Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich SmithRobin Galbraith,
Gayleen Rabukukk & Kate Pentecost 

Author/Illustrator Insights

Islandborn Author Junot Diaz on Representation in Children’s Books by Denise Balkisson from The Globe and Mail. Peek:

“I myself think that it’s important to give children their due, to acknowledge their sophistication and their ability to hold complex, painful truths in ways that don’t leave them damaged or despondent or scared. Young people are incredibly smart. They can tell that there’s a story behind the story.” 

Of Kitchen Tables, Stovetops, and Scales: The Stories We Tell Ourselves about Our Writing Lives from Megan Dowd Lambert. Peek:

“Envisioning this symbolic stovetop helps me…As I imagine it, with dials to control two big burners and two little ones, just like the real stovetop in my kitchen, this metaphor instead suggests approaching life as an ongoing process of making adjustments.” 

Complicity from Laura Ruby. Peek:

“…the male glance not only hampers our ability to evaluate good art, it also hampers our ability to make good art…The white gaze does the same thing—limiting art, twisting it, crushing it to fit well-worn, limiting, even damaging tropes about people of color.” 

Interview with Stephanie Burgis from the Cybils. Peek:

“This was the first time I ever wrote a book set in a high fantasy world… I loved the freedom and flexibility it gave me…I started automatically writing the council members as being all-male but then thought: Wait! Why should it be all-male, or even mostly-male?”

Debbi Michiko Florence: Creating the Drumming Mochi Queen, Jasmine Toguchi by Melanie Boyer from First Book. Peek:

“I do feel like being a writer allows me to channel my many passions, but, even better, I feel like all my experiences feed my writing. Pieces of my life definitely work their way into my stories.” 


No More All-White Panels: A Pledge from Laurel Snyder. Peek:

“In a world of wildly talented authors and illustrators of color, there is simply no reason for an all-white panel, ever. If you agree with me, I hope you’ll make this pledge, by leaving a note in the comments below.” 

Going It Alone as an Autistic Woman Writer from Lyn Miller-Lachmann.Peek:

“I think there are ways publishing can change to be more friendly to neurodiverse authors, and I believe that the industry can and should accommodate rather than ask us to do all the changing.” 

#KidLitWomen: An Open Letter to Well-Meaning White Women from Booktoss. Peek:

“…in children’s literature and other spaces, we deal with what I like to call Well Meaning White Folks (WMWF) who deal with social justice issues by gaslighting, tone policing, and outright hypocrisy… WMWF who support change as long as that change in no way calls for self reflection or action.” 

The Choices We Make from Linda Sue Park. Peek:

“Beyond the economic implications of supporting marginalized writers with our dollars, creators of children’s literature have another important incentive for examining our choices. As writers, what we read goes into our work on many levels, including the subconscious. The books we read matter to the children we write for.” 

YA Women of Color Authors to Add to Your Reading List by Andrea Ruggirello from Shondaland. Peek:

“… the importance of women of color getting to tell their own stories cannot be understated — because the powerful girls of today grow into the powerful women of tomorrow, and no one is better suited to tell their truth than they are.”

Under the Gaydar’ YA Novels Are Meant For Teens Who Can’t Be Open About Their Sexuality — And They’re Just As Necessary As Ever by Meaghan O’Brien from Bustle. Peek:

“We need books that can be really easily found, books that show that queerness is present and great and that queer characters get stories too, and we also need books that are safe for queer kids under hateful scrutiny to bring home.” 

Writing Craft

Characters in Cars Thinking, or, How to Deal with the Passage of Time by Jennie Nash from Writers Helping Writers. Peek:

“The next time you find yourself making a little loop back in time in story present, stop. Ask yourself if the important information is happening off stage – if you are just telling the reader what happened and dumping it in.” 

Should Your Main Character Be Likable by Margaret Dilloway from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Perhaps that’s the key—audiences like to see those difficult females actually do love certain people and transform.”

Deepening Character Complexity with the Help of Psychology by Tamar Sloan from Writers Helping Writers. Peek:

“Psychology allows us to delve into this backstory with a deeper level of nuanced understanding. This is because psychology knows there are biological, psychological and social factors that impact on our personality and behaviours.” 

Big Issues. Small Stories by Nancy Johnson from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Writing an issues book feels like the world’s on fire and we’re trying to snuff out the flames with a garden hose. Our stories and characters seem too small to carry such big topics. But they aren’t.” 

Avoiding Transition Words in Writing by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek:

“Instead of introducing that action is coming, then describing the action–take a shortcut. Simply describe the action. For the most part, transitional words and phrases are filler.” 


#Kidlitwomen at the Crossroads of Rage and Hope from Laurie Halse Anderson. Peek:

“As more women gain enough confidence to speak up about being sexually assaulted or harassed, I’ve begun to see and hear some disdainful muttering from women my age. There seems to be a generational divide between what women in my cohort (older than 50) believed constitutes harassment and how younger women see it.” 

Literary Agents of Color: Empowering Authors & Agents to Succeed by Jessica Strawser from Writer’s Digest. Peek:

“Moore’s brainchild is the new online directory Literary Agents of Color—which includes bios and submission guidelines for around 50 such agents, and growing.” 

A Guide to Social Media for Authors by Nathan Bransford from his blog. Peek:

“One of the most under-appreciated elements of being active on social media is that it’s a terrific tool for learning more about the publishing industry. Follow the agents who represent your favorite books. Follow your favorite authors. Follow publishing experts. Participate in discussions.” 

A School Librarian’s Thoughts on #Kidlitwomen & #Equalityinkidlit by Joanna Marple from Miss Marple’s Musings. Peek:

“As gatekeepers, book-buyers, author-champions and readers, we hold a surprising amount of power in making change in the industry, even if it doesn’t feel like it.” 

Why China’s Children’s Book Industry is Growing So Fast by Hannah Johnson from Publishing Perspectives. Peek:

“Another factor that has led to a growing children’s book industry is the sheer number of children in China—there are now 370 million children under the age of 18, according to Li.” 

A Smarter Author Platform for the Digital Era of Publishing by Jane Friedman from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“…digital media should make you smarter in identifying how to best grow your platform. Once you’re active on Twitter or Facebook, or have Google Analytics installed on your website, you have actionable information about who you’re reaching, where you’re reaching them, and how to reach more and reach better.” 

Cynsational Screening Room

Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Abigail Halpin (Abrams, April 17, 2018). 


Congratulations to the Winners of the Global Read Aloud Choices 2018! Peek:

“With an emphasis on perspective, on understanding others, on connecting and change, I feel that all of the books and picture book authors chosen will help us see the world in a new light.” 

Congratulations to Cynthia Levinson, Laura Atkins, and the rest of the winners of the Carter G. Woodson Award from National Council for the Social Studies!

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Thank you, TLA Dallas 2018!

Thank you to everyone who came to my panel, “What’s New with Texas MG and YA Authors,” with Jessica Lee AndersonSamantha M. ClarkTaraDairmanP.J. Hoover (moderator), Cynthia LevinsonMari Mancusi, and Cory Putman Oakes at the Texas Library Association Conference this week in Dallas.

Thanks also to those who swung by my signing or attended the two author-librarian “speeddating” events I participated in.

Finally, thank you to my publisher, Candlewick Press, and author-librarian Susie Kralovansky.

I counted, and it turns out that I gave some version of my “pitch” for Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018) eighteen times in three days. (And I now have it memorized!).

Will you be at the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans in June? I’ll 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.

The #WritersForHope auction raises money for RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline. Bid on Item #21: 10-Page MG/YA Critique by me through April 6.

More Personally – Gayleen

I had a great time at Texas Library Association‘s annual conference, attending panels, meeting librarians and authors and scoping out upcoming book releases.

There’s so much to take in, it’s like running a marathon!

I especially enjoyed catching up with my Vermont College of Fine Arts roommate, Cori McCarthy and celebrating her awesome new book, Now A Major Motion Picture (Sourcebooks, 2018).