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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Texas book scene, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 8 of 8
1. Guest Post: Brian Anderson Collaborating with His Daughter Amy on Space Dictionary for Kids

By Brian Anderson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Have you ever wondered why the spacecraft that carried the first U.S. astronaut into space in 1961 was named the Freedom 7? Was George Lucas already planning six prequels, or what?

When my daughter Amy turned 21 years old in July 2014, she was doing summer research in astrophysics at Baylor University. Her birthday coincided with a stargazing party at Meyer Observatory, so I offered to make a piñata and have the star party double as a birthday party.

I started making custom piñatas when Amy was five years old, and over the years her birthday party piñatas had grown increasingly elaborate.

"How about a black hole piñata," I joked. I imagined one round balloon, decorated all black. She would never agree to that.

"That'd be fantastic!"

I knew right away something was wrong. I told her nothing escapes the gravity of a black hole, not even light. It's just a black dot in space. That's when she told me about accretion disks and X-ray emissions and Hawking radiation. Apparently, I had a lot to learn about black holes, and now I also had a challenging piñata to make.


The following summer my friend and fellow Austin children's book author Christina Soontornvat told me that Prufrock Press was looking for an author to write an astronomy dictionary for kids.

Christina and I are both science educators as well as children's book authors, and she thought I'd be perfect for the job. But after the way that black hole piñata joke backfired on me the summer before, I knew I didn't know enough astronomy to write a book about it.

But I knew someone who did.

Brian & Amy--back in the day.
Amy had just graduated from college and was taking the summer off before starting graduate school in the fall.

When I suggested we write it together, her first question was the same as mine – isn't there something like this already available online for free?

Her search turned up the same thing mine had: some highly technical glossaries that were clearly not intended for kids, and a scattered collection of incomplete and sometimes incorrect astronomy glossaries for students.

My nine-year-old self was screaming at me that space-loving kids needed this book. Amy felt the same way, and agreed to help write it. We have liftoff!

We compiled a word list of about 450 terms, grouped them into five subject areas, then dived into researching and writing.

The fact that Amy understood the science content much better than I did is part of the reason our collaboration on Space Dictionary for Kids (Sourcebooks, 2016) worked so well. She brought content mastery and I brought a learner's perspective.

Together we were able to create an astronomy dictionary that's both scientifically accurate and understandable to young readers.

Collaborating with my daughter will always be one of the highlights of my writing career, and Amy taught me a lot of astronomy along the way. I finally understand retrograde motion!

I already knew quasars were the brightest objects in the universe, brighter than an entire galaxy of stars, but until I started working with Amy I never knew exactly what a quasar was. And I also learned (a little too late) that I should have offered to make Amy a black dwarf piñata instead of a black hole piñata.

Cynsational Notes

To answer the opening question, each of the Project Mercury astronauts, known collectively as the Mercury 7, was allowed to name the ship that would carry him into space, and each ship's name would end with the number 7. In addition to Freedom 7, the other Mercury spacecraft were Liberty Bell 7, Friendship 7, Aurora 7, Sigma 7, and Faith 7. If you're keeping score, you probably noticed that that was only six. To find out what happened to the seventh Mercury astronaut, flip to page 144.

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2. Guest Post: Joy Preble on Life as an Author-Bookseller...or Bookseller-Author?

Joy's first full day at Brazos Bookstore
By Joy Preble
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Last month, I became the new Children’s Specialist at Brazos Bookstore in Houston. I hadn’t planned on it, but when you stumble into your dream job, well, you take it!

It’s a balancing act: Selling books and buying books and merchandising and creating store events, while also writing and promoting my own novels. I’m not just an author anymore, but I’m not just a bookseller either, and this hybrid from means I’ve seen behind one curtain, and now I’m peeking behind another.

What have I learned in the past few weeks the job? Lots of things, and not so much that they are new but that I’m seeing them through a different prism.

And so the responsibility of hand-selling books I love by authors whose work I admire weighs heavy—and heavier because we are a small, highly curated independent store and space is a premium, especially so in the children’s area.

Our buyer’s philosophy is: "if two copies is good, then one is better." If I order three copies or four, then I better not only adore this book, but have made it clear to my co-workers why I love it, made sure they’re reading advanced copies and come up with a plan to sell it big. If I put a book face out or make it part of a special display or grace it with a shelf-talker that choice is mine. Already, I’ve seen how store love and hand-selling can quickly turn a small book from a small press into a bestseller.

It makes me all the more appreciative for the booksellers and librarians who’ve supported my career and talked up my books and kept copies on hand. Because I know now what happens when I see that a book hasn’t sold any copies in a month or two. I purge all or most of the copies from the shelves and replace it with something new.

Booksellers channeling Dorothy Parker
Of course I knew this before… in theory. But while the author part of me—the part that knows what it takes to write a book and bring it into the world—struggles with the idea, the bookseller part of me either has to come up with a plan or put it on the return shelf.

We return a lot of books each week. Stacks and stacks of them. The author part of me will probably always feel sad about this. But that is how it works.

On the other hand, one of the grand things about working at an independent bookstore is that while we respect the Kirkus Reviews recs and the Indie Next List and all the rest of it, we are under no obligation to promote only the books that the reps have pushed when we take meetings.

Oh, we want to predict the big titles as much as the next guy, but we also revel in finding that hidden gem of a book and giving it its due. But I know now that this takes more than just keeping it on the shelf. It means moving it around the store, making it visible, putting it in customers’ hands, crowing about why we love and why they should read it.

My new job has revived and broadened my reading tastes because of this and colleagues who put translated Latin American novels in my hands or find themselves shocked that I had not read Kelly Link’s latest short story collection.

I could go on and on and tell you how our particular store is owned by a co-op or how the reps often bring pizza. Or how I still have a weird series of reactions each time I see my own books in the store. Should I write a shelf-talker? Put them face out? Force my colleagues to read the latest?

Am I author/bookseller? Or bookseller/author?

Ringing up your own book for a random customer is, well, strange.

But this is enough for now.

Cynsational Notes

Joy Preble is the author of several young adult novels including the Dreaming Anastasia series (Sourcebooks), the first book of which was named an ABC Best Book in 2009; the quirky/humorous Sweet Dead Life series (Soho Press); a contemporary road trip/family drama, Finding Paris (Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins), which School Library Journal called, "An intricate guessing game of sisterly devotion, romance, and quiet desperatio.”

Her latest release is It Wasn't Always Like This (Soho Teen), which Kirkus Reviews called "a modern Tuck Everlasting with a thriller twist."

Joy lives in Texas with her family, including a sweet but slightly unhinged basset/boxer. In between writing and working at Brazos Bookstore as bookseller/Children’s Specialist, she teaches and lectures widely on writing and literacy and is currently on faculty at Writespace Houston.

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3. Texas Library Association Annual Conference

The Texas Library Association annual conference is one of my favorite youth literature events. This year, the setting was San Antonio, my hotel was the Westin Riverwalk, and my sponsoring publisher was Candlewick Press.

My husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, and I drove to San Antonio on Friday and attended the TLA Welcome Party at the San Antonio Musuem of Art. It's not a children's/YA literature event per se, so we didn't know a lot of people there. But it was quite festive. The planners featured a string group outside and a horns group inside. A Mexican buffet was served. Guest were welcome to wander the museum, which had a wonderful collection and historic architecture.

I spoke the next morning on a YA Roundtable panel, "Magic in the Middle," with Tim Wynne-Jones, who's a pal of mine from the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and Margaret Peterson Haddix. It was my first time to meet Margaret, which was exciting. She's one of my favorite YA authors, and I often hold up her writing as an especially good example of plot and pacing. Gary Schmidt also was supposed to be on the panel, but like a number of authors, he was snowed in up north.

My signing at the Candlewick Press booth followed, and I was pleased to hear that Tantalize sold out at the conference. Thanks to all who stopped by! Thanks also to everyone who told me how much they had enjoyed the novel!

That night, I attended the YART author/publisher dinner. The other author at my table was Lila Guzman, and it was lovely to see her.

We stayed over for the TLA Joint Publishers Reception on Friday, which was elegant. I was especially impressed by the fountain. It was held at the Hilton Palacio del Rio.

On a more personal note, highlights included:

(1) Being mistaken for Laurie Halse Anderson. Chalk it up to conference brain fuzz, but I actually didn't realize what had just happened until the librarian had walked away. She'd mentioned reading Twisted (Viking, 2007), which I agreed was amazing (I just finished it), and the challenges of placing upper YA in middle school libraries. Jeepers. Oh, well. I'm sure she later realized the misunderstanding. And frankly, I've always wanted to be Laurie Halse Anderson (who wouldn't?). So, that was my chance!

(2) Meeting for the first time A.M. Jenkins, Sharon Draper, Justine Larbalestier, Grace Lin, Yuyi Morales, Mitali Perkins, Dana Reinhardt, and Scott Westerfeld. I was beyond star struck. I also can't stop thinking about Justine's statement that there are fox-sized bats in Australia. I may have to visit. Really. Soon.

(3) Coming "home" to TLA. I couldn't begin to name all the Texas librarians I've known and worked with over the years. How great to see so many in one place! I'm thrilled by all their efforts and proud of their success. It's a particular pleasure to hear my out-of-state author colleagues gush about the conference and our state association.

My one lingering question: could someone please recommend shoes comfortable enough for the conference floor? By the end of day one, my feet were plotting revolt.

Author/illustrator sightings included Brian Anderson, Dianna Hutts Aston, Anne Bustard, Chris Barton, Toni Buzzeo, Cecil Castellucci, Esme Raji Codell, Kathleen Duey, Lupe Ruiz Flores, John Green, Peni Griffin, Helen Hemphill, Emily Jenkins, Julie Lake, Debbie Leland,E. Lockhart, Patricia McMahon,Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, Leda Schubert, Don Tate, Tim Tingle, Jerry Wermund, Kathy Whitehead, and Jennifer Zeigler. My apologies to anyone I've missed.

Special thanks to Candlewick Press, the YART librarians, and other TLA planners! All of your efforts were most appreciated. It was such an honor to join you all!

More on TLA

Never Sign Near Mo and Other Conference Survival Tips by Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape.

Suitcase? There's No Suitcase Here... by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog.

TLA--1 from Camille at Book Moot.

TLA, Just Plain Fun by Grace Lin at The Blue Rose Girls.

TLA Today by Don Tate at Devas T. Rants and Raves. Read a Cynsations interview with Don.

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4. Tantalize Giveaway Contest at YABC

Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central is sponsoring a giveaway contest that features 20 available copies of Tantalize. The challenge is: "Make up a favorite recipe/dish for either a vampire or a werewolf. Be Creative! And remember, answers DO count!" See the entry form. The event is co-sponsored by YABC and Candlewick Press. Please help spread the word!

In review news, Publishers Weekly cheers "...horror fans will be hooked by Kieren's quiet, hirsute hunkiness..." I love the alliteration "hirsuit hunkiness." How fun is that?

Thanks to BookPeople of Austin, Texas for featuring the book in its March newsletter! This is my local independent bookstore. Yay, Austin!

Thanks also to Cat for her kind and enthusiastic welcome to MySpace. I'm honored.

And last, I'd also like to note that I've signed a contract for a new picture book ("Holler Loudly") with Dutton. I'll keep you posted on illustrator and pub-date news.

More News & Links

Congratulations to my pal and fellow Austinite Chris Barton of Bartography on the sale of his SECOND book! Wahoo!

"How Bleak Thou Art:" my comedic writer (and very cute) husband and sometimes co-author, Greg Leitich Smith, blogs about the dearth of YA/tween comedies at Blogger. See also comments on his LJ syndication.

Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature blogs about Less Than Half, More Than Whole by Michael and Kathleen Lacapa (Northland, 1999). See my bibliographies on books with interracial family themes and Native themes.

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5. Writers' League of Texas Calls for Teddy Award Entries

The Writers' League of Texas calls for entries for its Teddy Book Awards in the "long works" and "short works" categories. The awards "were established to honor outstanding published books written by Writers' League of Texas members."

The entry fee is $25 per submission. Books published between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2006 are eligible. Download the 2007 entry form (PDF). The deadline is June 29, and there is a $1,000 cash prize and trophy in each category. Members may join the League at the time of their entry.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2007.

Last year, in the short works (picture book) division, the finalists were The Pledge of Allegiance by Barbara Clack (Texas A & M University Press Consortium, 2005) and Mocking Birdies by Annette Simon (Simply Read Books, 2005).

The winner was Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (Cinco Puntos, 2006)(recommendation).

In the long works (middle grade/YA) division, the finalists were Tofu and T. rex by Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2005)(author interview) and Czar of Alaska: The Cross of Charlemagne by Richard Trout (Pelican, 2005).

The winner was Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Heather Hepler, co-authored by Brad Barkley (Dutton, 2006)(co-authors interview).

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6. How To Throw A Book Launch Party

Learn "How to Throw a Book Launch Party" via an article I've written that has been posted to Anastasia Suen's blog, Create/Relate: News from the Children's Book Biz.

Speaking of which, the lovely Elizabeth Garton Scanlon at Liz In Ink is the latest blogger to chime in about my Tantalize launch party. Liz is the author of A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes: A Pocket Book, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins, 2004). Visit her author site and read her recent interview at Cynsations.

Don't miss the other party reports from Cynsations, GregLSBlog, Don Tate's Devas T. Rants and Raves, Camille's Book Moot, Jo Whittemore's LJ (great pics!), and Alison Dellenbaugh's Alison Wonderland. Read Cynsations interviews with Greg, Don, and Jo.

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7. Cynsational News & Links

My new novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) received a five-star review from Karin Perry at TeensReadToo.com! Karin calls the novel "...a stimulating paranormal mystery mixed with romance. The relationship between Quincie and Kieren is touching and so deep that the reader feels Quincie’s pain at the thought of losing Kieren, while at the same time understanding Kieren’s reasons for keeping Quincie at arms length..." Read the whole review.

Speaking of Tantalize itself, though, Alison Dellenbaugh (AKA She Who Brought Her Own Fangs) offers her report on the novel's launch party at Alison Wonderland. So does Jo--news with many party pics!--at her LJ. And Tanya Lee Stone offers cheers. See the full launch party report.

More News & Links

Interview with Robin Friedman on The Girlfriend Project from Little Willow at Slayground. The Girlfriend Project will be published by Walker in April. Read an excerpt. (By the way, The Girlfriend Project official site is an excellent example of a book-specific site and was designed by Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys.

The lovely and talented Newbery Award honor recipients offer a show of solidarity for this year's recently challenged winner, Susan Patron, at Cynthia Lord's LJ, "from Jennifer Holm, Kirby Larson, and Me."

Alma Fullerton offers new interviews with authors Kristy Dempsey, Dori Chaconas, and Douglas Rees. She also offers a new interview with agent Nadia Cornier of Firebrand Literary. Nadia says: "I'll overlook a lot for a great story. I mean, I've read some fabulous books that are perfectly crafted but really boring stories - but a really perfect story, even if it isn't perfectly crafted will have such MEANING and resonance. I want those." Read the whole interview.

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8. Tantalize Launch Party

Thanks to all who celebrated with us in person or in spirit at the launch party for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) on Friday, Feb. 23!

In keeping with the Sanguini's motif (the fictional vampire restaurant in the novel), guests were asked to sign in as predator or prey.

We decorated in low-key Gothic colors, mostly with accents--including the framed Sanguini's fangs-style logo in the foyer, black-and-red linens for the daybed, black tapers in the candlesticks, black votives in the tray display, black-and-red pillar candles in the fireplace, red drop crystals in the parlor chandelier, black coasters, and black table cloths. Off-limits rooms were marked with crime-scene and police-line tape.

We also set three tables with the matching linens on the front terrace for those who wanted to enjoy the bright, breeze, 70-something degree night.

So far as wardrobe went, I opted for a slinky black shell and pants, black cowbody boots, my snake-wrapped earrings, my antique gold watch necklace (originally grandma's), and a full-length black net cape.

The previous day, Barbara Marin at Bo Salon on South Congress had taken my hair to a near black featuring a subtle dark blue sheen with red stripe accent streaks in front, and Kate Pham, also of Bo, painted my nails in alternating red and black. Many guests commented that they thought I should keep the 'do permanently.

The to-die-for menu, from Primizie Catering, featured: antipasto; smoked salmon gravlox; fresh vegetable crudite platter; imported and domestic artisan cheese board with vineyard grapes and seasonal berries; fresh seasonal fruit; oven dried tomatoes finished with local goat cheese balsamic vinaigreette and snipped chives; Italian sausage "spiedini" with peppers and pecorino romano cheese; calzone with mushrooms and Italian cheeses; miniature stuffed and baked pizza pockets filled with Italian cheeses, wild mushrooms and charred tomato; cocktail sandwiches (wild mushrooms, garlicky spinach and artichoke herb spread on Italian flatbread); and stuffed porcini mushrooms. Absolutely delicious! The calzone and porcini mushrooms were especially popular with our crowd. Guest Anne Bustard graciously provided an Italian creme cake.

Colby Neal 's The Flower Studio designed the gorgeously gothic buffet flowers.

Candlewick Press co-sponsored a giveaway of the final book (guests were each welcome to take one). I pre-autographed the copies. A few folks also bought (prior to the party) and brought more for me to sign.

Door prizes included ARCs of the following 2007 novels by Austin-area authors: Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie (Delacorte); Onaj's Horn: the Silverskin Legacy (Book Three) by Jo Whittemore (Llewellyn); Runaround by Helen Hemphill (Front Street); and Wonders of the World by Brian Yansky (Flux).

We also gave away a basket filled with fixings for an Italian dinner from Central Market. Contents included: black squid ink pasta; pesto sauce with truffles; sun-dried tomatoes; parmesan; dark chocolate; Sanguini's mug, sticker, mousepad, and magnet; wine biscuits; and a bottle of Travis Peak Cabernet Sauvignon.

We had a crowd of about eighty from throughout Central Texas, though with ebb and flow, there were usually only about sixty people inside the house at any given time.

Guests included such luminaries as writers Brian Anderson, Kathi Appelt, Anne Bustard, Janie Bynum, Betty Davis, Alison Dellenbaugh, Peni R. Griffin, Lila and Rick Guzman, Helen Hemphill, Frances Hill, Varian Johnson, Lindsey Lane, April Lurie, Mark Mitchell, Sean Petrie, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Liz Garton Scanlon, Elaine Scott, Jerry Wermund, Jo Whittemore, and Brian Yansky, illustrators Gene Brenek, Joy Fisher Hein, Christy Stallop, and Don Tate, current and former Austin SCBWI RAs-authors Tim Crow, Meredith Davis, Debbie Dunn, Julie Lake, and Nancy Jean Okunami, as well as a bounty other book pros (teachers, school and public librarians, university professors of children's/YA lit, and so on), including author-librarian Jeanette Larson, librarian-blogger Camille Powell, and a number of additional book lovers, friends, and significant others.

Kathi Appelt was kind enough to propose a toast!

I'd say about a third of the guests were writers or illustrators, about a third other book folks, and about a third significant others and additional guests, which made for a lovely mix.

My special thanks to the central Texas children's and young adult book community for all of its enthusiasm and support. I'm so honored and thrilled to have such amazing people in my life.

Cynsational Notes

Thanks also to our servers, Anna and Eric! They looked fierce in their custom Sanguini's T-shirts designed by Gene Brenek. Thanks to author Julie Lake for facilitating their hiring.

Thanks also to Michael Helferich for lending us his chainsaw. Because the weather cooperated, we didn't need to have the outdoor fireplace on the terrace, but it gave us peace of mind to have it as a back-up plan.

Primizie Osteria – Italian Café and Wine Bar will open soon at 1000 E. 11th Street, Suite 200 in Austin.

See more party news and pics at GregLSBlog. Once the festivities started, we were too busy to keeping shooting photos, but I'll be sure to highlight any other party posts that may arise. Speaking of which, check out Don's "A tantalizing party" at Devas T. Rants and Raves, Liz's "Community" at Liz In Ink, Camille's "Friday Night Highlights" at Book Moot, "Tantalize Party" (with excellent party pics!) at Jo's LJ, and Alison's "A tantalizing weekend" at Alison Wonderland.

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