Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sales & Releases

CONGRATULATIONS to K.A. (Kelly) Barson - one of my fellow Bat Poets from the Vermont College Class of January 2011 - Viking will be publishing her book!
Here's the listing from Publishers' Marketplace:
Children's: Young Adult
K.A. Barson's 45 POUNDS, about a girl who doesn't fit -- not into her blended family, and certainly not into Snapz! clothes, and who is certain that if she could lose 45 pounds, her life would be perfectly normal, only to find that there is nothing perfect about normal, to Sharyn November at Viking Children's, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world).
Also, AFTER OBSESSION by the team of Steven E. Wedel and VCFA alum Carrie Jones was released last week. A great ghost story for getting you in the Halloween mood. Here's the book trailer.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

AFTER OBSESSION - Interview and ARC giveaway (part 2)

Here is the second half of my interview with co-authors Carrie Jones and Steve Wedel. Thanks for all the comments so far - and yes, it is a great cover! Be sure to  read to the end of the post to find out how you could win an ARC of AFTER OBSESSION.

Gayleen: Carrie, the female protagonist, Aimee is a kayaker. Are you a kayaker too? Have you ever seen scary things down on the river? Do you often incorporate you hobbies into your writing? Are there other similarities between you and Aimee?

Carrie: I kayak. I used to live on the river that the river in the book is based on and yes, I did see some scary things on the river. There's a scene in the book where someone dies that is based very much on real events. I was involved in trying to locate the body. Aimee and I both paint. She is much better at it. Um..... Hm...... There may be other similarities but they are secrets really, things I don't talk about. Mostly because I prefer not to be institutionalized.
I think some of my hobbies occasionally filter into the characters' lives. It's not always the main characters though. The thing is that I have a pretty short boredom stick so I'll try pretty much anything. This makes for a lot of weird random experiences and hobbies. So, sometimes it's hard to find things for my characters to do or be interested in that I haven't once done or been interested in.
Yes, that includes football. I was once an assistant football coach for a youth team. Scariest experience in my life. The head coach liked to make me be the one the kids tackled. He was evil like that.

Gayleen: Steve, what about Alan and the football? Did you ever play football or is that one of your unfulfilled fantasy hobbies?

Steve: I do love me some football! I never played, though. Well, I played in the street and yards, but never on a real team. When I was younger I was a total non-participant in everything. That's something I regret now. Of course, when I was in high school I was pretty scrawny and our team won the state 5A championship that year, so I wouldn't have made the squad, anyway. One of the players, our running back, even went pro for a while.

Gayleen: Alan is Navajo, but he hasn't grown up within the tribe. I found this very interesting since I and many other Oklahomans have some Native ancestry, but no formal tribal affiliation. Was there anything special that prompted you to construct a character with this unique background?

Steve: We wanted an exorcism ritual that wasn't so familiar to our audience. I read a lot of books on possession, mythology, and various religions. I knew the Navajo had an "exorcism" for what they called Ghost Sickness. So, I was thinking of that, and trying to decide what Alan would look like, talk like, etc., and then I thought of one of my former students, an American Indian who played football and who really impressed me by going from a sort of average, don't really care about English sophomore to one of my better senior Advanced Placement students. So, physically, that student provided quite a bit of the look, attitude and voice for Alan.

I don't have any American Indian ancestry, myself, and I was a little nervous writing this character because of that. Also, there's the fact that Oklahoma doesn't have many Navajo, so I had to think of a reason for Alan's mom to have met Alan's father, and that went a long way toward developing her character, which also played a big role in who Alan is. Since his mom didn't know much about his father, it prevented him from being on the rolls, so he had to research his heritage the same way I did, which was a convenient cover.

Carrie: I was really nervous about this actually. Steve handled it well though and I think it lends to that bigger issue of trying to find your identity through race or gender roles or class or a million different things. That is a really big issue for so many of us, myself included, but it's not really talked about. What does it mean for someone in the U.S. who finds out they have an ancestry that's not white and Christian? What does it mean when you grow up missing half of your family story? How do you find it? Do you need to? It's a lot of big questions.

Gayleen: One of the subplots that I really enjoyed was the eBay Cheeto auction. I am guessing that one or both of you may be addicted to Cheetos. Fess up, which one of you has the orange fingers and do you prefer crunchy or puffed, organic or original?

Steve: That was totally Carrie, and totally brilliant. That's one of those quirky little things I wish I could come up with, but probably never will be able to pull off on my own. And I like the puffs.

Carrie: I am addicted to Nutella, not Cheetos, and my brain is a weird, quirky thing. It's almost embarrassing how quirky it is.

Gayleen: The supernatural aspect of this book deals with fighting demons. Either of you ever had any supernatural encounters you would care to comment on?

Steve: Yes. Honestly, I don't care to go into much detail about them. I've had a couple of instances where ... odd things have happened. There really are things out there people shouldn't mess around with.

Carrie: Me too.

Gayleen: Any plans for another book together, or a sequel?

Carrie: We are working on a potential project. We have the first draft finished and it's in our agent's hands right this second! I hope Steve will work with me again but I may have terrified him with my quirk. (Carrie and Steve are both represented by Edward Necarsulmer IV with the McIntosh and Otis agency.)

Gayleen: Anything else you would like to add?

Steve: Have I said Carrie is awesome? Really, other than maybe my long-time critique partner and former college newspaper editor, I don't think I could have found a better co-author to work with. Also, so far as I know, Carrie and I will only be doing one physical appearance together to promote After Obsession, and it happens to be about a week after the book is released. We'll be at FenCon in Dallas. This is a great science fiction/fantasy/horror convention run by some really nice folks. I hope people will come out and see us and all the other authors, artists, singers and dancers.
Carrie: Have I said Steve is awesome? Or that his long-time critique partner and current cool Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults graduate is? They are.

So, can't wait until Sept. 13 to get your copy of AFTER OBSESSION? If you sign up to follow my blog, you'll be entered in the contest. If you mention the contest on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or any other online forum, you'll get a second entry in the drawing (you'll have to email me the links for this part: gayleen [at] Commenting on the posts will also enter you into the drawing. Entries will close on August 31 and I will draw the winning entry on September 1 and contact the winner to get their mailing address. Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

AFTER OBSESSION - Interview and ARC giveaway (part 1)

In less than one month (Sept. 13 to be exact) my long-time critique partner, Steven E. Wedel, and fellow VCFA grad Carrie Jones will have a book birthday when After Obsession is released by Bloomsbury.
Now this isn't the first book that Steve's written (and it certainly isn't the first one I've read.) But it is the first one from a MAJOR publisher which means more copies, more marketing, more exposure.
That includes ARCs or advance reader copies. Steve was kind enough to share one of those with me and I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the story of two teens trying to save a friend from possession. At the end of this post, you'll learn how this ARC can be yours.

This release illustrates where hard work and determination can take you. I've watched Steve's relentless dedication to his writing through good times and bad for more years than I'd care to count (we've been exchanging manuscripts for close to a decade now.)
It is also one of those "isn't it a small world" stories.
In 2008, I decided if I was really serious about writing, I needed to go back to school. I looked around at MFA programs, discovered the low-residency option and made a list of places to apply. I wanted to mark Vermont College of Fine Arts off the list. It gets SERIOUSLY cold there and the two weeks on campus were in January. That alone seemed like enough of a reason to look other places.
But, I could not eliminate it from my list. I asked around about grad programs and the name VCFA kept popping up. Award-winning, well published faculty. Successful graduates. And a self-guided program that meant I could continue writing mysteries instead of reading poetry or picture books. Doubting I would be accepted, I mailed the application.
I couldn't believe it when I got a call from Sharon Darrow that I had been accepted. When I arrived on campus in Montpelier, Vermont in January 2009, I was greeted by a talented crew of graduate assistants, including one Carrie Jones. She helped welcome me into the VCFA literary family and made me feel right at home.
Needless to say, I am very excited to have a personal connection to both halves of this collaboration team and even more excited that they agreed to let me interview them here. You'll have to read to the end of the post for the ARC giveaway details.

Gayleen: I'm very intrigued by this collaboration (and maybe a smidge jealous that my long-time crit partner would go off and write a book with someone else.) Can you tell me more about how it worked? Did you do an outline first? Did either of you know exactly where the story was going? Or how it would end?

Steve: Oh, not to make me feel guilty, or anything! haha I'll tell ya what, since you're my crit partner and a mutual friend of both Carrie and I, I'll attach the outline we began with for your reference purposes only.
(Gayleen's note: don't feel cheated - this document said, "boy and girl notice friend acting strange, wonder if she could be possessed.")

Carrie: Wait. We did? We had an outline?

Steve: As you'll see, it's a bare minimum framework. We did that in late October 2008, then agreed to put the idea aside until December because I was working on something else and Carrie was going to do NaNoWriMo. I cheated and wrote Alan's first chapter sometime during November and sent it to Carrie. She confessed she'd cheated, too, and written Aimee's first chapter. Then it was off to the races! We wrote the whole first draft, which was quite a bit longer than the published book, in less than a month. We were averaging a chapter a day, and couldn't wait to get the new chapter from each other.
As to the ending, we knew there would be an exorcism. But as you'll see from the attachment, in the very beginning we didn't even know what spiritual base it would come from. Most of the plot turns and twists and details just grew organically as we wrote.

Carrie: It was much more of a discovery process that happened in the first draft, which is probably why the first draft was so long but also so much fun.

Gayleen: Were there any challenges or benefits to working this way?

Steve: Umm, working with Carrie.

Carrie: You are mean!

Steve: Oh, do I need to qualify that by saying challenge or benefit? haha Writing with Carrie was amazing! Our styles are pretty different, but we share the same goals of caring for and wanting to entertain young people. There was never any argument or ego trips or any of that stuff you sometimes hear about. We were just two people on fire with the power of the word. Can I get an amen?

Carrie: Amen.

Steve: Technology, of course, was a huge benefit. I would have gone insane if we'd had to mail chapters back and forth and wait on them to arrive.

Carrie: It was still really hard for me to wait for chapters to arrive. I'd check my email every five minutes, hoping that Steve had sent something. As for the challenges? Sometimes it was hard having Steve throw me a plot curve ball when I had my mind set on a certain thing happening after my chapter, but those curveballs were also what made it fun and gave it energy. Plus, he writes a really good kissing scene.

Gayleen: What was the best part about writing After Obsession together? Do you think it is a story you would have written on your own?

Steve: For me, the best part was not really knowing what would happen next. I never knew what Carrie would do in her chapter, so getting that e-mail attachment was like a Christmas gift every other day. Then we got to where we'd try to leave a big and bigger cliffhanger for the other one.
Eventually, yes, I would have written a possession novel. That's something I'd wanted to do for a long time. It wouldn't have been this one, though. I might have still done a Navajo Ghost Sickness angle, but there's no way I could have written this rich of a story on my own.

Carrie: Getting new chapters really was like getting something amazing in the email Inbox every other day. So that was the best part - the anticipation and excitement that comes with the collaboration. Every novel is a collaboration already really. You collaborate with your editor, with your readers, but this one was one level deeper. It was a giant adventure.
I probably would have eventually written a possession story in like 800 years. I used to be terrified of possession when I was little. I couldn't look at any horror movie images implying it or read any books. So, yeah.... I have issues with possession. My issues tend to get worked on the page.

Gayleen: Have you collaborated before? (feel free to share group project horror stories, if you'd like)

Steve: I sort of did once, a long time ago. Basically, I wrote the whole book and a friend critiqued it and made some suggestions, then said he felt like he did 30 percent of the work and wanted 30 percent of any money it made. The book -- which is a really bad sci-fi novel written during my political awakening -- is tucked away in a drawer.

Carrie: Nope. Other than really silly oral fan fiction when I was a kid. My best friend, Jackie Shriver, and I had this entire alternative reality world going on in eighth grade where we were magically trapped with Bruce Springsteen and... um.... okay.... Doctor Who (Shh!!! Do NOT laugh) and we'd talk on the phone every night making the story more and more elaborate. I am so ashamed of this.
We really wanted boyfriends.

You'll have to check back for the rest of the interview later in the week when we'll talk more about the plot of After Obsession.
Here are the details on the ARC giveaway. If you sign up to follow my blog, you'll be entered in the contest. If you mention the contest on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or any other online forum, you'll get a second entry in the drawing (you'll have to email me the links for this part: gayleen [at] Commenting on the posts will also enter you into the drawing. Entries will close on August 31 and I will draw the winning entry on September 1 and contact the winner to get their mailing address. Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Hero's Journey

I recently listened to the audio version of Bill Moyers interviews with Joseph Campbell discussing the Hero's Journey and the important place myth holds in our lives. It wasn't my first time for exploring the topic.

Last December, I tried to read Campbell's original Hero With a Thousand Faces for a special lecture MT Anderson was giving at the Vermont College residency. Sadly, between creative thesis deadlines and holiday madness, I didn't make it through the whole thing. But, I did enjoy Anderson's talk – he did just what speakers should do: get you excited enough about the topic that you want to go learn more about it yourself.

In May, I attended another talk on the Hero's Journey given by Max McCoy at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference in Oklahoma City. He talked about how the hero structure shows up in lots of familiar stories: The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Now, I was right on board with McCoy about Dorothy and Luke – I could see the call to action, the journey and the realization that the power lies within themselves. But I wasn't too sure about Indy. I could see how the greed of the Nazis spelled their doom when they opened up the Ark, but how did that translate into Indy finding power within himself? I ended up watching Raiders of the Lost Ark again, keeping that question in mind.
I found this trailer that illustrates just a bit of what I discovered.

Early in the movie, when the suits are meeting with Indy at the University, we see how much he wants to find the Ark. His excitement shines through as he is working on the chalkboard, explaining it to them. Then there's the gleam in his eye when he uses the staff to reveal the Ark's location. His motives may be "pure" compared to the Nazis, but he wants to uncover the secrets of the Ark every bit as much as they do.
So then, when the Ark is opened, Indy finds the power within himself to keep his eyes closed. He has realized that some secrets are best left concealed. He and Marion are spared.
And I found the famous melting Nazi clip that shows what happens when your curiosity gets the better of you.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Peter Pan and Edinburgh

A few months ago, my husband and I traveled to Scotland and England. In anticipation of this, I decided to revisit a few classics written by English and Scottish authors.

I started with PETER PAN by J.M. Barrie.

Barrie was born in Scotland and attended the University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a delightfully literary city and includes a Writers Museum and a Poets Museum as well as an impressive monument to Sir Walter Scott (IVANHOE).

Sir Walter Scott Monument

University of Edinburgh
But alas, no monument or marker commemorating the creator of Peter Pan. So, the best I could do was take a picture of the University of Edinburgh. By the way, one of Barrie’s classmates at the university was Arthur Conan Doyle – but I’ll save that for another post.

Like most Americans, my familiarity with Peter Pan comes from the image on the peanut butter jar, or the Disney animation, then later influenced by Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. I also remember attending a Lyric Theater production back in high school. Had I ever actually read the book?

Sadly, I had to answer no. Time to remedy that.

Though the story itself was quite familiar, one element really surprised me: point of view. From the title,
I would assume that this is Peter’s story, so it would be told from his point of view. Or maybe Wendy – a girl on the verge of being a teen who encounters a boy refusing to grow up. But no, the story is told entirely by an omniscient narrator who never delves too deeply into the minds of any character. But then, maybe that is part of the magic of the story. Consider this passage:

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.

Barrie even uses direct address in the form of second person “you” to speak directly to the reader. It is as if he is assuring us, don’t take this too seriously. The story you are about to hear is all in fun, no need to be worried, but do hold on tight because we are about to embark on a marvelous adventure.

Yes, Peter Pan is a great adventure story and if you haven’t ever taken the time, I urge you to visit Barrie’s original.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Interview with BIG BOUFFANT author Kate Hosford

This week, we're talking with debut author and recent Vermont College grad Kate Hosford about her new book, BIG BOUFFANT, which comes out in March. The book tells the story of Annabelle who dares to try something different with her hair. The delightful story is filled with fun and reinforces the idea that it is okay to be yourself.

Q: Big Bouffant is so fresh - yet, it harkens back to something that was popular a long time ago - can you tell us more about the genesis of the idea. Did you come across a picture of your mom with a bouffant?
Is any element of Big Bouffant autobiographical? Have you ever worn a bouffant?

Kate: Thank you, Gayleen. I guess fashion is cyclical, so it was only a matter of time before the bouffant had its day. I have never worn a bouffant, but I did have big feathered hair in the eighties. My mother went through a stage in the sixties where she wore a bouffanti-ish wig when she went skiing. However, that was not really the inspiration for the story. Basically, my immediate family liked the sound of the word 'bouffant'. We would tell each other that we had bouffants when some family member's hair was looking particularly big. My younger son started saying 'big bouffant' and then I thought up the phrase, "All I really want is a big bouffant." Unfortunately, it took me five years to figure out that the story should be in rhyme, even though the phrase was in rhyme! I wrote many versions in prose, until someone suggested that I write the story like I was singing it. Then it came together pretty quickly.

Q: The underlying message here is that it's okay to be different and have a positive attitude about things - can you tell us if these ideas have personal importance to you?

Kate: I believe a strong sense of self is one of the most important qualities a child can have. In this story, Annabelle doesn't care when everyone else laughs at her bouffant, and when she believes that she is stylish, soon others do as well. They are really reacting to her strong character more than the hairdo itself.

Q: Will there be more stories with Annabelle?

Kate: The sequel, BIG BIRTHDAY, will come out in spring 2012 from Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing. Annabelle will get herself into even more outrageous situations in that book. Stay tuned!

Q: A lot of people mistakenly think picture books are easy because fewer words end up on the page - but it seems to me in a lot of ways they are much harder - each word counts for so much. Can you tell us a little about your process? I bet you do a lot of revising. Has your process changed as a result of Vermont College?

Kate: Yes, picture books present a unique challenge in terms of form. You usually have to make it work in a thirty-two page format. That having been said, I actually find the parameters of the picture book comforting. In novel writing, the writer has to search in a different way for the edges of her story.

I wrote the three stories I am publishing before Vermont College, but I probably worked on about twenty picture books during my time there, and they are in all different stages of revision. The nice thing about picture books is that I don't have to be emotionally invested in only one big project, which I think can be difficult.

Vermont College showed me that writing is a marathon, and one has to be in it for the long haul. We can hone our craft skills and court our creative muses, but we can't foresee the path that a particular story or novel will take. For instance, it is now obvious to me that BIG BOUFFANT should have been in rhyme all along, but it was not obvious for the first four and a half years. E.L. Doctorow says "Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Q: I noticed your illustrator is English. Have you met her and did you have any input on the look or feel of the book?

I have not met Holly Clifton-Brown yet, but I hope to meet her at some point. My editor was nice enough to show me Holly's sketches before she started work on the final art. I had some specific comments, but the feel of the book was really up to Holly. I think she did a wonderful job creating illustrations that are filled with interesting patterning, layers, textures, and sense of joyousness. Even now, when I read the book, I notice new things that I haven't seen before. I think that is the sign of a sophisticated illustrator --someone who can seamlessly integrate all sorts of information into a visual image. Then the reader can 'unwrap' the image, like a present.

Q: You have a background as an illustrator, don't you? Do you think that helps you to visualize your text in terms of illustratable moments?

Kate: I was an illustrator, but I think I make the same mistakes that all writers make when I write picture books. Even though we all know that the picture book is a visual form, it's easy to write a story that just doesn't have enough illustratable moments.
I've written more than a few 'picture books' that weren't visual enough. Stories that are heavy in dialogue, for instance, usually do not work well, because the illustrator will simply be drawing people who are standing around talking to each other. My teachers at Vermont College really recommended story boarding for all potential picture books. It's important to see if your story has enough illustratable moments.

Q: Do you have any signings or school visits planned?

Kate: So far, I've only read the book to four classes, and they all seemed to love it. When I read to a second grade class, I heard some of the children whisper "It's in rhyme!" We talked about how stories have to have problems, otherwise they are pretty boring. The children were then able to list all the problems that Annabelle encounters in the book. One boy suggested that I write a sequel about Annabelle's brother called Mini-Mohawk. I was particularly pleased by the boys' enthusiasm. I don't see this as a book just for girls. I think it's a book for everyone. We followed up with a discussion about what makes Annabelle special, and the students then wrote about qualities that make them special.
In a fourth grade class, we talked about the book in terms of writing process. We agreed that stories are like a puzzle, and you just have to keep playing around with it until all the pieces fit. One girl talked about a metaphor that her third grade writing teacher used; 'stories are like a meal, and you can't draw the fork out too quickly, you have to give the reader time to taste the food.' We also talked about how we are influenced by the writers we read. One boy wanted to know whether I was influenced by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. (Yes, and yes!)
I also read to two different kindergarten classes. When I asked the first class if they had any questions about how a book is made, they asked: "How do they make the paper shiny?" "How do they make the binding flat? How do they make the cover hard?" Note to self: kindergartners are concrete. Next time, I will choose my words more carefully for that particular question!

The official launch date for the book is March 28th, but the BIG BOUFFANT launch party will be at Books of Wonder in New York CIty on March 4th. So far, over a hundred people have said they are coming! We are going to do crazy hair styles for everyone. It should be a lot of fun.

In March I will do some events in San Francisco and the surrounding area. I will list all of this on my website,

Big Bouffant is published by Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing, and was edited by Anna Cavallo. Kate is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.  

Enjoy a trailer of Big Bouffant here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Rock and the River

With everything that has happened in Egypt the past few weeks, it seems like a very appropriate time to talk about a fabulous book I read last month, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.
I had a long delay in the Detroit airport, but I hardly noticed because I was so eager to find out what would happen in this story.

Kekla is a graduate of Vermont College and was a grad assistant at the January residency.

The Rock and the River was Kekla's debut novel and it received many honors, including the Coretta Scott King award from the American Library Association.

The story is fictional, but the characters are so well drawn and the historical details so authentic, that I was convinced Sam Childs was the son of a 1960s civil rights leader. Not until I reached the author's note at the end did I realize Kekla had invented him.
Sam is torn between taking his father's route of non-violent protest or fighting back against the corrupt system that constantly oppresses those in his neighborhood - based solely on their skin color. The choice moves right into the Childs' home when Sam's older brother joins the Black Panther Party. The story prompts the reader to wonder - what would I do in that situation? What is the right answer?

Here is an interview with Kekla talking about the book.

Publisher: Aladdin: Simon & schuster
Editor: Kate Angelella
Agent: Michelle Humphrey of International Creative Management

Kekla has a new book out called Camo Girl. I look forward to reading it soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011


With the recent snow days, I had grand plans of getting lots of things accomplished: writing, cleaning house, organizing files. But I made one critical mistake -

I picked up Cynthia Leitich Smith's new release, Blessed.

Pretty much everything else had to wait until I'd finished reading the whole thing.

The book is the third set in an alternative universe that includes vampires, angels, werewolves and other shape shifters - including werearmadillos and wereoppossums. The first, Tantalize, focused on Quincie, a teen coping with running an Austin restaurant while being wooed by a charismatic vampire. But what she really wants is to find romance with longtime friend (and half werewolf) Kieren.

In the second installment, Eternal, Guardian Angel Zachary tries to save the lovely Miranda from losing her soul to the Vampire King - in Chicago. In Blessed, the casts of the two books are united against an even greater evil.

At this point, you are probably thinking, "just what we need, another teen vampire novel." But these books are about a lot more than just fangs and fondling.

Smith doesn't pull any punches in tackling gender power issues, religion and the idea of differences uniting or dividing us. She also openly acknowledges Bram Stoker, the original creator of vampires, as well as literary and pop culture references appealing to a diverse group of readers.

At its core, Blessed is the story of second chances and going on when all seems lost. I found the story inspiring and I bet you will too.

Here is the trailer for Blessed.

Blessed was published by Candlewick.

Edited by Deborah Wayshak.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Neuroscience and Reading

What happens in our brains when we read? I found that question very intriguing and it became the foundation for my graduate lecture from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
I used brief clips from a BBC documentary, Why Reading Matters. I've pasted links to the entire program below and I'd love to continue the conversation about it through blog comments.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

An excellent book on the topic is Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Plans and Goals

Happy New Year!
Normally, I don't make New Year's Resolutions - I figure that if whatever it is really needs changing, then I shouldn't wait for January 1.
But, this year things are a little different.
In less than three weeks, I will recive my MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. I've been working on that for the past two years and in many ways it has become a major focus of my time and attention. As part of the program, I've read 200 books, written two mystery novels and even tried my hand at picture books. I've also gotten to know some incredible writers from across the country and I look forward to deepening and continuing those friendships.
So, on to the resolutions.
First, I plan to post on this blog at least once a week. After all, I have 200 books I could potentially talk about, plus my own writing, plus what my friends and classmates have coming out this year, plus the writing events I'll be attending. Yes, there is plenty to blog about!
Second, I have those two mysteries and a couple of picture books that need to be revised, then sent out to agents and editors. I'm looking forward to applying the skills I've learned at Vermont College to complete the projects I've started.
Third, in conjunction with the last item, I have plans to attend the spring SCBWI Oklahoma Conference in Tulsa. I've signed up for a critique and I've got to get the opening of my manuscript in the mail by Feb. 1. That is also the deadline for the Oklahoma Writers' Federation Contest. Those awards aren't given until the conference the first weekend in May and I plan to be there too - it is always a great place to network and make contacts.
So, here's hoping to see more of all of you in the coming year!