Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabakukk, Stephani EatonSuma SubramaniamBree Bender and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: What Will My Story Be? by Nidhi Chanani (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2021).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A With Makiia Lucier, Year of the Reaper by Samantha Leong from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my first book was the easiest to write, because no one but my husband knew I was writing it. I had no deadline, no expectations from anyone but myself. There is a lot of freedom in that. My favorite book is always the book I’ve just finished writing!”

Wednesday Books

Q&A With Dustin Thao, You’ve Reached Sam by Samantha Leong from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Grief is such a difficult topic to write about, so I did my best to be as honest as possible….[L]ife is messy and frustrating, especially when dealing with loss. And we grow from these experiences….I wanted to show how friendships can form and strengthen in times of sadness…[and] that grief doesn’t have to be experienced alone.”

Interview With Author Nafiza Azada by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “[T]he only thing between you and success is your grit and your willpower. Write every…day. Read everything, even books that don’t speak to you because those…you will remember longest. Share your work with people whose criticism won’t cripple your creativity but…know that writing as a craft is one you will be working on forever.”

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You’d Known Before Publishing a Book?- With Hena Khan with Grace Lin from Kids Ask Authors. Peek: “[E]ven as a published author…I had to stay humble and remember that I was still learning how to be a better writer…I had to learn how to edit myself in different ways and take all the feedback…and incorporate that into my work….[A]ll of that is very much part of the process of being published.”


Q&A With Kathryn Ormsbee by Sara Grochowski from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[I]t’s easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in the minutiae…[T]here will be disappointments, rough patches, and times you don’t feel inspired. Keep writing the stories inside you. I used to feel like I had to wait for the muse to find me, but…[s]ometimes just the act of writing…can shake loose ideas.”

Q&A With Eric Smith, You Can Go Your Own Way by Aleah Gornbein from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[T]he publishing journey is full of way more joy when you have a group of friends with you along the way. To celebrate with, to gripe with…Find your people, whether it’s connecting on social media or at a meetup at your local bookstore….Connect, chat, be kind. We’re all just trying to make good books happen.”

Equity & Inclusion

Q&A With Natasha Bowen, Skin of the Sea by Ashley Wells Ajinkya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “It started as wanting to write a book about Black mermaids and highlighting their African origins. I wanted to create a story where the magical creatures are not the usual Euro-centric ones. To stay true to this, it became important…to incorporate West African mythology, traditional spirituality and tales that have spread across the diaspora.”

Language Lizard, LLC

A Language Spotlight on Afghanistan by Carol Felicio from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “The United States is made up of many immigrant populations, but the Afghan immigrant population has grown faster over the last decade than many others….Dari and Pashto are considered the official languages of the country….If you interact with children who speak Dari or Pashto…you may want suggestions on some engaging bilingual children’s books.”

Report Shows Fourfold Rise in Minority Ethnic Characters in UK Children’s Books by Alison Flood from The Guardian. Peek: “The proportion of children’s books featuring a minority ethnic character has almost quadrupled in the last four years, according to a new [Centre for Literacy in Primary Eduction] survey—but researchers say ‘we are not yet at the point where children of colour have the same experience of literature as their white peers.’”

Bank Street Book Festival 2021: Autonomy, Responsibility, and Journeys by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Lesa Cline-Ransome:] “Throughout history,..Black stories, particularly Black women stories, have been told and interpreted by other[s]…[P]eople should…have the opportunity to tell their stories in the ways they want told, to represent themselves in the ways they feel they should be represented. Especially as women, who have often lost their voices through the stories and words of men….”

Candlewick Press

Lessons From a Teen Book Club and a Girl Named Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “‘Everyone is Fat Angie.’ That’s what I learned…[f]rom kids at book festivals, schools, libraries, juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, and virtual chats across America and beyond. That while we are different and our struggles are unique to our circumstances, we share universal experiences. Experiences of loss, love, joy, family, friends, and longing. Heart and ache.”

She Raised Her Voice…Interview with Jordannah Elizabeth by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “[T]here are so few books on Black women in music in the kid lit world….[I]t’s important for us to make sure that Black women artists of the past and present are documented in a manner where their legacies can continue by introducing them to young readers from the new generation.”

Writing Craft

Q&A With Dan-ah Kim, The Grandmaster’s Daughter by Yeonwoo Shim from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[As both an author and illustrator], writing is the hard part for me, although I often jot down words and phrases before or while sketching. But they take turns. Sometimes there will be something I want to draw that will motivate the words, and vice versa….[I]t’s a love for stories that moves both.”

First Second

Q&A With Harmony Becker, Himawari House by Samantha Leong from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Sometimes random scenes would just come to me, nearly perfectly intact, while I was listening to music…And sometimes while writing, the dialogue would just flow so naturally, as if I were taking dictation while listening to the characters talk…The difficult part is…making sure that those random scenes can come together to create a cohesive whole.”

The Sound of Everything by Caroline Fielding from Teen Librarian. Peek: [Rebecca Henry:] “I knew next to nothing about foster care, so I researched and researched some more. I read real life stories, newspaper articles, blog posts; I watched videos, looked at film renditions, and found what I could in the library….[O]nce you think you have exhausted all your sources,..go back…and dig around for new stuff.”

Five questions for Thomas King from The Horn Book. Peek: “I don’t think about writing in genres. I tell stories, and some of the stories fit into what is called children’s literature and some into literary fiction, some into nonfiction and some into mysteries. But for me, it’s all storytelling. I’m not sure I pay…attention to where the stories are placed by other folks.”


A World of Wonder: Close-up on Amal Karzai from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Somewhere between the thumbnail sketches and the final drawings, I list the emotions and mood I hope a viewer will feel when looking at a particular page. It takes nothing…for me to deviate from my original intention…so I actually write down a list of words with a large pen and stick them…in front of me.”


Mayo Clinic Press Reaches Into Children’s Market by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In partnership with a French organization, Fondation Ipsen, Mayo Clinic Press in Rochester, Minn., has launched its first line of children’s books exploring physical, mental, and emotional health topics. The books are intended to help children better understand illness and recovery, as well as maintain a better handle on life’s challenges.”

Literary Arts Emergency Fund. Peek: “Applications for the second round of the Literary Arts Emergency Fund, administered by the [Community of Literary Magazine & Presses], the Academy of American Poets, and the National Book Foundation, will be accepted from Nov. 8 through Jan. 5…Nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers experiencing continued financial losses due to COVID-19 can view guidelines and apply for funding….”

Abrams ComicArts—Surely

Mariko Tamaki Debuts New LGBTQ+ Graphic Novel Imprint by Brigid Alverson from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Surely Books, a new Abrams ComicArts LGBTQ+ focused imprint curated by comics writer Mariko Tamaki, will release its first graphic novel, Lifetime Passes by writer Terry Blas and artist Claudia Aguirre, this month. The new imprint has also revealed a new set of previously unannounced titles that will be released in 2022 and 2023.”


Surprisingly Simple Book Marketing Tips to Help You Stand Out From the Competition by Penny Sansevieri from Author Marketing Experts. Peek: “[O]ne thing you have over everyone else is your brand—so make good use of it….I’m a big fan of uniformity when it comes to an author brand, even if that means just modifying the font on your website to look similar to your book font….[S]mall changes…can have lasting results. [Like] [c]leaner website copy, simpler [website] navigation….”


Indigenous-Owned Bookstores in the USA and Canada by Jenna Homen from Peek: “To promote and support Indigenous businesses, we’ve put together a directory of Indigenous-owned bookstores based in the USA and Canada. Check each listing for the store’s website, as well as how to follow them on social media.”

Indigo Reports FY22 Second Quarter Results. Peek: “Indigo Books & Music…reported financial results for the 13-week period ended October 2, 2021 compared to the 13-week period ended September 26, 2020. Revenue for the quarter increased 16% to $238.8 million from $205.3 million, exceeding both last year and pre-pandemic levels. Indigo reported net earnings of $3.5 million…compared to a net loss of $17.5 million…last year.”

Guadalajara Returns as a Hybrid Event by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “This year, the [Guadalajara International Book Fair] returns with a hybrid in-person and online event, running from Nov. 27 through Dec. 5….The fair’s International Forum of Book Publishers and Professionals, the primary program for overseas visitors, takes place Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 and will have a focus on bookselling, creating and selling diverse content for children….”


AASL, ARSL Wrap Up Successful In-Person Library Conferences by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly Peek: [Keynote Speaker Kekla Magoon:] “The power of libraries comes from offering a multitude of voices. It comes from carrying a collection that speaks truth in a chorus of perspectives and a range of genres across diverse formats and media. We cannot allow that diversity and complexity to be taken from us by the powers that be.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Loyalty Bookstores presents a free Virtual Book Launch with Jason Reynolds and Raúl the Third, in conversation with Jerry Craft, to celebrate the release of Stuntboy, In the Meantime (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2021), an action-packed middle grade novel that Jason wrote and Raúl illustrated. The event takes place Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. pacific, 5 p.m. central, 6 p.m. eastern. Register here.

The University of Colorado Boulder School of Education and Boulder Book Store are presenting the free virtual 2021 Children’s Book Festival on Nov. 12 from 8 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. pacific time, 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. central, 11 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. eastern. Invited are teachers, students, families, librarians and all who love children’s books. The event features an a panel with award-winning authors and illustrators, plus author and book resources developed by CU Boulder students. Register here.

Webinar: Gathering Native Voices: Wow Readers With Meaningful Sentences. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Regional Chapter Pennsylvania: East, in a virtual presentation with children’s author Andrea Page. She will discuss the art and style of “golden lines” in contemporary children’s books in which Native American authors embedded cultural values into the story. The event takes place Nov. 15 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern.


Penguin Teen

Congratulations to the 12 authors whose books were selected for the Pacific Northwest Book Awards Shortlist, and special congratulations to the authors of the children’s/YA books shortlisted: The Sea in Winter by Christine Day (Heartdrum, 2021), Odessa by Jonathan Hill (Oni Press, 2020), Time is a Flower by Julie Morstad (Tundra Books, 2021), Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor (Balzer + Bray, 2021), and Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (Penguin Teen, 2021).

Nominations Announced for the 2022 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. Congratulations to the nominees for the 2022 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals for writing and illustration. “The CILIP Carnegie Medal is awarded to a book written in English for children and young people that creates an outstanding reading experience through writing, while the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal recognizes a book that creates an outstanding reading experience through illustration.”

Congratulations to the winners of Parents Magazine’s 30 Best Children’s Books of 2021 in the categories of Board Books, Picture Books, Chapter Books, and Books for Teens. “The winners of [this] 13th annual list are brimming with excitement, adventure, and kindness.”


The MIT Press

MIT Press Launches Grant Program for Diverse Voices from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The MIT Press has announced the launch of the Grant Program for Diverse Voices, an initiative that will expand funding for new work by historically underrepresented authors in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The grant program will be supported by the Press’s existing Fund for Diverse Voices….[A]pplications are accepted on a rolling basis.” See, also, The MIT Press Breaks New Ground With STEM-Themed Young-Adult Graphic Fiction from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“Publication of ‘The Curie Society’ [YA graphic novel] was supported, in part, by the MIT Press Fund for Diverse Voices….”)

The Desi Kidlit Community’s Mentorship Program is open to picture book, middle grade, and young adult unagented, unpublished writers who identify as South Asian/South Asian diaspora and who have a complete, revised manuscript. “This six-month mentorship program will pair a published Desi author with an emerging Desi writer for one full manuscript critique, as well as ongoing support and encouragement through virtual calls.” Applications are open until Nov. 15. Apply here.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

By far, the biggest Cynsational news is Gayleen’s below! I’ll let her tell you and just say that we all offer her family our most heartfelt love, joy, and congratulations!

It’s such a busy time. I’m busy revising my YA ghost novel and looking forward to reuniting with family later this month.

Did you miss my NSK Neustadt keynote? You can watch it here and all of the festivities here.

Also, I’m delighted to report that my new novel, Sisters of the Neversea (Heartdrum, 2021) has received its sixth starred review—this one for the audio edition narrated by actor Katie Anvil Rich.

★ The narration is well done, with Anvil Rich providing pacing that is easy to follow and differentiated character voices. Various accents are believable and add to the story.” —Booklist, starred review (for the audio edition)

Previous stars for the story were awarded by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, and Booklist (for the book edition).

What else? Congratulations to author Christine Day and cover artist Michaela Goade! The Sea in Winter (Heartdrum, 2021) made the shortlist for the 2022 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award.

Moms Demand Action Book Club: October-December 2021: Centering Native American Voices, curated by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Everytown Support Fund. Peek: “Picture books, middle grade/chapter books, and young adult selections made in partnership with Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), a New York Times bestselling author of books for young readers and a member of Everytown’s Authors Council.”

22 Picks for Native American Heritage Month from School Library Journal. What an honor to find both of my 2021 releases, Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids and Sisters of the Neversea, along with Heartdrum titles Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley and Tara Audibert and The Sea in Winter by Christine Day among the recommendations.

Bookseller Picks by Indigenous Authors from Titles selected by Birchbark Books & Native Arts in Minneapolis included Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, cover by Nicole Neidhardt, and two Heartdrum titles—Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young, cover by Shonto Begay, and Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley and Tara Audibert.

More Personally – Gayleen

I’m celebrating the birth of my first grandchild! Don’t mind me, I’m busy counting tiny fingers and toes, reading board books and stealing baby snuggles.

More Personally – Stephani

Just a little throwback to July 2018 during VCFA’s Bath Spa Residency in the UK. I am so thankful for this experience and opportunity, for what I learned as a writer and as a human. And really, what could be better than dressing up in Jane Austen garb with some of your favorite fellow writers?

More Personally – Suma

I’m excited to share a picture of recent library visit in Kalama, Washington with fellow authors, Beth Bacon and Laura Atkins.