Monday, January 31, 2005

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers : How a First Lady Changed America

A picture book biography of Lady Bird Johnson with text by College Station's Kathi Appelt and illustrations by San Antonio artist and wildflower afficionado Joy Fisher Hein. As always, Kathi Appelt's prose is wonderful, capturing the essence of the beloved former first lady. The art, too, truly brings to life the glory of spring in the Texas Hill Country.

Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly

Austin author Anne Bustard's long-awaited picture book biography of Buddy Holly (Simon & Shuster/Paula Wiseman Books) is now available! Bustard's text sings. Hot-diggity!

The lyrical prose is evocative of both the west Texas plains and Holly's music itself. Kurt Cyrus's art is a perfect match to this scintillating celebration of one of the founders of rock-n-roll.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Falling in love with your first draft...writing advice

Random thoughts that have been percolating since the Writers' League of Texas panel and since talking at dinner at the Montgomery County Teen Book Festival with Kimberly Willis Holt:

In the cases of both my novels I've found that the final, published plot is completely different from the one that I had at the end of the first draft. (By "first draft," I don't mean just the first output that could reasonably be called a "first draft," but also the thing that is sufficiently polished that it can go out to an editor and be reasonably assured of getting at least a personal response).

That is, notwithstanding critiques of the mss, at some point, the thing had to go deeper and be completely re-thought and re-plotted. This is not necessarily something that a critique alone is going to reveal (Your critique partners, no matter how skilled, are unlikely to tell you to just scrap the thing and start over).

So, keep an open mind and don't fall in love with your prose...

Friday, January 28, 2005


After NINJAS, I never intended to put another novel at the Peshtigo School, but Freddie was such an interesting character, she had to be in her own novel. Also, the school itself is a great vehicle that allows for a certain (ahem) flexibility and/or zaniness that wouldn't be available with a more mundane school.

So I was working on a new novel, but not getting anywhere. Then I had a new idea for the Peshtigo School...and was able to come up with a first draft outline pretty quickly. (Actually, "outline" is probably too grandiose a term, but it has characters and a story arc, which is more than I had going into NINJAS or TOFU.)

Then, one of my critique partners suggested sending the whole lot of them (Freddie, Hans-Peter, Elias, Honoria, and Shohei)off into the wilderness...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


There's a nice student review of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO at the Newspapers in Education-Austin web site. Another nice review's at the Show Me news, Columbia, MO.

Also, NINJAS made the Chicago Public Schools 2004 Sixth Grade Reading List. (Note that link opens a PDF file)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Interview with my editor

There's an interview with my editor Amy Hsu at the web site of author Robin Friedman. For those in the neighborhood, she'll be speaking at an SCBWI conference in Conway, Arkansas, in early April.

Name generator...

When writing, names are more trouble than you'd think. You have to have something fairly memorable and make sure other names do not "sound" too much alike. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration maintains a baby names database.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Montgomery County Teen Book Festival

Saturday Cynthia and I attended the Montgomery County Teen Book Festivalin The Woodlands, just outside Houston, Texas.

We had the pleasure of being featured speakers alongside authors (luminaries) Terry Trueman, Vivian Vande Velde, Kimberly Willis Holt, Alex Flinn, and Lois Duncan; and author-librarians (also luminaries) Michele Gorman and Teri Lesesne.

The teens and organizers were enthusiastic and prepared and we hope it becomes an annual event.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

'Til Death, part 2

Last Thursday's 'Til Death event was fascianting. The Guzman's talked about collaborating on their Lorenzo novels and nonfiction (he starts the research, she starts the writing); the Shefelman's spoke about how writing has affected their fifty (!) year marriage; and the Hill-Yansky's talked about reading and writing across multiple genres/age ranges.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

'Til Death Do We Write and Publish

From The Writers' League of Texas: "Four married couples, who also happen to write or illustrate books for children and young adults, will share their stories of working together, as well as the craft of writing. Join authors and illustrators Lila and Rick Guzmán, Frances Hill and Brian Yansky, Janice and Tom Shefelman, and Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith at the League's free monthly meeting, Thursday, January 20, at Barnes & Noble Westlake, 701 Capital of Texas Highway South in Austin. The social time, with free coffee and refreshments from Barnes & Noble, begins at 7 p.m. The program will start at 7:30 p.m. after a few brief announcements.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Newbery observations...

I have some Newbery observations over at Cyn's blog.

One of the fun things about the N is that every year it leads to rank speculation on "what the committee is looking for," which in some ways is rather like counting angels on the head of a pin :-).

That said, I have noticed another trend: A mouse book (Mrs. Frisby) won in 1972 and a mouse book (Despereaux) won in 2004. Therefore, in 2036, a mouse book ...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Polar Express IMAX

Last night Cyn and I saw POLAR EXPRESS (in 3D!) at the IMAX theatre at the Texas State History Museum. Visually spectacular.

They're really coming on with the computer animation. I can see the day when all movies, not just "fantasies" are done with CA...then the whole "movie star/celebrity" cult may become a thing of the past as they just "create" the good looking people du jour. Acting might even become important again.

Monday, January 17, 2005

TOFU AND T.REX news...

Advanced reading copies of TOFU started going out last fall. A law school classmate of mine, a romance writer who lives in Boston, reports they had them on display at ALA Midwinter.

It's always slightly unnerving that people who are not related to you are actually going to be reading the thing.

Nancy Keane has a booktalk of TOFU.

Debbi Michiko Florence has a "buzz review."

ALA Awards...

Congrats to all the medal winners and honorees! Remember when I said I had a backlog? Well, KIRA-KIRA and AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS are in the "to be read" file...I'm resolved to do better this year...Right now, though, I'm in the middle of Peni Griffin's 11,0000 YEARS LOST, about a girl who gets transported back to paleolithic (neolithic?) Texas.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Reading when writing...

As this year's American Library Association Awards fast approach, I keep getting asked "What's your pick?" Sadly, I have none. I've been working on TOFU AND T.REX most of the year and I've got a backlog in the "to be read" pile.

Cynthia has some picks for the Cyn Quasis at her blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Web browsers, part 2

After one complete day of normal use, Firefox did NOT cause my computer to crash once!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Tale of Browsers...

Am now trying out Firefox 1.0 - Netscape 7.1 is terrible and periodically crashes (Netscape 4.x was pretty good, but it got "improved" to the point of unusability and it got funky when confronted with new JAVA and html, I guess).

I have philosophical objections to Microsoft Internet Explorer, so....

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Better Introduction...

I am the author of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO(Little, Brown & CO. Children's Books 2003), a romantic science comedy courtroom drama. My second novel, TOFU and T.REX(Little, Brown 2005) is scheduled for release in July 2005. It tells the story of a girl who is a vegan who goes to live with her cousin's family, who own a German delicatessen and butcher shop.

I'm married to author Cynthia Leitich Smith who, among other things, maintains an enormous children's literature resource site. She's also a blogger.

First Post

Okay, Cyn has convinced me to start a blog. Here is the first post. Fascinating.
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