Cynsational News & Resources

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Yowza! It’s no small task to catch up Cynsational readers on a summer of children’s-YA writing, literature and publishing conversations.

More update posts will follow over the next several days–focusing on gender, the LGBTQIA community, and recent awards.

But for now, we’ve categorized the posts by topic and offered brief peeks so you can identify those that are the most interesting, useful and inspiring to you.

Authors & New Releases

Interview: Amanda West Lewis on The Pact from Open Book Toronto. Peek: “If we drench their lives in a poisonous ideology, and give them no chance to develop a sense of empathy, they will grow up believing in only their own version of truth and act accordingly. But how much blame can you ascribe to the child you’ve raised to hate?”

An Asian American Reader Looks for Herself in Books by Kat Yeh from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “There would be another rather large space of time before Asian authors would come into my life again. When my daughter came to reading age, I was excited to discover a new generation of books that now included Asian American authors and characters.”

On Being an Aging Children’s Author from Marion Dane Bauer. Peek: “When I began to publish forty years ago, I wasn’t the brightest star on the horizon, but my work got noticed. I wrote on the cutting edge, topics few other writers for young people had dared touch at that time: alcoholism, sexual molestation, religious abuse, mental illness, homosexuality.”

Interview: Jessica Shea on A Tyranny of Petticoats by Lynn Miller Lachman from The Pirate Tree. Peek: “My only directions were that each story had to feature an American girl at some point in history, and that the setting had to be important; the story needed to feel as though it could not take place anywhere or any-when else. I urged them to think diversely in terms of race, sexuality, historical era, geographical area, and class.”

Interview: New Voices Winner Sylvia Liu from Lee & Low. Peek: “The first draft was told mainly in dialogue, and one of my critique mates encouraged me to incorporate more lyrical language.”

Interview: Julius Lester by Marissa Moss from Ingram Library Services. Peek: “I grew up in a slum neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas in the 1940s. By the time I was 9, three children I’d known had been killed, one of whom was a girl I used to walk to school with whose robe caught fire as she walked by the pot-bellied stove in the kitchen.”


The Return of the Children’s Specialty Bookstore by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Many are small, less than 1,000 sq. ft., but they are already starting to have a large presence. Two-year-old Second Star to the Right was named 2016’s best Denver bookstore by Denver A-List….”


Introduction to Disability Terminology by Corinne Duyvis and Kayla Whaley from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: “Much of our everyday language is casually ableist, and this translates to ableist language in novels, whether the novel features disabled characters or not.”

DK Launches Braille Line of Picture Books
from Children’s Book Council. Peek: “…includes board and nonfiction
books, pairing braille and textured images with printed text to make
stories accessible for both sighted and visually impaired readers.”

Wheelchair Users in Fiction by Kayla Whaley from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: “a congenital disability…. If the character was born with the condition and using a wheelchair is simply a normal part of their life, where’s the drama?” See also Corinne and Kayla on The State of Disability on Book Covers and Corrine on Navigating Criticism and Discussions of Disability Representation.


The Things They Carry: What Muslim YA Needs from Samira Ahmed. Peek: “They carry the lightness and beauty of youth and hope and dreams and the infinite possibilities of a nation that endeavors to be a more perfect union.”

Author Visits, Marketing & Social Media

21 Ways to Fund Author Visits by Carmen Oliver
from The Booking Biz. Peek: “Schools that are faced with tight budgets
might have limited opportunities for author visits, but there are ways
to gain the needed funds so your school can take advantage of this huge
benefit. Following are some ideas and links that teachers, librarians
and writers have offered to help you fund author visits.”

The Art of the Middle School Presentation by Laura Martin from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek: “Middle school kids are a breed of their own. They can be intimidating, rowdy, and down right mean if you let them, but they can also be the best possible audience for a writer.”

On Social Media and Not Feeling Social from Lisa Schroeder. Peek: “When all you want to do is sit on the couch and watch Netflix and eat ice cream but you make yourself go to the computer because that is what a writer does for crying out loud? It’s difficult to find anything left after that to put out into the world.”

Taking the Pain Out of Assembly Introductions by Alexis O’Neill, reflecting on advice from Janet Wong at Peek: “…while I’m always happy to listen to a recap of my honors and my literacy committee work, kids might find it a little boring—and long.”

Agents, Submissions & Publishing

Believing After 10+ Rejections by Carmen Oliver from Highlights Foundation. Peek: “I have two controlling beliefs: Every good manuscript finds a home. Writing is a journey.”

Between Offer and Acceptance: A Checklist from Janet Reid, Literary Agent. Peek: “…you should be able to ask questions of any agent making the offer. You can say “hey look, I don’t know much about this, and I want to be careful” and have that respected.”

Querying: What to Leave Out by Rochelle Deans from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: “Let the words of the plot and characters tell us about your theme instead of spelling it out.”

Literary Agent Interview: Linda Camacho by Mary E. Cronin from Project Mayhem. Peek: “Characters have to be sympathetic in some form. They don’t necessarily have to be likable, but there has to be a way for me to connect with them.”

Why Having a Book Go Out of Print Was a Pretty Great Thing After All by Camille DeAngelis from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “At the time, going out of print felt like the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to me, and yet it was, in a very real sense, a privilege. I began to face my sense of entitlement: the idea that because I’d put in the work I deserved to be rewarded for it.”

The Craft of Writing & Illustrating

All the World’s a Book: Acting for Writers by Allie Larkin from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Even if you have no desire to stand in the spotlight, taking a community acting class, or doing some time in summer theatre could be a helpful boost to your writing.” See also The Art of Giving and Accepting Critiques by Kim English from Query Tracker Blog.

Creating Mood in a Scene Using Light and Shadow by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “…people tend to respond to light in a feral way: well-lit areas are deemed safer, putting us at ease, while darker spots have more weight and feel heavier both on the body and the spirit.”

Setting Up Crossfire Dialogue on Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory from David Macinnis Gill. Peek: “This is how Laurie Halse Anderson handles multiple speakers on in scene.”

Lovingly, Stridently, Unapologetically: The Adverb! by Colin Dickey from Slate. Peek: “It should come as no surprise that
the writers who most strenuously cavil against adverbs are themselves habitual users of them.” See also In Defense of Cliches by Jo Eberhardt and Actively Defending the Passive Voice by Keith Cronin from Writer Unboxed.

Six Tips to Keeping Your Character in Character by Catherine Linka from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “If the character has never left a poor village, they shouldn’t compare the forest to a cathedral.”

Language Roundtable (Part One, Part Two)
by Sarah Hannah Gomez from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I convened
this panel of authors to talk about how they approach language in their
books, and how they approach language in their lives. From growing up
bilingual to holding hybrid languages in your head to using bits and
pieces of other languages in their writing, these writers had a lot to

Dropping Threads in Your Writing by Mary Kole from Peek: “They speak in musical metaphors and seem to see the world through a “Beautiful Mind”-esque musical lens. Until this fades from the manuscript about a third of the way through. And music doesn’t really factor into the plot itself.”

Why Create Picture Books? by Laura McGee Kvasnosky from Books Around the Table. Peek: “They played without amplification. Raw, pure stuff. Heaven should sound so good.” See also Picture Book Thumbnail Templates for Writers and Illustrators from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

Five Things Novels Taught Me About Writing Picture Books by Kell Andrews from Project Mayhem. Peek: “One reason novel writers leave out backstory is that they trust their readers to pick up allusions and make connections. But can you do that when writing for very young children?”

Writing Homeschooling in Middle Grade Books by Joy McCullough-Carranza from Project Mayhem. Peek: “There are many stereotypes and misperceptions about homeschooling that sometimes find their way into published books. Here are a few to avoid….”

Writing Middle Grade Horror Or Why Books Aimed at Children Can’t Be Washed in Blood by David Neilsen from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek: “…they still harbor the slightest belief that there may, in fact, be monsters living under their beds. Not that there aren’t, mind you, but the older kids are armed with much heavier and thicker books and can take out a seven-tentacled-horror at fifteen paces without even bothering to stop and Tweet about it.”

Master Teacher Liz Garton Scanlon on Writing

Writing With All the Feelings by Liz Garton Scanlon from Two Writing Teachers. Peek: “These are not easy-to-embrace emotions we’re talking about, especially if they roll out in the form of a four-year-old having a total conniption in the paint aisle at the Home Depot. And I’m speaking from experience here.” See also Liz  on Say More With Metaphors from Teachers Write and Mining The Setting: In the Canyon: How Setting Became Story from Beth Anderson, Children’s Writer.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

See Christina Soontornvat at 3 p.m. Saturday & Bethany Hegedus at 2 p.m. Sunday. at BookPeople in Austin.

The biggest news at Cynsations is new intern Gayleen Rabakukk! Welcome, Gayleen!

I’m writing, writing, writing–today with Jennifer Ziegler and Sean Petrie in my living room. That happens a lot here, writer friends coming over to work on manuscripts, side by side. It’s a way of navigating the writing life that Gayleen talks about in her post on writing communities.

As for the larger world, please see Three Things You Need to Know About Indigenous Efforts Against the Dakota Access Pipeline by Taté Walker from Everyday Feminism. Peek: “If you’re into solidarity—or clean drinking water, at the bare minimum—the Native nations in Standing Rock need your body, and/or your dollars, and/or your platform to uplift our efforts and our messaging.”

See also 59 Books by Native Writers in 59 Minutes for #OwnVoices One-Year Anniversary by Debbie Reese from Storify.

“The Joke’s on You!” Join me, Uma Krishnaswami and Sean Petrie from Oct. 12, 2017 to Oct. 15, 2017 at The Highlights Foundation workshop on writing middle grade and YA humor. Peek: “In this hands-on workshop designed for intermediate-level writers of middle grade through young adult, participants will use a range of classic and contemporary published work as well as workshop manuscripts to study the many ways in which humor operates in the form of the novel.”

Personal Links

See Harold Underdown’s Review