Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Gayleen Rabakukk & Robin Galbraith

Author/Illustrator Interviews

Cherie Dimaline On Ersaure, the Power of Story, and The Marrow Thieves by Shelley Diaz from School Library Journal. Peek:

“I very strongly believe that with the current state of the world, one of the best options we have as the human race is to start globally valuing the traditional and ecological knowledges that are held by the original inhabitants of the land.”

A Story of Images for a Story by Sara Kahn from YouTube. Peek:

“I always wait and read the story at a good time because this is when I get the main images in my mind.”

Meet National Book Award Finalist Ibi Zoboi by Emily Temple from LitHub. Peek:

N.K. Jemisin told me to get robots: a Roomba, a dishwasher, a crockpot. These would allow me the physical energy and time to get words down on the page.”

Tackling the Personal Narrative, Part 2 by Melissa Stewart from Celebrate Science. Peek: Explores Sarah Albee’s Cynsations post as a tool for teaching personal narrative essays.

“The idea of describing what’s on my desk seems boring to me. After all, I see those items every single day. But am I curious to know what’s on another writer’s desk? You bet! …Young writers, many of whom have read Sarah’s wonderful books, will be curious too.”

7 Questions For: Author Katherine Applegate by Robert Kent from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek:

“I aim for two hours a day writing and read as much as I can, whenever I can. It’s so important to connect with work daily, if possible, even if it’s only for five minutes.”

What Really Matters by Tillie Walden from Diversity in YA. Peek:

“I tell them about moments in Spinning (First Second, 2017), about how I knew I was gay when I was five…about how art gave me a connection to myself and a career at the same time. And I talk about how publishing a memoir is so healing because it lets others hold your memories with you.” 


We Need Diverse Books by Linda Sue Park. Peek:

“Donations to WNDB have enabled us to fund grants for 25 publishing internships over the past three years. Fully half of those interns have gone on to obtain full-time jobs in publishing, and they’re already bringing greater diversity to children’s books, promoting affirmation and empathy for all kids.”

We Need Diverse Series by Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“The characters in series books become part of our lives for many weeks or even months. Readers get to know the characters in series books deeply as they experience many situations and life circumstances together. Here are ten great series that have diverse characters.”

The Lotterys Plus One is the Queer Happily-Ever-After We Deserve by Alyssa Eleanor Ross from BookRiot. Peek:

“That means what we get from the Lotterys is a happily-ever-after—not one where everything is always perfect, but one where a queer family faces messy, mundane, heartbreaking, hilarious, entirely normal problems. It’s the kind of happily-ever-after that’s really just the beginning.”

Writing Craft

Ties that Bind and Define – The Family of Your Protagonist by John J. Kelley from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“…depictions of family can offer a window into a protagonist’s core character. … fictional families, not unlike real ones, can challenge a protagonist unlike any other external or internal force.”

The Time It Costs to Write by Natalia Sylvester from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Writers are always seeking it out, longing for more of it, waiting for a window of its uninterrupted bliss to present itself, or chasing it in tiny bits, catching whatever we can of it, in hopes of making what we can with it.”

Confessions of a Recovering Plotter by Anna Elliott from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“After writing several books, though, I noticed something: no matter how much I outlined and plotted and planned in advance, a certain percentage of my outlined plot points never made it into the book, because…I would come up with something that actually worked better…”

The Art of Distraction by Lee Conell from Glimmer Train. Peek:

“…even if I turn off the WiFi connection, I find myself pulled between the page and the weird spiral of my thoughts, which rarely constrain themselves to the story at hand. For a long time while I was supposed to be writing, I would find myself thinking about the news and feeling depressed.”

6 Things to Consider Before Writing a Series by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“A series where every book is a complete stand-alone tale will have a contained plot every book. A series with a longer story arc that moves a little in every book will likely have more subplots and series-arcing plots that don’t get resolved every book.”


A Basic Guide to Getting Permissions + Sample Permissions Letter from Jane Friedman. Peek:

“Determining what’s fair use is a gray area, and depends on your risk tolerance. To eliminate all possible risk, then it’s best to either ask for permission or eliminate use of the copyrighted material in your own work. Here’s a flowchart that can help you evaluate what you might need to ask permission for.”

Interview: Debbie Reese on Native Identity, Voices & Depictions in Books for Young Readers by S.E. Smith from Bitch Media. Peek:

“The same resistance we’ve always had, no matter where we speak, which is an unwillingness to hear the voices of people who say ‘This is not okay’ when nobody has ever challenged you on that before. A good example is mascots. People say, ‘Why didn’t you object 50 years ago?’ to this or that mascot. How do they know we didn’t?”

Donna Janell Bowman

Cynsational Awards

Congratulations to all authors and illustrators whose books were named to the Texas Bluebonnet Award List! See Cynsations interviews with Hena Khan, Donna Janell Bowman and Yona Zeldis McDonough.

Cynsational Events

Attention, Georgia book lovers! Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at the 2017 Savannah Children’s Book Festival, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 18 in Forsyth Park.

Cynthia also will be on the critique faculty of WriteOnCon: A Totally Interactive Online Writers Conference from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

With my brililiant editor, Hilary

I’m happy to announce that Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum) was named among the Best Nonfiction Children’s Books of 2017 by My contribution to the book is “Dreams to Write.”

On a related note, see also For Young Readers: Four Books That Celebrate the Wonders of Books, and Writing by Abby McGanney Nolan from The Washington Post.

Last week’s highlight was attending the Kirkus Reviews Prize reception with my Candlewick editor, Hilary Van Dusen, on Thursday evening at the penthouse of the Four Seasons Residencies in Austin.

Hilary edited one of the must-read finalists, Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang, illustrated by Meilo So.

Huge congratulations to the winner in Young Readers’ Literature, Cherie Dimaline for the Marrow Thieves (DCB)! It’s heartening to see a First Nations woman win such a prestigious (and hefty cash) prize.

More Personally – Gayleen

What is it about book festivals that turns reserved writers into giddy social butterflies?

I enjoyed the 2nd Annual Texas Authors’ Summit at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission with Gloria Amescua, Erin Sewell and Cate Berry, along with many other members of the Austin children’s literature community.

The event was organized by Rebekah Manley, Texas Center for the Book coordinator, and kicked off a weekend devoted to the celebration of books and literacy.

Texas Book Festival attendees made donations to buy 370 books for Houston Reading Rock Star students. Each donation was matched by a donation from the Texas Book Festival and the Tocker Foundation, which means 1,110 students will be receiving books thanks to the support and generosity of the literary community.

Also, the Texas Library Association recently announced $102,600 in disaster relief grants to 25 libraries. TLA is still accepting donations to fund future grants.

Personal Links – Cynthia

Personal Links- Robin