Cynsational News

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Day 16: Alicia D. Williams by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek:

“I found solace in Judy Blume books. I was a heavy set kid, so I closely identified with Linda in Blubber (Bradbury, 1974). Talk about being bullied, whew…. I loved loved loved the Bookmobile. This love affair eventually led to me writing stories.”

Author Q&A With Natasha Tarpley by Natasha Tarpley from CBC Diversity. Peek:

“I definitely see my writing as a tool to not only change the narrative around black kids and other people of color, but also to nudge kids to take an active role in creating and telling their own stories, and in creating change in their lives and communities.”

It Has To Be Real: A Conversation With Kim Purcell by Brianna Branch from LA Review of Books. Peek:

“I don’t ever think about giving readers what they want. I write the story that I would want to read. I write a story that feels true to me. In this way, I think we redefine what readers want.”

Day 25: Alice Faye Duncan by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek:

“Like {Dr.] King, we must use our talents to answer the High Call wooing us. Be daring. Write a protest novel. Write about injustice.  Write about Black History. Write each story well and let Providence do the rest.”

Kathi Appelt Shares Roots and Route to Angel Thieves by Kristine Hall and Kathi Appelt from Lone Star Literary Life. Peek:

“While I don’t necessarily think of setting as a character, I do see it as sub-text. Like a character, a good setting comes with its own background, its own sensibilities and traits.”

Day 24: Mahogany L. Browne by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek:

“…my hand is more fluent in the space between the lines, the subtext. The stories are built with historical connections attached to a metaphor, voice inflection, and the economy of language. So my storytelling game requires me to listen to books while I am cleaning and eating breakfast…”

Martha Brockenbrough Unpresidented Interview by Janet Lee Carey from Dreamwalks. Peek:

“My hopes are that people will appreciate the seriousness of this work—I believe in telling the kids the truth…Look, my fellow adults: If you don’t like the world, work to change it. You make things worse by lying to kids about human weaknesses.”

Spotlight on Middle Grade Authors Part 9: Aida Salazar by Cindy L. Rodriguez from Latinxs in Kid Lit. Peek:

“I began to write when I was thirteen years old after the suicide of my seventeen-year-old sister. Poetry was my first refuge. It was the place where I began to express and unravel the pain I felt in my grief over losing my beautiful sister in such an incomprehensible way.”

Late Bloomer: Author Vivian Kirkfield by Vivian Kirkfield from A is for Aging. Peek:

“…with our children married and my retirement approaching, my husband encouraged me to write a book…filled with picture book recommendations, craft projects, and cooking activities to help parents reconnect with their kids.”

Jenn Bailey ’17 Releases A Friend for Henry by Amanda West Lewis from Wild Things. Peek:

“Don’t go in [to the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults] with a preconceived idea of what you will be writing. …Take it all in. Try everything. Listen. VCFA is a chance to experiment, be inquisitive, and wonder. You haven’t been able to do that since you were three years old.”


Why I’m So Picky About Fantasy by Quressa Robinson from Pub Rants. Peek:

“Relying on some of the more common tropes can make your work feel dated. Below, I look at some of these common tropes and explain what I look for in SFF—namely, innovative, clever, and forward-thinking approaches.”

Agent Spotlight: Patricia Nelson by Melissa Roske at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:

“With the caveats above, right now I’m especially hungry for literary MG fantasy with an original premise, unique worldbuilding, and beautiful writing. I’m always looking for stories from diverse perspectives that have been historically underrepresented.”

Ask The Editor with Katherine Gibson from The Mitten. Peek:

“I think the best way to figure out whether or not your writing style is appropriate for the current market is to study the current market.”


Book Trailer Basics by Debbie Gonzales from New in Nineteen. Peek:

“If you are considering making your own book trailer, storyboarding your project is a must! Storyboards create visual maps for book trailers by planning for the final book trailer visuals and script in a concrete manner.”

Why You Might Want To Start A Podcast from Seth Godin. Peek:

“…you don’t need a permit, a license or a budget. You can simply begin.”


Highlighting Black Author Books for Young Readers (2019) from Katia Raina. Peek:

“Combining two wonderful things, books for young readers and Black History Month, I give you a list of nine worthy reads by African American authors making literary history this year. Some of these are debuts, while others are by authors who have already made their mark and now have more to offer.”

How Five Authors of Color Found Literary Agents Who Understood Their Stories by Mariela Santos from Bustle. Peek:

“It can be tricky for aspiring authors of color to find an agent who they can trust with their story, who understands their perspective, and who can help them to successfully navigate the industry — but it is possible.”

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series: Centering Friendship in YA Lit by Ashia Monet. Peek:

“I would love to see a future for YA where the forms of love are as diverse as the characters. Where aromantic teen readers do not feel isolated by a genre that seems to doubt its ability to create interesting, non-romantic relationships.”

Short Story Contest General Information from We Need Diverse Books. Peek:

“The anthology will have one story reserved for a previously unpublished diverse author. WNDB will fill that slot via a short story contest. The winner will be included in the anthology and will receive a payment of $1,500.00 USD….[Entries] will close on March 4, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.”

New Study Published on Racism and Dr. Seuss by Kara Yorio from School Library Journal. Peek:

“Almost every book and biography on Seuss’s work to-date has been done by white researchers. As scholars of color, this article is unique in that it is written by members of groups Seuss explicitly degraded and dehumanized across his hundreds of racist works.”

Writing Ourselves Onto The Page by Tochi Onyebuchi from Diversity in YA. Peek:

“When I think back to that question about Superman, I find myself wishing from time to time that I’d answered along these lines, that I’d challenged the audience to imagine what it would look like in 2018 for a black man in America to be able to deflect bullets.”

2019 Bisexual YA Books To Put On Your TBR Right Now by Casey Stepaniuk from Book Riot. Peek:

“These are certainly not all of the 2019 bisexual YA books coming out, but they’re the ones I’m most excited about. Have I mentioned that this list features books with girl, boy, and nonbinary bisexual and pansexual characters?”

The Authors of All American Boys Think Esquire Failed To Address Toxic Masculinity In A Meaningful Way by Alaina Leary. Peek:

“In All American Boys (Atheneum, 2015), Reynolds and Kiely examine how toxic masculinity and white privilege work together to create systemic oppression.”

Writing Craft

The Inner Struggle: How To Show A Character’s Repressed Emotions by Angela Ackerman from Jane Friedman. Peek:

“No matter how adept a character is at hiding their feelings, they all have their own tells— subtle and unintentional mannerisms that hint at deception. As the author, you should know your characters intimately.”

The Difference Between Archetypes, Tropes, and Clichés by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“The ‘strong female character’ is tipping over to cliché these days, because far too many writers are writing the exact same character with the same traits. Not all mentors are gray-beaded old men…and not all sidekicks are funny and self-deprecating.”

How To Plan A DIY Writing Retreat by Erika Liodice from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Before you begin planning a writing retreat, take some time to explore what the concept means to you. Close your eyes and picture yourself on a writing retreat. What images come to mind? Are you in an urban environment or a rural setting? Are you there alone or with other people?”

Yes, I’m Still Sick: Writing With Chronic Illness by Sarah McCoy from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Here are a handful of the many, living and gone, who exemplify endurance and inspired me to speak up about the realities of being a chronically ill, flawed, less than super-powered, human.”


2019 Ezra Jack Keats Awards Announced from The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. Peek:

“The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation…announced today the winners of the 2019 Ezra Jack Keats Award. Each year an outstanding writer and illustrator are recognized early in their careers for having created an extraordinary children’s book that reflects the diverse nature of our culture.”

Julie Morstad Wins 2018 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award for Bloom from IBBY. Peek:

Julie Morstad presents a riot of colour in Bloom (HarperCollins, 2018) with flowers and fashion leaping from the page and bringing designer Elsa Schiaparelli and her talents to life.”

Jacqueline Woodson’s 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award Acceptance by Jacqueline Woodson from The Horn Book. Peek:

“I’ve spent many hours thinking about how creative writing has moved through time — what has lasted and what didn’t quite work for the not-yet-born readers, the so-called Future Generations. Rilke’s poem is one I have kept in the back pocket of my brain since my early twenties…”

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Celebrate 50 Years Strong! #CSK50 from ALSC Blog. Peek:

“The first Coretta Scott King Award was presented in 1970, two years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. The award was designed to commemorate his life and works, and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

This week my priority was providing feedback for my MFA advisees in the Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. It’s our first round of four exchanges of manuscripts and responses.

But it’s time to put on my author hat again. I leave for Tucson Festival of Books tomorrow. Arizona book lovers, I look forward to meeting you!

More Personally – Gayleen

I loved helping Austin author Lindsay Leslie celebrate her debut picture book, This Book is Spineless, illustrated by Alice Brereton (PageStreet Kids, February 2019). Her editor, Charlotte Wenger, joined in the festivities. Read my Cynsations interview with Charlotte and Lindsay, including the Twitter pitch that led to Lindsay’s book contract.

Personal Links – Robin