Cynsational News

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

(Koikila, 2019)

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A: Isabel Quintero & Zeke Peña by Antonia Saxon from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

Quintero: My situation with Zeke is unique in that [unlike most author-illustrator collaborators] we communicate throughout the whole process. He’s a really amazing editor.”

Peña: I’m treating Isabel as the director, as if she were making a film, and I’m trying to serve her vision.”

Moving Post-Post-Truth In A Trump Biography For Young Readers by Martha Brockenbrough by Jamie M. Gregory from Intellectual Freedom Blog. Peek:

“…these are the facts, and I believe young people—many of whom will be voting for the first time in 2020—deserve to know them. That it makes adults uncomfortable is irrelevant. I serve young readers. I don’t want to coddle grownups.”

Q&A: Nadine Jolie Courtney by Nadine Jolie Courtney from CBC Diversity. Peek:

 “When I was out with my visibly foreign father or my hijabi family members, the reception was noticeably different to what I’d get when out alone with my Barbie-esque mom.”

Writer Spotlight: Camilla Roper by Camilla Roper and Charlie Barshaw from The Mitten. Peek:

“Great dialogue goes on around us all the time. I take notes—on the bus, in class, at the grocer’s, at religious services, at movies, in restaurants, on campus, and in coffee shops. You cannot make up stuff this good.”

Q&A: Dana L. Davis from CBC Diversity. Peek:

“God is patterned after Dave Chapelle’s sarcastic wit…I can explain! One of the themes in The Voice In My Head is opening up our minds to a new concept of God… I wanted to create the kind of God I’d want to talk to.”

Writing Craft

(Clarion, 2019)

On Writing from Linda Sue Park. Peek:

” Read. That’s the single best thing an aspiring writer can do for his or her work. I once heard an editor say, ‘Read a thousand books of the genre you’re interested in. Then write yours.'”

The Uses And Misuses of Mentor Texts from Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Peek:

“While I’ve eagerly embraced mentor texts as examples to follow or avoid…I must admit that I’ve often misused them as well… adopting a technique that may serve someone else’s story, but not yours.”

Why Is It So Hard to Write About Music In Fiction? by Anne Valente from Lit Hub. Peek:

“I’ve created similar playlists for each book I’ve written to remember the patterns and rhythms, as well as the emotional tone of the sounds, that went into writing the words even if the songs that mean something to me never make it to the page.”

Tips For Creating Good Bridging Conflict by Kathryn Craft from Writer Unboxed. Peek:

“‘Bridging conflict’ can span the distance from opening to inciting incident—and what that means for your character is that he needs to arrive on page one with an intermediate goal.”


Editor Interview: Cheryl Klein (Lee & Low Books) by Ryan G. Van Cleave and Cheryl Klein from Only Picture Books. Peek:

“The submission process is as subjective and personal as dating, and to be approached rather like dating—with thoughtfulness about who you are, what your book is, and what you want out of the agent/editor/publishing relationship, and with a sense of humor as well.”

What’s Your Author Persona? How To Be Yourself Online—Only Better from Anne R. Allen. Peek:

“I don’t mean to say you should wear a mask or play an inauthentic character online. Nobody likes a phony. Your persona should simply be your best self…”


(Viking, 2018)

MG Latinx Characters & Their (Sometimes) Complicated Relationships With Spanish by Lila Quintero Weaver, with Cris Rhodes, Ph.D. from Latinxs in Kidlit. Peek:

“According to the Pew Research Center, broken Spanish (or no Spanish at all) is a reality lived by a growing number of Latinx, especially youth… Below is a list of recently published middle-grade novels featuring Latinx characters whose Spanish is less than perfect.”

Milkweed Editions Launches New Fellowship Opportunity by Peter Diamond from Minneapolis Saint Paul Magazine. Peek:

“…for those ‘historically underrepresented among workers in book publishing—Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folx, and those with disabilities.’… The fellowship is full-time with benefits, and will last up to two years with a $30,000 salary… Milkweed Editions is accepting applications from now through June 6…”

Why We Need More Black Characters In Fantasy by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas from Yes Magazine. Peek:

“Specifically, when might young readers of color realize that the characters I am rooting for are not positioned like me in the real world, and the characters that are positioned like me are not the team to root for?”

Report Says Canadians Want Diverse Books by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“A new report released by BookNet Canada revealed that some 60% of Canadians are actively seeking out diverse reading material, which includes stories about or written by under-represented minorities, such as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled or differently abled, and minority religious groups.”

Finding Diverse Books by Whitney Etchison from YALSA’s The Hub. Peek:

“While I use traditional review sources, I have also found it helpful to explore online resources specifically intended to review and publicize diverse books…I decided to make this handy infographic of the sites I find most helpful.”

A Decade of LGBTQ YA Since Ash from Malinda Lo. Peek:

“I’m especially encouraged by the growth in genre fiction. Genre fiction often allows LGBTQ characters to have stories other than coming-out narratives, which still predominate in contemporary fiction.”

The (Other) F Word’ Is A Vibrant Anthology That Celebrates The Fat & Fierce — Start Reading Now! by Kerri Jarema from Bustle. Peek:

The (Other) F Word is specifically focused on giving fat people the chance to tell their own stories. In this book, you’ll find personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art by Dumplin’ author Julie MurphyUndead Girl Gang author Lily Anderson, body positive blogger Corissa Enneking, and many more creators.”

Lift Every Voice: From One Book To Many by Rita Williams-Garcia from The Horn Book. Peek:

“Like many Black children my age, I knew Coretta Scott King from an iconic photograph taken at her husband’s funeral. What I didn’t know back then was that Coretta Scott King was integral to an all-important change furthering inclusivity in children’s literature.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

I’m honored to announce that Hearts Unbroken was named to the Bank Street College of Education’s 2018 Best Children’s Books of the Year (teen/YA category). Peek:

“…chosen by reviewers for literary quality and excellence of presentation as well as the potential emotional impact of the books on young readers. Other criteria include credibility of characterization and plot, authenticity of time and place, age suitability, positive treatment of ethnic and religious differences, and the absence of stereotypes.”

More Personally – Stephani

This past weekend I traveled to Utah for the Storymakers Writing Conference. I

t was a treat to reunite with VCFA friends and the class offerings at the conference were stellar, especially Julie Berry‘s revision intensive.

Highlights included watching friend  Melanie Jacobson win a Whitney Award for her romance Perfect Set (Covenant, 2018) and meeting Tiana Smith, who I interviewed for our New Voices series, in person.

All in all, I’ve got new energy for some of my writing projects.

More Personally – Gayleen

In June I’ll be teaching Creative Writing Summer Camp with the Austin Public Library Foundation. Three weeks with fifth and sixth grade writers exploring the magic of story and cultivating creativity. (And the secret is: teaching time infuses my own writing with new energy and ideas.)

This will be my second summer as a teaching artist and I’m thrilled to spend time with a group of MG readers and writers!