Cynsational News

Roaring Brook

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview with Kevin Noble Maillard by Daryl Grabarek from School Library Journal. Peek: “I also set up a Tumblr page for Juana (Martinez-Neal, illustrator), and I would post pictures that I thought were important. Old pics of my family—like the one of the fancy aunt—necklaces, fabric patterns…I wanted each spread in the book to have at least one Native Easter egg on it.”

Why the Surprise Ending Ultimately Frightens Us by H.J. Ramsay from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “When it’s all said and done, we both love and loathe the surprise ending. It keeps us on our toes, giving us that shock-and-awe factor we crave. Except, when the book is closed and we’re left with our thoughts, we’re unsettled, and we don’t understand why.”

Giovanna Yessoufou Discusses Thor the Troublemaker by Bianca Schulze from The Children’s Book Review. Peek: “[W]rite what you know, write from your experiences because that kind of fuel will never die….[W]hen a person truly writes from the soul, the reader can feel it, if you write what you don’t know or what you haven’t experienced the burden is much heavier to become trustworthy to the reader.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Penguin Random House

We Need Diverse Books: Joseph Bruchac’s #OwnVoices Recs + The Hero Next Door from We Need Diverse Books at YouTube. Peek: “Bringing people into that unfamiliar setting I think is a very important thing to do in a story to acquaint people with a culture and a place they may not be familiar with but is everyday for those who are part of it.” See also, We Need Diverse Books Mentorships. Applications accepted through Oct. 31. Mentees work one-on-one with mentors on a manuscript over the course of a year.

#OwnVoices: Kids and Teen Books by Indigenous Authors and Illustrators from The Seattle Public Library. Peek: “Books for children and teens by Native American and First Nations authors and illustrators. Many are recommended by the either the American Indian Youth Literature Award, children’s author Cynthia Leitich Smith, or American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL).” See also, Cynthia’s Teacher and Librarian Resources for Native American Children’s and Young Adult Books.

‘We See With the Brain’: Creating a Comic Book for Blind People by David Barnett from The Guardian. Peek: “Unseen…is the first comic book aimed at blind people, featuring a blind character and made by a blind creator. The experience is akin to audio-described cinema: each panel is described in a matter-of-fact way, dialogue is spoken, and a ‘whoosh’ sound indicates when the next page is starting.”

On the History (and Future) of YA and Speculative Fiction by Black Women by Stephanie Toliver from Literary Hub. Peek: “Last year…an earthquake occurred, signaling a shift in the hardened crust of the YA speculative fiction (YASF) world….Although last year provided the earthquake, multiple foreshocks began long ago, as Black women YASF authors used their words to ensure that Black girls’ dreams did not dry up, fester, or sag.”

Writing Craft

Crown Books For Young Readers

Nic Stone: How I Write by Allison Futterman from The Writer. Peek: “I am an outliner who plots to death. I have to know everything before I put a word on the page. I outline each book in a composition notebook. I fill it in with notes, character names, and put it in order. I build the outline and then write a draft.” See also New Voice: Nic Stone on Dear Martin from Cynsations.

Raina Telgemeier Became a Hero to Millions of Readers by Showing How Uncomfortable Growing Up Can Be by Michael Cavna from The Washington Post. Peek: “‘When I went to tackle the thing in my life, I started to see the story in it and started to tell the story—because when you go into a therapist’s office, they want to know why you’re there, and where you are…how it all connects.’”

Shaun David Hutchinson by Allison Futterman from The Writer. Peek: “Crafting YA/teenage dialogue. It boils down to honesty. I try to stay away from slang because that immediately dates things….[D]ialogue is looking for the soul of the conversation. It’s about making every word count. I think teens are far more open when they speak than people think they are.” See also New Voice: Shaun David Hutchinson on The Deathday Letter from Cynsations.

Using Layered Text in Nonfiction by Wendy Hinote Lanier from Nonfiction Ninjas. Peek: “Nonfiction writing is all about disseminating information….[H]ow we choose to organize that information can sometimes bring the writing process to a screeching halt. One solution is to tackle the subject with a layered text. Layered text allows nonfiction writers to present information in more than one way—within the same publication.” For more examples of layered text in nonfiction, see Melissa Stewart’s 2013  Cynsations guest post.

Simon & Schuster

Question and Answer Text Structure by Melissa Stewart from Celebrate Science. Peek: “Not only is Q&A a powerful way to organize information, it can also add a fun, interactive game-like quality to a book….[I]t’s a great window into text structures. It can help students get their feet wet before immersing themselves in text structures that are more difficult to grasp and differentiate.”


New Venture: Random House Graphic by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[Publishing director Gina] Gagliano described her team, which includes senior editor Whitney Leopard, designer Patrick Crotty, and marketing/publicity manager Nicole Valdez, as a tightknit group. ‘We all work together pretty intensively. It’s very collaborative—everything from pitches to ad design to convention-planning to cover design.’”

Gatekeepers by David King from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “[F]ind a gatekeeper. Hire a professional editor. Search for a good agent–the best of them can spot problems as effectively as an editor. Hold out for traditional publishing, with an acquisitions editor who will not let you through until you’re ready.”


Nine Ways (and Two Rewards) of Marketing Your Own Book by Beth Alvarado from Jane Friedman. Peek: “I’ve learned two crucial things about the role of marketing in a writer’s life: Marketing can become a part of your creative life, adding fuel and clarity to your writing. Whether you’re also promoting others’ work or simply making new connections, marketing can help expand your literary community.”


Penguin Random House

2019 Washington State Book Award Winners from The Seattle Review of Books. Congratulations to all winners, which include:

Congratulations to Rachel Hartman for winning the 2019 Sunburst Young Adult Award for Tess of the Road (Penguin Teen, 2018)!

Congratulations to Michelle Barker for winning a Young Adult Fiction Gold Moonbeam Award for The House of One Thousand Eyes (Annick, 2018)! Congratulations to all the other winners of the 2019 Moonbeam Awards!

Congratulations to the authors of the YALSA Teens’ Top Teen Titles and the nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, especially Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member Uma Krishnaswami and Choctaw author-storyteller Tim Tingle!

Who Will Be the 2020 School Librarian of the Year? from School Library Journal. Peek: “[W]e’re looking the 2020 honoree. Nominations close Nov. 18 on this annual award…Past nominations that were not selected are welcome to re-submit. Nominate yourself or a deserving colleague….”

Publisher/Author Submissions for Cybils Awards. Peek: “Nominations from the public are now closed, and we thank everyone who took the time to nominate. We are now accepting submissions from authors and publishers for any books that were not nominated by the public.” Self-submissions accepted through Oct. 25.


Ann Patchett Named’s First “Bookstore Champion” by Liz Button from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “Digital audiobook company has selected Ann Patchett, author and owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn.; as the winner of its inaugural ‘Bookstore Champion’ award, which will recognize individuals ‘who actively advocate for local bookstores through their platforms, influence, and contributions to the greater indie book community.’”


Friendly Haints and Macabre Adventures | 36 Seasonal Titles for Middle Grade and High School Readers by Daryl Grabarek from School Library Journal. Peek: “Anyone who works with children and books knows that the allure of the scary starts young….As kids get older, mysteries, murder, horror, the supernatural, and fantasy enter the mix in titles that offer plenty of genre and cross-genre appeal.”


This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Today I’m off to New York City! Join me Oct. 19 for Book Fest at Bank Street. 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.

Reminder: 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.

More Personally – Gayleen

My calendar is bursting with literary events! This weekend I’m looking forward to Susan Johnston Taylor‘s presentation on magazine writing at the Austin SCBWI meeting, plus book launch parties with Meredith Davis and Bethany Hegedus.

I’m also gearing up to co-host the Local Authors’ and Illustrators’ Showcase at the IBBY Regional Conference in Austin on October 25. Plus, Samantha M Clark and I are coordinating author signings in the Austin SCBWI booth at the Texas Book Festival.

More Personally – Stephani

I’m in revision mode for the next few weeks. I am happily digging into my manuscript and resource materials. I’m an office supply enthusiastic and am enjoying being surrounded by sticky notes, highlighters, and pencils.

And I was so happy that the VCFA bookstore was able to ship a new little notebook to me. I keep track of all my progress in it and bring it with me everywhere. Yes, it’s literally the small things that keep me going!

More Personally – Gail

The Ozma Awards for Fantasy Fiction (Chanticleer International Book Awards) recognize emerging talent and outstanding works, including children’s and young adult pieces, in the genre of Fantasy Fiction. The submission deadline is Oct. 31. Peek: “Chanticleer Book Reviews is looking for the best books featuring magic, the supernatural, imaginary worlds, fantastical creatures, legendary beasts, mythical beings, or inventions of fancy that author imaginations dream up without a basis in science as we know it.”

Last year’s winners included middle-grade novel Money Jane: The Hunt for a Legendary Magic Thief by T.K. Riggins (Franchise Publishing, 2018), and young adult novel Antler Jinny and the Raven by Chris Dews (Aengus Press, 2018).

Booker Prize: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo Share Award. Congratulations to co-winners Margaret Atwood for The Testaments (Nan A. Talese, 2019) and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other (Grove Press, Black Cat, 2019).

Personal Links – Gayleen

Personal Links- Stephani

Personal Links – Gail