Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FEATURED SWEETHEARTS: Dear Teen Me




We're delighted to feature the gals who bring you DEAR TEEN ME, E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally! They're both made of awesome as is DEAR TEEN ME!

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E. Kristin Anderson's Bio:

E. Kristin Anderson grew up in Westbrook, Maine and is a graduate of Connecticut College. She has a fancy diploma that says “B.A. in Classics,” which makes her sound smart but has not helped her get any jobs in Ancient Rome. Once upon a time she worked for The New Yorker magazine, but she decided being a grown up just wasn’t for her. Currently living in Austin, Texas, Ms. Anderson is active in her local chapter of SCBWI and as a poet has been published worldwide in around two dozen literary journals from the indie-queen Fuselit, to the prestigious Cimarron Review. She also has published work in recent and forthcoming issues of Hunger Mountain. She is in the process of querying a couple young adult novels and keeps herself busy writing and revising other novel projects. She wrote her first trunk book at sixteen. It was about the band Hanson and may or may not still be in a notebook at her parents’ house. Look out for Ms. Anderson’s work the forthcoming anthology COIN OPERA II, a collection of poems about video games from Sidekick Books.


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Miranda Kenneally's Bio:

Miranda Kenneally is the author of SCORE, a contemporary YA novel about football, femininity, and hot boys, coming from Sourcebooks Fire in late 2011. She enjoys reading and writing young adult literature, and loves Star Trek, music, sports, Mexican food, Twitter, coffee, and her husband. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Miranda is represented by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency.


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TXS&S: Can you tell us about Dear Teen Me and how it got started?

EKA:
Dear Teen Me is an online anthology of letters from authors to their teenage selves. It was an idea that hit me like a stroke of lightning as I was walking out of a Hanson concert this past November -- I told my boyfriend that when I got home I was going to write a letter to my teen self about our first Hanson concert. I wanted to tell Teen Me about how amazing Hanson was, about how much fun we had, about how Hanson has changed over the years and about how she/I had changed. I wrote the letter. I put it on my blog. But then I thought, crap, I have so much to tell Teen Me. And I asked some of my writing friends if they wanted to write to their teen selves, too. And it exploded. Thank GOD Miranda volunteered to be my partner in crime.

MK: Ditto!



TXS&S: How has starting Dear Teen Me impacted you and others?

EKA: Personally, it's given my teen self a voice that she didn't have before. She's getting to tell teens out there things that they need to hear. I think the struggle of being a teen is universal -- it doesn't matter if you're Miss Popularity or a total outcast. Some might seem to have it better than others, but a lot of us have a lot of pain and fear. I've had teachers tell me they read the stories aloud to their students. Teens and adults leave comments saying "me too!" It's incredibly fulfilling to feel that sharing your experience is making a difference.

MK: Agreed. I have made many new friends through Dear Teen Me because we all relate to each other based on stuff that happened in high school! My favorite response to Dear Teen Me so far is that a group of teenagers crowded around a computer at a high school library in Virginia and read through all the letters together!



TXS&S: You both are huge advocates of young adult literature--what or who inspires you?

EKA: Any author who puts it out there, no apologies, with respect for her readers really makes my heart move. Laurie Halse Anderson, Lauren Myracle, Ellen Hopkins, and John Green come to mind. All of these authors are pioneers in their own way. And, heck, they've all had their books challenged in schools and libraries. I also am hugely inspired by Francesca Lia Block. Whenever I feel like I can't write, like I'm all dried up, I read FLB and my reasons for writing all come flooding back to me. Her lyrical prose style just blows my mind.

MK: I love reading books that are real and don't try to teach a lesson. To me, YA literature is all about relating and feeling a bond with someone else. I don't like heavy-handed writing and in my own stories, I try never to talk down to teenagers. Some of my favorite authors are: Jennifer Echols, CK Kelly Martin, Simone Elkeles, Carolyn Mackler, A.S. King, Kristin Cashore, Sarah Ockler, Kody Keplinger, Lauren Barnholdt, and David Levithan.



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

EKA:
I've learned that when authors say that their characters talk to them, they're not crazy. Or maybe they are crazy, but in the artsy way. Because, holy crap, sometimes I wake up and my character has to say something, and I have to actually start writing, like, right now. I've also learned a lot about cryptozoology as research for a book I wrote last year. I might have to write more cryptid books, if only as an excuse to keep reading about this super cool area of science!

MK: Yes - my characters talk to me too! In every book I've written, the main love interest has just shown up out of the blue. Even if I go in with a love interest in mind, some random character will appear and sweep me and my main character off our feet. Also, I have two characters that call each other "bro" and "sis." In real life, I have never called my brother and sister "bro" and "sis" and find it way corny, but for some reasons my characters do that and I listen to them. :)



TXS&S: Any writing tips you wish you could share with your teen selves or others?

EKA: Keep writing. Even if you feel like the weird kid who's writing a novel about Hanson in study hall (uh, hi, I totally did that), keep writing. And save it! In a safe place! I have almost all of my teen journals, but I wish I could find the fiction I wrote back then. And, in general, as a writer, find your community! There are writing communities almost everywhere, and now with things like Twitter, and places Absolute Write and the Verla Kay Blue Boards, you can TOTALLY find some compatriots in your area.

MK: YES! Keep writing and keep trying to get published by putting in lots of hard work and you'll get there. I had plenty of people telling me that the market is too tough and people write for years without ever getting published... but I wrote the book I wanted to read and then agents wanted to read it and now I'm getting published. It can happen!


*****

Thank you so much!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FEATURED SWEETHEARTS: The Literary Lonestars




The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels adore and appreciate The Literary Lonestars! These ladies are incredibly passionate and do so much to plug authors and promote events. We're lucky to call them our friends!

And also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Jen!

Stephanie and Jen!

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Jen's Bio:

Jen was born in Oklahoma (don't boo, you look silly)
Jen has one husband and two kids that are taller than her.
Jen believes that reading is a first class ticket to freedom.
Jen owns too many books and they are all in piles all over her house.
Jen always has a camera in her hand.
Jen is a master cupcaker.
Jen needs a haircut.


Stephanie's Bio:

Stephanie wrote her first novel in second grade about a boy heart who falls in love with a girl heart, only to learn her “heart” is already taken. The school librarian posted it on the bulletin board and to this day Stephanie still wonders why none of her classmates asked for her autograph. When not working on her young adult novel (which has no love triangles involving talking hearts) you can find her consuming copious amounts of coffee and watching House Hunters. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband and is currently seeking representation.

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TXS&S: You are both not originally from Texas, where did you two meet?

Stephanie: I moved to Texas in 2007 when my husband and I got married and he got a job here. I had made a few friends in the area, but not many. I was talking to Heidi Kling on Twitter one day in 2009 and she said, "Hey my childhood next door neighbor is @JenBigheart, she's a youth librarian in Austin, maybe y'all should hook up!" So I shot Jen a message and we met at Panera Bread the following week, and we've been friends ever since.

Jen: I think that's how it happened! I know Heidi put us in the same tweet and that was that. I think she said we both have the same sense of humor - - which is totally true!



TXS&S: Can you tell us about Literary Lonestars and what inspired this great group?

Jen: Everyone kept asking us when and where events were, or would be sad that they missed a signing that they didn’t know about. We started discussing what we needed to do to keep people informed of events in Texas at our holiday book blogger party.

Stephanie: For me I think it was more I was looking forward to getting to know other book bloggers and writers in the Texas area and networking with them, LL became a place we could keep in touch with one another easily.

Jen: Yeah, at the time I was compiling a list of Texas book bloggers, and was amazed at how many of us there were. I knew some of us knew each other, but I also knew that there were bloggers at events that I wouldn't recognize in real life. We needed one location for everyone to go to for info and event information.

Stephanie: We didn’t want LL to be just another blog for people to go to, we thought if we made it a Facebook page it might give people easier access to things, and have people be more involved in the group as a whole.


TXS&S: What are some pleasant surprises you’ve had since forming Literary Lonestars?

Jen: For me it was getting to know others who share our love of reading and literacy. I was also very surprised at the number of Texas book bloggers, we have over 50!

Stephanie: And for me it was how receptive authors were about LL. I remember being so excited when the first author ‘liked’ our page! We were also genuinely surprised at the support everyone showed for our book drive for the Austin Children’s Shelter. We were hoping to get 100 books and ended up with nearly 600 total.

Jen: Agree! We had books left over from our holiday blogger party and wanted them to go to a place that needed books. When we showed up with our 6 boxes, our hearts were called to do more. We reached out to bloggers, authors, and other readers, and they blew us away with their support. Today, the shelter is in much better shape and we are looking for another location in need. We are still taking donations to this day.


TXS&S: To what do you attribute your passion for young adult literature?

Stephanie: Honestly? Because I feel like I never actually grew up. I may be 25 on the outside, but internally I still feel 15. I feel like I identify more with teenagers than I do other adults my age.

Jen: Well I am not 25, but still feel young(ish)! About six years ago, I was volunteering at my daughter's school and lo and behold, there was a book fair. They were short handed, so I tried my best to help. I picked up a copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry and that was the beginning of my return to children's literature. I've been an addict ever since and turned that into a career when I went back for my MLS in 2009.


TXS&S: Any tips you can share for aspiring writers or librarians?

Stephanie: To me, networking was key. Once I found a group of writers (both online and in real life) that I could talk to about my writing with I got a whole lot happier. Being a writer is a hard road to go down, and I think it’s important to remember that it’s a journey that doesn’t have to be taken alone. Reach out to other writers, and don’t shun writers when they try to reach out to you.

Jen: Being a librarian isn’t just about recommending and checking out books, times have changed. Think outside of the box and get creative about drawing people to your library, department, and finally the bookshelf. You know, some people go to the library just to use the computer - that's okay, but we hope that books eventually make their way home. Use every tool possible, including social media, and reach out for support. There are fantastic library blogs out there that specialize in anything and everything.


TXS&S: What are some things you’re looking forward to?

Jen: Definitely ALA in New Orleans this June! We had a fantastic time at TLA with fellow TX bloggers, and can't wait to do it all over again in The Big Easy!

Stephanie: We had a Texas book blogger party around Christmas last year and had the best time! We’re hoping to do that again sometime this summer, I think it’ll be bigger (and possibly crazier) than our last party. We should have details soon!



*****

Thank you so much!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Alex Bennett




It is an honor to introduce our newest super talented Featured Sweetheart, Alex Bennett!

Alex Bennett is the fourteen year old guy behind Electrifying Reviews, a popular young adult book blog. Along with reading and reviewing YA novels, he also writes them. Alex wants to be a published author when he gets out of high school, maybe even before that. He'd like to work in publishing, or be a psychotherapist. Maybe both. When not living in the world of books, Alex enjoys immersing himself in the other arts, including singing and acting.

TXS&S: Can you share with us what makes you so passionate about reading and young adult literature?

AB: I guess it's because I get to live out realities I could never experience in my own life. It's not like I'm trying to escape anything, but to live in worlds where anything can happen is like a breath of life.

TXS&S: As book reviewer, literary agent intern, and writer (just a few of the many different hats you wear!), are there any tips you could share with writers looking to break into this business?

AB: I think it's important to just...communicate. It's really not about knowing the right people, because if you are open and try to get to know lots of people, you may meet some people who can help you out. Then again, it's really about you writing something good that people think will sell. It's a complicated world, this writing business.

TXS&S: How do you see the future of reading changing, and what do you think writers/readers can do to stay current?

AB: I see reading changing in a lot of ways. Just like everything else, books go through phases. Before 2009, YA was all about contemporary, then in 2009 came the vampire phase, then angels in 2010, and now we are in a dystopian stage. And there will surely be something else next. I think people should just see what others are liking and see what looks best to them. It's not always about reading the latest and greatest, since a lot of the best YA books are ones that are already out and have been for a while.

TXS&S: What are some of your goals, and what or who keeps you motivated?

AB: A big goal of mine is to be published. And if I do, I'd like to be a writer full time. Besides that, I really want to be a psychotherapist. Another goal of mine is to keep reading YA long after I am a young adult. Oh, and to finish more books. I am usually the one to drive myself to reach my goals. My family isn't big on reading or writing, in fact I haven't seen my parents ever reading a book. Also, I have a lot of friends who are writers and just seeing how they were published after working so hard is inspiration to me.

TXS&S: Would your friends, family, and teachers consider you a Sweetheart or Scoundrel?

AB: Hmm... I'm always open to speaking my mind, and letting people know when they are annoying me. I don't take crap from anybody, and I can be very brash. But I'm totally not like that in the writing world, actually. I'm pretty nice to people online. I am well-behaved and caring to the people I do care about, but I am not afraid to be bold. So...I guess it just depends on who you ask.

TXS&S: Thank you, Alex! Best of luck!

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Please email us your nominations for Featured Sweethearts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

H-U-G-E Congrats to P.J. Hoover!





The TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS send Texas-sized congrats to P.J. Hoover for the release of her red-hot young adult novel, SOLSTICE!




Here is the official announcement: P.J. Hoover and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. are excited to announce the May release of P.J.'s debut young adult novel SOLSTICE, an intensely romantic story with an innovative mythological angle. SOLSTICE is set in a disturbing future of uncontrolled climate change -- a future that we might very well be facing. SOLSTICE is the first front-list novel to be independently published by an Andrea Brown Literary Agency author.






YEEHAW! WE'RE SO PROUD OF YOU!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

FEATURED SWEETHEARTS: Rita Painter and Rachel McInnes














Photo above, library nerds, from left: Rita Painter, Don Tate, Rachel McInnes

This week, the SCOUNDREL of the TEXAS SWEETHEARTS (Don Tate) is thrilled to feature Rita Painter and Rachel McInnes. Rita Painter is the librarian at Menchaca Elementary school in far south Austin, Texas, and Rachel is the library clerk. Rita and Rachel are highly energetic and inspiring — the absolute best at what they do. Of course, as a Menchaca parent, I’m a bit biased.

Rita, in the age of Nintendo and Wii video games, The Cartoon Network and smart phones, how are you able to break through all the noise and motivate children to read?

Rita: Everyone likes to be entertained, especially kids. But it's easy to motivate children with quality literature. Students can soar with Amelia Earhart, cry with Travis in Old Yeller, and travel to distant lands to experience different cultures. I love introducing children to the exciting adventures that can be found in books!

What do you like best about your job? Highs and lows

Rachel:
Helping the kids find that book they were looking for…it may be for a class project, a chapter book that their friend just turned it and they want to check out or a book about an animal they are obsessed with. I enjoy pulling books for teachers. They come in and ask for books to back up what they are teaching. They may have a few specific books but I enjoy perusing the shelves to find something else that might be helpful.

Rita: There have been SO MANY positive events in my career: the proud parent who is relieved that his or her child is finally hooked on reading, the excited students who can't wait to read the next book in a series (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, anyone?), or introducing authors and illustrators to my students so they can understand the importance of editing their work and can hear the stories behind the books and illustrations they create. The only lows I've experienced have all been budget-related: lower funding for books and technology, and the recent cuts to our library staffing. Librarians will continue to advocate for certified librarians in every school!

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Rita: I absolutely loved all of the Dr. Seuss books! My Mom joined a monthly book club, and
we'd receive two of his books every month. My favorite was Green Eggs and Ham. I read it to my campus every year on Dr. Seuss' Birthday. I also enjoyed reading all of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still recommend Little House on the Prairie to my students as one book they should definitely experience!

Rachel: I can’t say I had a favorite author except maybe Carolyn Keene and Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I do have strong memories of certain books…. Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, How Fletcher was Hatched by Wende Devlin, Miss Twiggly’s Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox.

Who are some of your favorite authors and illustrators of children’s books?

Rachel:
There are so many good authors these days it is hard to select just a few. My favorite authors are Phil Bildner, Laura Numeroff, Jackie French, Doreen Cronin, Laurie Keller, Kevin Henkes, Susan Stevens Crummel/Janet Stevens, Kate Dicamillo, Peter Reynolds, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This only scratches the surface. The reasons these authors and books are necessary additions to my home library are about as varied as the authors themselves. Each one has a unique God-given gift for the written word and I have spent many hours with my own children pouring over the pages of these books…maybe that’s part of what makes them special to me. My children really enjoyed their books. My favorite illustrators (a whole different can of worms): Eric Carle, Kadir Nelson, Felicia Bond, Janet Stevens, Don Tate, Peter Reynolds, Laurie Keller. I am amazed at the diversity in styles and the beauty that is captured by paper and pencil.

Rita: Wow, I have so many favorites! I love the books by Jon Scieszka (humor), Kate DiCamillo (appeals to both boys and girls), Phil Bildner (historical fiction/sports), Rick Riordan (fantasy), and Dr. Seuss (rhyming). My favorite illustrators are Brian Selznick, Kadir Nelson, Don Tate, and Eric Carle. These illustrators draw the reader into the story with their beautiful artwork...no pun intended!

What are your thoughts about e-books?

Rita: I think e-books are another tool to get kids excited about reading. I don't think books will disappear because of e-books, but I do know that libraries and librarians have begun to incorporate the technology required to access them. But there will always be storytimes with books!

Rachel: I feel that young children need to get their hands on as many different books as they possibly can! The more the better!! There is something special about sitting with a child and reading them a book, turning the page to discover what happens next and having your eyes feast on the illustrator’s interpretation of the author’s words.
E-books will have their place, but in an elementary school the demand for some books is so high that the cost of e-books plus the technology to support them would make it almost impossible to maintain the same quantity. I think we are seeing the transition from paper to electronic but I am praying that the picture book never goes away.

What do you do when you're not library-ing?

Rita: I love to go to the movies, hunt for bargains at thrift stores, and spend time with my family at the many festivals that Austin has to offer. My husband and I enjoy visiting book stores (thank goodness he loves books as much as I do), and we both collect autographed copies of books from our favorite authors. My teens keep me busy driving them to various activities, so I always carry a book in my purse!

Rachel: My time away from school is spent with my family—my husband and 2 middle school children and their activities (which are many). I also love crocheting and photography.

Thanks Rita and Rachel!