Cynsational News

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

(Amulet, 2019)

Author/Illustrator Insights

New Release: Up For Air by Laurie Morrison ’12 by Leah Jones and Laurie Morrison from VCFA Wild Things. Peek:

“I returned to it [the manuscript] several months later and saw that there was an extremely boring subplot that could simply drop away…and the rest of the book came together smoothly, but I really needed that space to gain perspective and move forward.”

But What If You Are An Imposter? Imposter Syndrome And The Long Sales Drought by Lyn Miller-Lachmann from 88 Cups of Tea. Peek:

“But when faced with accepting the world’s judgment of me and finding something else to do with the rest of my life, I’ve chosen to embrace and address my inner imposter. I’ve chosen to improve my craft and focus more on my overall mission.”

The Gravity of Us (Cover &) Excerpt Will Make You Fall For This Queer YA Romance by Gabe Bergado from Teen Vogue. Peek:

“Phil has long been fascinated by the science and technology of space missions, but he’s always found his interest piqued by the families of astronauts that became celebrities during the Space Race.”

Lilliam Rivera On Writing Teenage Girls from The Bronx by Brad Listi and Lilliam Rivera from Lit Hub. Peek:

“When I started writing fiction, I would always go towards that voice. It would always be a 16-year-old girl. I knew I could capture that. I was still, at the same time, writing literary short stories, and those literary short stories tended to be adult.”

(Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019)

Q & A With Lynda Mullaly Hunt by Erin Fry from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“I write books completely out of order. The first time I meet a character, they sort of drop in on me. I don’t know their plot or story, but I know them. I’ll sit down and write what later becomes an early chapter.”

New Release: Gloria Takes A Stand By Jess Rinker ’14 by Laurel Abell and Jess Rinker from VCFA Wild Things. Peek:

“The entire experience was a challenge. Maybe not an obstacle, but definitely a major learning curve. I had zero experience with picture books and zero experience with non-fiction. But I do believe writers can figure out pretty much anything they want to do.”

From Writing Conference Attendee, to Volunteer, to Faculty by Samantha M Clark. Peek:

“Next week, 12 years after attending my first SCBWI conference, I’ll be going to the Austin Writers & Illustrators Working Conference with a new role: Faculty.”

Writing Craft

Writing Realistic Teenagers in YA by Jodi Turchin from Fiction University. Peek:

“You can choose to make your characters unique by having their own code words in their social groups but, trying to make them current by utilizing existing slang could hurt you in the long run by dating the book.”

Why Everyone Seems To Be Writing The Same Book You’re Writing by Wendy McLeod MacKnight from Middle Grade Minded. Peek:

“But the reality is, we don’t know what other people are working on at any given time. We can only write the best book we can write. And hope for the best.”

Knowing When To Fly: Leaving Your Critique Group by Lisa Bubert from Jane Friedman. Peek:

“If there is a piece you’re struggling to finish, it might be because you’ve gotten too much feedback…If you were to ‘fix’ every issue every reader brings up, you’re guaranteed never to finish the piece, and may even lose what it was you loved about it to begin with.”

Writing Fiction About Fact: Using Historical Figures As Characters by Steven Rowley from Lit Hub. Peek:

“Creating a vivid version of historical figure is threading a very fine needle. You need to meet everyone’s agreed upon notions of this person while adding your own invigorating spark. They have to feel fresh but authentic, lived-in and in some way new.”

How A Limited Versus A Tight Point of View Can Confuse Writers by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:

“A close (or tight) point of view tells the story through the eyes of a specific character per scene, and only knows that character’s thought and feelings.”


(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019)

25 Fantastic Middle Grade Books By Black Authors by Chelsea Hensley from Book Riot. Peek:

“Read on for 25 middle grade books by Black authors across all genres: mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, graphic novel, contemporary, memoir, and verse. They range from fun and zany to gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, and some are a mix.”

Children’s Books That Help Stop Ageism Before It Starts by Kevyn Burger from The Star Tribune. Peek:

“‘I’m drawn to stories where real-life characters use their experiences to accomplish things they couldn’t have when they were younger,’ she [Lindsey McDivitt] said. ‘I want children to see realistic examples of older adults using the skills gained over a long life.’”

Matt de la Peña & Christopher Paul Curtis Create SCBWI Scholarship for IPOC Women from Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Peek:

“All four winners of the two awards will receive an all-expense paid trip to one of the two SCBWI conferences, as well as two follow-up mentorship conversations with an industry professional. All expenses, such as travel and hotel, will be included, as well as a $250 stipend for additional costs…”

13 Recommended #Own Voices Reads For Ramadan by The Conscious Kid from Medium. Peek:

“Ramadan will take place between May 15 and June 14 this year. We created a list of children’s books about the holy month — and have included some additional titles celebrating Muslim life and culture. All of the books are #OwnVoices and written by Muslim authors.”

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

“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…young people of color at the center of their very own narrative.”

Episode 87! “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t” Conversation with K.A. Holt by Grace Lin and K.A. Holt from Kidlit Women*. Peek:

“Well, I’ve heard of it call(ed) soft censorship just because I guess because it’s not that kind of loud, public thing. It’s kept quiet and the sort of secret secret-y kind of discrimination.”


(BOA Editions Ltd., 2019)

Young People’s Poet Laureate from Poetry Foundation. Peek:

Naomi Shihab Nye is the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate, serving from 2019 to 2021…the Young People’s Poet Laureate aims to raise awareness that young people have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.”

Naomi Shihab Nye from Poetry Foundation. Peek:

“Nye has said that, for her, ‘the primary source of poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.’”


Highlights Exits The Book Business by John Maher from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Highlights for Children, the children’s magazine, has sold its trade book publishing arm, comprised of Boyds Mills Press and its affiliated imprints, Calkins Creek and WordSong, to Kane Press. The new company, called Boyds Mills & Kane, will be headquartered in the Kane Press offices in New York City…”

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

People of Color in Publishing and We Need Diverse Books, two volunteer organizations focused on making the book industry more diverse, held a joint town hall meeting on April 11 in the auditorium of the Penguin Random House building to mark their progress and discuss plans for the future.”

Industry Reacts To B&T [Baker & Taylor] Exiting The Retail Wholesale Business by Jim Milliot with reporting by Claire Kirch, Alex Green, and Ed Nawotka. Peek:

“Lots of rural stores in particular often don’t have accounts with publishers. A lot of stores felt that B&T was a better fit and more accommodating to smaller stores. It has to do with minimums and lots of things that help with small stores.”

OverDrive Now Sells Marvel Graphic Novels To Libraries And Schools Worldwide from The Digital Reader. Peek:

“Overdrive announced on Thursday that they had expanded distribution of Disney’s Marvel comics to public libraries and schools worldwide.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

I’d happy to announce that The Hero Next Door, edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Crown, 2019), a We Need Diverse Books anthology, has received two more starred reviews.

School Library Journal calls it “[a] great anthology with a message of spreading kindness and hope,” while Booklist says, “[T]here is a story here for everyone.”

My own contribution was the short story “A Girl’s Best Friend.” The book will release on July 30, and you can pre-order your copy now.

Speaking of middle grade, my current creative priority is my fantasy novel in progress. This also has been a particularly busy week of mentoring Native writers, Austin writers and Vermont College of Fine Arts alumni. It’s deeply heartening and such an honor to be in conversation with the next wave of wonderful voices in children’s literature.

More Personally – Gayleen

Much of my time this week has been spent on final details of the Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. Though I’ve attended many conferences over the years, this is my first time to help organize as Assistant Regional Advisor. It’s been particularly exciting to see the schedule take shape and hear members talk about the presenters they’re most looking forward to.  We’ve got a full slate of fabulous faculty presenting writing, illustration and professional keynotes, intensives and breakouts. And, there’s still time for you to register!

Personal Links – Robin

15 Of The Absolute Best Podcasts For Children’s Book

Environment: What Kids Learn in School Can Sway Their Parents’ Beliefs

Personal Links – Gayleen

The Porchlight: Episode 45 with Lindsay Leslie

Should Texans Be Allowed To Own Backyard Chickens?