Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Kicks by Van G. Garrett, illustrated by Reggie Brown (Versify, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Dhonielle Clayton and Julian Randall Want to Shake Up the Magical Middle Grade World from School Library Journal. Peek: [Dhonielle Clayton:] “I believe that the children of the world already possess magic…that’s deeply rooted in their respective families and communities. I wanted to honor these children and…interrogate what magic looks like when it’s global….[T]he underpinnings of [my] fantasy world came out of my students in my library because they were truly from all over the world.”

Scholastic Press

Q&A With Justin A. Reynolds, It’s the End of the World and I’m In My Bathing Suit by Danielle Wilkinson from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I hate to tell readers what to take away from my work, because that’s really up to them…[B]ut I’ll make this one exception…[F]irst and foremost, I want readers to have fun. Secondly, [I want them] to remember that you never know what someone else is going through, so let’s be ambassadors of empathy and compassion….”

Q&A With Alice Faye Duncan, Evicted! by Chinelo Ikem from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[W]hat I want kids to also understand is that they don’t have to wait. That even as children, they have agency, they can affect positive change in the world. That age is not a limitation. Desire, determination, and courage mean everything….I’m hoping that…children will realize they have an agency to change America for good.”

Middle Grade From the Author’s Desk by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Kwame Mbalia:] “I write for an age that is so fluid and dynamic, where we’re slowly becoming aware of the world around us and what we can—and can’t—control. It’s about finding agency at a time when we have the least amount of power and yet can recognize that fact.”

Arsenal Pulp Press

Inuk Writer Carries Children Home in Dreams by Miles Morrisseau from Indian Country Today. Peek: [Raeann Brown:] “[When] we sit down at night and we read our children bedtime stories…we all have these dreams and we wonder what it would be like to turn into something different…The universal part in the book is the love and the ability for children to dream…There’s no such thing as too big.”

Q&A With Katherine Locke, This Rebel Heart by Aleah Gornbein from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Keep writing!…Don’t compare your first drafts to the finished products you see on the shelf…[D]on’t be afraid to be a little derivative as you’re learning to write….Working in familiar worlds that someone else had done a lot of the work on let me practice until I was good enough to make up my own worlds.”

Q&A With Claribel Ortega, Witchlings by Steve Dunk from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I think sometimes adults…forget that not everyone gets through childhood without confronting really hard situations….Kids are humans, a bit smaller, but they’re still full human beings with convictions, worries, and hopes. They’re underestimated so much, and deserve our respect, care, and guidance. If I can give them even a tiny bit of that…I’ll be happy.”

Equity & Inclusion

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Q & A With Emily X.R. Pan by Gilcy Aquino from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I want to see more of everything, not just the parts of my cultural identity that resonate with me, but everybody—everyone else who identifies as Taiwanese American or Chinese American or both….We need more representation so when there is harmful representation, it doesn’t feel as devastating because there are…many other resources out there.”

The Power of Daily Book Talks to Diversify Independent Reading by Molly Tansey from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “The purpose of the Black Writer a Day series was twofold. I wanted to help my students find books they could see themselves in because I needed to make sure they never erased themselves out of their own stories…I also needed every one of my students to be able to see themselves as a writer.”

Kellee’s Book Choices for Her UCF Children’s Literature Course by Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers. Peek: “My favorite part of prepping this course was choosing what books…to include. Since I couldn’t choose just one or even a handful, I decided to follow Ricki Ginsberg’s advice and went with book clubs…I really liked how it worked out…. [T]he book clubs followed the genres as they were introduced in the [course] textbook.”

Inkyard Press

Q&A With Christina Matula, The Not So Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Lynn Lawrence-Brown from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Sometimes I find there is an expectation that books featuring Asian-American/Canadian characters must be about overt racism or immigrant struggles. While there’s a definite need for these, I also love to see books that feature Asian-American/Canadian kids just doing regular kid things and facing typical adolescent dilemmas, showing different facets of our lives.”

Ellen Oh: Readers Need to Know “They Are Not Alone” by Amanda MacGregor from School Library Journal. Peek: “I think kids who struggle with depression are incredibly strong. They are fighting a battle every day against deep emotional pain. That struggle is so real. But so is hope….[W]e have to reinforce that message and remind them that we see them and we are proud of them, and we are here for them.”

Q&A With Karina Yan Glaser, A Duet for Home by Sandie Angulo Chen from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[I] needed a lot of time to make sure I wrote the story in a way where…it reflected the reality of what living in a shelter was like but also brought a lot of humanity to the characters. Also, I wanted to show how the community that surrounded these families was…important to their surviving and thriving….”

Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Q&A With Hanna Alkaf, Queen of the Tiles by Steve Dunk from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I’m always going to be writing my people and my country into the narrative. I am not going to plunk a white character into my stories when there’s no need for one and I don’t ever intend to pander to a western gaze…[P]eople can choose to work with me or not based on this.”

Writing Craft

The Difference Between Querying in 2019 and 2022, and Why Your Well-Intentioned Advice May Be Doing More Harm Than Good from Shannon A Thompson. Peek: “I’ve seen a lot of well-meaning authors posting querying tips for those currently looking for representation….Advice that previously used to be sound is no longer relevant or an accurate depiction of what’s going on in the trenches…In 2022…[n]ot only are response times longer than ever before, but feedback (even on full manuscript requests) is rarer….”

Q&A With Linda Williams Jackson, The Lucky Ones by Anushi Mehta from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Before I begin a new chapter, I take a moment to envision the scene. What is the setup for this chapter? Do I want to open it with dialogue or narration?…Once I feel the ‘mood’ of the chapter, I…type whatever comes to mind….I download [the scene] to my Kindle and read it…Then I go back and revise….”

Beaming Books

Q&A With Julie Jarema and Helen H. Wu, Tofu Takes Time by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Helen H. Wu:] “I first found my love of storytelling by illustrating other authors’ self-published books. I did digital drawings and put up a portfolio online, then someone came to me and asked me if I could illustrate their picture books. Gradually, I illustrated more self-published picture books and got involved in every step of bookmaking.”

Tokyo’s Manuscript Writing Cafe Won’t Let You Leave Until You Finish Your Novel by Jessie Gaynor from Literary Hub. Peek: “The Tokyo café was designed to help writers trying to hit deadlines…Upon entering the store, [you] write down at the reception desk how many words and by what time you are going to write your manuscript…The manager asks you every hour how your manuscript is coming along…You are not allowed to leave…until you have finished….”

Q&A With Sas Milledge, Mamo by Shannon Rygg from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[D]raw! And read! Then draw some more! Boring, I know, but it’s the only advice that will work and continue to work, for the rest of your life….[M]ake stuff you want to make…[Y]ou chose this career because you want to love what you do, so do what you love!…[G]et yourself to a regular life drawing class….”

Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Q&A With Hena Khan, Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun by Yasmine Aslam-Hashmi from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I thought writer’s block would be…like it seems on TV, where no words come out of you, and you’re just plain stuck. For me, it manifests as extreme doubt about what I’m working on, which…demotivates me and makes me procrastinate. The trick…is to turn to a trusted friend, editor, or family member for help!”

Q&A With Monica Zepeda, Boys of the Beast by Paola M. from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I wanted to focus on each boy separately so I knew it was going to be a first person point of view for each of them. It became very important…that each boy had his own voice…[so] readers knew who was talking at any particular time. That’s why I…brought in texting, the screenplay format, and the letter….”


Getting the Word Out: 25 Years of Changes to Book Publicity by Sophia Stewart from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “For most of publishing history, there was one dominant mode of literary publicity: the book review….[The blog] burgeoned during the turn of the century…Twitter quickly became an essential tool not only for literary critics but for authors and publishers as well.…With the proliferation of publicity channels…promoting books has never been so multifaceted, so far-reaching….”


On Tour: Sabaa Tahir for “All My Rage” by Joanne O’Sullivan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “For more than two years now, bookstores, authors, and readers have made do with virtual events…[yet] book lovers have held out hope for the return of in-person events. For YA author Sabaa Tahir…the moment finally arrived: an in-person tour. ‘I, of course, heard from readers via social media…But in-person energy felt very different, very positive….’”


Unit Sales of Print Books Rose 10% in Early April from CATAMARCANEWS. Peek: “The shift in Easter book buying this year favored the publishing industry in the week ended Apr. 9, 2022…, resulting in a 10.2% increase in unit sales of print books over the comparable week in 2021…The children’s category led the increase, with fiction sales up 38.2% and nonfiction sales rising 26.7%.”

The American Booksellers Association 10th Anniversary Children’s Institute will take place in Phoenix from June 20 to June 22. The in-person event will offer “an exciting lineup of keynote presentations, authors, 20 education sessions, idea exchanges, IndieCommerce one-on-ones, affinity group meet-ups, networking events, receptions, and parties….” Register here by May 9.


The Future of Publishing Is Now: Spotlight on knkPublishing from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “With the only Microsoft-certified publishing software on the planet, knk is helping publishers adapt to a rapidly changing industry….More than 450 trade, educational, children’s, special interest, music, and magazine publishers use knk’s software and services….Microsoft Windows and the company’s Office Suite, including Microsoft Teams, are probably the most used Microsoft software among publishing houses….”


School Library Journal Day of Dialog 2022 Spring from School Library Journal. Peek: “Join us…for the most anticipated librarian gathering of the spring 2022 publishing season—fully virtual and free to attend. Our daylong program of author panels, in-depth conversations, and keynote talks will keep you informed, inspired, and entertained, and provide insight into industry trends….” The event takes place on May 19 from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. pacific, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. central, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Education/Other Resources/Events

The Vermont College of Fine Arts2022 Katherine Patterson Chair Lecture will be presented by Cynthia Leitich Smith on May 1 at 1 p.m. pacific, 3 p.m. central, 4 p.m. eastern. This free lecture, “The Authorial Voice in Today’s Discourse: The Page, Podium, Platform, & Persona (Plus Nurturing Your Writer’s Heart),” will take place live via YouTube here.

Scholastic Focus

Scholastic and School Library Journal present “Three Reasons Kids Need to Read More Non-Fiction,” with authors Deborah Hopkinson, Ebony Wilkins, and Barbara Binns in conversation about American history and their books, The Deadliest Hurricanes Then and Now (Scholastic Focus, 2022), If You Travelled On the Underground Railroad (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2022), and Unlawful Orders: A portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist (Scholastic Focus, 2022), respectively. The event takes place April 27 at 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. pacific, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. central, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m eastern. Register here.

What’s New in Native American Literature for Kids, an in-person panel at the Bay Area Book Festival, will feature Jen Ferguson (Michif/Métis), David A. Robertson (Cree), Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) and Traci Sorell (Cherokee). The panel takes place at 2:45 on May 7. Also at the Bay Area Book Festival: Dust Off Those Classics: Innovative and Inclusive Retellings with Myisha Haynes, David A. Robertson, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Rey Terciero at 12:30 on May 8.

Celebrate Floyd Cooper Day With Every Child a Reader & KidLit TV! from KidLit TV. KidLit TV has produced original videos of several well-known children’s authors reading Floyd Cooper books. The videos are on KidLit TV’s website and can be shared with young people on May 6, or anytime during Children’s Book Week.

Reminder! 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.


Congratulations to the finalists for the Crystal Kite Awards. Round 2 voting will end April 30 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. Instructions for voting are found here.

Katherine Tegen Books

Congratulations to the shortlist finalists for the 2022 Ignyte Awards, especially in the categories of Best Novel Young Adult and Best in Middle Grade. “The Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscape of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts towards inclusivity within the genre.”

Congratulations to all of the books that made the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee’s Best Children’s Books of the Year 2022 Edition. “This edition includes more than 600 titles chosen…as the best of the best published in 2021. In choosing books for the annual list, reviewers consider literary quality and excellence of presentation as well as the potential emotional impact of the books on young readers.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the 2022 Green Earth Book Award Short List. The winners in the categories of Picture Book, Children’s Fiction, Children’s Nonfiction, Young Adult Fiction, and Young Adult Nonfiction will be announced on Earth Day, April 22.


The deadline to submit entries here for the Student Art Competition sponsored by The Department of Education, Office of Elementary & Secondary Education, Office of Indian Education (OIE), has been extended to April 29. The competition honors 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.

NYU SPS Center for Publishing Announces New Scholarship Award from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The NYU School of Professional StudiesCenter for Publishing has announced a new scholarship award, the Ulysses Press Scholarship Fund….[T]he scholarship will provide tuition assistance to students in the Center for Publishing’s MS in Publishing and Summer Publishing Institute who demonstrate academic merit and a commitment to promoting diversity in the industry.” For more information, email ( or call (212-998-7100) the NYU SPS Grad Admissions Office.

Reminder! Applications are open for the We Need Diverse Books’ 2022 Native Children’s & YA Writing Intensive taking place Aug. 4 to Aug. 7 at The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas. Open to Native/First Nations writers, the intensive will include the sharing of “information, resources, and contacts related to children’s and YA writing, Native book for young readers, and the surrounding publishing world.” Scholarships are available for registration and lodging. Apply here by May 1.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Attention, Texas librarians! Please come to my signing at noon next Tuesday and “What’s New with Texas Middle Grade and YA Authors” at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Room 202 CD. Featured speakers: Samantha M. Clark, Simon & Schuster; Adrianna Cuevas, FSG/Macmillan; P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, Author; Cynthia Leitich Smith, VCFA/Candlewick/HarperChildrens; Christina Soontornvat, Author; and S.G. Wilson, Author.

I’m delighted to report that The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jenn Ferguson, cover by Reyna Hernandez (Heartdrum, 2022) has received its third and fourth starred review (Previous: ★ The Horn Book; ★ Kirkus Reviews):

Publishers Weekly (starred): “In a layered first-person portrayal of a young Indigenous woman navigating the edge of adulthood, Ferguson (who is Métis and white) tackles necessary issues…through well-wrought, complicated characterizations and prose that sings with poetry.”

Booklist (starred): “Lou is complex, smart, and honest, and a narrator readers will trust, love, and learn from as she works to repair friendships and gain security for her treasured family.”

Free virtual book launch for The Summer of Bitter and Sweet with author Jen Ferguson (Michif/Métis) and special guests Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache), Jamie Pacton, and Souta Calling Last (Blackfeet/Blood) will be hosted by The Writing Barn on May 19 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Also, I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day, cover by Michaela Goade (HarperChildren’s/Heartdrum) and Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young, cover by Shonto Begay (Heartdrum) have been nominated for the New Mexico Land of Enchantment Book Award. In addition, Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, cover by Nicole Niedhardt (Heartdrum) is a New York State Charlotte Award nominee.