Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: A Land of Books: Dreams of Young Mexihcah Word Painters by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

The Magic of Black Joy in Kirby Howell-Baptiste & Larry C. Fields III’s Little Black Girl and Little Black Boy by Sarah Murphy Traylor from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Kirby Howell-Baptiste:] “It is…about growth. It may not be the best but everything takes time and growth and skills….You are the only one who has lived in your experience. You may write something, and it may not be as deft as it could be, but in time it will be and you will learn how to hone your voice.”

Algonquin Young Readers

Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision by Robert Lee Brewer from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “Writing this book was a very transformative experience. I felt like a different person by the time I was done. I’m more confident and slightly more patient. I…believe that I’m a better listener. So much of writing is listening—listening to what the characters want and the way the story demands to be told.”

Q&A With Valerie Bolling by Patricia J. Murphy from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[I] encourage [educators] to write with their kids. You’re giving them assignments, so why don’t you use your own writing as a model? Then you can use some of what you create for your own stories. This will allow your students to see your process…It will also inspire them to write.”

Author Spotlight: Helen H. Wu from KidLit411. Peek: “Each person’s publishing journey is different. Behind every success story is years of hard work and perseverance….[R]ead as many books as you can in the genre you intend to write….Find a critique group and get feedback on your stories. Revise, revise, revise. Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep going. And most importantly, have fun!”

Labyrinth Road

Q&A: Esme Symes-Smith, Author of “Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston” by Mimi Koehler from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “[A]s long as there is hope, those who abuse their power and try to crush us cannot win….There are so many moments where the fight feels hopeless and impossible, to the point where it might not even be worth it to keep going…[I]t was crucial to me that the book gives everyone hope without condition.”

Author Spotlight: Terry Catasús Jennings from KidLit411. Peek: “[Y]ou don’t have to work your way up in writing, but you do have to write very well. And you write very well by writing. Treat it as a business. Go to work every day and write, even if it’s crap….[Read] books that have done well, or books that are doing what you would like to do.”

Equity & Inclusion

Kekla Magoon Talks to Ibi Zoboi About Family, Identity, and Diverse Books from School Library Journal. Peek: “For me,… the writing has been a way to deepen my own understanding of my connection to Blackness, and my connection to Black Americanness. And that work has mostly been done post-MFA because I got to know more Black writers, I got deeper into my stories…I studied history in new and different ways.”

Tiny Ghost Press

He Couldn’t Read It, so He Wrote It, a Guest Post by Justin Arnold by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “My thirst for intense teen romance and dangerous monsters was ridiculously insatiable. But something was missing that could have saved all of this from being the miseducation that it was. In the world of the books I loved—I did not exist….I was nervous to write a book like this, but…eventually stopped fretting and got to work.”

Conversations With Tamika Burgess from VoyageLA. Peek: “The biggest struggle along the way was seeking representation for my debut novel. Throughout the pitching process to agents, I received a lot of positive feedback about my writing, but the agents I reached out to didn’t know what to do with a story about a Black Panamanian.”

Interview With Alda P. Dobbs About The Other Side of the River from MG Book Village. Peek: “I was intrigued by the lives of the immigrants who decided to make a new life in America, and decided this would be [the character’s] story….I want young readers to realize that [her] story is not unique to my family or to Mexicans….[It] transcends many cultures and eras. I want them to…seek their own stories….”


Interview With George Jreije About Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria from MG Book Village. Peek: “Writing this story meant more…than getting a book deal…because I felt so strongly about the need for a story that highlights an Arab hero. So much Western media paints characters of Arab background negatively, and my hope is to…shar[e] our rich culture with younger readers while giving the world a diverse lead they can root for.”

Writing Craft

Interview With Author Illustrator Amalia Hoffman from Ivanka Dimitrova. Peek: “When I get an idea…I immediately write or sketch something…Then I ‘sit’ on it for a while. I usually start by writing a very rough text. Then, I…sketch very rough drawings to see how the story will work when I paginate it. Later, I make a simple booklet where I concentrate more on character studies….”

Five Questions for Anthony Perry and Alexis Bunten from The Horn Book. Peek: “[The illustrator] shared sketches and we suggested potential changes to reflect the history and spirit we wanted to convey. Though we saw the illustrations as they developed, our greatest surprise was seeing them in print….[O]ne thing that stood out the most [was the illustrator’s] representation of the Three Sisters [corn, beans, and squash] as spirits.”

Orchard Books

Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Isabella Kung from KidLit411. Peek: “[M]y preferred medium…[is] watercolor or ink. I love the transparent and luminous quality of the paint, the range of textures, and the unpredictability of medium. Sometimes, the painting process is like taming a wild animal, you have to carefully observe and truly understand its nature in order to manipulate or guide it to create the desired results.”


HarperCollins To Distribute Usborne in U.S. from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “HarperCollins will handle sales and distribution of Usborne books to the trade and specialty retailers, schools, and libraries in the U.S., effective with the fall 2023 season….Usborne, with headquarters in London,…is an independent, family-run children’s publisher…[with] 3,000 titles in print in English, and [it] publishes 350 new titles per year for children of all ages….”

Meet the Imprints: Kar-Ben Publishing from Lerner Books. Peek: [Joni Sussman:] “With almost 500 titles in print, Kar-Ben is the largest publisher of exclusively Jewish-themed children’s books in the world, publishing 20-25 new, high quality children’s titles each year….[Kar-Ben] provid[es] Jewish kids with both mirrors in which to see themselves as well as windows through which to learn about and appreciate Jewish cultural diversity.”


New and Noteworthy STEAM Books and Initiatives by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In fall 2020, Charlesbridge teamed up with the STEM-education nonprofit TERC to introduce…board books and picture books that blend math concepts and storytelling. According to Alyssa Mito Pusey…at Charlesbridge, ‘The books are written and illustrated by diverse creators and feature children of color using math in their everyday adventures.’ The series has…performed well so far….”


Penguin Random House Grants for Small & Rural Libraries from The Association for Rural & Small Libraries. Peek: “Through the generosity of Penguin Random House, we are pleased to announce this grant opportunity for small, rural libraries nationwide! This [$1,000] grant is available to libraries that meet both the [Institute of Museum and Library Services] definition for small libraries…and the definition for rural libraries….” Applications accepted Nov. 28 to Dec. 12.

Five Questions About Laundromat Libraries by Kitty Flynn from The Horn Book. Peek: [Cameron Dunn, high school junior:] “[I]t struck me that laundromats provide a captive audience for the time it takes to wash, dry, and fold clothes…Reading is a key to success inside and outside the classroom, and I thought that books in laundromats might encourage families and children to read….I set up little libraries in three laundromats near/in my hometown….”


#ReadLoveSupport: Binc’s Year-End Fundraising Campaign from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “[T]he Book Industry Charitable Foundation [which offers emergency assistance to booksellers] is launching the Read, Love, Support year-end campaign that aims to raise $100,000 by Dec. 31 so that the organization reaches its budgeted fundraising goal and ensures no one in need is turned away….Penguin Random House will match the value of every gift up to…$15,000.” Donations can be made here.

Booksellers Across Canada Receive Funding To Help Expand Their Online Book Sales by Canadian Heritage from Peek: “Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec Lieutenant Pablo Rodriguez, along with Rachel Bendayan, Member of Parliament for Outremont, announced $12 million in funding to help Canadian booksellers increase their ability to sell books online. Funding will go to 180 booksellers that operate 467 bookstores across Canada. This funding will reach a wide range of businesses….”

Education/Other Resources/Events

“America’s Next Great Author” Competition Films Pilot by Joanne O’Sullivan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Seventy-five emerging authors from around the country gathered…in Newark, N.J., to tape the pilot for a reality show called America’s Next Great Author….[T]he event included workshops, critiques, and a pitch performance…[Kwame] Alexander’s aim…was to provide opportunities for authors from diverse backgrounds ‘who aren’t normally given a seat at the table in mainstream publishing….’”

Penguin Random House, Library Journal, and School Library Journal present their free virtual Winter Book & Author Festival on Dec. 8. “Enjoy a day packed with author panels and interviews, book buzzes, virtual shelf browsing, and adding to your TBR pile. You’ll hear from many of your favorite authors, whose work runs the gamut from Picture Books to Young Adult titles to the best new Fiction and Nonfiction for adults.”


Congratulations to the ten winners of the 2022 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books. The winners were chosen by a three-judge panel that included “Emily Jenkins, a prolific children’s author; Maggie Craig, a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library; and Raúl Colón, an award-winning illustrator of many acclaimed picture books.”

Congratulations to the winners of National Book Token’s 2022 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, which are “the only book awards curated by bookshops and chosen by booklovers [across the UK and Ireland].” Special congratulations to the creators of Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good by Louie Stowell (Walker Books, 2022)(Children’s Fiction), All That’s Left in the World by Erik. J. Brown (Hachette Children’s Group, 2022)(Young Adult Fiction), and Heartstopper by Alice Oseman (Hachette Children’s Group,  2019)(Reader’s Choice). Oseman also won the Breakthrough Author Award for the Heartstopper series.


Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Governor General’s Literary Awards, and a special shout out to the Young People’s Literature winners: The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson (Heartdrum, 2022)(Young People’s Literature—Text) and The Sour Cherry Tree by Naseem Hrab and Nahid Kazemi (Owlkids, 2021)(Young People’s Literature—Illustrated Books). The awards “celebrate literature and inspire the general public to read books by creators from Canada.”

Congratulations to the 12 authors whose books were selected to the 2023 Pacific Northwest Book Awards (PNBA) Shortlist, and special congratulations to the children’s book shortlisted: A Home Under the Stars by Andy Chou Musser (Little Bigfoot, 2021). PNBA “is a non-profit association of independent bookstores from five Northwest states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia.”

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 National Book Awards, and special acknowledgement to author Sabaa Tahir, winner of the Young People’s Literature Award for All My Rage (Razorbill, 2022).


Congratulations to the 2022 Walter Grant Winners from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We Need Diverse Books is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2022 Walter Dean Myers Grants. This year, WNDB awarded 11 grants at $2,000 each to unpublished writers or illustrators from marginalized backgrounds who are working on children’s or young adult literature projects.”

The We Need Diverse Books Holiday 2022 Auction takes place Dec. 8 to Dec. 12. The fundraising campaign will be for their new initiative #BooksSaveLives. You can donate an item or service here.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Oh, my goodness! Heartdrum’s first YA novel, The Summer of Bitter and Sweet, is now a Governor General’s Award winner! Huge congratulations to author Jen Ferguson!

What else? Thank you to YALL Fest for a wonderful weekend and to Candlewick Press for sponsoring my trip. It was such a delight to meet with readers in Charleston, S.C.

Cynsational readers and team members, I am grateful for you!

More Personally – Gayleen

I’m loving The Last Beekeeper by Pablo Cartaya (HarperCollins, 2022), a smart middle grade adventure that tackles climate change, authoriatarianism and dependence on technology. Yes, all that, and it’s keeping me on the edge of my seat! I discovered it through the 2023 Texas Bluebonnet Award List.

More Personally – Suma

I’ll be speaking on a panel at Books of Wonder on Sunday, November 20th.

Hope to see you there! Registration details are here:

More Personally – A.J

I’ve been reading an arc of Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amelie Wen Zhao and haven’t been able to put it down. I’ve loved the characters and world. An amazing start to her second series.

Personal Links – Gayleen

Free Speech Group Says ‘Chilling’ Texas Bill Would Restrict Books in Schools from The Dallas Morning News. Peek: “Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, filed a bill that would create state-mandated ratings for school library books based on what’s age appropriate. But such a system gives ‘unprecedented power’ to government officials to dictate what students and families can read, which could be determined based on subjective and potentially politicized decisions, officials at PEN America said in a release.”