Cynsational News

Penguin Random House

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Writing Through Fear: A Chat with Ashley Woodfolk About Her Heartbreaking YA Novel by Wesley Salazar from Brightly. Peek: “I think loss is one of those universal experiences that no one really knows how to talk about. But art is a language that nearly everyone understands. I really do believe that it has the power to heal—to make you feel seen and hopeful and less alone….”

I’m Not Really Who You Think I Am from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek from Suma Subramaniam: “[C]onflicts and universal challenges unfold across all families regardless of culture. In tough times, ordinary people step in to help and we see great acts of humanity. Some…are not necessarily famous, but they do great things when no one’s noticing them—sometimes at a significant personal cost.”

Erin Bowman On Your Art As A Commodity from Mindy McGinnis. Peek: “I definitely approach each project with a commercial eye (Is this easily accessible for the average reader? Is this hook strong and compelling?), but at the end of the day, I’m going to have to read the book thousands of times before it pubs, so my heart better be in it.”

How Books Help Children Find Their Voice with Uma Krishnaswami from The Booking Biz. Peek: “Sometimes, as a writer, you get a gift. You feel as if you’re not really writing a story so much as channeling one that’s already out there in the universe and somehow you got lucky enough to be on the right bandwidth to pick it up.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion


Rescuing Native Americans from the Imaginative Prison of the Past by David Treuer from the New York Times. Peek: “…it is with great enthusiasm and joy that I greet the recent wave of contemporary, vibrant, diverse children’s picture books mostly by and all about Native people.”

Q&A: Curriculum Specialists on the Need for Accurate Indigenous History Instruction by Michelle Healy from National School Boards Association. Peek: “Whether primitive or noble, stereotypical imagery in classic, award-winning, and popular children’s books miseducates all children, and has a detrimental long-term effect. Some young people carry that imagery into their work as book editors who reject manuscripts from Native writers because Native-authored stories aren’t ‘Indian enough.’”

Teen Forum: “Who Put the C in CBC?” by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Across age and gender, the children said they enjoy graphic novels and want more of them…[T]he group espoused an overwhelming preference for reading about characters who are unlike themselves. The students perceive books as a mode to learn about other people in the world, their cultures, and what they do in life.”

The Winners of the 2019 Creative Writing Awards Share Their Writing Processes from We Need Diverse Books. Peek from Kiora Brooks: “[M]y piece is about my skin and dark skin in general. It’s kind of layered, my themes, at first it talks about people with black skin in general, how there’s all these stereotypes against us…And then it goes into dark skin specifically, about people, how they stigmatize against people with dark skin.”

Five Latinx Poets You Should Be Reading and Listening To by Ruby Mora from Teen Vogue. Peek: “In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, Teen Vogue is spotlighting the work of five Latina poets whose work you should be engaging with. These five poets are an excellent starting point for understanding the power of poems as social commentary and gaining perspective on the Latinx experience.”

Penguin Random House

DVpit is Creating Space for Diversity in Publishing by Adiba Jaigirdar from BookRiot. Peek: “DVpit is a Twitter pitching contest for diverse voices….What makes DVpit unique among pitching contests is that it’s only for diverse authors. This means that writers from marginalised backgrounds, who have many hurdles when it comes to publishing, are the only ones allowed to pitch during this contest.”

Teacher & Librarian Resources for Native American Children’s & Young Adult Books from Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Teaching Respect for Native Peoples by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin of Oyate from Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Writing Craft

Chance Comes Once: Author Interview by A.B. Westrick. Peek from co-author Meredith Davis: “To make sure I didn’t misrepresent anything, I had a Rwandan friend translate the entire book into Kinyarwanda, so that Rebeka and her parents would hear every word in their native language and make sure it was right.”

How to Train Your Editor Brain by Tiffany Yates Martin from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “The best way…to switch on ‘editor brain’ is to see others’ work edited. This is because you automatically come to others’ work with the mental and emotional distance it can be so hard to achieve with your own writing. With someone else’s story, you see—and evaluate—only what’s there….”

Illustrator Interview: Duncan Beedie from Only Picture Books. Peek: “I consider myself more of an illustrator than a writer, so doodling in a sketchbook always comes first. Then, if there’s a character I particularly like, I start to develop a world…. I think about that character’s routine, what they might wear or eat, and hopefully a story idea emerges.”

Katie Zhao Interview and The Dragon Warrior Giveaway by Natalie Aguirre from Literary Rambles. Peek: “I created a cast of Chinese American characters based off the family and friends I knew, who I’d rarely seen represented in books before. Even the food that the characters eat during their quest is the food that I ate as a child…[T]he Chinatown settings are inspired by the family trips….”

Becoming Both a Pantser and a Plotter by Jessica Faust from Bookends Literary Agency. Peek: “Authors usually identify their writing style in two ways. They are either pantsers or plotters…An author’s process is their process. However, as your career takes shape you’re going to discover that it’s not possible to be either a pantser or a plotter. You will need to learn to be both.”


Water, Water, Everywhere, A Guest Post by London Shah by Amanda MacGregor from School Library Journal. Peek: “World-building is definitely challenging…and you must be prepared to put in a significant amount of time and energy. Whilst your imagination gets to run wild, your every decision must remain plausible.”

People of Color in Publishing Looks to Spark Change Across Industry by Macy Lipkin from Wellesley College. Peek: “By promoting strong professional development and mentorship programs and creating a regular discussion series to support aspiring publishers as well as midcareer professionals striving to reach senior positions, POC in Publishing wants to make a lasting impact.”


Children/YA Bright Spot In Soft August by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The children/young adult category was one of only two categories that posted a sales increase this August, over August 2018, according to AAP’s StatShot program. All three print formats posted gains in the month, leading to an overall increase in the category of 7.9%.”

Beyond the Page: Megan Cooley Peterson from The Children’s Book Council. Peek: “I found my editor on Twitter before I even had a literary agent! I entered a Twitter pitch contest, and my editor requested the book. A few weeks later, she offered to buy my book! And then I found my agent.”

Study Your Way to Published! by Stephanie Bearce from Middle Grade Minded. Peek: “There are some great online courses available for middle grade minded writers…. [T]here are also some short onsite retreats and workshops that allow you to network with other authors and writing professionals. Take a look at the list I have compiled of great learning opportunities for 2020.”


Taking Middle Grade to Market by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “One of the biggest challenges of marketing middle grade titles directly to their readers is that the majority of eight-to-12-year-olds don’t purchase their own books….[I]t’s vital for publishers to appeal to the gatekeepers…and at the same time to design elements of their marketing campaigns that will grab the attention of kids.”


Introducing the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s New BTW Column from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “Welcome to the very first column from ABA’s Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion!…One of our latest initiatives is this BTW column, to be written in coordination with ABA staff by members of the committee each month on a different topic or issue the committee is working on.”


What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA October 2019 by Amanda MacGregor from School Library Journal. Peek: “It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories.”


Winner of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, Kids Can Press

Congratulations to the winners of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) English-language children’s book awards. Peek: “‘We look forward to this event every year to celebrate our accomplished authors and illustrators for children and young people in Canada,’ says Rose Vespa, Executive Director of the CCBC. ‘The books that were celebrated tonight represent outstanding achievements in literature for young people.’”

William Allen White Children’s Book Award. Congratulations to the winners who were honored at the recent 67th Annual White Awards Celebration and Ceremony: Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray, 2016) and Ghost by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2016).

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Entries for 2020 will open in November 2019. Peek: “These awards are a unique celebration of the contribution New Zealand’s children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage.”

SCBWI On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award applications are being accepted until Nov. 15, 2019. Any writer or writer/illustrator from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally underrepresented in U.S. children’s literature is eligible.

The Golden Kite Award deadline to submit books published between July 2019 and December 2019 is Nov. 15. Categories include: Picture Book Text, Picture Book Illustration, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Nonfiction for Younger Readers, and Nonfiction for Older Readers. One Golden Kite Award Winner and one Honor Book will be chosen per category. Submission deadline for the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, given with the Golden Kite Awards, is Nov. 30 for books published from July 2019-December 2019.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Henry Holt

Wow! What a lovely time I had last weekend at Bank Street Book Festival in New York. It was a delight to meet fellow panelists Linda Kukuk, Yvonne Wakim Dennis, and Kevin Noble Maillard as well as to reconnect with Traci Sorell and listen to Joseph Bruchac‘s keynote address.

Kudos to Kevin on Tuesday’s release of his debut picture book, Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Roaring Brook, 2019).

Congrats also to my Blue Stars series co-author, Kekla Magoon, on the release of her latest YA novel, Light It Up (Henry Holt, 2019)!

The bookish fun continues this weekend at the USBBY (IBBY regional) conference in Austin. It’s also Texas Book Festival weekend in Austin, and though I won’t be formally participating on the program this year (no new release, too busy to read in preparation to moderate!), I hope to make the scene a bit.

Last call! 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

I loved celebrating new books last weekend! Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight To Walk by Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze (Scholastic, 2019) and Rise: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Tonya Engel (Lee & Low, 2019). Both these launches took place at Austin’s fantastic BookPeople.