Saturday, August 26, 2023

So, What's Next?

Hello, dear readers! 

I feel like it's time to give an update about what I've been up to writing-wise . . . and to talk about why I don't currently have any new-release announcements.

First, my debut picture book biography, Cut!: How Lotte Reiniger and a Pair of Scissors Revolutionized Animation, illustrated by Matt Schu, has now been available from Greenwillow Books for over seven months! I'm currently booking school and library visits and have a fun presentation called "Lights! Camera! Scissors! Action!" You can find more info about all of my presentations at Lonni Lane Marketing

Unfortunately, aside from selling Cut! back in May 2020 (at the beginning of the pandemic and in the middle of my cancer treatments!), I have not had any luck in selling additional manuscripts to publishers over the past three years. 

In 2019 I wrote an adult novel set during the Dust Bowl. My agent, Barbara Poelle, suggested revisions, but by the time we had the book ready to submit to publishers, the pandemic hit. Barbara and I agreed it wasn't the right time to try selling a book about a woman trapped at home with her children in the middle of a traumatic and deadly moment in history. 

We waited several months, and then Barbara sent the manuscript to several editors. Everyone said the book was too bleak. Looking back, it was still too soon. Earlier this year, Barbara considered sending it out again, but first she obtained some in-house reads at the literary agency where she worked. Once more, the novel proved to be too dark for readers. Alas, we're putting the book on the back burner for now. I worked hard on the manuscript for well over a year, but it's certainly not the first completed novel I've ever had to set aside. I wrote seven other manuscripts before writing In the Shadow of Blackbirds, two of which made the rounds to publishers, without any success. I've been here before.

I also wrote three new picture books since the summer of 2020, but none of them have had any luck either. In one case, we got close to selling the book to a publisher, but the editor wanted multiple rounds of revisions before she could make an offer, and we ended up not seeing eye-to-eye about the book. 

I have another picture book bio in progress, but I'm working on obtaining funding for further research.

I feel that writing young-adult fiction is my greatest strength, but I suffered severe burnout after The Raven's Tale. Writing a novel about teenage Edgar Allan Poe was a full-time endeavor that felt like working on a master's thesis over the course of several years, and then sales proved to be disappointing. The book floundered, and my publisher decided not to release it in paperback format. 

I honestly have no idea how sales are going for my picture book.

I am by no means the only author who has been struggling to sell books over the past several years or who's been struggling with disappointing sales of published books. Publishing was already a challenging field in 2019 when The Raven's Tale debuted, but as with every other aspect of life, the pandemic hit the industry hard. Supply-chain issues impacted the printing of new books and caused delays in release dates. The lack of in-person events and school visits led to lost promotional opportunities. Publishers laid off vital staff members. The remaining staff has often been overworked and underpaid. Greenwillow Books, a division of HarperCollins, published Cut!, and Cut! released in the middle of the HarperCollins strike this past winter. 

The removal of books from schools and libraries during the current "Ed Scare" in the U.S. has also had an impact on book sales. Kidlit relies heavily on sales to schools and public libraries, and when states pass laws limiting which books can appear on shelves—and when school librarians receive harassment and death threats over the acquisition of books that discuss race, sexuality, and gender—authors feel the impact both personally and financially. I haven't seen my own titles appear on lists of books that have been challenged and/or removed, likely because my books tend to fly under the radar, but it kills me to see what a small but loud group of people are doing to authors, librarians, teachers, and most of all, to kids and their freedom to learn. In some regions of the U.S., such as Houston, Texas, districts are eliminating entire school libraries. All kidlit books are at risk of disappearing from the hands of readers who want and need them, and it's a subject on all authors' minds as we sit down and write our next books.

Nevertheless, despite my recent rejections, despite my YA burnout, despite the seemingly impossible state of publishing, despite the book bans, despite my need to work two side gigs to supplement my writing income, I am working on a new YA novel that's deeply influenced by our modern world. It's my way of coping with everything, especially the relentless anti-LGBTQIA+ movement in the U.S. and elsewhere that's deeply affected me, my family, my friends, and so many other people who are simply trying to live their own lives. A member of my own household is trans, so I'm particularly protective of the rights of trans people in this oppressive, dangerous era of transphobic legislation and fearmongering.

I'm not the fastest writer these days. My muse is tired and timid and often needs to be coaxed. I would love to eventually try to find a publisher for this new attempt at a novel, but for now I'm writing for myself and my family, and we'll see what happens. I often write my best work when I'm angry, and I have felt angry so often over the past three years. 

Living in this modern era is often unfathomably difficult. If you're struggling, too, whether it's creatively, personally, financially, or all of the above, please know you're not alone. Take good care of yourself. Find ways to pour your own frustrations, anger, and fear into art, or activism, or into something as simple as tending to a plant (gardening has become a new coping mechanism for me over the past three years). Seek mental health help if you have the means. I've been in therapy myself to receive treatment for an anxiety disorder. It's okay to reach out to others and say you're struggling.

Keep going. You're important, and I'm so glad you're here. I'm thankful you've taken the time to read this post.  

I'll close the post with one of my favorite passages from In the Shadow of Blackbirds.

I know the world seems terrifying right now and the future seems bleak. Just remember human beings have always managed to find the greatest strength within themselves during the darkest hours. When faced with the worst horrors the world has to offer, a person either cracks and succumbs to the ugliness, or they salvage the inner core of who they are and fight to right wrongs. 

Never let hatred, fear, and ignorance get the best of you. Keep bettering yourself so you can make the world around you better, for nothing can ever improve without the brightest, bravest, kindest, and most imaginative individuals rising above the chaos.

Oh, one more thing! I celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the release of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by getting a tattoo of the bird that designer Maria T. Middleton included throughout the book. My tattoo artist is Michael Facchini.

Warmest wishes,
Cat Winters 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Summer Scares 2023

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was named an official Summer Scares selection for 2023! What an incredible honor and a huge surprise. Look at the company it's in!
Summer Scares is an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, teen, and middle grade readers, developed by the Horror Writers Association in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Booklist. Thank you to everyone who made this opportunity for Blackbirds possible! 

The book will be celebrating its tenth anniversary on April 2 of this year, and I'm overjoyed that a new generation of readers will get the chance to discover it. 

Be on the lookout for some fun online celebrations as we get closer to summer.

Ordering options and more info about In the Shadow of Blackbirds:



• 2014 Morris Award Finalist
• A School Library Journal Best Book of 2013
• YALSA's 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults
 • 2013 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Superior Achievement in Young Adult Fiction
YALSA's 2014 Teens' Top Ten Nominee
2013 Oregon Spirit Book Award Winner
• SCBWI 2014 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards Finalist 
Booklist's 2013 Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth
Booklist's 2013 Top 10 First Novels for Youth
• Starred reviews, Publishers Weekly, Booklist,
School Library Journal

• Highlighted review, VOYA Magazine
• Editors' Choice, Historical Novels Review
• 2014 TAYSHAS Reading List
• A Mighty Girl Top 2013 Girl-Empowering Book for Children and Teens
2014 Westchester Fiction Award Winner  
• 2014-2015 Georgia Peach Book Award Nominee
• 2014 Maine Regional Library System Cream of the Crop List
TriState Young Adult Book Review’s 2014 Book of Note List
2014-2015 Florida Teen Reads Award Finalist 
• Oregon Young Adult Network Book Rave 2014 List
2015-2016 Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Nominee
• Nominated for the ACL of Northern California's
2013 Distinguished Book List

2015-2016 MASL Gateway Readers Award Nominee
• Shortlisted for the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board Teen Reader’s Choice Award, Canada
2016 Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee 
2015-2016 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee 
October 2015 Big Library Read Selection 
2015 ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (Mysteries: Murder, Mayhem, and Other Adventures) 
 • 2023 Summer Scares Selection


★ “Winters’s masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery...
Deliciously creepy.
Publishers Weekly, starred review

Unconventional and unflinching... More than anything, this is a story of the breaking point between sanity and madness, delivered in a straightforward and welcoming teen voice.
Booklist, starred review

“Winters deftly combines mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, and romance...the story and setting are atmospheric and eerie.”
School Library Journal, starred review

“Romance fans will love Stephen's ghostly visits to Mary Shelley. Mystery lovers will enjoy the satisfactory resolution of the puzzle. Recommend this title to fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners.”
VOYA Magazine, highlighted review

“This engrossing combination of historical fiction, ghost story, psychological thriller, and straight-up whodunit moves between genres with stunning ease, maximizing the tropes of each to satisfying effect.”

“Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity.
Kirkus Reviews

“[A] gorgeous production...The book’s historic setting is as much a star as the plucky Mary Shelley...
Library Journal

“Cat Winters's debut novel is creepy good... Mary Shelley, with her Boy Scout boots and penchant for aviatrix goggles, is just plain awesomely odd.”
The Boston Globe

“Winters’ words have a curious lyricism to them – a silent kind of brilliance . . . The haunting combination of a very real kind of mystery, combined with ghostly voices and the unknown of “the other side” made this novel a rare kind of war-time story, a rare kind of love story, and a rare kind of story altogether”
The Guardian

“The unique plot continually surprises and shocks, and rich, descriptive detail brings it all vividly to life. From its first pages, one is captivated and transported into a chilling, haunted, and poignant world. Recommended with great praise.”
Historical Novels Review

“One of the creepiest (in a good way) covers of the season! What's inside, historical Y.A. set at the time of the Spanish influenza, is equally haunting.”
The Atlantic Wire

Beautifully written and absolutely riveting.
The Statesman Journal

“The passion of first love and the paranoia of the times are realistically and movingly rendered.”
The Oregonian

“Words like ‘unputdownable’ and ‘irresistible’ are simply not enough for Cat Winters’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Days after finishing this story, it remains the first thought I have in the morning, and the thing that haunts me until I sleep.”
New York Times bestselling author
of The Chemical Garden trilogy

“Mary Shelley is a likable, sympathetic heroine, and through her story, teen readers will get a glimpse of a fascinating time period, made all the more real by the haunting historic photographs that pepper the novel, from soldiers in trenches to policemen in gauze masks. Part romance, part mystery and part ghost story, In the Shadow of Blackbirds makes palpable a terrifying time that brought the horror of death into the homes of millions.

“The plot is well developed, the story is full of good research on folk remedies, spirit photographers, séances, and the horrors of losing your mind in the trenches.”

“Cat Winters deftly captures the darkness and the light of human nature. I swear, I can smell the smoke from the flashlamps and taste the electricity in the air—this dark and startling story lingers long after the final page.”
    —Saundra Mitchell
      Edgar Award-nominated author of Shadowed Summer
and The Vespertine series

Part history, part mystery, part post-apocalyptic paranormal romance, In the Shadow of Blackbirds bundles everything in a spookily atmospheric and almost otherworldly early-twentieth-century San Diego. From the first page, I was captivated by Mary Shelley Black—by her spirit and by her capacity to love and hope amid the horrors of war and the hysteria of pandemic.
Katherine Longshore
Author of The Royal Circle series

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Two Starred Reviews for CUT!

 “Winters and Schu do an excellent job in telling the story of Reiniger . . . It is a story of hope, rejection, and determination, and is inspiring to all artists . . . A wonderful addition to public, school, and classroom collections.” 
 School Library Journal (starred review) 

⭐ “With a refrain of ‘snip, snip, snip!’ the story introduces readers to German film pioneer Lotte Reiniger (1899–1981) . . . Schu’s exquisite digital illustrations possess a strong sense of illumination and depth, often suggesting a tactile quality, as if constructed from paper.” 
— Horn Book (starred review)

Thank you, School Library Journal and Horn Book!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Now Available: CUT!

My debut picture book biography, Cut!: How Lotte Reiniger and a Pair of Scissors Revolutionized Animation, is now available! Matt Schu is the illustrator, and his drawings spectacularly bring Lotte's real-life world of early-1900s art and cinema to life, while also paying tribute to the exquisite use of shadow of light in Lotte's films. 

Who was Lotte Reiniger? She was the creator of the oldest surviving full-length animated film, the inventor of an early multiplane camera, and a revolutionary silhouette artist whose influence can still be seen in the works of artists and filmmakers to this day.

Here are two sample pages from Cut!, photographed by Matt Schu, along with reviews for the book.

“With a refrain of ‘snip, snip, snip!’ the story introduces readers to German film pioneer Lotte Reiniger (1899–1981). Lotte’s adolescence coincided with the dawn of cinema, a time when movies ‘were silent but filled with magical sights’ . . . Schu’s exquisite digital illustrations possess a strong sense of illumination and depth, often suggesting a tactile quality, as if constructed from paper.” 
Horn Book (starred review)

“Dream-centered text by Winters articulates the labor put in by its subject, making for an informative account of a successful life in the movie business, involving ‘a pair of scissors, a great deal of patience, and her talented hands.’”
— Publishers Weekly

Cut! features extensive backmatter, including a timeline of Lotte Reiniger’s life, an author’s note, and sources.

Please see my Events Page to learn where Matt and I will be signing copies of the book. If you're curious about the various ways I conducted research into Lotte's life, please head to this conversation between Fiona Robinson and me at Publishers Weekly.   

Huge thanks to my editor, Martha Mihalick, for giving Cut! a publishing home and for using her editorial skills to make the book shine!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Upcoming Readings and Pre-Order Info

January 24 will mark the publication of my debut picture book, Cut!: How Lotte Reiniger and a Pair of Scissors Revolutionized Animation, illustrated by Matt Schu

To pre-order a copy signed by both me and Matt, please make your purchase through Green Bean Books and indicate in the comments section that you'd like your copy signed. 

Because Matt and I both happen to live in the Portland area, we'll both be discussing and reading from Cut! at two local events later this month. Here's our schedule:

Meet Author C. E. Winters and Illustrator Matt Schu! Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, 11 am, Barnes & Noble, Hillsboro, OR;  Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, 2 pm, Green Bean Books, Portland, OR

Please note that masks are required for the Green Bean Books reading. That particular event will be held on an outdoor, heated patio, so please also bundle up if the weather is cold.

More info about Cut!:

✁ Written by C. E. Winters 

✁ Illustrated by Matt Schu

Coming Jan. 24, 2023
ISBN 9780063067394

“With a refrain of ‘snip, snip, snip!’ the story introduces readers to German film pioneer Lotte Reiniger (1899–1981). Lotte’s adolescence coincided with the dawn of cinema, a time when movies ‘were silent but filled with magical sights’ . . . Schu’s exquisite digital illustrations possess a strong sense of illumination and depth, often suggesting a tactile quality, as if constructed from paper.” 
Horn Book (starred review)

Long before Walt Disney, a young woman revolutionized the landscape of animation using light, a pair of scissors, and her imagination. From acclaimed author C. E. Winters and debut illustrator Matt Schu, STEM meets the arts in this engaging nonfiction picture book biography about Lotte Reiniger. Cut! is an exceptional choice for classrooms and for fans of Hidden Figures, I Dissent, and the Questioneers books. 

In the 1920s, when young women had limited opportunities, Lotte Reiniger used her curiosity and ingenuity to change the landscape of animation forever. Inspired by the films of her youth, and encouraged by teachers and mentors working in film at the time, Lotte Reiniger honed her skills in cutting out paper silhouettes to use in stop-motion animation. 

Eventually, her talent and her drive led her to invent the multiplane camera, which allowed her to give her animation depth of field. With her small team, Lotte designed and directed the oldest full-length animated film in existence. 

Acclaimed author C. E. Winters and debut artist Matt Schu expertly introduce young readers to Lotte Reiniger, a remarkable and often overshadowed historical figure. Balancing biographical information with a compelling story, Cut! follows Lotte Reiniger from childhood to her first groundbreaking accomplishments. Matt Schu’s dynamic illustrations draw inspiration from Reiniger’s own artistry and are full of detail, color, and light. Cut! is an excellent nonfiction picture book perfect for classrooms and family sharing. 

Features extensive backmatter, including a timeline of Lotte Reiniger’s life, an author’s note, and sources.  

More pre-ordering options:

Sample artwork from Cut!, illustrated by Matt Schu.