Cynsational News

Lee & Low Books

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Group Interview: The Sowing Circle Sisterhood by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: Kelly Starling Lyons: “My writing powers are fueled by imagination, memory, wondering and connection. A news article online may pique my interest…Or maybe it’s a visit to a museum where I see a piece of history I didn’t know… Sometimes I feel the ancestors leading me to remember, reflect and write….”

Day 28: Shauntay Grant by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[A] senior editor…approached me with the idea of turning my poem into a book for children…. And it was through this project that I became exposed to the world of children’s publishing…Most of my kids books have lyric text. In fact, my first three picture books weren’t intended to be books at all.”

Capstone Editions

In Conversation: Bao Phi and Jane Kim by Savannah Brooks from The Loft. Peek: “I think about the generation above me, the writers of color and Indigenous writers, and how much emotional labor they spent on us for no money. They did it because they believed that’s what Indigenous and writers of color should do….I feel the need to pay it forward.”

The New Wave of Fantasy: How Millennial Authors Are Transforming the Genre by David Canfield from Entertainment Weekly. Peek: Hafsah Faizal: “We’re authors who are not afraid to write about the cultures we come from, the traditions that we believe in. We’re not afraid to take that extra step and be a little bit more brave. Writing what we really, really want to write….It’s really great for readers to see themselves, finally.”

Ransom Riggs Offers Sneak Peek of Book 5 in Miss Peregrine: ‘The Peculiars Are in Serious Trouble” by David Canfield from Entertainment Weekly. Peek: “I love big worlds, and love the feeling that they’re real not only in the scene you’re reading but out to the edges of the known universe. That’s when you can really lose yourself—as a reader, and if you’re lucky, as a writer.”

Quill Tree Books

Equity & Inclusion

Elizabeth Acevedo Uses Her Voice to Put Afro Latinas in the Forefront by Maria G. Valdez from POPSUGAR. Peek: “When I began thinking of writing a novel, it made sense to me to want to write for young people, because it felt like there were so few Afro Latinas writing about stories that felt honest and truthful…[and] contained a lot of love and tenderness for other Afro Latinas, for black kids, for Latinx kids….”

Reading Across America with 50 Inclusive Picture Books by Jillian Heise from Heise Reads. Peek: “[L]ast year NEA changed the focus of Read Across American…to ‘Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers’…and toward a year-long celebration of the diversity that makes our country what it is…. As we head into Read Across America Day, here is a list of some alternative titles that would all make valuable choices….”

Indigenous Activist Speaks on Representation in Children’s Literature by Logan Metzger from Iowa State Daily. Peek: Debbie Reese: “Right now, there are not stacks and stacks of books. You have to help that happen, you have to buy books by Native writers, you have to go to the library and ask for the book, you have to be actively engaged so that we grow the stacks of books by Native writers.”

Day 27: Dapo Adeola by Don Tate from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek:“[W]hile there are quite a few things happening now to change the landscape, it’s massively important that those of us who do get the chance to represent Black children in our work on the page also do our bit to encourage change in the industry off the page as well.”

Henry Holt and Co.

Margarita Engle (The Children’s Book Podcast #573) from Matthew C. Winner. Peek: “I think it’s important to carry on that sense of hope. Throughout these centuries, there were always people working to make things better, and people who were creative as individuals.…Latino people, we are complex, we cannot be simplified….We are coming from many countries and many levels of education and social backgrounds.”

Writing Craft

Q & A with Linda Sue Park by Krystyna Poray Goddu from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “…I believe writing is a craft, and like any craft it has its tools. Voice is made up of concrete elements—words, punctuation, sentence length—and those concrete elements are a writer’s tools….I do try to create the character’s voice as I’m writing, but it’s definitely something I focus on more during revision.”


Spell Hacker Interview with MK England! from Brazos Bookstore. Peek: “My first drafts are basically all action and dialogue. Writing dialogue is a lot like listening to a conversation happening in my head. I need to be able to hear it, or it’s not right. I do read things out loud…Better yet, read out loud to someone, even if it’s a plant or a pet.”

Collecting the Extraordinary Story~In a Jar, an Interview w/Deborah Marcero by Jennifer Black Reinhardt from Picture Book Builders. Peek: “I have found it is very natural for me to tell stories visually in frames…I love creating drama with the still image or series of still images using composition, light, exposure, focus, depth of field, wide angle, zoom, portrait, silhouette, etc….Storyboard-type layouts effortlessly mirror how visual scenes appear in my imagination.”

Beach Lane Books

Author Interview: Liz Garton Scanlon by Ryan G. Van Cleave from Only Picture Books. Peek: “Oh, rhyme. It’s so good when it’s good…It’s coming up with perfect end rhymes that actually serve the story at hand. That say what we want them to say. That say what the story needs (rather than forcing an illogical digression just to make the rhyme work). And it’s about perfect meter, too.”


Don’t Be Afraid to Let Children Read Graphic Novels. They’re Real Books by Karen MacPherson from The Washington Post. Peek: “As librarians, we see how so many kids readily connect to comics and how this connection to books is helping to create lifelong readers….[C]omics are especially beneficial to struggling or reluctant readers, as well as English-language learners….The kids are on board with comics, and so are many publishers, librarians, teachers and literary award givers.”


Delacorte Debuts YA Line with an Internet Connection by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Delacorte Press hopes to further stoke internet-savvy teens’ interest in reading with a new original YA trade paperback imprint called Underlined, whose name comes from Random House Children’s Books’ online community focused on YA books and creative writing…the paperback line will feature diversity in its roster of authors, characters, and content….”

London Book Fair Canceled by Niell Denny with reporting by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Citing concerns about the potential spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Reed Exhibitions has canceled this year’s London Book Fair (LBF). The the event was scheduled to start next week.”

Books Are Key to the Future: An Interview with Wade and Cheryl Willis Hudson by Maria Salvadore from Reading Rockets. Peek: “We were the only Black owned company that focused exclusively on publishing books for young readers that spotlighted Black experiences, Black culture and Black history at a time when only a few such titles were available in the marketplace. We [still] need more people of color involved in all aspects of publishing, editorial, marketing, sales….”

HarperCollins Publishers


Page Turner: “We Are Totally Normal” [Rahul Kanakia] by Lauren Gilgerand Kaely Monaham from KJZZ. Peek: Bookseller/Children’s Book Specialist Eric Villiers: “[T]een fiction has grown a lot in the last few decades…[I]n the last three to four years we’ve been seeing a lot more ‘#ownvoices’ coming out…[W]e’re exploring what it means to be an Asian teen, what it means to be a Black teen, what it means to be a queer teen….”


Audiobook Publishing and Distribution: Getting Started Guide for Authors from Jane Friedman. Peek: “Since [2015], traditional publishing has enjoyed double-digit sales growth of digital audio every year, although for authors going it alone, the results can be decidedly mixed….Usually your number-one criterion should be a strong existing market or sales foundation….The only thing that’s for sure: the audiobook retail market is still taking shape.”


Congratulations to the 2020 Audie Award Winners, including Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High (Quill Tree Books, 2019), in the category of Narration by the Author or Authors.

Tor Books

Congratulations to the 2019 nominees for the Bram Stoker Awards, in the category Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel, including Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal (Tor Teens, 2019).

Congratulations to NAACP Image Award Winners in the children’s category: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (Simon & Schuster, 2019) and Around Harvard Square by C.J. Farley (Akashic Books, 2019).

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Cynsational readers! It’s been a productive week on writing retreat with Kekla Magoon. We finished a solid draft of the second middle grade graphic novel in the Blue Stars series, illustrated by Molly Murakami (Candlewick, 2022-) and sent it to our editor. (We’re eagerly expecting revised sketches of book one soon.)

Bigger picture, I’m reading/hearing a lot of conversations about whether or not to proceed with public/industry events in light of COVID-19. It’s a pressing topic among authors/illustrators with multiple travel dates on the calendar. Especially those with heightened immune system concerns.

For some of us, the most courageous choice will be to stay home. For others, it makes sense to continue out and about in the world. So much of that will be determined by our health as individuals and those we love and live with. Support one another’s decisions, be kind to yourselves, heed the advice of respected and knowledgeable sources, and if possible, consider purchasing travel insurance for future commitments. Just in case!

As for me, I’m washing my hands regularly, and I look forward to keynoting the 2020 Golden Gate Conference at Asilomar next week for the San Francisco/South Chapter of SCBWI.

More Personally – Gayleen

I was thrilled to meet Rebeka Uwitonze, co-author of Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight To Walk (Scholastic, 2019) when she did a presentation at the Georgetown Library with her co-author Meredith Davis. Rebeka came to the U.S. for a followup with her doctor and to attend the NAACP Image Awards – Her Own Two Feet was one of five nominees for Outstanding Literary Work: Youth/Teens. See my Cynsations interview with Meredith explaining how these collaborators on different continents overcame logistical challenges to write this story.

A few of the Austin kidlit folks at Rebeka’s presentation: Paige Britt, Gayleen, Rebeka, Meredith and Jerri Romine.