Cynsational News

Clarion Books

By Cynthia Leitich SmithGail VannelliGayleen Rabukukk, and Stephani Eaton for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

Linda Sue Park with Matthew Winner from The Children’s Book Podcast on YouTube. Peek: “When you write for young people you actually get a chance to introduce them to concepts and ideas…You get to provoke them into thinking about things they may not have thought of before. It’s a great privilege. It’s a great responsibility.” Learn more at Q&A with Linda Sue Park by Krystyna Poray Goddu from Publishers Weekly.

On Writing Books for Real Kids…and Telling the Truth by Kate Messner by Cindy Minnich from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “In the real world—our world—kids are struggling, too. They’re looking for someone to listen. And all the while, they’re showing up for school and doing homework and laughing…But they’re also looking for an opening to speak up, to feel whole again….Books about sensitive topics don’t harm kids. They empower them.”

What’s Interesting About Your Work? by Heather Dyer from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: “One of the best things about writing is that it’s a process of discovery. Even when you start off thinking that you know what you’re going to say, things tend to bubble up in the process that are unexpected. I suspect this is because our unconscious…knows a lot more than we do….”

Balzer + Bray

“Red Hood” Author Elana K. Arnold Looks at the Wolves in Our Midst by Denise Davidson from The San Diego Union-Tribune. Peek: “The gray wolf is an apex predator…Everything they do affects both their prey and the environment…[T]hey make a great stand-in for that which scares us….What if the apex predator isn’t necessarily the most powerful…By playing with tropes, writers tap into the collective shared story—the myth, the fairy tale—then subvert it.”

Five Kinds of Nonfiction Update [Active, Browseable, Traditional, Expository Literature, Narrative] by Melissa Stewart from Celebrate Science. Peek: “When students understand the characteristics of the five categories [of nonfiction], they can predict the type of information they’re likely to find in a particular book…[and] can quickly and easily identify the best books for a particular purpose…as well as the kind of nonfiction books they enjoy reading most.”

Equity & Inclusion

Capstone Press

Meet Mary and the Trail of Tears Author Andrea L. Rogers from New Readers Rock 2020. Peek: “There aren’t a lot of books out there with people who look like my family, with people like me or my kids in them. So, I have to write them. When I find my work interests other people or they care about what happens to my characters, that makes me feel successful as an author.”

Black Books: Cynthia Leitich Smith from Edith Campbell at CrazyQuiltEdi. Peek: “I’ve invited non Black people who are in some way connected to youth literature to share a list of 5-10 books written or illustrated by Blacks that will appeal to children. I asked for anything from board books and graphic novels to biographies and adult crossover. The authors or illustrators could be living or dead, U.S. residents or not.”

Five Questions for Kyle Lukoff by Kitty Flynn from The Horn Book. Peek: “[M]y favorite kinds of trans books [are] ones in which the character’s identity is intertwined with and inextricable from the narrative, but…not the main purpose of the story. That’s how I experience my life; my trans history is deeply woven into my life but is also just one part of my day-to-day reality.”

Margaret K. McElderry Books

Four Questions for Cassandra Clare by Katrina Niidas Holm from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I contact members of the marginalized community that I am writing about, and run what I’m writing by them. It’s obviously not the burden of your sensitivity reader to fix your book, but I think that we all can fall into unconscious stereotyping even when we’re trying really hard not to.”

Journey to the East: Teaching East Asia Through Children’s Literature by Natasha Thomas from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “Beijing was a huge city….It would come as a shock to me when I was back in the U.S. for one year in fifth grade and a friend of a friend asked…what it was like to live without electricity….What I had witnessed in my peer that day was simply a gap in her education.”

Voices From Our Past, Stories For Our Future by Lesa Cline-Ransome from Nonfiction Fest. Peek: “[Uncovering] the stories of the vital roles people of color have played in the shaping and building of this country…led me to the question, ‘How did I not know this?’…. By allowing their voices to be heard on the pages of each book we write, we hear their struggle and sacrifice, their hopes and dreams.”

Writing Craft

Day 26—Pat Cummings by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “I wanted to adopt Walter [Dean Myers’s] method of having a detailed outline in place but I’d also seen how Sheila [Hamanaka] could just let characters pull her along to shape a story….Ellen Hopkins helped me find an approach that…begins with a structure in mind but then listens to the characters….”

Henry Holt and Co.

Interview with Debut Author Jonathan Stutzman by Lindsay Ward from Critter Lit. Peek: “Once I have the idea I write out the story. Spend time reworking it, reading it out loud over and over, trying to feel out the page turns and momentum of the story. Often I’m writing multiple at one time. I jump from idea to idea. Whatever is feeling exciting at the moment.”

Day 24: Kevin Noble Maillard by Tameka Fryer Brown from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “My Process. I would buy a soft cover moleskine for each new project. Not a big thick one, but one…that has about 50 pages in it; it always starts out with a list of words that I would like to include: sovereign, arise, homeland….[T]he starter list points me in a certain direction.”

Day 22: Joshunda Sanders by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “The Process. Books are a bit like our relationships to other people—each requires something unique of us….So sometimes a character presents themselves….[A]n idea or concept for me often develops after I’ve interviewed this character to determine what she/they most want to say.”


Day 20—K. Ancrum by Paula Chase Hyman from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[T]he text is very dialogue heavy…which should be encouraging for young people who read slowly….[T]he flow of each character’s speech patterns has to be perfect. So, after I write a scene, I use a text to voice app to play my own work back to me while I’m editing it.”

Five Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Finish Your Book by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “You begin with a wave of excitement. A new book holds so much promise. Then somewhere along the way, something changes. The story gets more difficult. It takes longer to finish a chapter or even a page….You must not allow this to happen!…You want to be…[one of] those writers who build successful careers.”


How to Build an Author Website: Getting Started Guide from Jane Friedman. Peek: “I strongly advocate all authors start and maintain a website as part of their long-term marketing efforts and ongoing platform development. But it’s an intimidating project because so few authors have been in a position to create, manage, or oversee websites….With this guide, I hope to answer all the most frequently asked questions….”


The Importance of Diversity in School Libraries by Lucas Maxwell from Book Riot. Peek: “I…made it my mission to not only fill the library with as many diverse stories as possible, but to bring in authors who have had as many varied experiences as possible….Diversity in school libraries isn’t just about the numbers, it’s about the impact it has on the lives of the students who use them.”

Viking Books for Young Readers


SCBWI Exclusive with Patrice Caldwell [Author, Literary Agent] from Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Peek: “I can read the opening of a book and automatically know it’s for me…It’s not about taking the book all the way to ‘done.’ Every book has different needs. Some things just need a line edit, some things need more in-depth work. When I’m editing I often have a vision for the book….”

Editor Regina Hayes Retires After 54 Years by Sue Corbett from Publishers Weekly. Peek from Regina Hayes: “‘I knew from the first week that this was what I was meant to do. The idea that the people in that office read books all day was enough.’ Fifty-four years later, Hayes retired from Viking on Feb. 1, where she had been publisher for 30 years and an editor-at-large since stepping down from that role in 2012.”

Schwartz and Wade to Get Separate Imprints at Random House by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Launching in summer 2021 are Anne Schwartz Books, led by v-p and publisher Anne Schwartz; and Random House Studio, headed by v-p and publisher Lee Wade. The final Schwartz & Wade list will be released in spring 2021, yet that imprint’s team members will transition into new roles within RHCB.”


Minnesota’s Only Black-Owned Comic Book Store Celebrates Black History Year-Round by Julian Shen-Berro from NBC News. Peek: “Nationwide, black characters in comic books are quite popular and Marvel Comics has published books with a dozen African American superheroes…In recent weeks, [comic store owner Eric] Childs has seen a dramatic increase in demand for the historical comics, which he attributes to an increase in awareness that such comics exist.”

A Crystal Ball for Bookselling by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[W]e need bookstores….[I]f publishers pay attention, they should see that the greatest hope for the future of books is to open the halls of publishing to a truly diverse editorial and managerial leadership, to understand that the real richness of literature is…bigger and deeper than we have so far allowed it to be.”

HighWater Press


Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 In the Margins Book Awards. The top three books were Surviving the City, by Tasha Spillett-Summer, illustrated by Natasha Donoval (Highwater Press, 2018) for YA Fiction, When Hip Hop Met Poetry: An Urban Love Story by Tytianna Nikia Maria Wells (Wells Honey Tree Publishing, 2019) for Nonfiction YA and Older Teens, and Solitary, by Albert Woodfox (Grove Press, 2019) for Advocacy and Social Justice.

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