Cynsational News

7th Generation, 2018

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Robin Galbraith, Gayleen RabukukkKate Pentecost 

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview: Tim Tingle, Author of A Name Earned by Gordon West from Kirkus Reviews. Peek:

“Tragedy happens in everything I write, but the tragedy is never gonna win. I want the kids who live in that environment to know that…just because your home situation doesn’t change, doesn’t mean you can’t.”

Everyone Has a Right to a Story That Feels Like Truth by Maxine Kaplan from YA Interrobang. Peek:

“If there is still only one acceptable way to be a girl in a rape culture, then we’re only doing half the work when we say, ‘Me too.’ Rape culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum and its stories can’t either.”

How School Librarians Will Save the World by Josh Funk from The Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“…it’s most often the librarians that are teaching coding. While budgets are always tight, it’s fallen to the librarians to carve out time for Hour of Code. School library bookshelves are being rearranged to make room for makerspaces.”

Interview: Children’s Author Mike Jung from DiversifYA. Peek:

“Find the emotional heart of your character and be true to it from start to finish. That’s the core of your story; that’s where its true power ultimately lies.” 

Kelly Loy Gilbert Talks About Representation, Picture Us in the Light (Hyperion, 2018) & More by Shelley Diaz from School Library Journal. Peek:

“I didn’t set out to consciously write an unlikable narrator! But, of course, he can be selfish and impulsive and obtuse, and he makes some questionable choices, and there are things he still hasn’t forgiven himself for (and probably shouldn’t, frankly, be forgiven). My two entry points into narrators are always their voice and the lens they use to see the world….”

No, I Will Not Stop Talking About Queer Pride from Robin Stevenson. Peek:

“I didn’t know what to do. I was so shocked that this was happening. I thought he would take his students and leave, and I felt like that would be even more upsetting to the kids. And it didn’t seem right that the students should lose out on an author visit because of their teacher’s ignorance.” 

What are the ingredients of a universally appealing early fiction series? By Chitra Soundar from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek:

“These books deal with emotions that children of this age group are coming to grips with – from anger and jealousy to empathy, hope and joy; but with a twinkle in the eye, a wink here and a smile there.”

Conducting Informatioal Interviews for Story Research from Writers Helping Writers. Peek:

“Here are pointers for before, during, and after the interview that can make an initially intimidating experience more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone involved.”

Writing Craft

Creating Unlikable Protagonists Readers Can Love by Helen Pyne from Through the Tollbooth. Peek:

“The trouble is, a protagonist is more likely to be ‘unlikable’ at the beginning of a novel when she’s only just figuring things out. Character transformation is a gradual process; it takes time to mature and change. That means she needs to make mistakes before achieving success.”

See also Making an Anthology by Sarah Blake Johnson and In This Together: The Power of Collaboration: Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison by Linda Washington from Through the Tollbooth.

Stuck in a Rut: How to Amp Up a “Boring” Story Setting by Angela Ackerman from Writers in the Storm. Peek:

“When described well, a specific location will draw readers into the scene’s action and the mindset of the POV character at the same time. Our description should provide an experience, encouraging readers to emotionally invest.”

See also Angela on How to Accurately Write About Your Character’s Physical Pain from Writers Helping Writers.


Hulu Ordering ‘Looking For Alaska’ Limited Series From Josh Schwartz Based On John Green’s Novel From Paramount TV by Nellie Andreeva from Deadline Hollywood. Peek:

“Schwartz first fell in love with Looking For Alaska (Dutton, 2005) in 2005 when he was given a then-unpublished manuscript for what would become Green’s debut novel. That was years before Green penned his hugely popular teen book The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012), which was made into an equally successful movie.”

Starting Later & Starting Over: Launching a Writing Career When You’re No Longer “Young” by Sangeeta Mehta from Jane Friedman. Features literary agent insights, including those of children’s-YA agent Sarah Davies. Peek:

“If the individual deserves to succeed, then let’s be their champion, whatever their age. However, if the writing doesn’t have what it takes, then age can’t be a smoke-screen for that fact.”

The Trouble with (and Triumphs of) Trends by Elizabeth Bluemle from Shelf Talker at Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Look at YA; it’s hard to believe it was ever endangered. It’s possible that the burgeoning of YA couldn’t have happened without that steep decline. The same is true of picture books.”


New Voice Interview with Jeanette.

School Visits Survey: Is There a Gender Gap? by Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito from Polliwog on Safari. Peek:

“While there is not a large gap between male and female/non-binary respondents in terms of rate, there is a significant difference in the total number of school visits done in the last year.”

School Visits Survey: Free and Reduced-Fee Visits by Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito from Polliwog on Safari. Peek:

“Female/non-binary respondents who have won a national ALA/ALSC award had a lower average of publisher-sponsored visits than men who had not won one of these awards.”

See also Jeanette and Michelle on School Visits Survey: Virtual School Visits.

How to Make a Good Author Website from Nathan Bransford.

“Opportunity can’t knock if it can’t find your door.”

Book Treats Brought by the Postal Service by Meghan Dietsche Goel from Shelf Talker at Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“…love getting posters. We don’t have room for every single striking poster we receive, but we do spread them around and switch them out periodically to keep things fresh.”


Learn more about Feral Nights, Feral Curse and Feral Pride.

Top 15 List of Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy by Kristyn Dorfman from Nerdy Book Club. Note: Honored to see the Feral trilogy by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2013-2015) on this list. Peek:

“Speculative fiction is amazing because it can take the experiences and problems of our current world and investigate them deeply under the guise of a world not our own or a world long past.”

2018 Summer Reading List from We’re the People. Honored to see Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith  (HarperChildren’s, 2002) on this list. Peek:

“Are you looking for a curated summer reading list that celebrates diversity and all its intersections? 

“The team at We’re the People select books that are by and about IPOC (Indigenous and People of Color), people with disabilities and people from the LGBTQ+ community. Chosen books are thoroughly discussed, vetted and given second reads.”

Muslim Voices 2018 by Crystal from Rich in Color. Peek:

“…the Ramadan Readathon is back and there are several other associated activities. There is a blog tour from May 17 to June 15 and there is also a photo challenge and a hashtag so people who aren’t necessarily doing the readathon can still have opportunities to participate. Visit Nadia’s blog to learn more about participation and to find lists to help plan what to read or to purchase for your library.”

2018 Walter Grants from We Need Diverse Books. Peek:

“Are you an unpublished, diverse writer or illustrator in need of financial support? Application submissions…are open now!”

WCYA MFA News – Hamline

Brandy Colbert and Elana K. Arnold have joined the faculty of the Hamline MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Learn more about Brandy Colbert & Elana K. Arnold.

Brandy Colbert is the award-winning author of Little & Lion (Little, Brown, 2017), Pointe (Putnam, 2014), and the forthcoming Finding Yvonne (Little, Brown, 2018) and The Revolution of Birdie Randolph (Little, Brown, 2019).

She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Missouri State University and works now as a copyeditor for magazines and books. She lives and writes in Los Angeles.

Elana Arnold is the author of eight novels for young adults and middle grade readers, with one YA novel and two picture books forthcoming. Her most recent novel, What Girls Are Made Of (Carolrhoda Lab, 2017), was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.

Elana has a Master’s degree in creative writing/fiction from the University of California/Davis where she has taught creative writing and adolescent literature. She lives in southern California with her family.


Cori McCarthy has joined the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Learn more about Cori McCarthy.

Cori graduated from VCFA in 2011 and they are the acclaimed author of four YA novels, as well as a forthcoming coauthored space fantasy duology and a nonfiction picture book about Arab American poet Kahlil Gibran.

Cori’s feminist romcom Now A Major Motion Picture (Sourcebooks, 2018) is, according to Kirkus Reviews, “a war cry and a love letter all at once.”

Cori holds a BA and MFA in creative writing as well as a degree in screenwriting. They cofounded the annual Rainbow Writers Workshop with their partner and, like many of their characters, are a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Cyn Note: I had the pleasure of hearing Cori speak on a panel, “Fandomonium: Fandoms and Fanfiction for Young Adults,” this April in Dallas, and I was impressed not only by what they had to say but also by their collection of superhero action figures. Welcome to the faculty, Cori!

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

In late-breaking news this week, I’m officially a soon-to-be published poet!

I’m deeply honored to have contributed a poem to be featured in Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul and illustrated by debut Native artist Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota-Mohegan-Muscogee (Creek))(Lerner, fall 2019).

Featured poems are also by Joseph Bruchac, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kimberly Blaeser, 신 선 영 Sun Yung Shin, Ed DeCaria, Becky Shillington, Padma Venkatraman, Gwendolyn Hooks, Jane Yolen, Janice Scully, Charles Waters, Carole Lindstrom, Sylvia Liu, Carolyn Dee Flores, Sarvinder Naberhaus, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Baptiste Paul, Patti Richards, Chrystal D. Giles, Margarita Engle, Kenn Nesbitt, JaNay Brown-Wood, Diana Murray, Megan Hoyt, Jamie McGillen, Rénee M. LaTulippe, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Edna Cabcabin Moran, Charles Ghigna, Cynsations reporter Traci Sorell, and fellow VCFA faculty Liz Garton Scanlon.

What else? Did you receive the Fall-Winter 2018 Candlewick Press catalog? If so, please look for my October 2018 YA releases, Hearts Unbroken (hardcover, p. 74) and Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral trilogy)(paperback, p. 113). Both books are available for pre-order.

Feral Pride was originally released in hardcover in 2015. The October release means that all the books in the TantalizeFeral verse will be available in paperback. Huzzah!

A peek at Feral Pride reviews:

“Smith’s ability to mix the paranormal and the divine with sexy, wisecracking humor, youthful optimism, and fast-paced action has been a hallmark of this entertaining series. Fans will not be disappointed.  

“High-demand Backstory: Smith’s fantasies have earned her an army of fans, and this trilogy-ender—that connects two series, no less—will have high visibility.” 

— Booklist

“…the wickedly funny, quickly paced style is anchored by the novel’s underlying theme of the marginalization of people and its effects…witty, smart and moving—sure to satisfy…” 

— Kirkus Reviews

“With its focus on supernatural creatures and its subplots involving teen romance, the fast-paced and action-packed series could easily lend itself to cinematic or television adaptation.” 

— Literacy Daily

Congratulations to Olivia Abtahi and Luisana Duarte Armendáriz, winners of the 2018 Lee & Low New Visions Award! Congrats also to the winners and honorees of the 2018 South Asia Book Award, especially Mitali Perkins, Hena Khan and Uma Krishnaswami!

Link of the Week: Success Story Spotlight: Kim Rogers from The Writing Barn.

More Personally – Gayleen

Authors Varsha Bajaj and Paige Britt at BookPeople

Our Austin SCBWI meeting last weekend focused on reducing stress and nurturing creativity.

Children’s authors Varsha Bajaj, a former counselor, and Paige Britt, a meditation instructor, shared tips especially geared toward writers and illustrators. My favorite: “Relax about the attachment to the outcome and revel in the process of creating.”

They also each recommended a book. Paige suggested If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland (Martino Fine, 2011) and Varsha suggested The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Volger (Michael Weise Productions, 2007).

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