Cynsational News

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q & A With Natasha Ngan by Katrina Nildas Holm from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

 “We can censor what we expose teens to through books, but we can’t be protecting them from everything in the real world, so I think it’s important that there are books that tackle deeper, darker issues.”

Robin Talley, Author of Pulp, on Not Getting Too Far Inside Her Own Head by Robin Talley from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek:

“I like to write out in public as much as possible. A library, a coffee shop — wherever there are people circulating, other noise that I can tune out. If I get too far inside my own head, the creative part of my brain tends to freeze up.”

Interview With Adib Khorram from Rich in Color. Peek:

“I really love how, despite feeling out of place and isolated, Darius doesn’t try to change who he is to fit in better. I wish I’d had his strength of character when I was a teenager!”

Q & A With Sarah Prager: Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager from We Need Diverse Books. Peek:

“I had never heard of her [Roman Empress Elagabalus] before researching for the book but she was incredibly fabulous and everyone should know her name.”

Late Bloomer: Author Cynthia Surrisi by Lindsey McDivitt from A Is For Aging. Peek:

“I have not felt pressured by my late start. Don’t get me wrong, I’m acutely aware that a late-blooming career naturally has limitations… But I have a greater ease about it, I think.”

An Interview with Mary Louise Sanchez, Author of The Wind Called My Name by Hanna Ehrlich from Lee & Low. Peek:

“Read, read, read–especially those books by authors that resonate with you and your students. Also, read how-to-write books with your story in mind. Join and attend writing organizations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and submit your stories for critiques, even when it’s intimidating.”

Illustrator Q & A With Hayelin Choi from Children’s Book Council. Peek:

“…when I thought of science as a girl, I thought of writing complicated science equations on a chalkboard… in Bread Lab! [by Kim Binczewski and Bethany Econopouly (Readers to Eaters, 2018)] I wanted science to be portrayed as fun and playful experimentations. Bold and saturated colors and obvious humor were some of the elements to reveal that part of science.”

Five Questions For Traci Sorell and Frané Lessac by Julie Hakim Azzam and Horn Book Editors from The Horn Book. Peek:

Traci Sorell: “When one of the staff members at the Cherokee Heritage Center saw the book, she said, ‘I love that it shows us just living life in our culture. No one is a superhero.’ Exactly! I want to see more stories where Cherokee children, adults, and elders are shown in contemporary settings..”


2019 Print Forecast: Tight Paper Market Will Continue Squeezing Publishers by D. Eadward Tree from Publishing Executive. Peek:

“…magazine publishers will be paying about 25% more for paper than they did just 18 months earlier — assuming they can find any paper to buy. There are no signs that the scarce supply and rising prices afflicting all U.S. buyers of publication papers will abate in 2019.”

Peachtree Publishers Acquired By Trustbridge by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Peachtree Publishers has announced that Trustbridge Global Media has acquired the Atlanta-based children’s publishing company, as of November 7…Quinlin said what convinced her to move ahead with the deal was that Trustbridge ‘wanted us to continue doing what we do at Peachtree.’”

Shanghai Children’s Book Fair Buoyed By Expanding Chinese Market by Teri Tan from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Overall, exhibitors are buoyed by the fact that China’s children’s book segment has expanded 14.2% within the first nine months of this year, and it currently accounts for a quarter of the country’s total retail book market (valued at around $10.2 billion).”


Four Tips For Marketing Any Children’s Book by Martin Cavannagh from Nathan Bransford. Peek:

“New parents are among the most tech-savvy people you’ll find. They’re in their 20s and 30s, and for them, the Internet is one of the first places they’ll turn to when they’re looking for book recommendations.”

Do You Use Instagram As An Author? Some Advice by Lee Wind from SCBWI: The Blog. Peek:

“…some choice examples of how authors are successfully using instagram. From Poems, inspirations, book covers, author signing events, and quotes, there’s so much inspiration! How do you use Instagram?”


Need A Little Comic Relief? From Rich in Color. Peek:

“When stress levels rise, humor can be an excellent way to ease the tension. Perhaps you’re ready to reach for some fun reading that could bring a smile to your face. Here are a few books I’ve read this year that have inspired laughter just when I need it.”

Episode 37! Conversation With Edi Campbell by Edi Campbell and Karen Blumenthal from Kidlitwomen*. Peek:

“…When We Need Diverse Books started, somehow the message got out there that we simply wanted more books…and it didn’t matter who wrote it. It didn’t matter the quality. It didn’t matter how well the representation was there. That’s not what most of us wanted.”

At Last! A Writer Incorporates A Critical Take on Little House On The Prairie! The Writer? Emma Donoghue by Debbie Reese from American Indians In Children’s Literature. Peek:

“In 2017, Arthur A. Levine (an imprint of Scholastic) published Emma Donoghue’s The Lotterys Plus One… it is one of the rare instances in which a non-Native writer does okay in their depictions of Native content.”

The Review Is Critical by Edith Campbell from School Library Journal. Peek:

“Traditional reviews limit themselves to how the story is presented by discussing characters, themes, plots, and setting. Critical book reviews go beyond this by focusing on how people and events are represented, whose voice is missing from the story, and the ways in which power is enacted.”

Apple, Echo, And The Importance of “More Than One Book” by Jean Mendoza from American Indians In Children’s Literature. Peek:

“… it takes more than one story about a group of people to adequately portray that group’s experience. Still, we know that in classrooms and in library collections across North America, the pickings are usually slim when it comes to books by and about Native people.”

Rainbow Weekend 2019 (For Those Identifying As LGBTQIAP+) from The Writing Barn. Peek:

“Following our inaugural Rainbow Weekend last spring, we’re thrilled to welcome back to the Barn popular YA authors Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, as well as Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Vice President and agent Jim McCarthy for the second annual Rainbow Weekend Intensive!”

Writing Craft

Unifying Your Story Around A Meaningful Theme by Jeanne Cavelos from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“If you didn’t start your writing process with a theme, though, chances are that you’ll discover several different themes warring for dominance.”

Five Tips For Writing About Fictional Technology by Julie Hyzy from Writer’s Digest. Peek:

“It’s your tech…Give it a name. One that’s easy to relate to..J.K. Rowling got us to understand what muggles, floo powder, and horcruxes were…Suzanne Collins uses familiar words …Tracker Jackers (the term conjures up visions of yellowjackets) are genetically modified wasps whose stings are often fatal.”

Context, Text, and Subtext: What They Are And How They Help Storytelling by September C. Fawkes from Writers Helping Writers. Peek:

“If there is no context, there is almost no investment in the story, because if the audience doesn’t have access to any clear meaning, they are unable to care about what happens. …subtext happens when the story is bigger than what is on the page.”

How To Recognize The Finish Line by Kathryn Craft from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Truth is, we could tinker forever. But all artists—painters, poets, and novelists alike—eventually have to trust that it’s time to let a project go.”

NaNoWriMo Can Be Hard by Amren Ortega from Operation Awesome. Peek:

“…what you’re writing is a very, very rough first draft. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page, not writing The Perfect Novel™ on the first pass.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Editors, agents & art director panel at KSMO SCBWI.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I thanked everyone for supporting Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018), which had just gone into its second printing?

I’m back to thank y’all again because the novel is now in its third printing, and that’s terrific.

Thanks also to Kansas-Missouri SCBWI for a wonderful “Middle of the Map” conference at KU Edwards campus in Overland Park, Kansas!

Fellow faculty included: agents Wendi Gu of Janklow & Nesbit Associates, Barry Goldblatt of Barry Goldblatt Literary, and Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary, who also is an author; editors Susan Chang of Tor Books and Annie Nybo of Albert Whitman & Company; art director Jasmin Rubero of Penguin Random House (Kokila Imprint); and authors/illustrators Alastair Heim anad Suzanne Kaufman.

Highlights included the one-on-one critiques and KC-style barbecue. I also especially enjoyed spending time with my rising star author, dear pal, and Cynsations reporter, Traci Sorell.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X (HarperTeen, 2018), winner of the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.

Now in its third printing!

Beyond Sherman Alexie by Meghan Dietsche Goel from Publishers Weekly ShelfTalker. Note: In which I reflect on display strategies for bookstores, which might also be useful to libraries. Peek:

“She offered some really practical suggestions about how we could better build Native content into what we do, and I thought they were great, so I asked if I could share! …as her main point, she encourages booksellers ‘to use recommendation lists, yes, but also get in the habit of asking for every theme: where are the intersections with Native-created titles? So, my suggestions model that approach.'”

12 Native American Authors to Read During Native American Heritage Month by The Bookish Editors from Bookish. Some terrific Native YA books on this list. Please also check out Apple In The Middle by Dawn Quigley (North Dakota State University Press, 2018).

Beyond Thanksgiving: Indigenous Books Anytime by Eliza Werner from Classroom Communities.

More Personally – Robin

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month (as you might have noticed by all the NaNo links in the news roundup last week). I’ve tried NaNo two other times but had to stop because of health issues. So of course, my thyroid decided to severely misbehave again just as November started. I’m trying to cope and write anyway. I took a break from Facebook and Instagram because stress makes my thyroid condition even worse.

So far, this approach is mostly working. I’ve written 13,000 words. That’s slightly less than the 50,000 words I need at the end of the month but far more than I would have written if I weren’t doing NaNo. I’m determined to catch up and finish with 50,000!

More Personally – Stephani

This past week I had the privilege and honor of leading four classes of eighth graders through a picture book workshop over the course of three days. The students are creating picture books of well-known tales from a villain’s perspective.

We read texts like Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs  (Viking 1989). We brainstormed stories and villains that would be fun to investigate and then we discussed how to weave in backstory. After that, they learned the anatomy of a picture book and started plotting out their stories. The students were inspiring, energizing, and so much fun to be with. I am so excited to see how their stories turn out.

More Personally – Gayleen

For the past two years I’ve had the honor of being a judge for the Letters About Literature Writing Competition through Texas Center for the Book. The letters from young readers about books that have changed their lives reminds me why I write. Each year I’ve finished my judging assignment thinking, “I wish I had students to share this with,” and now, I do!

The Letters About Literature teaching guide from the Library of Congress has given my tutoring students a break from their usual essay assignments and provided me an easy way to guide them through both correspondence and reader response. Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives, edited by Catherine Gourley (Candlewick, 2017) is a collection of winning letters from the contest (always good to find a model text!)

Although this probably disqualifies me from 2019 judging, I plan to have a front-row seat when the winning students read their letters at the Texas Library Association conference. Check the national Letters About Literature site for more information about the writing contest in your state, the Texas deadline is Dec. 14, 2018.

Personal Links – Robin

Do We Have To Read Children’s Classics?

How Do You Move A Bookstore? With A Human Chain, Book By Book

How To Keep People Coming Back To Your Little Free Library

Personal Links – Stephani

NCTE’s Honor List of 2017 Prize-Winning YA Books: Building Relationships and Identity