Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Gayleen Rabakukk & Robin Galbraith

Author/Illustrator Interviews

An Interview with Author Christina Soontornvat by Michele Weber Hurwitz from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek:

“At its heart, a story has to be about what these characters want and need, deep in their souls, and the ways they overcome many obstacles to get there. So in that way, I think fantasy and realistic fiction are very similar!”

Allen Say: Pictures that Come Straight from the Heart by Julie Danielson from BookPage. Peek:

“Starting a new book is always exciting and scary. In this one, there was more scare than excitement…I had to find out how a child without hearing or speech—and possibly autistic and dyslexic—had managed to teach himself to draw and succeeded in producing a vast body of artwork from reclaimed wastepaper trash bins.”

The Chat with Governor General’s Award Winners David Alexander Robertson & Julie Flett by Trevor Corkum from 49th Shelf. Peek:

“I remember reading through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action early in 2016, and how they called for Residential School history to be taught from kindergarten all the way to Grade Twelve. I knew there were excellent books about the history out there, but a lack of resources for very young learners.”

Picture Book Month: Why Picture Books Are Important from Picture Book Month champions (continued)


Some Truths, but Lots of Lies: Indigenous Peoples in Children’s Literature by Debbie Reese from ASU Libraries. Peek:

“I believe the books Native students read in school play a significant role in how Native students fare. Teachers and librarians have a role to play, too, in the success of Native students. For me—and I hope for you—that means selecting books that accurately portray Native people and our nations.” See also, Debbie’s Best Books of 2017.

The 2018 Ultimate List of Diverse Children’s Books by Mrs. G from Here Wee Read. Peek:

“I’m definitely looking forward to sharing most (if not all) of these books with my little readers. I tried to target books that will likely have: stunning illustrations, read aloud appeal, a kid-friendly theme – or all three!”

Four Native and Indigenous Creators and Comics You Should Know by Andrea Ayres from The Beat. Peek:

Native Realities Press is committed to producing and amplifying comics about, by and for Native and Indigenous people, something that is desperately needed.”

Where You Can Find Bilingual and Spanish Children’s Books by Sarah Ullery from Book Riot. Peek:

“Almost all public schools in the United States have an ESL (English as a Second Language) program, but it’s also equally important that English-speaking students are exposed early to a second language.”

Writing Craft

3 Ways to Boost Your Word Count Every Writing Session by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“Boosting your word count and increasing your productivity is easier than you’d think. A few small changes in your process can lead to big results.”

How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy by Derek Beres from Big Think. Peek:

“Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well. You make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you.” 

When a protagonist goes missing… from A.B. Westrick‘s blog. Peek: from author Lindsey Lane:

“I like story structures that have space for the audience to enter in and make connections….As writers, we can ask the audience to lean in and make connections. We don’t have to spell everything out.”


7 Questions For: Public Relations Expert Fauzia Burke by Robert Kent from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek:

“Start early! Many authors come to me seeking advice a few weeks before publication, but I recommend authors begin building their online platforms (social media, blogging, website, etc.) at least 18-24 months before their book releases.”

Women Lead the Independent Publishing Movement by Cheryl Willis Hudson from CrazyQuiltEdi (part of the When Women Speak series). Peek:

“Because diverse communities have long hungered for authentic and self-affirming books for their children and because statistics have shown that books by people of color are only a small fraction of the books published by the industry as a whole, we knew that Just Us Books could not wait for larger publishing companies….”

Is It Too Late to Start Writing After 50? by Julie Rosenberg from Jane Friedman‘s blog. Peek:

“The depth of my experiences—both personally and professionally—have informed my world view and, with it, my writing.” 

2018 Writing Retreat

Join authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Nikki Grimes, Bruce Coville, Debby Dahl Edwardson, Sarah Aronson, agent Michael Stearns and more for LoonSong: A Writers Retreat Sept. 6 to Sept. 10 in Minnesota. Peek:

“We offer a smorgasbord of activities for writers to pick from: stimulating lectures and panel discussions, writing prompts and workshops, readings and one-on-one marketing, agent, and editorial consultations.

“Participants will be invited to read their own work. An agent and editor will be present at all readings. Our presenters include seasoned writers, marketing specialists, an agent and an editor who will help you grow your career, develop new approaches to craft and think deeply about the writing life.”


Congratulations to winners of the TD Children’s Literary Awards, and nominees for the 49th NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens and Children!

We Need Diverse Books Names Its ‘Bookseller of the Year’ by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Sara Luce Look, the co-owner of Charis Books & More in Atlanta, is the winner…She is passionately devoted to building a better world through books and she does her research, making sure that each book on the shelf is not tokenizing a group or identity but deeply reflective of that group or culture’s true lived experience.” Note: Congratulations to Austin’s BookPeople, one of four finalists.

Call for Submissions: 2017 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Kekla, Cyn & E at Savannah Children’s Book Festival

On Nov. 17 and 18th, I had the honor of participating in the Savannah Children’s Book Festival. The 17th was dedicated to a teen event, and I appeared on a YA panel with fellow authors Kekla Magoon and E. Lockhart (pictured to either side of me).

Our teen audience was outstanding–attentive and thoughtful in asking questions. The librarian hosts were top notch and absolutely lovely to visit with. And I adored Savannah.

It’s a gorgeous, friendly city and offers up some of the best (and richest) food in the nation. Kekla and I stayed an extra day at the hotel to work on manuscripts on the hotel veranda.

Since then I’ve been busy with copyedits on my upcoming YA novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, January 2019). I dropped off my marked-up copy to go out via FedEx yesterday morning.
It was a fairly straightforward process, though I did need to include a copy of a newspaper quote from the 1890s and struggled a bit with my own style of capitalization, influenced in part by high school newspaper style, which is thematic to the story.

Meanwhile, I’m reflecting on the memory of Frances Lee Hall, one of my former advisees in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Frances died in 2016, and the grief is still fresh. She was a wonderful writer and a lovely person.

Her agent, Marietta B. Zacker, sold her middle grade novel manuscript, “Lily Lo and the Wonton Maker,” to Egmont USA in late 2013. Unfortunately, the international published closed its U.S. operations about a year later and canceled the contract. Frances didn’t live to see her book published.

But her writing group is working to make her dream come true now. You can pre-order a copy (or two or three) from Inkshares. If they don’t make their 750 order mark, all money will be refunded. If the book goes to print, proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for Frances’s daughter Emmie.

The musical production of “A Christmas Carol” at Austin’s Zach Theater is recommended!

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins) featured on picturebooks4learning.

6 YA Books To Celebrate Native American Heritage Month by Kristen Carter from BookRiot. YA books by Native American authors about Native American characters including Feral Nights (book one in the Feral trilogy) by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick).
More Personally – Gayleen 

Robin and Gayleen; Bethany Hegedus with students at The Writing Barn.

The Cynsations interns (AKA Cynterns) enjoyed an afternoon together with Cynthia in Austin. We talked books, writing and blogging. Lots of fantastic posts in the works!

I was also very inspired by young writers this week. On Tuesday, I had the honor of assisting Bethany Hegedus at The Writing Barn, hosting a sixth grade field trip. The students’ enthusiasm and excitement about how they could Be The Change gave me hope for the future! On Wednesday, I shared a few ARCs and writing tips with a high school Girl Scout troop completing their Novelist badge.

Personal Links – Cynthia