Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabukukk, Stephani Eaton and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

Rising-star Native illustrator!

A Sailor Meets A Fisherman In 1534: It’s An ‘Encounter,’ Not A Discovery by Samantha Balaban from NPR. Peek: “[Brittany] Luby says. ‘I really just wanted to showcase that Indigenous presence and cultural vitality.’ The book is illustrated by Michaela Goade, who is of Tlingit descent. ‘The sad fact is that for Indigenous communities, accurate and respectful portrayals are either non-existent or woefully underrepresented,’ she says.”

Illustrator Interview: Phyllis Harris from Rhys Keller. Peek: “Thinking about becoming a career illustrator? Ever wonder what it’s like to be a published illustrator of children’s books? Glean some insight from successful illustrator Phyllis Harris and get a sneak peak into her latest book….”

Co-Authors Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver Introduce an Alien by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Though Oliver emphasized the benefit of comedy in hooking kids on reading (‘it’s a great gateway and it’s the underpinning of everything Henry and I write’), she also highlighted the importance of ‘explor[ing] issues of the dangers of judging others by their appearances and body shaming….’”

Diversity & Inclusion


Half a Million Youngsters to Receive a Milestone Indigenous Book by Jamin Mike from The Tyee. Peek: “My Heart Fills With Happiness…the Canadian Children’s Book Centre chose the title for its annual TD Grade One Book Giveaway. But this year marks the first time the centre’s chosen book is written in an Indigenous language—Plains Cree, one of the most widely-spoken First Nations languages in Canada.”

How “Heather Has Two Mommies” Paved the Way for LGBTQ-Inclusive Children’s Books by Sam Manzella from Logo NewNowNext. Peek: “That’s not to say the fight for inclusion in children’s literature is over. Newman is clear about that. ‘I think we have definitely made improvements, but we are very, very far from being where we should be…There still are definitely not enough books that show all kinds of diversity…’”

20 Must-Read Young Adult Novels by Women of Color by Abby Hargreaves from BookRiot. Peek: “While some of their stories focus on themes of the hardships of racism—both historical and modern—in other stories the characters’ race is just as incidental as what time they go to bed at night. Both of these kinds of stories are important….” Note: Includes Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001).

Oregon Schools Slowly Rolling Out Indigenous Studies Curriculum by Elizabeth Miller from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Peek: “Starting this year, Oregon schools are required to teach tribal history and the Native American experience in class…. It’s part of the state’s strategy to implement ‘historically accurate, culturally embedded, place-based, contemporary, and developmentally appropriate’ American Indian and Alaska Native curriculum.”

Writing Craft

Little Brown Young Readers

Day 27: Oge Mora by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[I]f I am writing a draft and it is not coming together, I try to parse things down into a sentence. If it is not working…I have more work to do. Collage wise, I always start with a mood board and work on multiple collages at the same time.”

Behind the Book The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys from BookPage. Peek: “When writing historical fiction, I often wonder, what right do we have to history other than our own? If someone is generous enough to share their story, I am a guest within the archives of their history…. [B]eing a guest comes with responsibility—in this case, a commitment to historical truth….”

Surviving the Monster Apocalypse: An Interview With The Last Kids on Earth Author Max Brallier by Bianca Turetsky from Barnes & Noble. Peek: “I do really, really believe that you can tell a better, stronger story when you mostly know where it’s going. And then, along the way, you still get surprised. I’ve been surprised and delighted many times—while also being forever scared and intimidated by the challenge of trying to shape this thing.”

How Jacqueline Woodson Captures Every Side of Brooklyn by Maris Kreizman from WSJ Magazine. Peek: “I’m a minimalist. I don’t think you need a whole lot of words to tell a story, because you’re using all of your senses. If I didn’t feel that all of the senses were engaged, I would need to do a lot more explaining…. I love the economy of language.”

Breaking the Block by Cheryl Klein. Peek: “If you’re in the middle of a novel and stuck, make a list of the events in every chapter…or all the things you like about it, or your twenty favorite moments. If you’re torn among projects, make a status spreadsheet for all of them and see how you feel….”

Questions & Answers: Your Questions for Andrew About Books and Writing by Andrew Clements. Peek: “I try to write every day, especially when I’m in the middle of a novel. But I find that even if I can’t actually walk through the garage and shut myself up in the office where I write, I can still work, because the biggest part of writing is thinking.”

Rick Riordan Presents

Authors’ Corner: J.C. Cervantes on The Storm Runner by Blaire Krakowitz from Worlds of Words. Peek: “Read far and wide… Read some craft books, attend retreats as you are able, join writing organizations, but most of all—write. Write without criticism. Write what moves you, what you love, what you want to read. Tell the story only you can tell. And above all, be authentic and be kind.”


‘NYT’ Shifts Its Lists Again by John Maher from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the Times’ Best Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books….” See also The New York Times Updates and Expands Its Best-Sellers Lists from The New York Times. Peek: “…there will be two new monthly children’s lists: Middle Grade Paperback and Young Adult Paperback.”

Mentorship Information and Eligibility from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “This is an opportunity to be matched with an experienced children’s book creator and receive individual support and feedback on a completed draft of a work-in-progress or your portfolio. We are open for applications during Oct. 1-31, 2019.”

Protecting “The Books That Will Never Be Written”: Judy Blume’s Fight Against Censorship by Katherine from A Mighty Girl. Peek: “[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers…. I mourn the voices that will be silenced….”

How to Find a Literary Agent: Finding Agents Appropriate for Your Writing by Robert Lee Brewer from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “The first step in finding a literary agent appropriate for your writing project is to be able to define what your writing project is. Some writers may find this easy to do; others may struggle…. Go to a few local bookstores and determine where you think your book should be shelved….”


Hachette U.K. and the Booksellers Association Launch new Sceptre Bookshop Award from Booksellers Association. Peek: “Hachette U.K. and the Booksellers Association have launched a new £5000 Sceptre Bookshop Award to celebrate the bookshops in the U.K. and Ireland that make an outstanding contribution to their community. The Sceptre Bookshop Award recognizes that bookshops are much more than a retail space, often functioning as valuable community hubs….”

Libraries & Education

Curriculum Specialists Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza on the Need for Accurate Indigenous History Instruction from the National School Boards Association. Peek from Jean Mendoza: “…never assume that you have no Native kids in your classroom. …make sure all teachers and students recognize that Indigenous peoples were thriving in what are currently called the Americas long before any Europeans came here.”

Readers’ Advisory Review by Maria Trivisonno from ALSC Blog. Peek: “I am always interested in how other librarians approach book recommendations…. I try to talk to the actual child if they are present, even if their adult is a little pushy and/or the child is shy. I usually ask what grade they are in, and what books they have enjoyed….”

Libraries Take Issue With New Pricing Models by Ellen Duffer from Forbes. Peek: “The conflict brewing between libraries and publishers got deeper…. Simon & Schuster, although updating its e-book terms to give libraries greater flexibility in purchasing options, put audiobooks on a two-year access model, rather than the industry standard perpetual access model.”


Nominations Open for 2019 Cybils, the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards!

2019 CBC Diversity Award Winners Announced by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: Congratulations to Andrea Davis Pinkney, Namrata Tripathi, The Brown Bookshelf, and Just Us Books, who were the winners of the second annual CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards, given to “children’s publishing professionals who have helped create and promote diverse books for young readers and foster more inclusive employment practices within the industry.”

Lynda Barry, Graphic Novelist, Cartoonist, and Educator | 2019 MacArthur Fellow from MacArthur Foundation. Peek: “She is inspiring creative engagement through original graphic works and a teaching practice centered on the role of image making in communication. The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached grant….”

Congratulations to the winners of Australia’s Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and picture books!

Congratulations to those authors and illustrators shortlisted for the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards! Peek: “The prizes, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, are awarded in seven English-language categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people’s literature—text, young people’s literature—illustration, drama and translation. Seven French-language awards are also given out in the same categories.”

Albert Whitman & Co.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

What a productive week! After letting both rest for a week, I finished my short story for the upcoming powwow athology, which has been turned in, and began working on my novel again. I also had mid-term phone calls with my Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA advisees.

Reminder! Join me Oct. 19 for Book Fest at Bank Street in New York City. I’ll be speaking on the panel, “Native Voices in Our Time” from 10:25 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. with illustrator Linda Kukuk and fellow authors Yvonne DennisKevin Malliard and Traci SorellLoriene Roy is moderating. Joseph Bruchac is keynoting at 2:50 p.m.

More Personally – Gayleen

I loved attending the Houston SCBWI Conference last weekend where I caught up with Varsha Bajaj and picked up her new book, Count Me In (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019).

Varsha is on the faculty for Austin SCBWI‘s upcoming Full Novel Workshop on Nov. 16, along with Cory Putman Oakes and Jessica Lee Anderson (I can’t wait!)

More Personally- Stephani

This weekend I attended the SCBWI Carolinas regional conference. It is aways a joy to connect with other writers for children. I have much to digest this week as I head into a revision of a middle grade novel and the workshops and critiques provided perspectives to chew on. I also got to catch up with VCFA friends Cynthia Surrisi, who gave a motivating keynote address, Nora Carpenter, Melissa Cole Essig, Andrew Chilton, Stephen Baker, and Kelly Dyksterhouse (not pictured). Cynsations posts a lot of articles and interviews that highlight the value of writing communities and partnerships. This weekend reminded of their great value.

Personal Links – Gayleen