Cynsational News

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Day 11: Leslie C. Youngblood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek:

“Only one part of my process is ingrained in me: I write at 5 a.m., if not earlier. I can write anytime, anyplace; I don’t care who’s around… but my preference is in the wee hours.”

A Winter Treat: Blizzard Besties by Yamile Saied Méndez from Las Musas. Peek:

“Blizzard Besties came from a need for adventure stories featuring kids of color in the current market. My main focus was to show kids having fun, getting in trouble, and navigating friendship and family dynamics.”

Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep by Laurie Wallmark from Celebrate Science. Peek:

“Writers are often told to write what they know. As far as I’m concerned, we should write what we’re passionate about.”

Day 8 – Dana L. Davis by Paula Chase Hyman from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek:

“My daughter is autistic. Not gonna lie. Life can be challenging…I thought about that Nietzsche quote. “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” I meditated on it for a while and decided…that’s just a lie! What fool would say such a thing?! And that’s when Tiffany Sly was born.”

Illustrator Aaliya Jaleel Takes Us Behind The Art of Under My Hijab by Aaliya Jaleel from Lee & Low. Peek:

“The illustrations for Under My Hijab (2019) were created digitally using Adobe Photoshop and went through several stages of sketches, revisions, and paint-overs before becoming the final polished illustrations found in the book.”

Interview: Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome on Dancing, History and Dolphins from The Booking Biz. Peek:

Lesa Cline-Ransome: ‘As a child, history was my least favorite subject. Somehow along the way, I have become incredibly interested in stories from history.’”

Why Lisa Charleyboy Wrote a Book To Empower Young Indigenous Women by Lisa Charleyboy from CBC Radio. Peek:

“I had such a strong reaction to [Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’] and my co-editor, Mary Beth Leatherdale, did as well. We thought it was such a beautiful storytelling adventure — the story of black women in the United States, the history, the colonization and its effects in modern society.”

Why I Wrote About The Bra Burner, A Guest Post by Jessica Rinker from Katia Raina. Peek:

“Gloria Steinem taught me how to listen better. But she also taught me how to speak. I didn’t realize when I started working on this book that I, in turn, might have the privilege to do the same for children.”

Interview with J. Albert Mann, Author of What Every Girl Should Know by Joshua Flores from Germ Magazine. Peek:

“I hope teens will take away a little piece of the strength that Margaret exhibited during her own teen years when it seemed nothing could go right. Especially those teens experiencing tough family situations. Margaret held on to who she was.”

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah: Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour by Shoshana Flax from The Horn Book. Peek:

Paul O. Zelinsky: ” … I was surprised to find out that the real-life house where the young Sydney Taylor lived, and where her stories took place, is not quite within the borders of what we now think of as the Lower East Side, but in an adjacent neighborhood called Alphabet City.”

Editor Heather Demetrios Discusses The Dear Heartbreak Anthology by Heather Demetrios from Wild Things. Peek:

“I adored Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar, which my agent got me as a Christmas gift our first year together. The whole thing is an instruction on holding space, telling your story, and how to be emotionally intelligent while navigating the challenges of being a human.”


Comp Titles in a Query and Other Questions About Book Comps by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek:

“The purpose of strong book comps is to make a realistic comparison between your work and someone else’s. Ideally, the author or book you’re choosing is thoughtful, rather than just a runaway bestseller.”

2019 SCBWI Conference: Agents And Editors Give Advice by Ellen Creager from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“…craft a 25-word, 30-second elevator pitch. ‘If you can explain it in a sentence, and that sentence excites you, and it excites strangers, then you have a great idea on your hands.'”

The Most Common Pitfalls In Middle Grade Manuscripts by Danielle Burby from Pub Rants. Peek:

“Kids are looking for stories that resonate with them today–not stories that take them back to their parents’ or grandparents’ childhoods. If you are writing realistic middle grade, put it in a contemporary setting, unless there is a very compelling reason to set the story in a different time.”

More On Morality Clauses by Jacqui Lipton from Luna Station Quarterly. Peek:

“The more problematic situation is where the standard of conduct (moral versus immoral) is vague and the publisher itself has sole discretion to decide whether the standard has been met.. A clause like that gives all the power to the publisher…”

Coop Publishing: An Interview With Mary Atkinson from Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Peek:

Mary Atkinson: “The advantages [of authors’ collective/ coop publishing] are that you’re really involved in the production of your book from beginning to end.”


16 LGBTQIAP+ Books By Black Authors by Kaitlin Mitchell from YA Pride. Peek:

“While there is still so much work to be done to improve intersectionality in publishing, I am so happy to be able to celebrate these thirteen authors for helping more teens see themselves reflected in YA literature.”

How Young Adult Anthologies Are Making Space For All kinds of Diverse Love Stories by Alaina Leary from Bustle. Peek:

“Since anthologies by nature include multiple stories by different authors, they allow authors to tell stories and write characters that they might otherwise struggle to get traditionally published.”

July – December 2018 Latinx Book Deals compiled by Cecilia Cackley from Latinxs in Kid Lit. Peek: “This is a series keeping track of the book deals announced by Latinx writers and illustrators. The purpose of this series is to celebrate book deals by authors and illustrators in our community and to advocate for more of them.”

8 Must-Read Diverse YA Historical Novels by Tirzah Price from Book Riot. Peek:

“These eight must-read diverse YA historical fiction books are perfect for readers who want to explore history that’s often been glossed over or overlooked altogether!”

The Real Way to Get #ownvoices Books Into the Hands of Readers (But It’s Not Sexy) by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek:

“The Dilemma: A patron connects to a library’s catalog. The patron wants to find books that would be considered #ownvoices titles. They type into the catalog ‘#ownvoices black’. No hits.”

Graphic Examples Of The Art of Storytelling by Niigaan Sinclair from Winnipeg Free Press. Peek:

“Over the past few decades, many Indigenous storytellers have turned back to graphic writing to speak about contemporary experiences. This has resulted in an explosion of graphic novels by Indigenous storytellers and artists…”

A Review Audit from Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Peek:

“If we don’t support small presses, we won’t have them when we need them. Often, major houses move into a diversity area when they see upstarts do well. Without that competition, there’s no incentive to try something new.”

What About the Girls? by Anne Ursu from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“You start talking about a book with a girl protagonist and someone pops up fretting ‘What about the boys?’ like patriarchal whack-a-mole…But, also, what about the girls? What do they hear when we treat their stories as if they don’t matter, as if they take up too much space?”

Writing Craft

Writing a Better Story by Jen Petro-Roy from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“Writing what you know can get you in tune with the sensory details that help ground your reader in the world you’re creating, that help them connect with your characters.”

Working As A Reader To Improve My Writing from Jennifer Kay. Peek:

“You’ve probably invested significant time critiquing and polishing your opening chapter in hopes of turning a query into a manuscript request. Don’t forget the entire manuscript will then be read. Don’t query until you’ve invested the same level of revision effort on every single chapter of your manuscript.”

The Power of Empathy: How to Keep Readers in Thrall by Angela Ackerman from For His Glory. Peek:

“The author has a narrow window of time to draw readers in and convert them into close confidants. Insiders.Encouraging empathy is the way to make this happen.”

The Myth of Plan First and Write Later by Louise Tondeur from Jane Friedman. Peek:

“Plotting versus pantsing is one popular version of the plan first/write later myth. This myth basically would have you believe that generating ideas, planning, writing, redrafting, submitting and publishing happen sequentially, in that order, in a linear fashion.”

Critique: How To Use Paragraph Breaks To Guide The Reader’s Experience by K.M. Weiland from Helping Writers Become Authors. Peek:

“Faster, choppier pacing does much better with shorter paragraphs—sometimes paragraphs of even just a single word. Slower, more leisurely—or more academic—pacing will usually do better with longer paragraphs, although you shouldn’t hesitate to break up dense sections of text when possible to make them more readable.”

A Writer’s Manifesto by Julie Duffy from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Since writing my manifesto, I have a feeling of comfort and confidence that I never had before… I have a roadmap for it. I know what I’m trying to achieve and the kind of mark I want my work to leave on the parts of the world it touches.”

STEM Tuesday — Getting Your Comic-on With Great Science Graphic Novels — Writing Tips & Resources by Mike Hays at From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:

“The graphic novel format for nonfiction and STEM books not only works, but it fits. Just as architects and engineers use a blueprint drawing to relay information to the contractor and specialists, STEM writers can use graphic storytelling to relay information to the reader.”


2018 Cybils Winner! from The Cybils. Peek:

“The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal.”

Flying High: The 2019 Golden Kite Awards by Matia Burnett from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Each year, the Golden Kite Awards are presented to children’s book writers and illustrators and their books, as selected by a jury of their peers. The awards are given in the categories of ‘Young Reader and Middle Grade Fiction,’ ‘Young Adult Fiction,’ ‘Nonfiction,’ ‘Picture Book Text,’ and ‘Picture Book Illustration.’”

Carnegie Medal Longlist Highlights Trend For Gritty Children’s Books by Alison Flood from The Guardian. Peek:

“After reading 254 novels to come up with the lineup, chair of judges Alison Brumwell pointed to a ‘theme of dealing with being marginalised and isolated’, as well as poverty and bereavement, in children’s fiction over the last year.”

2019 Long List: Green Earth Book Awards from The Nature Generation. Peek:

“This long list of environmental stewardship books brings educators and parents top quality, well-vetted choices to give our next generation the gift of the love of nature—and the gift of understanding facts and science about the environment…”


How Writers Can Use The Power Of Instagram by Chrys Fey from The Independent Publishing Magazine. Peek:

“… since Instagram is a photo-friendly app, you may be wondering what sort of content you can post related to your books other than cover art, well, there’s a lot, actually…”

For Writers: 5 Quick Ways To Increase Your Blog’s Discoverability by Cat Rambo from The World Remains Mysterious. Peek:

“A title should give a reader a reason to read, often to answer a question that the title has raised. For example: what are the five quick ways I could make my blog more discoverable? rather than ‘Check this out’ or ‘Here’s something startling.’”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Huge news! I have been adopted by a long-haired Chihuahua named Gnocchi! We met at an Austin Pets Alive! event, and she’s been with me now for a couple of weeks.

Thank you to Austin SCBWI and BookPeople for welcoming me last Saturday to talk about novel writing. Congratulations to Oklahoma-Texas Crystal Kite winner Cynthia Levinson, author of The Youngest Marcher, The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Atheneum, 2017).

Are you an Austin librarian? Join me and other local authors and author-illustrators for the 2019 Great Texas Readathon, “a fun and bookish opportunity for librarians, parents and children – including prizes.”

What else? Attention, Arizona! Join me March 3 at Tucson Book Festival. I’ll be on a number of panels, so check the schedule. The event starts March 2.

50 States of YA by Kelly Jensen from Book Riot. Note: Honored to spot Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018) representing Kansas.

Congratulations to Cynsations guest contributor Lindsey Lane (and the Cynterns!). Lindsey’s four-part series on out-of-print books in publishing was recommended this week by Lee Wind at The Official SCBWI Blog.

More Personally – Gayleen

Recently, I loved catching up with Austin picture book authors Susan Kralovansky and Jennifer Coleman at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for its annual Children’s Book Fair.

Personal Links – Robin

Personal Links – Gayleen