Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Critique Workshop Coming Soon!

THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS are thrilled to be leading a Critique Group workshop hosted by Austin SCBWI!

It's going to be fun, fast-paced, and informative, and there's even going to be role playing involved. Yeah, I know. Pretty cool!

Here are the official details:

Desire to take your writing to the next level? Can’t quite put your finger on what your manuscript needs to improve its marketability? Is your dialogue drab? Setting sloppy? Premise less than promising? Looking for partners on the road to publication?

Then this one-day workshop – Beyond the Basics: Applying and Analyzing Constructive Criticism - led by our very own Texas Sweethearts is for YOU!

When: From 10:00 to 4:00 on Saturday, July 30 (lunch on your own)

Where: REI Round Rock, 201 University Oaks Blvd, Suite 1100, Round Rock, TX 78664 – Phone: (512) 255-1938

Fee: $50.00

Program: Through discussion, role play, and demonstration of the basics of critiquing and literary analysis as it applies to your work and to other’s will be presented. Prior to the event, participants are asked to submit 6 copies of 5 mss pages they desire to have reviewed by a small group of fellow critiquers. More details to follow.

Registration opens on April 15th. Spaces are limited.

See you there!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Featured Sweetheart--Pamela S. Turner

Our newest Sweetheart had a library card as soon as she could write her own name! What's not for a librarian to love about that? Pamela lives in California but spends a lot of her time traveling around the world researching the fabulous science books she writes. She is also an animal lover, evident in the many animal topics she explores. When asked whether she is a "sweetheart" or a "scoundrel" Pamela indicated that she is by nature a scoundrel who likes to "stir the pot" but her family voted her to be a sweetheart. Readers, you decide! --Jeanette Larson

TS&S: Have you always wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs?

PST: When I was a little girl and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I always said I wanted to write children's books and draw the pictures. As I grew older I became more interested in medicine and international development. I have a Master's in Public Health and worked in Micronesia, Haiti, and the Philippines as well as in the U.S.

TS&S: To what do you attribute your passion for wildlife?

PST: I have always been fascinated by animals. My first memory is being in a playpen and trying to pull the family puppy through the bars by its ears. (I think my mother wisely intervened.) Most children are born with a fascination for animals, and I guess I never grew out of it.

TS&S: I love the story of Hachiko. Do you share your life with a dog? What other animals are in your extended family?

PST: We have two dogs: Tux is a poodle / terrier mix and Manchee (pictured right "reading" HACHIKO) is a yellow Labrador puppy named after the dog character in THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO. Our other Lab, Genki, died two summers ago. It broke my heart. I also have a White's tree frog named Dumpy F. Lumpy which my kids think is the stupidest pet ever. It is true she does nothing but poop and eat crickets.

TS&S: How closely do you work with the photographers on your books? Do you get much say in selecting the photographs?

PST: I worked very closely with photographers and, with their help, choose the photos that appear in my books. Assembling a photo-illustrated book is like being the director of a documentary. It's about the visuals as much as the writing.

TS&S: What is the most interesting or exciting thing you have learned while writing your books?

PST: That there are endless ways of telling a story, and endless stories out there to tell. This is a job that will never be boring.

TS&S: What tips to you have for aspiring science writers?

PST: #1: Don't worry too much about "writing what you know": write what you WANT to know. Related to that is #2: Don't become a science writer unless you love research, and are thrilled at the idea of the background work needed to understand a topic well enough to write about it. #3: Learn about photography and design. They are essential aspects of children's science writing.

Pamela S. Turner is presenting with Leslie Bulion and Jeanette Larson on the "Naturally Cool" panel at the Texas Library Association Conference on Thursday, April 14 at 8:30 a.m. She will be signing after the program from 11:00 a.m. - noon at the Houghton Miffling booth (#2024). Learn more about Pamela S. Turner and her work at her website,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Featured Sweetheart Leslie Bulion

Leslie Bulion will be joining me (Jeanette Larson) on a panel at the upcoming Texas Library Association conference and I'm delighted that she is our newest "sweetheart." Leslie teams a life-long love of poetry and her oceanography background in At the Sea Floor Café. Her first book of poetry, Hey There, Stink Bug! is an award-winning book of gruesomely humorous insect poems.

TXS&S: Why do you write poetry, generally, and specifically why science poetry?

LB: I’ve always loved the way a poem can evoke intense emotion and complex thought with few words. Although haiku is the quintessential example, all poetry encourages economy of expression. When I write poetry, I’m hearing music in its rhythm and meter, whether I’m working with rhyming poetry or free verse. And I’m playing with words—s
uper fun! My science poetry was born out of a life-long interest in natural science and the rich lexicon science provides for a surprisingly humorous turn of phrase or rhyme.

TXS&S: Did you read poetry as a young person? Who are some of your favorite poets?

LB: When I was very young, I read and reread When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six by A. A. Milne. I still have to hurry past the last line of “Us Two” when I share it in poetry workshops so I don’t sob. Dr. Seuss is a favorite, of course. I also read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, and as I grew up a bit, e. e. cummings, and many others. I was raised on folk music and Broadway show tunes, both of which predispose me toward rhyme, rhythm and the fun of making words dance to my tune. One of my very favorite poems is “The Blossom” by Eavan Boland, with its exquisite imagery of a daughter growing up. My current favorite children’s poets are those I’ve had the great fortune to meet. When poets read their poems aloud in their own voices, I feel as if I’ve been given an intimate gift.

TXS&S: What inspired you to start writing for young people? Were there any challenges you had to overcome as a writer?

LB: Although I’ve been writing poetry since I was young, I didn’t have any ideas of being a writer. I studied oceanography, then became a social worker. Years later, an old friend read a letter I’d sent her and invited me to write for the parenting magazine she edited. Ok! I thought. I’d been writing for the magazine for a while when I told my editor friend about something that had happened in my daughter’s class. She suggested that it would make a good children’s story, so I tried that, too. That was it—I was hooked!

But it felt scary and presumptuous to say I was writing a book. I didn’t talk about it with anyone for a long time. One day, while chatting with a friend, it just kind of fell out of my mouth. Blurt! Her response? My cousin is a children’s writer! You have to send her your work! I gulped, then sent my story to the extremely kind author, Malka Penn. She encouraged me to keep writing, and told me how to join SCBWI. Admitting that I wanted to write for children was a big challenge for me. Becoming part of an open, generous and supportive children’s writing community has been an important and life-changing facet of my adventure.

TXS&S: How easy or difficult is it for you to switch from writing poetry to writing novels?

LB: My novel process and poetry process are completely different. When I’m working on a novel, I’m completely immersed in the world of my characters. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s also a struggle, sometimes, to move back and forth between my fictional world and the activities of my own daily life. If I have to be away from a novel for more than a few days, it can take me a week to get back into the voice of the story. That lost week used to worry me, but now I understand and respect it as part of my process, even if I don’t like it much.

I collect ideas and tidbits all the time for new poetry projects. When I start work on a collection, I launch into a hunter-gatherer research phase. Once I feel mostly organized, I can pick up and put down the research as I need to and not worry overmuch about interruptions and flow. Even when I begin writing, the poems are fairly discrete packages that lend themselves to a more flexible writing schedule and space. I always think of the old Kliban cartoon with a person pulling a giant piece of string between their ears: Mental Floss. In some ways, poetry projects serve as mental floss for me.

TXS&S: Do you always follow the rules?

LB: Ha-ha!
Great question. I wrote a whole book about that—The Trouble with Rules. I have to admit, I’ve always been a bit of a rule follower. But I suspect you’re asking about poetry. I enjoy the challenge of working within the parameters set by the “rules” of a particular poetic form. I also really like the process of matching a particular form to a particular subject. When I’m working on a poem in a known form, I always work within the rules, that is, until I need to break them. But I have to have worked with that form and understand it through and through before I know which rules I can break, and how to break them, and still reap the reward the integrity of that form brings.

TXS&S: What are you working on currently?

LB: I’m just finishing up a collection of human body poems. In all of my science poetry I look for the juicy—and by juicy, I mean slightly disgusting—details that play for laughs. Body parts provide unlimited potential for gross-out humor.

In honor of National Poetry Month, Peachtree Publishers is inviting educators to post students' poetry on their facebook page. At the end of the month, Peachtree will hold a drawing. One winner will receive a skype visit with me, and five others will win a copy of AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFE. A link to the contest rules is available by clicking here.

Leslie is presenting as part of the "Naturally Cool" panel at the Texas Library Association Conference on Thursday, April 14 at 8:30 a.m. She will be signing books in the author "corral" area immediately following the program and then at the Peachtree booth from 11:00 a.m. - noon and at the Charlesbridge booth from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Learn more about Leslie on her website,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS want to offer a huge congratulations to sweetheart/scoundrel Jo Whittemore for the release of her brand-new, super-awesome, amazing, have-to-have book

ODD GIRL IN by Jo Whittemore (Aladdin Mix/Simon & Schuster, March 22, 2011)

From Amazon:
A loner tomboy learns how to be a success in a hilarious new MIX title!

Yay, Jo! We are so happy for you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


We're pleased to announce that Clay Smith is our latest Featured Sweetheart! Clay Smith is the literary director of the Texas Book Festival and a former journalist. He also works for the Sundance Film Festival, writing and editing for that festival’s website. Each year he brings us one of the best literary events in the country, the Texas Book Festival.

TXS&S: What is the mission of the Texas Book Festival?

: The Texas Book Festival celebrates authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas and imagination.

TXS&S: I can only imagine the amount of effort that goes into preparing such a phenomenal event. Can you share what that process is like? Does it involve year-round planning?

It does involve year-round planning with a staff of only five people (and we're doing more year-round events with various writers that are offered first to our members and then to the general public). There are many volunteers at the Festival - some 900 in total - but the ones we work with the most are the local writers and people involved in publishing who make up the selection committees - there's one for the adult program and one for the kid's program. We look at all the books that are submitted to the Festival and ask the writers we're most interested in to be a part of the Festival (Oct. 22-23 this year). The Festival staff and board members also go to New York every spring to meet with publishers to talk to them about writers they're touring. So part of my job is to be creative and invite writers to the Festival who are creating vital, unique narratives; the rest of my job, closer to the Festival dates, is to make sure all the writers know when and where they need to be during the Festival and organize the Festival weekend's logistical details that pertain to them.

TXS&S: Tell us a little bit about the Reading Rock Stars program?

CS: Reading Rock Stars is our organization's literacy program. It was borne out of the realization that we already had all of these great kids' authors here in town for the Festival who we wanted to share with the kids in our communities' low income schools. What makes RRS unique is that its focus is on the interaction between writer and student, and the impact that personal interaction can have on a child's passion for reading. We also get new, signed books into the hands and homes of these kids, which improves literacy and educational success. To date, we've sponsored more than 100 author visits and given away more than 35,000 books to children across Texas . RRS is just an example of the other kinds of programs the Texas Book Festival, as an organization, sponsors throughout the year.

TXS&S: Technology, more specifically eReaders, is certainly changing the literary landscape. How will technological changes such as these be incorporated into the Festival?

We've done several panels over the years about the future of reading, and we're the first book festival we know of to have an app - it's free and available to iPhone users. We are also looking into making it easy for our audience to bring their e-readers to the Festival and have our writers electronically sign their e-readers in addition to traditional books. We want to support the creative process of writing and reach readers in whatever format they're reading and all of us at the Festival think that the proliferation of e-readers is an exciting development. Times are changing and we will continue to find new ways to work with authors and readers.

TXS&S: Each year you continue to bring the best authors to Texas, something we get to enjoy for free! How can individuals get involved to help support the Festival?

CS: As you know, the Festival is free and open to the public. It is our gift to Texas readers. This would not be possible without the generous financial and volunteer support we receive. The Festival works with numerous corporate and individual sponsors and members and volunteers, all who love reading and writers. The Get Involved tab on our homepage spells out a few ways to get involved as a volunteer or join the Festival as a member. Members receive invitations to special literary events and happenings year-round. Over our 15-year history, TBF has given more than $2.5 million to public libraries across the state and reached 30,000 children through the Reading Rock Stars program.

TXS&S: Most importantly, Clay, do you consider yourself a Sweetheart or a Scoundrel?

CS: Duh! A Sweetheart.

TXS&S: We couldn't agree more! Thank you, Clay!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


This week's Featured Sweetheart is Kate Klimo, Vice President, Publisher, Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers Group!

I (Emma Virjan) had the opportunity to ask her to respond to all the chatter circulating about that the picture book is dead. Here's what she had to say:

TXS&S: Ever since the article "Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children", New York Times, October 2010, was published, much has been said about the picture book's demise. What is your take on the state of the picture book?

That article was a whole lot of whooey. I can’t tell you how many people who are not in the business shook their heads in pity at we folks in publishing who were losing an entire format. There is no doubt that there is a Harry Potter effect, causing children to jump to older and more complex books earlier than they used to in the old days. But we at Random have seen plenty of evidence, in the way of sales data, that there is always room on the shelves for a new and wonderful picture book—both picture books with very brief text and picture books with more complex text geared to older readers (Dr. Seuss and Candace Fleming’s picture book bios coming most immediately to mind.)

TXS&S: The e book/E-reader situation. Some say it is a threat, while others think it's just another way for authors/illustrators to tell their story. Can you talk a bit about the role of the ebook in kid lit?

Ebooks are the best news in the world for authors because, yes, electronic readers are a new and easily accessible way for readers to buy books now, when you think of it, or after you’ve read a great review, before the impulse slips away or gets forgotten in the frantic grind of daily life. E-books are, in many ways, the best thing to happen to books since the invention of the mass market paperback. It could be argued that, with the decline in recent years of the mass market paperback, ebooks may very easily replace this category as the preferred “disposable” reading format. Devices like the Kindle, with its wifi connection, make spontaneous purchase so easy. Since I got my Kindle, I buy easily three times as many books as I did when I had to find time to drop by the bookstore to browse. And it’s all so much more easier on the trees. Already, young adults and middle graders are getting the hang of using these electronic devices. And it’s just a question of time before devices more baby-friendly will deliver interactive picture books to the youngest book consumers. But there will always be— and obviously this is just one person’s opinion—a desire to own a physical book, especially if it’s beautifully printed and bound. The quality of the printed book has declined markedly in the last twenty years, owing to the need to keep prices down and bottom lines black—and it is my hope that we will be entering a new era of bookmaking. The size of the runs may not be very robust but the quality will be there.

TXS&S: You are a published author, most recently of the Dragon Keepers series - The Dragon in the Sock Drawer, The Dragon in the Driveway, The Dragon in the Library. What was your source of inspiration for the series?

My sons came home from one of our vacation with a geode and wanted to crack it open to see the crystals inside. They tried various methods, including chisels and hammers and throwing the geode out the attic window onto the street below. They tried everything and, finally, gave up and tossed the geode into one of their sock drawers. Every time I went to put socks away over the years, I’d run in to that geode. Gradually, over time, I started calling it the dragon egg. When the boys went off to school, I finally finally got around to writing the story inspired by that geode which, incidentally, I still have, appropriately, as a paper weight on my desk at home.

TXS&S: What advice might you have for aspiring authors and illustrators?

Take courses at colleges and college extensions, join a local writers’ group or, if there isn’t one, start one. Keep up with what’s being done by reading PW, School Library Journal, Horn Book. Browse the bookstores. Ply your trade even if you can’t find a market for it because practice makes you better and, therefore, ultimately more marketable.

TXS&S: Lastly, we call ourselves the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels. Would you consider yourself a Sweetheart or a Scoundrel?

I am both. But if I have to choose, I think I am basically a Sweetheart.

TXS&S: Thank you, Kate! We're thrilled to have you!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Writers' League of Texas YA A to Z Conference!

There's some huge stuff going on here in Texas! For those of you who adore conferences and the amazing networking opportunities and inspirations they provide, then the Writers' League of Texas has the perfect conference for you!

It's just after TLA (Texas Library Association) this April, and the schedule is packed full with authors and agents and editors! I mean, seriously, check out the schedule, because you won't believe all the awesome people coming!

The basic details are:

Writers' League of Texas Presents

YA A to Z Conference

Everything You Need to Know
About Writing for the Young-Adult Market

April 15-16, 2011
Hyatt Regency Austin
208 Barton Springs Road
Austin, TX 78704

At the Writers' League of Texas' brand-new YA A to Z Conference, you can focus on the craft of writing for teens and young adults, as well as meet agents and editors and get up to speed on the latest trends in publishing for this hot market.

Why attend?

  • Study with some of the country's premier YA authors
  • Meet top YA agents and editors
  • Learn the latest about this booming market
  • Position yourself to succeed as a YA author

Registration includes:

  • Admission to more than 20 panels and lectures on writing and the publishing business
  • Admission to the Friday Welcome Reception with agents and editors
  • Admission to the Saturday night YA A to Z Party
  • Admission to the exhibit hall featuring vendors specializing in services for writers
  • Access to top agents and editors throughout the weekend
  • Access to premier YA authors, publicists, marketing experts, and more
    Register Now!

Register Now!

For details, visit the registration page.

You can also sign up for extra add-ons:

And just for a taste of the faculty...

Agents & Editors:


You can get all the details here! See you there!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


We're absolutely delighted to announce that Teri Lesesne, aka "Professor Nana" is our newest Featured Sweetheart. She truly is a goddess of young adult literature, and does so much for our community.

Check out her amazing bio:
Teri Lesesne (last name rhymes with insane) is a Professor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University. Author of three professional books and numerous review columns and articles, Teri maintains a popular blog about books and reading at LiveJournal ( She is the chair for the Standing Committee Against Censorship of NCTE and is the new Executive Director for ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolsecents of NCTE) and chair of the Morris 2010 Committee for YALSA. In 2007, she was awarded the ALAN Award for her contributions to young adult literature.

TXS&S: Can you tell us a little about what you do and how you got started?

I think I have one of the best jobs in the world. I teach classes in literature for children, tweens, and teens in the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University. I have been doing this for more than 20 years now. I jokingly say that my job is basically reading books and then telling others about them. There is, of course, a bit more to the task of being a professor. But I do read a LOT and I do blog and tweet and post to Facebook and travel across Texas and the country talking about books and reading.

I began as a middle school teacher, a job I loved. I still enjoy getting to talk to middle school students when I can. I still have one teen left at home, too, so I stay connected to what this age group loves in books.

TXS&S: What is the biggest surprise you've had since becoming a librarian? (To illustrate what a sweetheart she is, see how gracefully she answers this question despite my confusion!)

TL: Though I teach in a library science program, I am not a librarian. Becoming a librarian was not something I ever considered since, when I was a classroom teacher, I had the world’s best librarian in Rosemary Smith. So, I decided to pursue a doctorate and teach at the university level. I was fortunate enough to be hired by SHSU to teach their literature classes. In my 20+ year tenure here, I have learned a great deal about school libraries and librarianship. I have also been fortunate enough to meet and can count as friends loads of Texas school librarians.

TXS&S: If you could make a wish for children and reading in the future, what would it be?

TL: I would hope that someone finds them just the right book that turns them on to reading for a lifetime. I would also wish that all of them had unlimited access to an unlimited selection of books in all of their forms and formats.

TXS&S: What is your hope for the future of libraries? Any suggestions on how to overcome the proposed budget cuts?

TL: AASL has a wonderful document available for download from their web site that discusses the research done about the effectiveness and importance of school libraries. I hope that this document will be shared with district boards. Public libraries have never been more important given the economic downturn. Where else can everyone find free materials?

TXS&S: Would you consider yourself a Sweetheart or Scoundrel, and why?

TL: It depends on the time of day. I think I am a Sweetheart when it comes to promoting books and reading. But I do have more than a little Scoundrel in me as well. Just ask my friends!

TXS&S: Thank you, Professor Nana!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.