Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith & Gayleen Rabakukk

Author Interviews

We’ve Been Waiting in the Wings Forever: A Queer Theater Story by Amy Rose Capetta from CBC Diversity. Peek: “It’s no real secret that the theater world, from the professional stages in NYC to the drama clubs in most schools are havens for creative and hardworking LGBTQIAP folks. Before I even knew I was queer, I found my people, and they shared my fervor for story-making, a heady mix of love and ambition that still drives me.”

On the First South Asian YA Novel: Born Confused 15 Years Later by S. Mitra Kalita from LitHub. Peek from Tanuja Desai Hidier: “In Bombay Blues (Push, 2014), Dimple travels to India, to experience being ‘brown among the brown’ and feels ‘beige’ at best. Part of what I wanted to explore in this book is this phenomenon of the reverse diaspora: people of Indian origin gone West now turning around and heading back East.”

7 Questions For: Author Kate Dicamillo by Robert Kent from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek: “Like Raymie Clarke, the hero of this novel, Kate DiCamillo grew up in a small southern town in the seventies with a single mother, and she, too, entered a Little Miss contest and attempted to learn to twirl a baton.”

Podcast Interview: National Book Award Finalists Rita Williams-Garcia and Ibi Zoboi from Vermont Public Radio. Peek: “When Rita Williams-Garcia read Ibi Zoboi’s application to Vermont College of Fine Arts, she knew the writer was extremely talented. Williams-Garcia then served as Zoboi’s faculty advisor at the school…. We speak with the two authors about their young adult novels, their writing relationship at VCFA and afterwards, and what it takes to write for a young audience.”

Philip Pullman Returns to His Fantasy World by Sophie Elmhirst from The New York Times Magazine. Peek: “Arranged on the desk are various objects of mystical significance. ‘I write more easily, more comfortably, with less anxiety if I’ve got my various magic bits on the table.’”


Middle-Grade Novels Featuring South Asian Characters by Suma Subramaniam from From the Mixed-Up Files. Peek: “I interact with many middle-grade readers of South Asian descent in grades 4-8, so these books are of high interest. This post is about celebrating and sharing such books that were released in 2017 and also seeking out ways to find them.”

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Bridging Between the Familiar and Unfamiliar by Lindsay Barrett from the Lee & Low Blog. Peek: “Books with relatable characters who encounter multiple layers of events and challenges can provide familiar entry points while also stretching students’ thinking. Intentionally crafted discussions can help students make the leap from thinking about their own lives to thinking about the challenges others face.”

Teaching and Writing for “Inclusive Excellence” by Megan Dowd Lambert from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: “My work as an educator and an author toward ‘inclusive excellence’ (as it was termed in a faculty training I attended led by Romney and Associates at Simmons College) is undone if I fail to support and amplify the work of Native people and people of color. So, in my storytime and professional-development practice, I always include books by diverse creators.”

Spotlight on Independent Publishers with Great Spanish Content by Christa Jiménez from Latinxs in Kid Lit. Peek: “We know that reading to our kids in their home language is the key to their academic success in that language, and that’s why Spanish-speaking parents continually seek out bilingual and Spanish books for our kids. What can get difficult is finding high quality, culturally relevant texts that support the home culture.”

#Resist: 3 Nonfiction Titles on Social Justice by Della Farrell from School Library Journal. Peek: “As the word ‘resistance’ becomes more and more incorporated into everyday language, students are bound to be curious about past and present social justice movements. The following three titles explore the ways in which young people have rallied for change around the world and across time.”

Diversity Awards and Grants for authors and illustrators by Lee Wind from SCBWI: The Blog. Includes thirteen grants and awards honoring diverse books and their creators.

We Need Diverse Books MG Short Story Contest is open for submissions. Deadline: 5 p.m. EDT Oct. 31. Peek: “This anthology will focus on tales of ordinary people who do extraordinary things, and the individuals who just might be magic. These are the stories of the risk-takers, the friend-makers, the dreamers and doers. In ways big and small, their stories motivate, inspire, make us laugh, remind us of our humanity and our resilience. These are the stories of everyday superheroes in our midst, the ones in plain sight and those yet to be discovered.”

Writing Craft

Tension — an Essential Element of Story by Sarah Blake Johnson from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “Tension is an imbalance. Stories will contain many layers of tension, and these imbalances creates a desire in the characters (and in readers) for the imbalance(s) to be corrected or rebalanced. Tension creates anxiety. It catches and maintains our attention while we turn page after page…”

How Writers Can Beat Imposter Syndrome by Nathan Brandsford from his blog. Peek: “As everyone from Eminem to Alexander Hamilton (okay, the fictional one) has said: You only have one shot. Don’t blow it. Make sure you fear throwing away your chance because you failed to go after your dreams more than you fear some random person denting your feelings.”

Brainstorming with a Partner by David Baker from Thinking Through Our Fingers. Peek: “The ground rules were simple: Listen to what I thought I had, and make suggestions based on two things: 1. How much the possible book idea would interest you as a reader. 2. How feasible the possible book idea seems to you as a writer.”

The Writerly Skills Test by Julianna Baggott from Writer unBoxed. Peek: “We lean into what we’re good at and we avoid our weaknesses….We fear our weaknesses. I get it. But if you’re naturally fearful – most writers are – you might enjoy my take that fear is a good sign. It’s an indicator that you’re pushing the work beyond your capabilities, which is a sure way to stretch those capabilities.”

Commit or Omit by Mary Kole from KidLit. Peek: “One of the most difficult decisions you make as a writer is what you include in your novel or picture book. You can’t include everything. I often reference the image of a spotlight operator when I talk about this. It is, after all, your job to direct your reader’s attention to important elements…”

Why We Can’t Talk About Diversity in KidLit Without Talking About Money by K-Fai Steele from Kidlit Artists: Tips, News and Resources. Peek: “If money is critical to success in kidlit, who can’t afford it and who can’t? Perhaps kidlit being a cost-prohibitive industry to begin with is one of the contributing factors to the lack of diverse books and diverse creators.”


How Writers Can Best Optimize Their About Me Page by Hunter Liguore from The Writer. Peek: “It’s easy to compile a list of publications and other noteworthy achievements, but if you can take the next step and create a story about your writing life – one that reflects your work and unique philosophies – you might be halfway there to creating a presence that is friendly and relatable enough to connect with readers.”

SCBWI Bologna Book Fair 2018 from SCBWI. See also How You Can Get Involved and Thoughts and Ponderings on Bologna. Note: March 26 to March 28.

The Accidental Translator by Lyn Miller-Lachmann from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “Translators are writers. We provide the words in English to a story written in another language, in a way that both captures the voice, story, and characters of the original and makes them accessible to readers from a different culture.”

My Achy-Breaky Heart Over Agents by Christine Kohler from Read Like a Writer. Peek: “First, let me be clear: I have never sold a book through an agent….However, do I want an agent? Yes. Why? Increasingly, publishers are refusing to accept unsolicited submissions and contracts are getting more complex due to e-rights and advanced technology.”

New MCPG Imprint Brings Workman Team to Macmillan by John Maher from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The imprint, which Macmillan said is ‘centered around imaginative and innovative books that inspire kids to explore, learn, and have fun while helping them develop the skills to do so,’ will be led by publisher Daniel Nayeri, editorial director Nathalie Le Du, and creative director Colleen AF Venable.”

Teachers & Librarians

How Teachers And Schools Can Help When Bad Stuff Happens by Anya Kamenetz from  nprED. Peek: “…the stress of children’s daily lives doesn’t go away with all that’s happening in the world around us. The National Survey of Children’s Health consistently finds that nearly half of American children experience at least one adversity such as physical abuse or food insecurity, and 1 in 5 experience at least two.”

Local Heroes: Librarians Address Inequity Where They See It by Marva Hinton from School Library Journal. Peek regarding Iowa Tribal Librarian Sandy Tharp-Thee: “With donations from local businesses and other sources, plus more than 20 grants, she has transformed the library’s role in the community in many ways. The GED program she launched has benefited more than 80 people, ages 16 to 64, since 2010.”


By Lindgren nominee Sarah Ellis

Announcing the Danziger Awards for Hilarious Kids Books by Elizabeth Bird from A Fuse 8 Production at School Library Journal. Peek: “Named after the great and very funny Paula Danziger, these awards break down into different categories per year.” Includes picture book, fiction for older children, debut author, debut illustrator and memorial award, all for books published in 2017.

2017 Cybils Awards Publisher/ Author Submissions by Sheila Ruth from Peek: “Publishers, publicists, and authors: now that the public nomination period has ended, we are accepting submissions from publishers, publicists, and authors of books published within the last year.”

Congratulations to those nominated for the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the 2018 Prizes for Excellence in Science Books!

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Still smiling! Last week was all about teaching “The Joke’s On You! The Scoop on Humor, Middle Grade Through YA” with Uma Krishnaswami and our teaching assistant, Sean Petrie.

Thanks to the Highlights Foundation, all of our terrific students and special guest speakers, Ginger Knowlton and Elizabeth Harding of Curtis Brown Ltd. in New York.

This week I’m back to writing fiction, focusing on a middle grade contemporary realism short story.

Link of the Week: Top 10 Signs of Hope for #Ownvoices Poetry by Margarita Engle from Nerdy Book Club.

More Personally – Gayleen

This week I’ve been leaning in to the Pomodoro Technique after hearing Sarah Aronson and Bethany Hegedus discuss it on the Writing Barn’s Porchlight Podcast.

I’d written in short bursts (25 minutes) before, but had fallen out of the habit. Setting a timer and focusing my attention on the story at hand boosted my daily word count and reignited my passion for these characters. 

Personal Links – Gayleen