Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith & Gayleen Rabakukk

“We Need Diverse Books,” They Said, and Now A Group’s Dream Is Coming to Fruition by Ron Charles from The Washington Post. Peek: “an impressive new milestone for We Need Diverse Books. Oh, the group’s chief executive and president, has edited and published WNDB’s first anthology: Flying Lessons and Other Stories, published by Crown Books for Young Readers. The book, aimed at readers between ages 8 and 12, features 10 stories by a who’s-who of contemporary YA literature….”

Graphic Novelist Urges Kids to Reach Beyond the Comfort Zone by Jeffrey Brown from PBS Newshour. Audio interview with Gene Yang, national ambassador for young people’s literature. See also Reading Without Walls.

How Character Attributes and Flaws Work within a Character Arc by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “Until the character sees how fear is steering his life and how flaws limit his ability to connect with people and work against him as he tries to achieve meaningful goals, he will never be fully happy or satisfied.” See also Tips for Weaving Romance Into Your Novel by C.S. Lakin.

Educators Roundtable by Allie Jane Bruce from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I have not met a single teacher who is hostile or disagrees with my intent. They are enthusiastic and genuinely want to do the right thing. So why had they taught into the tsunami of harmful stereotypes?”

RWW Interviews: Debbie Reese by Ernie Cox on Reading While White. Peek: “I’m thrilled to see a growing awareness of our sovereignty!…I love that Tim Tingle‘s How I Became a Ghost (RoadRunner Press, 2013) has ‘Choctaw Nation’ on the very first page, and I love that Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000) has information about the Muscogee Nation in the author’s note. This matters!” See also How This Man Formed a Friendship with a Choctaw Ghost by Joy Diaz from The Texas Standard. Audio interview with Tim Tingle.

Interview: Richard Sobol on Coexistence, Travel & Capturing the Perfect Moment by Jalissa Corrie from Lee & Low. Peek: “Once I learned of the Mirembe Kawomera coffee cooperative—and the idea that it was created to show Muslims, Christians, and Jews working together—I knew it was a story that was important to share. Since I had done a lot of work in Uganda and knew that life can be very challenging there, I felt that this was a unique opportunity to present a hopeful message from a rural village in Africa.”

Six Tested Tips for Keeping Your Writing Resolutions by Kell Andrews from Project Mayhem. Peek: “The best plans have flexibility built in. If you skip a day or fall behind, you are not a failure. Just begin again.”

Hypermobility & Representation by Laura Noakes from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: “Hypermobility syndrome is a condition that means that my joints move beyond the normal scope for joints, and my ligaments are really stretchy. Whilst this can be cool, since I’m really flexible and have loads of bendy party tricks, it also has its horrible moments.”

Got a “Fix” for Stiff Dialogue by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: “I’ve got something for you to try out: repetition.”

The Brown Bookshelf: 28 Days Later Campaign: featuring a different Black children’s-YA author or children’s illustrator every day in February.

When Bilingual Dreams Come True by Margarita Engle from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “Latino family literacy is a challenge that can only be met by providing a wide variety of books in both languages, so that older and younger generations can read and discuss the same poems and stories. That wide variety should include—but not be limited to—books by Latinos.”

Author Interview: Greg Leitich Smith from Austin SCBWI. Peek: “I tend to be very much a place writer and I think with that also comes a sense of the sensibility of the inhabitants, which may be why it took me twenty years to write a novel set in central Texas (Chronal Engine and Borrowed Time). And even then, most of those occur seventy million years ago and most of the native Texans are dinosaurs (literally).”

Registration is now open for the Oklahoma SCBWI Conference, March 24-25, featuring author Ally Carter, along with two editors, two agents and an art director.

Cynsational Awards

Children’s-YA book awards received more mainstream press coverage this year, thanks to March: Book Three (Top Shelf, 2016) by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. It’s the first time a single book has been recognized with three American Library Association Awards: the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Michael L. Printz Award and the Robert F. Sibert Information Book Award. March also won the National Book Award in the fall. Congratulations to all the ALA winners!

Finalists were recently announced for the Cybils Awards and the Edgar Awards. If you write mysteries, be sure to check out the Helen McCloy Scholarship from the Mystery Writers of America. The $500 scholarship offsets tuition for writing workshops, seminars or university writing classes. Deadline is Feb. 28.

See also Five Questions for Coretta Scott King Jury Member Martha V. Parravano from The Horn Book.

Author Spotlight: Crystal Allen

Who Is the Magnificent Mya Tibbs and Why Should I Care? by Crystal Allen from CBC Diversity. Peek: “When I was asked to create an African American Ramona Quimby/Clementine-type character, I wasn’t sure how my character should act. Both Clementine and Ramona are memorable for their personalities, families, and storylines. However, there is nothing about their characters or their stories that is race-driven. So why would I make Mya Tibbs any different?”

See also Crystal on Don’t Judge a Book by Its Color from HarperChildren’s. Peek: “this was probably a time when I should have said something, but I was so heartbroken that I couldn’t speak. I wasn’t just hurting for myself. I hurt for Mya, and for all the characters in this book that the little girl would never meet.”

Cynsational Queries

If you have an idea for a Cynsations post, please email Gayleen to discuss options: gayleen.rabakukk(at) Guest posts are approximately 500 words of inspiration and information with real reader, writer, gatekeeper takeaway. Debut authors are eligible for the New Voices interview series, and established authors are welcome to suggest ideas for topic series or interviews about new releases and/or the craft of writing, the writing life, and/or publishing.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally — Cynthia Leitich Smith

The Essex Culinary Resort and Spa

Welcome back, Cynsational readers! You may have already noticed that intern Gayleen Rabakukk is taking a more active role on the blog this spring. Huge thanks to her for her efforts to date. She’s an absolute gem!

As for me, I spent three weeks in snowy Vermont, first at the winter residency of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults in Montpelier, and then at Kindling Words East in Essex. At VCFA, we hosted guest author Kathryn Erkine and guest author-illustrator Don Tate. We also welcomed a new visiting faculty member, Martha Brockenbrough.

At Kindling Words, I spoke in conjunction with a former VCFA advisee (turned Printz honor author!), Julie Berry. Our topic was voice–she focused on the manuscript page and I addressed authorial voice more broadly, through one’s body of work, on the platform, podium and through the more personal persona.

Now, I’m packing again for an event through An Open Book Foundation and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Washington, D.C., and then for the SCBWI Annual Winter National Conference in New York City. Hope to see many of you soon!

Later this spring, I look forward to speaking at the Virginia Hamilton Conference at Kent State University April 6 and April 7 as well as keynoting at the KWELI Annual Writers Conference April 9 in Manhattan.

Looking for a craft-building opportunity? Join me, fellow author Uma Krishnaswami, comedian-poet Sean Petrie and literary agents Ginger Knowlton and Elizabeth Harding from Curtis Brown Ltd. at “The Jokes on You! The Scoop on Humor in MG & YA,” a Highlights Foundation Workshop.

With Kekla Magoon in the College Hall Chapel at VCFA, discussing X: A Novel

Personal Links


More personally — Gayleen Rabakukk
Gayleen and Cynthia Levinson

I started the New Year off with a healthy dose of inspiration from author Bethany Hegedus, who talked about leading a literary life at our monthly Austin SCBWI meeting. I tried to apply that information by meeting other writers at a lunch and learn program on researching at the Texas State Library and Archives and celebrating the launch of Cynthia Levinson‘s The Youngest Marcher (Atheneum, 2017) at BookPeople.
Congratulations to my VCFA classmate, Mary Cronin on being selected for the Eileen Spinelli Scholarship from the Highlights Foundation to attend the Picture Books and All That Jazz workshop.
Our Austin kidlit community has had a lot to celebrate recently:
Cynthia joins me in congratulating the winners and wishing all our Cynsational readers a great reading/writing/illustrating week!