Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich SmithRobin Galbraith,
Gayleen Rabukukk & Kate Pentecost 

Author/Illustrator Insights

An Na, Author of The Place Between Breaths, on It Being Okay to Be Slow and Tinker by Jocelyn Rish from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek:

“I learned that I am slow and I like to tinker and that is okay. So many writers I know produce more quickly, but I learned to be good with the kind of writer that I need to be in order to produce the best story that I can write.”

Why Couldn’t I Just Be More Like Them? They Didn’t Crash Diet and Binge and Purge by Alyssa Sheinmel from YA Interrobang. Peek:

“I thought a lot about whether or not we feel that we deserve to talk about our problems while I wrote my new book, R.I.P. Eliza Hart…With Ellie, I wanted to write a character who would eventually see asking for help as a sign of strength, rather than weakness.”

Interview with Jen Petro-Roy, Author of P.S. I Miss You by Jonathan Rosen at From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:

“I got an idea, wrote a book, wrote and rewrote, and actually got an agent….I was going to be published, right? Nope. Two books went on submission and didn’t sell… I wanted to give up many times, but I couldn’t stop writing.”

The Fallacy of the Strong Female Character from Erin Dionne. Peek:

“I realized that by labeling our characters as ‘strong,’ by lumping together those active decision-making characteristics, we have set the expectation that all other female characters are weak. After all, only the ones who are labeled strong must be strong!”

Interview with A.S. King by Julia Shelton from Pine Reads. Peek:

“The only advice I have is: the only way you’ll know if it’s a crappy idea is if you finish it and once you finish it, you can always fix it…None of this can happen if you’re not writing.”


Indigenous #KidLitWomen by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children’s Literature. Peek:

“I’d ask you to name a picture book about a Native woman or girl… Next time you’re at the bookstore, reach for books written by Indigenous women! …I made an Indigenous #KidLitWomen pdf for you that has book titles on it, plus some gorgeous covers!”

A Preponderance of Pink: A Conversation with Kathleen T. Horning by Elissa Gershowitz and Martha V. Parravano from The Horn Book. Peek:

“I have found boys to be just as interested in female characters as male ones if the story grabs them…But adults often make assumptions about children’s interests and make those choices for them. I think we often sell boys short in this regard.”

The Alienating Lack of Disability Representation in Literature by Grace Lapointe from Book Riot. Peek:

“It might seem ironic for me to mention examples in which disabled people are not included, but our exclusion is significant. My elementary school had mentally and physically disabled students of many different ethnicities, but books didn’t reflect that diversity.”

Black Books for Black Kids by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“While we work towards providing more diverse books for children of color and native kids, let’s be sure to read, teach, recommend, and sell them to white kids as well. This is how we build a better world.”

Where to Start with Bi & Lesbian YA by Danika Ellis from Book Riot. Peek:

“So you want to read sapphic young adult books! That’s fantastic! Luckily, you have tons to choose from. LGBTQIA YA has come a long way, and bi and lesbian YA, while still not as common as I’d like, has expanded considerably recently.”

Living in a Fantasy World by Gwenda Bond from #kidlitwomen. Peek:

“The more successful a book by a man is, the more he’s treated as worthy of serious attention or at least serious treatment. The more successful a book by a woman is, the more likely it is to become the reference for a snarky aside in an article about how great X book by X dude is.”

Writing Craft

Tips to Hook Your Reader’s Emotions by Anna Elliott from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“I’ve read loads of books that open with a super high-stakes, thrilling action scene, and yet it falls flat…What’s missing? Emotion. You can have all the action in the world, but if your character is just moving through the motions like a robot, readers still aren’t going to care.”

100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors from Reedsy. Peek:

“This curated directory of creative writing exercises was conceived thanks to a collaboration between the top writing blogs of 2018.”

The Difference Between a Sequel and a Scene by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“A scene is where the action is and something happens to the character. A sequel is how the character processes what just happened to them and decides what to do next.”

Huge Mistakes Ruining the Romantic Relationships in Your Book by Bella Pope from The Write Life. Peek:

“Make sure your relationships are written consensually. Think about how you’d feel and act given the situation you’re putting your characters in. A general rule is, if you’d be appalled by someone being treated that way in real life, it’s not right.”


Image by Grace Lin

More Voices, More Faces: A Challenge for Educators, Conference and Festival Organizers, and Authors and Illustrators by Kate Messner from #kidlitwomen. Peek:

“We see conference panels that promote ‘Five Funny Men!’ and ‘Adventure Books For Boys,’ all by white male authors. When girls and people of color see these lineups over and over again, it sends a persistent and insidious message.”

Determining Our Own Value and Worth: It’s Valuable and Worth It! by Emma D. Dryden from #kidlitwomen. Peek:

“Putting a monetary value on ourselves is something women don’t do at all well…We tend to say ‘yes’ more than we say ‘no.’ And we tend to apologize when we ask for what we want. Men in my experience, don’t have a problem with any of this at all.”

Getting Published Is Just the Beginning: Financially Making It, or Not, as a Full-Time Writer by Marie Myung-Ok Lee from The Business of Being a Writer. Peek:

“Many friends were forthright that they weren’t making a living [from writing], especially if they were primary caregivers for children. … At least half the people I interviewed who lived in NYC received help from their parents.”

What is Hybrid Publishing and Is It an Option? The New IBPA Standards by Lyn Miller-Lachmann from her blog. Peek:

“I have a few questions for IBPA and the Authors Guild, questions any writer should ask before going with one of these new hybrid publishers.”

Where the Women Are: Tough Questions About the Gender Disparities in Children’s Publishing by Emma Walton Hamilton from #kidlitwomen. Peek:

“Women in positions of power should actively seek ways to support and advocate for other women, in the workplace and beyond. Let’s look at our client lists, committees, datebooks and more, with a keener eye — and make some adjustments where needed.”

Why Blog- From the Writer Who Said Goodbye to Blogging by L. L. Barkat from Jane Friedman. Peek: 

“This is introvert heaven. I can explore what I need to explore when I need to explore it, on my own terms. I can breathe again, letting background technology do the heavy lifting.”

Also check out Cynthia’s updated page Children’s-YA Book Publishing Links for Writers.

Austin 2018 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference: March 24 is the last day to sign up for manuscript and picture book dummy critiques.

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Love, Mama by Jeannette Bradley (Roaring Brook, 2018). No purchase necessary. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on March 14, 2018 and 12:00 AM on Mar. 28, 2018. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about Mar. 28, 2018. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.


Congratulations to Austin Book Award winners Elizabeth Crook, Varian Johnson and Nate Blackeslee! The awards are given by Friends of the Austin Public Library.

More Personally – Cynthia

Sunset in Tampa, Florida

Breaking news! The publication date for my upcoming YA novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick), has been moved up to Oct. 9!

You can pre-order the book from Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or your local independent bookstore.

Last week’s highlight was traveling to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference in Tampa, Florida.

I had the honor of speaking on two panels, one about writing for young readers and feminism with Sarah Aronson, Kekla Magoon, Laura Shovan, and Tricia Springstubb, the other about the craft of writing dialogue with David Macinnis Gill and Kekla.

See Sarah on The Future is Female: A Conversation at AWP.

This week has been all about teaching. My students at the Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults are in their second round of packets. I also enjoyed lunch with author Carmen Oliver, owner of The Booking Biz.

Will you be at the Texas Library Association Conference in Dallas in April or the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans in June? I’ll be speaking on a panel, “What’s New with Texas MG and YA Authors” (event #296), with Jessica Lee Anderson, Samantha M. Clark, TaraDairman, P.J. Hoover (moderator), Cynthia Levinson, Mari Mancusi, and Cory Putman Oakes from 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. April 3 at TLA.

I also be speaking on a panel, “Native YA Today: Contemporary Indigenous Voices and Heroes for the 21rst Century & Beyond,” with Alia Jones (moderator), Joseph Bruchac, Eric Gansworth, and Dawn Quigley. It’s scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. June 23.

More Personally – Robin

On Saturday, I’ll be attending the annual Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia SCBWI conference.

On Sunday, I’m excited to attend the book signing of local Maryland author Jonathan Roth for his fun new chapter book Beep and Bob: Too Much Space.

Personal Links – Gayleen

My link of the Week: Joy Thief by Rebekah Manley from Brave Tutu. Peek: “‘Comparison is truly the thief of joy’…Without even realizing it, I can easily shift into thinking, ‘Rebekah, what is taking you so long?'”