Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
Robin GalbraithGayleen Rabukukk, and Stephani Eaton


We Are Unbroken: YA Authors Get Honest About Disability by Marieke Nijkamp from Children’s Book Council. Peek:

“In the new YA anthology Unbroken, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp teams up with fellow disabled authors to create a collection of fictional stories that dispatch with the tired, broken stereotypes—and reclaim narratives and identities.”

#Own Voices Not Familiar To All by Kara Yorio from School Library Journal. Peek:

“While the term ‘diverse books’ resonates with school and public librarians across the country, the #ownvoices movement does not have as much recognition. #Own Voices is…diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group.”

Why Sensitivity Readers Matter: (And Why We Should Call Them Something Else) by Jason Low from The Horn Book. Peek:

“…we prefer the term targeted expert readers. The reason we use this term is that it shifts the attention away from cultures and sensitivities and focuses on the true function of what these readers do for us: they are experts in a particular subject area.”

20 Best Books for Latino Kids from Parents. Peek:

“These children’s books celebrate hispanic culture in unique, wonderful ways. Discover your child’s new favorite read in our list suggested by First Book, a nonprofit that provides new books and educational resources to children in need.”

The Myth of Sculpted Whiteness by Uma Krishnaswami from her blog. Peek:

“Greek stories after all were filled with color, brimming over with it, grapes and pomegranates and wine-dark seas and whatnot. What was with all those pearl-white statues?”

Books You Need To Read After Watching The Hate U Give by Kate Oldfield from United By Pop. Peek:

“If you haven’t read Angie Thomas’s original novel, please do so, you won’t regret it. However, if watching ‘The Hate U Give‘ leaves you craving another powerful read, here are ten YA novels that will undoubtedly help quench your appetite.’

Diverse Characters Impact Decisions To Buy Books by Kara Yorio from School Library Journal. Peek:

“Within the 13 percent who have declined to buy a book because of a diverse character, school librarians were much more likely than public librarians to opt out of a title because of a potential challenge.”

Can Diversity In Children’s Books Tackle Prejudice? By Katy Scott from CNN. Peek:

“…stories that children read at a young age tell them who matters and who doesn’t matter, who’s human and who isn’t human. A story doesn’t have to tell us that explicitly…. — omission tells us that these groups of people are not important.” (Philip Nel, professor of English at Kansas State University.)

Publishing & Marketing

Query Letter Format by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek:

“Your query letter length? 250 to 450 words. That’s it! Sure, it feels so much more monumental than that, but the query letter only has one job: To get the agent or publisher interested enough to move on to your writing sample or proposal. That’s it.”

How To Successfully Pitch The New York Times (Or, Well, Anyone Else) by Tim Herrera from NiemanLab. Peek:

“After consulting with about a dozen editors who commission stories at publications ranging from small, niche blogs to national magazines and newspapers, I’ve pulled together the six most common mistakes freelancers make when pitching — and what you can do to impress an editor.” Note: Many of these tips apply to querying in general.

What’s In A Name? The Case For Pseudonyms by Sophie Masson from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“What the pen-names gave me, however, was not so much a way to flit between genres–as I’ve always done that under my own name–but a freedom to experiment with a different style…”

Editor Spotlight: Interview With Krista Vitola by Gail Shepherd at From The Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Readers. Peek:

“I would love to acquire more middle grade graphic novels, novels that focus on girls turning their hobbies into grassroots businesses, and novels in verse. But I will always buy more novels that make me cry and question and wonder.”

Author/ Illustrator Insights

Q & A with Mem Fox by Libby Morse from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“The most difficult part was to write a charming book with happy rhyme and rhythm, lots of great repetition, so that children would just adore it for itself—not just for its message, but for the rolling happiness of it. If you’re writing a children’s book to teach children anything, it just dies.”

When Bad Things Happen to Good Characters by Jonathan Roth from The Children’s Book Review. Peek:

“Get your characters up in a spaceship, throw asteroids at them, and then have them find a way down…. it is the last crucial step which finally explains why we take our characters to the limits of their endurance: so they can find a way to face their fears and grow.”

In Conversation: Sharon M. Draper and Jason Reynolds by Sharon M. Draper and Jason Reynolds from Publishers Weekly. Peek from Jason Reynolds:

“…I actually think it’s far more important to write complex but loving families into books to remind young people that there can be a family member—biological and chosen—who can love and support them while still allowing them to be fully themselves.”

How Am I Able to Solve Fictional Crimes When I Would Make A Pretty Sorry Real-World Detective? By Jennifer Lynn Barnes from YA Interrobang. Peek:

“… if I want a mystery to contain some truly surprising twists and turns, I have to turn my theory of mind capacity back on the reader. I have to know not only what they’ll be thinking about the characters and their motives and relationships, but also what they’ll be thinking about my motives.”

Meet National Book Award Finalists M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin by Emily Temple from Lit Hub. Peek from M.T. Anderson:

“I write at night. Earlier in the day, I don’t have much to say. By the time evening comes, things have happened to me. I’ve read things. I’ve thought about things. And I’m isolated as the world goes to sleep. So that’s when I start to write.”

Q & A With Brandon Sanderson by Michael M. Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“As a writer, it’s always about digging down deep into what I love about certain stories—what are the essential elements, what are the concepts that thrill me, and can I build those back up into something new?”

Amy Rose Capetta’s Non-Binary Love Story And Definitions That Could Change Lives by Amy Rose Capetta from Penguin Teen. Peek:

“But I didn’t have words for my queer and nonbinary nature when I was younger, even if they did exist somewhere in our world. And this is, in many ways, my story…People who live outside of two narrowly defined gender options are always there. In every time and place.”

Jason Reynolds at Temple Kehillath Israel by Shoshana Flax from The Horn Book. Peek: “He recalled going to the music store with five dollars, coming out with a Queen Latifah album, and listening while he followed along with the liner notes — and deciding he was going to grow up to be Queen Latifah.”

Writing Craft

Writing What Scares Us: Awakening the Monster Inside by Brunonia Barry from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“…Halloween of 2016. I was confident I understood the world, as well as the deepest fears most of us harbored. I knew myself, too, knew what I was most afraid of and was pretty sure I could express it. But that was then.”

Writers! Are You Doing NaNoWriMo This Year? Read This First from Lauren Sapala. Peek:

“NaNoWriMo tends to work for writers because there isn’t time to get caught in the same old hang-ups you’ve had for years around writing. You don’t have the luxury of sitting on the fence with your story idea anymore. Either you’re in, or you’re out.”

Shh! It’s A Secret: How To Raise Tension And Conflict In A Scene by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“It’s also tough to find new ways to build tension when the characters in the scene are friends working toward the same goal. How do you create conflict and not have friends turn on each other? Secrets.”

It Takes a Village by Kathleen McCleary from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Writing communities are not about editing by committee, or writing the story for you. They’re there to shout encouragement when you’re stuck and can’t cross the river, or to congratulate you when you pull ahead, but they can’t carry you.”

This Week at Cynsations

Bruce Hale

More Personally – Cynthia

Fellow Texas Book Festival panelists Nisha Sharma & Ibi Zoboi

Exciting news! My new YA novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018), has already gone into a second printing and in less than a month after the release date! My deepest thanks to everyone who’s supporting the book. Most appreciated.

More exciting news! The novel also has been named a Quick Picks 2019 nominee by YALSA. Peek from the review by Lisa Krok:

“…Smith’s narrative is thought provoking and candid, with touches of humor that make Louise a very likeable character.”

I’m so pleased that the humor was mentioned as I’m working on a speech about writing humor for the Kansas/Missouri SCBWI Conference later this month. At the moment, I’m en route to Denver for the 2018 Colorado Teen Book Con and, from there, I’ll be traveling to the YALSA Symposium in Salt Lake City.

Yes, it’s a busy speaker season! Thanks to Texas Book Festival for a wonderful panel last weekend.

More Personally – Robin

The Book Witch had a wonderful Halloween, giving out 177 of her 235 books to very enthusiastic kids and teens. Excited to do this again next year!

See Robin on How to Set Up a Halloween Book Project
More Personally – Gayleen

I had a whirlwind literary weekend! I reconnected with a few of my students from the Austin Library Foundation‘s Badgerdog summer camp program (but failed to get them in a group photo). Each student submitted a poem or story written during the camp and those were published in the anthology, Rise: Youth Voices in Ink. At the reading/launch party, I loved asking each student to sign my copy!
I also made it to a few presentations at the Texas Book Festival. I watched Don Tate do on-the-spot illustration using prompts from the audience and listened to a lively discussion on middle grade fiction with Austin authors Jo Whittemore and Samantha M. Clark

Personal Links – Robin

Personal Links – Gayleen