Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Charlesbridge, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

It’s Never Too Late: Seven Authors on Making Their YA Debuts After Age 50 by Julia Edelstein from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [YA/Middle Grade Author Betty G. Yee:] “I kept going because I found that I was my truest self when I was writing. I kept going because of the encouragement and support of my friends and writing group. I kept going because I didn’t want to wake up one day and say, ‘I could have done that’…. ”

Keeping a Young Girl Company As She Walks Through Grief by Alice Cary from BookPage. Peek: [Liz Garton Scanlon:] “[K]ids are…young human beings who wonder about and reckon with things like loss and grief and heartache just like we do! When adults suggest that kids shouldn’t read or know or think about those things, kids feel shame and confusion and loneliness and fear. Let’s not do that to them….Let’s, instead, keep them company.”

Q&A With Jesmeen Kaur Deo, TJ Powar Has Something To Prove by Thushanthi Ponweera from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I try not to hinge my happiness on external factors out of my control….[A]t the end of the day, any longevity…in this industry will come from within….[I]t’s important to not lose sight of the reason we came here in the first place, the love for storytelling. The rest is out of our hands.”

Matt de la Peña and Corinna Luyken Discuss Patchwork by Bianca Schulze from The Children’s Book Review. Peek: [Corinna Luyken:] “[I] think love…can carry you through…The creative process is not always easy, and if you’re too focused on the end result, it can really trip you up.…I pick up other picture books that inspire me and make me happy. And it reminds me that this is a community I really want to be part of.”


Q&A With Sara Saedi, I Miss You, I Hate This by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[T]he first question you should ask yourself is ‘am I the person to write this story?’ I don’t subscribe to the idea that writers should only create characters whose lives are identical to the ones they’ve lived, but I do think…you need to have a connection and some source of identification with your characters.”

Nearer My Freedom: An Interview…With Lesley Younge by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “From my perspective as a veteran teacher, the interest young people have in learning the truth about history is growing. They are trying to understand what is happening in our world and increasingly aware that underneath every present day situation are vast historical roots, despite what the adults around them may say or not say.”

Equity & Inclusion

Melanie Gillman’s “Other Ever Afters” Part 2: On Craft & Building New, Queer Fairy Tales by Elias Rosner from Multiversity Comics. Peek: “I feel like the importance [of telling queer fairy tales] is kind of self evident in a lot of places. If there are queer people in the world, then queer people deserve stories in any genre, including fairy tales. So on some level, the basic answer is just queer people exist, therefore queer stories should exist.”


Close-Up on: Svetlana Chmakova from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “It seems to me that [the graphic novel] feels more accessible to fresh new voices now. I see a lot more kids of very diverse backgrounds loving them and trying to make [them] their own….I am so excited to see what the next decade will bring; what new voices will be given a chance to speak….”

Q&A With g. haron davis, Cam Montgomery, and Adrianne White, All Signs Point To Yes by Suniti Srinivasan from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “The extensive queer rep in the book wasn’t planned;…things just shook out this way….What struck me most was the varied expressions of queerness—some characters are fully out, some only to a few trusted people, some to no one at all. It feels representative of actual queer experiences…I love that for any queer teens reading.”

Q&A With H.E. Edgmon, The Fae Keeper by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I want [trans kids] to know, regardless of where they are right now and what the people around them are saying, there is a whole big world full of people who want them exactly as they are. They are powerful, and they are loved. I love them. And there is a community waiting for them.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

In Conversation: Jyoti Rajan Gopal and Supriya Kelkar from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Jyoti Rajan Gopal:] “In America, where I have lived for the past 28 years, that sense of belonging and not belonging continued as a constant presence in my life. I learned to accept and embrace it but it took…a long time. Even now, I am sometimes overcome by that feeling, of belonging everywhere and not belonging anywhere.”

Q&A With Saadia Faruqi & Aneesa Mumtaz, The Wonders We Seek by Yasmine Aslam-Hasmi from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Saadia Faruqi:] “I’ve been writing books for this age group for the last several years, and felt the need for a biographical collection for my readers when I saw the lack of current resources related to Muslims….Middle school students are always eager to learn and absorb new information, as well as shatter stereotypes.”

Writing Craft

The Flamingo: An Interview With Guojing About Her Latest, Loveliest Creation by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “I wanted the grandmother’s story to be imaginatively limitless, so I used…vibrant colors to tell it. I thought the more subdued I made the reality pages, the more exciting the grandmother’s story would be…Using the two color palettes as the vocabulary for my drawings, I tried to build two distinct worldviews and sensory experiences.”

First Second

Interview With Author Claribel A. Ortega by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “[My process is] basically chaos. I try to outline, but the story always changes a ton no matter how much I try to plan ahead. My characters are rebellious as well….I’m usually at the desk by ten,…trying to write, and I’ll be there until at least six, even if no writing has actually occurred.”

Interview With Author Shachi Kaushik by Lindsay Ward from Critter Lit. Peek: “I had no idea…[how] publishing [works], and I was convinced to self-publish. But then I joined The Writing Barn class in 2019 and after my first class, the world of publishing…opened. I joined the writing communities…Took classes, attended events, and continued to write. I found my agent in 2020 and sold my book in 2021.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

FAQ: Laekan Zea Kemp from Laekan Zea Kemp: Peek: “My writing process is different with every book. Not only do I approach each project with a different level of experience and in a different state of mind but because I write across genres and age categories each one demands different things. But mostly I’m a discovery writer who only plans a few chapters ahead….”

Interview With Author Amani Uduman by Lindsay Ward from Critter Lit. Peek: “There are various reasons as to why work can be rejected…[I]t’s simply a case of dust yourself off and move forward. There was one particular manuscript of mine which made it to an acquisition meeting, and although the editors loved my work, there was simply no room on their list for another picture book.”

Check This Out: Big Rig by L. Marie from El Space–The Blog of L. Marie. Peek: [Louise Hawes:] “I’ve researched trucks and the trucking industry. I’ve interviewed dozens of drivers, put plenty of miles in on big rigs. As a passenger. No, I’ve never driven one; at 100 pounds and 5 feet, I wouldn’t trust myself in the driver’s seat. I reached out to organizations like Trucker Buddy and Women in Trucking….”


Meet Alex Aster, the TikToker Changing the Publishing Industry for the Better by Marilyn La Jeunesse from HuffPost. Peek: “Aster joined TikTok in March 2021 to share the concept of a young adult novel she’d been working on for several years. The novel…received tons of rejections from publishers…‘That’s when I decided to make the TikTok video…asking the internet, “Would you read this book?”’…Her novel went to auction and sold two weeks later….”


5 Ways To Increase Nonfiction Circulation and Create Passionate Nonfiction Readers from School Library Journal. Peek: “A growing body of research shows that many students enjoy nonfiction as much as or more than fiction…Discover how five school librarians increased…students’ interest in nonfiction through weeding aggressively, re-arranging and displaying books in creative ways, and highlighting it with innovative activities.” This free one-hour webinar takes place Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. pacific, 1 p.m. central, 2 p.m. eastern. Register here.


Award-Winning Author David A. Robertson Appointed Editorial Director of New Imprint at Tundra Book Group from Tundra Book Group. Peek: “David A. Robertson will join Tundra Book Group in the newly created role of Editorial Director, in which he will develop, shape, launch, and oversee a new children’s imprint dedicated to publishing Indigenous writers and illustrators. This yet-to-be-named imprint will…publish books for young readers of all ages across all categories of children’s books.”

Amazon Reforms Ebook Policies…. from The Society of Authors. “In a major improvement for authors of books…on Kindle, Amazon…confirmed plans to change its systems to address complaints about…Amazon’s returns policy for ebooks [that] currently allows readers to receive a full refund for up to 14 days, even if they have read the full work….‘[W]e will de-activate self-service returns for any book read past 10%….’”

Saudi Arabia Opens to Global Publishing Pros by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Riyadh International Book Fair [Sept. 29 to Oct. 8] opened with a two-day long Publishers Conference…[Topics] included audiobook trends, children’s book publishing, distribution challenges, the future of storytelling, book marketing, self-publishing, translation, and the best means of developing the book marketing [in] the Middle East….[A]s part of the Saudi Vision 2030 program, the new Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission was established….”


At Energized NEIBA [New England Independent Booksellers Association] Trade Show, Attendees Happy To Be Back by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “One well-attended panel at the start of the show was intended to help new booksellers navigate the industry….A number of the topics raised are of equal concern to seasoned booksellers, from what to do about carrying books by local authors to whether buying non-returnable inventory made sense for stores that want to be green.”

Applications Now Open for Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship for Emerging Bookseller-Activist. Peek: “The Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship for Emerging Bookseller-Activists…help[s] a bookseller with fewer than five years of experience connect with other booksellers, publishers, and authors…[The winner] will be awarded…travel and hotel for attendance to Winter Institute 2023, travel and hotel for attendance to their 2023 regional fall tradeshow, and a stipend to fund a community outreach project.” Apply here by Oct. 15.

Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse by Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris from The New York Times. Peek: “Yu and Me Books is one of more than 300 new independent bookstores that have sprouted across the United States in the past couple of years, in a surprising and welcome revival after an early pandemic slump…. [A]s the number of stores has grown, the book selling business—traditionally overwhelmingly white—has…become much more diverse.”

International Update: BA Launches Sustainability Grant Fund; France Sets Delivery Fee for Online Book Sales from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has launched a £100,000…Sustainability Grant fund to support booksellers in making tangible changes to reduce their environmental impact. BA members can apply for a Sustainability Grant…to improve the sustainability of their business…France plans to impose a minimum delivery fee of €3…on online book orders of less than €35….”

Education/Other Resources/Events

The in-person and virtual 2022 Neustadt Lit Festival, which takes place Oct. 24 to Oct. 26, will be headlined by Senegalese writer Boubacar Boris Diop, the winner of the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. On Oct. 25 at 11:45 a.m. pacific, 1:45 p.m. central, 2:45 p.m. eastern, Kathy Neustadt will announce the winner of the 2023 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, and at 1 p.m. pacific, 3 p.m. central, 4 p.m. eastern, Diop will deliver the 2022 Neustadt keynote talk. View the schedule here and register for the festival here.

Philomel Books

Red Planet Books & Comics presents a Joint Book Launch Party with writer Laurel Goodluck and illustrator Jonathan Nelson for their new picture book Forever Cousins (Charlesbridge, 2022), and also with Traci Sorell for her new picture book She Persisted: Wilma Mankiller (Philomel Books, 2022). The event takes place at the Bow & Arrow Brewing Co., 608 McKnight Ave N.W., Albuquerque, New Mexico on Oct. 8 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. mountain time.

The free in-person 2022 Boston Book Festival takes place at Copley Square on Oct. 29, with a kick-off on Oct. 28. There will be plenty of young adult, middle grade, and picture book offerings. A few of the many Young Readers/Young Adult presenters include Malinda Lo (keynote), Tiffany D. Jackson, and Traci Sorrell. View the festival headliners here.

After Strong First Season, Literati Book Fairs Expand Into New Territories from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Schools in select cities across the country will be able to operate a Literati Book Fair in the new academic year. Literati…is expanding operations for the 2022-2023 school year…A curator and distributor of children’s books,…Literati launched its school book fair business across the United States in March 2022 with the purchase of Follett Book Fairs.”


Tate Publishing

Congratulations to the 2022 Klaus Fugge Prize winner: Joseph Namara Hollis for his book Pierre’s New Hair (Tate Publishing, 2021). The £5,000 prize goes to “the most promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration.” The Chair of the judges described Hollis’ book as “original and a joy to look at. While very funny, it also slips in a message about valuing what’s really important—friends, joy, art.”

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, especially in the category of Children and Youth: Sorry for Your Loss by Joanne Levy (Orca Book Publishers, 2021).

Congratulations to the winners of the New England Independent Booksellers Association’s New England Book Awards. The winners in the categories of Children’s, Middle Grade, and Young Adult are, respectively: Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten, illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr. (Charlesbridge, 2022), Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022), and Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh, illustrated by Sara Alfageeh (Quill Tree Books, 2022).

Walden Pond Press

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Ignyte Awards, and especially to the Middle Grade and Young Adult book winners: A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido, 2021)(Best Novel YA) and Root Magic by Eden Royce (Walden Pond Press, 2021)(Best in Middle Grade).

Scholarships & Grants

Applications are closing soon (Sept. 30 at 8:59 p.m. pacific, 10:59 p.m. central, 11:59 p.m. eastern) for the 2023 We Need Diverse Books Mentorships. Fifteen mentorships are being offered, split among these categories: Picture Book Text, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Illustration. Apply here to work with experienced professionals in the field. The mentorship runs Jan. to Dec. 2023.

We Need Diverse Books is teaming up with Writers and Artists Across the Country to provide to educators—through their Authors in the Classroom program—with the opportunity to win an hour-long author visit (virtual or in person) and receive books for their students, classroom or library. Apply here by Oct. 12.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Love, solace, and solidarity to my Indigenous friends up north on Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (AKA Orange Shirt Day).

I’m delighted to report that advanced reader copies of Harvest House (Candlewick, April 2023) have arrived, which means we’re another step close to the release the novel. Pre-order from BookPeopleBookShopIndiebound, Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

It’s been a relatively quiet week here. I’ve been busy reading manuscript submissions for Heartdrum and preparing for fall author events.

More Personally – Gayleen

High school drama students trapped in a creepy motel during a blizzard is the perfect read during continuing summer here in Texas.

After revisiting April Henry‘s guest post on adding tension, I couldn’t resist downloading the audiobook of Two Truths And A Lie (Christy Ottaviano Books, 2022). So insightful to see April’s craft advice put into action and play out in a mystery that grabbed me by the throat with stakes that wouldn’t let me stop listening.

More Personally – Suma

The author copies of my picture book arrived this week! Namaste is a Greeting, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (Candlewick, Oct. 2022), is a real book! Here’s my unboxing video:

Personal Links – Cynthia

Field of Light – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Personal Links – Gayleen

McKinney Public Library Adds Two Robots To Its Staff by Virginia Mingorance from Local Profile.

Personal Links – Gail

Your Guide to Fall 2022 YA Books: October-December by Kelly Jensen from Book Riot.