Monday, February 22, 2010

Houston SCBWI

Cyn and I are just back from attending the annual Houston SCBWI conference. A whirlwind, fun, and thought-provoking trip!

We drove up late Friday afternoon, had time to check into our hotel, and then made it over to the home of author Varsha Bajaj, who graciously hosted the kickoff party of Texas barbecue. We had a great time, and were happy to speak with Houston writers, authors, and illustrators whom we've met in passing over the years, but haven't had a chance to get to know.

Tim Crow and Varsha Baja

Saturday morning, we were up early and headed over to the Merrell Center. Cyn gave her very well-received inspirational keynote and then was whisked away to do in-person manuscript critiques.

Among others, at my table in the main room were author Anna Myers (she lives in Oklahoma, but was born in Texas, so we don't hold it against her), who Cyn and I have known for a number of years (I think we met for the first time back when Cyn was up for the Oklahoma Book Award for Jingle Dancer); Houston author and grande dame, Mary Wade (whom we've also know for years); and Oklahoma author Jeannie Hagy. We met Jeannie back in '05 when Cyn and I taught a weekend on Writing for Children at the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain.

Lisa Sandell, Sara Crowe, and Jenny Moss.

Ruta Rimas, editor at Balzer and Bray, spoke about the level of detail prospective writers should bring to craft. Patrick Collins, Creative Director at Henry Holt, spoke via example about developing covers for novels. Agent Sara Crowe discussed what to look for in an agent, and the components of the author-agent relationship. Alexandra Cooper, editor at Simon and Schuster, discussed what she looks for and the S&S acquisition process. Lisa Ann Sandell, editor at Scholastic, and an author in her own right, discussed writing and editing. National Geographic editor Nancy Feresten talked about how she sees the industry over the next 10-15 years.

Book sales were handled by Blue Willow book store, whose bricks and mortar location I'm embarrassed to say I've never been to.

Carmen Bredeson and Mary Wade.

Afterwards, almost everyone trooped out to a Mexican restaurant nearby for fajitas. We had a great time talking and generally de-toxing after a terrific day. Then we slept for ten hours...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tantalizing bits and pieces...

Today, over at the Teens Read Too Blog, you can check out an interview with Cyn and comment to win a copy of Eternal and an Eternal T-shirt.

Also a reminder: Eternal is now available in paperback and an e-book will be available later this month!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA, by Tom Angleberger (Amulet, March 2010)(ages 8-12). To sixth-grader Tommy and his friends, Dwight has always been the oddest of oddballs. Sure, he always eats lunch with them, but it's still weird that he sits in holes and tries to get everyone to call him "Captain Dwight." But he's a wizard at origami and one day brings a Yoda finger puppet to school.

And when people start to ask Origami Yoda questions, the answers are thoughtful and sometimes helpful and totally unlike anything Dwight could've come up with on his own. Is Origami Yoda channeling the Force for real?

Tommy isn't sure, and now he has a problem. Should he ask Origami Yoda if Sara likes him? Should he take his advice? What if Dwight really is pulling a scam?

Told in vignettes that illuminate and test Origami Yoda's powers of prescience and the Force, THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA is a brilliantly funny and zany novel, full of heart and wit and middle school agnosticism. Enjoy it readers will.


Check out the guest post, including the video on how to make your own Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger at Cynsations!

Monday, February 15, 2010


SMELLS LIKE DOG, by Suzanne Selfors (Little Brown, May 2010)(ages 8-12). Twelve-year-old Homer Winslow Pudding lives and works on his family's goat farm in remote Milkydale, but would rather be hunting treasure like his uncle, the famous treasure hunter Drake Horatio Pudding. When Uncle Drake dies in a tortoise accident, Homer is surprised to inherit his dog, a droopy creature with no sense of smell and wearing a mysterious coin around its collar.

Homer is soon propelled into mystery and adventure as he and his sister run away to the dangerous City, where they encounter the evil Madame le Directeur of the Natural History Museum, and Homer undertakes a quest to find a pirate treasure map with some of Drake's former colleagues.

SMELLS LIKE DOG is a fun and entertaining tale of misfits discovering where they belong. The tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top humor and voice mesh perfectly with the zany adventure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It ain't browsing unless there are shelves...

Back when I was a kid in Chicago, I would go into the flagship Kroch's and Brentano's on Wabash and head directly to the basement, where the soft-covers lived (I couldn't afford hardcovers).

New releases were on one wall to your left; straight ahead and then around to your right were fantasy and science fiction. Farther on was mystery and suspense. And in the middle was nonfiction.

So, naturally, what I would do was start at the beginning, go from bookcase to bookcase and shelf to shelf, and just look at what was there. Admiring (or not) the books that were face out, and pulling the books that were spine out to look at the jacket copy, I would stay until I had covered all the sections I was presently interested in. Which pretty much meant that I would cover the entire basement (except, of course, romance).

Now, of course, I had favorite authors and would always check if there was something new by them. But it also allowed me to "discover" new authors I never would've "met."

I remember doing the same at the old Illini Union bookstore in Champaign, at the original Border's in Ann Arbor, and do so presently at Book People here in Austin.

All that is to say that that is why I just don't like electronic bookstores (although I have been known to shop at such places).

Sure, they have "browse" functions, which give you a numbered list of categorized selections, but it really isn't the same (Yes, the "search" function can be invaluable, but that is, by definition, a much more focused kind of thing).

On-line book browsing feels more like a chore than a pleasure.

There's just no there there.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Austin SCBWI conference

Last weekend Cyn and I had the pleasure of attending the Austin SCBWI conference with about 200 other writers and illustrators and a star-studded collection of speakers.

Friday night, we hosted a reception for the speakers, conference committee members, and certain conference attendees. Catering was provided by Central Market, with additional foodstuffs provided by authors Anne Bustard and Carmen Oliver.

Above, I am artfully directing people toward the food and drink, while Brian Anderson contemplates his name tag.

Saturday morning we were up early for the conference itself. I didn't get to hear everything, but here are some highlights:

Mark McVeigh (the agent, not the Aussie rules football player) kicked things off with a speech about the book business and the current economic climate. He'd spoken at Austin SCBWI a couple years ago when he was an editor and it was interesting to hear his take on things now (he was the editor of SANTA KNOWS). Sadly, he did not wear his liquid suit...

Above, Erik Kuntz, Mark, Frances Hill Yansky, Christy Stallop, Don Tate, and Gene Brenek.

Unfortunately, I missed editor Cheryl Klein's solo presentation and her discussion with her author Sara Lewis Holmes...

Kirby Larson discussed the family inspiration and background behind the Newbery Honor Book, HATTIE, BIG SKY. She is a lovely person and her book is terrific, too.

Marla Frazee talked about what illustrators bring to story in picture books, and then she and author Liz Garton Scanlon talked about how the magnificent Caldecott Honor Book ALL THE WORLD evolved.

Above, Marla, Liz, and Chris Barton, author of the Sibert Honor Book, The Day-Glo Brothers.

Agents Andrea Cascardi and Nathan Bransford talked about searching for, finding, and working with, the right agent. It was a pleasure to meet and hear both of them speak: Andrea represents our friend and Austin author Shana Burg, and Nathan used to be an assistant to Cyn's and my agent, the brilliant Ginger Knowlton.

Above, Nathan and Stacy discuss important matters.

Editor Stacy Cantor discussed what she looks for in a manuscript and the American presence of Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury.

Former editor Lisa Graff had a hilarious presentation and talked about how one looks at a book as a writer versus looking at the same book as an editor.

Finally, a panel of Austin authors (including: Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Patrice Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Jacqueline Kelly, Liz Garton Scanlon, Philip Yates, and Jennifer Ziegler) took questions from author Julie Lake.

Exhausted, we headed out for some much-needed barbecue and good cheer at the home of author Meredith Davis.

Thanks, everyone, for an great conference!

Here's some blog coverage:

Texas Sweethearts (Jo Whittemore, Jessica Lee Anderson, and P.J. Hoover): Texas Sweethearts Love Austin SCBWI!
Kirby Larson: Awesome Austin!
Carmen Oliver: Three Words: Wow! Wow! Wow!
Don Tate: SCBWI Destination Puiblication 2010 Conference.
P.J. Hoover: Take that, New York!

Monday, February 01, 2010


HATTIE BIG SKY, by Kirby Larson (Delacorte 2006)(ages 12+). In late 1917, sixteen year old orphan Hattie Brooks is bequeathed her uncle's homestead claim in Vida, Montana. Tired of being shuffled from remote relative to remote relative, Hattie heads out by herself to prove the claim.

When she arrives, she finds hard work, bad weather, and new friends. Through it all, she shares her experiences with old friends back in Iowa and on the Western Front, and encounters the anti-German prejudices of the day.

A 2007 Newbery Honor Book, HATTIE BIG SKY is an elegant and sweet story of one girl's quest for independence and family.
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