Cynsational News

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

Cover Reveal

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook, spring 2020). From the flap copy:

Water is the medicine. It affects and connects us all. When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison its people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, this bold and lyrical picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.

Carole says:

“Michaela has done such a stunning job with the illustrations. I just couldn’t be more honored to have her illustrating this book. I finally have a tribute to the Water Protectors that I can share with the world.”

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview with Kate Hart from Gabriella M Reads. Peek:

“Real life doesn’t just hand you assault and say, ‘Here, see if you can get over this, then we’ll tackle class, and maybe racism when you’re up to it.’ Whether I dealt with it effectively is totally up to the reader, but real life is messy, and making the characters’ lives anything else felt artificial.”

How Nnedi Okorafor Is Building the Future of Sci-fi from Flossmoor by Christopher Borrelli from the Chicago Tribune. Peek:

“She had never written much for fun, but that summer, stuck in bed, wondering if she would walk again, she started to learn how to make up her own stories. And now 25 years later, Nnedi Okorafor is the future of science fiction and fantasy.”

BookExpo 2019: Julie Murphy Makes Her Middle Grade Debut by Sara Grochowski from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“‘I don’t think my books are like these huge powerful things,’ she says, ‘but that made me wonder what it would mean to start that conversation even sooner. If these conversations that people were having with their teens and people in their lives—if we could just have them a few years earlier—what impact might that make?'”


What’s My Complicity? Talking White Fragility With Robin DiAngelo by Adrienne van der Valk, Anya Malley from Teaching Tolerance. Peek:

“…me saying ‘white people,’ as if our race had meaning…will cause a lot of white people to erupt in defensiveness. And I think of it as a kind of weaponized defensiveness… And in that way, I think white fragility actually functions as a kind of white racial bullying.”

Street Noise Books—New YA Publisher for Marginalized Voices—To Launch in January from School Library Journal. Peek:

“The publisher will have a ‘radical, intersectional feminist, queer and inclusive vision, and seek to provide a platform for the voices of marginalized people.’ The company’s tag line is ‘unapologetic, authentic, and politically relevant.'”

Choosing Excellent Children’s Books By and About American Indians with Dr. Debbie Reese from EmbraceRace blog. Peek:

“Because most of us were socialized and educated to think of Native peoples in narrow and biased ways, we typically don’t recognize how deeply flawed many of the books we choose are.”

How to Critically Select Children’s Books with Representations of Disability Experiences by Monica Kleekamp from The Open Book Blog at Lee & Low. Peek:

“Disability labels placed on children by school or medical professionals are never neutral. Rather, these labels bring with them histories of exclusion and a tendency to universalize the disability experience.”

Recommended Books About and By American Indians by Meteor Blades for Daily Kos. Peek:

“…one question I have been asked repeatedly is for a recommendation of a book that comprehensively tells the story of American Indians. In fact, there’s no book that does that because, just like other people who live in the USA, Indians aren’t monolithic.”

Includes recommendation for Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith and We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge, 2018).

Writing Craft

Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep by Don Tate from Celebrate Science. Peek:

“Researching the life of Bill Traylor presented a challenge. Traylor couldn’t read or write, therefore, he left no written records of his life. But he did leave behind something invaluable—his artwork, pictures he drew on the back of trash. They helped to fill in the missing pieces of his life.”


The Comeback of the Century: Why the Book Endures, Even in an Era of Disposable Digital Culture by Timothy Egan from The New York Times. Peek:

“Defying all death notices, sales of printed books continue to rise to new highs, as do the number of independent stores stocked with these voices between covers, even as sales of electronic versions are declining….The share of young adults who read poetry in that year (2017) more than doubled from five years earlier.”

Bidding Farewell to the Flatiron Building by Kat Brzozowski from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Today’s the first day that Mac Kids is in our new home at 120 Broadway… I still remember arriving at the Flatiron Building for my first day 10 years ago. I looked up at the building in awe, thinking, ‘I can’t believe I get to work there.'”

Tackling Copyright Concerns When Taking Storytime Online by Carrie Russell from School Library Journal. Peek:

“In the online environment, copyright law does not say that user and library rights also apply to the digital environment.”


The Truth About Author Incomes by Donna Janell Bowman. Peek:

“If you are charged with inviting an author to speak at your school or…if you are a new writer hoping to make it big as a children’s author, the following overly-simplified financial explanation might be enlightening.”


Meet Rebekah Manley of the Texas Center for the Book by Kristine Hall from Lone Star Literary Life. Peek:

“There is actually a Center for the Book in every state, and we are under the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. Established in 1984, we seek to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy, and libraries.”


Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Announced by Kara Yorio from School Library Journal. Peek:

Picture book winner: The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd (Candlewick, 2018);

Fiction and poetry winner: The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (Wendy Lamb Books, 2018);

Nonfiction winner: This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy (Bloomsbury, 2019).

Cynsations reporter Traci Sorell‘s We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, illustrated by Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge, 2018), was one of the picture book honor titles.

This Week at Cynsations

Mary Quattlebaum

More Personally – Cynthia

SCBWI’s 48th Summer Conference will take place from Aug. 9 to Aug. 12 in Los Angeles. I’ll be returning to the conference faculty 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.

This summer I’ll also be once again teaching at the summer residency (and fall/winter semester) of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. We’re delighted to welcome three brand new faculty members: Corey Ann Haydu; Anna-Marie McLemore; and Jennifer Ziegler.

More Personally – Gayleen

The highlight of my week was seeing “Hamilton” performed in Austin. Sat in the rafters, but still awed by the this amazing production!

And I’m incredibly inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s ability to make history come alive with a lively and engaging narrative.

I wish I could share a photo of the elementary-aged attendee dressed in full Revolutionary costume, but my teen cautioned, “This isn’t a comic con. Don’t be creepy.” I assure you they were adorable!

I’m also very excited to see Miranda as Lee Scoresby (one of my favorite adult characters in middle grade)  in the new adaptation of Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials series on HBO.

This summer, I’m looking forward to Deborah Halverson’s webinar hosted by Austin SCBWI. She’ll be talking about subtext and subplots to deepen and energize novels. Her Cynsations post on using narrative beats to reveal more about characters took my writing up a notch, and I’m eager to strengthen subplots in my next novel revision.

More Personally – Stephani

Recently, I traveled with my son back to my parents’ for a family event. While there, we visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to conduct some research for one of my works in progress. As always, I am happy to have one of my best research assistants with me.

I’ve also been busy thinking about a new novel and have filled up my walls with plot and have just started drafting. Looking forward to the days ahead, being immersed in a story.

Personal Links – Gayleen

The Shape of Hope: Finding Wonder, Joy, and Strength in Literature

Authentic Storytelling: 2019 Houston SCBWI Annual Conference

Van life: Making one’s home on the open road

With Viral Tweet, Activist Urges Defeat of Massive Grand Canyon Development That Threatens Local Tribe’s Water

Personal Links – Stephani

NCTE’s Summer Reading Resources