Cynsational News

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A with Nikki Grimes: Bedtime for Sweet Creatures from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Aside from the pure love of storytelling, those of us who write books for young readers look to engage them from an early age. We’re trying to create life-long readers, and filling their stories with gorgeous, evocative language and rhythms is one sure way to accomplish that goal.”

The Gilded Ones Author Namina Forna Could Be The Toni Morrison Of YA Fantasy by Stephanie Long from Refinery 29. Peek: “[W]hen I started getting rejections, I’d be sad, but I’d be like, ‘This is a rejection for today. It’s a ‘no’ for today, but it’s not a ‘no’ for tomorrow.’ And I just kept going. It was really difficult…There’s been so much rejection, but…it was never for me a question of giving up.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

An Interview with Author Sonja K. Solter by Robin Willis from School Library Journal. Peek: “I hope that readers will…break the shame and taboo around the issue of sexual abuse….[and] take with them the hope that things will get better, no matter what difficulty they are in, even if it doesn’t happen right away. And for them to keep reaching out for support, even if they don’t get it immediately.”

Fast Forward Friday—Kate O’Shaughnessy from MG Book Village. Peek: “Above all, be kind to yourself. I feel like writers believe they should come out of the gates with the ability to write a novel that looks exactly like the ones you can find on the shelves….But that’s so not true!…Writing is a skill that takes a lot of practice and patience….”

Equity & Inclusion

Without WNDB, I Would Never Have Written Another Book. Here’s Why by I.W. Gregorio from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When people asked me how WNDB affected my life, I think of three things: How it gave me a sense of community, how it laser-focused my intentions as an author, and how it gave me hope that the stories that I truly wanted to tell would someday be heard.”

Standing Strong Together by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[A]nother scourge has risen…hate crimes against Asian-Americans…[I]t’s an assault on all of us. In the face of hate, we must stand strong together. Below, we share a few of our favorite authors, illustrators and books.”

Amulet Books

Author and Illustrator Interview: S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly by Hadeal Salamah and Ariana Hussain from Hijabi Librarians. Peek: S.K. Ali: “There’s a duality that exists when you have an identity that’s not ‘accepted’ by mainstream society; you juggle the comfort and pride you get from following your family’s teachings and traditions…[and] fitting in with your community…to all the ignorance, negativity, and even outright hate you find outside these circles of security.”

An Interview with Author Lamar Giles by Amanda M. Leff from Peek: “I went through a period of abandoning my writing and my reading because people in my neighborhood weren’t so into it…[T]he alternative to not following your goals is probably a miserable life where you’re doing things you’re unhappy with….I found black writers who were writing books that showed me I could…follow in their footsteps.”

Writing Craft

Q&A with Maggie Tokuda-Hall: The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[W]hen I write for teens…I’m really writing to the teen I was then. Angry, curious, smart and exasperated. Keenly aware of the incalculable injustices that define our lives….I did my best to infuse [my characters] with the fury and frustration I remember so well, while still giving them the freedom to be themselves….”

April YA Debut Authors on Tricks and Tips for Writing by Kimberly Olson Fakih from School Library Journal. Peek: Rocky Callen: “[T]he trickiest part [about getting published] for me was believing in myself enough to keep at it….It can be hard to show up every day for a revision or a story, but that tenacity gets you there….I write best in designated sprints (usually 20 minutes) with a timer and focus music.”

Scholastic Press

Debbi Michiko Florence is Going Places from Women on Writing. Peek: “Be patient and work on your craft. Take the time to really revise (many times) and rewrite your work. Revision doesn’t mean changing a word or two. It means digging deeper, making the hard changes, figuring out the real story, and truly getting to know your characters.”

Supporting Authors & Illustrators

We Need Diverse Books Launches Emergency Fund for Diverse Creatives in Children’s Publishing from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) is pleased to announce the launch of an Emergency Fund for Diverse Creatives in Children’s Publishing…[It] will allow WNDB to give emergency grants of $500 each to diverse writers, illustrators, and publishing professionals affected by the pandemic.” Apply for assistance here.

NEA Offering $75 Million to Nonprofits to Save Jobs by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The National Endowment for the Arts is now taking applications for $75 million in grants to nonprofit arts organizations from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act….Organizations, including publishers and literary institutions, that have received NEA awards in the past four years are eligible to apply for a direct $50,000 grant.”

Sendak Foundation and NYFA Set Up Relief Fund for Picture Book Creators by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Picture book authors and illustrators who are experiencing financial hardship…have a new avenue for seeking assistance. The Maurice Sendak Emergency Relief Fund… and the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), will distribute unrestricted grants of up to $2,500 apiece until the fund is depleted….The application period begins April 23….” (Open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in any state, D.C. or U.S. territory.)

James Patterson to Give $2.5 Million to School Librarians by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Author James Patterson is pledging to donate $2.5 million in partnership with Scholastic Book Clubs to help teachers build their classroom libraries….Teachers may apply for the grants now through July 31. The grants are fixed at $500 each and matched with a further 500 bonus points from Scholastic…to be used to purchase books.”

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


Eye on Middle Grade: Spring 2020 by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Several editors note…the rise in middle grade novels featuring a main character experiencing mental health issues….[T]his emphasis on young protagonists with mental health concerns is a more accurate reflection of real life….[E]ditors say they appreciate…more holistic depictions of a mental health condition as merely one aspect of a character’s life.”

Candlewick and MIT Press to Launch Joint Children’s and Teen Imprints by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Candlewick Press and MIT Press—have announced plans to collaboratively launch two imprints for children and teen readers, starting in 2021. MIT Kids Press and MITeen Press will publish books on science and technology under the editorial direction of MIT Press and the creative, marketing, and sales direction of Candlewick.”


How to Make Your Virtual Meetings and Events Accessible to the Disability Community by Alaina Leary from Rooted in Rights. Peek: “As meetings and events continue to take place in virtual spaces…[a]ccessibility for virtual events should be a priority and central to the planning process…Explore the accessibility features that are built-in to the platforms you’re considering for the event and determine what you might need to provide….”

Nancy Paulsen Books

#AuthorsTakeAction, Authors Save Lives by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[C]hildren’s author Padma Venkatraman is spearheading the official launch of #AuthorsTakeAction, a social media campaign that is designed to amplify authors’ books – and also save lives….Venkatraman requests that her fellow authors post…selfies featuring them holding up their books along with a message indicating that they are taking seriously the mandates to stay home….”

Author/Illustrator ProTip from Cyn: The reviews of your books are copyrighted. You should not be republishing them in full without permission on your website or social media. Keep quoted material short, typically under 50 words.


R.J. Julia Saves Staff by Giving Away $150,000 in Books by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Coady asked customers to show their support by purchasing books through the store for distribution to the 1,500 children receiving lunches in the New Haven public schools. In a matter of weeks, the idea…grew to include the Bridgeport public schools…Coady will be able to distribute approximately 30,000 books in New Haven and Bridgeport.”

Porter Square Named 2020 PW Bookstore of the Year by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[A] New England store has been named PW Bookstore of the Year. Founded in 2004 by four veteran booksellers, Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., quickly became one of the preeminent bookstores in an area that has long been known for its vibrant literary community.”

Independent Bookstore Day to Host Virtual Party by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Independent Bookstore Day, the one-day national promotion for indie bookstores, was scheduled for April 25, but with stores closed across the country, the day has been rescheduled for August 29. In lieu of postponing all events, organizers have announced a week-long online…virtual bookstore party. The promotion will run April 19-25.”

Education/Online Resources/Events

Covid-19 Impact Listing: Cancellations, Closings, Policy Changes, and More by John Maher from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In addition to providing open access for all to the digital edition of the magazine, Publishers Weekly is maintaining a list of canceled events, impacted book industry functions and policies, and more on this list as a resource for navigating the new coronavirus and its impact on the industry.”

First Second

First Second, Macmillan’s graphic novel imprint, is hosting a free virtual festival, Comic Relief, on April 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, to give comics fans “an in-depth look at the key moments in comic creation.” Graphic novel creators who will be featured include Lisa Brown, Kirk Benshoff, Lucy Knisley, Kat Leyh, Ngozi Ukazu, Lily Williams, Karen Schneemann, Emily Feinberg, Gene Luen Yang, and Mark Siegel.

Links to Bologna Global Rights Exchange Now Live by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Links…to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair online platform are now live…[E]xhibitors registered for the 2020 fair will be able to upload and show titles, and eligible publishers are urged to upload titles before the exchange goes live on May 4…, said Jon Malinowski, president of Combined Book Exhibit and founder of PubMatch.”

How Kids’ Lit Is Responding to the Coronavirus by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[C]hildren’s authors and publishers are going digital to provide kids with ways to read, draw, engage…PW is tracking some of the most creative efforts on social media and across the web, and will be updating our list….[which] includes Follett’s free e-book platform for schools, Capstone’s interactive web resources, Epic’s free digital library, and more.”

Mackin Educational Resources, a provider of print and digital books for pre-K–12, has launched its Distance Learning Essentials web page that includes ‘[t]housands of free multi-user eBooks from our generous publishers until Sept. 30, 2020.” Elementary School (4,500+ eBooks), Middle School (3,000+ eBooks), High School (1,500+ eBooks). eBook activation requires a account.

First Second

Webcomics To Keep Kids and Teens Engaged by Mahnaz Dar from School Library Journal. Peek: “Looking for ways to keep your comics-loving kids and teens occupied? These free webcomics [MG and YA] promise to eat up hours of time.” is providing free audiobooks for kids. Peek: “For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Right now, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids. All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.”

BookCon 2020 has been cancelled. The next BookCon will take place in the spring of 2021. “Keep an eye out for our virtual content in the coming days and weeks on our official Facebook page….”

BookExpo 2020 Canceled | Book Pulse by Neal Wyatt from Library Journal. Peek: “After publishers and exhibitors dropped out and its location was turned into a COVID-19 hospital, BookExpo is officially cancelled for 2020.”


Video: A Librarian’s Guide to Flipgrid, the Basics and Library-Specific Tips by Kathy Schmidt from School Library Journal. Peek: “Kathy Schmidt, library media specialist,…offers a tutorial on the basics of Flipgrid, plus a second video with specific tips for school librarians to use the platform most effectively.”


Paula Wiseman Books

Congratulations to the 2020 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award Winners and Nominees. The Award went to Inky’s Amazing Escape by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford (Paula Wiseman Books, 2018).

Team Cynsations


Elysium Girls Blog Tour & Giveaway

Congratulations to former Cyntern, current new voice, VCFA alumnx, and Texas author Kate Pentecost on the release of Elysium Girls (Disney-Hyperion, 2020)! We’re so wowed!

Kate Pentecost

In Cyn’s blurb for the novel, she says it’s: “A magical, mechanical, dusty, electric, and empowering read of cosmic proportions.”

Author Of The Week: Author Chat with Kate Pentecost (Elysium Girls) by Beth Edwards from YA and Kids! Book Central. Peek: “[K]eep on with it. Sometimes it’s very hard to not give in and become distracted by the dramas of life, but in order to be a successful writer you literally cannot. stop. trying. Also, I learned that inspiration comes when you make it a point to put yourself out there and try new things.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

The paperback edition of Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2020) is now available! All of the winners of the giveaway have been notified, and their books are on the way. Thank you to everyone who entered for your enthusiasm and support.

Congrats to Candlewick, which has been named among the nominees for the 2020 Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year!

I’m also delighted to announce that my local indie, BookPeople, has returned to offer a full online shopping experience. You can order Hearts Unbroken (or any book of your choosing) from Austin’s hometown bookstore or a Native-owned bookstore like Birchbark Books or another indie through the new BookShop site, which supports local bookstores.

Author Spotlight: Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cedar Park Public Library. Peek: “It might interest readers that last month I went on a writing retreat here in Austin, staying at a historic bed-and-breakfast off of West Sixth Street with Kekla Magoon. Readers may know Kekla from The Summer of Styx MaloneLight It UpHow It Went Down or her popular Robyn Hoodlum series.”

More Personally – Gayleen

Adrianna Cuevas

I’ve spent a lot of time on Zoom recently (like many of you, I bet!). Including our Austin SCBWI monthly meeting where author Adrianna Cuevas shared her experience of pitching  agent Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel at our Writers and Illustrators Working Conference a few years ago.

Adrianna signed with Stefanie and her debut book, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez (FSG) comes out later this year. Read a Cynsations interview with Adrianna to learn more about writing spooky middle grade and, check out the 2020 Austin SCBWI Writers and Illustrators Working Conference (now online!)