Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Robin Galbraith,
Gayleen Rabukukk & Kate Pentecost

Author/ Illustrator Insights

Interview: Uma Krishnaswami on Treadmills, Knitting, and P.G. Wodehouse from The Booking Biz. Peek:

“I don’t think that inspiration is necessarily a sparkling gold-tipped wand. For me, it comes more slowly, seeps into the mind and refuses to leave me alone. I try to keep myself open to ideas. When one shows up, I test it out by writing around it and asking questions about it.” 

Young People Are Our Hope: Talking with Lilliam Rivera by Keah Brown from The Rumpus. Peek:

The Education of Margot Sanchez is a little love letter to the Bronx, to my home. I hope that when people read about it, they see one Latina story of many in the Bronx.”

Cecil Castellucci, Author of Don’t Cosplay With My Heart, on Rejected Books Opening New Doors by Jocelyn Rish from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek:

“I realized that I had a lot of stories to tell and that I didn’t have to be precious about what was going into one book. That I could use things that I had to chuck from one story down the line.”

Eric Pinder and the Perfect Pillow by Adi Rule from The Launch Pad. Peek:

“I’m a painfully slow writer, whether writing picture books or nonfiction articles or shopping lists. What I like best about picture books, and poetry, is having fun with how words sound read aloud. It’s like using the language as a musical instrument.”

Wouldn’t You Like to Know…F.C. Yee by Timothy Horan from VOYA Magazine. Peek:

“For ideas, they can come to me at any moment of the day, usually whenever I’m relaxed and not worrying about anything in particular. I have to lay a groundwork of forced brainstorming first, usually unproductively, and then that lets relevant thoughts attach themselves to the foundation throughout the day.”

Diversity & Inclusion
Native American Books for Young Readers by Art Hughes from Native America Calling. Peek:

[Debbie] Reese helps sort out the exceptional books from those that sink into stereotypes or misinformation. We’ll get her take on the best books by Native authors.” Note: Also featuring author Marcie Rendon and author-illustrator Julie Flett.

Why We Need Diverse YA Books That Represent Marginalized Characters In All Of Their Complex, Quirky Glory by Kerri Jerema from Bustle. Peek:

“…there is something more subtle at play here, too — the incorrect insistence that all people from marginalized backgrounds are only living authentically if they are dealing with pain or abuse of some kind, most often directly related to their race, religion, or sexuality.”

Eight Fantasy Must-Reads Featuring Black Main Characters by Della Farrell from School Library Journal. Peek:

“From mermaids to Marvel tie-ins and more, the following middle grade and YA fantasy novels each star Black characters as their main protagonists, and all are excellent reads.”

Black History Month 2018 from Out of the Box at The Horn Book. Peek:

“To commemorate Black History Month, we will send around a series of articles, speeches, and reviews from The Horn Book archive that are by and/or about African American authors, illustrators, and luminaries in the field — one a day through the month of February, with a roundup on Fridays.”

Celebrate Black History Month Every Month with Picture Books by Della Farrell from School Library Journal. Peek:

“…here are 16 recent picture books to share with little ones throughout the year but especially during Black History Month.”

Recommended by Angie Manfredi

Recommended Books with Queer Joy and Happy Endings by Angie Manfredi from Queer Books for Teens. Peek:

“Happy endings, resistance, finding your people, dreaming of future worlds, solving the mystery of self, and getting a swoony kiss with your love interest: queer readers of YA deserve to experience these moments and see mirrors of their lives in the fiction they read.”

See also Diversity and Inclusion: Themes and CommunitiesTeacher and Librarian Resources for Native American Children’s and Young Adult Books.

Writing Craft

Writing a YA Kiss that Makes Readers Squeal with Joy by Kate Branden from Through the Tollbooth. Peek:

“…even the most sensuous of physical action will fall flat without character emotion. The reader wants to feel what the character feels, on both a physical and an emotional level. The emotion can be stated or shown through internal monologue, metaphor, objective correlative, physical reaction, or a combination of the above.”

Why You Should Retype Your Revision (Yes, The Whole Thing) by Holly Schindler from Writing & Publishing. Peek:

“Retyping and rethinking along the way means that you’re now rethinking literally everything about your book. Two or three chapters in, you often get hit with new revelations—not just about phrasing or line edits, but about structure and plot. And because you’re already retyping, you won’t think twice about an overhaul.”

The Role of Emotional Wounds Within Character Arc by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek:

“Of all the pieces of backstory we should understand as authors, none are more important than our protagonist’s Emotional Wound.”

What to Do When Your Creativity Hits the Wall by Tracy Hahn-Burkett from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Trying to solve a problem in your manuscript and you just can’t figure it out? Just say you don’t care and move on to something else. Yes, really. Stay with me on this one.”

The Porchlight Podcast with Cory Putman Oakes from The Writing Barn. Peek:

“Cory discusses her process of research for the book including watching ‘Bewitched,’ studying herbs, and Wiccan theology.”

See also Children’s and Young Adult Writing Craft.


So What’s Your Book About?, or, Creating the Perfect Elevator Pitch by Jennie Nash from Writers Helping Writers. Peek:

“The elevator pitch is a powerful marketing tool that you can put to use when enticing readers, reaching out to potential marketing partners, and when you meet people at a conference who ask, ‘So what’s your book about?’ Here are six simple steps to help you develop an elevator pitch.”

Can I Jump on the Bandwagon? by Catherine McKenzie from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“This is one of the reasons that my biggest advice to writers and want-to-be-writers is to read. To read widely and to read now.”

The Globalization of the National Book Awards by Alexandra Alter from The New York Times. Peek:

“Starting this year, the National Book Foundation will recognize works in translation, opening up a distinctly American literary award to writers working in other languages. The new category marks a radical departure for awards, which began in 1950 ‘to celebrate the best of American literature.’’”

Authors are Not Rock Stars by Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek:

“…even allowing for a little hyperbole, I’m bothered by these characterizations because they run counter to what I see as the main purpose of my presentations to students: 1) making myself relatable to them, and 2) making a career like mine seem attainable to them.”

See also Children’s-YA Book Publishing, U.S. National Awards for Children and Young Adult Literature.

This Week at Cynsations

Author Jane Kurtz

More Personally – Cynthia

Guess who is starting a new story? (And loves office supplies.)

New manuscripts! I’d done some preliminary plot and character work, but this was the week that I finally got a chance to really submerge in fresh projects. I also saw “Black Panther” (like everybody else in the world) at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Bethany and Erin

In addition, I made the scene at the book launch for Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Erin McGuire (HarperChildren’s, 2017) at BookPeople in Austin.

The event included an introduction and panel both moderated by author Carmen Oliver, a PowerPoint presentation, and a short theatrical presentation from To Kill a Mockingbird, staring local (mostly young) actors.

Congrats also to Jacqueline Lipton, law professor and VCFA WCYA alum, on the sale of Law & Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers (a guide to navigating the most common legal issues authors encounter when self-publishing or when publishing with a commercial or academic press) to University of California Press.

Jackie’s agent is Jane Dystel at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. I had the honor of advising Jackie during her post-graduate semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Congratulations to Cynsations Intern Kate Pentecost, whose poem “Small Town Witches” is a nominee for the Rhysling Award, given by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association.  The poem was published in Liminality: A Magazine of Speculative Poetry.

Congratulations to Cynsations reporter Traci Sorell for receiving a First Peoples Fund fellowship.

See Writing Across Identity Elements: An Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, William Alexander and Kekla Magoon by Victor Malo-Juvera and David Macinnis Gill. from The ALAN Review. Peek: “Identity is brushstrokes, side roads, highways: Destination you and your communities. Some identity elements came with you into this world; others are born of choices you made along the way.”

Link of the Week: Letters to Parkland & Beyond: “We are Authors, Teachers, Librarians and Allies in the Kidlit Community, and We Stand with the Students Speaking Out for Gun Laws. These Letters are for Them.”

Reminder: This month only! Sign up for the Evolt newsletter from Candlewick Press to buy an e-edition of my YA novel Eternal for $1.99 (and for more terrific promotional opportunities)!

More Personally – Gayleen

I’m thrilled to announce I will be a teaching assistant for Mastering the Middle Grade, a weekend intensive workshop at The Writing Barn, featuring Crown Books Publisher Phoebe Yeh and author Lamar Giles (see my Cynsations interview with Lamar).

The weekend will include lectures and writing exercises focused on mastering middle grade voice. Applications are now being accepted for this opportunity to study with two award-winning publishing professionals.

Personal Links- Robin

Personal Links- Gayleen