Cynsational News


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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Nikki Grimes Explains Why Mental Illness Is Not A Weakness by Vanessa Willoughby from School Library Journal. Peek: “[W]eakness is precisely the way we view mental illness. It becomes something to hide, rather than something to talk about, or even acknowledge. However, mental illness is, in fact, a disease, not a flaw….[W]e are only weak when we refuse to get the help we need to cope with that disease.”

Teddies: A Daniel Kraus Interview & Cover Reveal by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “I want to push readers into situations they’re not expecting. I also want to push myself as an artist. I hate working in comfortable spaces. That’s why I publish all over the map, and part of why I’m excited about the middle-grade space. It’s a whole new kind of challenge.”

Linda Sue Park & Anna Dobbin on The Hero Next Door from We Need Diverse Books. Peek from Anna on collaboration: “Open, honest communication with your co-writer is really important.”

Interview with Julie Flett, Author-Illustrator of Birdsong by Kathie Meizner from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: “For the last few books I’ve worked with pastel on paper, then the work is scanned and composited digitally. I’ve just started to get to know how to work with brushes in Photoshop; that’s been a lifesaver—and it’s playful.”

Diversity, Inclusion & Equity


The Thing About Corn: Children’s Author & Upper Skagit Citizen Christine Day Tackles Teaching Kids True Native American History from Medium. Peek: “The only education I ever received about corn came from the falsely feel-good story of the First Thanksgiving…North America is equally as old and lived-in as Europe. In fact, when Columbus first arrived here, it is estimated that about 100 million people were already settled throughout the Americas.”

We Need Diverse Books Mentorships. Applications now open. Peek: “Our mentors work one-on-one with a mentee and their completed draft of a manuscript over the course of a year, offering much-needed support to improve craft and to better understand the publishing industry.” Check out Everything I Learned from the WNDB Mentorship Program by Kelly Mullen-McWilliams from We Need Diverse Books.

“History of Indigenous People’s Day” Lesson Plan by Dr. Natalie Martinez from An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People (tie-in to the book by Dr. Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza (Beacon, 2019)). Peek: “Even if you’re not a teacher, and you want to know more about the grassroots activism that has led communities to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day—this lesson plan can help you find out.”

Picture Book Recommendations to Celebrate Filipino American History Month by Mrs. G from Here Wee Read. Peek: “October is recognized as Filipino American History Month, where the contributions of the Filipino and Filipino American community are celebrated in the United States…In celebration of Filipino American History Month, I’ve compiled a list of a few books to add to your bookshelf or read, whether you’re Filipino or not.”


Why Aren’t There More LGBTQ+ People in History Books? by Sarah Prager from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Getting to know my ancestors’ stories was a way I found my sense of self and community as a teen. They let me know I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t the first one to feel this way. And it helped me tell others that my identity wasn’t a fad….”

Writing Craft

Interview with Christopher Paul Curtis by Jennie McDonald from Center for the Collaborative Classroom. Peek: “My process is to write my story, constantly and continually revise each section I’ve written, put it all together, read it as a whole, then revise even more. For every hour I spend writing a piece, I conservatively spend ten or twelve hours going over it again and again.”

Interview with Author Megan McDonald by Isabella León from Girl Spring. Peek: “You know those composition notebooks?…I usually have one of those for each book. And I just start by brainstorming and scribbling ideas into the notebook. By the time I get to the computer…I usually start with sort of the beginning and end and then figure out what else could be in the middle.”

Inkyard Press

More Authors, More (Plot) Drama: 12 YA Books with More Than One Author by Tirzah Price from Book Riot. Peek: “Two heads (or even three) are better than one when it comes to some YA novels! While the phenomenon of authors teaming up to collaborate on a single novel isn’t new…there are more of these dual-authored books than ever, and some of these author combinations are spectacular!”


How to Reduce Marketing Anxiety and Confusion by Jane Friedman from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[M]any authors are advised to use social media as part of their book launches, but they establish accounts only for the purpose of book marketing. Such authors lack the years of experience and community building that are typically required to see sales results.”


William Penn Foundation Chooses Lee & Low Books as Publisher for the Early Childhood Book Challenge by Jalissa from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “OpenIDEO launched the Early Childhood Book Challenge earlier this year seeking an original story for children ages 0 to 3 celebrating literacy and inspiring adults on how to support early language development…[E]xperts selected I’ll Build You a Bookcase by Jean Ciborowski Fahey as the winner…Lee & Low Books was chosen as the publisher….”

Graphic Novels on Audio by Heather Booth from Booklist. Peek: “The use of multiple narrators in a graphic audio allows for a clear distinction between characters and quick back and forth dialogue that simulates the word bubbles on a page, creating a radio-play feel.”

Debut YA by Member of Chippewa Tribe Sells in Seven-Figure Deal by Rachel Deahl from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “(Angeline) Boulley gained some attention thanks to a mentorship program overseen by the publishing industry nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, participating in the 2019 WNDB Mentorship Program. (The program allows up-and-coming authors to workshop a manuscript, one-on-one, with an established author working in their genre.)”



2019 ABC Best Books for Young Readers Catalogs by Liz Button from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “The 2019 ABC Best Books for Young Readers catalog will be landing in stores this month…The full-color, 16-page consumer circular features nearly 200 frontlist and backlist titles for children and teens, all suggested by ABA member booksellers…This year’s catalog cover features art from Babymoon, written by Hayley Barrett and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Candlewick, 2019)….”


The ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way: Outreach to the Underserved” Grant is now open! from ALSC Blog. Peek: “The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers Committee (LSUCTC) are now accepting online applications for the 2020 Light the Way: Library Outreach to the Underserved grant. This $3,000 grant…will go to a library conducting exemplary outreach to underserved populations….”

Five Reasons Why We Created Our Own Summer Reading Theme at Simsbury (CT) Public Library by Stephanie C. Prato from ALSC Blog. Peek: “Now that Summer Reading 2019 has ended and we’re…into the Back-to-School season, libraries are actively planning for Summer Reading 2020. While it’s popular to adopt the theme selected by the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), many libraries have decided to forge their own paths in customizing their own Summer Reading Programs.”


The National Book Foundation has announced the 2019 National Book Awards finalists for Young People’s Literature: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Make Me a World, 2019), Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, October 2019), Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Kokila, June 2019), Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (Balzer + Bray, October 2019), and 1919 The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler (Bloomsbury, January 2019).

2019 Harvey Awards: Congratulations to this year’s teen author recipients, including Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Scholastic, 2018)(Book of the Year), Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu (First Second, 2018)(Digital Book of the Year), Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second, May 2019)(Best Children’s or Young Adult Book), and My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi (Viz)(Best Manga).

Cybils nominations are now open. Peek: “We are now accepting nominations from the public through October 15!” Ten separate categories include all levels of children’s literature from board books through young adult.

Tu Books

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

What a week! Co-author Kekla Magoon and I received sketches of Molly Murakami‘s sketches for book one of the Blue Stars series! We’ve been reviewing them both big picture and panel-by-panel and loving every minute of it.

What else? On a budget? Nifty news! Candlewick Press is offering the e-book edition of Hearts Unbroken (2018) at $2.99 for this month only via E-volt & you can sign up here.

Are you a teacher? Here’s an exercise for your students: Compare and Contrast Jingle Dancer and The Cloud Artist by Sherri Maret, illustrated by Merisha Sequoia Clark, a bilingual Choctaw-English fiction picture book (RoadRunner Press, 2017).

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

My monthly novel critique group was especially delicious as we toasted Eloise Williams as the inaugural Children’s Laureate of Wales with Welshcakes beneath the Welsh flag. L to R: Sheryl Witschorke, Gayleen, Lorraine Elkins (master baker) and Lori Keckler, not pictured Tonya Preece.

More Personally – Gail

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending the live-streaming, fifth-annual Picture Book Summit 2019, an online writing conference that featured a large cast of engaging picture book experts (writers, illustrators, agents, and editors). The instruction took the form of keynotes, panels, and workshops. In addition to providing a wealth of valuable information through the presenters, the Picture Book Summit Core Faculty kept the attendees sated and entertained with a pre-conference pajama party, conference dance events, and even a take-home party pack that included handouts, lecture slides, post-conference access to the recorded videos, and the non-agented submission guidelines of the participating agents and editors.

Thank you for a marvelous, enlightening time, and I’ll see you next year.

Personal Links – Gayleen

“Emergency Poet” Opens Literary Pharmacy To Support Mental Wellbeing
Between two big book fests, Austin authors offer more for kids to read
First Alaska Native on U.S. Currency Revealed as Alaska Native Heritage Month Becomes Official

Personal Links – Gail

Early Childhood Book Challenge Winner Jean Ciborowski Fahey