Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich SmithRobin GalbraithGayleen Rabukukk & Kate Pentecost 

Author/Illustrator Insights

Mark Does YA: The Prolific Critic and Creator Talks About “Anger Is a Gift” by Shelley Diaz from School Library Journal. Peek:

“A lot of this book is wish fulfillment on my part. What if my parents had been accepting of my sexuality? So, despite that this is a contemporary novel, a lot of imagination went into the construction of these character arcs.”

Interview with Deborah Heiligman from the Cybils. Peek:

“When I begin my research for a book, I start with primary sources. I read letters, diary entries, autobiographies, etc. and hold off reading any secondary sources as long as possible.”

Real-Life Drama: Kate Messner on Her New Novel, Breakout by Kiera Parrott and Lisa Goldstein from School Library Journal. Peek:

“In the case of Breakout…I’m fascinated by the idea that two people can be in the same room, see the same event transpire, hear the same conversation, and come away from it with completely different interpretations of what’s just happened.”

Rob Sanders Talks with Roger by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek:

“I wanted to tell this story not so much from a biography standpoint — there are several children’s biographies about Harvey Milk — but none about the flag itself. It was a unique opportunity for me to talk about symbols.” 

Meet Kate Pentecost, The Genderqueer Writer Changing the Young Adult Fiction Game by Kirk Loftin from Spectrum South. Note: Kate is a Cynsations Intern. Peek:

 “‘If there were more books with LGBTQ characters when I was young, it would have been so empowering,’ Pentecost adds on the need for more queer representation in young adult fiction. ‘I was really, really starved for characters who were like me.’”

Member Interview: Jason Gallaher from SCBWI. Peek:

“In both my picture book and middle grade work I write about whimsical or fantasy worlds. So I guess my everyday life feeds my work by me fantasizing about how much better life would be with magic, or with fashion-forward pandas, or with Easter bunnies turned dinosaurs.”

Hannah Moderow on Writing Lily’s Mountain from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek:

“Lily’s Mountain was rejected by 47 editors. 47! There’s no magic in that. But I pressed on, buoyed by the wisdom of VCFA, and the friendships and mentorships that I received there.”

On Wildness, Cracked Worlds, Monsters, and the Odd Nature of the Short Story from Kelly Barnhill. Peek:

“A short story… is an encounter. We cannot look it in the eye. We have to see with our skin and hear with our bones. A short story is a crack in the world; it is tooth and claw; it is the choice between attack and retreat. Nothing is wasted.”

Writing Craft

Writing Tension Instead of Teasing by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek:

“There is a big distinction between writing tension and merely teasing the reader along. Unfortunately, a tease is not enough and doesn’t respect your audience.”

Three Dialogue Don’ts (and Their Fixes) by Dean Gloster from Through the Tollbooth. Peek:

“In real life, we don’t answer, we evade—we joke, distract, change the subject, interrupt, counterattack, or answer the real question underneath what was asked. (Or a different question that we’d prefer to answer.)”

A Five-Page MFA by Abigail Hing Wen from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “Another favorite variation on Show-Not-Tell. Instead of telling your reader the answer is ‘2,’ give them the two separate components, and trust them to add them up on their own.”

How to Write an Epistolary Novel in Ten Not-So-Simple Steps by Sheila O’Connor from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek:

“Remember in a letter, every writer will both reveal and withhold.”

How to Survive Your Editorial Letter: 10 Simple Tips by Catherine Linka from Through the Tollbooth. Peek:

“…how do you get from denial to the acceptance you need to be able to revisit, reimagine and revise your work?”


The Key to Book Marketing: Do What You’re Best At from Nathan Bransford. Peek:

“Don’t make yourself miserable doing what you think you should be doing, do what you enjoy doing.”

10 Best Packing Tips for Authors by Gail Carriger from Fiction University. Peek:

“Whether you’re published (yet) or not, odds are you’ll attend a writing event at some point in your writing journey. For those requiring overnight stays, some special packing just might be in order.”


The Resonant Roar of Quiet Books by Emma Dryden from The Mitten. Peek:

“When a manuscript’s rejected for being too quiet, it’s often because a story hasn’t explored these themes at all or has only touched on these themes too quietly, too cursorily.”

Cate Berry on a Full Heart and a Cozy Snuggle by Amanda West Lewis from The Launch Pad.

“That’s the thing about publishing. You can’t control when it’ll be your turn. The stars have to be aligned ten thousand different ways for it to happen and that’s the truth. But it’ll never happen if you don’t cast your stories into the grind of the business.”

SLJ’s Average Book Prices for 2018 from School Library Journal. Peek:

“The numbers you put to work every year are here—the list of average book prices for 2017 and 2018 to date, produced in partnership with Follett. We know this data helps you make sound decisions.” 

Gina Gagliano Has Big Plans for Random House Graphic by Brigid Alverson from School Library Journal. Peek:

“I feel that it’s important to get kids reading comics as soon as they are reading independently, so I want to go from ages 5 to 18–19—do younger books and middle grade, do YA, really, all the way across that span.”


Living Beyond Tragedy by Lee Francis from Medium. Peek:

“…understand our histories as Sovereign people and subsequently work to dismantle all the structures that enable the continued marginalization and extermination of Indigenous peoples. This includes representations in popular culture.”

39 Great Indigenous Stories to Read and Share with Your Kids by Selena Mills from Today’s Parent. Peek:

“ From beautiful board books to compelling tales to trenchant reads, here are great stories about Indigenous culture and issues to add to your bookshelf.”

2018 Summer Reading List from We’re the People. 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.” 

 Schools See Steep Drop in Librarians, New Analysis Finds by Sarah D. Sparks and Alex Harwin from Education Week. Peek:

“American schools—particularly those serving black and Latino students—have seen a precipitous drop in their school librarians since the Great Recession.

A Closer Look at 2017 African/ African American #OwnVoices Books by Madeline Tyner from Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Peek:

“With the ever-growing call for #OwnVoices books in youth publishing, we delved deeper into the CCBC’s 2017 diversity stats, with a particular focus on #OwnVoices books. In this post, we examine the African/African American #OwnVoices books and consider creator roles, book type, and countries and cultures that are represented.”


Congratulations to the 2018 Forest Reading winners! 164,000 Ontario kids voted for books by these authors or illustrators: Vikki VanSickle , Danielle Younge-UllmanJess KeatingMarta Álvarez MiguénsAlex LyttleElizabeth MacLeod and Joanne George.

This Week at Cynsations

Don’t miss the ongoing SCBWI Bologna Interview series.

 More Personally – Cynthia

Watch the video (caution: spoilers!).

Buzz is starting to build for the Oct. 9, 2018 release of my upcoming novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, Oct. 9, 2018). See a video book talk by teacher Colby Sharp from SharpRead. Caution: spoilers. Peek:

“I devoured this book. End of the school year, and I still devoured it. It’s that awesome…. This book needs to be in all of the high school classrooms around the world.”

Cynsations Intern Kate Pentecost will be on two panels and one roundtable at Comicpalooza Con in Houston this weekend. Peek: “Living legends, industry icons, creative geniuses, space cowboys, and scientific marvels, that’s who’s coming to Comicpalooza. May 25-27 the pop culture festival will open its doors once again at the George R. Brown Convention Center….”

More Personally – Gayleen

The highlight of my week (okay, probably the year) was spending the weekend at The Writing Barn with this fantastic group talking about middle grade novels. I did a Cynsations interview with Lamar Giles last year about writing mysteries and his most recent YA novel, Overturned (Scholastic, 2017) so it was great to meet him in person and hear more about his upcoming MG fantasy, The Last Last-Day of Summer (Versify, Spring 2019).

Sarah Yasutake, Gayleen, Erin Sewell, Editor Phoebe Yeh (Viking Books for Young Readers), Lamar Giles, Meredith Counts, Jacquetta Feldman, Megan Hoyt, Brenda Panella, Erin Golden and April Jo Murphy. Photo by Bethany Hegedus.