Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabakukk, Stephani EatonSuma Subramaniam, Bree Rae, AJ Eversole and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Leo Espinosa (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview With Andrea Wang & Hyewon Yum: Review Luli and the Language of Tea from Maria Marshall. Peek: [Andrea Wang:] “[W]hat happened in the past can now help us to overcome and transcend our differences. I think that’s the theme of many of my books—that no matter where we come from, the color of our skin, or the language we speak, we have more in common than we might think.”


Interview With Author Shveta Thakrar by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “[F]igure out what kind of story you want to tell. Not what you think other people would want to read, but what the reader in you would want to see in the world. What would be fun for you to write? Follow that glimmer of a notion down the rabbit hole and see what results!”

Q&A With Author JaNay Brown-Wood by Yasmine Aslam-Hashmi from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[W]hile we’re looking for mirrors, we also need the sliding glass doors, and the windows are just as important. Because when you look into someone else’s experience…you can pinpoint things that feel different. ‘Oh, you do that in your home? I don’t.’ But you can also find…commonalities and say, ‘You do that! I did that too!’”

Interview with Swim, Jim! Debut Picture Book Author/Illustrator, Kaz Windness from Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Peek: “My advice for illustrators is cast a larger net for art inspiration….Go to the museum. Get inspired by musical theatre. Fall down the rabbit hole of Victorian fashion or hip-hop music or cave paintings. You are standing on the creative shoulders of thousands of years of artists…That can all become…fertile ground to draw inspiration from.”

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Emma Otheguy on the Delicate Dance of Storytelling for Kids by Michele Shaw from School Library Journal. Peek: “I am endlessly fascinated by…how the formats of [children’s] books intersect with the story.…I adore the dance between the words and the illustrations in a picture book, and I also love how middle grade novels allow me to dive fully into a world….I am especially fond of chapter books with their fun line drawings and wrapped text….”

Lolo’s Light by Liz Garton Scanlon with John Schu from MrSchuReads. Peek: “[The character] stands—wobbles—on that invisible wire dividing childhood from the adult world, with the eagerness…but also the stunned shock at what it really means. In so many ways,…that’s what middle grade is—that liminal wobble between not knowing and knowing, between innocence and responsibility, between who you were and who you are becoming.”

Equity & Inclusion

An interview With Rosiee Thor by Jess from Jessticulates. Peek: “For a long time, I thought it was my job as an aro and ace author to…carve out a space for us and make other queer people see us…[B]ut the longer I participate in the community the more I think my job…is to create safe and compelling narratives for aro and ace readers.…”

Union Square Kids

Q&A With Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, Free At Last by Anisa Lewis from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I believe that in general, people hold a very narrow view and incomplete picture of events that took place in the lives of the formerly enslaved. This is a result of suppressed stories, inaccurate and misleading narratives, and failure to consider the humanity of a newly unshackled segment of our population.”

Want To Shape Your Bicultural Child’s Sense of Self Before Society Does? Lead Them To Books by Meg Medina from the Los Angeles Times. Peek: “[I]n 2021, only about 9% of children’s books were written by Latinx people. Even fewer (7.6%) were about us….Books and story—even very culturally specific ones—can bring kids to knowing themselves and others better. Encouraging your kids to have a relationship with books could be the most impactful thing a parent of color can do.”

Q&A With Derrick Barnes by Idris Grey from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “It’s so important that white children…see Black children not in a stereotypical way. If they don’t have Black children in their immediate environment, they’re going to always defer to those stereotypes….[My books] happen to be slice-of-life books that feature a beautiful Black child with a beautiful Black family. I…want to normalize how magnificent we are.”


Boreal Book Club: Farah Heron by Erin Catto from Style Canada. Peek: “[M]y YA books are about the grandchildren of immigrants…like my own kids. They don’t have cultural confusion or cultural struggles. They have Canadian-born liberal parents. But that doesn’t make them less Indian….[M]ost [YA] books I came across with South Asian teenagers were about…cultural struggles. I wanted to write a story with kids more like my own.”

Eric Thomas Explores Queer Friendship in “Kings of B’more” by Johnny Levanier from Into. Peek: “It is okay to love your friends, to hug your friends, and to not want to marry your friends or kiss your friends. It’s also okay to want to kiss your friends if your friends want to kiss you back. But platonic love is underrepresented and I think it’s super important.”

Writing Craft

Quite the Treat. A Yellow Dog Blues Interview With Alice Faye Duncan and Chris Raschka by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: [Alice Faye Duncan:] “Music and poetry are steeped in mood and feeling. No matter what I write, I lean on feeling and some internal rhythm that has no set meter. When this writing process doesn’t work, I put the draft aside. Or I keep wrestling with the words until I find a lyrical pattern that fits the tone of my story.”

Balzer + Bray

Interview With Author Dean Atta by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “One of my favorite things is to attend workshops on topics I’m writing about….When I can’t find a workshop on any given topic I want to write about, I’ll read books, watch films and listen to podcasts on the topic, which usually sparks new ideas and connections when I sit down to write.”

Walter Honoree Kekla Magoon on Revolution in Our Time & Creating Social Change Now by Yasmine Aslam-Hashmi from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “It’s good and important to write about historical figures, to keep our history alive. Accuracy is paramount, which means making sure that facts are represented as well and clearly as possible, but also trying to understand the…stories that bring the facts to life and help explain why and how things happened the way they did….”

Q&A With Eliot Schrefer, Queer Ducks (and Other Animals) by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I love revising a first draft. Since I tend to draft to the end of a book without…reread[ing] what I’ve put down, the first revision is when I find out what’s there….As I fix language and cut paragraphs, I also get the feeling that I’ve finished the workday in better shape than I started it….”

Greenwillow Books

I’m Not Small: A Chat With Nina Crews by Julie Danielson from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “I’ve been creating photo-illustrated books for a long time and was looking for ways to stretch creatively. While [the book] could have been done with photo-illustration, I think the simplicity of the digital collages is a better solution. And this new style has brought projects that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise….”

Q&A: Candice Iloh, Author of “Break This House” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I had to grieve my mother all over again. I had to accept that I might never stop grieving. I had to go to the darkest spaces of myself so…I could convey these feelings with deep authenticity. Embodying the emotions of my characters was…cathartic and exhausting and taking plenty of breaks saved my life.”

Author Interview With Vanessa Len [Only A Monster] from 24hr.YABookBlog. Peek: “This is my first book, and I knew…it would be a big project…So before I started I made a big list of all my favorite things—enemies to lovers, time travel, families with powers, heists, people who turn out to be more than they seem…[T]hen I drew on that list to create characters and a world.”


Cherry Lake Buys Tilbury House by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Cherry Lake Publishing Group of Ann Arbor, Mich., has acquired Tilbury House Publishers, the children’s publishing division of WordSplice Studio. Based in Thomaston, Maine, Tilbury House publishes about 200 titles with a focus on children’s books that explore such topics as cultural diversity, social justice, and the natural world.”

State of Global Kid Lit: An Industry Impacted by War, COVID, Is Flourishing by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “[T]he first thing you grasp at the [Bologna Children’s Book Fair] is the marvelous sensation that when it comes to children’s books, the United States is simply one of many countries present…Editors, agents, and reps from publishers and other media companies all come to ply their wares.…[T]he [2022] fair boasted 1,070 exhibitors from 90 countries….”

U.S. Book Show: Pondering a Healthy Publishing Industry by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Four [publishing] executives (in conversation with Astra House senior editor Daniel Vazquez) concluded that publishing is suffering…severe aches and pains. Nevertheless, they suggested, creative remedies could bolster the book business, so long as industry leaders reimagine old formulas—among them inadequate compensation structures, a too-narrow focus on bestsellers, and unreasonable expectations that result in staffer burnout.”

Rosen Publishing, “Scientific American” Launch Children’s/YA Imprint by Pamela Brill from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Rosen Publishing Group and Scientific American magazine have joined forces to create…Scientific American Educational Publishing. This imprint will launch with 16 titles in the fall, followed by 18 additional titles in spring….Bring Science Home will feature eight books focusing on core STEM concepts…Scientific American Explores Big Ideas will encompass eight titles on contemporary science….”


The American Booksellers Association‘s Virtual Children’s Institute (Ci10) takes place July 13. The event is a “full, one-day digital experience with Keynotes, Education sessions, Storytimes, as well as Affinity Group Meetups and a virtual Galley Room.” The keynote speakers are Charlie Jane Anders, Danielle Greendee, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Traci Sorell, and Karen Walrond.

A Bookshelf for All Ages by R.S. Mellette from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he age of the audience is not a genre….Target marketing by age has been around long enough that most people think it’s the only way to sell books…Everything old is new again, so let’s try something old as an experiment: a new shelf…[T]he family shelf. Here will be books with characters of various ages….”


School Librarians Are Disappearing: Here’s Why They Shouldn’t by Nikki DeMarco from Book Riot. Peek: “Data shows that there’s a decrease in school librarian positions….School libraries should be the community center of their school…Not understanding what school librarians do is a big part of the problem…The word ‘librarian’ doesn’t bring to mind the kind of leadership and support that most school librarians bring to their school’s culture.”


U.S. Book Show: How TikTok Is Transforming Book Marketing by Sophia Stewart from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he rise of TikTok and its literary subcommunity BookTok…has transformed the app into one of the most powerful digital marketing tools in publishing….Panelists agreed the genres that have gained the most traction on BookTok are romance, romcom, fantasy, and YA. [Ariele Fredman, at Atria Books] said she…found BookTok to be especially effective for women authors.…”

Making Social Media Work for Your Book by Autumn Kruse from Wild Things. Peek: “[S]ocial media can be used to make your marketing work and help your books reach more readers….[I] have had the most success with reels on Instagram. Reels and TikToks specifically can be helpful for authors because they are put into their own algorithm that reaches beyond people who are following your profile.”

Austin SCBWI Marketing Panel Highlights & Takeaways: “…tips were discussed by seasoned panelists: author-editor Cynthia Leitich Smith, author Donna Janell Bowman, author-illustrator Vanessa Roeder, and author Rebekah Manley.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

P&P Live! Lyla Lee, Flip the Script. Politics and Prose Bookstore presents a conversation between YA authors Lyla Lee and Amélie Wen Zhao, during which they’ll discuss Lyla’s new book Flip the Script (Katherine Tegen Books, 2022). This free virtual event takes place May 31 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Quill Tree Books

The Writing Barn presents a free Virtual Book Launch for Manatee Summer (Quill Tree Books, 2022) by Evan Griffith. Evan will read from the book and converse with Bethany Hegedus about manatees and the book’s inspiration and journey. There will be a Q&A. The event takes place June 29 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Registration is open for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators‘ virtual 2022 Summer Conference taking place August 5 to August 7. There will be keynote presentations, panels of agents, editors and art directors, 30+ writing and illustrating breakout sessions, plus a bonus day to pitch editors/agents and an extra illustrators’ intensive.


Congratulations to Lawrence, Kansas-based The Raven Bookstore, and Book Travelers West’s commission rep Kurtis Lowe, for being named Publishers Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year and Sales Rep of the Year, respectively. The announcement was made at the U.S. Book Show.

Congratulations to those who made the Australian Booksellers Association’s 2022 Bookseller of the Year Shortlists in the categories of Bookseller of the Year, Young Bookseller of the Year, and Children’s Bookseller of the Year. The winners will be announded June 12 at the ABA Conference and Trade Exhibition taking place June 12 to June 13.

Levine Querido

Congratulations to the winners of the 57th Annual Nebula Awards, and especially to the winner for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction: A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido, 2021). “These awards are given to the writers of the most outstanding speculative fiction works released in 2021….”

Congratulations to the six illustrators whose books made the 2022 Klaus Flugge Prize Shortlist. The prize “is awarded to the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration.” The winner will be announced September 14.

Reminder! We Need Diverse Books is accepting submissions from publishers for the 2023 Walter Dean Myers Awards. The awards will be given in Teen and Younger Readers categories. The submission deadline is Nov. 15.

  • The awards event for the 2022 Walter Dean Myers Awards will take place June 23 at 7:30 a.m. pacific, 9:30 a.m. central,10:30 a.m. eastern. It will be livestreamed and tentatively held in person at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC.

Scholarships & Grants

SCBWI Impact and Legacy Fund. “The SCBWI Impact and Legacy Fund…[was] created to support the charitable activities and community purposes of SCBWI. Its programs and initiatives are…available to the entire children’s book community. The mission of the [fund] is to provide and administer specific endowments, grants, awards, and programs that enhance the effectiveness and reach of the children’s book community.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

As you may know, More Than 1,300 Children’s Book Authors Condemn Book Banning. I was among those 1,300. The news went live last week, and I want to underscore it after the initial splash of the announcement. As author Christina Soontornvat writes:

“Our concern is not for the books themselves, but for the children, families, and communities who are caught in the crosshairs of these campaigns.”

My gratitude to Christina for her thoughtful leadership on this important issue. If you have not read and shared the letter, please do so now.

What else? Good news! Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Heartdrum, 2021, 2022), has been named to the 2022-2024 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award List. Speaking of which…

REMINDER! “More than 140 books were submitted for…the 32nd Annual Reading the West Book Awards. Independent booksellers across 14 states read & reviewed all the books to choose their favorites,” including Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids.” Now they’re asking you to help select the best! Please vote!

More Personally – Gayleen

I’m enjoying the ARC of A Perfect Mistake by Melanie Conklin (Little, Brown, July 2022). It’s a layered story with mystery, friendship that explores the expectations American society places on boys.

This summer I’ll begin a new chapter in my life: small business owner! We plan to open Hill Country Highland, a bed and breakfast retreat near Austin, Texas, in July.

Personal Links – Cynthia

Insights on children’s books, young-reader education, and the craft of writing! PBS Books, in partnership with the American Indian Library Association, interviewed trailblazer Dawn Quigley, author of the JO JO MAKOONS chapter book series, including the recently released JO JO MAKOONS: FANCY PANTS (#2): Trailblazing Women Writer: Dawn Quigley.

Mom’s Demand Action Book Club: Living Through Gun Violence from Everytown. Includes bibliographies of Stories of Activism for picture book, chapter book, middle grade, and young adult readers.