Cynsational News

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Author Spotlight: Samira Ahmed by Samira Ahmed from CBC Diversity. Peek:

“No book can be all things to all people. And no character can or should be ‘perfect.’ Yet when the normative in publishing is cis, het, and white, it is impossible not to feel the burden of having to represent your entire group.”

Marion Dane Bauer & Ekua Holmes: The Universe, Children, & The Stuff of Stars by Amy Methaler from Mackin Community. Peek:

Marion Dane Bauer: “When I write the text for a picture book, I am always very conscious of opening a window—a very large window—to illustrations. I never attempt to imagine those illustrations, because my imagination is not a visual one. The artist will do so much better than my imaginings.”

Q & A With Raúl The Third by Antonia Saxon from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“… my aesthetic…it’s influenced by the mercado. In the mercado, every little piece of real estate is filled with all sorts of detail. I wanted to fill the book with that dynamic energy. You can hear it, you can see it, you can smell it—it’s exciting!”

Preparing For A Writing Life by Ann Dávila Cardinal from VCFA Wild Things. Peek:

“… the [VCFA] program prepares you for the true ‘business’ of writing: the building of a long and sustainable writing life. The other pieces—pitches, agents, contracts—will change, but the strength of your writing is the only thing that will sustain you in this work.”

Desire to Fill Void in Young Adult Fiction Led Colorado Author to Focus on Characters of Color in Lighthearted Plots by Sandhya Menon from The Colorado Sun. Peek:

“I was inspired to write When Dimple Met Rishi (Simon Pulse, 2017) because there’s still a dearth of young adult literature about teens of color in fun, lighthearted stories. Issue books certainly have their place, and I wanted to show that people of color can have their happily-ever-afters, too.”

Interview: Award-Winning Children’s Book Illustrator Christian Robinson by Jen Sherman from Book Riot. Peek:

“I graduated from animation school and was doing a lot of odd jobs to pay the bills. I kept a blog where I shared personal art projects. One day, I received an email from a children’s book agent asking if I had any interest in making books for kids.”

Interview: Carrie Jones: Have The Courage To Put Your Story Out Into The World by Leah Jones from VCFA Wild Things. Peek:

“Since then, my books have won awards (IPPY), but some have also become New York Times and international bestsellers. That’s almost ridiculous when you think about how scared I was, how much of an imposter I felt like, before I went into those brick buildings.”


The Asian/Pacific American Experience-Great Books by Kristyn Dorfman from School Library Journal. Peek:

“While no one book list can adequately explore all the variations in culture and traditions embodied within the broad category of the ‘Asian/Pacific American Experience,’ readers who identify as Asian American and/or Pacific American—especially as first-generation Americans—will find reflections of their own stories in these novels.”

The Rise of Young Adult Books with LGBTQ Characters—& What’s Next by Gwen Aviles from NBC News. Peek:

“’Most of the YA books out there are about closeted teens — and cis white boys at that,’ said Adam Silvera…’Coming-out stories always have value, but I want to see more queer characters in genre fiction,’ including crime, fantasy, romance, science fiction and historical fiction.’”

Booklist: Queer Black Teen Boys by Kimberly Francisco from Stacked Books. Peek:

“While the canon of young adult literature featuring LGBTQIA+ teens has been growing, this is one area that appears to be lagging behind…Plus, like most marginalized groups, Black queer boys are more likely to be a supporting character than the protagonist in books where they appear.”

Booklist: Asexulaity & Aromanticism In Young Adult Fiction  by Danielle Jones from YALSA Hub. Peek:

“It should be noted that most of these books in this new list are specific about one portrayal of being asexual or ace/aro without going into the full spectrum of asexuality, and very little going into being aromantic.”

Writing Craft

How to Revise a Picture Book: Beginnings & Endings from Karen Krossing. Peek:

“A strong picture book beginning needs to cover a lot of ground: Introduce an engaging protagonist, define what he or she wants, evoke the setting, launch the conflict, establish tone and voice, and compel a child and even an adult reader to turn the page.”

Another Pound of Flesh: A Second Post About Editing by Rob Kent from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek:

“Tip #1: Make a plan of attack. Gather all the feedback you’ve received on your draft, even if you’re starting with just your own feedback, and break it down into individual steps. I like to use a list so I can cross off things….”

Unsilencing the Writing Workshop by Beth Nguyen from Lit Hub. Peek:

“When we unsilence workshop, when we invite students to participate in the discussion of their own work, everything changes: The writer is no longer passively accepting comments. Rather, they become who they should be: the creators and navigators of their own work.”

How Language Is Your Most Powerful Writing Tool by Samantha M. Clark at From The Mixed-up Files Of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:

“…on the one hand, how ‘fresh’ or ‘distinctive’ a voice is is subjective, but when words are chosen carefully so they pop off the page, beg to be read aloud and sing to the reader, you can bet agents and editors will shut off their phone so they can read.”

Discover Your Characters’ Goals by Jim Dempsey from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“Once you’ve decided what your character’s main goal should be, think about all the steps that person would need to take to achieve that final goal. Write down these steps as they enter your mind. Nothing is too ridiculous at this stage.”


Fast-Growing Independent Publishers, 2019 by Jim Milliot and Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“From the outset, McKenney structured Mango to publish a diverse list. ‘Our secret sauce is our diversity—new voices, different backgrounds, and exceptional talents all publishing for a rapidly growing and diverse audience of readers,’ McKenney says.”


2019 Indies Choice/E.B. White Read-Aloud Award Finalists Announced by Liz Button from American Booksellers Association. Peek:

“The finalists for the Indies Choice Book Award in the Young Adult category and for the E.B. White Read-Aloud Middle Reader and Picture Book awards were chosen by a jury of five children’s booksellers from the ABC Children’s Group at ABA.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Will you be at the Texas Library Association Conference next week in Austin? If so, please stop by my signing at aisle 6 of the Authors Area from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 16!

Also, later that afternoon, check out my panel, “How to Make a Diverse Kid Lit List” from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Room 5ABC, Level 3 of the Convention Center. I’m honored to be speaking alongside Viki Ash of San Antonio Public Library, fellow author Chris Barton, and Milen Yassi of Plano Public Library.

Bright moments this week included spotting Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018) on the Just One More Page Recommendation List, compiled by the Wisconsin State Reading Association Children’s Literature Committee for the 2019 Convention from titles published between September 2017-December 2018.

More Personally – Gayleen 

Meredith Davis, Cynthia Levinson, Mary Cronin and Gayleen in downtown Austin.

Highlight of my week was catching up with my Vermont College of Fine Arts classmate Mary E. Cronin over lunch with Meredith Davis and Cynthia Levinson. Mary is in Austin for the Rainbow Weekend intensive workshop at The Writing Barn.  I also particularly loved Pat Cummings Survivors Interview and have a Craft Connections post celebrating her middle grade novel, Trace (HarperCollins, 2019), on my blog.

Next week I’ll be at the Texas Library Association Conference, making connections for future Cynsations posts and promoting Texas SCBWI chapters in Booth 2530. I hope to see you there!

Personal Links – Robin

Climate Crisis: Today’s Children Face Tiny Carbon Footprints

10 Political YA Books To Keep You Engaged

How Books Help Us Love Ourselves

Personal Links – Gayleen

When a Laundromat Becomes a Library

Biographer Robert Caro on Why It’s Taking Decades to Fully Capture LBJ