Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich SmithRobin Galbraith,
Gayleen Rabukukk & Kate Pentecost 

Author/Illustrator Insights

Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford by Adi Rule from The Launch Pad. Peek:

“In the winter of 2009, I did an amazing picture book semester with Uma Krishnaswami…The gestation period for this book was very long—nine years, from first draft to publication—but finding the right publisher, editor and illustrator was worth the wait.”

Tracy K. Smith and Jacqueline Woodson Talk Reading, Race and Spreading the Gospel of Literature by Maria Russo from The New York Times. Peek:

“I think the way poems are taught to high school students is completely counterintuitive; it sets up this sense of being the poem’s adversary. The poem is sort of sneakily trying to outsmart you. Whereas children live in this sense of perpetual metaphor.”

Lee Bennett Hopkins Celebrates Eight Decades and Two New Anthologies by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“When it comes to creating his own poetry, Hopkins unequivocally stated, ‘It’s struggle time. A struggle with each syllable, word, line. Draft after draft after draft, and I’m ready to go shopping! Is a poem ever finished? Ah, eventually it tells you it is.”

Josh Funk’s Guide to Writing Picture Books from Josh Funk. Peek:

 “I’ve compiled a handful of lessons along with links to other resources covering some of the most important things I’ve learned.”

Five Questions for Tomi Adeyemi by Elissa Gershowitz from The Horn Book. Peek:

 “I am an extremely visual writer. I have a CBB Pinterest board of over nine hundred pictures, and I like to pull images from everywhere when I’m writing. I use real settings and real places as my foundation, and then I ‘paint’ over them with my imagination to create the world.”

Four Questions with Martha Brockenbrough by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Exploring President Donald Trump’s life story felt like a logical next step for Brockenbrough following her biography of Alexander Hamilton (Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary (Feiwel and Friends, 2017))… ‘I could never get away with these plot twists in fiction. My editor would say, ‘You know, that’s just really too much.’”


Lee & Low Writing Contests. Peek:

“…two annual writing contests that encourage writers of color and Native/Indigenous writers to submit their manuscripts to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Winners of each contest receive a cash prize of $2,000 and a standard publishing contract with Lee & Low Books.”

Also Apply to Lee & Low’s Summer Internship.

Native Interpretations: Symposium Speaker Says Popular Culture Keeps Radical Stereotypes Alive by Grant D. Crawford from Tahelquah Daily Press. Peek:

“The noble savage and ideal Pocahontas depictions have since transformed into different, but similar misrepresentations, as westward expansion continued. However, Francis and Native Realities are creating their own narrative, as the company is a Native American and Indigenous pop culture company that produces comic books, graphic novels, games, toys and collectibles.”

Kweli, The 3rd Annual Color of Children’s Literature Conference by Andrea L. Rogers from Man Made Monsters. Peek:

KWELI is the creation of Laura Pegram. Laura has suffered as an artist in isolation. This experience led her to create KWELI-an online community for those writers of color working alone…Laura has also made it part of her work to create an online community for Indigenous writers.”

Interview: David Bowles + Guadalupe García McCall on Translating a Novel into Spanish from Lee & Low. Peek:

“The trick was to capture the rhythms and nuances of Border Spanish (as spoken in Eagle Pass/ Piedras Negras) while also retaining the literary flair of the English original.” 

Writing Craft

The Importance of a Private Writing Habit by Barbara O’Neal from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“The problem is that offering every thought up for public consumption often drains them all of depth. Another problem is that those polished jewels you’ve tossed out to Twitter/etc have used up a bunch of creative energy you might have spent on your actual writing.”

Nothing to Say, No Skill in Saying It by Brian Yansky from Diary of a Writer. Peek:

“You have to have faith that you will find the right words and the lightning to guide you. It will likely take many drafts. Push On. Push On.

11 Ways Revising a Novel is Like Remodeling a House by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“Over the last twelve weeks I’ve been revising a novel while remodeling my house, and I’ve noticed a surprising number of similarities.”

Theft by Finding by Catherine McKenzie from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“You take something from life—maybe yours, maybe someone else’s—and you make it into art.”

VCFA Auction 2018: Bid on 70 different items including manuscript critiques, writing retreats and handmade crafts. Peek:

“This year 100% of the auction proceeds will fund scholarships for students in both programs, with the Glover Fund for Writers, Authors, & Publishers, VCFA’s invested scholarship fund which will grant writing students’ scholarships for years to come.


Interview with Agent Natascha Morris from Johnell Dewitt. Peek:

“Natascha is a new agent at Bookends Literary and a former editorial assistant for Simon & Schuster. She is open to submissions for picture books, middle grade, and young adult across multiple genres: contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative nonfiction.”

Meeting the Authors in Our Neighborhood by Meghan Dietsche Goel from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“As a community bookstore, I firmly believe that including the voices that make our city unique and vibrant makes our store better.”

A Personal Tale of #MeTo in Kid Lit by Bethany Hagen from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“The truth is that one anonymous comment is not what led agents and publishers to cut ties with some of the abusers named. Those abusers had records of harmful patterns stretching back years, and the climate has forced industry professionals to stop making excuses for these patterns…”

The Underneath Tenth Anniversary Giveaway. Peek:

“Fifteen lucky winners will receive an autographed paperback copy of The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008)….one Grand Prize winner will win a classroom set of 20 copies of the book plus a 30-40 minute Skype visit for her/his school, classroom, or library with award-winning author Kathi Appelt.”

It’s Not Complicated by Donalyn Miller from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“Ensuring that all of our children have access to books 365 days a year may not get you in the local paper or earn you superintendent of the year, but it is one act that communicates you care about what kids really need to succeed personally and academically.”

Find Your Perfect Agent Match by Jamie Krakover from Middle Grade Minded. Peek:

“…start assembling a list of questions to ask. I had been compiling questions I saw on Twitter and blog posts for literally years.”


Congratulations to Jason Reynolds for winning the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature for Long Way Down (Atheneum, 2017)!

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaways

Are you on Twitter? Are you reading this before noon on April 27? Are you based in the United States?

Children’s-teen author Debbi Michiko Florence is giving away an advanced reader copy of Cynthia’s upcoming novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, Oct. 9, 2018).

If you RT this tweet and follow @CynLeitichSmith by noon PST April 27, she will enter you for a giveaway of the book. Eligibility: U.S. only.

Note: Hearts Unbroken is now available for pre-order. See purchase links at Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or another bookseller, such as your local independent bookstore’s website like BookPeople in Austin.

Congratulations to Denise Morse, winner of our previous Cynsational Giveaway, Rabbit & Possum (Greenwillow, 2018) by Dana Wulfekotte! Don’t miss Traci Sorell‘s interview with Dana about the importance of developing your own artistic voice.

More Personally – Cynthia

On the mend from oral surgery, I’m first-drafting of a new middle grade novel. I’m often asked by non-writers about how I handle editorial feedback. Truth is, I’m incredibly grateful for feedback. I love to revise whole drafts. Especially because that means I actually have a whole draft to work with.

What is toughest for me is the first draft.

Early iterations of scenes suffer by comparison to whatever previously finished piece is in production at the publisher.

I’ve been through this before with 14 books and 13 shorter manuscripts. I have faith that once anything is on the page, I can make it better–if only by cutting it! But for now, the key is to just keep typing.

Thank you, Donna Janell Bowman, for these lovely flowers.

What else? I look forward to the Austin SCBWI Regional Conference this weekend.

With the caveat that it’s the substance of one’s social media content and interactions that matters, I did notice that as of this week that more than 20,000 folks are now following me @CynLeitichSmith on Twitter and more than 1,000 at cynthialeitichsmith on Instagram (my newest network; I’m not an early adapter).

Thanks to all who’ve joined in the conversation!

Please consider following on either platform, if you haven’t already, and/or check out my lively official author page on facebook, which also passed the 6,500 “like” mark this week.

Celebrate Children’s Day, Book Day (Día)

Children’s Day, Book Day, in Spanish, El día de los niños, el día de los libros (Día), is a year-long commitment to celebrating all our children and to motivating them and their families to be readers, essential in our democracy. Culminating April celebrations are held in libraries, schools, homes, parks, etc., often on or near April 30.”

Link of the Week What #MeToo Means to Teenagers by Wendy Lu from The New York Times. Peek:

“Research shows that 43 percent of middle school students experience sexual harassment from their peers. And a third of teenagers report experiencing relationship abuse. Rates may be even higher in kids with disabilities and those who identify as L.G.B.T.Q.” 

More Personally – Gayleen

I’m having a blast as the teaching assistant for the Writing Barn‘s Out of the Box Picture Books class with Adam Lehrhaupt!

It’s great to step out of my usual genre (middle grade) to learn something new and different. An added bonus is that most meta fiction is super funny, so the homework always makes me laugh.

Through the wonders of technology our class includes writers from literally across the country (Florida to California) studying picture books together in real time and the creative boost it has given me is fantastic. I love my writer life!