Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Robin GalbraithGayleen Rabukukk, & Stephani Eaton

Congratulations to Chris Barton, author of What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Beach Lane, 2018). From the promotional copy:

Even as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan stood out for her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It was a voice that made people sit up, stand up, and take notice. 

So what do you do with a voice like that? 

Barbara took her voice to places few African American women had been in the 1960s: first law school, then the Texas state senate, then up to the United States congress. Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice. 

…a remarkable picture book biography about a woman whose struggles and mission continue to inspire today.


Interview with Nicole Resciniti, President of The Seymour Agency by Jonathan Rosen at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:

“The MG market is still strong. I think we largely have librarians, booksellers, and teachers to thank for that.”


35-Point Checklist for a Great Author Visit from The Booking Biz. Peek:

“Setting up a great author visit is a big job, but the more organized you are up front, the better the event will be. To help, we’ve compiled a handy checklist so you can make sure all your bases are covered.”

10 Ways to Build Traffic to Your Author Website or Blog from Jane Friedman. Peek:

“…an author’s website, whether it gets much traffic or not, is foundational to your career. It offers readers as well as the media the official word on who you are and the work you produce.”

7 Presentation Tips for Speaking Online in a Virtual World from Gigi Rosenberg. Peek:

“So much public speaking nowadays happens not out in public but right from your computer…The most flattering angle for the camera to capture your face is from the same level or a little above your face.” 


Professor Writes First Novel About A Coming-To-Age Story Inspired By Her Own Native American Identity by Amy Mullowney from St. Catherine University. Peek:

“‘I’m tired of the negative stereotypes,’ says [Dr. Dawn] Quigley. Often times, the darker aspects of Native American characters are highlighted. ‘It’s not something we need to wash over…but I wanted to bring out the Native humor and the strong family ties that I grew up with—and they were really positive.’”

A Tale of Disruption: Teaching the Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, by Emily Visness from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“Disrupt texts, you ask? Here’s some background: A group of educator-leaders… started a hashtag to discuss the importance of including culturally relevant books in ELA classrooms, #DisruptTexts, and that hashtag has grown into a movement.”

Episode 23! Conversation with Lyn Miller-Lachmann by Karen Blumenthal and Lyn Miller-Lachmann from Kidlit Women.* Peek:

“…but the reason that I wanted to write this essay was to present my experience as an autistic writer…I wrote an Own Voices novel, and I faced a lot of challenges in the publishing industry, both because of my communication style and also the emphasis upon self-promotion.” 

10 Positive Things About Aging We Need to Show Kids in Books by Lindsey McDivitt from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“The fact is—we all have lots of living to do beyond age 18, yet the images of growing older in books for kids are often skewed to portray negative stereotypes as truth. Adulthood is frequently ignored and late life is often seen as sad.”

12 Picture Books That Showcase Native Voices by Debbie Reese from School Library Journal. Peek:

“The old saying that ‘a picture is worth 1,000 words’ is particularly important when the only pictures non-Native children see of indigenous peoples are sepia-toned ones set in the past that show us in traditional clothing.” 

In the Wake of Trump, YA Novels Highlight Immigrant Narratives: In Praise of a Sorely Needed Addition to the Genre by Holly Genovese from Lit Hub. Peek:

“These stories are equally important towards understanding that there is no one monolithic immigrant experience for teenage girls. Taken together, they demonstrate that varied immigration narratives are important, because immigrants are not just one thing.” 

WNDB Mentorships from We Need More Diverse Books. Peek:

“For the 2019 year, we are offering mentorships to 11 upcoming voices—ten aspiring authors (or author/illustrators) and one illustrator—who are diverse or working on diverse books…Applications for the 2019 cycle will be open from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31….”

Carnegie Medal Promises Immediate Action Over Lack of Diversity by Alison Flood from The Guardian. Peek:

“There is bias – even though it may be unconscious – every step of the way. It is the responsibility of those with a voice in the publishing industry to seek out diverse books and help to create the awareness that will lead to change.”

Writing Craft

Writing a Proactive Protagonist by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek:

“Novels are hampered when a ‘main character’ takes a backseat to action. Higher concept plots are often vulnerable to this. (Because, remember, high stakes can be tricky.)”

4 Ways to Keep Your Sentences From All Sounding the Same by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

 “One of those challenges is writing sentences that don’t all sound the same… We’re focused more on getting the information down than crafting compelling prose, so the writing ends up sounding list-like or monotonous.” 

Volunteer Chronicles: Gayleen Rabakukk from Austin SCBWI. Peek:

“I’m not good at finishing craft books, but I do have one that’s become a mainstay of my daily writing practice: Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. Each page of the book starts off with a quote related to the writing life..” 

The Invention Process: Ten Strategies for Producing Writing by Brenta Blevins from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Peek:

“This blog post lists ten invention strategies for ‘pre-writing’ or getting un-stuck when the words won’t flow. Regardless of when the need occurs or whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, short stories or books, invention exercises can help.”

Tips for Managing Writing and Chronic Illness by Alyssa Hollingsworth from Fiction University. Peek:

“Most of us are familiar with the Spoon Theory…begin asking yourself, ‘How many spoons do I have today? How many do I need to save for this week?’ This helps you modify your expectations for yourself into a doable spectrum.” 

Children’s Writer-In-Residence from Thurber House. Peek:

“Every year, we offer one talented, emerging middle grade author a month-long residency in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio…The deadline to apply is Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.”

Author/Illustrator Insights

7 Authors Discuss Complicated Families, Epic Love Stories, and More in October’s YA Open Mic by Michael Waters from BNTeenBlog. Peek from Cynthia Leitich Smith:

“My hope is that the story, loosely inspired by ours, opens minds and makes it safer and easier for teens to share who they are.”

Interview: New Voices Award Winner Rita Lorraine Hubbard on Writing a Picture Book Biography from Lee & Low Books. Peek:

“Once it was decided that I would re-write this as nonfiction, the challenge was to strip away those fictional elements I had fallen in love with and conduct some deep research that would fill in the gaps about William’s life and how he was able to accomplish the things he did.”

Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs: Double the Authors, Double the Fun by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“We developed a process whereby we wrote every chapter together, we edited each other and wrote over each other, so it’s really hard to tell at this point who wrote what sentence in any particular chapter. It really is a joint effort, down to the word choice.”

Four Questions with Marie Lu by Sara Grochowski from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“ I have to remind myself that these kids are growing up during a time of such rapid change. It’s not that we don’t all live through change, but the pace has grown faster and faster, which is both fascinating and really terrifying.” 

Curiouser and Curiouser with Melissa Stewart from Bookology. Peek:

“I usually work on at least a half dozen books at a time. I might be writing the rough draft of one and revising one or two others…Each day, before I stop working, I make a list of what I plan to work on the next day.”


Author-illustrator Carolyn Dee Flores & Lupe Ruiz-Flores

Congratulations to the 2018 winners of the SCBWI Work-in Progress Awards: Teddi Ahrens, April Jo Cervetti, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Joanne Durham, Angie Chan and Stacy Allen!

Congratulations as well to the 2018 winners of the SCBWI Don Freeman Illustration Grant: Sandra Salsbury and Cristina Lalli!

Children’s Book Council Debuts Diversity Awards by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“The Children’s Book Council, the nonprofit trade association for children’s publishers in North America, has revealed the winners of the inaugural CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards… are as follows…Saracia J. Fennell…Jennifer Loja…Jason Low…Beth Phelan…Phoebe Yeh..We Need Diverse Books.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Watch the Book Trailer!

October is a month of celebration at Cynsations!

The paperback edition of Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2018) is now available! From the Horn Book:

“Since this Feral trilogy–ender also wraps up its companion series Tantalize, several major characters from those books appear here, but Clyde, Aimee, Yoshi, and Kayla ably carry this series right up to its bittersweet conclusion. 

“Kayla’s full acceptance of her animal self, and the courage she gains in that acceptance, is particularly compelling.  

“With its sharp humor and fully realized characters, this urban fantasy will leave readers hoping for another series from Smith—and soon.” 

From Booklist:

“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.”

In related news, you can subscribe to Candlewick’s Evolt Newsletter and purchase e-copies of Eternal (2009) and Feral Nights (2013) on sale for $1.99 – this month only!

We’re at four days and counting down to the release of my upcoming YA novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018).

In a starred review, School Library Journal says:

 “Absorbing….Blending teen romance with complex questions of identity, equality, and censorship, this is an excellent choice…”

Last call! Pre-order your signed copy of Hearts Unbroken from my local independent bookstore, BookPeople in Austin, Texas. Note: Oct. 9 is the U.S. and U.K. release date. The novel will be available from Walker Australia on Jan. 1, 2019.

15 Exciting New YA Books for October 2018 by Kate Oldfield from United By Pop. See also October MG & YA Releases from CrazyQuiltEdi.

10th Texas Teen Book Festival Features Nic Stone, Marissa Meyer by Sharyn Vane from The Austin American-Statesman. Peek:

“…attracts top-notch talent from across the country, as well as Austin’s own robust literary community. Now under the aegis of the Texas Book Festival, the free event draws more than 35 authors and thousands of fans to St. Edward’s University, the festival’s venue since 2014.  

“…Austin-based Cynthia Leitich Smith is a doyenne of children’s literature…. curating the nationally acclaimed Cynsations blog….” 

Cyn Note: I’m looking forward to the fest this weekend and am honored by the mention, both personally and on behalf of all of Team Cynsations.

More Personally – Robin

I stocked up on books for my Halloween book project at a book signing with my former VCFA housemates Brendan Reichs and Ally Condie. Their new novel, The Darkdeep, sounds like the perfect book to give out for Halloween!

Personal Links – Gayleen

U.S. Supreme Court Keeps Ban on Uranium Mining at Grand Canyon

Personal Links – Robin

Expository Nonfiction: Display It in Classroom Libraries and Read It Aloud

Personal Links – Stephani

School Library Journal: Newbery/Caldecott 2019: Fall Predictions

Kids’ Fantasy Novels That Make Heroes Out of Underdogs

Personal Links – Cynthia

In light of the paperback release for Feral Pride, please check out the trilogy book trailer.