Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Robin Galbraith, & Gayleen Rabukukk

Author/Illustrator Insights

Nova Ren Suma On Ghosts, Unreliable Narrators, & A Room Away from the Wolves by Luann Toth from School Library Journal. Peek: “As a writer, it’s both a fantastic rollercoaster ride writing a [unreliable] narrator like this, and also a maddening puzzle, because even if the reader isn’t meant to know the full truth, I always need to, and I need to make sure all angles and avenues are covered.”

The WD Interview: Bestseller Jacqueline Woodson on Confronting Controversial Subjects & Writing Across Age Categories by Jera Brown from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “I get asked a lot about my literature in terms of the controversy of it, which, it’s not controversial to me. I’m writing about everyday life and real issues and real people—I mean real characters who are trying to find their footing.”

Q & A with Hena Khan by Alex Rah from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When I was growing up, I never saw myself represented in a single book that I read, and it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I finally had that shock of recognition and saw ‘myself’ in a book for the first time.”

Interview: Paula Chase by Edi Campbell from CrazyQuiltEdi. Peek: “These characters are bonded by their neighborhood…Sometimes adults forget there’s an entire world their kids live in outside of them.”

Advice for Young Writers, Office Cats, and Up in the Air: Three Questions with Ann Marie Meyers by Debbie Ridpath Ohi from Inkygirl. Peek: “Dare to dream, especially when life throws ‘curveballs’ at you, because no matter what happens, you’ll always veer back on the path if you keep your dream alive.”

Author to Author: A Conversation Between Nadia L. Hohn and Itah Sadu by Itah Sadu and Nadia L. Hohn from Anansesem. Peek: “Writers of colour are highly underrepresented in the publishing industry but have a long history of independent (self) publishing and developing alternative presses of our own…Movements like We Need Diverse Books and publications like Anansesem are needed to increase the visibility of our work.”

In Conversation: Yuri Morales and Neal Porter from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “One of the most joyful things for me, in the way we make books, is that we honor the love I have for Spanish. And the importance Spanish has for me. Spanish is not a language that opposes or cancels English, but is equal.”

Interview with Jonathan Roth, Author of Beep and Bob Book Three: Take Us to Your Sugar by Wendy McLeod MacKnight from Middle Grade Minded. Peek: “… I got frustrated with years of rejections of picture books and middle grade novels and just sat down to write something silly and fun from my heart… I think I benefited from both the power of letting go and from all the practice I had put into my other projects.”

Writing and Illustrating Muslim Characters in Children’s Literature: Interview with Author Saadia Faruqi and Illustrator Hatem Aly by Suma Subramaniam at From the Mixed-up Files. Peek: “It was really important to me not to make Yasmin or her family ‘the other’ – someone different because of their skin color or their religion or ethnic background. There is a sort of empowerment in that normalization that only minority groups can truly understand.”


The 2018 National Book Awards Longlist: Young People’s Literature from The New Yorker. Cyn Note: Shout out to pal M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, nominated for The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (Candlewick).


Ageism in YA Lit from Mary E. Pearson. Peek: “If older women in the arts become a rare species, will young writers fear for their own careers? Will middle-aged women just give up because of some antiquated message our culture perpetuates?”

Sorell’s Debut Book Features All Things Cherokee by Will Chavez from the Cherokee Phoenix. Peek: “After my son was born, I noticed nearly all the books I had were either traditional stories or about Native people and historical events prior to 1900. I wondered where all the fiction and nonfiction picture books featuring modern Native life were….That’s what inspired me to write for children.”

How and Why To Build Diversity into Your Speaker Program by Cynthia Leitich Smith from The Booking Biz. Peek: “Think about a balance of voices, their idiosyncratic and intersecting perspectives, because that will make for a richer, more layered and interesting conversation.”

South Bend Bookstore Promotes Diversity Through Literature by Allie Kirkman from the Miami Herald. Peek: “Not only am I looking for a good story, but I am looking for the high-quality inclusive books. I am looking for marginalized voices.”

NYRF 2018: Money, Status Will Drive More Diversity by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I don’t see this as a trend—I see this as about educating the retailers and the gatekeepers,’ said [Judith] Curr…”

Picture Book Recommendations: First/Native Nations by Jillian Helse from Heise Reads & Recommends. Peek: “I am concerned about the number of teachers I see recommending books… that are problematic in their representations of First/Native Nations cultures… many educators just don’t know…To help with that, I decided to make a post compiling a few picture book recommendations…”

WNDB Mentorships from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We are offering mentorships to 11 upcoming voices…This is an opportunity to be matched with an experienced children’s book creator and receive individual support and feedback on a completed draft of a work-in-progress. Applications for the 2019 cycle will be open from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, 2018.”

‘We Rise’ Anthology Offers Call to Action by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek:”…impetus for the book dates back to the ugliness surrounding the 2016 presidential campaign….the Hudsons knew that they wanted to do something to reassure her (their niece), and millions of young children like her: ‘We’ve come through different challenges in the past, and we will get through this.’ We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (Crown Books for Young Readers in partnership with Just Us Books, Sept. 4, 2018).”


How to List Your Publishing Credits in a Query Letter from Nathan Bransford. Peek: “If you’re writing fiction, publishing credits can help. A bit. Sort of. But the current project you’re querying about is by far the most important thing.”

What Authors and Editors Wish They Could Say to One Another by Leila Sales from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “…I sometimes demand of my editor things that she cannot give; and as an editor, I’m aware that I sometimes keep from my authors things that they want….simply seeing the process from the other’s eyes doesn’t fix everything. But I do believe that it’s a start.”

Bologna Children’s Book Fair: How to Take Part. Peek: “The Exhibition is open to: illustrators, including professionals and newcomers, submitting unpublished works or works published in the last two years…Deadline for sending your artwork: Oct.5, 2018 (the postmark date serves as proof).”


13 Ways to Promote Before Publication by Therese Walsh from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Ideally, you’ll have three-to-six months before your book’s release to brainstorm, experiment, and implement your promotional plan. What’s worth your time? Here are 13 strategies to consider.”

How Traditionally Published Authors Can Repackage and Self-Publish Their Backlist by Jess Lourey from Jane Friedman. Peek: “I got my rights back to the first ten books in that series…It’s too soon for me to provide sweeping data on what works best, but one thing I know for sure: successfully publishing a book is a hundred times harder than I’d imagined…”

How to Support a Book or Favorite Author: 6 Easy Tips (Including Many Free Ones!) by Kelly Jensen from Book Riot. Peek: “This guide is meant as a way to spread the word about a book you love or you want to get more attention, and all of the tips are pretty easy and straightforward. Some will cost you a little bit of money while others are completely free…”

School Visit Survey: Next Steps by Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito from Polliwog on Safari. Peek: “…if everyone posted their school visit fees on their websites, and that information was freely available to schools searching for authors, it would reduce the misconception that authors are able to visit schools for free.”

Writing Craft

Changed Perceptions Equals Character Growth by Kim Bullock from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “The towns hadn’t changed. The people hadn’t changed. My perception of myself and my place in that world had.”

Need to Add Depth to a Character? Consider a Quirk by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “… I’d like to focus today on how to utilize quirks deliberately as a way of showing your character’s positive attributes. I’ve found that the best way to apply them meaningfully is by pulling them directly from the character’s personality or emotional wound.”

New Resources for Teaching Nonfiction by Melissa Stewart from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “Many students connect more strongly to books with an expository writing style…And so the question we need to ask ourselves at this point is: Now that we know better, how can we do better?”

How to Write Fiction That’s Fresh by Cathy Yardley from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Being fresh and original depends largely on being different than existing material. If you haven’t read widely in your genre, it’s hard to say whether publishing professionals or the reading audience at large would consider your premise original or not.”

A Recap of My First Residency in the VCFA Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA by Sarah S. Davis from Broke By Books. Peek: “I scoured the internet to find first-person narratives of what a low-residency MFA experience is really like before I went, but honestly I just didn’t find much…So this is my honest account of what my MFA residency experience was really like.”

Guest Post: How to Write Middle Grade Cringe Humor by Dan Richards from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek: “Cringe humor is a great way to face our own fears by watching others navigate embarrassing situations. We learn that if they can survive an embarrassing moment, so can we.”

What to Write About When You Can’t Thing What to Write About by Claire Fayers from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: “… just last winter at the Scattered Authors’ Folly Farm retreat, we talked about the rhythm of the seasons and the danger of trying to be constantly productive when we need the fallow periods for stories to put down roots.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

LoonSong Turtle Island 2018

This month’s highlight was 10 days at LoonSong 2018 on Lake Elbow in Cook, Minnesota. I taught back-to-back workshops on a faculty with fellow authors Nikki Grimes, Bruce Coville, Marion Dane Bauer, Jane Buchanan, Sarah Aronson, Debby Dahl Edwardson, Jenny Meyerhoff and Carol McAfee as well as editors Cheryl Klein and Yolanda Scott.

Then Cheryl, Yolanda and Debby stayed on with me at LoonSong: Turtle Island, and we were joined by authors Tim Tingle and Dawn Quigley as well as author-editor Arthur A. Levine. The Turtle Island program was specifically open to Native authors.

Thank you to LoonSong founders Jane, Marion and especially Debby (who coordinated both workshops) and to all involved.

Author copies in the house!

Reminder! Pre-orders are really important to the success of books. To show my appreciation to anyone supports my writing in that way, between now and Oct. 8, if you pre-order Hearts Unbroken from my independent bookstore, BookPeople, or from another bookseller and fill out this form, you’ll receive an autographed copy and a little swag, too!

Please also considering pre-ordering the paperback edition of Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral trilogy)(Candlewick, Oct. 2018). Thank you.

Congrats to Anne Clare Le Zotte (@annclezotte), the winner of the Hearts Unbroken ARC classroom set giveaway, sponsored by Candlewick Press!

Link of the Week: Hurrican Maria Anniversary Auction 2018 from Latinx in Kidlit.

More Personally – Robin

Last weekend I went to Jonathan Roth‘s book signing to get a small stack of his new book Beep & Bob, book 3: Take Us to Your Sugar signed for my Halloween-book project.  This series is just perfect for its age six-to-nine audience. I can’t wait to give these books out at Halloween!

More Personally – Gayleen

Last weekend I was inspired and energized by the talent and creativity of this phenomenal group of illustrators and writers at Austin SCBWI‘s Picture Book Retreat. Red Fox Agent Abigail Samoun and Chronicle Editor Ariel Richardson presented fantastic workshops taking a deep dive into picture books. Huge thanks to Illustrator Coordinator C.S. Jennings for leading the event!