Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich SmithRobin Galbraith,
Gayleen Rabukukk & Kate Pentecost 

Author/Illustrator Insights

In Mystery, Austin Author Exposes Racism Felt By Generations of Family by Sharyn Vane from My Statesman. Peek:

[The Parker] Inheritance infuses its Westing Game-inspired mystery with explorations of identity and perception, particularly race… 

“‘While there are certainly many problems in America concerning race, I think there is also a dangerous precedent concerning what it means to ‘be a man,’ [Varian] Johnson explains.”

Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Sad by Kate DiCamillo from Time. Peek: 

“I knew that a terrible thing was going to happen, and I also knew that it was going to be okay somehow… That was what I needed to hear. That I could bear it somehow.”

Sean Petrie on Typewriter Poetry Rodeo by Uma Krishnaswami from her blog. Peek:

“At the poetry table, there’s no such thing as writer’s block — we don’t have time. There is literally someone standing there, waiting for you to write them a poem on the spot… you just jump in, start typing, and trust in yourself.”

Emily X.R. Pan On Grief, Mental Health, & Her YA Debut The Astonishing Color of After by Shelley Diaz from School Library Journal. Peek: 

“I think of this book as ‘contemporary with magical elements’ rather than magical realism, since the bit of magic that exists in the book is not in response to oppression and colonialism, which is how the magical realism genre was born.”

Is This Thing On?: Giving Voice to Funny Female Authors (Conversation with agents Susan Hawk and Erin Murphy, authors Marcie Colleen and Audrey Vernick) from Marcie’s blog. Peek: 

From Audrey: “You rarely see any funny books win awards…funny is considered less worthy, perhaps easier than a book that touches your soul in a different way.”

Cynthia and Sanford Levinson on Fault Lines in the Constitution from Mackin Books in Bloom. Peek:

“We worked out ways to explain complicated concepts, including proportional representation, the history and mathematics of gerrymandering, and the meaning of the Latin phrase habeas corpus

“We did these by telling dramatic stories (Ebola!), breaking big issues down into consumable bites, bringing the Framers’ arguments from 230 years ago to life today, and explaining how decision-making is done differently in other countries.”

Interview with Jessica Spotswood, Editor of The Radical Element by Lyn Miller-Lachmann from The Pirate Tree. Peek:

“I asked each of them to create a short story pitch. The parameters were simple: the story should be between 5000-7000 words and feel as though it could not take place anywhere or anywhen else. It should feature a girl who was an outsider in her community in some way.”


How To Be Invisible by Amitha Knight from #kidlitwomen. Peek:

“If you are a mommy with brown skin, a mommy from a minority background, a non-Christian woman, a heathen writing about childhood, you are unrelatable, unsellable, unknowable…Someday you hope your daughters will read your words… knowing how hard you fought, how big you dreamed, how far you soared.”

Mothers and Fathers: Gender Stereotyping in Picture Books by J. Albert Mann from #kidlitwomen. Peek: 

“…100% of the books featuring a mother/child pairing, showed her in a nurturing posture. None of the books had a mother at play with her child.”

Click to download the “How to” guide

How to Diversify Your KidLit-Related Lists by Chris Barton from #kidlitwomen. Peek:

“Whether you’re creating a list of your own or thinking about sharing one that somebody else made, you’ve got an opportunity to better reflect the diversity that exists among the readers of children’s and YA books.”

This Poet Wants Brown Girls to Know They’re Worthy of Being the Hero and the Author by Elizabeth Acevedo from The PBS Newshour. Peek: 

“This is for us writers, us readers, us girls who never saw ourselves on bookshelves, but still wrote poems when we talked.”

Mixed-Race YA Fantasy Herorines by Aimee Miles from BookRiot. Peek: 

“As the U.S. becomes more consciously mixed-race, stories about mixed characters become even more important. The heroines here are mixed race and have to deal with the consequences of looking mixed in worlds that want them easily categorized.”

Women: What We’re Up Against by Erin Dionne from #kidlitwomen. Peek: 

“Maybe you’re a mom with small kids…Maybe you’re single…Maybe you’re with a significant other and don’t have kids..Maybe you’re a writer of color, or a First Nations writer, or a disabled writer, or from another underrepresented group. You are all of the above…I see you.”

Animals As Characters/Subjects: Pushing Against Gender Typing by Mary Quattlebaum from Pencil Tips Writing Workshop Strategies. Peek: 

“Growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s, I remember very, very few books with strong human girl and gentle human boy characters…I think I was hoping for depictions in books that better reflected some of the change I was glimpsing in the wider world.”

Writing Craft

Chronicling a Non-Chronological Story: Writing a Dual Timeline Novel by Julie Carrick Dalton from Writer Unboxed. Peek: 

“Each storyline and chapter needs to be solid on its own. Just as importantly, the moments at which I transition between them must act to move my overall narrative forward.”

Quieter Protagonists: Ways to Help Them Steal the Stage by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: 

“..looking at real-life demographics for a second, I think there’s a lot more people on the quieter side than not… The trick with quieter characters is finding a way for them to stand out.”

Finding the Heart and Soul of Swoon- Worthy Boys by Kate Branden from Through the Toll Booth. Peek: 

“To make a universally hot boy, the writer must go deeper into the inner workings of the boy… I have identified three qualities that make a hot boy: the boy must be flawed, vulnerable, and have the traits of a hero.”

The Heroine’s Romantic Journey by Catherine Linka from Through the Toll Booth. Peek:

“I realized that romance is just the Hero’s Journey from inside the heart.”

The 5 Turning Points of a Character Arc by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek: 

“Just like a plot, the character arc has several turning points that fall at specific structural moments throughout the novel. There’s wiggle room as to where, but they generally fall along the same path as the plot, since the plot is what triggers or impacts these moments.”

Marketing & Events

15 Steps to Make Your Next Author Visit the Best from The Booking Biz. Peek:

“…one snag in the organization of an author visit, and it can suck all the life, reinforcement and inspiration from the event. Here are 15 tips to make sure your next school visit will run smoothly and leave your students motivated to read and succeed in everything they do.”


How Much Should I Charge? Aiming for Transparency in Pay for School Visits by Michelle Cusolito from #kidlitwomen. Peek: 

“If you are an author or illustrator who creates books for children through young adults and you do school visits in the U.S. please take our anonymous survey…Transparency is important to removing inequities, and the results are only as good as the data we collect.”

How Do I Look? Ageism and Women’s Author Photos by Louise Hawes from #kidlitwomen. Peek: 

“As older women authors for young readers, we’ve got two strikes against us: we’re female and we’re aging.”

Image by Grace Lin

Be The Heroine of Your Story by Dawn Metcalf from #kidlitwomen. Peek: 

“Don’t be afraid to stand up, take charge, act professional and proactive because the publishing world is moving from the B World to the C World where we have taken the lessons we’ve learned together on this journey and are using them to transform what is possible for us all.”

What Would Julian Do? (and other questions from a half century of internalized misogyny) by Ali Benjamin from #kidlitwomen. Peek: 

“To that next generation…I hope someday you read this post and you have no idea what I’m talking about. I hope things described this year..#metoo posts…#kidlitwomen conversations—seem to you not merely obsolete, but unfathomable.”

The Shaming of Desire from Jacqueline Davies.  Peek:

“Daring to want. For women, it’s an act of subversion. It’s an act of resistance. And it often feels like it holds the potential to be an act of destruction.”

Calls for Manuscript Submissions from ALAN: Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE. Peek:

“In our final issue as editors of The ALAN Review, we aim to create space for reflection, contemplation, and anticipation around young adult literature. We invite you to consider where we are, what we’ve accomplished, and what we all might tackle in our collective pursuits of scholarship and teaching.”

Intern with Us! By Shoshana Flax from The Horn Book. Peek:

“We offer spring, summer, and fall internships. The next application deadline, for 2018 summer internships, is April 1. Each internship is ten hours per week (with occasional opportunities for extra hours) and pays $11 per hour.”

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.

More Personally – Cynthia

I’m thrilled and honored to share news of my upcoming projects from Publishers Weekly:

Eastside Memorial Early College High School Library

Rosemary Brosnan at HarperCollins Children’s Books has bought Cynthia Leitich Smith’s untitled contemporary middle grade powwow anthology, featuring a story by Smith and stories, poetry, and art by various Native/First Nations contributors. 

“Brosnan has also acquired two untitled contemporary Native middle grade novels by Smith. The anthology and the first novel will be published in summer 2020, and the second novel will be published in summer 2021. Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown, Ltd. negotiated the deals for world English rights.” 

See also Industry Q&A with Editor Rosemary Brosnan from CBC Diversity.

Thank you to YA librarian Jill Brady and Thursday’s sixth-hour student audience at Eastside Memorial Early College High School! I greatly enjoyed speaking with y’all about my writing journey and process as well as working with you on your own characters, worldbuilding and stories.

I was matched with the school through Project WISE (Writers in Schools for Enrichment), which is “funded by the City of Austin Cultural Arts division and facilitated by the Writers’ League of Texas. Participating campuses must be public schools within the Austin city limits.”

Link of the Week: A ‘Bad’ Book Can Be Good for Readers by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“As we know from our own childhoods, for most of us, that time of unfettered innocence is a myth. Even in the steadiest of conditions and in the homes of the most even-keeled of families, children are exposed (via the news, the internet, the schoolyard, family friends, older siblings, cousins, etcetera and so on ad nauseum) to confusing, intriguing, worrisome, sad, mysterious truths that they wonder about and try to make sense of.”

More Personally – Robin

This past weekend’s 25th Annual SCBWI MD/DE/WV conference was fantastic! Check out Laura Bower’s wonderful summary with photos, tweets, and quotes.

It was a dream come true to see my friend Jonathan Roth do his first book signing. I’ve been reading his work for almost a decade now and am excited that the funny and sensitive Beep and Bob series is his debut series.

On Saturday I’m going to the Kidlit Marches for Kids in Washington, D.C. You can check out if there’s a march in your area at this link.