Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabakukk, Suma Subramaniam, AJ Eversole and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: I Hope by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard (Orca Book Publishers, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A With Guadalupe García McCall, Echoes of Grace by Kaley Kiermayr from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[M]any don’t understand…how creatives can get lost in their own little world and be perfectly content there…[I]t takes courage to be a creative—to make time and space to nurture the gift, to build boundaries around that space, and to protect the time at work on creative endeavors. That’s an important message for young people.”

Scholastic Press

A.S. King Shares How Kids Can Handle More Than You Think with Sean Tulien from Peek: “The only way you can move forward is with the truth. If you don’t face the trauma and you can’t be honest about it, then you can’t actually move forward. That means you can’t heal….This is what I say to teenagers. This is why I go into schools. I talk about this.”

Q&A With Kacen Callender, Moonflower by Tamara Ellis Smith from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Writing from the heart for me means writing from the perspective that we’re all worthy of unconditional love and the understanding that we are all reflections of one another….[A]nything that connects humans to one another with love and empathy touches something that resonates deeply within each of us, and those stories tend to rise.”

A Journey of Transformation—The Zena Sutherland Lecture by Yuyi Morales from The Horn Book. Peek: “I think that perhaps I am someone who carries books. I carry books in my heart, in my hands, as I am making them. I carry them when I read them to children, or when I share them, or when I bring them as gifts. I am a book bearer, and so are you.”

Scholastic Press

Interview With Author Will Taylor by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “I love the way scenes…stack together and accumulate. Putting words into a blank space is…an act of faith, and it’s always magical to see the threads you’ve laid down start to weave together, to see the characters learn and change, and to be able to channel your own emotions into something other people can experience.”

Authors Can Be Agents of Hope by Anat Deracine from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Hope requires agency on the parts of everyone involved in a book—the author, the protagonist, the agent, the editor, and the publisher. The author must not just believe in their story and that it’s worth telling but act as such, rewriting and revising until the message is so clear it’s undeniable.”

Equity & Inclusion

Author Ayana Gray Discusses Her New Novel, “Beasts of Ruin” and More by Sophia Soto from Nerds of Color. Peek: “I’m so glad that talks around diversity in media are becoming more commonplace. Subliminally, when you don’t see yourself in stories, it implies that you don’t belong, that there’s no place for you….[W]hen we create stories wherein everyone has a chance to be represented, we create collective empathy, which is always a positive.”

Candlewick Press

Inclusion Doesn’t Always Mean Representation, A Guest Post by Chaz Hayden from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “[I] wanted able-bodied people to understand my character and empathize with his problems on a human level first. A young person with SMA [Spinal Muscular Atrophy] is exactly the same as a young person without SMA. Both have passions and want to experience friendship and love and everything else that comes with being a teenager.”

Q&A With Aaron H. Aceves, This Is Why They Hate Us by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I can’t think of a traditionally published YA novel about a bisexual Mexican-American boy written by a bisexual Mexican-American author….I can’t believe I get to take tiny, unique moments from my bi little life and put them into a book that tens, if not dozens, of people are going to read.”

Q&A With Debbi Michiko Florence, Sweet and Sour by Nawal Qarooni from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I am a third generation Japanese American…[B]ecause of this, I grew up not feeling othered….It wasn’t until I moved that I realized people look at me differently….When I write my books, for representation, I have infused all of my experiences in the characters…and mine are not that of all Japanese Americans. This is just one slice.”

Page Street Kids

Q&A With Karen Yin, So Not Ghoul! by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I’ve never cared for the sentiment ‘Be yourself,’ because I learned early on that there are consequences to self-expression for some but not others. We’re not free in equal degrees….I encourage readers to challenge the realities reinforcing unfairness instead of developing a habit of helplessness. How things are is not how things can or should be.”

How Writing YA Novels Helped Me Find the Forgotten Parts of Me, a Guest Post by Sabina Khan from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “[I’ve] found a way to take those pieces of me I thought were lost and bring them back to life in characters who are bold and adventurous, who take on the challenges of their world and…fight back and try hard to carve out a space for themselves where they are accepted for who they are.”

Writing Craft

Q&A With Reem Faruqi, Anisa’s International Day by Khadejah Khan from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[C]onnect with authors and critique partners who look like you and share your beliefs, as well as connect with authors who don’t share your faith, culture, and race. That way, you can get a variety of opinions and insight on your manuscripts. I think it’s important to be in both worlds.”


What is Writing? A Guest Post by Michelle Mohrweis from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “I’m autistic and ADHD. I can’t always explain how the two blend together for me, but I can tell you that I’m no good at sitting still.…With dictation software, I could literally talk to my computer while walking circles around my room!…[T]he movement unlocked something in me. The words flowed when I was moving!”

Q&A With Karina Nicole González, The Coquíes Still Sing by Tiara C. Allen from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Perhaps the most difficult scenes to write were the scenes leading up to and during the hurricane because it’s critical to strike a balance between creating an honest depiction versus causing the reader significant emotional distress. However,…picture books can be cathartic not just for children, but also for the adults who read with them.”

Q&A With Adriana Hernández Bergstrom, Abuelita and I Make Flan by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[T]he WNDB mentorship program is how I met Joyce Wan and she mentored me while I was working on revisions…The Walter Grant was life changing. I was able to stop doing part-time work for a few months, went to a retreat…, took additional courses…, and was able to focus on my manuscript dummies and portfolio.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Series Openers: Six Authors on Their New Beginnings by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Kwame Alexander:] “With a standalone novel, you tie it up….[Y]ou have a beginning, middle, and end. A trilogy has a beginning, middle, and end in each book, but the ends are beginnings….You want to complete it, but at the same time…leave just enough for the reader to crave and grow impatient waiting for that next book….”

In Conversation: Ibram X. Kendi and Loveis Wise from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Loveis Wise, Illustrator:] “Lots of life around me inspired the work….[M]y relationship to nature and spending time with trees near rivers really informed the way that I wanted to tackle what the imagery should feel like. I wanted to…sit with so many of these nature elements that informed the beauty and magic of what the work should be.”


Yu and Me Books: A Dream Realized and a Community Uplifted by Andrea Ruggirello from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Lucy Yu:] “I had no idea what to expect, but as a small indie bookstore owner, you really are doing so many jobs. You are the whole receiving team, purchasing team, bookseller, barista, supply chain manager, and accountant. I have learned so much from opening up my own business and I continue to learn more every day.”


Nosy Crow to Launch U.S. Company by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “More than a decade after opening its London office and successfully publishing into the international children’s market, Nosy Crow will expand its presence in the U.S. with the spring 2023 launch of Nosy Crow Inc. Based in Boston…, the new company will publish…[a] full roster of genres…ranging from books for infants to works for middle-grade readers.”

Trend Watch With Middle Grade Dealmakers by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Alex Slater, GreenburgerKids:] “I’m talking about middle grade horror all the time these days!…[S]ubmissions are stories from people of color, stories from people who wish to retell ancient myths, and stories that are using horror to discuss and dissect real trauma that middle grade usually skirts around…I’m enjoying meeting writers who are trying to scare me, because it’s working.”


Attract More Readers by Including These 3 Author Bio Essentials by Sandra Beckwith from Build Book Buzz. Peek: “[W]rite your bio in the third person….[P]retend you’re a reporter writing about someone else….Many authors leave out important specifics. For novelists, these can be tidbits that infuse the bio with the writer’s personality. Nonfiction authors need details that establish credibility….You might be tempted to confuse your author bio with your life story. Don’t.”


School Library Journal’s free virtual 2022 Day of Dialog takes place Oct. 6 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. “Our daylong program of author panels, in-depth conversations, and keynote talks will leave you informed, inspired, and entertained. Come hear about the hottest forthcoming titles for children, tweens, and teens, from nonfiction and romance to picture books and graphic novels.” Register here.

Library Journal‘s free virtual 2022 Day of Dialog takes place Oct. 20 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. “[Y]ou’ll hear from top authors in genre fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction. And you still get to dialog by visiting virtual booths, talking with authors, and networking with colleagues….All sessions will be available for viewing on-demand within an hour of their initial broadcast, and the entire event will be available on-demand until Jan. 20, 2023.” Register here.

The Association for Library Services to Children’s 2022 National Institute: Light Up the Future takes place Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. The conference, which is held every two years, is devoted to children’s librarianship, literature, and technology. Christina Soontornvat will be the keynote speaker. Other children’s authors in attendance include Hena Khan, B. B. Alston, and Julian Randall. View the schedule here and register here.

Education/Other Resources/Events


Black Pearl Books presents Launch Party With Christina Soontornvat in celebration of her new graphic novel The Tryout, illustrated by Joanna Cacao (Graphix, 2022). Meet the author and snag some swag! The event takes place Sept. 17 at 3 p.m. central at Black Pearl Books, 7112 Burnet Rd., Austin, Texas.

The Latinx Kidlit Book Festival “is a virtual book celebration aimed at promoting literacy, building empathy and strengthening diversity and inclusion in schools, classrooms and libraries everywhere.” The festival takes place Oct. 13 to Oct. 14 on the festival’s YouTube channel. There will be keynotes, panels, craft sessions and more that are suitable for students from Pre-K to grade 12. There are additional pre-festival sessions for writers and educators. You can view the schedule here.

The free Wisconsin Book Festival, in partnership with Madison Public Library Foundation, takes place Oct. 13 to Oct. 16 at the Madison Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., Madison, Wisconsin. The festival boasts “a robust schedule of accomplished and new writers whose fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books appeal to all ages of readers.” There will be a mix of in-person and virtual events.

Albert Whitman & Company

BookBar presents Kellye Crocker in conversation with Claudia Mills, in celebration of Kellye’s new book, Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties (Albert Whitman & Company, 2022). The event takes place Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. mountain at BookBar, 4280 Tennyson Street, Denver, Colorado. Register here.

Grace Lin, author/illustrator, and Alvina Ling, Vice President/Editor-in-Chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, will deliver the 2022 Charlotte Zolotow Lecture on Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. central in Great Hall, Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The lecture will be recorded and available for later viewing. The lecture honors Charlotte Zolotow, a distinguished children’s book editor for 38 years and author of more than 65 picture books.


Congratulations to Elizabeth Acevedo for being named New Young People’s Poet Laureate, one of the literary prizes of the Poetry Foundation’s 2022 Pegasus Awards. The New Young People’s Poet Laureate Award is awarded every two years to a living writer whose career has been devoted to writing exceptional poetry for young readers. “This laureateship aims to promote poetry to children and their families, teachers, and librarians over the course of its two-year tenure.”

Katherine Tegen Books

Congratulations to the winners of the 41st Annual Northern California Book Awards. The winners in the Children’s Literature categories include: Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas by Elizabeth Shreeve, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Candlewick Press, 2021)(Younger Readers), The Samosa Rebellion by Shanthi Sekaran (Katherine Tegen Books, 2021)(Middle Grade), and The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends, 2021)(Young Adult).

Congratulations to the 2021 winners and finalists of the Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards. The Picture Book winner is We Move the World by Kari Lavelle, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (HarperCollins, 2021). The Middle Grade/Young Adult winner is Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs (Sourcebooks Young Readers, 2021).

2022 NBA Longlist for Young People’s Literature Announced by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The National Book Foundation has revealed the [ten] 2022 National Book Award longlist for Young People’s Literature. The five finalists will be named on Oct. 4, and the winner will be announced…on Nov. 16…This year’s longlist features two authors [Traci Chee, Anna-Marie McLemore] who have been previously recognized by the National Book Awards….”

We Need Diverse Books is now accepting submissions from publishers for the 2023 Walter Awards. The awards will be given in Teen and Younger Readers categories. “A submission must be written by a diverse author and the submission must be a diverse work. If a work has co-authors, at least one of the authors must be diverse.” The submission deadline is Nov. 15. The awards will be announced in Jan. 2023.


Applications are open until Sept. 30 for the 2023 We Need Diverse Books Mentorships, which pair writers and illustrators with an experienced professional in the field. Fifteen mentorships are offered, split among these categories: Picture Book Text, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Illustration. Mentorships are “available to diverse writers or any writers or illustrators who have completed a full draft of a manuscript for children or teens featuring a diverse main character or diverse central subject matter. The illustration mentorship is available to any diverse illustrator who has a portfolio and several sample illustrations completed.” The mentorship runs Jan. to Dec. 2023. Apply here.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Welcome back, Cynsational readers! We hope you had a wonderful summer. There’s so much terrific news to share!

First, you may want to catch up with me via:

I also had the honor of participating on the keynote panel of Ci10 with Traci Sorell and Danielle Greendeer, moderated by Britt Camacho. For more information, check out ‘Humility, Responsibility, and Prioritizing Community’: Native Authors at Ci10 by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly.

Available for pre-order!

In my book news:

In Heartdrum news:

Rosemary Brosnan and Cynthia Leitich Smith at Heartdrum have bought, in a preempt, debut author Cheryl Isaacs’s “The Unfinished,” a YA horror novel about a Kanien’kéha:ka girl who stumbles on a black pond in the forest and becomes haunted by an ancient evil and Unfinished beings who steal people from the town, and must turn to the culture she never felt connected with before to save everyone, including her missing best friend. Publication is set for fall 2024; Natalie Lakosil at Irene Goodman Agency negotiated the two-book deal for world English rights.

Available for pre-order!

More Personally – Gayleen

While Cynsations was on summer hiatus, Varian Johnson selected my opening chapters for Austin SCBWI’s Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award. He’s currently reading my complete middle grade manuscript and I look forward to his feedback later this fall.

We caught up after an Austin SCBWI meeting at BookPeople, discussing the recent tide of book challenges in schools and libraries across the United States.

More Personally – Gail

Kids Story Studio students show off their drawings.

I’ve had a fantastic summer filled with reading, writing, teaching, and kidlit events. In the spring, I joined the staff of Neighbors Magazine (regional publication) as a contributing writer. So far, I’ve published 20 news pieces. I also attended Antioch University LA’s MFA in Writing June Residency (open to all AULA alumni), during which Issue 21 of Lunch Ticket Literary Journal (LT) went live (I was an interviewer and assistant editor for that issue). After residency, I recommitted to LT, as lead editor of the YA Literature team and as an interviewer. Since then I’ve been busy reading and evaluating submissions and conducting interviews for LT’s current issue.

In addition, as the co-founder and instructor of Kids Story Studio, a free story writing and drawing class for kids ages 7 to 10, I’ve been busy preparing lesson plans and teaching every week. The kids are outstanding storytellers. Kids Story Studio is now in its eighth month. In the midst of this, I’ve carved out time to do revisions on my middle grade novel and attend some writing webinars.

I’m excited about our fall season at Cynsations, where I’m the industry news reporter (I compile most of the children’s-YA literature news content for Cynsational News). At Cynsations, you can always find upbeat and valuable information about the children’s-YA literature community, writing, illustrating, and publishing.

More Personally – Suma

My debut fiction picture book Namaste is a Greeting, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat made (Candlewick, Oct. 11, 2022) the “Most Exciting Picture Books in Fall 2022” list of Read Brightly. The link to the full post is here. Look at the gorgeous covers and stories in the list!

This week is also a special one for my debut nonfiction picture book biography, She Sang For India illustrated by Shreya Gupta (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Nov. 8, 2022). It’s the wonderful M.S. Subbulakshmi’s birthday on September 16, 1916.

More Personally – AJ

I’ve spent the summer tackling my Middle Grade book TBR pile and my favorite so far has been Valentina Salazar is Not A Monster Hunter by Zoraida Cordova. I love her YA work and her Middle Grade did not disappoint.

Personal Links – Cynthia

New MG Book: Be Real, Macy Weaver by Lakita Wilson by Elisa Zied. Peek: “launching a novel can be a bit of a distraction. Before the books actually publish, it’s just you and your manuscript—no outside feedback except what happens between you and your editor—which still feels very much like a safe space. But, once people know a book is coming out…!”

Personal Links – Gayleen

Texans for the Right to Read is a grassroots coalition of concerned Texas residents organized by the Texas Library Association. The coalition opposes the current movement to ban books from Texas libraries based on content subjectively deemed inappropriate.