Cynsational News

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

(HarperCollins, 2019)

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview With Swati Teerhala- The Tiger At Midnight by Audrey M. Gonzalez from Rich in Color. Peek:

“The bi-annual Twitter pitch contest for diverse and marginalized authors was really the turning point for me in my publishing journey. My first time pitching didn’t result in representation, but I built a great community of writers who I still am friends with to this day.”

The Debut Experience: MG Authors Of The Class of 2K19 by Melissa Roske at From The Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Writers. Peek:

Naomi Milliner: ‘Try not to get so caught up in the ups and downs that you can’t enjoy the ride. Also, join debut groups ASAP and find a close circle of like-minded authors within those groups. Their kinship, empathy and friendship is priceless…’”

Interview with Elementary Nonfiction Winners Patricia Valdez & Felicita Sala by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala from The Cybils. Peek:

Patricia Valdez: “Wanting to learn more about these huge lizards, I looked up some articles. At the very end of one of the articles was a single sentence about Joan Procter being the first person to describe Komodo dragons in captivity in the 1920s. I simply had to know more about this woman!”

Maya Angelou & The Courage To Keep Rising by Bethany Hegedus from Nerdy Book Club. Peek:

“Activism is mainstream. And changes can be made not just by picking up protest signs. Change can be sung about, danced about, written about. Or when it comes to Maya Angelou, poet, artist, activist—it can be all three.”

Interview: Angie Smibert, Author of Lingering Echoes by Holly Schindler and Angie Smibert from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek:

“With any historical book, one challenge is to paint a picture of time period the reader isn’t familiar with—without overdoing the exposition. Too little, and the reader doesn’t get what’s going on. Too much, and the reader might not care!”

(Dutton, 2019)

Where Water Meets Rocks by Kate Allen from Powell’s Books Blog. Peek:

“Children instinctively make sense of the world with whatever tools they have. As adults, it would be good for us to remember to open the door for wonder and joy more often, and to honor the way the children in our lives recognize it so readily.”

Fantasy Is Female: The Importance of Feminism in YA Fantasy by S.W. Sondheimer, Alexandra Christo and Tricia Levenseller from Book Riot. Peek:

Tricia Levenseller: “I get told a lot that my women are ‘too confident,’ and that makes them ‘unlikable.’..Now I’m almost taking it as a compliment because if it were a man, they wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Stories Of The In-Between by Ann Dávila Cardinal from 88 Cups of Tea. Peek:

“I call myself a Gringa-Rican because I came from a big ole’ white man and a tiny Puerto Rican woman, both architects, who built a family that would come to be a common type in the United States, though is wasn’t all that common in the 1960s when I grew up.”

Writing Craft

How Your Setting Can Affect Your Characters by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“Seize every opportunity setting offers to affect the mood and tone of the scene. The right sense of place can layer in emotions and create conflict to deepen a scene and make a character really have to work to resolve her goal.”

Writer’s Digest Blog: The Great Debate: To Prologue Or Not To Prologue? by Meg LaTorre from iWriterly. Peek:

“What information am I providing in the prologue? Why is it important to reveal it up front? Can it be revealed throughout the story in smaller trickles and still be as impactful (or more)?”

The Flip Side by Kathleen McCleary from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“As you write, think about the flip side of your character and your story. Maybe your character is a young woman who’s calm and emotionally balanced and poised under pressure, the rock of her family. But there’s a flip side to all that stability, too. Maybe she can’t empathize…”

How To Convey An Established Relationship Quickly from September C. Fawkes. Peek:

“One of the mistakes that is easy to make is to have participants in a positive relationship exactly the same, or participants in a negative relationship exactly opposites. But almost nothing can make a relationship feel more authentic and well-rounded quicker than having some of both.”


(Greenwillow, 2018)

Pushing Diversity Forward In Publishing by Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“The panelists praised the power of social media, citing WNDB social media campaigns such as the popular ‘We need diverse books because…’ campaign. ‘It showed that the diverse books movement is comprised not just of people of color but of people with disabilities, the LGTBQ community, etc.,’ [Ellen] Oh said.”

The Future Is Now And It’s Inclusive: Young People Of Color In YA Books by Camille A. Collins from Book Riot. Peek:

“Thankfully, the future is now and it’s incredible. YA lovers can now choose from a variety of protagonists, from a diverse array of viewpoints and cultures, to both mirror and guide them through cultural and social landscapes familiar and new.”

Queer YA Series by Jessica Yang from Rich in Color. Peek:

“It turns out, the vast majority of queer YA books are standalone books… I decided to round up all the queer YA series (starring PoC of course!) that I’ve read. Here they are…”


(Simon & Schuster, 2019)

Ten Tips For A Successful Book Launch Party by Heather Shumaker from The Mitten. Peek:

“Make it interactive, give everyone some information and fun. Consider your book launch as an audition for future school visits – there are sure to be school librarians and other speaker-seekers in the audience. You never know what invitations you’ll receive afterwards.”

How Not to Bore Your Audience at a Reading by Viet Thanh Nguyen from Lit Hub. Peek:

“Channel Obama. Perform. Drink if you must.”


Independent Bookstore Day Gets Even Bigger by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“The fifth annual Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) takes place on Saturday, April 27, with 580 stores participating, up from 507 last year. The largest concentration of participants is in the New England and Mid Atlantic region, where a total of more than 170 stores have signed on …”


Announcing The Results Of The 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards from Independent Publisher. Peek:

“Congratulations and sincere thanks to the independent authors and publishers who participated in our 23rd annual, 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards contest.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Wowza! Recommendations of my latest YA novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018), popped up this week in Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens by Melissa Hart (Sasquatch Books, 2019) and 9 Young Adult Books You Should Read ASAP from MTV News for World Book Day.

On a related note, here’s a shout out to Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen‘s summer LIS 7190 Social Justice and Children’s-YA Literature class at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota—happy reading!

SCBWI’s 48th Summer Conference will take place from Aug. 9 to Aug. 12 in Los Angeles. I’ll be on the faculty this time and greatly look forward to connecting with everyone who’ll be there.

I’d also like to extend a special invitation to any attending Native/First Nations/Indigenous writers and/or illustrators to schedule informal meetups with me (a cup of tea or lunch?!) as well as to reach out to me for interpersonal, logistical, and/or career support.

Link of the Week: Now You See Me, Now You Don’t by K.A. Holt from Publishers Weekly.

More Personally – Gayleen

I had a fabulous time sorting and labeling donated books this week with fellow Austin SCBWI members Adrianna Cuevas and Meredith Davis. We were volunteering with BookSpring, a nonprofit that  encourages early literacy by distributing books to children in need through a number of partnerships with medical providers, schools and community organizations.

Personal Links – Robin

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Stars in a Powerful Video Offering a Vision of a Green New Deal Future

Every Day is Earth Day: 365 Books to Start Your Climate Change Library

How We Can Save The Honeybees

Personal Links – Gayleen

“Marfa Martians” Beat Out Thousands of Students to Send Their Experiment to Space

Nature Up Close: Grand Canyon Ecosystems

Yo-Yo Ma on the Importance of Telling Each Other Our Stories