Cynsational News


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

Author/Illustrator Insights

Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Tonya Bolden by Mrs. G from Here Wee Read. Peek: “[M]y first love is writing for children. History is my passion…[I]f we hook our young people on history—if we make history come alive for them—we really put them on the path of lifelong learning, critical thinking, curiosity, and making some sense of the world. Without history you have no context for your life….”

Rainy Day Reads: Seven Picture Books That Revel in the Magic of Rain by Jennifer Garry from Brightly. Peek: “[R]ain can be magical! From those drizzly days to downpours, too. These seven picture books celebrate the beauty and enchantment of those cool, wet drops falling from the sky.”

Kate Messner: Smashing Expectations by Judith Rosen by Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[H]er goal is ‘to tell stories in a way that’s respectful of kids. Kids can handle more than we think they can. And I feel like being honest with kids is really important. Sometimes our teaching of history has not fared so well in that area, particularly when it comes to…our mistakes.’”

Rick Riordan Presents

Interview with Visiting Author Carlos Hernandez with Lanett Bagley and Bailey Rafter from Stevenson University. Peek: “The rosiness [on outlook] has to do with …[t]he idea…that here’s a place where you can go and get your energy…[S]omewhere you can visit and recharge. If you remove the racism, look what can happen….[I]t’s one of the jobs of fiction to be able to imagine a better world.”

Equity & Inclusion

Reminder! We Need Diverse Books Announces Online Native Children’s and YA Writing Intensive from Cynsations. Peek: “…will take place from Aug. 13 to Aug. 16. The theme for the Writing Intensive is elevating and empowering Native voices and it will offer an opportunity for reflection, conversation, celebration, and manuscript and career development for participants.” If you’re interested and qualified to participate, apply today!

Starting a Conversation With Elders Who Moved Here From Another Country by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan from We Need Diverse Book. Peek: “Many first-generation Americans…wonder what our family members’ lives were like in their country of origin. We might want to know what it feels like to be an immigrant…[S]it down with a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older friend who came here from another country…and pick a few questions to ask them.”

Random House 

How Nancy Redd’s Kids’ Book Bedtime Bonnet Helped Her Daughter Love Her Hair: “There’s No Shame” by Sam Gillette from People. Peek: “Like other aspects of black culture, head wraps and durags have been cast in a negative light…Redd wants to dismantle society’s misconceptions….‘It’s 2020. We don’t have time for any of that anymore. I don’t want my children or any other child to be remotely embarrassed about any aspect of themselves….’”

This Graphic Novel Tells 150 Years of Canadian History From an Indigenous Perspective with David A. Robertson from CBC/Radio-Canada. Peek: “[M]y father, who’s an elder…talks about the process of reconciliation, where we sit down with each other and connect on a human level. We see through stereotyping all these preconceptions that we’ve been fed and we learn from each other, we listen to each other, we share stories…and we heal together.”

Fabled Films Press

Interview: Q&A with Erin Yun, author of Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Delphine from delphreads. Peek: “[K]ids from marginalized backgrounds feel…pressure even more because their experience and viewpoints differ from what mainstream society and the media have historically portrayed as ‘the norm.’ Better representation can help disrupt the idea of what is ‘the norm’ in the first place…because all children deserve to feel like they belong.”

Afro-Native/Ancestral Memory: An Interview with Mama Penny Gamble-Williams by Charlie from Indigo’s Bookshelf. Peek: “[M]ost people would comment about not ever hearing about the African and the Native having any connection. I would have to explain that the educational system generally separates the two cultures which does not allow students to see the historical connections….Now is the time to imagine and visualize a world that works for all….”

Q & A with Kelly Yang by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I wanted…to explore the modern-day immigrant experience, specifically centering on young people immigrating without their parents. These kids are still dealing with hardships and discrimination, but in different ways. I wanted to write about identity, privilege, power, wealth, and family dynamics.”

Writing Craft

Quill Tree Books

Interview with Andrew Eliopulos, Author of the Fascinators from YA SH3LF. Peek: “I do a lot of pre-writing in the form of outlines and journal entries…[that] include everything from snippets of dialogue to world-building notes. When I actually sit down to write new scenes…,whatever I write will…contradict the latest notes and outlines, so I’ll have to go back and revise everything I thought I knew….”

“Imagination And Creativity Can Carry You Through”: A Conversation With Newbery Medal Winner Erin Entrada Kelly by Cloe Axelson from WBUR. Peek: “One thing I learned from all those craft books, is that everyone will tell you about their process—whether it’s keeping a schedule, waking up at 5 a.m., writing 100 words every time you sit down….[B]ut you have to figure out your own process. My way is not to have any schedule at all.”

What To Do If You Fall Out Of Love With Your Book by Laurie Morrison from 88 Cups of Tea. Peek: “A lot of writers fall out of love with a manuscript at some point in the drafting or editing process…How can you rekindle that passion?….Here are five things that might help if you’ve ‘lost that lovin’ feeling’ for your book. 1.) Free write about the essence of your story….2.) Change the point of view….”

An Exclusive Look at Author/Illustrator Don Tate’s 2020 Walter Awards Art from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “My [art style] continually evolves. You’ll never see the words ‘trademark style,’ in reviews of my books, hopefully. I get bored easily, so I explore—some excursions more successful than others! To keep things fun, I try different things…[K]ids tell me that they always recognize a Don Tate book before seeing my name….”

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

An Interview with Christian Robinson from Art of the Picture Book. Peek: “I love working in collage….Other books I’ve illustrated…were created in colored pencil. I have the most fun when experimenting and trying all sorts of different mediums and techniques. I’d love to work more in stamps and print making….Limitations [of colors] can be very helpful to creativity.”


Trustbridge Global Media Acquires Walker Books by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Trustbridge Global Media has acquired Walker Books, the U.K.-based children’s publisher and owner of Candlewick Press, which is based in Somerville, Mass….‘[T]he transaction was completed on the same economic terms that had been negotiated earlier this year.’”

How Sheltering in Place Shows Us a More Accessible World by Jason Low from School Library Journal. Peek: “[Diversity in Publishing 2019 Survey:] Typically, after we drop the survey, we start to dissect specific parts of the data. With a publishing workforce reporting as 89 percent non-disabled, numbers like these indicate an acute lack of representation when it comes to people with disabilities….[A] lot of things…can be done to ensure accessibility.”

Lookout Books Partners with Indie Bookstores to Provide Virtual Backgrounds by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Lookout Books, the teaching press housed in the creative writing department at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, is partnering with nine indie bookstores all over the country to provide virtual backgrounds free for students—and anyone else without charge—for use in virtual classrooms and video conferences.”


Norton Young Readers

BookKids: Q&A with Jarrett & Jerome Pumphrey by eugevela from BookPeople. Peek: “[Tips for a book campaign:] Be an active member of SCBWI and take advantage of the resources they offer….Start planning your campaign early…..Plan ways to keep your campaign fresh until the book is released….Hook up with your local independent bookstore….Coordinate with your publisher for help and other resources.”

Making Our Own Market: Wade & Cheryl Hudson by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[I]ntroduce 10 different children’s books that reflect our nation’s diversity to educators, librarians, bookstore managers, and parents—anyone who has the influence and/or power to help increase the number of these diverse books within the body of children’s literature. Purchase at least five of these books to share with children other than your own.”

The Pandemic Forced Author Events to Go Virtual—An Innovation That May Stick by John Warner from Chicago Tribune. Peek: “[O]nline author events have been drawing big crowds, in some cases thousands of live viewers with more watching the recorded events later….[F]ew authors have the marketing budget or ability to self-fund book tours. These events are adding to the overall richness of our collective conversation about books.”


#SaveIndieBookstores Campaign Ends at $1,239,595 by Sydney Jarrard from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “At its close on May 5, the #SaveIndieBookstores campaign raised a total of $1,239,595 to support independent booksellers across the country with immediate funding to offset business lost due….James Patterson, the American Booksellers Association, and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation…worked together to promote the campaign…More than 1,800 donors contributed….”

Booksellers Look to Curbsides and Online Sales, Not In-Store Customers by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “As states establish reopening timelines…bookstores are not reopening in any conventional sense…Of the stores contacted, only one has reopened for limited browsing. Of the remaining 21…only one intends to allow limited browsing in the coming weeks. The remaining stores are continuing at their own pace, offering online ordering and, at most, curbside pickup.”

2020 Children’s Book Week Recap by Pamela Brill from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he CBC reported that #BookWeek2020atHome had a reach of more than 1.1 million. ‘We are so honored and thrilled by the level of participation…,’ said Shaina Birkhead…‘It was a joy to see book creators, booksellers, librarians, teachers, publishers, and readers all come together online to celebrate and share in a love of books.’”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Join this exciting virtual event, live on Zoom: Dragon Party with authors Mari Mancusi and Henry Clark, May 19, 4:00 p.m. CDT! The party celebrates the authors’ new middle grade adventures: Dragon Ops (Little, Brown, 2020) and What We Found in the Corn Maze and How It Saved a Dragon (Little, Brown, 2020). Tickets now available via!

How Native Communities are Harnessing the Internet to Share Traditional and Contemporary Knowledge with Students by Mandy Smoker Broaddus from Education Northwest. Peek: “From Indigenous language lessons streamed via Facebook Live to American Indian history lessons and oral traditions uploaded to YouTube, Native communities are sharing traditional and contemporary knowledge through the use of technology and social media platforms.” Note: Team Cynsations is honored that our contribution Home & Classroom Teaching: Native American Children’s-Teens Books & Resources is included.

Join Jason Reynolds and his “Write. Right. Rite.” series. Peek: “[He] shares his passion for storytelling while discussing topics like creativity, connection, and imagination. At the end of each video, Reynolds will share a prompt that encourages young people to work toward a specific idea. The activities are fun-filled and…include brainstorming ‘get-you-going’ questions.”

Scholastic Press

Join Scholastic’s Summer Read-a-Palooza program to access awesome reading materials and activities throughout the summer. Featured book series include Harry Potter, Dog Man, Goosebumps, Wings of Fire, The Magic School Bus, and more.

Asian & Pacific Islander American Book Month. Peek: “To celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, [Asian Author Alliance] present[s] AAPI Book Month! It is a month-long celebration of AAPI identities and cultures. AAPI authors and artists will come together for virtual panels and events throughout the month of May!….(All of our livestreams will be hosted on our YouTube channel!)”

Check out SCBWI’s YouTube channel, The Vault, featuring never-before-seen videos and audios “from nearly every major children’s book author, illustrator, editor, agent, publisher, [and] pros, covering every conceivable topic…[N]ew videos will be uploaded every Tuesday and Thursday, all free….”

BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “BookExpo and BookCon 2020…new virtual events [are] taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26 to May 29, and BookCon Online from May 30 to May 31. All programming…will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and will be free and open to the public.”

Nosy Crow

Stay Home with Candlewick Press offers activities, discussion guides, educational materials, videos, and more. Download for free Coronavirus: A Book for Children, which addresses several key questions and contains child-appropriate answers and explanations.

EPIC!—a streaming service for children’s eBooks and other content—is offering free worldwide Remote Student Access to more than 40,000 books through June 30…Families only need an invitation from their teacher to get started.

Check out Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Ask Me to Ask! YouTube series in which kidlit creators answer a question they’ve chosen themselves.


School Library Journal Day of Dialog Virtual Event from School Library Journal. Peek: “Join us for the most anticipated day-long gathering of librarians and educators—now fully virtual and free to attend! Come hear from more than 40 authors and publishers about the latest and most exciting forthcoming titles for children, tweens, and teens…and engage in Q&A sessions with authors and illustrators.”


Congratulations to the 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award winner, Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora (Little, Brown, 2018).

Viking Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to Julie Berry for winning the 2020 Walden Award for Lovely War (Viking, 2019). Congratulations also to the finalists, who include:

Congratulations to the finalists of the 2019 Whitney Awards, which include Lovely War by Julie Berry (Viking, 2019)(YA General), and The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie (Dutton, 2019)(YA Speculative).

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well.

Book Riot’s Recommended Summer 2020 YA Paperbacks

It’s a been pleasure to focus on upcoming creative projects this week. I spent a couple of days reading my middle-grade novel in progress (alongside my editorial letter) as well as a couple of days combing through copyedits of Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids (Heartdrum, 2021)—contributors should lookout for incoming notes!

What else? It’s May, and that means it’s time to start thinking about summer reading. Check back next week for a giveaway of two sets of both my Tantalize series and Feral trilogy, sponsored by Candlewick Press! Meanwhile, thanks to Kelly Jensen at Book Riot for including my novel Hearts Unbroken among her suggested list of Summer 2020 YA Paperbacks!

Thanks also to SCBWI San Francisco South for inviting me to speak at last Saturday’s webinar on novel writing. It was a pleasure to connect with you all.

Finally, I was honored to spot Cyntern Gayleen Rabakukk’s interview with illustrator Ellen Beier featured on The Official SCBWI Blog in a post by Lee Wind. Thanks, Lee, and congrats Gayleen and Ellen!

More Personally – Gayleen

Highlight of my week was hosting author Jessica Lee Anderson for an online visit with my Book Crush writing students. They had great fun talking to Jessica about Bigfoot and other cryptids.

This summer I’ll be teaching more  Book Crush workshops for the Austin Public Library Foundation, focusing on Jessica’s Uncertain Summer (CBAY Books, 2017) and Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly (Delacorte, 2019). Note: Young writers do not need to live in Austin, but they do need to be in fourth through sixth grade to participate.