Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Robin Galbraith, Stephani EatonGayleen Rabukukk

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview with Ibi Zoboi from Goodreads. Peek: “Elizabeth Bennet was the hero and love interest I didn’t know I needed. I wanted to update her so she could be relatable to teens. So Zuri is Lizzie: supersmart, politically aware, has big questions about her place in this world, and, yes, falls in love.”

Advice from Tayari Jones to Writers in Difficult Times from Electric Lit. Peek: “This is a call to action for all of us, each according to her ability. This is a plea for truth telling in all of its complexity. I am asking you to be brave enough to forsake likes and shares in favor of revealing potentially unsettling realities.”

A Celebration That Lasts from Marion Dane Bauer. Peek: “The best thing about seeing my words—and Ekua Holmes’s magnificent art—appear in book form is knowing they are here to stay.”

Guest Post: Susan Fletcher on Journey of the Pale Bear from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: “As part of my research I contacted the Oregon Zoo, where I met, up close, the resident brother-and-sister polar bears…”

An Interview with Adrienne Kisner, Author of Dear Rachel Maddow by Lucas Maxwell from Book Riot. Peek: “… I am all about having a day job…Keep writing, and painting, and creating, young artists! Do not give up, your dream is not stupid. But maybe also consider being a barista, because artists still have to pay the bills. There is great creative freedom in knowing that rent is covered.”

Spotlight on Science Writers: April Pulley Sayre from Science NetLinks. Peek: “The original version of my book, Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust …was rejected over and over, year after year. Then, one morning in a dorm at Vermont College, while studying for my MFA, I looked out at the sunrise and the entire book structure reorganized in my mind.”

How A Writer Reads by Meg Medina from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “I read authors with roots from around the globe who offer me a wide range of lenses on life… reading across the age groups forces me to calibrate my ear, so that I can practice locating the voice of each age group when I sit down to write.”

Author Interview with Yuyi Morales from CBC Diversity. Peek: “I was working on a graphic novel when Donald Trump was elected president….My editor, Neal Porter, saw that I was stuck…he also told me that he thought the book I should be working on was my own immigrant story.”

Five Questions for Zetta Elliott by Katie Bircher from The Horn Book. Peek: “Traditionally in fantasy fiction, cities often figure as places that are unhealthy for kids… I want young readers to see Brooklyn the way I do — even after twenty-five years, my immigrant eyes still see magic and history and possibility around every corner…”


WNDB Announces the 2019 Walter Awards & Symposium at the Library of Congress from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “…The Walter Dean Myers Awards Ceremony and Symposium, to be held on Friday, March 29, 2019 at the esteemed Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The event will be co-sponsored​ ​by the​ ​Library​ ​of​ ​Congress Learning and Innovation Division ​and​ ​We​ ​Need​ ​Diverse​ ​Books.”

The Power of Literacy: Changing the Narrative of Toxic Masculinity by Travis Crowder from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “We reinforce toxic masculinity with our language, when we say that this is a ‘boy book’, or we appeal to male students with athleticism… and when we refuse to speak out against deleterious actions against men and boys who are not within the parameters of the norm.”

Kidlitwomen*: A Conversation with Karen Blumenthal by Julie Danielson from The Horn Book. Peek: “We settled on ‘Kidlitwomen‘ as a name and then added an asterisk (not allowed in the title on the Facebook page) because the focus includes trans and nonbinary people…The diversity of issues was fascinating — …conference experiences; #MeToo incidents; underrepresentation of people of color…people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+…”

A Few Thoughts on Ageism in YA from Mary Pearson. Peek: “…increased pressure on women in the writing world, thinking that a clock is ticking and their career choices are limited. …why do we always try to box women in from the day they are born? I felt it as a teen. I feel it now.”

Interview with Traci Sorrell by Carole Lindstrom from M is for Movement. Peek: “We cannot continue to have the majority of books available for children and teens created by people who are not from our Native Nations. Too many times, the homework has not been done to get it right..”

On Becoming A Black Girl Reader by T.R. Simon from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “By seeking and finding myself in books, I was able to make the journey from reader to writer, from my red bean bag to the pages of my own book. I became a black woman writer because books taught me how to love my mind as a black girl reader.”

Who Are Las Musas? from Las Musas Books. Peek: “We are the first collective of women and non-binary Latinx MG and YA authors to come together in an effort to support and amplify each other’s debut or sophomore novels in U.S. children’s literature…We are not one voice, but many.”

Ellen Oh On “Crazy Rich Asians” and Representation by Rachel Carter from Booktrib. Peek: “…we know that education is key in our battle against racism, sexism, ableism, prejudice, and hate. The more diversity that children are exposed to from a young age, the more likely they will learn empathy and tolerance.”

Writing Craft

Is Your Picture Book Actually A Chapter Book? Five Ways to Find Out by Hillary Homzie from Writing For Kids (While Raising Them). Peek: “Picture books almost always require an interplay between words and pictures. Chapter books don’t. If you find yourself leaning towards exposition that doesn’t require illustration, you might have a chapter book on your hands.”

Un-dead Darlings by Fran Hawthorne from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “…darlings need to stay in their coffins..However, there are other possibilities for this excised material if we abandon the idea of keeping our darlings intact as chunks of prose and consider, instead, what they indicate, arise from, and serve.”

7 Quick Tips for Mastering Pacing in Your Story by Claire Bradshaw from Writer’s Edit. Peek: “While many stories whose pacing is ‘off’ can be put down to slower, ‘boring’ sections, just as many find trouble when pacing is too fast, or when there are no slowed-down sections at all.”

The Four Habits of Highly Effective Flashbacks by Dean Gloster from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “ Holly Black’s compelling and widely acclaimed 2013 YA novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, is a master class in how to use full flashbacks effectively…How does Holly Black make that work so well? For starters, her flashbacks follow all four good habits.”

Hero, Mentor, Trickster: Thinking about Archetypal Character Roles in MG by Jenn Brisendine from From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “I’ve listed some common character archetypes and given some examples from all sorts of MG fiction—recently published to modern classics, realistic to fantasy.”


Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves among finalists for $10K CODE Burt Award for Indigenous YA Literature by Jane van Koeverden from CBC. Peek: The short list is:


When Zero Is Greater Than One by Susan Spann from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Consider every aspect of the deal. Does it make business sense? Does it fit your plans and desires for your overall career? For where you are now, and where you hope to go?”

Abrams to Launch Megascope Graphic Imprint by Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Abrams has announced the launch of Megascope, a new imprint under its ComicArts program that will publish a variety of graphic novels focused on the experiences of people of color… The Megascope imprint will publish four to six books a year with the first book to be released in fall 2019.”

Interview with Jill Davis, Executive Editor from Harper Collins! by Jonathan Rosen at From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “Middle Grade seems to be where it’s at right now, likely because of the explosion and saturation in contemporary teen since John Green came on the scene.”


35-Point Checklist for a Great Author Visit from The Booking Biz. Peek: “The checklist is broken down by timeline, but this might change based upon your school district and schedule. Read through the entire checklist, then do each step in accordance with your school’s needs.”

School Visit Survey Part 5: Next Steps by Michelle Cusolito and Jeannette Bradley from Polliwog on Safari. Peek: “Male authors are more likely to have publisher-sponsored school visits than female/non-binary authors…Even more striking, female/non-binary authors who had won a national ALA/ALSC award (ex: Caldecott, Newberry, Coretta Scott King awards, etc) had fewer publisher-sponsored visits than men who had not won an award.”

How to Build a Following with Uniqueness, Authenticity, and “Getting Crazy.” My Interview with Travis Jonker by Dan Blank from We Grow Media. Peek: “Travis would write a blog post, but then reread it and ask if it would truly grab someone’s attention. If not, he would go back in and ‘get crazier,’ meaning he would be more free, give more of himself, add more humor, maybe make it more in his own voice…”

10 Instagram Tips for Writers by Annie Sullivan from Jane Friedman. Peek: “The other day, a high school freshman walked up to my book signing. When I asked if she had a Facebook account, she said, ‘No, Instagram.’…Younger generations (and even some older ones!) flock to Instagram for its feed of beautiful pictures.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Author copies! Pre-order your signed, personalized book now!

Welcome to new Cynsations intern, Stephani Eaton! We’re thrilled to have you on board.

Thank you to outogoing intern Kate Pentecost! Kate is now a Cynsations reporter, covering LGBTQIA and YA books.

Quiet week here, filled with MFA grading and getting ready for fall author-speaker events.

Tweeps, mark your calendars: I’ll be participating in the “Indigenous Authors in MG” #mglitchat Twitter event from 9 PM to 10 PM ET Oct. 18 (that’s 8 PM to 9 PM CT)!

BookRiot: Recommended: Interesting People and Their Favorite Books, featuring Gretchen Rubin and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Peek: “Apple in the Middle [by Dawn Quigley] is a rare contemporary story about a well rounded, likable native girl coming home to herself and her heritage for the first time. It’s ideal for those who like humor and elements of mystery.”

36 of October’s Best Young Adult Books by Dahlia Adler from BNTeenBlog. Peek:

“This month, you guys. This month. Look, I try to not to make grand statements like ‘This is maybe the best YA publishing month of all time,’ but you’ve got the returns of Anna-Marie McLemore, Nic Stone, Markus Zusak, Katherine Locke, Claire Legrand, Amy Rose Capetta, Destiny Soria, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and more…”

Remember to pre-order your signed, personalized copy of Hearts Unbroken, and it’s your last call to pre-order the paperback edition of Feral Pride (both Candlewick)!

Link of the Week: Friends of Indigo Memorial. Sympathies and support to Children of The Glades (@OfGlades on Twitter). Peek:

“Sixteen-year-old Indigo took her own life. She struggled with anxiety and depression. She also fought fiercely against the anti-Native prejudice and queerphobia that was all around her. We want to keep up that fight for her and give a gift to ‘all our beautiful hummingbird-hearted kin.’  

“We are starting this fundraiser because people are asking and wanting to give. Our library district was a haven for Indigo; a place for books and belonging. This was because our librarian Miss Ann welcomed her at the reference desk and at teen programs and guided her to books that enriched her and reflected her dreams and desires.”

More Personally – Stephani

This month’s highlight was attending our local book festival, Bookmarks, the largest book festival in the Carolinas. Our family had a blast at Dav Pilkey’s keynote and enjoyed several panels the next day. My son raved over getting to do a hands-on graphic novel workshop with Jeffrey Brown and my daughter was inspired by the Our Stories, Our Voices panel hosted by Amy Reed. The whole family came away with more books than we could comfortably carry.

Stephani and Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants

Personal Links – Cynthia

Personal Links – Robin

Personal Links – Stephani