Oh hey, look what I found

Pictures from a recent visit to NYC by Cynthia Leitich Smith! These were taken in Feb. 2011, but I completely forgot to post them.

What’s that? You don’t know Cyn? How could you miss this unyielding advocate for children’s literature? In fact, I’m surprised you somehow managed to make it to MY site if you haven’t been to Cyn’s first. But just in case you don’t know all the cool things she’s doing, from her blog—where she interviews and champions other authors more than herself—to her main website, where she keeps a bunch of annotated bibliographies of multicultural literature broken down by communities and a whole part dedicated to children’s/YA lit resources, not to mention a whole bunch of other stuff, well, now’s your chance to check it out.

And while you’re at it, go read her books.



Workshop and conference miscellanea, other events

  • Just got invited last minute to join a panel at ASJA on Saturday on “Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch” from 11 a.m. to noon this Saturday, April 30, at the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC. I believe it’s open to the public (not sure if there’s a cost) so if you’re going, see you there.
  • Only a few weeks away from the NESCBWI conference in Fitchburg, MA, which I believe sold out, but if you were one of the lucky ones who got a ticket, I’m looking forward to doing a workshop on worldbuilding and a talk on diversity in fantasy in science fiction. I’ve given “Beyond Orcs and Elves” before, in California and in Utah, so this will be my East Coast version of it, and then after for those who didn’t make it to any of those events I plan on sharing at least parts of it on the blog here.
  • how not to talk down to your YA audienceIf you were to be in my worldbuilding workshop, what would you want to hear about? What kind of handouts would you find useful? I’ve done this workshop before, but it’s been a while and I’m working on updating it, so feel free to jot down a wish list. This is another topic that I’ve been meaning to blog more about, as well, so once the presentation/workshop is over I plan to share at least parts of it here.
  • While I’m in Fitchburg, I’m sad to say, I’m going to miss the Diversity in YA Tour stop in New York. Of COURSE all the cool things are happening on the same weekend! But that doesn’t mean that YOU have to miss out on it. They start the weekend after next with San Francisco, where friends Cindy Pon, Malinda Lo, and J.A. Yang will be signing (Cindy and Malinda are the masterminds behind the whole thing and will be at every stop), as well as Gene Luen Yang, who I don’t know personally but you might have heard about through, I don’t know, his National Book Award nomination for American Born Chinese or the book winning the Printz and the Eisner. Then they’ll be in Austin, where they’re joined by a large contingency of authors including Lee & Low author Guadalupe Garcia McCall, whose debut Under the Mesquite comes out soon. And if you’ve read and loved Bleeding Violet as I did and are in the Austin area, Dia Reeves will be there, too, as well as several other notable authors. In Chicago, they’ll be joined by Nnedi Okorafor, among others. In Boston, you’ve got Holly Black, Francisco X. Stork . . . the list is getting too long. Just go to the tour page and look at all the cool people who will be at each stop! I will wave in Cindy and Malinda’s general direction as we pass, three ships in the night (or day as the case may be), me on the way to Massachusetts from New York City and them the other way around.
  • Then later this month is BEA. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of author friends in town. If you’re coming in town for BEA, drop me a line.
  • Before BEA is School Library Journal’s Day of Dialogue, which sounds like it’ll be a great event—Katherine Paterson, discussions on diversity, apps, debut authors. Not a bad price for SLJ subscribers, too.

May will be a busy month, and then in June all of publishing will be at ALA (I don’t believe I’ll be going to it myself this year, but Lee & Low will have a booth), then later in the year is WorldCon in Reno, which I wish I could attend but likely won’t be able to shoehorn in between all my work, hopefully a trip home at some point in the summer, and Girls’ Camp for the girls in my church, which I’m chaperoning this year. I kind of feel like saying all this stuff out loud is making the summer feel almost over, the way that when I work on books for a year or more in advance I kind of feel like I’m living in the future. But you live in the present, so you should schedule a few of these events in!

Tu teasers

I find I don’t want to blog much anymore, and mostly it’s because ever since my site broke, it hasn’t been quite right. I’m seriously thinking of giving up hosting it on my own (I can figure out most things, but it takes time I no longer have) and migrating my blog over to WordPress. A friend was showing me her site, and if my non-tech-savvy friend can get her site to look great there, maybe I should just use their infrastructure. Any more-tech-savvy-than-me friends know whether I can keep my custom headers and such while using WordPress’s servers rather than my own?

I’ll probably keep my own domain name, etc. The only thing that would change would be that my database would hopefully no longer be corrupted, and that I’d actually want to blog again because it wouldn’t be a headache every time I logged in!

Of course, that would require having something to blog about, and today I do have a little bit of a teaser for you. We’ve been working on the design stage of our Fall 2011 books, which means that we’re getting in preliminary cover art, looking at interior design, turning things around fast between designer, author, and editor (me). Within a few weeks I think we’ll have some final cover art to show off.

Like I said, just a teaser. Not much to talk about in public yet, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally show off the cool things I’ve been working on for almost a year. We’re working on acquiring for Spring 2012, too, so keep those submissions coming.

Speaking of Spring, I haven’t shared the acquisition we made last month here yet, have I? That’s how behind I am on blogging! Here’s the announcement we made in PW Children’s Bookshelf last month:

Stacy Whitman at Lee & Low Books has bought Bryce Moore’s debut novel Vodnik, for publication in spring 2012 by the Tu Books imprint. The YA fantasy tells the story of Tomas, a Roma boy who returns to Slovakia and discovers that the folk tale creatures he befriended as a boy are more dangerous than he knew, and he must strike a bargain with Death to save his cousin’s life. Eddie Schneider at JABberwocky Literary Agency brokered the deal for North American rights.

Meeting authors, Kitty Saturday

I haven’t had a chance yet to post about my time at the Ventura/Santa Barbara SCBWI conference over Halloween weekend. I had a great time—the organizers, including Lee & Low author Alexis O’Neill, the V/SB SCBWI RA, were extremely organized, and it was so nice to meet so many authors and illustrators who are either currently published and working on more books, or who are working toward publication. The other guests, Reuben Pfeffer (agent at East-West Literary Agency) and Andrea Welch (Beach Lane Books) were so nice to talk to. It was a lot to fit a lot into one day! But the organizers were able to do it because they kept everyone on track time-wise.

I had my camera with me, but didn’t take many shots. But one thing I did get a shot of was a milestone that any editor would count as a highlight: getting to meet one of my authors for the first time in person. This time it was Karen Sandler, whose book, Tankborn, will be out with Tu in fall 2011. (And I finally met her agent just this Thursday when we and my coworker Miriam met for hot chocolate at Burdick’s—it makes me happy that Burdick’s opened a New York shop just in time for me to move here. I was in love with their Boston shop when I was in graduate school.)

So here’s me and Karen in California on the day before Halloween:

And just for good measure, we haven’t had some good pictures of my cats around here recently, so here’s a whole buncha cute fluffies for ya.

Save Shannon Hale’s life

Via Rick Walton:

If you are the highest bidder, Shannon Hale will rave about you on her blog, describing in great detail how you saved her life several times.

All money goes to buy books for kids who need them.

To bid and to have Shannon put in writing that she is forever in your debt, go to Writing for Charity.

Or you can be murdered by Dan Wells. In his book of course.

Online bidding ends Friday night.

Books for NYC Schools, School Library Month, and kimbap

Dropped in on the Books for NYC Schools event to see Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier read. But the trains were running late, so I missed their part of the reading, and forgot my copies of Leviathan and How to Ditch Your Fairy at work, so I pretty much listened to Bennet Madison and Cecily von Ziegesar’s part of the reading–and I’m so glad I did, because I haven’t read their books and really enjoyed hearing their work–and said hi to Scott & Justine, just getting my copy of Specials signed because that was the only one I had at home. But I was able to donate several books to the event, which was the most important thing. I love that they did this, and it looks like it’s an ongoing non-profit project sponsored by ReadThis and The Center for Fiction, so you might be able to find ways of helping out even with the event over.

Even if you can’t help NYC schools, remember that most school libraries are suffering right now because of local and state budget shortfalls. April is School Library Month, and there’s a lot you can do in your own neighborhood, city, and county to get involved and make sure that kids in your own area have the tools they need to get a good education. A huge part of that education is access to a library–and librarians to staff those libraries. Laurie Halse Anderson is this year’s spokesperson and she has a video over on her site talking about why school libraries in particular are important. Pull quote:

On the fact that math scores are up across the country, but reading scores are not: “We haven’t asked parents to volunteer to teach our algebra classes… we haven’t fired math teachers and let kids to figure it out on the Internet, but we’ve closed libraries and fired librarians, who are the central figure of literacy in any school.”

After that, I was on to run a few errands near work that I forgot to do yesterday evening, which put me in the neighborhood of a kimbap cafe across the street from the Asian market I needed to pick a few things up from. I saw it yesterday on my way back to the office from picking up japchae at a Korean restaurant on the same street, but it didn’t register until I got back to the office. I love kimbap–but it takes forever for me to make it just for me, and I always end up with too much. So just over $5 for a roll all for myself? YUM.

The Chosen One

I got this ARC a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve been holding onto it because I knew from going to Carol’s reading that it would make me bawl. I had to be ready for that, and busy as I’ve been, I haven’t been ready for it.

Once again tonight, as many nights, I couldn’t sleep. So I took the book to bed with me about midnight, and here it is 4 in the morning and I’ve read the whole thing, and bawled the whole way through. In a good way! It’s a powerful book. But be warned–Kleenex should be handy when navigating this book.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me ‘splain: Carol Lynch Williams’s new book, The Chosen One, is about a 13-year-old girl, Kyra, who lives in a polygamous compound much like any of the ones you’d see driving through southern Utah. The FLDS aren’t the only sect, though they are the most notorious. Living in Utah, you often see reports on the news about women who have escaped these situations, or about the Lost Boys, the boys who are sent out to die in the desert because the girls are for the older men. When Kyra is told that the prophet of their sect has had a revelation that she is to marry (remember, she’s 13!), and marry her own uncle, no less–not is he her father’s brother, but he’s also 50 years older than she is–she has a crisis of faith that leads her to question what she’s been taught all her life about the blind obedience to the prophet’s commands.

I love that Carol made this completely unrelated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–of which you’ll probably remember that I’m a member. People, often people who don’t know a real Mormon, often get the real Mormon church and the wacked-out splinter polygamous groups confused and conflate them. There’s a huge difference (I’ll not get into them, because that’s not what this is about–let’s not go there–I’m just saying that I appreciate, finally, seeing something that addresses the subject that doesn’t conflate the two). I don’t know what it’s like to live in these compounds, so I won’t say it’s “so realistic” or anything as if that means anything–but it rings true to the reports I’ve seen and the books I’ve read.

Most importantly, it rings true to Kira as a character. She’s strong, capable, and learning to become independent. I really rooted for her to win, and felt just as torn as she did about what “winning” would mean–would it mean having to leave her family behind, the only world she’s ever known, loving people who are just trying their best to be good? What is freedom without family beside you? It’s a book that doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff, and it’s oh so good.

Just remember the tissues when you read it.

…And let’s see if I can sleep NOW!

Provo Book Festival (& other recent events, including a reading cat)

Well, now that I’ve gotten my camera back up (I killed the battery Saturday, forgetting to upload the pictures while it was still hooked up for hours, and now I’ve finally gotten back to it), I will share with you some of the fun things that happened at the Provo Book Festival. I was really impressed. This was the first time I’ve been to it, though I’ve heard good things about it for a few years, and I must say, it was really cool to see how the kids who came were so excited to get involved with books, to see their favorite authors speak, and to be able to get books signed by them. There had to have been twenty or so local authors involved, and several illustrators as well.

I’m trying out this “insert gallery” option. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try individual pictures. We’ll see!

ETA: Whoops! I’m fixing it!

Okay, to purge the photo files, before we get to the festival, here are some shots from the recent book signing by Carol Lynch Williams, at which she read a portion of her book, The Chosen One, as well. I have an ARC and can’t wait to read it. Just have to catch up on work first!

Carol Lynch Williams reads at her booksigning Carol Lynch Williams reads at her booksigning Carol Lynch Williams reads at her booksigningCarol Lynch Williams reads at her booksigning Carol Lynch Williams at her booksigning

At Carol Lynch Williams's booksigning provo-book-festival-013 provo-book-festival-017 provo-book-festival-019

Notice how Cheri Earl (Carol’s partner in crime on many endeavors, most notably the BYU Writing for Young Readers conference every June) must either make a face at me for taking her picture, or turn away. It’s all a ploy to show off her cute hair.

Mogget likes to read, too.

Mogget likes to read, too.

Now, on to the festival! They had a puppet show for the kids (the farmer’s animals kept making all the wrong noises! cats baaing, cows meowing–what is a poor farmer to do? turns out he forgot to read their owner’s manual.) Shannon and Dean Hale performed an interpretive dance of their collaboration project, and authors who signed books all afternoon include Emily Wing Smith, Aprilynne Pike, Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, Carol Lynch Williams, Mette Ivie Harrison, Jessica Day George, Shannon and Dean Hale, and many, many others.

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The end. Say good night, Mogget.

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Good night, Mogget!

My Conduit schedule, and other interesting goings-on that weekend

Note that Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary is the Guest of Honor at this year’s Conduit. Along with that, the Taylers are hosting a book launch party at the show for the latest Schlock book. Head on over to Howard’s site for all the details.

For you YA-type and writer-type people, here are some interesting panels that I won’t be on (the schedule isn’t final yet, from what I can tell, but here’s the latest info–go to Conduit’s site to be sure of the very latest news). (Also note that there will be a lot of geeky fun for all sorts of fannish things, which I won’t list here. Go look at the Conduit site for more info.)

Friday, May 22

  • Noon: Grammar, schmammar: When to follow the rules. And when to break them. (Michael R. Collings, Dave Wolverton, Kathleen Dalton Woodbury, Lee Allred, Anne Wingate, Berin Stephens)
  • 2:00 PM: How do you write a great “evil overlord”? (Clint Johnson, Ann Sharp, Roger White, Dave Wolverton, Howard Tayler)
  • 3:00 PM: Culture-Building in F&SF: How Do You Create a Viable and Consistent Culture? (John Brown, Lee Modesitt, Roger White, Dave Wolverton, Elisabeth Waters, Brandon Sanderson)
  • 5:00 PM: Howard Tayler Main Address: Practice Makes Perfect (I find it odd they have so many other things going on during the main address, but I’m new to this con, so… what do I know?)
  • 6:00 PM: Howard and Sandra Tayler Part 1: Structuring Creativity to Get Stuff Done Howard and Sandra will discuss how they structure their lives to fit all the business tasks, creative tasks, and family tasks into each day and into one house. They will also discuss how things worked differently in the earlier stages of their creative life and how they expect things to change in the years to come.

Saturday, May 23

  • 11 AM The Stenchless Chamberpot – how real should historical fiction or fantasy be?
  • (Ann Chamberlin, Jessica Day George, Clint Johnson, Robert J Defend, Dave Wolverton, Karen Webb)
  • Noon Howard and Sandra Tayler Part 2: The Nuts and Bolts of Running a Creative Business. Howard and Sandra will discuss the inner workings of their business and all the tasks necessary to keep it going. Accounting, Marketing, Networking, Shipping, Printing, and Comic Creation will all be discussed.
  • 3 PM The Twilight Books Phenomenon. Why are so many girls (and women) reading Stephenie Meyer?
  • (James Dashner, Nathan Shumate, Kathleen Dalton Woodbury, Suzy Gehring) I love that they have two guys on this panel about why girls and women are reading Stephenie Meyer!
  • 4-7 PM Howard Tayler Book Launch Party and Signing (Con Suite)
  • 4 PM The science of evil: why are villains the way they are (John Brown, Ann Sharp, Nathan Shumate, Eric Swedin, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Dan Wells)
  • 5 PM Main address–Dave Wolverton

Sunday, May 24

  • 10 AM Writing Red Herrings. Red herrings are standard in mysteries, but how can you be sure yours works? (Ann Chamberlin, Ann Sharp, Anne Wingate, Elisabeth Waters,Lee Modesitt, Paul Genesse)
  • 2 PM My Favorite Books. What books are writers reading? (Jessica Day George, Howard Tayler, Paul Genesse, Brandon Sanderson, Lee Allred)

And here’s my schedule. Note that one of the panels will be on worldbuilding for children and YA, so you’ll have a chance to get a taste of my opinions for the class I’m planning for June.

Friday, May 22

  • 3:00 PM What is a YA/MG editor/publisher looking for? (James Dashner, Mette Ivie Harrison, Julie Wright, Stacy Whitman, Dan Willis)
  • 4:00 PM It’s not your parents’ fiction. Writing for the YA/Children’s Market (James Dashner, Mette Ivie Harrison, Julie Wright, Stacy Whitman, Brandon Sanderson, Heather Horrock)

Saturday, May 23

  • Noon What can writers learn from Harry Potter? (Suzy Gehring, Stacy Whitman, Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury, Eric James Stone, Jason Anderson, Brandon Sanderson)
  • 2 PM How to publish and market your YA/MG book (James Dashner, Mette Ivie Harrison, Rebecca Shelley, Julie Wright, Dan Willis, Stacy Whitman, Sandra Tayler) (I don’t know about the other panelists, but I’m coming to this one to talk about marketing, because there are several other panels already about the publishing side of things.)
  • 4 PM “The next . . .” Publishers are looking for the next Harry Potter or Twilight. How can you get your book sold in spite of overblown expectations? (Mette Ivie Harrison, Julie Wright, Aprilynne Pike, Stacy Whitman, Robert J Defendi, Lee Modesitt)
  • 6 PM Worldbuilding for YA/MG writers (Stacy Whitman, Mette Ivie Harrison, Jessica Day George, Dan Willis, Aleta Clegg)

I think that’s all of mine. If all else fails, look at the schedule to be sure.

New class planned for early June, more local events

I don’t have a date pinned down yet, but I’m planning to do another community seminar in early June: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction for Children and Young Adults. Writing fantasy and SF for children and YA is different than writing it for adults because of that added children’s/YA component: it’s a whole different readership and market that you’re writing for. So we’ll talk about how important worldbuilding is, how to use concrete details to create a world without bogging down your prose, and a number of related topics. This will be a more nitty-gritty, in-depth kind of seminar compared to the last one, but we’ll build on the format of talking first of principles, looking at examples, and then workshopping with each class member’s work in progress, so be thinking about the sample you want the most worldbuilding help with (or perhaps better put as your *best* worldbuilding example, so we can discuss both what you’re doing right–which will help your classmates–and where you might be able to improve).

Come prepared for an afternoon of lots of tips and the give and take of constructive feedback. Plan on it costing $45 for individuals or $35 each for groups of 5 or more–I’ll give you a link and more information when I pin down a date and time. I’ll also be handing out handouts for it at Conduit next weekend, so if you’ll be heading to that convention and want to get a group together, you can hand me your registration forms and payment right there at the con.

I’ll post here and on my Seminars page when I’ve pinned down a firm date, hopefully sometime in the next week or so.

Also, don’t forget that the Provo Children’s Book Festival is this Saturday from 11 to 4 down at the Provo Public Library. The Utah children’s writer community is quite large, so look for Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, Nate Hale, Mette Harrison, Aprilynne Pike, Ann Dee Ellis, Emily Wing Smith, Will Terry, Ann Cannon, Carol Lynch Williams, James Dashner… the list goes on and on.

Which reminds me that I need to remember to take my copy of Rapunzel’s Revenge with me to get it signed!

Speaking of Carol Lynch Williams, her new book, The Chosen One, is out today. I was just at the local B&N (okay, it’s been a few hours now) and got to hear her read from it. Intriguing, and I can’t wait to read it. It’s about a girl in a polygamous colony who is told that she must marry her uncle. Carol has some great blurbs from some really great authors–Meg Cabot, Gregory Macguire, Cynthia Kadohata, Kathi Appelt… and some great reviews. You also might know Carol from BYU Writing for Young Readers, which she runs with the inestimable Cheri Earl.

So, to sum up: Provo Children’s Book Festival this Saturday! Conduit next weekend–Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 22-24! Worldbuilding class coming sometime in June! See you then! I’m out, and taking all my exclamation points with me!

(Good night.)