Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Gayleen Rabakukk & Robin Galbraith

Author/Illustrator Insights 

Art, Selfishness & the Sinking Ship by Anne Nesbet from Project Mayhem. Peek: “The very language we use to talk about writing (those of us who aren’t full-time writers–or those of us who have families to take care of) is telling: we ‘steal time,’ or we ‘sneak in some words.’ Lurking in these phrases is the idea that we are somehow cheating when we write….”

J.L. Powers and Broken Circle! by Adi Rule from VCFA The Launch Pad. Peek: “I sort of knew I wanted to direct this book towards an independent press. Cinco Puntos and Akashic are friends and allies, and it was very natural for me to see if Akashic wanted to publish this book. I couldn’t be prouder that they did!”

Interview with Tony Abbott by Michelle Houts from From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. Peek: “The Summer of Owen Todd may be one of the first middle-grade stories to talk this way about the sexual abuse of a boy, but what is still needed is a book for younger boys who are very much the prey of molesters.”

The Power of the Picture Book: Don Tate from Kids Talk Kid Lit. Peek: “When I was a kid, books didn’t attract or hold my attention. I struggled with comprehension. I couldn’t always remember what I’d read. Plus, reading had to compete with what I loved best—drawing and making things with my hands.”

Children’s Author & Poet Kwame Alexander on Comedy Central. Note: video clip with interview and poem recitation.


Field Notes: Lucha Libros: Bilingual Battle of the Books by Annmarie Hurtado from The Horn Book. Peek: “Lucha Libros started in response to the growing body of research on the importance of bolstering kids’ reading skills by third grade, and from hearing so many parents (especially non-English-speaking parents) tell me how hard it was to motivate their children — boys in particular — to read.”

Dear Social Media: Thank You For Dear Martin by Rebecca Marsick from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “The students I work with care deeply about many social issues, but they don’t often come into contact with people who are different from themselves. Therefore, when I encounter a book like Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Crown, 2017), I can barely contain my excitement.”

Diversifying the Canon of Inspirational Book Quotes by Ann Foster from Book Riot. Peek: “Inspirational book quotes are great for so many things: cute mugs, framed poster prints, wedding vows, bullet journals, and more. When we started noticing that the go-to quotes tend to be from the same group of primarily white male authors, we looked around for some more diverse options.”

Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2017 from Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature, compiled by Dr. Claudette Shackelford McLinn, Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada, Lettycia Terrones, and Patricia Miranda.

Writing Craft

(Too) Close Third Person by Jeanne Kisacky From Writer Unboxed. Peek: “But characters, to come across as alive and fully-realized, have a will of their own….And in my case, deep third person let the characters show me where I’d been a jailor, boxing them into the story, rather than setting them free to find their way to the end on their own terms.” See also Overcoming Reader Resistence to Suspension of Disbelief by Donald Maass and Three Ways to Discover Your Character’s True Motivation by Jim Dempsey from Writer Unboxed.

How to Write a Plot Sentence by Irene Latham from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek: “One of the writing workshops I do with students is called Top Ten Things Writers Need To Know About Plot. The presentation is jammed with tips I’ve learned the hard way. And it culminates with the students putting all those tips into action and writing their own plot sentences.”

Writing Sequels: 7 Rules for Writing Second Installments by Brent Hartinger from The Writer’s Digest. Peek: “Resolving lingering plotlines and character arcs from the first project is the least important part of a sequel. What you want are new plotlines and new character arcs.”


Anonymous Survey: Sexual Harrassment in Children’s Book Publishing from Anne Ursu. Peek: “I am collecting data on sexual harassment in the children’s/YA publishing to get a handle on the scope of the problem. If you have experienced sexual harassment within the industry (or at an industry event), please share your story below. Please do not use names anywhere, and answer only the questions you wish to answer. The responses themselves may be made public in some form, and may be used in an article/essay.”

How to Make a Living as a Children’s Book Author by Hannah Holt from her blog. Peek: “Across the children’s literature spectrum (picture books – young adult) most authors don’t earning a living wage. Only about 45 percent of young adult authors earned more than $20,000 last year. 35 percent of middle grade authors and 15 percent of picture book authors made the $20,000 income threshold.” See also the results of Hannah’s new survey on Writing for Young Adults: A Look at the Publishing Numbers.

How and Why to Edit an Anthology: Addressing the Naysayers by Margot Kahn from Jane Friedman’s blog. Peek: “Sign with the right press. This almost goes without saying for any project, but perhaps particularly for an anthology because the reputation of your press will make an impact on writers you solicit who don’t know you personally.”

Five Tips for Making the Most of a Convention by Dori Butler from From the Mixed-Up Files. Peek: “The first time I went to one of these conventions, I did what I was there to do, then basically hung out in my room the rest of the time. I didn’t know there was more to do. Now I understand that conventions are an opportunity for personal and professional networking. “

Writers! Five Survival Tips for the Holidays by Kristin Nelson from Pub Rants. Peek: “The natural delays during the submission process are agony enough for authors, and the whole waiting game gets even worse as we move into the winter holiday season. But there are some things you can do to help yourself feel like progress is being made, no matter what stage your writing project might be in!”

Get Noticed, Gain Business, Be Awesome! Five Tips for Mastering a Magical 2018 Marketing Plan by Maria Dismondy from The Mitten. Peek: “Have 100 ideas in your head? Before you get overwhelmed, just pick two 2018 goals for your business and start there…Whatever your top two goals may be, check them against the SMART Goal Formula to ensure they are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound.”


Congratulations to the finalists for YALSA’s 2018 William C. Morris Awards:

Congratulations to 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Winners via Cynsations Reporter Christopher Cheng. Peek: “A group of 15 judges across three expert panels made recommendations to the Prime Minister on the shortlists and winners….(the) Awards demonstrate the Government’s continued support for the literary arts…over the past ten years and $4,750,000 in prize money has been awarded.” Children’s joint-winners: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr (Allen & Unwin, 2016) and Home in the Rain by Bob Graham (Walker Books, 2016) and YA winner: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (Pan Macmillan, 2016).

Announcing the Mary Carolyn Davies/Wishtree MG Write. Submit. Support. Scholarship sponsored by Katherine Applegate from Bethany Hegedus at The Writing Barn. Peek: “Katherine is a writer’s writer….her desire to honor Mary Carolyn Davies, who worked her entire life to be true to her creative soul…remind(s) all of us, that the work matters most when it comes to pursuing a literary life. We are honored beyond belief to grant this scholarship to one or two middle grade writers” to study with bestselling author and Vermont College alum Carrie Jones. Application deadline: Jan. 10.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Thanks, Mom!

It’s the end of the semester at the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and so suffice it to say that Teacher Cyn is in full gear.

I’m grading the last monthly round of students’ creative and critical writing and, from there, I’ll continue straight on to write their reviews.

Consequently, Author Cyn is busy working with her agent and a co-writer on future manuscripts. Speaking of which, I already have a full book-events calendar for 2018, but with Hearts Unbroken coming out in early 2019, planners are welcome to contact The Booking Biz if they’d like to get me on their 2019 calendar now.

YA copyedits are now in to my editor at Candlewick Press, and I’ve had the opportunity to peek at the interior page designs. It’s all so exciting! I look forward to sharing the novel with the world. I’m told that advance reader copies should be available in time for the Texas Library Association conference in April in Dallas. Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

My only long-distance trip this month is a personal, family one, celebrating the winter holidays, but as Cynsational readers know, I’m a frequent author traveler. Consequently, my mom was kind enough to gift me with this terrific, lightweight Baggallini (“designed by flight attendants”) to aid me on my many trips around the U.S. and the globe. Thanks, Mom!

Reminder: Pre-order Lily Lo and the Wonton Maker by Frances Lee Hall to help ensure it will be posthumously published in an effort being coordinated by her writing group. Note: Frances was a tremendous writer, a lovely person and one of my VCFA advisees.

Link of the Week: Interview with Rita Williams-Garcia on Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (HarperChildren’s) by Roger Sutton from  Notes from The Horn Book. Peek: “I don’t mean that the forces of evil are against every child and that children have no outlet. But as a child, you have a certain amount of understanding that you are subject to whatever circumstance your parent or guardian will give you. And there are always moments when you feel that you are not big enough to withstand what is being given to you.”

Personal Links – Cynthia

Chiming in at ACHUKA to celebrate Daniel Vandever, Will Alexander & Cory Putnam Oakes!

More Personally- Robin

Artspace in Shreveport, Louisiana

I visited my friend Jennifer Hill in Shreveport, Louisiana. She gave me the full Shreveport tour including a visit to Artspace—this fantastic local art gallery where I learned about their artistic director William Joyce. He’s the author-illustrator of more than 50 children’s books and a filmmaker who co-created the Shreveport-based Moonbot Studios.

Robin checks out
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,
inspiration for Moonbot Studio’s
Academy Award-winning short film.