Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Finding My Dance by Ria Thundercloud, illustrated by Kalila J. Fuller (Penguin Workshop, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Shapes and Lines and Light: A Katie Yamasaki Interview by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “[W]hen I am taking this book around, what I focus…on is talking to young readers about the inherent value of their own lives. That they don’t have to build the biggest, run the fastest, score the highest for their lives to have value. Their lives have inherent value for the simple fact of their existence.”

Holiday House

Interview With Alexene Farol Follmuth from Utopia State of Mind. Peek: “[L]ove is that feeling of finally getting to put down the weight of everything you’ve been carrying. To feel like all of you is welcome…, good and bad. So to have someone observe everything gross and selfish and fearful about you and still tell you that you’re enough…That’s the kind of romance I wanted to write.”

Haunting YA Novel Uncovers Secrets of an Afghan-Uzbek Immigrant Family from GirlTalkHQ. Peek: [Deeba Zargarpur:] “Coming-of-age stories bring so much change. As a young person moves through young adulthood, there is so much of the past that we cannot get back….What I’d like young readers (and adults!) to take away…is that no matter how dark your world gets, there is always, always a future worth fighting for.”

Every Person Has a Story: A Guest Post by Crystal Hubbard by Shaughnessy Miller from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “My story is that of a storyteller. It is my hope that the stories I bring into the light show young readers that they can craft their own stories. I want them to close my books after reading them, knowing that there are no obstacles they can’t overcome to make their dreams real.”

Equity & Inclusion

Ooligan Press

Filipinx Stories: A Celebration by Pamela Delupio from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We not only share our history, but our culture, loves, and beliefs in honor of our families past, present, and those yet to come. Sharing stories is a huge part of the Filipinx tradition. It is in sharing our words and experiences that we give a piece of ourselves to the history.”

Book Advocacy in Action: An Interview With We Need Diverse Books by Kelly Gallucci from We Are Bookish. Peek: “Book advocacy can take many forms…A great example of this comes from We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit that promotes diversity in publishing. From fighting book bans to supporting authors to championing industry workers, WNDB uses a wide range of resources to advocate for their mission….[L]earn more about this incredible organization and the work they’re doing….”

How To They/Them: A Guest Post by Author Stuart Getty by Karen Jensen from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: [Stuart Getty:] “A book about pronouns! Great to give to that aunt who just cannot get your pronoun right. Or as a gift to your favorite librarian because it is educational, and every library should have one. And really, because more people everywhere are identifying with a nonbinary gender using they/them pronouns. So let’s read about it….”


Q&A With Jyoti Rajan Gopal and Art Twink by Pooja Makhijani from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Jyoti Rajan Gopal:] “[O]ur community is so diverse…[L]et’s do better: let’s represent the diversity of where Indians live, what they do, what their grownups do, what they speak, what they eat. Everyone thinks about India in a one-dimensional way. It’s up to us, as Desis [South Asians], to try to open that up.”

A #Bookaday for Native American Heritage Month 2022 by Jillian Heise from Heise Reads. Peek: “I am once again sharing a new list of picture books I recommend for Native American Heritage Month…Indigenous representation has consistently been a small percentage in the overall span of children’s literature each year, and yet we are starting to see more with new imprints (Heartdrum) and a focus on representing more accurate, authentic history.”

Literacy Focus: Reading Across Genders by Patricia J. Murphy from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The push to diversify school, classroom, and public library collections has teachers and librarians curating collections of books about and by diverse authors. This diversity includes race, culture, and gender….[Cindy] Christiansen has added more diverse titles with Native American protagonists, characters living with allergies, and others trying to figure out who they are.”

Writing Craft

Norton Young Readers

An Indies Introduce Q&A With Edudzi Adodo with Ernio Hernandez and Revati Kilaparti from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “[T]he names suggest themselves to me….[W]hen I start writing a story I will usually use placeholder names, while I wait for more suitable names for the characters to suggest themselves. It is not unusual for me to change a character’s name two, three, or four times until I get a name I feel suits them.”

Guest Post: Suma Subramaniam on She Sang for India from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: “Writing her story needed a structure that met the needs of today’s young readers: short, lyrical, poetic nuggets, easy to understand words, and some clear takeaways. I wrote multiple drafts and had the best beta readers and critique partners in the world who were patient enough to read every…version as I polished the manuscript for…years.”

Let’s Talk Illustrators #219: Chiara Fedele by Mel Schuit from Let’s Talk Picture Books. Peek: “I usually use mixed traditional medium: watercolor, gouache and colored pencils on 100% cotton paper….100% cotton is the most resistant. Sometimes I use just gouache or I add some acrylic, and when the artwork of the book need[s] to be stronger, I use more hatch and sketching lines with colored pencils.”

Peachtree Teen

An Indies Introduce Q&A With Anna Gracia with Andrew King from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “My process is utter chaos, usually starting somewhere in the middle and jumping around as I see fit…I do pretty much everything everyone tells you not to: I edit as I go, I write sporadically with no set schedule, and I don’t create any kind of aesthetic or playlist or character profile.”

Interview With Children’s Book Illustrator Raquel Catalina by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. from Eerdlings. Peek: “Almost a third of the time it takes me to illustrate a book is spent deciding how to approach it and documenting it. I read and reread the text, I rest it in my head, and in a notebook, I begin to write down or sketch any image or word that it suggests to me.”

Collaborating With Oaxacan Folk Artists Across the Years: A Guest Post by Cynthia Weill by Shaughnessy Miller from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “As work on each new book commenced, I continued to sit with the artisans on a daily basis in often remote, mountainous locations….[T]his meant multiple trips to Oaxaca and long hours on rickety buses, often down dirt roads….Each experience taught me more about the everyday realities of rural artisans, their perspective, and cross-cultural collaboration.”


SMPG to Host Inaugural Virtual Conference for Marginalized Voices from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The St. Martin’s Publishing Group will host its inaugural Virtual Conference for Marginalized Voices, a free online conference for writers….It will include panel discussions featuring editors and marketers from across SMPG imprints….” The event is open to all and takes place Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. pacific, 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. central, 12 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Join Publishers Weekly for the 2022 PW Star Watch reception party, which celebrates the 41 publishing professionals named as this year’s PW Star Watch Honorees. Make connections and mingle with book publishing industry professionals, peers, friends, and colleagues. The event takes place on Nov. 15 at Monarch Rooftop, 71 West 35th Street, New York, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. eastern. The event is open to the public but tickets are limited.

Covid, Inclusivity, and Mindfulness: Three Years of Picture Book Trends by Elizabeth Dulemba from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Some themes in children’s literature never go out of style,…like friendship, nature, new siblings, etc. However, the number of books in each category can noticeably change from year to year. New themes can also emerge, like the LGBTQ+ category…Several other categories grew noticeably [from 2020 to 2022], such as books with multicultural, transgender, disability, and climate change themes.”


International Update: BA’s Donation to BTBS Cost of Living Appeal from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has donated £40,000…to the Book Trade Charity’s Cost of Living Appeal, which was launched to support workers across the industry. The Bookseller reported that ‘to coincide with its 185th anniversary, the charity is aiming to raise £185,000…to assist members of the industry as inflation soars and prices rise….’”


TikTok, for Fun and Profit by Olivia Abtahi from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Peek: “The day before my sophomore novel…released, I made a self-deprecating video about how few signed pre-orders I got. I uploaded the video and left my social media phone…in my office…By that night, it had 40,000 views. The effect was instant….The amount of people saying ‘buying now,’ or librarians saying they’re ‘getting this for my school,’ was breath-taking.”


Libraries Are So Important to the Very Core of Our Society from Montana Public Radio. Peek: [Honore Bray, former Executive Director of the Missoula Public Library:] “Libraries provide something for everybody. And people are able to find what fits them, and what fits their family, and not make the choices for all families….[P]eople need to understand that that’s why libraries are so important: there’s something for everybody; we don’t just choose things for one person or one type of person.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Random House Books for Young Readers

Rethinking Thanksgiving: A Virtual Author Visit With Kate Messner and Traci Sorell from Kate Messner. Peek: “‘Rethinking Thanksgiving: History, Holidays, and Gratitude’ is a virtual author visit [available to everyone through November] with Kate Messner and Traci Sorell, whose books explore history and culture. It’s aimed at readers in grades 3-7 and invites students to take a critical look at the ‘First Thanksgiving’ myth and consider multiple views on gratitude.”

Charlesbridge and School Library Journal present Celebrating Indigenous Voices: New Native Stories for Your Classrooms and Stacks. “Program specialist and librarian of the Indigenous Nations Library Program at University of New Mexico, Janice Kowemy (Pueblo of Laguna), joins Indigenous authors Traci Sorell (Cherokee), Laurel Goodluck (Mandan, Hidatsa), Danielle Greendeer (Mashpee Wampanoag), Anthony Perry (Chickasaw), and Alexis Bunten (Yu’pik, Unangan) to discuss their new books and the state of Native voices in publishing today.” This virtual event takes place Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. pacific, 3 p.m. central, 4 p.m. eastern. Register here.

The Charleston, South Carolina Young Adult Yallfest Book Festival takes place Nov. 11 to Nov. 12. Over 70 authors will gather in Charleston for the festival. All panels are free unless otherwise noted. The keynote speakers are Soman Chainani, Cassandra Clare, and Angeline Boulley. Some of the YA author panelists include Cynthia Leitich Smith, S.K. Ali, Julian Randall, and Jas Hammonds. View the schedule here.

Zest Books

The New York Public Library presents TeenLive, Author Talks: Robin Wall Kimmerer, Monique Gray Smith, and Nicole Neidhardt, moderated by Angeline Boulley. Angeline, bestselling author of Firekeeper’s Daughter (Henry Holt and Co., 2021), will converse with the creators of Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Zest Books, 2022): Robin (author), Monique (adapted Braiding Sweetgrass for a young adult audience), and Nicole (illustrator). The virtual event takes place Nov. 18 at 8 a.m. pacific, 10 a.m. central, 11 a.m. eastern. Register here.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and IllustratorsWinter Conference 2023 is taking place in-person from Feb. 10 to Feb. 12 at the New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York. There will be dynamic keynotes, industry panels, networking opportunities, one-in-one critiques, and more. See the full schedule here. Registration opens Nov. 10.

Yu and Me Books presents Book Launch: Direwood with Catherine Yu in conversation with YA author Chloe Gong about Catherine’s YA debut novel Direwood (Page Street Kids, 2022). This free, in-person event takes place at Yu and Me Books, 44 Mulberry Street, New York on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. eastern. No registration required.

Page Street Kids

P&P Live! Pearl AuYeung—Best Kind of Mooncake. Politics and Prose Bookstore presents a free, virtual event during which author/illustrator Pearl AuYeung will introduce her debut picture book Best Kind of Mooncake (Page Street Kids, 2022). The event takes place Nov. 17 at 7 a.m. pacific, 9 a.m. central, 10 a.m. eastern. Register here.


Children’s Book Council, HarperCollins to Honor Eloise Greenfield With Poetry Award by Pamela Brill from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Beginning [in Nov.], librarians, teachers, and booksellers will have an opportunity to recognize one of their own for supporting Black-authored children’s poetry, in honor of a writer who specialized in this genre. The first-ever Eloise Greenfield Children’s Poetry Advocate Prize, created by the Children’s Book Council and HarperCollins Children’s Books, will be issued next April….”

Congratulations to the winners of Blackwell’s Books of the Year 2022, and especially to the winner in the Children’s category: The Ministry of Unladylike Activity by Robin Stevens (Penguin Random House Children’s UK, 2022). The winner of the overall Book of the Year will be chosen from the three category winners (Fiction, Nonfiction, Children’s) on Nov. 23.

First Second

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Kirkus Prize, “one of the world’s richest literary awards, given annually to books of exceptional merit in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature.” Special congratulations to Harmony Becker, winner in the category of young readers’ literature for her book Himawari House (First Second, 2021).

Congratulations to the eight winners of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ first ever Out-from-the-Margins Award, “a comprehensive new program designed to help boost the careers of underrepresented creators.” The winners receive a $5,000 grant to use towards the promotion of an upcoming book release and they will also receive mentorship from industry professionals.

Reminder to Publishers: The submission deadline for the 2023 Walter Awards is Nov. 15. The awards “recognize diverse authors whose works feature diverse main characters and address diversity in a meaningful way.” The awards will be announced in Jan. 2023 and will be given in the Teen and Younger Readers categories.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Happy Native Heritage Month! Thank you to everyone who attended Tuesday’s Office of Indian Education/Arizona Humanities event. Coming up, I look forward to tonight’s online Candlewick YA Preview, to giving the keynote address at the MLS Annual Meeting next week as well as meeting South Carolina readers at YALLFest next weekend.

Native Narratives: Native Authors on Recent Gains in Children’s Publishing by Marva Hinton from School Library Journal. PEEK: “In the last five years, several Native children’s writers, such as Carole Lindstrom, Angeline Boulley, and Kevin Noble Maillard, have risen to prominence. Their success is encouraging to more established writers like Smith who started publishing when the industry wasn’t as open to Native voices.”

More Personally – Gayleen

I voted (early). No school board races in my district this time, but I encourage you to research your local races and find out where the candidates stand on book access. And don’t forget to vote on November 8.

More Personally – Suma

Thank you to We Need Diverse Books for this interview!

More Personally A.J.

I’m participating in Nanowrimo this year! I’ve never won, but I do enjoy being a part of the community. Here’s my word count for the first two days. I’m ridiculously proud of myself. 🙂

Personal Links – Gayleen

Student Launches Banned Book Club at a North Texas School Where Books Have Been Removed from WFAA. Peek: “Books mean everything to me, and I can’t stand the thought of that being taken away from me or other students,” [Tommy] Rogers said.