic. As the diversity conversation has gained renewed momentum, many agents have publicly invited queries from POC as well as Native, disabled, LGBTQIA writers and others from underrepresented communities. For example, Lee Wind at I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? is hosting an interview series with agents on that very theme.



I can't promise that every children's-YA literary agent prioritizes or, in their heart of hearts, considers themselves fully open to your query. But those who don't aren't a fit for you anyway.

When you’re identifying agents to query, consider whether they have indicated an openness to diverse submissions and/or take a look at who’s on their client rosters. This shouldn't be the only factor of course, but one of many that you weigh.

On your blog, you feature a lot of trendy type books (gay) we didn’t have in the past.

Not a question, but let’s go for it. If I’m deciphering you as intended, I disagree with the premise. Books with gay characters aren’t merely a trend or, for that matter, new in YA literature.

Nancy Garden’s Annie on my Mind was published in 1982. Marion Dane Bauer’s anthology Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence was published in 1994. Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club was published in 2003. One place to find recent ALA recommendations is the 2016 ALA Rainbow Book List.

Cynsations coverage is inclusive of books with LGBTQIA characters. In addition, gay and lesbian secondary characters appear in my own writing.

The blog was launched in 2004. Over time, I've noticed fluctuations in social media whenever I post LGBTQIA related content. I lose some followers and gain others. Increasingly, I lose fewer and gain more. My most enthusiastic welcome to those new followers!

(Incidentally, I used to see the same thing with regard to books/posts about authors and titles featuring interracial families or multi-racial characters.)

More Personally 

You sometimes tweet about TV shows. What do you watch?

In typical geeky fashion: “Agent Carter;” "Agents of Shield," “Arrow;” “Bones;” “Castle;” “The Flash;” “Grimm;” “iZombie;” “Legends of Tomorrow;” "The Librarians;" “Lucifer;” “Once Upon a Time;” “Supernatural.”

Created by Rob Thomas, who has also written several YA novels.

Comedy-wise: “Awkward;” “The Big Bang Theory;” “Blackish;” “Crazy Ex-girlfriend” (I'm a sucker for a musical); “Fresh off the Boat;” “The Real O’Neals;” “Superstore.”

I’m trying “Community” and still reeling from the "Sleepy Hollow" finale.

I have mixed feelings about “Scream Queens,” but I’m fan of Jamie Lee Curtis and Lea Michele, so I’ll keep watching it. Ditto “Big Bang” with regard to Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

"Lucifer" sneaked up on me. As someone who's written Lucifer, I watched it out of curiosity as to the take. I keep watching it because it surprises me and because Scarlett Estevez is adorable.

Typically, I watch television while lifting weights or using my stair-climber. I love my climber. I do morning email on it, too. It's largely replaced my treadmill desk.

While I write, I use the television to play YouTube videos, usually featuring aquariums, blooming flowers, butterflies or space nebulas, all set to soothing music.

Trivia: Probably I’ve logged the most small-screen time with David Boreanaz due to “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” and “Bones.” I know nothing about the actor beyond his performances (I’m not a “celebrity news” person), but I like to think he appreciates my loyalty.

Cynsational Giveaways


Enter to win signed books by Cynthia Leitich Smith -- the young adult Feral trilogy (Candlewick) and/or three Native American children's titles (HarperCollins). Scroll to two entry forms, one for each set.



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25. My Thoughts: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

4 Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cover Love:  To be totally honest, I don't love this cover.  But I know it appeals to young readers because when I display this book it gets checked out a lot.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This is one of those books I bought when it first came out because I knew I would want to read it myself (one of the biggest benefits of being a librarian).  Then it got buried in my immense TBR pile.  I have had quite a few students check out this and book #2 (The Mad Apprentice), but I still hadn't gotten around to reading it until I was contacted about book #3 and taking part in Penguin's blogging event around the release of book #3 (The Palace of Glass).  I read The Forbidden Library and am hooked on this series!  Here is the synopsis:
Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy

When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.
My Thoughts:
This was such an inventive idea.  There is a little of Inkheart, in that a person can read themselves into a book.  But it's not like they go into the story, it's like they become the story, or a big part of the story.  These people are called Readers.  And they can't go into just any book, it has to be special books.  Alice discovers she is Reader quite by accident.  But, as you get to know Alice you realize, SHE CAN HANDLE IT.  She is amazing, on the level of Hermione Granger.  She is practical and smart and keeps her head about her.  I LOVED Alice!  She is a problem solver and that makes for the best kind of Reader.

The catch with this awesome ability is that the books that Readers can enter are basically prisons for all manner of creatures and the only way for a Reader to get out is for another Reader to get them out...or they can defeat the creatures.  Along the way Alice meets Ashes, a talking cat, Isaac, another young reader and her "uncle" Geryon.  There are several other characters as well, and you just know that nobody is telling Alice the whole truth and that everyone has different motives for using Alice and her powers.  There is also a little of a "there can be only one" attitude by some of the older and more powerful Readers.

Alice has her own mystery to solve, that of what happened to her father.  This world she is thrust into would me many a person curl up in a corner and wait for death, but no Alice.  She takes it on and makes it her own.

To Sum Up:  Great middle grade fantasy book with interesting characters and an awesome premise.  I will be finishing this series soon!

Penguin has offered up a copy of each of the books in The Forbidden Library series including the third book, The Palace of Glass, which was just published.  Please enter below (US only).  I will pick a winner on Saturday April 23.

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