Cynsational News

Tu Books

By Cynthia Leitich SmithGayleen RabukukkStephani Eaton, and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview with Yamile Saied Méndez by Adriana M. Martínez Figueroa from Boricua Reads. Peek: “I write for my young readers who are seeing themselves in an adventure in which they’re the heroes for the first time. I write for my children, my great inspirations…I write for myself, especially the young writer with big dreams I once was…I write for the ancestors who paved the way for me….”

What It’s Like Launching Your Debut MG Novel During a Pandemic by Karis Rogerson from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: Claribel A. Ortega: “[L]earn to be flexible. There’s gonna be things thrown at you that you will never expect in terms of how your career is gonna unfold…Even things that go right could be something you didn’t anticipate and it could still be hard to deal with. Being able to be flexible is the key to longevity….”

An Interview With An Author: Tanaz Bhathena by Rehana Paul from Overachiever Magazine. Peek: “Persistence trumps talent in this profession. Don’t feel disheartened by rejection—and never let anyone convince you that your story doesn’t matter. It took me ten years to find a publisher…and it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t keep pushing hard and submitting.”

Sourcebooks Fire

Interview: Rin Chupeco, Author of Wicked As You Wish by Alexandra Na from Enthralled Bookworm. Peek: “What I love most about YA [SFF]…is that a lot of issues are frequently discussed there, but…the fact that it’s set in fantastical worlds means readers can have that necessary distance to process real world issues tackled in the book….without having to unpack what it brings up until after they’re done.”

Equity & Inclusion

New Works by Writers with Disabilities Hit Publisher Lists by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Publishers need to create professional opportunities for disabled people who want to break into the industry, especially editors. When we have more people willing and open to identifying as disabled in publishing, we will see a lot more fantastic work by disabled writers. This is long overdue.”

Six Interviews with LGBTQ Children’s and YA Authors by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In honor of the approaching Pride Month, we spoke…with six authors whose forthcoming novels for children and teens center LGBTQ characters….Several…novels feature overlapping marginalized identities, illuminating the intricacies of the queer experience. [Jennifer Dugan:] While there is certainly more work to be done…I’m proud of the effort the industry is making.”

Page Street Kids

Books Relevant to Your Queer Feminist Interests Coming Out Spring 2020 by Rachel from Audostraddle. Peek: “Here are some of the most exciting and interesting books by, about, for, or otherwise relevant to queer women, nonbinary and trans readers…[It is] a more urgent time than usual to support queer creative projects and order or pre-order them when possible.”

Stop Calling Popular Tropes in YA Novels “Overused” by Arriel Vinson from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[T]here is…now more space for writers of color in the publishing world to play around with tropes….[Kristina Forest:] ‘I don’t think a trope can be overdone if writers of color haven’t had the chance to incorporate tropes into their own novels, let alone have their novels published.’”


Without Places to Gather, Debut Novelists Reimagine Book Promotion by Tammy Tarng from the New York Times. Peek: Juli Delgado Lopera: “Friends with different skills ask[ed] if I wanted do a live reading, to video myself and post it on different sites.” Emily Nemens: “I’m trying to book podcast and radio interviews…and I’m being pretty emphatic on social media about supporting not just my novel but all debut writers and independent bookstores.”

Writing Craft

CBAY Books

P.J. Hoover on Writing, Adventure, and Why You Should Build a Deck…Maybe by Jacqui Lipton from Raven Quill Literary Agency. Peek: “[In] ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’…I loved the way they had to travel through time to learn about history…I decided that this would be my hook! A kid who has to travel along with Odysseus on his journey. As for what kid, why not break the mold and make it Homer himself…[as] an eleven-year-old kid.”

An Exclusive Interview with Intisar Khanani from She Writes. Peek: “When I start writing each day, I cycle back to whatever I wrote the day before. I might go to the beginning of it…or I might just go a few paragraphs back. I read and edit as I go…[B]y the time I get to the end of the document, I’m ready to keep writing.”

Interview: Elizabeth Lim, Author of “Spin The Dawn” by Nathalie DeFelice from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I struggle the most in the beginning of a new project because I absolutely detest drafting, so I just try to get it done as quickly as possible. I don’t have that many tips on how to push through…but I generally set little goals for myself, like writing 500, 1000, 2000 words a day….”

When Kyle Wrote Aidan: Process and the Trans Child Narrative by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “I’ve never taken classes or anything in writing for kids—reading many hundreds of picture books, good and bad, was most of my education….I might…start to work on something, and let it flow organically without trying to force any particular structure onto it. And then that draft reveals some rudimentary structure within it….”

HMH Books for Young Readers

Lois Lowry ’58 On the Power of Noticing by Caitie Whelan from Brunonia. Peek: “There have been a couple of books…that my current editor has not liked and so I’ve set them aside and maybe in the future…[t]he time may come, although who knows because I’m going to be 82 this week,…when I’ll feel ready to make extensive changes on one or both of those manuscripts.”

Supporting Authors & Illustrators

Disability Visibility Book Circle: Call for Submissions from Disability Visibility Project. Peek: “[T]he Disability Visibility Book Circle is offering one-time grants of $1000 for 15 disabled writers in the U.S. who already have books published this year or plan to have books published in 2020 through June 30, 2021. The…money is for writers to organize their own book event via video conference.”

PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund. Peek: “PEN America is expanding its long-standing Writers’ Emergency Fund…to support the literary community…[It] will distribute grants of $500 to $1,000 based on applications that demonstrate an inability to meet an acute financial need….[The Fund] is intended to assist fiction and non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists.”

Arts Funders Launch Artist Pandemic Relief Fund by Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on artists of all kinds, a multi-disciplinary coalition of arts organizations have joined together to launch Artist Relief, a nonprofit fund that will award $5,000 grants to individual artists facing economic need…. [A]rtists ranging from writers and musicians to painters and actors…can apply.”


Fast-Growing Independent Publishers, 2020 by Jim Milliott from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[Cameron + Company’s] most important initiatives include the 2016 launch of the Cameron Kids imprint, which was formed to complement its line of children’s picture books…Brown Books’ children’s list had a solid 2019…[Greystone Books’] sales received a lift from the fall launch of a children’s imprint….”

HC to Buy Egmont Book Groups in the U.K., Poland, and Germany by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “HarperCollins has agreed to acquire three children’s book publishing operations currently owned by Danish publisher Egmont. The acquisition is expected to be completed by April 30….HC will buy Egmont Books UK, Egmont’s book business in Poland, and the German unit Schneiderbuch.”


The New York Public Library Has Launched a Virtual Book Club by Collier Sutter from Time Out. Peek: “During this unsettling time, we believe reading can be both the escape and the connection that New Yorkers need…The Library brings New Yorkers together, offering welcome spaces for people of varying backgrounds and perspectives to learn, grow, and explore the world.”

Designed by Carin Berger


2020 Children’s Book Week Moves to New Format Amid Pandemic by Pamela Brill from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In response to the coronavirus outbreak that has forced bookstores, libraries, and schools to close their doors for the foreseeable future, next month’s Children’s Book Week is being reconfigured into a virtual celebration. [Shaina Birkhead:] ‘We invite everyone to celebrate with us online—using #BookWeek2020atHome—and at home May 4 to May 10.’”

Reaching Readers Where They Are: At Home! by Meghan Dietsche Goel from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “We have never fulfilled anywhere near this much mail order business in so short a time….[A]s we tackle each new challenge, each new pivot, each new day, this anxious, challenged, hopeful, determined bookseller hopes we might just find our way through. And until then, we’ll keep taking all the help we can get!”

ABA Moves Children’s Institute to 2021 by Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he American Booksellers Association announced that it will postpone Children’s Institute, an annual conference of children’s book publishers, authors and retailers, until 2021….The ABA said it is exploring the possibility of hosting virtual events this June ‘to bring together those who had planned to attend Ci8.’”

Ways to Support Books and Authors During the Coronavirus by Malinda Lo from Lo & Behold. Peek: “[W]ays you can support books and authors during the coronavirus pandemic. 1. Buy books online at independent bookstores….2. If you listen to audio books, buy them from….[T]hey give a portion of the proceeds to your local independent bookstore…3. Consider shopping at….Many indie bookstores have storefronts on….”

Lee & Low Books

Education/Online Resources

Lee & Low Storytime: Author Lesléa Newman reads aloud her book Sparkle Boy, illustrated by Maria Mola (Lee & Low Books, 2017), at

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…There are author read-alouds, [and] writing and illustrating exercises….[B]elow are links to two mini-lessons and a read-aloud from some of our Brown Bookshelf family and a link to an entire bank of resources curated by author, Kate Messner.”

April Picture Book Opportunities by Marianne from Writers’ Rumpus. Peek: “The Museum of Science…is providing free live streams, recorded webinars, and downloadable at-home activities for parents and learners from PreK–middle school…Here are April’s online opportunities to develop yourself as a picture book writer or illustrator, all from a safe social distance.”

SCBWI is providing a series of eight free digital workshops for SCBWI members, including Kate Messner’s workshop on big novel revision.

Philomel Books

Ten Authors And Illustrators Who Are Keeping Kids Busy (And Parents Sane) by Arianna Rebolini from BuzzFeed. Peek: “Featuring Dav Pilkey, Oliver Jeffers, Wendy MacNaughton, and more….Author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers…is reading his books…live on his website….[A]uthor and illustrator Mo Willems…is releasing daily videos inviting kids to draw, craft, and create with him…[on] YouTube.…”

Everywhere Book Fest, a virtual celebration of authors, books, and readers, will be held May 1 and May 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. eastern. A schedule of live and pre-recorded events will be posted on the website the first week of April. All festival content is free to view in your browser or through YouTube.

As part of the National Education Association’s Read Across America program, KIdLit TV is providing a Read Aloud book program, “which includes an array of titles featuring diverse people and cultures.”

Home & Classroom Teaching: Native American Children’s-Teens Books & Resources compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations. Peek: “With tremendous appreciation of all the teachers and child-caregivers who’re navigating this difficult time, I have assembled a list of Native children’s and young adult (teen) books along with supplemental educational and/or entertaining resources.”


University of Minnesota Press

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the long lists for the 2020 Green Earth Award, which honors children’s and young adult literature that best convey the message of environmental stewardship.

Contenders include:

2021 Walter Dean Myers Awards for Teen and Younger Readers. We Need Diverse Books invites submissions for the annual Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Literature, in the categories of Teen and Younger Readers. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 16.

Submissions Are Now Open for the 2020 National Book Awards. Peek: “All books must be published by U.S. publishers located in the United States between Dec. 1, 2019 and Nov. 30, 2020….Publishers must complete the online entry form…by May 20, 2020.” Categories include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature.

Pulitzer Prize Board Postpones Announcement of 2020 Awards. Peek: “The Pulitzer Prize Board has decided to postpone the 2020 award winners’ announcement. Originally scheduled for April 20, the Prizes in Journalism, Books, Drama and Music now will be announced on May 4 at 3 p.m., via livestream at”

This Week at Cynsations

Native Children’s & Teens’ Books & Educational Resources

More Personally – Cynthia

Thank you to the legendary Laura Pegram and everyone involved with last weekend’s Kweli: The Color of Children’s Literature Conference. It was an honor to serve as an online faculty panelist for the First Pages Clinic and Disrupting the System. I can only imagine how much work it took to quickly transition from a live to online event, and I am deeply grateful.

The Publishing World, Rocked by Controversy, Seeks More Diverse Voices by Corinne Lestch from The Story Exchange. Peek: “[A] slew of new imprints run by women and those who identify as nonbinary are racing to fill a [publishing] gap…[Cynthia Leitich] Smith is now at the helm of Heartdrum, a Native imprint of HarperCollins…‘For a long time, Native representation was problematic…but we are people with a past, a present and a future,’ Smith said.”

Reminder: In celebration of the April 14 paperback release of Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2020), we’re giving away seven copies! One purchased by Cyn from Birchbark Books (a Native-owned independent bookstore), one purchased by Cyn from BookPeople of Austin via Bookshop (her local indie bookstore), and five from Candlewick Press. To enter, send Cyn a message on the contact form and say “I want to win Hearts Unbroken!” You can also comment on my related Instagram post or retweet my related tweet on Twitter. Deadline: April 12.