Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabakukk, Suma Subramaniam, A.J. Eversole and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: Brown Is Beautiful by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Noor Sofi (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)), 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview: Rati Mehrotra by Caroline M. Yoachim from Uncanny Magazine. Peek: “I often return to themes of transformation and rebirth…Sometimes, you can’t change the world you were given, even if you are courageous and steadfast. You can only change yourself….Hope is an important element to me as well…No matter how dark things seem, there has to be a candle to guide your way.”

Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Q&A With S.K. Ali by Yasmin Belkhyr from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I feel like there’s such an unwillingness in greater society to accept that everyone’s experiences can be so different and the reasons that we engage with the world in the ways we do is because of that. I wanted readers to take away that they can be unapologetically passionate about what they care about.”

MacKids Spotlight: Theodore Taylor III, Off the Wall from MacKids School and Library. Peek: “[G]raffiti has existed in some form for nearly all of human history…[I]t’s a natural urge for people to draw on surfaces and communicate in that way….A lot of graffiti is illegal, but perhaps this book…[can] lead to more legal walls and mural opportunities for artists who want to express themselves on a larger scale.”

Kidlit Interview With the Fabulous Author, Valerie Bolling by Carol Gordon Ekster from Writers’ Rumpus. Peek: “Home is a place where we (should) feel comfortable, safe, and loved. I want children to feel that way when they read my books. Most of all…I want them to feel seen and heard, valued and validated. This is especially true for children who may not often see themselves and their experiences reflected in books.”

Roaring Brook Press

MacKids Spotlight: Jas Hammonds from MacKids School and Library. Peek: “Read widely across genres and age ranges. Journal. Maintain a sense of wonder when dreaming up story ideas. And have fun! The best stories are the ones when you can tell the authors were having the time of their lives writing it. And remember only you can write your story….”

Interview: Yamile Saied Méndez by Megan Lord from Shelf Media Group. Peek: “Storytelling is a human trait we use to pass on survival skills, whether we know it or not. We can understand a society by the art it produces, and in my case, my writing is my activism and my way of bearing witness to the things I experience and observe.”

Equity & Inclusion

Five Questions for Andrea L. Rogers from The Horn Book. Peek: “There is not a lot of horror (or contemporary fiction) out there being told through a Native lens….[W]hen I tried to find books by Native people to give my high school students…and, later, my daughters, I couldn’t find them….At some point I sat down to write, and these are the stories that sprang to life.”

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

MacKids Spotlight: K. Tempest Bradford, Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion from MacKids School and Library. Peek: “I wanted to show Black people and Black communities that mirrored my experience, which I don’t often see in books or other media. I decided on a tight-knit community, intergenerational households, loving, involved parents, and kids who form friend groups that aren’t driven by competition or meanness for that reason.”

Adam Silvera Is Writing the Books He Wished He Had as a Queer Teen by Moises Mendez II from Time. Peek: “[Silvera’s] books have been a way to reimagine his life had he felt safe enough to be out as a teen…‘There are teenagers still struggling to come out. They’re in my inboxes, at events—sometimes I’m the first person they’ve come out to, which is really special…That’s the power of visibility within a novel.’”

The Heartfelt, Trope-Tastic, Laugh-Till-Your-Sides-Hurt, Best YA Rom-Com of the Summer by Stephanie Appell from BookPage. Peek: [Mason Deaver:] “[T]here’s still such a lack of romance stories centered on trans characters, on trans joy, trans happiness and trans characters finding love in both themselves and each other….[That] means that we need to foster trans writers, uplift their work and convince them that their stories are worth being told and worth being put on shelves.”

Roaring Brook Press

Angela Joy and Janelle Washington Talk With Roger by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: [Angela Joy:] “[W]hat happens so often…[is] [w]e concentrate on the victim, and not necessarily the people around them who were survivors, heroes, and civil rights activists….We’ve left a lot of women behind in the story of the civil rights movement…That’s a part of history I want every child to know, it wasn’t just men who led.”

A Suitcase Full of Stories: How Stories Shape Elizabeth Agyemang’s Sense of Place and Belonging by Elizabeth Agyemang from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I mistakenly believed that the dynamic stories of people who looked like me were somehow out of my reach in the pages of literature. Despite this, I never lost my love for stories because as a first generation Ghanaian immigrant, storytelling has always been deeply embedded in my sense of self.”

NoNieqa Ramos on Latine/x Heritage and the Power of Us by NoNieqa Ramos from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When I wrote my picture books…I had one resounding message: We Got Us. Us may identify as Hispanic, Latine, Latinx, AfroLatinx. Us may be Indigenous….Together, we fight against the continued pursuit of our erasure in history and literature….Together, we make sure our kids know we have always had heroes, and we will be each other’s heroes.”

Writing Craft

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

How To Write Chapter Books With Eight Chapter Book Authors with Samantha M. Clark from From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: [Debbi Michiko Florence:] “As a writer, you still need to know and develop the characters just as deeply in chapter books as in novels for older readers. But because chapter books are for newly independent readers, it helps to create characters that have memorable personalities, quirks, and phrases so that the reader can anticipate some things and feel successful.”

Funeral Girl: An Interview With Author Emma K. Ohland from The Lerner Blog. Peek: “I like to outline the main beats of my story and then pants my way from one beat to the other. I know where I’m going, but I also get to explore along the way—the best of both worlds….I really hate drafting, so I get it over with as quickly as possible….I love editing, though.”

An Interview With Ebony Glenn by Sarah Miller from Can We Read. Peek: “I always begin by brainstorming ideas for the illustrations after I read the manuscript. Next, I will put my ideas down…by planning out spreads, creating character sketches, and experimenting with different compositions for each page….[A]fter receiving [the art director or editor] feedback, I’ll add color, shading, and detail to the sketches…to create finished illustrations.”


One Book, Four Charming Love Stories by Stephanie Appell from BookPage. Peek: [Maya Prasad:] “It was both a pleasure and a challenge to be able to create four different voices. For each sister, I used a different device related to their personalities…But creating unique voices involved more than that; I also differentiated each sister’s sentence structures….I hoped to show…that each sister is an individual with their own dreams and ambitions….”

Author Interview: Caron Levis by Ryan G. Van Cleave from Only Picture Books. Peek: “Some [drafts] are big revisions and other times they’re…line-level revisions. But because of the emotional aspect of this, I spend so much time on one line or one moment because that’s the thing with picture books—you’re trying to get it as succinct as possible. I’m constantly trying to get them shorter but also be nuanced.”


In Conversation With Saraciea J. Fennell, Book Publicist and Founder of The Bronx Is Reading by Lauren Cocking from Leyendo Lat Am. Peek: “Writers can build their network by cultivating relationships with local literary gatekeepers like librarians, educators, and bookstore owners and booksellers, book clubs. They should also figure out what they’d like their brand to be. What are the parts of themselves that they would like to share publicly, i.e. do you love giving writing tips?”


Publishers Weekly Announces 2022 Star Watch Honorees by Emell Derra Adolphus from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “From nearly 200 nominations, Publishers Weekly announced that it has longlisted 41 individuals for its 2022 Star Watch awards….Five award finalists will be announced October 26, and one ‘Superstar’ award winner will be named at the [Nov. 15] award reception.”

  • See also, 2022 PW Star Watch Submissions Open from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The annual event, founded in 2015, recognizes publishing professionals from the U.S. and Canada who are in the early stages of their careers and are improving and innovating the industry.”


How Dynamic Shelving Can Change Your Library by Lucas Maxwell from Book Riot. Peek: “[T]here is strong evidence to show that kids…presented with a wall of books can feel overwhelmed…[A] library’s job is to have accurate, up-to-date information alongside a diverse range of fiction titles that will engage readers, stimulate debate, and…even enrage people. There’s no such thing as a neutral library….”


Heartland Fall Forum 2022: Young Booksellers, Children’s Authors Enthuse by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Midwest Independent Booksellers and Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association’s 10th-anniversary joint show [Heartland Fall Forum] brought 209 booksellers and 144 exhibitors to St. Louis, Mo….The innovative young entrepreneurs who created such excitement among veteran booksellers and exhibitors alike…made this regional the most diverse gathering of Midwestern booksellers this reporter has seen in 25 years.”

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has announced that SCBWI BookStop is now open to the public. SCBWI members who have books that were traditionally published or independently published in the calendar years of 2020, 2021, and 2022, or that will be published in 2022, are eligible to put their work on the BookStop page.

Education/Other Resources/Events

Fall 2022 Children’s Book Week Heralded by New Initiatives by Pamela Brill from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Four years since their launch of a fall Children’s Book Week, the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader are preparing a full roster of new and improved activities to attract more teachers, along with librarians and booksellers, to this year’s programming. Slated for Nov. 7-13, the annual event…has already garnered tremendous interest.”

We Need Diverse Books is holding a Reading Adventure Educator Giveaway to celebrate diverse books and provide them to students. Fifty educators will get a copy of The Reading Adventure: 100 Books to Check Out Before You’re 12 by We Need Diverse Books (DK Children, 2022), which is packed with author interviews, reviews, recommendations, and more. Appy by Nov. 1.

DC Comics

The free Texas Book Festival takes place Nov. 5 to Nov. 6 in downtown Austin, in and around the State Capitol. The festival lineup will feature “nearly 300 authors of the year’s best books across all ages and genres.” There will be a Children’s Program and a Teen’s Program. See schedule. Some of the many featured children’s/YA authors and illustrators include Varian JohnsonMichaela Goade, Liz Garton Scanlon, Laekan Zea Kemp, and Don Tate.

Asexual Awareness Week (ACE) takes place Oct. 23 to Oct. 29. ACE is an annual international campaign “to raise awareness, build community, and create change around the world.” Visit the website to view online events happening throughout the week.

Chicago Review Press

Join Maureen Charles and Ashley Walker, authors of Music Mavens: 15 Women of Note in the Industry, at the Vermont College of Fine ArtsBook Birthday Party taking place Nov. 16  at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. The VCFA program staff will celebrate the release of this incredible book with the authors, who will do readings. Register for this free virtual event here.


Congratulations to the winner of the Massachusetts Teen Choice Book Award, chosen by nearly 3,000 teens in grades 7-12: Heartstoppers: Volume 1 by Alice Oseman (Hodder Children’s Books, 2019). The runner-up is Fallout: Spies, Superbombs and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press, 2021).

Congratulations to the nominees of the 2023 Forest of Reading Awards, especially in the Program for Kids: the Blue Spruce Award, the Silver Birch Express Award, the Silver Birch Fiction Award, the Yellow Cedar Award, the Red Maple Award, the White Pine Award, the Poplar Prize, the Larch Prize, and the Tamarac Prize. The Forest of Reading initiative “offers ten reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages.”

Heritage House

Congratulations to the finalists of the 2022 Governor General’s Literary Awards, especially in the categories of Young People’s Literature—Text Books, and Young People’s Literature—Illustrated Books. The awards recognize Canada’s best English-language and French-language books. Jen Ferguson and Edeet Ravel are among the finalists for Text Books, and Doris George and Julie Morstad among the finalists for Illustrated Books. The winners will be announced on Nov. 16.

The inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction will be awarded in a free virtual ceremony on Oct. 21 at 5:30 p.m. pacific, 7:30 p.m. central, 8:30 p.m. eastern. The $25,000 cash prize is given to a writer for a single work of imaginative fiction. Among the nine shortlisted authors up for the prize are young adult authors Darcie Little Badger for A Snake Falls to Earth (Levine Querido, 2021) and Michelle Ruiz Keil for Summer in the City of Roses (Soho Teen, 2021). Register here to attend the ceremony.

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the Massachusetts Center for the Book’s 22nd Annual Massachusetts Book Awards. The Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature winner is Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca (Quill Tree Books, 2021). The Picture Book/Early Reader winner is Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Anne Schwartz Books, 2021).

Scholarships & Grants

Penguin Random House, in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, has announced the Michelle Obama Award for Memoir, which grants a $10,000 college scholarship to one high school senior who attends public school, for an original literary composition (memoir/personal essay) in English. The 2022-23 competition closes Feb. 1, or until 1,000 applications have been reached, whichever occurs first. Apply here.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Congratulations to Jen Ferguson, whose debut YA novel—The Summer of Bitter and Sweet, cover by Reyna Hernandez, title beading by Kim Stewart (Heartdrum, 2022)—has received lovely honors lately, including:

More Personally – Gayleen

I’m happy to report the Friends of the Lago Vista Library Book and Bake Sale was a huge success, raising more than $7,000. I forgot to take an “after” picture, but 90% of these books found new homes by the end of the sale. Also, I am now officially a Friends of the Library board member.

More Personally – Suma

I have a launch event for Namaste is a Greeting coming this Saturday. It’s a hybrid event. It’ll be at Secret Garden Books in Ballard, Seattle at 5 p.m. PST. Here’s the livestream link for the event: Here’s the facebook event page: See you there!

More Personally – A.J.

There is only one episode left in the Vampire Academy Television show on Peacock. The Young Adult book series by Richelle Mead has always been one of my favorites and this new adaptation has not disappointed. The changes made to the story have all supported the heart of the characters.

Personal Links – Gayleen

GLSEN’s Rainbow Library Gets Books to LGBTQ Kids by James Finn from Los Angeles Blade