Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Anansi and the Golden Pot by Taiye Selasi, illustrated by Tinuke Fagborun (DK Children, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A With Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara, Climb On! by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “There’s people who say, ‘I could never do that!’ versus people who say, ‘How did you do that?!?!’ For a long time I was the first…, dreaming of doing a thing, but too intimidated….I realized it was much better to just ask how, and to be ok with wherever you are in your journey.”

Cameron Kids

Wave by Diana Farid Is a Guide for Navigating Complicated Feelings by Nawal Qarooni from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “One of the messages of the book is it is a privilege to us to have this life, to take a breath, to even have a wave to ride. That experience of emotion and love, even if it comes with loss…is an incredible experience to have, as painful as it can be…The consciousness is a gift.”

Embracing Chaotic Good in Aminah Mae Safi’s Travelers Along the Way by Karis Rogerson from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “There is a very great power in choosing joy…[It is] integral to the quest for justice…Taking the problem seriously but also not letting someone take that sense of humor, and not letting someone take away that capacity for joy….It’s justice but it’s also finding fun in that, in restoring justice.”

An Interview With Charlene Thomas, Author of Seton Girls by Fadwa from Word Wonders. Peek: “When readers finish [my book]…I hope they take a very real moment to believe in their own dreams….and accept with absolute certainty that if my book can exist, their dreams can exist, too. And I hope it gives them the little nudge they need to keep chasing whatever it is that they want to do.”

Sourcebooks Fire

Q&A With Kosoko Jackson, Survive the Dome by Alana Ladson from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[T]he moral arc always bends towards justice….[I]t’s more of a pendulum that swings…[Y]ou have the ‘bad’ side and you have the ‘good’ side. The question is, can we weather the bad to get to the good, knowing that the good isn’t a given and is going to require work to get there?…[I] think we’ll get there.”

Equity & Inclusion

Something Strange and Unsettling: Cosmic Horror and Its Influence on My Dearest Darkest, a Guest Post by Kayla Cottingham by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “Ultimately, seeing how other marginalized writers made cosmic horror their own was a massive turning point for me….What I discovered is that, when you are the Other, your view of the terrifying unknown changes. When society views you as abnormal, different, alien, etc., the fear comes much more from how you’re perceived….”

Massachusetts School Library Association 2022: Cynthia Leitich Smith Keynote “Brighter Days” from Jenny Arch. Peek: [Jenny Arch:] “Native books make up…under 1% of books published for kids.” [Cynthia Leitich Smith:] “Why does that matter? Because we are still here….[F]actual information won’t matter or stick if we don’t focus on humanity. Native people are modern people. Every kid, Indigenous or not, can benefit from exposure to Native values…All kids deserve a truthful education.”

Scholastic Press

Interview With Nina Moreno and Courtney Lovett by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: [Courtney Lovett:] “[G]rowing up I wasn’t exposed to many books that reflected my identity as a Black girl…Kids should see themselves as heroes of their own stories, but they can also engage with stories where they are not at the center. Everyone gets a seat at the table, where we…can acknowledge our similarities…[and] celebrate our differences….”

Creators and Creatives Seek to Make Children’s Books Accessible To All Readers by Chloe Johnson from The Bookseller. Peek: “[W]hy does publishing still struggle to produce children’s books that are truly accessible?…It is only now that we are beginning to embrace the unknown and truly learn what accessibility and inclusivity can mean, that we are trialling new ways of creating books that can be accessible to children with disabilities and different access needs.”

Q & A With Emily Calandrelli by Patricia J. Murphy from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “For me, representation is a big thing, and I’m trying to increase the level of female representation with my books and programs. As little girls, we don’t often see many people who look like us in STEM careers….I want girls to have somebody to look at, and be like: ‘Oh,…maybe I could do that!’”

Candlewick Press

Q&A With Nina LaCour and Kaylani Juanita, Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Alaina Lavoie from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Kaylani Juanita:] “Part of educating people about inclusion and diversity is showing casual diversity. It’s important to show that there are other things happening to and around queer people aside from persevering [through] extreme discrimination and experiencing trauma. We need to…have representation of queer people experiencing things like love, friendship, missing, family, milestones, all sorts of things!”

Q&A With David Valdes, Spin Me Right Round by Shannon Rygg from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Kids still face homophobia today but their starting point…is so far ahead of where it was….[A] lot of queer kids today have no idea what took place before them…to make their starting point so advanced. I want young readers to see the past not just as history but as real life—lived by kids like them.”

Writing Craft

The Reasons Behind a Choice—Meeting With the [Bologna Children’s Book Fair] Illustrators Exhibition Jury 2022 by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “[H]ow did the panel decide on what to and not to include?…Artists did not submit their books, with their works in context. Rather, they were only allowed to send in five pieces from a single book….[W]hat the judges of this fair tend to prefer is more esoteric art…that invokes feelings or sentiment or memory.”


This Author Thrives On Her 4 a.m. Wake Up Time & Setting Clear Boundaries by Ama Kwarteng from Coveteur. Peek: [Tahereh Mafi:] “[T]he best time for me to write is in the hours before dawn….I wake up around four in the morning and I work before the sun comes up while the house is still quiet…I don’t have to answer any emails. Nobody’s calling me. No one needs me…I’m most productive during those hours.”

Interview With Author S. Isabelle by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “My favorite piece of advice for writers, especially those looking at traditional publishing, is ‘eyes on your own paper.’…I spent a lot of time worrying about what other writers were doing while I was on submission…[I]t was such a waste of time! Focus on your craft, your projects, and the dreams you have for yourself.”

Meet Leslie Vedder, Debut Author of The Bone Spindle by Hadley Timmermann from Dead Darlings. Peek: “Voice always comes first for me. I spend a lot of time, in the early stages of an idea, taking long walks with my wife and coming up with dialogue for these shiny new characters, trying out different ideas until I find something that makes us both laugh….[T]hat early dialogue…helps me get to know my characters.”

Barefoot Books

Q&A With Wafa’ Tarnowska, Nour’s Secret Library by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[M]y favorite part of the writing process is the time when I am open to my inspiration or my muses. Words and ideas…tumble into my head like a beautiful waterfall. I am transported into another world…[T]ime does not exist. The Spanish have a…name for it: ‘Duende,’ meaning a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity.”

Interview With Author and Illustrator Carolina Farías by Lindsay Ward from Critter Lit. Peek: “Inspiration can strike at any time and anywhere, any moment in everyday life. Perhaps something that is visually interesting lights a spark, so I take a photo to reference later….Sometimes I get so many ideas floating around that I have to take a thousand notes…[F]iltering them to get the best ones is sometimes a…tedious task.”

Blessing’s Bead…Interview With Cover Artist Nasugraq Rainey Hopson by Jennifer Khawam from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “I used ink brush pens, colored pencils, watercolor and photoshop to create the cover art. I enjoy starting from ‘traditional mediums’ and then use photoshop to adjust the colors and textures.  Starting from these more physical mediums…gives the image a more natural and spontaneous look that is a big part of my art style.”

Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Joy L. Smith: Turning with Emma Straub from YouTube. Peek: “I had sensitivity readers…because I can walk and I have never been paralyzed….They were really informative because they had lived their lives in a chair….It was really important for me to get that right because I didn’t want to offend anybody and I wanted to make sure everyone felt represented correctly.”


A Bookstore Revival Channels Nostalgia for Big Box Chains by Alexandra Lange from Bloomberg. Peek: “Trends may come and go, but wooden shelves and squishy chairs will always mean, ‘Curl up with a book.’ The last of the major chains is betting on that rebound: Barnes & Noble…plans to add 20 to 25 more [stores] in 2022….Mass bookstore closures have also opened opportunities for independents to go back…to the mall.”


Spotlight on Africa—In Their Own Words: Storytelling to Protect Vanishing African Languages by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: [Julia Norrish, Programme Director of Book Dash:] “It would be a whole different world if we didn’t have to translate from English. For more publishers, the goal is to originate content in African languages….[I]f we could…value all languages…to where people are feeling confident and then get to a bridge language, that would be a big step in the right direction.”

Editor Interview: Allison Cohen (Running Press Kids) by Ryan G. Van Cleave from Only Picture Books. Peek: “[As an editor,] [s]ometimes, you have to reimagine a book—sometimes it’s the trim size or page count. Sometimes it’s the art because an illustrator…isn’t available. Sometimes a book’s on-sale date has to move out…There are a multitude of reasons things change over the course of a book’s production, and much is out of your control….”

Triangle Square Expands After a Decade of Growth by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Kids’ books were introduced to the Seven Stories list back in 2007….Though the children’s program started small, initially releasing titles only once a year, in 2022 it will begin ramping up—from six–10 per year in 2021 to 16–20 by 2023. The success of TSBYR’s 66-title backlist encouraged it to do more.”


Back in Person for 2022, AWP Comes to Philadelphia by Sophia Stewart from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “On the panel ‘Book Tour Revolution: Strategies for the Current World,’…authors debated the merits of the traditional book tour. Tim Herrera said that ‘book tours don’t sell books,’ and therefore was glad that virtual tours have become more common…Chloe Gong…found that TikTok allowed her to ‘take the reins of promotion,’ creating a kind of ‘prolonged tour….’”


A Time of Renewal for America’s Libraries by Melanie Huggins, Arlene Weible, and Vailey Oehlke from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Public libraries are opening their doors to a new normal, reconnecting and adopting best practices that will help us all navigate forward….Libraries nationwide…are eliminating late fees, and conference sessions range from summer learning based on racial equity to improving web accessibility to improving staff diversity….Community support is key to ensuring equitable access for all….”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Rick Riordan Presents

Books of Wonder presents Double Launch with Roshani Chokshi, to celebrate the release of her two upcoming middle grade books, Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality (Rick Riordan Presents, 2022)(the final installment of the Pandava series), and Aru Shah and the End of Time (Rick Riordan Presents, 2022)(the graphic novel adaptation). This free virtual event takes place April 3 at 12 p.m. pacific, 2 p.m. central, 3 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Children’s Book Week pays tribute to Floyd Cooper on May 6: “Thanks for joining in the fun for the 2022 Children’s Book Week Spring celebrations—May 2 to May 8. During the…[week] we will hold the first annual Floyd Cooper Day in celebration of his inspiring and powerful work…Teachers, librarians, and booksellers are encouraged to hold readings of his books on Friday, May 6….”

The Navajo Nation Library presents a virtual reading with Daniel W. Vandever, Diné author of Herizon and Fall in Line, Holden. The event takes place April 1 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. pacific, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m mountain, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. central, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. eastern. Attend virtually here.

Applications are now being accepted for the We Need Diverse Books Native Children’s – YA Writing Intensive, led by Cynthia Leitich Smith. The in-person event will offer reflection, conversation, celebration, and manuscript and career development for Native/First Nations writers. Faculty includes authors, editors and agents. Registration and travel scholarships are available for the August 4 – August 7 workshop at The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas. Learn more and apply here.



Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the Barnes & Noble Children’s & YA Book Awards Shortlist 2022. Six books were chosen in each of three categories: Picture Books, Young Readers and Young Adults. The winners will be chosen by the Barnes & Noble booksellers across the country.

Batchelder Award to Require Translator Cover Credits by Sophia Stewart from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Mildred. L Batchelder Award for translated children’s literature will now require books submitted for award consideration to credit both the author and translator on their covers. The board of directors of the Association for Library Service to Children…voted in January to revise the Batchelder Award’s submission criteria to add requirements regarding translator credits.”

Voting for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and IllustratorsCrystal Kite Member Choice Awards has begun, for nominated PAL (Published and Listed) books published in 2021. Round 1 begins April 1 and ends April 14. Round 2 begins April 18 and ends April 30. Winners are announced in May.

NYU Press

Congratulations to Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, recipient of the 2022 Children’s Literature Association’s Book Award for the 2020 edition of her book The Dark Fantastic (NYU Press, 2020). The annual award, given to a book published two years prior to the award, recognizes “outstanding book-length contributions to children’s literature scholarship and criticism.”

Scholarships & Grants

The application period for the Black Creatives Revision Workshop is about to close on April 1 at 8:59 p.m. pacific, 10:59 p.m. central, 11:59 p.m. eastern. Twelve writers, including six Middle Grade/Young Adult writers, will be selected “to receive training from…esteemed Black authors to complete revisions of their manuscript and to submit their novel to a team of editors at Penguin Random House.”

The Children’s Book Academy is offering ten Diversity+ scholarships for their Mastering Graphic Novels course starting May 9, which also includes lessons in Writing and Illustrating Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels AND Graphic Novels! Co-taught by a dream team of industry experts with lots of submission opportunities, it will be a door-opener! Click here for scholarships and here for course information. CBA students have published nearly 800 books.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Jo Jo Makoons Gets Caught Reading

What a week! Highlights included delivering a keynote online at the Massachusetts School Library Association Convention and visiting with ninth graders about journalism and Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018, 2020) online at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Harlem, New York through Behind the Book.

I also was honored to learn that Hearts Unbroken was featured in “Art and Activism Call for Freedoms” exhibit at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in Salt Lake City.

Join me in discussing Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids at noon CT April 6 online at Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books. Register here.

Finally, a blast from the past—a peek at me as a first-year student member of the Native American Law Students Association at The University of Michigan Law School from Turtle Talk: The Leading Blog on Legal Issues in Indian Country.

More Personally – Suma

I spent a week in the ocean to pause and reflect on my projects. It helped think about a different approach to my WIP and calmed my senses.