Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith & Gayleen Rabakukk

Interview: Mitali Perkins on You Bring the Distant Near by Elissa Gershowitz and Anatasia M. Collins from The Horn Book. Peek: “You say Ranee is a tricky character to love, but the USA, too, can be tricky to love for new arrivals like her. (Not so for me. I loved America from the time our plane landed at JFK airport.)”

“Change Happens When Enough People Demand It” by Debbie Reese from The Horn Book. Peek: “Native children…know about their tribal government, and they know that our stories and ceremonies aren’t simply entertainment.” Cyn Note: Please read and reflect on Debbie’s comments about traditional stories, the sovereignty of Native Nations and proactively advocating for positive change.

Writers, Protect Your Inner Life by Lan Samantha Chang from Literary Hub. Peek: “…publishing is only the beginning of the journey of learning to navigate the world as a public writer, which is the opposite of making art, and it requires learning to protect that inner self from which the art emerged in the first place.”

What Belongs on an Author Website Homepage: Four Key Elements from Jane Friedman. Peek: “Since visitors to your site may not linger for more than 7 seconds at your site, it’s important to focus on what visitors should remember about you (or your work) after they leave.”

Making Characters Stuck in the Background Stand Out by September C. Fawkes from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “…you’ll need to flesh her out and give her some legitimate flaws that pertain to the story, instead of just flaws that are endearing side notes.”

Better and Verse by Padma Venkatraman from Dr. Brickman’s YA Wednesday. Peek: “A verse novel, to me is a hybrid form – a style of expression where lyricism is incredibly important; where poetic elements (such as rhythm) have a far greater role to play than they do in prose. However, unlike lyric poems that are emotional or intellectual snapshots that do not seek to tell stories, verse novels must tell stories.”

Candlewick to Publish Walker Books in U.S. by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “While it’s too soon to mention specific titles that will appear on the new Walker Books U.S. list, Lotz noted that it will be a place for more commercial titles than Candlewick typically publishes. Not that Candlewick doesn’t continue to publish a number of bestsellers.”

Author Ann Dee Ellis Hits the Jackpot with New Middle Grade Novel by Ann Cannon from The Salt Lake Tribune. Peek: “I write about kids on the fringes because those are the stories I’m drawn to. Even when I was young, I liked to read about kids who struggled, kids who overcame the odds, kids who did things that adults never dreamed they could.”

Author-Illustrator Interview: Laura Logan from Austin SCBWI. Peek: “you can infuse creativity into all parts of your life. Into your cooking, your marriage, how you play with your children, how you choose to live your life. I think when I take the time to do those creative things that recharge me, everyone is getting a better version of me too.”

How The Heroine Of ‘Ella Enchanted’ (Accidentally) Became A Feminist Icon by Claire Fallon from The Huffington Post. Peek: “In Carson Levine’s hands, the tale of a sweet, beautiful girl who slaves thanklessly for her evil stepmother and -sisters became the story of a rebellious, unremarkable-looking young woman, Ella of Frell, cursed to obedience by a daffy fairy.”

Young People’s Poet Laureate: Margarita Engle from The Poetry Foundation. Peek: “Awarded by the Poetry Foundation for a two-year term, the Young People’s Poet Laureate aims to raise awareness that young people have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.”

Blasting Best Friend Stereotypes by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: “Imagine sidelining your protagonist and giving Bestie the ball. It’s her book now. Write scenes with her as the lead. What new traits, interests, flaws, and goals would she reveal when it’s all on her shoulders?”

Neal Porter Moves Imprint to Holiday House by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Acclaimed children’s publisher Neal Porter, currently publisher of Neal Porter Books at Macmillan Children’s Book Group, will join Holiday House as v-p and publisher of Neal Porter Books, effective September 18.”

On Writing, Sexual Harrassment & Being an Example by Corey Ann Haydu from BookRiot. Peek: “My heart broke a little for those girls, who felt they had to apologize for actions that were not their own, for things that might be happening to them, for things they themselves are trying to understand and unpack and survive.”

The Experience that Inspired Poet Kwame Alexander to Open a Library in Ghana by Tamra Bolton from Parade. Peek: “When Alexander learned that the school had only one book for 200 children, he was incredulous. ‘I couldn’t believe it.’ He donated the Acoustic Rooster book to the school and from that small beginning, a seed was planted.”

If Children’s Authors Ruled the World by Deborah Underwood from Publishers Weekly. Peek: ” Every book, every character we write or draw requires us to walk in the shoes of another. And empathy allows us to see complexity.”

How to Give a Literary Reading by Bill Ferris from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “This is your time. Remind people to turn off the ringers on their phones. Block the exits–nobody gets out of here until you say so.” Note: Also, time yourself in practice to finish a little early.

Sensitivity Readers: What We Do, What to Expect & How to Work With Us by Yamile Mendez from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “I make marginal comments with my initial reactions to the manuscript. I also include a detailed letter, explaining my comments and if needed, delving deeper into my feedback. I devote a two-week reading period for each project, sometimes longer depending on the length of the manuscript.”

Dear Fellow White Christian Writers from Shannon Hale. Peek: “I want to offer some context for perhaps thinking about #ownvoices in a new way. Analogies are never perfect and can easily backfire, but hopefully this will be a beneficial exercise.”

Author Interview: Cindy Pon from Rich In Color. Peek: “I really wanted to bring the city alive for readers, I wanted Taipei to be a character in itself.”

The Audacity of Equality in Lisa Yee’s “Stanford Wong” Flunks Big Time by Jane Song from Metiza. Peek: “Not every Asian-American story has to be tragic. There’s something heartwarming about the radical normalcy of Stanford Wong.”

Ibi Zoboi On Literacy and Her Work with Haitian American Teens by Jennifer Baker from School Library Journal. Peek: “Their reality is erased. There’s a certain narrative that is being perpetuated over and over again, and even at 14 and 15, they’re still taking that in. If they don’t have the critical skills to challenge those narratives, they continue to consume it.”

On Creativity: Nikki Grimes from Karen Cushman. Peek: “Literature and art are powerful tools. With them, we can promote peace, plant seeds of empathy and compassion, and encourage right action.”

Ten Ways to Show Your Characters Emotions by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “Introvert, extrovert, or in between, all characters have a bubble of personal space that allows them to feel safe. This area may widen or narrow, depending on how the character feels.”

Why The Collectors of Kidlit Need to Diversify by Elizabeth Bird from A Fuse #8 Production at School Library Journal. Peek: “Most of us, I’d warrant, are unfamiliar with the world of the children’s book collectors. They’re a very specific group with, insofar as my research has indicated over the years, no overarching organization aside from that of general book collectors.”

Picture Book Magic (& a little quiz) from Jane Buchanan, who is now teaching the online Picture Book Intensive at Peek: “There’s a synergy between words and pictures–just the right words, just the right pictures–that creates a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts.”

Gulf Coast Hurricane & Flood Relief

Order a set of 2 for $10 to support the TLA Disaster Relief Fund.

Please support hurricane and flood relief efforts on the Gulf Coast.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

What a summer! I’m honored to be a contributor to Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew As Kids, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman–published in July by Athetheum!

I also had the honor of returning to teach the summer residency of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Our latest, greatest news includes the hiring of author Varian Johnson to the faculty and the extension through 2020 of the Angela Johnson Scholarship for New Students of Color or Ethnic Minority, sponsored by Barry Goldblatt of Goldblatt Literary.

Thanks to Kansas-Missouri SCBWI for inviting me to lead your novel workshop at KU Regents Center in late July. Best wishes with your manuscripts and good luck with submission. It was a joy reading your work and getting to know you all. See also the “Middle of the Map” Conference Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Overland Park, Kan.

Thank you, Children’s Defense Fund! It was an honor to speak on a panel with Floyd Cooper, Lulu Delacre and Deborah Hopkinson, moderated by Rudine Sims Bishop in Knoxville in June.

Deborah, Floyd, Rudine, me and Lulu on stage.

Huge congrats to the VCFA summer ’17 grads (AKA “The Dead Post-Its Society.”)

Honored to be mentioned!

On the writing front, I finished the revision of my YA manuscript and sent it off to my Candlewick editor. Huge thanks to Gayleen for reading it aloud to me during the polishing stage! I hugely appreciate you.

What else? Look for my article “100 Books” in the August issue of Kirkus Reviews (“the diversity issue”). Peek: “Before trying to write any character outside one’s lived experience, I recommend reading at least 100 books by authors from that community. One hundred books–to start.” Note: I make the same recommendation to gatekeepers, especially reviewers and members of award committees.

Lovely to see my Native children’s titles recommended at Social Justice Books: A Teaching For Change Project!

On a somber note, my deepest sympathies to Louisiana author Dianne de las Casas‘s family, friends and fans. She was a bright spirit, a leader in the children’s book community and a tremendous writing talent. Cynsations will reflect more on her memory in days to come.

Register now for The Joke’s On You: The Scoop on Humor, Middle Grade Through Young Adult with faculty Uma Krishnaswami and Cynthia Leitich Smith and special guests: author-comedian Sean Petrie and literary agents Elizabeth Harding and Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd. from Oct. 12 to Oct. 15 at the Highlights Foundation in Milanville, Pennsylvania.

Uma Krishnaswami

See also Cynthia Leitich Smith and Uma Krishnaswami: A Conversation about Humor from The Highlights Foundation. Peek: “If the reader laughs with the protagonist, the distance between them has been erased. The make-believe adventure is a truly felt vicarious experience.”

10 Diverse YA Books You’ll Want to Read Now by Angie Manfredi from Ideas + Inspiration from Demco. Peek regarding Feral Nights (Candlewick, 2013): “Leitich [Smith] masterfully uses the human world’s reaction to shifters to discuss issues of autonomy, sovereignty and freedom. Of course the series is also packed with romance, humor, mysteries and plenty of paranormal shapeshifting action.”

50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels by Kayla Whaley from BNTeenBlog. Note: I’m honored to see my debut novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) included on this terrific list.

Congratulations to the Writers’ League of Texas Book Award winners and finalists!

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More about this title from Salina Bookshelf!

More Personally – Gayleen

In addition to spending time with my family, walks in the woods and seeing movies, I did lots of reading and writing over the summer.

Gayleen and Donna with nonfiction picture book students at The Writing Barn.

I was also honored to be the teaching assistant for Donna Jannell Bowman‘s class on nonfiction picture books at The Writing Barn (WB) here in Austin. Our six-week class was chock full of fascinating information about what makes this category tick – from angle to structure to voice.

And Donna was a phenomenal and inspiring guide – her debut picture book, Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness, illustrated by Daniel Minter (Lee & Low, 2016) won two more awards while our class was underway: the 2016 Writer’s League of Texas Book Award in the picture book category and the Carter G. Woodson Award Honor from the National Council for Social Studies.

I wrote a post on Nature and Creativity for the WB Blog. Peek: “After only five minutes in a natural setting, heart rates slow, facial muscles relax and the brain’s frontal lobe begins to quiet down. These factors have been shown to boost productivity and creativity.”

Beginning Monday, I’ll be the teaching assistant for Cate Berry‘s six-week course, Perfecting the Picture Book I at The Writing Barn.

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