Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith & Gayleen Rabakukk

A Weird Place to Be by Hena Khan from her blog. Peek: “I drew from my personal experience when I imagined the community in Amina’s Voice (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, March 2017)….I never in my worst nightmares imagined ever being in her shoes and actually having to grapple with those emotions in real life. But today, in an alarming rash of threats across the country targeting mosques and Jewish centers and schools…”

11-Year-Old Starts Club for Young Black Boys to See Themselves in Books by Taryn Finley from The Huffington Post. Peek: “Sidney Keys III. started his own reading club for boys called Books N Bros to show his peers that reading can be fun.” Boys in St. Louis meet monthly to discuss a book they’ve picked featuring a black protagonist. Ty Allan Jackson, author of Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire, illustrated by Jonathan Shears (Big Head Books, 2010), joined their first meeting via Skype. Sponsorship from Serving With The Badge, a St. Louis community group, allows club members to take the books home.

Judging Books by Their Covers by Laura Reiko Simeon from The Open Book, Lee & Low. Peek: A parent asked her son how he picked books “to borrow and he said that he looked for books ‘with brown people on the cover.’ I was deeply moved because despite the fact that we still have a long way to go in terms of achieving equity in the publishing industry, there actually are enough diverse books out there for this to work as a selection strategy…. “

Día – El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) resources are now available for download from the American Library Association and the Association for Library Services to Children. Add your Dia event to the national registry, get a press kit to let the community know about the celebration, and check out programming and activity guides. See also Día founder author and poet Pat Mora will receive the Texas Institute of Letters Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement.

How Diversity Makes Us Smarter by Katherine W. Phillips from Scientific American. Peek: “Being with similar others leads us to think we all hold the same information and share the same perspective…when we hear dissent from someone who is different from us, it provokes more thought than when it comes from someone who looks like us.”

Reading Without Walls: A Conversation with Gene Luen Yang by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: “I knew that I wanted to do something that was related to diversity, and I was particularly interested in the diverse interpretations of the word diversity, so we ended up landing on three different ways of thinking about it: diversity in terms of people, diversity in terms of topic, and diversity in terms of format. See also

It’s Not About Us by Donalyn Miller from the Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “The most important part of our connection to the children’s and young adult literature world lies in helping kids find their own stories. It’s not about us. It’s about them.”

On Fiction, History, and Wishing the World Were Otherwise by Anne Nesbet from Project Mayhem. Peek: “…the power of a historical fantasy like A Crack In The Sea (by H.M. Bouwman, Putnam, 2017) depends very much on the reader knowing … that in real life, these real people died terribly–and we wish so much that that could be otherwise that we are willing to write stories in which something else happens.”

Margaret Peterson Haddix on Uprising by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing With a Broken Tusk. Peek: “I felt like I heard a voice telling me, ‘They thought we didn’t matter’….I also stopped thinking about how I was different from the workers and started thinking instead about how much I had in common with them.”

In Conversation: Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca from Publisher’s Weekly. Author and illustrator discuss Princess Cora and the Crocodile (Candlewick, March 28, 2017) (Brian) “Croc never gave me trouble…. he was so busy giving other people trouble, and other people’s trouble is fun to draw….I knew who he was from the moment Cora first sees him, and exclaims, ‘An alligator!’ to which he….replies, ‘Guess again!’….the sort of writing that makes an illustrator’s life easy.”

Books on Film: Shannon Hale, Jerry Pinkney, and Raina Telgemeier on Literacy by Travis Jonker from the School Library Journal. Library of Congress videos from kidlit authors at the National Book Festival. Peek: (Shannon Hale) “…literacy directly affects the quality of people’s lives in terms of jobs…85 percent of incarcerated youth are illiterate.”

SCBWI Books For Readers by Lee Wind from SCBWI: The Blog. Peek: “It’s SCBWI’s new literacy initiative, aimed at increasing book access, promoting SCBWI authors and illustrators, and advancing the mission of SCBWI: to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books around the world.” Nominate a local cause or organization that connects children with books by April 30, 2017.

The Benefits of Having a Day Job by Margaret Dilloway from Writer UnBoxed. Peek: “If you give up your day job, the myth goes, you have it made. Yet I find myself having a lot of hours to fill once I’m done with my work. And giving an anxiety-prone writer too much free time can be bad.”

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections by Mark Nichol from Daily Writing Tips. Peek: Interjections may “seem disreputable” but “actually do a lot of hard work and are usually pretty persnickety about the tasks to which they are put.” Includes spelling variations and definitions.

What Does It Mean To “Raise the Stakes”? by Jami Gold from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “Low stakes—such as when there are no consequences or failure would be no big deal—can create problems with our story’s conflicts, tension, and pacing, as well as weaken motivations and make goals seem less important.”

Learning From Reading: Change Up Your Patterns to Gain More by Annie Neugebauer from Writer UnBoxed. Peek: “As with any endeavor, routine can build good habits, but it can also become mundane. It’s harder to find inspiration when you know exactly what to expect, and it’s harder to be surprised when you’re doing exactly what you always do. So my suggestion for writers today is this: change up your reading habits”

Congratulations to Texas Institute of Letters Award winners: Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee for Maybe a Fox (Atheneum Books, 2016), Phillippe Diederich for Playing for the Devil’s Fire (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016) and Dianna Hutts Aston for A Beetle is Shy (Chronicle, 2016). Meet Kathi in person at the Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference, May 20-21.

Illustration by Kyle McBride


This Week at Cynsations

Cynsations Giveaway

More Personally – Cynthia

Best Kong movie ever! A pleasant surprise.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate it!

SXSW has descended on my city–sunny Austin, Texas! A perfect week for this creative local to hunker down and write.

I have progress to report! After a major plot reconfigeration, the new scenes are now all first-drafted, and I’m doing that sort of global hollistic revision necessary to smooth transitions, forge connections–essentially nudge the small elements into a resonate story that makes sense.

In the short term, that means one more read-through. As of this moment, I’m about 50 pages into that. I’ll finish and key in another round of changes to pass off to my next genius reader this weekend and then turn my full attention for the following week to VCFA packets and speech writing.

The manuscript is still running tight. All those years of having to streamline to integrate seamless fantasy worldbuilding are impacting–for worse or better–my contempo realism work.

Cynsational Events

Cynthia is honored to speak on the faculty with one of her heroes, Pat Mora!

Cynthia Leitich Smith will be a keynote speaker for the 33rd Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on April 6 and April 7 at Kent State University in Ohio.

In addition, she will deliver the keynote address at The Color of Children’s Literature Conference from Kweli Literary Journal on April 8 at the New York Times Conference Center in Manhattan.

She is also a faculty member for the Highlights Foundation Workshop: The Joke’s On You! The Scoop on Humor for MG and YA writers, Oct. 12 – 15. She will teach with author Uma Krishnaswami, writer-poetic-comedian Sean Petrie and Curtis Brown Ltd. agents Ginger Knowlton and Elizabeth Harding. Note: this program is: (a) a rare opportunity to gain insights from top writing teachers and Curtis Brown vice presidents: (b) both for comedy writers and those writing more serious works that include some comic relief.

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More Personally – Gayleen

I was inspired by P.J. Hoover‘s talk at the Austin SCBWI meeting: 10 Reasons to Never Give Up. Reason 4 – Time: You own your time. I put this into practice this week, dialing back television viewing in favor of more revision time. You’d be surprised how much writing you can accomplish in an hour!

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