Cynsational News


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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Ghostober S2 E4: Ellen Oh & Staring at Your Inbox by Claribel Ortega from Write or Die Podcast. Peek: “Being a writer can be so lonely….I didn’t know at the time there was a [writing] community. It took me while to find that community but once I did…everything became easier…Having a sense of community makes the hard easier…That can be the difference from those who give up and those who still try.”

Reading YA Books May Increase Empathy and Integrity by Kelly Jensen from Book Riot. Peek: “A new study…suggests that young people who read YA books may be more empathetic than peers who do not…[T]hose who pick up YA books are more likely doing so because they enjoy reading as an activity…and that may be why it is YA encourages stronger morals, including empathy and integrity.”

The Picture Book Buzz—Interview with Ioana Hobai from Maria Marshall. Peek: “[T]here’s such joy in knowing that a story you wrote and illustrated has become a book….[I]t’s similar to architecture: you imagine a space, do your research, put it on paper and work out the details, and one day, people will be able to inhabit it. Then hopefully, little readers [will] visit it.”

Scholastic Inc.

The Pen Ten: An Interview with Daniel José Older from PEN America. Peek: “Whatever that story is you’ve been dying to tell, tell it! Don’t convince yourself that the world won’t let you tell it and then give up before you’ve even begun….[S]ociety does often have a way of preventing important stories from getting out there. But the truth always finds a way through….”

Equity & Inclusion

How Educators Can Talk About Inclusive Language With Young People by Andrea Ruggirello from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[C]hildren’s literature has a long way to go when it comes to inclusivity. For example, students are likely reading many books that only use he/she pronouns….It’s important to…[talk] with students about why the only pronouns they see are gendered….[T]hese conversations can actually help students navigate through systems that may not be built for them.”

Q&A: Isabel Ibañez, Author of “Woven In Moonlight” by Nathalie DeFelice from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I wanted it to feel at once familiar and unique, different but also that sensation of coming home….I just love the idea that readers will know a little bit more about Bolivia—the culture, food and people….[T]here might be teens from South America who will be able to see themselves in this story.”

Tilbury House Publishers

Aya Khalil Wrote The Arabic Quilt Based on Her Experiences as an Immigrant from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “If you’re a first, second, third-generation immigrant…write your story—talk to your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents and take notes. Write drafts. Publish it in blogs, local newspapers, magazines, and books. If you are not an immigrant, talk to your friends who are and amplify their stories by supporting them….”

In Ibi Zoboi’s Fictional Worlds, Black Girls Dream in Color by Minal Hajratwala from Zora. Peek: “I would say I am in service to Black children. That doesn’t mean I am in service only to their pain. I am in service to the reality of Black children that also includes joy, and Black womanhood in general, and everything that captivates us. That’s my womanist perspective.”


How to Host Webinars, Online Conferences, and Online Events by Stephanie Chandler from Nonfiction Authors Association. Peek: “Free webinars can be a valuable marketing tool for reaching potential customers around the globe….Hosting your own online events can provide tremendous exposure…As a bonus, these events give you a reason to reach out to peers and industry professionals and invite them to participate, helping you to build alliances.”

Writing Craft

Katherine Tegen Books

How Do You Show Not Tell? Kelly Yang, Author of Front Desk, Explains from YouTube. Peek: “Showing not telling is essential when it comes to writing….It’s not enough for us [writers] to tell you something—you probably won’t believe us…The best thing to do… is to describe actions with detail.”  Kelly Yang will be doing free online writing classes for teens on her Instagram Live (@kellyyanghk) every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12-12:30 p.m. PST to 3 p.m. EST, and will post them on her website afterwards.

Writing the Premise of a Story Before Writing the Story by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek: “The premise of a story is what your story is about….Basically, it’s a combination of your character’s main transformational experience (do characters have to change?), the story that takes them to that experience, and a sense of your theme….[C]reating the premise before you create the book….is a smarter, more efficient way of writing.”

Interview with Anne Bustard, Author of Blue Skies from The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “I dive into a first draft with joy….I know that revisions, oh so many revisions, will follow. I generally write in order, but at some point I leap ahead and write the last scene. After that draft, I do extensive journaling in order to delve into the characters and their motivations.”

Millbrook Press ™

Cover Reveal and Interviews: Talking with Nina Crews and Angela Johnson by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “In A Girl Like Me (Millbrook, 2020), I created patterns, scanned hand-made textures and used vector shapes created in Photoshop and collaged these with my photographs. Keeping up with new technology can sometimes be a challenge….But art making is essentially problem solving—a largely intuitive process only resolved by spending time on the work.”


How the Coronavirus Will Change Book Publishing, Now and Forever by Ed Nawotka from the Los Angeles Times. Peek: “Like most others, the industry is holding its breath and counting its meager blessings. The booksellers who have managed to keep things going by shifting to online orders and deliveries have seen a small surge in sales…, which just launched in February and partners with indies and media, reported a 400 percent increase in sales….”

Children’s Books and Games on the Rise During Covid-19 by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Children’s book sales in nonfiction education, reference, and language arts are up 12 percent for the year to date, according to data from NPD BookScan. Those same categories rose 38 percent during the week ending March 14. And this trend continues to play out at stores that are still open, and sanitizing frequently….”

ABA’s COVID-19 Toolkit for Independent Booksellers by Sydney Jarrard from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “…the American Booksellers Association is committed to providing as many resources as possible to independent bookseller members. Booksellers can visit the dedicated Coronavirus Resources for Booksellers page…to find critical information about immediate steps to take; support being offered by publishers, wholesalers, and vendors….”

Stressed Bookstores to Get Early Boost by Du Juan from China Daily. Peek: “China’s capital will give around 100 million yuan ($14 million) to physical bookstores in 2020, according to [Beijing’s printing and distribution] bureau….To offer help…the authorities decided to allocate subsidies in advance to physical bookstores to cover their rent from March to June this year.”



Latinx Children’s Authors Launch Digital Writers Series by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Las Musas Latinx Authors Collective, a coalition of women and non binary Latinx kids’ lit writers, has launched a series of programs on writing and publishing for aspiring and published writers alike. The collective…has more than 60 members… [Author Mayra] Cuevas developed the idea with fellow author Ismée Williams….”

Ingram Vows to Defend Industry Through Crisis by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Ingram associates are working hard…with publishers, retailers, and libraries to provide business continuity. We want to make sure that all of the clients and customers are aware of ways that they can work with us to help defend their business and prepare for the future.”

Editor Interview: Christy Ottaviano by Ryan G. Van Cleave from Only Picture Books. Peek: “[M]y list is about 45 percent picture books…[They] are the gateway to reading for young children. It’s a powerful art form and one I feel transcends age as picture book readers tend to be readers for life. It’s a format that…can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time.”

Millbrook Press ™

Author Interview: John Coy by Ryan G. Van Cleave from Only Picture Books. Peek from Literary Agent Andrea Cascardi: “Most of the large houses don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. That said, if a writer attends conferences where editors agree to read submissions from attendees or if they do online workshops where editors speak and also agree to read submissions, there are ways to get in the door.”

Publisher Fair Use Guidelines 

Children’s Publishers Relax Fair Use Policies by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[M]any…children’s publishers…are balancing making content available to educators and parents in response to the new coronavirus with protecting the copyrights of the authors they publish….‘We have always viewed ourselves as being protectors of our authors’ copyright, but this is an extreme situation we have never dealt with before,’ said Michelle Leo [of Simon & Schuster].” See also, Publisher Guidelines on Fair Use for Online Storytimes & Read-Alouds during COVID-19 School Closures from Kate Messner, Permissions from HarperCollins and Candlewick Press Reading Guidelines.

The American Library Association has posted a guide for educators on copyright and fair use, written by “librarians who understand the challenges and concerns of remote learning:” Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research. For additional information issued by publishers regarding posting live and recorded read-aloud videos and sound files, see Reference: Publisher Permissions for Online Read-Alouds and Storytime by Erin Somers from Publishers Marketplace, and Virtual Story Time Guidelines from Publishers from American Booksellers Association.


ALA Cancels Annual Conference from School Library Journal. Peek: “For the first time in 75 years, there will be no American Library Association Annual Conference…ALA president Wanda K. Brown announced Tuesday that the event scheduled for June 25 to June 30 in Chicago is canceled.”

ALA Recommends Libraries Leave Wi-Fi Open During Closures from American Libraries. Peek: “America’s 16,557 public library locations are essential nodes in our nation’s digital safety net—connecting people with no-fee access to computers and the internet…The COVID-19 pandemic is…[creating] digital gaps for…millions of school-age children and college students…Libraries can and should leave their Wi-Fi networks on even when their buildings are closed wherever possible.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Education/More Online Resources

Home With Your Kids? Writers Want to Help by Concepción de León from The New York Times. Peek: “Mo Willems, Gene Luen Yang, Amie Kaufman and other authors for young readers are reading their work online and offering drawing tutorials, to help fill our strange new hours….[W]riters are…offering readings of their books, art classes and other activities to keep [kids] entertained.”

Read Alouds, Lessons and Plans…Oh My by Paula Chase Hyman from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “The artistic community has really stepped up to help keep folks engaged, entertained and informed….We’d like to make sure we’re sharing the curation load to bring you content that will help you to find great books and authors. To start, below…[is] a link to an entire bank of resources….”

Read Canadian at Home: Resources for Parents from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Peek: “Like families all across the country, the CCBC is currently in self-isolation until April 6. Just because we’re spending some time away from each other doesn’t mean that we can’t connect through stories in this difficult time. Updated daily, here is our list of resources for parents of young readers.”

Harper at Home from HarperCollins: Peek: “Join the HarperKids team each day at 12 noon EDT for story times and readalouds, activities, [and] fun content,…For kids ages 7 to 12….On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m., we’ll be sharing fun and engaging content via our YouTube Kids channel starring your favorite authors…Tune in every Wednesday…[for] virtual Epic Reads….”

Emergency Funding

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has an Emergency Fund to offer relief for members suffering a temporary hardship due to “health, family issues, or natural disasters that are in any way restricting or preventing an SCBWI member’s ability to work as an author or illustrator.” Members can apply here for the grant.

Coronavirus Emergency Fund Set Up for Authors from The Guardian. Peek: “A £330,000 emergency fund for authors is being launched [by the Society of Authors] to support those facing ‘unmanageable’ losses from the cancellation of events, book tours and school visits…The grants are open to all professional authors resident in the U.K. or British subjects…and are ‘designed to meet urgent need.’’’

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

For those who missed it on social media, a few thoughts for children’s-YA authors and illustrators:

It’s okay if you can’t get any writing and/or artwork done today.

It’s okay if you need your writing and/or artwork more than ever.

It’s okay if you’re upset that your new book isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

It’s okay if you’re struggling to do online events.

It’s okay if you don’t have a single idea for a video lesson or activity.

It’s okay if you’re opting out of online events.

It’s okay if you owe people messages.

It’s okay if you don’t have the money to purchase or donate in support of fellow creators, publishers, or retailers, etc. right now.

It’s okay if you can’t focus on anything beyond your own family/household.

You take care. Wash your hands. Do what you need to do.

Really, it’s okay.

Links of the Week

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee, read by actor Jeff Bridges from Jennifer Garner at #SaveWithStories.


Chris Barton Explains How to Discuss Tough Topics with Children by Chris Barton from School Library Journal. Peek: “Our ability to fix things is limited, but our capacity for stories is endless.”