Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NINJAS sighting

Thanks to Booklinks magazine for the nice commentary: Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (and Tofu and T.Rex) are mentioned in the current issue, which has an article titled "Science-Themed Novels," a bibliography of books that can be "useful for classes looking to bring a new dimension to science units, or for hardcore science buffs facing a fiction reading assignment." Other books highlighted include Linda Sue Park's Project Mulberry, and Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793. Go check out the entire list!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

After our exhausting trip to Nashville, we didn't really feel up for fixing an entire turkey dinner, so I'm trying poached cornish game hen and lobster tail. We will be having at least one friend over, though, so I'm not exactly sure if it'll really be easier, but at least there won't be any basting. :-).

Cyn did a big post on our NCTE/ALAN trip (including links from a lot of other attendees) here.

Check out photos at the Reading, Writing, etc. blog
Also, thanks for the kind words from Thunderchikin and Emily (E.) Lockhart.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


We have returned...and I cannot convey how tired I am right now...and what a great time we had among all those book people. In addition to the actual conference(s), there were a lot of great side-conversations and much fun.

We just got back from five days in Nashville, Tennessee, most of which were spent in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel speaking at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English and the ALAN workshop (that's the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE).

Thanks to Little, Brown Children's Books; Candlewick Press; and HarperCollins Children's Books for sponsoring Cyn and me. Thanks also to CLCD for sponsoring the panel Cyn and I were on at NCTE with Uma Krishnaswami; and to April Brannon, for moderating my ALAN panel. I also want to compliment all the organizers of both conferences -- I think I have an idea of how much work was involved (and am somewhat frightened of knowing for sure).

We flew into Nashville Friday afternoon (it's only about a two hour flight to Nashville) and then cabbed it to the Opryland. We then just had time to check in and change before a reception held by Boyd's Mills Press in honor Helen Hemphill and their other authors. The reception and dinner were held in a log cabin at The Hermitage, the historic plantation owned by Andrew Jackson.

Saturday morning, we spoke on our NCTE panel on authors' journeys (it was a blast), signed books, and did a couple circuits of the conference floor. Notable sightings included Jane Yolen, Cecil Castellucci, John Green, Emily Lockhart, Robert Lipsyte (whom I babbled to), Michael Cart, David Levithan, Helen Hemphill, Lauren Myracle, M.T. Anderson, and Kimberly Willis Holt. We also got to chat with Judy O'Malley of Charlesbridge, and Texas librarians Teri Lesesne and Lois Buckman (I can't remember if some of these were on Saturday or Sunday, so we'll just call it Saturday).

I also had the pleasure of seeing my high school AP English teacher, Mr. Vernon Mims, who is now teaching at DePaul University (He was one of my favorite teachers). We didn't have much time to chat, but I look forward to seeing him at future conferences!

Saturday evening, Cyn went to dinner with Candlewick, and I ate with the Little, Brown people at Volare, an Italian restaurant at the Opryland. Afterwards, we hit the Delta Lounge, also at the Opryland, for drinks, where I met Jordan Sonnenblick and where Cecil and Bill Sleator did some swing dancing.

Sunday we relaxed a bit and had lunch with Elisa Carbone at The Cascades (a restaurant at the Opryland). (In case you're wondering, the Opryland is this gigantic, sprawling hotel with these ten-story tall covered concourses done n various themes. There's a Delta Concourse done up like New Orleans (complete with a canal and a boat ride), a Cascades Concouse, with a huge waterfall, and a gigantic greenhouse). It's almost as if someone from the Peshtigo School decided to design a hotel/conference center. :-)

Sunday evening was the ALAN Reception (as far as I can figure, all of the attendees were invited to meet all of the speaking authors). It was a bit of a whirlwind, but author sightings there included Gail Giles, Julie Ann Peters, Nancy Garden, and Ellen Wittlinger. Thanks to all the sponsoring publishers.

After that, Cyn and I headed out with HarperCollins to F.Scott, this great restaurant/jazz bar in downtown Nashville. We sat at a table with Peter Abrahams; (Chris Crutcher and Robert Lipsyte were at other tables, but we never got a chance to talk).

Monday was the beginning of the ALAN Workshop. We didn't make it to everything, but did catch Will Hobbs talking about his new book, Crossing the Wire; and Nancy Garden, Julie Ann Peters, and Patrick Jones on a panel hosted by CJ Bott on bullying; and David Levithan, Sarah Dessen, and Brenda Woods on a panel about romance. We also caught a breakout chaired by some friendly folks at Arizona State University, on "New Ideas for Telling Tales in YA Literature." One of the featured books was Cynthia's Tantalize.

After lunch, we saw (and heard) a panel on audiobooks with Teri Lesesne, Tamora Pierce, and Cheryl Herman. Then it was time for MY panel, called "I laughed so hard, I cried: Opening Minds and Hearts through Humor in YA Books." Co-panelists were Jordan Sonnenblick, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Lockhart. It was a blast - we read passages from each others' books and then answered questions on how we write humor, our most embarrassing moments, and what other humor writers we like. It was over far too quickly. :-)

Afterwards, we caught a Mystery and Suspense panel with Peter Abrahams, Gail Giles, and William Sleator. Then there was a brief break and it was time for dinner, this time at Mambu, in downtown Nashville, with Candlewick. The guest list included Cecil Castellucci, Deborah Noyes, Don Gallo, CJ Bott, and Sharon (sp?) of Candlewick marketing. Later that night, we went on the boat ride with Cecil and John Green (both of whom bought the photo and are threatening to put it up on their blogs).

Tuesday, we caught a keynote by John Green and a panel on Anthologies with Deborah Noyes, Don Gallo, and Michael Cart. Later that morning was Cyn's panel with Paul Janeczko and Sneed Collard on "Using Picture Books to Connect Teens with YA Literature." (Very interesting, and raised points I'd never really thought about :-)). In the afternoon, we had time for a breakout with Helen Hemphill and Bryan Gillis on "Integrating Writing Instruction with YA Literature."

Then we passed out from exhaustion.

Again, thanks to the NCTE/ALAN folks for all their hard work; and thanks to all the people at our publishers, especially including Patti and Jill at HarperCollins, Victoria and Nora at Little, Brown, and Sharron, at Candlewick Press.

(There were a lot more publisher personnel, and teachers and librarians (and, as I said, fascinating side-conversations), but my brain refuses to disgorge any more specifics at this time -- if I've left anyone out, it was not intentional :-)).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

To be or not to be...

At 23,000 words, my WIP is starting to shape up. One sort of key plot point I keep going back and forth on involves the grandfather: I'm trying to decide whether to kill him off. In the original draft, he was dead from the start. In my current one, he dies about half to two thirds of the way in. But, I'm debating whether he should survive til the bitter end...

In other news, Cyn and I had the pleasure of dining with Libba Bray last night at Green Pastures. Cyn blogs about it here. Libba's hard at word revising the manuscript for The Sweet Far Thing, the final book in the trilogy begun with A Great and Terrible Beauty. I'm also excited about Going Bovine, the manuscript she brought to WriteFest last year, and which will be coming out sometime after The Sweet Far Thing.

Other WriteFest manuscripts that have been or soon will be published include Laura Ruby's Good Girls (HarperCollins 2006), Brian Yansky's Wonders of the World (Flux, June 1, 2007), and Katie Davis's first book for older readers!

Monday, November 06, 2006


Santa Knows is one of Horn Book Magazine's "Holiday High Notes," (one of the "best new books of seasonal interest"): "The dialogue-driven story is neatly structured, and Bj√∂rkman’s line-and-wash pictures have plenty of sprightly holiday accents." Thanks also for the shout out on the Horn Book Web Watch!

Here are some other review highlights:

Kids will be drawn to Bjorkman's loose watercolor-and-ink illustrations...Alfie F. Snorklepuss is a newly minted winner. Kirkus Reviews.

The Smiths' boisterous text and Bjorkman's (Seeds) energetic, cartoonish paintings make readers privy to explanations of [that which] gives Christmas its magic. Publisher's Weekly.

This delightful book written by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman is a must-have for your Christmas collection! SANTA KNOWS is an imaginative tale that explains once and for all how Santa gets so much accomplished in just one night. YA Books Central.

Bright illustrations show the comical and expressive faces of the characters. This sweet story would make a nice addition to Christmas stories for young readers. Wee Ones Magazine.

Your children will love this story. MyShelf.com

Sunday, November 05, 2006

San Angelo, Texas!

Cynthia and I had the pleasure this weekend of keynoting at the Fifth Annual Angelo State University Literacy Conference, in San Angelo, Texas. We drove up Friday afternoon and met the organizers for dinner at Miss Hattie's, a former brothel (they also have a Bordello Museum), in the lovely, restored old downtown (Good food, great company, wonderful atmosphere).

We spoke first thing on Saturday morning, then went to lunch at Mr. T's Deli, a former neighborhood "corner store" grocery. The cheeseburger and fries were excellent; and I'm informed that the pies are worth the trip itself :-).

The audience at the event was engaged, charming, and bought plenty of books :-). Our hostess was terrific and gave us an overview of, and insights into, her experiences as a teacher in the area, as well as being a great tour guide and San Angelo booster.
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