Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Dear Reader: A Love Letter to Libraries by Tiffany Rose (little bee books, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

I Am Able to Shine by Korey Watari and Mike Wu with John Schu from MrSchuReads. Peek: “Picture books are a gateway to a child’s dreams and stories….We are privileged to speak to children at such an early age and help educate and form their understanding of the world around them. The beauty of a picture book is there isn’t any story that can’t be explored and expressed.”

Margaret Ferguson Books

“I’m a Super Nerd”: Jennifer Ziegler, Author of Worser with Chris Barton from YouTube. Peek: “As lovers of literature, we tend to treat words with reverence. And it’s good we take words seriously. We know their power. But we can’t forget that words are not just tools but also playthings. Having fun with words is one big reason I decided to become a writer.”

Author Chat With Amy Kim Kibuishi (The Rema Chronicles #1: Realm of the Blue Mist) by Beth Edwards from YA Books Central. Peek: “Probably the most important thing [I learned as a writer] is patience. Not just ‘wait your turn’ patience, but ‘in twenty years the tree will finally bear fruit’ patience. It may take decades to harvest the fruit, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the beauty of the sapling as it grows.”

Abdul’s Story…With Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow from Tara Lazar. Peek: “Remember that there is value in the story that you have to tell. Mine your experiences for the best material, and don’t dismiss your experiences just because they aren’t represented in books. Often the stories that are missing are the best stories. Additionally, don’t underestimate yourself just because you need to grow as a writer.”

Equity & Inclusion

Black Sheep

An interview With Alex Wheatle by Imogen Russell Williams from Books for Keeps. Peek: “It’s about time that the Black narrative was out there, in all its guises—not just about Black pain, but also Black joy….[T]hese stories have been hidden for so long—finally they are emerging…There’s so much to unearth about the narrative tradition of Africa and the Caribbean…There is a lot of storytelling to be done.”

Q&A With H. N. Khan, Wrong Side of the Court by Yasmine Aslam-Hashmi from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [G]rowing up in a housing project…I grew up very confused. I grew up polarized between my life at home and this life outside my home….I wanted to encapsulate that confusion…[T]he opposite of feeling alienated is belonging. And the only way we can feel that we belong is if we can see ourselves mirrored in some way….”

On Nancy Drew, and How Anyone With a Book Can Have an Adventure by Katryn Bury from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Going to school meant watching the kids…playing sports and having fun while I sat, benched, with a ream of crackers in one hand and an asthma inhaler in the other….[W]hen I couldn’t leave my bed, I had hundreds of adventures with Nancy….I wanted kids to feel the way I did reading Nancy Drew….”

Quill Tree Books

Q&A With Marjorie Liu, Wingbearer by Sara Conway from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[A] picture really does paint a thousand words…[T]o just glance upon a book cover where you can see people like yourself and like your family members, and open up a book where you see your families staring up at you from every page—having adventures, living inside of a magical world—is powerfully life-affirming.”

Margaret Chiu Greanias—Amah Faraway by Kirstie Myvett from KidLit in Color. Peek: “I grew up in the United States, and my grandmother lived in Taipei….[O]ur relationship wasn’t easy because we were separated by distance, language, and culture….I hope readers who are growing up far away from loved ones will see themselves reflected in [the book] and…take away how special their relationships with their faraway loved ones can be.”

When Did You First “See Yourself” in a Book? with Brian Lehrer from WNYC. Peek: [Jacqueline Woodson:] “I started writing books with people of color because I was growing up and those books weren’t in our libraries and our classrooms…I didn’t understand why my existence as a person of color was erased from literature….I wanted the Black experience to be legitimate in the world…[W]riting it into the narrative would do that.”

Dial Books

Q & A With Adib Khorram by Martha Schulman from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]here’s progress, as shown by the proliferation of gender and sexuality alliances, of antiracist work in schools. At the same time, people can be cruel, and it’s not unilaterally better everywhere. Part of being a writer for young people is balancing the world as it is with the world as I wish it to be.”

Writing Craft

Q&A With Alexis Castellanos, Isla to Island by Ashley Wells Ajinkya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I wanted to play with the format and do something different.…If I wasn’t going to have dialogue…, I wouldn’t have another strong form of communication…Using color to fill that communication gap became the obvious choice. Color alone carries so much symbolism and history, it serves as the perfect vehicle to guide the reader through the story.”

Author Spotlight: Janay Brown-Wood from KidLit 411. Peek: “I dived deeply into learning about how to write for children. I read tons of books including picture books and novels, as well as craft books. I also joined SCBWI and worked with critique groups. I kept at it…I continued to persevere and grow….[T]he journey was long, but…worth it because I learned so much.”

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

You Deserve Magic: Close-up on Dhonielle Clayton from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I did a ton of research to build the world…from spending tons of time in libraries to traveling to working with cultural experts from all around the world….I kept an entire notebook of research around global cultures and what their marvels might be based on, including their distinct and unique folkloric traditions….”

Q&A With Lin Thompson, The Best Liars in Riverview by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I really like the untangling, problem-solving aspect of revisions! I like the part when I get stuck on something and don’t know how to fix it—whether it’s a problem in the plot, or something about a character that isn’t working…[I’m] convinced I’ve broken the book, and then suddenly the answer comes….”

My Favorite Research Story by Azadeh Westergaard from Celebrate Science. Peek: “[F]ollow all leads, no matter how obscure. Keep a running list of any and all names that you come across related to your subject matter…[W]hen you are searching within various archives or…indexes, scan for these names. You’d be surprised how often a nugget of gold shows up, revealing information you were not expecting.”

Knopf Books for Young Readers

A Kids’ Book Travels Through History to Ask: Where Does “Blue” Come From? by Samantha Balaban from NPR. Peek: [Daniel Minter:] “A lot of the people in my paintings have tones of blue within the skin….I use that to show the depth of color within our skin….[In this book] I just did wash after wash after wash of blues….[I’d] layer those blues making them deeper, leaving some of them lighter and introducing other colors to them….”


The Benefits of Crediting Illustrators For Their Work from Pictures Mean Business. Peek: “[By] crediting illustrators…everyone wins!…Here’s an example: An author has an exciting cover reveal for their latest book and credits the illustrator—fans of the writer will be intrigued [and] want to read the book…, fans of the illustrator get excited and find out more about the book…[D]ouble the exposure for the same cover reveal….“

WNDB Launches Virtual Community for Mid-Level Diverse Publishing Professionals by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “We Need Diverse Books announced…[it] is partnering with Beacon Press and Hachette Book Group to launch…Rise Up, an initiative designed to support diverse mid-level publishing professionals…‘Diversifying book publishing is about more than bringing new people into the industry: it’s about providing support for those folks as they pursue their careers,’ stated…Kandace Coston, Rise Up coordinator….“

Margaret K. McElderry Books Celebrates 50 Years of “Catching Readers Young” by Joanne O’Sullivan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [McElderry’s] characteristic fearlessness and advocacy for children’s literature made an impact that’s still undeniable as the imprint she founded celebrates 50 years….[She] dauntlessly plotted her imprint’s direction based on decades working to engage young readers. ‘If you don’t catch them young,’ she once said, ‘you won’t have any adult readers.’”

The Kid Lit Report by Ben Roberts from License Global. Peek: “The U.S. kids’ book market was valued at around $2.47 billion in 2020, growing to $2.6 billion in 2022, while the U.K. is set to achieve a market value of £758 million this year…[Asia-Pacific], however, led the market in 2020, accounting for 34.4% of all young readers and 43% of global market growth in 2022….”


Finding Your Audience—Connecting With Teachers, Librarians, and Parents by Stephanie Bearce from Nonfiction Ninjas. Peek: “[I]t can be a challenge to get our books into the hands of our intended readers….We need brilliant parents, librarians, and teachers to love our stories and get them into the hands of our readers. There are many avenues for making these connections—book reviews, blog tours, speaking engagements, school and library visits, podcasts, and newsletters….”


Balzer + Bray

Angie Thomas Named Independent Bookstore Day 2022 Ambassador from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Angie Thomas, author of the much-heralded YA novel The Hate U Give (Balzer + Bray, 2017), will serve as the ambassador for Independent Bookstore Day 2022, to be held on April 30. The news was announced…at the end of the American Booksellers Association’s Snow Days keynote on March 10.”

“Abbott Elementary” Partners With Scholastic to Provide Free Book Fairs at Underfunded Schools by Selome Hailu from Variety. Peek: “Attached to its hit freshman sitcom ‘Abbott Elementary,’ ABC has partnered with Scholastic to become the first entertainment brand to provide underfunded schools with free book fairs….[Billy DiMichele:] ‘Our mission at Scholastic has always been to support teachers and provide them with the resources and materials needed to build warm, positive classroom experiences…for their students.’”

Congratulations to the finalists for the 2022 PW Bookstore of the Year and Sales Representative of the Year Awards. The winners will be announced at the U.S. Book Show taking place May 23 to May 26.

Government of Canada Helps Canadian Booksellers Expand Online Book Sales from Cision/Canada Newswire. Peek: “The Government of Canada’s new Support for Booksellers component of the Canada Book Fund will invest $32.1 million in bookstores over two years for expenses related to online book sales and to help these bookstores improve their online business models. New funding will also support…projects that build industry capacity for online Canadian book sales.”


School and Library Marketing Directors Tackle Tough Times by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Mary Van Akin, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group’s Director of School and Library Marketing:] “I think the future holds a hybrid of in-person and virtual events and that we’ll be able to optimize both experiences…Virtual events have enabled all of us to make events accessible in a really amazing way, so we want to retain that accessibility while also pursuing opportunities to meet and talk about books in person.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore presents A.J. Sass in conversation with Nicole Melleby and Lin Thompson as they discuss and celebrate A.J.’s new book Ellen Outside the Lines (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022). This free virtual event takes place March 23 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. Register here.

KidlitTV presents Kidlit for Ukraine: Stories of Hope,  a virtual KidLit benefit for the children of Ukraine. Peek: “Be inspired as award-winning authors of children’s literature tell short, true stories of hope.” Featuring Victoria Amelina, Kathi Appelt, Samantha Berger, K.A. Holt and many more. All proceeds go to Save the Children. The event takes place March 22 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern. Register here.

UW iSchool and Read-a-Rama present Native American Read-In to celebrate the work of Native American creators. Multiple Native authors, artists and storytellers will be featured, some of which include Traci Sorell (Cherokee), Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), Michaela Goade (Lingít Aaní/Tlingit), and Roger Fernandes (Lower Elwha S’Klallam). This virtual event takes place April 24 at 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. pacific, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. central, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. eastern. Register here.

The We Need Diverse BooksSecond Annual Black Creatives Revisions Workshop application period is open to unpublished, unagented writers who identify as part of the African diaspora and who have completed a full draft of a Middle Grade, Young Adult or Adult novel. “Twelve writers, including six Middle Grade/Young Adult and six adult writers, will be selected for the workshop. They will have the opportunity to receive technical guidance via writing coaches and peer critique throughout the revision process.” Applications will close April 1 at 8:59 p.m. pacific, 10:59 p.m. central, 11:59 p.m. eastern. Apply here.

Margaret K. McElderry Books

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore presents F.T. Lukens in conversation with Ryan La Sala to discuss and celebrate F.T.’s new young adult novel So This Is Ever After (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022). This virtual event takes place March 30 at 7:30 p.m. pacific, 9:30 p.m. central, 10:30 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Brazos Bookstore presents Jennifer Ziegler in conversation with Varsha Bajaj, K.A. Holt and Lynne Kelly to discuss Jennifer’s newest book Worser (Margaret Ferguson Books, 2022). This virtual event takes place March 31 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Austin SCBWI’s Writers & Illustrators Working Conference is taking place April 30 to May 1. There will be opportunities to “learn your craft, boost your career, get feedback on your work, and meet…with fellow children’s book writers and illustrators.” The schedule includes keynotes, publishing and agent panels, intensives, and more. Registration is now open.

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs2022 AWP Conference & Bookfair is taking place March 23 to March 26 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There will be hundreds of events, exhibitions, readings, panel discussions, meetings, and public receptions. There will also be an array of prerecorded virtual events. Register here.


Scholastic Inc.

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the Ezra Jack Keats Awards. The winners are Paul Harbridge for Out Into the Big Wide Lake, Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon (Tundra Books, 2021)(Writer) and Gracey Zhang for Lala’s Words (Scholastic, Inc., 2021)(Illustrator)!

Congratulations to the finalists of the Lambda Literary Awards, especially in the categories of LGBTQ Young Adult and LGBTQ Children’s/Middle Grade! “Lambda Literary…believe(s) that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer literature is fundamental to the preservation of our culture, and that LGBTQ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published, and read.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the long lists for the 2022 Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize! This prize, established in 2020, “accepts books for children, teens and young adults including picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, poetry, non-fiction, and all other genres by writers of colour and aimed at young readers.”


Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the Golden Kite Awards. The winners are:

Submissions are now open for the 2022 National Book Awards. Only U.S. publishers may submit books to be considered for the awards. Submitted books must have a publication date between Dec. 1, 2021 and Nov. 30, 2022. The deadline for submission is May 18 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. Submit entries here.


The Department of Education, Office of Elementary & Secondary Education, Office of Indian Eduation (OIE) announced the Student Art Competition, to honor the OIE’s 50th Anniversary (contest theme). Student entrants must be American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The competition categories are art, writing, and video, and entries should relate to the theme and the importance of Native youth education. Winners will be recognized and have their work featured on the OIE website. Submit entries here until April 15.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Are you a member of the International Literacy Association? Check out:

The Heartdrum Imprint and Native Children’s Literature: A Conversation with Rosemary Brosnan and Cynthia Leitich Smith by Jonda C. McNair from The Reading Teacher.

More Personally – Gayleen

Highlight of my month (okay, my year) was last week’s in-person reading time with my granddaughter. We both love My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett (Orca, 2016): so joyful and just the right length for a four month old. She’s getting an early start on the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative.