Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Robin Galbraith, Gayleen Rabukukk, and Stephani Eaton

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q & A with Kekla Magoon by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“…the cohesive narrative of my work… being an ordinary kid who can make a difference. If you recognize the power of your own voice and your good qualities, you will be able to discover and stand up for what you believe in.”

Author Chat with Susan Fletcher (Journey of the Pale Bear), Plus Giveway! By Kayla King from YA Books Central. Peek:

“…drafting is a more anxious time for me, because I always have the feeling in the back of my mind that it might just all come apart and collapse…But revising is the time when things start to come into focus.”

How Can Two Authors Make One Story? A Back and Forth Between Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“When we both had a different idea about how a scene should turn out, we agreed that we couldn’t go with either of our initial solutions/plans. We had to come to a third solution, together…that third option was better than what either of us came up with on our own.”

Let’s Talk with Indonesian YA Writer Sinta Yudisia by Robin Kirk from YA Interrbang. Peek:

“The author of over 60 books, Sinta is a rock star in Indonesia, her home. She’s also a fascinating person who is an #ownvoices treasure.”

5 Questions for Hillary Homzie by Melissa Roske at From the Mixed-Up Files. Peek:

“Finish what you write. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten bogged down by the first three chapters—obsessively rewriting them. I would say just write on through to the end, and only after you’ve finally gotten your armature in place, then spend time fine-tuning.” 

7 Questions for: Author M.T. Anderson by Rob Kent at Middle Grade Ninja. Peek:

“When I’m in the midst of working hard on a novel, I’ll probably spend about three or four hours a day writing. But that doesn’t reflect the time when, for example, when I’m jogging before I write. That’s when some of the most important work actually gets done…”


Congratulations to the National Book Award Young People’s Literature Finalists!

Congratulations to Carole Boston Weatherford, winner of the 2019 Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award!

Congratulations to the 2019 Forest of Reading Nominees!

Congratulations to Tim Tingle, Laurie Halse Anderson, Margarita Engle and all of other  243 nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award!


Poetry and Graphic Novels to Read After The Hate U Give by Gwen Glazer from New York Public Library. Peek:

“A lot of great lists online have already suggested dozens of fiction readalikes, so we thought we’d recommend graphic novels, poetry, and memoirs that address similar themes in a different format.” 

#IndigenousReads by Indigenous Writers: A Children’s Reading List by The Conscious Kid from Medium. Peek:

“Indigenous people are very much a part of today’s society. With their stories, Indigenous writers share the range of their lives, past and present, and we hope that you’ll embrace and share their stories.”  

Episode 19! Conversation with Ellen Wittlinger by Jacqueline Davies from Kidlit Women*. Peek: Ellen Wittlinger talks with Jacqueline Davies about the double standards of judging women’s writing on today’s kidlitwomen* podcast:

“A woman writing about her emotions is immediately seen as sentimental or sappy.” 

10 YA Fantasy Books Written by Women of Color by Simone Jung from Book Riot. Peek:

“It fills my heart with joy that my reading days can be feature some faces that look like mine and expand the genre to many more universes.” 

What Are We Teaching Boys When We Discourage Them From Reading Books About Girls by Shannon Hale from The Washington Post. Peek:

“The bias against boys reading about girls runs so deep, it can feel daunting to try to change it. But change can start with a simple preposition swap: When talking to young readers, we can communicate a book is about girls without prescribing that it is for girls.”

Nic Stone’s Letter to Her Younger Self Is an Important Reminder That You Don’t Have to Fit in Just One Box by Nic Stone from TeenVogue. Peek:

“That’s what I’m writing to tell you. Where you are right now: trying to figure out which way is up and how to deal with your questions and confusion — that’s a perfectly acceptable place to be.”

I See You by K.A. Holt from Haiku of the Day. Peek:

“…maybe the story is different than her own, but all of that is ok because she will be able to pick up a book, see two girls struggling together (and alone) to make sense of the world, and those girls will be holding hands.” 


Writing Through Chaos by Catherine McKenzie from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Sometimes the news is too dispiriting to ignore. Sometimes the news is too riveting to ignore…. Make small goals. I can watch one hour of this hearing if I write 500 words first. Or 100. Or 50. Make small goals and gradually up them.”

How to Write a Novel Synopsis by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek:

“Don’t worry about making it cute, pitchy, or voice-y. Your writing should be clear and tight. Just the facts, ma’am.”

Non-Verbal Communication and Backstory by Jeanne Kisacky from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Nonverbal communication–which is based on learned, repeated, or automatic responses developed from past experiences–provides a powerful story tool for connecting the present to the past in a manner that can minimize this sense of manipulation.”

I Have Wasted My Life…Are You Wasting Yours? By Heather Demetrios from Wild Things. Peek:

“I’ve come to realize that social media—though a seemingly necessary evil in the author’s life—cannot be ‘necessary’ for me right now. Not if I want to actually write any books. Or dream up new ones. Or be grounded and mentally stable at all.”

Six Questions to Ask a Writing Coach by Cat Rambo from Medium. Peek:

“If you’re thinking about a writing coach, don’t grab the first one that presents themself. It’s important to find a coach that is the right fit for you, one that can help you find your voice and enable you to look at your work with fresh eyes.”

Create Killer Twists: Learn How to Redeem Your Villain by Sacha Black from Writers Helping Writers. Peek:

“If your villain is going to do a 180 and become good, then there should be a reason. Humans don’t do things without reasons, and in order for your readers to swallow such a significant change, you need to ensure you’re clear on why he’s doing it.”


Barnes & Noble Evaluates Possible Sale by Jeffrey A. Tratchtenberg from The Wall Street Journal. Peek:

“Barnes & Noble Inc. said it is considering a sale after receiving interest from multiple parties including its executive chairman, Leonard Riggio, the latest twist for the embattled bookseller as its business reaches a critical juncture following years of decline.”


The Best Way to Support Writers by Dan Blank from We Grow Media. Peek:

“Not only does that review make an author’s day, it means that when a reader looks at that book online and considers buying it, they can hear what others loved about it and why.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

“Relationship Status: Who Cares? I’m Awesome” panel at Texas Teen Book Festival with David Levithan, Morgan Matson, Lillian Rivera and Nic Stone. Moderated by Ami Gandhi. Photo by Gayleen Rabakukk

Hearts Unbroken was released on Tuesday by Candlewick Press! Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered, signal-boosted, and/or in any way supported this new book. I appreciate you!

Thanks especially to my Candlewick editor Hilary Van Dusen, my literary agent Ginger Knowlton, the acquiring editor Deborah Noyes, copyeditor Hannah Mahoney, jacket designer Pamela Consolazio, marketing pros Andie Krawczyk and Jamie Tan, my booking agent Carmen Oliver, my webmaster Erik Neills of Square Bear Studio, and manuscript readers Anne BustardAmy Rose Capetta (pre-order The Brilliant Death (Viking, 2018)), Cory Putman OakesSean PetrieKevin Wohler and Jennifer Zeigler.

Inspiration & craft reflections

Thanks also to my Cynterns Stephani M. EatonRobin Galbraith, and especially Gayleen Rabakukk.

For my a few of my craft thoughts on writing Hearts Unbroken, see my four-part series of posts. See the full list above at This Week at Cynsations.

Last week’s event highlight was the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin. Thanks to TTBF and BookPeople! Thanks also to my panel moderator, Ami Gandhi. See also The Texas Teen Book Fesival Turns 10 by Meghan Dietsche Goel from PW ShelfTalker.

In other event news, I was pleased to see that LoonSong: Turtle Island got a little ink in Publishers Weekly.

Q&A with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb. Peek:

“I’m a sense-of-place writer, and the majority of my stories are set in locations I know well. There’s an expression ‘I know where you’re coming from.’ It means ‘I understand you.’ Think about how we equate that.”

Thanks for your support!

Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith by Crystal from Rich In Color. Peek:

“As I drafted scenes, I was aware of exactly how they’d resonate with many Native teens and, to varying degrees, alienate many influential, non-Indian adults. I kept typing anyway.”

The Heart of Cynthia Leitich Smith by Amanda West Lewis from Wild Things: VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Blog. Peek:

“I crafted a love story juxtaposed against microaggressions and their escalation. A story that’s infused with humor and community and lived experience as a middle-class Native teen.”

Let’s Indigenize Our Bookshelves and Fully Welcome Native Kids as Readers by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“I understood from a very young age that the Native part of myself didn’t seem to belong in the world of readers. (Did we send that message to all Native kids? Do we still? At what cost to them and to their non-Indian friends…).”

More Personally – Stephani

This week I went back to working on a manuscript of a picture book that I started while at VCFA. It felt really good to be back in a story, immersed in the details.

But the highlight of the week was when the kids and I went to Bookmarks, our local bookstore, for Alan Gratz’s book launch of his new book, Grenade (Scholastic, 2018). Alan gave such an engaging talk that the kids kept whispering to me to get up and grab each title he talked about. We came home with three! While there, my son reunited with his elementary school media specialist. She’s still so good at finding books he’ll love.

More Personally – Robin

Apparently it’s Alan Gratz week because I also heard Alan talk at Hooray for Books! and had him sign books for my Halloween book project. Alan was my advisor for the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop in 2012. You are in for a treat if you ever get feedback from Alan. He’s gives incredibly clear and insightful feedback!

More Personally – Gayleen

I had a magical evening Monday. Austin SCBWI hosted a reception with Kwame Alexander before a public event celebrating his new novel, Swing, co written by Mary Rand Hess (Blink, 2018). The Newbery-winning author chatted and answered questions about his writing journey and the VERSIFY imprint. I’m thrilled to be part of a team that makes events like this happen!

Personal Links – Stephani

Personal Links – Robin