Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Gayleen Rabakukk & Robin Galbraith

Author/ Illustrator Interviews

Meet National Book Award Finalist Rita Williams-Garcia by Emily Temple from Lit Hub. Peek:

“How do you tackle writer’s block? I box, knit, write, and read. Physicality helps to jar me out of my mental state. It shakes things free.”

An Interview with Alan Gratz, Author of Ban This Book by Dorian Cirrone from From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:

“…the ALA thinks that 85-95 percent of books challenged or banned each year go unreported. 85-95 percent!… That means that thousands more books just disappear from shelves every year, and no one hears about them because no one makes a stink about them.”

Pretty Peacock! Big Book! by Bethany Hegedus from Brave Tutu. Peek:

“…why small moments matter: simple ah-ha’s, breaths in, breaths released, moments spent engaged deeply in our work and with our loved ones. A life well lived is is spent moment to moment. It’s the moment that matters.”

April Pulley Sayre and Full of Fall by Adi Rule from WCYA The Launch Pad From Vermont College of Fine Arts. Peek:

“I’m unusually good at coming up with titles and poetic and alliterative language. I think it’s like a muscle, though, and improves with use. Despite my early signs of talent in this area, it also helps that I just goof around and have done this work for over twenty years.”

Meet National Book Award Finalist Erika L. Sánchez by Emily Temple from Lit Hub. Peek:

“I think poets often make strong prose writers because we pay obsessive attention to image, rhythm, and sentence structure. I write prose very slowly because of this. In fact, I printed out the first draft of the novel and rewrote it entirely.”

Interview: Dianne White on Teaching, Learning & Books from The Booking Biz. Peek:

“I definitely didn’t imagine a career as a children’s book author. It was really my experience as a classroom teacher that introduced me to a world of children’s books I hadn’t realized existed.”

Writing About Addiction for Kids by Kate Messner from School Library Journal. Peek:

“Heroin addiction wasn’t something that happened in my upper middle-class neighborhood…Looking back, I’m ashamed of that reaction. It embodies nearly every stereotype about who’s affected by the opioid epidemic, when in reality, the crisis is affecting all kinds of families, including the one next door.”


10 Ways to Be An Anti-Racist Reader by Laura Sackton from BookRiot. Peek: “…but there are lots of other ways you can weave racial justice into your reading life. From using books to help you navigate hard conversations about race to providing the kids in your life with diverse books, here are ten suggestions on how to be an anti-racist reader.”

The Importance of “Mirror Books” in the Classroom by Anna Nardelli from Lee & Low Blog. Peek: “Mirror books give children the chance to see a representation of themselves in a book. For some children, this is not a common occurrence, but when it happens it lets them know that this world is full of people who are just like them. Window books give children another outlook on the world.”

Writing Cross-Culturally Workshop March 15-19, 2018 from Madcap Retreats & We Need Diverse Books. Faculty includes Laurie Halse Anderson, Marie Lu and other authors. Scholarships are available for writers from “marginalized” communities. Application deadline is Nov. 15.

#IndigenousReads by Indigenous Writers: A Children’s Reading List from Medium. Peek: “Indigenous people are very much a part of today’s society. With their stories, Indigenous writers share the range of their lives, past and present….curated by The Conscious Kid Library and American Indians in Children’s Literature, in partnership with Brooklyn Children’s Museum.” Note: Includes Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins, 2000).

Writing Craft

Transforming a Short Story Into a Novel by Mary Lynn Bracht from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “I was limited in the number of events I could include in the short story, so it was an easy task to list all of the scenes I wished I could have written.”

5 Tips on Writing a Cliffhanger by Heather Kaczynski from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. Peek: “Cliffhangers are a bit of a double-edged sword – you do it right, you get your readers chomping at the bit for the next book in the series. Do it wrong, and you alienate and confuse them.”

Bringing Dead Characters to Life by Mary Kole from KidLit. Peek: “Character relationships are crucial. But there’s a fly in the ointment if your character is no longer around, dead, missing…. How do you create a rich and compelling relationship with someone who isn’t there? The most important first step is to think about this point instead of glossing over it.”

Describing Your Character: How To Make Each Detail Count by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “Description should be deliberate, with each detail pushing the story forward rather than holding it back via a bloated word count. This means making careful selections, and only describing things that are meaningful.”


Publishing Uncovered: The World of a Literary Scout–and International Rights by Parul Macdonald from Writer unBoxed. Peek: “At any one time, a good Scout can tell you the top 10 books editors or agents are reading ; their job is to know. But they are human and, as in the case of J.K Rowling’s secret, there are things that simply can’t be known.”

Inclusive Children’s Publisher ‘Knights Of’ Launches by Caroline Carpenter from The Bookseller. Peek: “Former Scholastic employees Aimée Felone and David Stevens are launching a new children’s publisher that will focus on commissioning writers and illustrators from a diverse range of backgrounds. The London-based venture…will publish commercial fiction for five to 15-year-olds that will be distributed through the U.K., Ireland and Europe.”

How to Write a Synopsis for a Novel by Nathan Bransford from his blog. Peek: “A synopsis is slightly different from a query letter, which includes biographical information, and it’s also different than jacket copy, which is more oriented to selling a book and avoids spoilers.”

Q&A: Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: “I think there is a greater emphasis on unique and authentic concepts and voices than ever. Today, the trends are fresh ideas, characters, and plotting. Discoverability is a huge obstacle, so the more marketing hooks publishers can use to help readers find your book, the better.”

This Week at Cynsations


Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Awards! Particularly, Cherie Dimaline for The Marrow Thieves (Cormorant Books, 2017) and David A. Robertson and Julie Flett for When We Were Alone (Portage & Main Press, 2017). See Cynsations interview with David A. Robertson.

More Personally – Cynthia

Wow! What a wonderful time I had last week at For The Love of Reading at Zermatt Resort in Midway, Utah via Utah Valley University’s Forum on Engaged Reading.

Kelly, April & Denise on the conference stage.

I had the honor of sharing a keynote address and a breakout talk, as did my fellow keynoters author-illustrator Denise Fleming, author-poet-photographer April Pulley Sayre, and Newbery author Kelly Barnhill. Thanks to the planning committee, especially Nancy Peterson (UVU elementary education).

What I loved most about the conference was its emphasis on the joy and positive power of reading. It was such a delight to visit informally and in-depth with teachers, librarians, fellow children’s book creators and other book lovers. This was definitely one of my all-time favorite book events.

In other news, I’m delighted to welcome Melanie J. Fishbane to Cynsations as our reporter covering children’s-YA book creator, writing community and publishing news in Canada.

Check out WriteOnCon: a children’s literature conference for writers and illustrators Feb. 9 to Feb. 11, 2018. Note: I’m offering first-10 pages critiques.

Congrats to Native writer Charlene Willing McManis on her debut sale of her historical middle grade novel Indian No More to Stacy Whitman at Tu Books!

Links of the Week

Eliana de Las Casas And Her Mama’s Bayou from Picture Book Month. Peek: “My mom, Dianne de Las Casas, had a big heart and big dreams. Ever since she was a little girl, she wanted to write books. She was fascinated by picture books and how they could change children’s lives.”

Defining Success: Authors Weigh In by Caroline Starr Rose from Project Mayhem. Peek: “I asked some friends, from the newly to the broadly published, how they defined success (anonymously, so they could be candid). There is so much wisdom here.”

More Personally – Gayleen

I was thrilled to join Austin Authors Lindsey Lane, Meredith Davis, Anne Bustard, Greg Leitich Smith, Gene Brenek, Liz Garton Scanlon, Sean Petrie, Donna Jannell Bowman and Rebekah Manley (not pictured) for a tour of the new Austin Public Library.

It’s a fantastic center for literature and community and seeing it for the first time with fellow writers made it even more amazing!

More Personally- Robin 

For my 2017 Halloween Book Witch Project, I collected all the books I’d bought over the year at book signings and to support author friends and gave them out for Halloween, instead of candy.

Several kids told me this was “the best thing to happen on Halloween ever!”

I’m already planning next year’s Book Witch project.

Personal Links – Cynthia

Personal Links – Robin

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