OYAN Review: Cat Winters Visits Cedar Mill Library

This post is an article from the Winter 2018 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Mark Richardson at the Cedar Mill Community Library.

On Novemer 8th, author Cat Winters visited the Cedar Mill Library to discuss The Steep and Thorny Way and her new book, Odd and True. There were nearly thirty teens in attendance, and some of them had read everything she had written. Cat went through her writing process in detail regarding The Steep and Thorny Way, an historical fiction book set in Oregon about a biracial girl investigating her father’s death in the 1920s. She said that the book was inspired by Hamlet.

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MAGGIE STIEFVATER Author Event at OLA 2017

CSD, OASL, and OYAN are excited to announce that MAGGIE STIEFVATER will be our featured author at the OLA and OASL conferences in April 2017!

There will be an author talk and book signing on Friday, April 21 at 5:00 PM, followed by a session at the OASL Conference on Saturday, April 22. Both events will be held at Salem Public Library. Ticket cost and purchasing information will be coming later in 2016.

Most of you are probably already jumping up and down with joy, but here are a few more details about Maggie for the uninitiated:

Maggie Stiefvater is the author and illustrator of multiple bestselling books for kids and teens, including the Raven Cycle series, the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures (with Jackson Pearce), and Hunted (Book 2 of the popular Spirit Animals series). She won a Printz Honor in 2011 for her stand-alone novel, The Scorpio Races, which has also been optioned by Katzsmith Productions and Focus Features.

Maggie lives in Virginia with her family, several very fast cars, and a menagerie of animals that includes nine goats. You can find her online at http://www.maggiestiefvater.com/.

Interview with Cat Winters, author of The Cure for Dreaming and In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Interviewed by Bobbye Hernandez, Tillamook Public Library

CatBWOregon author Cat Winters recently had her second YA novel published, The Cure for Dreaming, and she was kind enough to answer some questions about the book as well as some general questions about writing for our newsletter.

 Let’s talk about The Cure for Dreaming. Where/how did you come up with the story?

I was listening to eerie, dreamlike Halloween music during October 2011 and imagined a young woman floating to a ceiling. The experience put me in the mood to write something Gothic, Victorian, and magical, so I turned to the idea of writing about a turn-of-the-twentieth-century stage hypnotist. At the same time, I had also wanted to figure out a way to bring the women’s suffrage movement to life in a novel. An idea struck me: “What would happen if a Victorian man hired a hypnotist to cure his budding suffragist daughter of her rebellious thoughts and dreams?” Thus, The Cure for Dreaming was born.

What made you pair a hypnotist with a suffragist? Also, there are a lot of interesting images and references to early dentistry in the book what made you make Olivia’s father a mad dentist?

Pairing a hypnotist with a suffragist was simply a case of these two different book ideas merging together and turning into one story. I didn’t find any historical examples of people hiring hypnotists to cure suffragists; however, many late-Victorian and early-twentieth-century women were treated for “hysteria,” a catch-all diagnosis that included females behaving in rebellious ways. Extreme cures—hysterectomies, institutionalization, etc.—were used. I wanted to show the dire methods people went to in order to subdue women of the era, but I also chose to incorporate some magical, lighter elements to keep the subject matter from getting too heavy and depressing. CureforDreaming_cover

In the earlier drafts, Olivia’s father was a physician. However, I realized the mother of my In the Shadow of Blackbirds protagonist was a doctor, so I felt I was repeating myself a bit. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be far more interesting and terrifying if Olivia’s father was a Victorian dentist”? My editor loved the choice and encouraged me to go even farther with the squirm-inducing horrors of dentistry of the era.

 Do you ever think that you will follow-up on Olivia or Henry?

I go back and forth on this question, and readers do frequently ask if a sequel is forthcoming. The problem with a sequel is that no significant milestones for the women’s suffrage movement were reached until ten or eleven years after the 1900 setting of The Cure for Dreaming, when western states such as Oregon and California granted women the right to vote. I feel like I’d have to jump ahead about eleven years in order to write a satisfying sequel, which would push the book out of the realm of YA fiction.

Now let’s talk about writing in general, what inspires you to write?

Music, books, movies, places I visit, conversations, emotions I experience, history. In other words, I find inspiration everywhere. I’ve always seen the world through the eyes of a writer, taking everything in as potential scenes for a story.

 Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

The ideas typically start with the discovery of something in history that either intrigues me or upsets me—or both. Oftentimes, I find book ideas from some sort of side research I’ve performed for a previous novel. For example, when writing The Cure for Dreaming, I considered making Olivia’s best friend, Frannie, a quarter Native American. However, when I researched Oregon’s restrictive interracial marriage laws for the 1800s and early 1900s, I discovered I would practically need to write a whole separate novel about Frannie to do justice to this idea. Instead, I turned the information I learned about Oregon’s prejudices of the past into an upcoming YA novel, The Steep and Thorny Way.

What does your writing process look like?

After I’ve formed my initial idea for a book, I let plot ideas marinate inside my head for a bit. I’m a very cerebral writer. Much of my planning and outlining occurs internally instead of on paper. Once I can’t wait another moment to embark upon the story, I sit down and write an opening chapter, which typically helps me figure out the protagonist’s voice and the overall feel of the book. Writing the opening chapter of In the Shadow of Blackbirds immediately helped me figure out the intense setting of the novel, as well as my main character’s no-nonsense way of speaking about her harsh reality.

After I write a first chapter, I usually research and plot some more, and then I dive into the first draft. About halfway through the draft, I print out a calendar for the months and year in which I’m working (October and November 1918 for In the Shadow of Blackbirds) and keep track of all the key moments in the book, leading up to the climax, as if I’m filling out my main character’s day planner. This is the method I’ve used for every single one of my books, and it’s what works for me.

What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

The waiting. Every single stage of the publishing process requires extreme patience. You wait to see if your book will get published; you wait to receive edits from your editor; you wait to see the cover for the book; and you wait 18 to 24 months from the point when you sold the book to the day the book actually releases.  However, at the same time, I’m extremely thankful the process isn’t a rushed one. A book grows stronger when care and patience are utilized.

Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Ex: Love? Action? Racy?

For me, the hardest scenes are the transitional ones that don’t contain heated action or emotions. It’s far trickier making the smaller moments in a book come to life, even though such scenes are necessary to balance the pace of the book and give characters and readers a breather. Racier love scenes and action scenes are much easier, in my opinion.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it? Why?

Child kidnapping. I have two kids of my own, and when my daughter was two years old, we experienced a murder/kidnapping in our neighborhood that made national headlines. Police helicopters flew over our house nonstop, search dogs investigated every single one of our homes in the area, and updates about the missing seven-year-old girl aired on our TV until long after her body was found. The man eventually convicted for her murder lived in our neighborhood, and we’d walk past his house and say “hi” to him before any of this happened. It was a horrifying experience that disgusts me to this day, and I can’t even read books about kidnapped children because of it.

Thank you for sharing that with us, it is a very powerful story. What are you working on now? What is your next project?

Shadow of blackbirdsI’m actually lucky enough to have quite a few projects in the works at the moment. My adult fiction debut, The Uninvited (my second ghost story set in WWI-era America), will release August 11, 2015, from HarperCollins. I’m also in the midst of edits for a short story that will be appearing in the YA horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, coming August 18, 2015 from Penguin. In addition, I’m working on my aforementioned third YA novel, The Steep and Thorny Way, a Hamlet-inspired 1920s tale about a biracial girl in Oregon.  Amulet Books, the publisher of my other YA novels, acquired that one, and it will be releasing Spring 2016.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Historical fiction, especially if a mystery or ghosts are involved. I suppose that’s not too surprising, considering the types of books I write.

Lastly, what is your favorite young adult novel?

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. He wrote the novel in such a creative and powerful style, and I thought his use of Death of the narrator was absolutely brilliant. It also opened my eyes to the experiences of German civilians in Nazi-occupied Germany. I always highly recommend the book to any reader, young or old, male or female.

For more information about Cat Winters you can visit her website at www.catwinters.com.


Interview with Jill Williamson, author of The Safe Lands Trilogy

Interviewed by Elvira Sanchez Kisser

JillWilliamsonJill Williamson, award-winning author of several young adult books including the Blood of Kings trilogy, Replication, the Mission League series, and the Safe Lands trilogy. She also enjoys working with teenagers and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. And she was kind of enough to be interviewed for our newsletter.

 Can you tell us a little about your latest dystopian series, Safe Lands?

Sure! The people who live in the Safe Lands are dying of a plague. Their scientists need uninfected people to study if they’re going to find a way to survive. So Safe Lands enforcers raid the village of Glenrock and take the survivors captive. The series follows three of those captive brothers. Levi wants to get his people—and his fiancé—out of the Safe Lands and back to life as normal. Mason would like to help find a cure for the thin plague, which would solve the problem for good. And Omar thinks life in the Safe Lands is so much better than what he had in Glenrock. The series follows each brother as they strive to succeed in their goals and become drawn into the plight of the Safe Lands people.

Your final book in the Safe Lands series, Rebels, has just been released, how do you feel and do you think you will revisit this world again? 

It always feels good to finish a series and hear that my readers are satisfied. The only way I might revisit this world would be to publish the prequel, which takes place in current day and follows the story of the three brothers’ grandfather when he was a teenager. That book is called Thirst, and I’ve written about half of it. So I might have to finish it someday.

While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?

 I always feel as if I am every point-of-view character as I’m writing the book. I think that helps me really get into their heads. Sort of like acting. I need to know what it feels like to be each of those people if I’m going to portray them well in print.

Where do you seek inspiration for your stories?

For me, ideas are everywhere! I just look around me. One way is finding the right “What if?” question. Sometimes an idea will just pop into my head, like the idea for Replication. I was riding in a car on our way to pick apples. We passed farm after farm and I thought, “What if there was a farm that grew people? Clones. They could call it Jason Farms!” And I was ready to start writing!

Another thing I like to do is combine two unrelated things. For my Blood of Kings trilogy, I was on a walk with my son and we came upon a house that had burned down. There was a tree in the yard that was half charred and half leafy green. I thought it was the coolest image. I ran home and Photoshopped it. I knew I wanted to write a story about that tree. But on its own that wasn’t good enough. So I eventually combined the tree, or the idea of a land half-cursed in darkness, with telepathy. And that was enough to get me going.

What books/authors have most influenced your writing?

 J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series were the books that made me want to be a writer. I was so taken in by her story-world building … I wanted to do something similar. And world building is one of my favorite aspects of writing speculative fiction. I also love Tolkien, Peretti, and Jane Austen, though I don’t know how much Jane’s work has influenced my own.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

 Getting that first draft written is always my biggest challenge. I love editing. I love going back in and adding details and perfecting my world and planting clues. But I can’t do any of that until I write the first draft. And that sometimes takes me a while, especially on the first book in a new series when I am creating a world and haven’t got it all figured out yet.

On your website, you state that you are a Whovian. Which doctor is your favorite, and what do you like most about him?

 The Tenth Doctor is my favorite. I love David Tennant. I love his voice, his crazy hair, that long coat, his pinstripes, his glasses, his sneakers. I think the fact that he became an actor with the goal of one day playing the Doctor makes him the very best at it. He just IS the Doctor to me.

Do you have any advice to librarians on how to inspire teens interested in writing?

GTWBN-662x1024Encourage them to finish their first draft. So many new writers get stuck rewriting, trying to perfect their beginning. And they’ll spend years writing and never finish a book. Give them permission to write horrible first drafts. That’s what I do. Because I know that I will fix it later. And I also know that I can’t fix it until I have something to fix. I can’t paint my pottery until I create the pot! Writers learn so much from finishing a book. It’s something they must do.

Give them books like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King, Writing for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson, or anything by James Scott Bell. I learned so much from writing-craft books, and those are some of my favorites.

And you can also send them to check out the www.GoTeenWriters.com blog. We blog five days a week for teen writers. There they can connect with a community of other teen writers, find critique partners, and enter contests that will continually encourage them.

So you are a Photoshop addict, did you have any influence in your cover designs and do they meet your expectations? If you didn’t what would you have liked to see on your book covers?

 I have been so blessed in my book covers. I think they’re all beautiful. I did have some influence. Each publisher asked me to fill out a form on which I was able to describe my characters and scenes from the books. But the publishers and graphic artists took that information and came up with their own ideas. I love my covers. The only one I designed myself is the cover of Storyworld First. I did that myself because I was in a hurry to have it ready before Salt Lake Comic Con, and I couldn’t find a designer to work on such short notice.

darknesshidchristy-194x300You worked as a fashion assistant before becoming a writer, has your experiences as a fashion assistant helped you in your writing, if so how?

 I think all my life experiences help my writing because they made me who I am. Specifically, though, the fashion industry taught me about cutthroat business, about being the little guy, about being under-appreciated. It also taught me that sometimes our dreams aren’t what we hoped they’d be, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t chase them anyway. It also taught me that I should always respect my dream, whatever it is. I did that for fashion. I studied and worked hard for almost ten years. It was a fascinating time in my life, and I’m so glad I went for it.

When I first started writing, I’d forgotten that. I thought, How hard could it be to write a book? I figured anyone could do it. But I was wrong. When I first started writing, I hadn’t respected the dream at all, and it showed! When it hit me, I pretty much put myself back to school. I spend the next four years honing my craft, writing, writing, writing. I read every writing craft book I could get my hands on. I went to more conferences. I learned everything I could. And it made a huge difference.

Can you give us your top 5 current YA author recommendations?

 Brandon Sanderson. Anything by him is brilliant, but his YA series is called Steelheart.

I love Megan Whalen Turner’s books, The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia.

I adore Shannon Dittemore’s Angel Eyes trilogy.

Then I’ll have to say Suzanne Collins and her Hunger Games and J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books, of which only the last four were YA. Both those series were so perfectly executed that I marvel each time I read them.

Can you share a little about what you are currently working on with us?

 Yes! I’m writing an epic fantasy trilogy tentatively called The Kinsman Chronicles. The first book, King’s Folly, will come out in September 2015.

Here is the log line for book one: In a fantasy world, a grieving prince struggles to solve his beloved’s murder—a mystery that uncovers a conspiracy of apocalyptic proportions.

This series takes place on the same planet as my Blood of Kings series. These are some of Achan’s ancestors, so the story happens long before Achan was born. I hope my readers will enjoy it!

Thank you for taking the time for this interview for the Oregon Young Adult Network Review.

 Thanks so much for talking with me! Come find me online at www.JillWilliamson.com, and we’ll talk more.


What I learned at ALA: Part 2 – Authors! Authors! Authors!

ALA is one of the best places to indulge in author worship.  They are everywhere –workshops, exhibit booths, stages, and even just wandering around like normal people.  Here’s who I had the opportunity of meeting, hearing or bumping into out on the floor.

At the YALSA YA Authors Coffeeklatch –in other words speed dating with authors– here’s who I met:

  • Daniel Kraus, author of Rotters – who knew grave robbing could reunite a father and son?
  • John Corey Whaley, Printz and Morris award winning author of Where Things Come Back.  Very sincere, enthusiastic, young guy, basking in the acclaim of his accomplishments.  I also heard his Printz Award speech later in the week.
  • Melissa Marr, author of the Wicked Lovely series and the upcoming Carnival of Souls.  She will send out bookmarks and things for free if you email and ask her!
  • Ellen Hopkins, author of many “issue” books for teens, has several titles out this year: Tilt for the YA audience; Smoke – a companion to Burned, out as a Kindle title only; Collateral & Triangles, adult titles.
  • As she was leaving, Ellen turned to me and said, “You look familiar.”  To which I replied, “You look familiar to me also.”  And then we realized we met at the OASL conference in 2010.  See what conferences can do for you?
  • Kazu Kibuishi, author of the Amulet series as well as others, pulled out his ipad to show the VERY cool app he’s working for the new graphic series The Mystery Boxes.  The graphics were beautiful and will take the stories into multimedia format.  Keep an eye out for it.
  • Neal Shusterman, (again!) author of recently released UnWholly, which is the long awaited sequel to Unwind.  And if you’re a fan, read UnStrung (if you have a Kindle) a novella that talks about what happens to the main character in between the two books.  And keep an eye out for UnSeamly, the final book of the trilogy coming someday!
  • Christine Hinwood, author of Printz Honor winner The Returning, flew all the way from Aussie-land.  She talked about what a quiet life she leads as an author and was in shock over all the acclaim.  And since winter had started, she was discombobulated by the return to summer weather.  I also heard her speak at the Printz Reception.
  • And finally, just before time ran out, Ruta Sepetys (se-pet-iss), author of Between Shades of Gray, appeared.  First she taught us how to say her last name (see above) and then shared how much she was enjoying the increase in sales to all those confused folks looking to buy Fifty Shades of Gray!  She’s just finished another historical about 1950’s New Orleans, titled Out of the Easy, with a publication date of Feb. 2013.

But wait there’s more…authors, that is!

The 2012 Margaret A. Edwards Award  for lifetime achievement was given to Susan Cooper, best known for the classic Dark is Rising Sequence.  In her elegant British voice and command of the language, she shared her love of writing and the process by which she creates.  We all sighed in pleasure at the end.  And the luncheon food was good too!

Later that same day, Chris Colfer, of Glee fame, gave one of the Auditorium Speakers presentations.  Everyone in attendance received an ARC of his book, The Land of Stories.  And guess what, he’s just like his character Kurt and real cutie!  (Okay, I admit, I’m a gleek.)

And the day ended with a real treat, the final performance of the incredible Rock Bottom Remainders!  It’s members have included Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Cynthia Heimel, Sam Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Joel Selvin, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount Jr., Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Fulghum, Matt Groening, Tad Bartimus, Greg Iles, and a couple of professional musicians (thank God!).

The whole performance was a hoot!  The music was mediocre at best, but a good time was had by all.  Just type Rock Bottom Remainders into Youtube and see for yourself.

Last post I talked about seeing Ally Condie and Jacqueline Woodson at the YALSA Preconference, but I also literally ran into Jacqueline on the exhibit floor.  We were both trying to get through a crush of people when we bumped into each other.  Such a rush!

I got to hear Libba Bray reading the first chapter of her new book, The Diviners.  And later, managed to get the last free ARC from her publisher’s booth.  It was a “divine” experience!  ;>)

And then there was the Newbery/Caldecott Award banquet & the Printz Award reception.  Both were remarkable for different reasons.  The program for the Newbery banquet was the most inventive I’ve ever seen.  Designed by Caldecott winner Chris Raschka, it looked like a package.  When opened, out popped Daisy’s ball!  Take a look.




Raschka gave a very heartfelt, serious acceptance speech that put my husband, Tim to sleep.  When Tim asked if he could leave, I told him to wait, it was gonna get a LOT better ’cause Jack Gantos was next.  We all know he’s a humor writer, but he’s even funnier in person.  He proceeded to tell us in great detail that he’d no idea what he’d won for at least a couple of hours because the Newbery committee was making too much noise!  His agent finally told him he’d won the Medal.

At the Printz Award reception Daniel Handler and Moira Kalman’s acceptance “speech” stole the show!  It was a VERY hard act for anyone to follow.  The good news is that the medal & other honor winners graciously thanked YALSA for the recognition.  The bad news is that the rest of us had to wait patiently for the bar to open.  ;>)

My next posts will share what I learned at a couple of workshops I attended.  I mean, it was supposed to be a professional development opportunity, not just fan indulgence, and I really did get some great ideas!