Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith

On Neutral Characters and Relating to the Specific by Shannon Hale from squeetus blog. Peek: “Why can’t someone like Maisie be worthy of a story too? I’ve encountered similar opinions over the years and began to come to an uncomfortable understanding, one that others before me have also discovered.”

On Diversity Within Diversity by Ava Jae from Writability. Peek: “Sometimes we forget that the community of that one sect of people is just as beautifully diverse as the world as a whole. Diversity within diversity.”

On the Care & Feeding of Writers by Julianna Baggott and David G.W. Scott from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Your writer is practicing empathy and understanding of her characters; you can have that same empathy for her.”

Why Talking About Girl Reading Matters by Kelly Jensen from Stacked. Peek: “Girls, on the other hand, are unlikable. They have girl problems. They have girl drama (drama, always drama). They are girls in crisis, rather than girls living through the challenges they have to confront in order to be their best selves. In so many of the books that tackle these challenges, girl is a qualifier.”

Writing Emotions: Does Your Hero Shrug, Smile & Frown Too Much? by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “Are these types of descriptors all bad? Certainly not. The fact is, each of these is a real way people express their emotion. It’s only when we rely on a clichéd rendition of showing these cues or we turn to them again and again throughout the story that they hurt our writing.”

2014 Nonfiction Award Nominees from YALSA. Peek: “In addition to the finalists and award winner, YALSA publishes a list of vetted nominations for the Nonfiction Award.” See also Carla Killough McClafferty on Revealing Your Heart in Nonfiction from Cynsations.

Maybe You Could Do More from Jo Knowles. Peek: “Sometimes, opening my file, or putting on my sneakers, is actually the hardest part of getting back to the task at hand. It’s the final commitment to starting again. Starting from what feels like the bottom of a very steep hill. So I told myself: Just write one sentence. It can be terrible.

Writing Tips & Diversity Points at the SCBWI Winter Conference by Cindy L. Rodriguez from Latin@s in Kid Lit. Note: includes seven tips from Katherine Tegen editor Anica Rissi on writing contemporary fiction, Knopf editor Nancy Siscoe on writing for middle grade readers, and PEN America‘s Susanna Reich on banned books and diversity.

Why Is Historical Fiction Important? by Bobbi Miller from Children’s Literature. See also Bobbi on The Conversation of Historical Fiction Continued. Peek: “For some, historical fiction is first and foremost fiction, and therefore anything goes. Others condemn the blending of invention with well-known and accepted facts and consider the genre contradictory at the very least and, at most, it is a betrayal.”

A comprehensive list of U.S. college- and university-sponsored or -hosted children’s and young adult literature conferences, festivals, and symposia by Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek: “In 2011, I was looking for such a list, wondered why I couldn’t find one, and decided to just go ahead and make one myself. Since then, I’ve periodically updated and reposted it, and I plan to continue doing so. If I’ve missed any, or included some that no longer exist, won’t you please let me know?”

Rejecting Rejection: With a Little Bit of Luck by Sarah Aronson from The Writing Barn. Peek: “Four years after reading the manuscript, she remembered some of the details. She asked me what had happened to the story. I almost fell over. As soon as I got home, I opened the file and read that manuscript. And you know what?”

2014 Illustrators Gallery at the SCBWI Bologna Book Fair from SCBWI. Peek: “There were 105 entries submitted and, from these…judges have chosen these 34 finalists. The overall winner and four runners-up will be announced on this page at the start of the fair.”

Where Do Boys Belong in Women’s History? by Jill Eisenberg from Lee & Low. Peek: “Alongside our girls, boys need the language of equality and a broader view of history. Women’s contributions advanced our society and continue to impact all of us. We need to teach that gender totally does matter and, at the same time, totally doesn’t matter.”

Writing for the Long Haul: Quitting Writing by Kelly Bennett from Janni Lee Simner at Desert Dispatches. Peek: “…publishing can wreak havoc on our writing lives. It did mine. Having a ‘career’ requires us to split ourselves in two: part creative writer, part business-minded author.”

Interview with Literary Agent Steven Malk of Writers House from Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles. Peek: “I do think that smaller publishers can be incredibly effective. There are pros and cons with just about any house, but there have been several instances over the last few years of smaller houses publishing books that have enjoyed phenomenal success.”

Filmmakers! Check out this contest for a 30 second to three minute video celebrating children’s-YA literature from Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.

Interview with Adi Rule on Strange Sweet Song by Leah Cypress from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: “To make it in classical singing, you have to be tenacious and ferocious. But at the end of the day, you also have to captivate an audience, and there’s a certain sensitivity — and vulnerability — that goes along with that.” See also an interview with Adi by Janet S. Fox from Through the Wardrobe.

What to Do When Your Story Feels Rushed by Deborah Halverson from Peek: “…work in setting details with language that conveys an atmosphere, have the characters act upon and react to props unique to the spirit of that place, and include smells and textures that engage readers’ senses.”

Migas, Confetti and Martha Stewart by Diana López from Latin@as in Kidlit. Peek: “…’I hate when people tell me I should add more cultural interest to my books.’ In other words, I don’t like these details to be forced. They have to feel natural, and as long as I’m not consciously adding them, they will be. Sure, my characters eat migas, but they eat pizza, too.”

Here’s What Both Pantsing and Plotting Miss: The Real Story by Lisa Cron from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “What drives your protagonist forward is her internal agenda: she arrives on page one already wanting something very badly, and with an inner issue – a misbelief – that she has to overcome in order to have a chance of getting it.”

Call the Reading Police from Gwenda Bond. Peek: “Being really well-read in one genre or in all sorts of genres is a beautiful thing. Most of my favorite people on earth are. But…I have zero patience for reader shaming or for making people feel lesser or unwelcome or clueless because they haven’t read the same things you have from some inevitably problematic canon checklist.”

NAACP Outstanding Literary Work Awards

Children’s Award: Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson (HarperCollins)


Youth/Teens Award: Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick)


This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win a signed and personalized copy of Robot Burp Head Smartypants! by Annette Simon (Candlewick, 2014) and a set of alphabet-and-numbers foam stickers. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Enter here. Note: scroll through the photos to the entry form at the bottom of the post. 
Don’t miss Seven Book Giveaways from Adventures in YA Publishing.

Austin SCBWI

This week’s highlight was hearing P.J. Hoover speak on world building at Austin SCBWI‘s monthly meeting at BookPeople. In addition to offering great information, P.J.’s presentation was a terrific example of an author presentation. She did a wonderful job with visuals, incorporating humor, and encouraging interaction in a kid- (and grown-up-) friendly way. P.J. is a top author speaker!

Hat & umbrella — Austin in late winter/early spring.
Cheering on P.J. Hoover (blonde in blue) with Marsha Riti, Amy Farrier, Samantha Clark & Jeff Crosby.
Marsha & Greg Leitich Smith (notice how he’s wearing more vests lately)

More Personally

Hibiscus tea & “Downtown Abbey” at South By Southwest

I’ve working steadily on my revision of Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral series) on my sleeping porch with bands from South By Southwest playing in the background.

Despite living in Austin some 15 years, I’ve never had a chance to embrace the festival in a big way because it typically coincides with a novel deadline or author travel.

I’m so sorry to hear of the injuries and lives lost due to the drunk driving incident on Wednesday night. My thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. See also Blood Donors Needed After SXSW crash.

My revision is going well. I thought I’d do a sweep to streamline the antagonists’ construct and then revisit my alternating protagonists, but I’m finding that much of the character work is coming naturally along the way.

Everybody writes differently, but I encourage y’all not to cling to your process, especially when it’s not conducive to productivity. Especially if you are transitioning from apprentice to published professional (with its industry demands), you may have to stretch in new ways. Or, if like me, you’re an established pro with an ever-faster-moving schedule, then you may have to find a way to do that, too.

Ellen Oh’s post on Sexism in Publishing

On Cynsations, there’s been a lot of buzz around Ellen Oh’s post on Sexism (prejudice by women against women and female characters). Don’t miss it or the continuing conversation in the comments. See also the post Ellen recommends by Sarah Rees Brennan on the portrayal of female friendships in YA fiction. Note: Ellen reports having lost 53 Twitter followers in the immediate wake of her post–you know, for being against sexism. You can follow her @elloecho.

I’m also thinking about How Do Authors Know When Their Manuscripts Are Ready? at Sub It Club and Janni Lee Simner’s thoughts On the Amtrack Residency: Residencies Versus Contests, Dreams Versus Desperation. See also Writers Say, “Not So Fast, Amtrack Residency.”

Congratulations to Teresa Runnels (Sac and Fox Nation) of Tulsa City-County Library for being featured as one of Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers 2014!

Personal Links

Deleted Scene from Blood Coven Series

I disagree with banning language, but we should reconsider how we use “bossy.”

Cynsational Events

The SCBWI-OK Conference will be March 29 in Oklahoma City. Speakers are: Liza Kaplan, Editor, Philomel; Melissa Manlove, Editor, Chronicle; Andrew Harwell, Editor, HarperCollins; Colleen AF Venerable, Design Editor, First Second and author of Guinea PI series; Kristin Miller-Vincent, Agent, D4EO Literary Agency; Tricia Lawrence, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary. See more information and registration.

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers will be held June 16 to June 21 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. Keynote speaker: James Dashner; faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Learn about the WIFYR Fellowship Award. See also Alison L. Randall on Choosing a Writing Conference.

One thought on “Cynsational News & Giveaways

  1. What an amazing list! I definitely see hours of reading in my future here! Thank you for adding my Sub It Club post. It's always interesting to me to hear how others do things and I loved being able to feature so many great writers.

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