Today, I am so excited to welcome Bree Bender to the Cynsations Team! Bree joins us as a reporter-at-large covering the many facets of the children’s-YA community.
Welcome to Cynsations! Could you tell us about your vision for your coverage here at the blog? Why did you decide to take on this role in the conversation of books?
First, I would like to say thank you for this opportunity. I’m excited to join Cynthia and the team at Cynsations.
I decided to take on this role because it has been a dream of mine to become more involved in the industry I love. Writing for children and young adults is my passion, but it goes beyond that. As a mom of three children, I know what it’s like to chase a toddler while chasing a dream and, right now, following your heart and dreams is more important than ever.
My vision for this role is to build conversations with industry professionals that garner hope, inspiration, and knowledge for others who are chasing their dreams or who simply love the industry like I do.
You’re also a writer. Can you tell us about your path to writing for young readers?
I grew up with a book in my hand and a wild heart. Reading and writing were my saving grace as a child. I think my natural love for stories fueled my passion for writing. I’ve always loved the idea of making up stories and characters, then climbing into those worlds and living in them even if only for a moment.
I firmly believe that there’s nothing like childhood. It’s where we discover who we are, who we want to be, and where we want to go in life. It’s why I love writing children’s literature. The idea of possibility, of hope, and of discovering who you really are.
As an avid reader, what two children’s-YA books are closest to your heart, those you’d lovingly place in the hands of kids in your family and community? What makes them so special?
This has got to be one of the most difficult questions for a writer. If I had to choose two books, right now, in this moment to recommend, I would choose the following:
Anything by Jacqueline Woodson. Seriously. Anything. She is an incredible talent in all forms (long and short), her words are stunning, insightful, and powerful. If I had to choose just one book from her collection, it would be her novel in verse Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014). It’s an emotionally, powerful story for any age and a must read for young audiences. Though her picture book The Day You Begin illustrated by Rafael López (Nancy Paulsen, 2018) is a close second.
The second book I would recommend is Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Dial Books, 2015). I’m a huge fan of graphic novels, but this one holds a special place in my heart. It’s a coming of age story about discovering who you are, who you’re not, losing friends, and finding new ones. When I first read it, I shared it with my daughter. It brought up conversations about books, life, friends, and the choices we have to make to get us through it all. Roller Girl did exactly what a great book should do: It started a conversation and made us think about life.
What do you hope for the future of publishing for kids and teens?
When it comes to the future of publishing for kids and teens, my hope is that the children’s literature community continues to expand and become more inclusive. I want to see each of my students represented in the books they love. I want them to know that there is space in this world for who they are and that anything is possible. I want them to know that hope is possible.
Bree Bender is a life-long Oregonian and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Though her heart belongs to writing for Middle Grade readers, she has also been known to dabble in the world of Young Adult literature.
Bree is the creator and founder of multiple writing courses for teens in her area, including Inked! Creative Writing Workshop for Teens in partnership with the Sandy Oregon Public Library.
When Bree is not writing, she can be found chasing her three amazing kids on the beaches of the Oregon Coast, drinking a really good cup of black coffee, or searching the stars for answers about life. You can find her on Instagram @breebenderwrites or her home away from home, www.breebender.com.
Stephani Martinell Eaton holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she won the Candlewick Picture Book Award and the Marion Dane Bauer Award for middle-grade fiction. She is represented by Lori Steel at Raven Quill Literary Agency.