Cynsational News

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

3 Questions with Sylvia Vardell from Children’s Book Council. Peek:

“ …I’ve always found that kids love poetry—it’s the grownups (who buy books) who have the mental blocks about what they think poetry is or should be.”

Finding Your Way Out of the Margins by Caleb Roehrig from CBC Diversity. Peek:

“… it was just around that same time that I finally discovered the works of David Levithan, and saw that gay characters maybe did have the right to shine after all.”

List of the Week: Ladies Characters Study STEM in YA by Lauren James from YA Interrobang. Peek:

“It was also rare to find a character studying science who felt realistic to me. Most of the time they were wildly absurd – geniuses in not just their field but everything, who knew how to hack any server, recreate any molecule…”

Varian Johnson and The Parker Inheritance by Suzanne McCabe from Scholastic Reads Podcast. Peek: “Varian talks about his inspiration for the book, the research it took to dig back into his own hometown’s past, and about social justice — how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.”


YA A to Z: The Long Road to Gentrification by Author Lilliam Rivera by Karen Jensen from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek:

“What seems so sudden is actually an economic system placed to improve an urban neighborhood at the cost of the families living there… I’m sharing books that might help readers understand the history of gentrification as well as young adult novels that dig deep on how this can shape a young person’s life.”

Diversifying Middle Grade Books by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Spurred on by the We Need Diverse Books movement, a crop of new imprints and initiatives reflect publishers’ ongoing efforts to expand the middle grade category, seeking out traditionally underrepresented voices and stories.”

CCBC 2017 Statistics on LGBTQ+ Literature for Children & Teens from CCBlogC. Peek:

“In 2017, we expanded our CCBC diversity statistics to include books with LGBTQ+ content and/or characters, and the results have been both fascinating and eye-opening.”

Walter Grant Submissions from We Need Diverse Books. Peek:

“The Walter Grants were established to amplify and elevate diverse writers as well as their diverse works…we will award five grants of $2000 each. Applications are open from May 1 to May 31, 2018. If you’re interested in applying for a grant, please read over our submission guidelines and FAQ.”

Children’s Day, Book Day from Pat Mora. Peek:

 “In 1996, I learned about the Mexican tradition of celebrating April 30th as El día del niño, the day of the child. I thought, ‘We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We need kids’ day too, but I want to connect all children with bookjoy, the pleasure of reading.’”

Writing Craft

Keep Your Characters Consistent by Jim Dempsey from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“…it’s easier than you might think to introduce character inconsistencies into your writing. You could have had a long break between writing chapters because, well, that’s how life goes.”

A Tip for Getting Through Hard-to-Write Scenes by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“When faced with a sticking point in your writing, it’s helpful to just write the elements you can and move on. They won’t be the best scenes, and they’ll need work, but at least they’ll be down on paper and you can fix them later.”

A Writer’s Life Revealed by Kathryn Benson from Laura Ojeda Melchor. Peek:

“There’s nothing wrong with setting up schedules and systems (normally I love schedules and systems) but, when you feel adrift and you don’t have room in your life for deadlines or word count goals, it’s okay to write simply because you need to, because writing helps you remember who you are.”

What to Write When You’re Not Writing by Gargi Mehra from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Peek:

“Here’s what I usually do when I don’t feel like writing something new, but my fingers are itching to put something down on paper nevertheless.”

7 Methods for Writing Your First Draft by Ross Raisin from Lit Hub. Peek:

“One of the quiet pleasures of writing fiction is that each project spawns its own storytelling rulebook…There are, nonetheless, certain elements of craft to discover and to practice—to reject, sometimes—but, firstly, to understand.”

LoonSong: A Writer’s Retreat & LoonSong: Turtle Island

LoonSong: A Writer’s Retreat is scheduled for Sept. 6 to Sept. 10 at Elbow Lake Lodge in Cook, Minnesota.

Faculty include children’s-YA authors Nikki Grimes, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Bruce Coville, Marion Dane Bauer, Jane Buchanan, Sarah Aronson, and Debby Dahl Edwardson as well as agent Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary and editorial director and publisher Yolanda Scott of Charlesbridge. Note: author Susan Cooper, who was previously listed on the site, will not be able to make the event. See more on the faculty. Peek:

“We offer a smorgasbord of activities for writers to pick from: stimulating lectures and panel discussions, writing prompts and workshops, readings and one-on-one marketing, agent, and editorial consultations. 

“An agent and editor will be present at all readings. Our presenters include seasoned writers, an agent, and an editor who will help you grow your career, develop new approaches to craft, and think deeply about the writing life.”

LoonSong Turtle Island is scheduled from Sept. 11 to Sept. 14 at the same location.

See video.

Faculty include authors Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee (Creek)), Tim Tingle (Choctaw) and Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe), author-editor-publisher Arthur A. Levine of Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic as well as editorial director and associate publisher Yolanda Scott of Charlesbridge. See more on the faculty.

“…a writing retreat for Native American writers only, a place where writers can come together with a talented faculty of published Native writers and industry professionals to share their writing, spark their imaginations, and make the kinds of connections that help set a career on course.” 

Please note that a few publisher-sponsored scholarships are available. Thank you, Candlewick and Charlesbridge!


When to Follow Up with a Literary Agent from Nathan Bransford. Peek:

“In this post, I’ll give you some guidelines on when and when not to follow up with an agent based on different stages in the publishing process.”

In the #MeToo Moment, Publishers Turn to Morality Clauses by Rachel Deahl from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“…publishers are increasingly inserting…morality clauses—that allows them to terminate agreements in response to a broad range of behavior by authors. And agents…say the change is worrying….”

Marketing Middle Grade Books by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“The marketing of middle grade is trying to balance between speaking directly to the readers and to the gatekeepers, as you need to be able to get both groups excited about a book or series.”

Once-Endangered Bookstores Are Booming Again from CBS News. Peek:

“Between 2009 and 2015, more than 570 independent bookstores opened in the U.S., bringing the total to more than 2,200; that’s about a 35 percent jump after more than a decade of decline.”


Congratulations to Gordon C. James and Daria Peoples-Riley for winning the 2018 Sonia Lynn Sadler Award for Children’s Book Illustrations!

This Week at Cynsations

Cynthia Leitich Smith & Marion Dane Bauer.

More Personally – Cynthia

Congratulations to the finalists for the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award! Best wishes to all of you on your creative journey, and I know the winner will have a wonderful learning experience with this year’s mentor, Jennifer Ziegler.

My apologies for my absence to the writers whose manuscripts I critique for last week’s Austin SCBWI Conference. I had every intention of attending, but was waylaid by an unforseen health glitch. Please do feel free to contact me with any questions and/or to discuss your writing and publishing career momre generally.

In other news, I was excited to receive a complimentary copy of Typewriter Rodeo:  Real People, Real Stories Custom Poems by Jodi Edgerton, David Fruchter, Kari Anne Holt and Sean Petrie (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018). You can find the poem written for me by Sean on page 168. It was ordered for me by fellow author and pal Kekla Magoon at a book launch for author-illustrator Don Tate at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in Austin.

More Personally- Robin

Last week I went to the book signing for the middle grade novel Charlie & Frog by Karen Kane (Disney, 2018). Charlie’s lonely life picks up when he meets Frog, a deaf girl with a passion for mysteries. The book signing at Solid State Books near Gallaudet University was presented in both English and American Sign Language. I started reading the novel this week and am totally charmed!

Author Karen Kane and Illustrator Carlisle Robinson

More Personally – Gayleen

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be at the New Fiction Confab at Austin’s Central Library. Readings and panel discussions will take place from 2-5 p.m. at the free event sponsored by the Austin Library Foundation.
I had a blast at the Austin SCBWI Conference last weekend, catching up with old friends and making new ones. We kicked off the event with a volunteer and faculty party at the home of Assistant Regional Advisor P.J. Hoover. Here’s a photo of the set-up team before the guests arrived.
Stephanie Pellegrin, Cory Putman Oakes, Jessica Lee Anderson,
Madeline Smoot, Gayleen & P.J. Hoover.