Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Justice Rising: 12 Amazing Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Kim Holt (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2023).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson Discuss Twenty Questions by Bianca Schulze from The Children’s Book Review. Peek: [Christian Robinson]:] “I want to tell stories that tell the truth, especially to young people, because I think we do them a disservice when we’re not giving them tools and resources to…navigate this crazy world….[[I]t’s about making sure that every child who picks up my book…has some sense of connection, that they know that they matter….”

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Interview With Tony Peckham (Children of the Black Glass) by Cherokee Crum from YA Books Central. Peek: “Read….[R]ead some more. Read something you love more than once (knowing…you will never be able to read it for the first time, again)….[F]ind a story you love—something short—and type it out, word for word, punctuation and all. This will teach your hands what it feels like to make a good piece of writing….”

Meeting the Moment: Close-Up on Maurene Goo from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[I]t’s easy to look at the world today and feel…that this is the worst time in history….But when you look back, no one ever felt like they were living in ‘peaceful times.’ It’s all relative. But I find hope in that. We all meet the moment we’re living in, for better or for worse.”

Debut You 2023: Samantha Hawkins: My Mommy Marches from Black Children’s Books and Authors. Peek: “[C]hildren are the most powerful, most influential, and most passionate resources…we have in this world. They are not simply our future; they are our present! They will be the keepers of the past, but they are truly the light bearers here and now to pave the way to a morally empowered and socially responsible future.”

Equity & Inclusion

Balzer + Bray

Angie Thomas Ventures Into Middle Grade by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[I] love that we’re seeing so much diversity in middle grade and not just about having young people of color at the forefront. Now we’re seeing more middle grade books about LGBTQIA young people, kids with disabilities…I’m a firm believer…that some books are mirrors and windows and sliding glass doors…[E]very kid deserves that mirror.”

Q&A: Author DaVaun Sanders Reveals All About His New Series Launch, Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crew by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “Discrimination is just as prevalent in publishing as any other industry, but it’s especially insidious given how books influence young minds…[D]iverse creators, Black creators, have always contributed spectacular, engaging work and can excel and outsell any IP out there given resources, access, and visibility. We’re definitely enjoying [a] wider range of perspectives…[but the] job’s not finished.”

Debut You 2023: Alyssa Reynoso-Morris: Plátanos Are Love from Black Children’s Books and Authors. Peek: “[I]t brings me…joy to be able to pen books that Black and Brown kids can see themselves in….I write the stories I wish I had seen on shelves when I was a kid. I write for seven-year-old Alyssa, who didn’t see herself, her family, her culture, her values, her challenges, and her joy on the page.”


Q&A With Jade Adia by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I really love the breadth and diversity of Black books in YA right now. I think we’re in an incredible moment where people are writing amazing stories. But…there is a tendency for publishing professionals to…pigeonhole Black books: if it’s about systemic racism or politics, then it has to be a certain type of tone.”

In Conversation: Linda Sue Park and Ellen Oh from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “As a child, I read very few stories about Asian Americans, and was taught almost nothing about them in school. The message conveyed is this: Asians didn’t contribute to American history….We don’t matter….I want Allida Books to help contribute to the effort of more stories from communities who have been erased, undervalued, disrespected.”

Writing Craft

Julie Fogliano, Molly Idle, and Juana Martinez-Neal Discuss “I Don’t Care” by Bianca Schulze from The Children’s Book Review. Peek: [Juana Martinez-Neal:] “[W]hen you’re an illustrator, you work on your own. Of course,…you bounce ideas with the editor, and you bounce ideas sometimes with the authors and then with the director. That back and forth. But when you’re actually working on the book, working on sketches or the actual artwork, you’re on your own, and it’s very solitary.”

Greenwillow Books

Five Qs With Debut Author/Illustrator Marie Boyd from Erin Dealy. Peek: “[A]dvice I kept coming across for aspiring children’s authors was don’t try to illustrate your book if you aren’t a professional illustrator….When I imagined the garden in [my book], however, I imagined it as a lush, quilled paper garden…I had to ignore that advice and trust…I had the skills to make my vision a reality.”

Q&A With Brittney Morris by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I got to have fun with four points of view because there are four protagonists, and they all operate in first-person voice. I assumed…there would be no names labeled at the top of each chapter so when I switched voices…I wanted it to be very clear what voice they were reading and whose chapter they…jumped into.”

Four Qs With Alexandra Alessandri from Erin Dealy. Peek: “I had to do a lot of research into [the stories I grew up with] and other legends, in part because memory is fickle, and in part because what I knew was at the surface level. I needed to dig deep into the legends and their histories to understand the role they would play in [the] story.”

Reycraft Books

Five Questions for Joseph Bruchac from The Horn Book. Peek: “In some ways, my research process for [the] poems was the past half century of my life….[I]n many cases, what I wrote came not from present-day research, but from memory. Further, that past research was not just done in libraries or online. It was often through hearing stories from descendants and tribal members….”

Q&A: Priyanka Taslim, Author of “The Love Match” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “Oftentimes, people attempt to write a certain amount of words every day, but I really struggle with that. If you’re like me, I recommend you write until you find some closure—whether that’s the end of a scene, the end of a chapter, or even the end of a particular arc in the story.”

An Indies Introduce Q&A With Miya T. Beck with Gabriella Crivilare from the American Booksellers Association. Peek: “[I] set out to write a YA novel for tweens and younger teens….Once I started pitching the manuscript, I learned that what I’d written fell between YA and middle grade. My agent…saw great potential for a middle-grade novel. In the rewriting process, the structure and major plot points stayed the same. But I toned down certain elements.”


Quarto Announces Inaugural Frances Lincoln Children’s Librarian Prize from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Quarto Group has announced the inaugural Frances Lincoln Children’s Librarian Prize, presented annually to a children’s or teen librarian in North America who champions diversity and inclusion in their collection and community….The launch of the award coincides with the 40th anniversary celebration of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.”


Mattel Will Form Its Own Publishing Imprint by Karen Raugust from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Toy company Mattel…is creating an in-house publishing imprint…with a launch expected in the U.S. and Canada in 2024….Titles from Mattel’s new imprint, which does not yet have a name, will complement those from the toymaker’s publishing licensees, which include Random House Children’s Books, Bendon, and Printers Row Publishing Group’s Studio Fun imprint, among others.”

Publishers Weekly’s U.S. Book Show: Connecting the Community. Building Buzz Around Books will be held May 22 to May 25. The show will be a hybrid event—in-person at New York University’s Kimmel Center and livestreaming to a virtual audience. “Meg Medina, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and Newbery Medalist whose middle-grade books dive into Cuban American and Latino culture, will keynote on Children’s Books Day, May 24…” Explore the schedule here and register here.

Booksellers Plans Expansion to U.K., Australia, and New Zealand by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Digital audiobook platform, which directs a portion of each audiobook sale to a customer-selected independent bookstore, is launching service in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand in July….The news of Libro’s international expansion comes days after announced its plans to sell audiobooks and e-books through its platform through bookstores in the U.K.”

Independent Bookshop Week U.K. Plans from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has unveiled initial plans for Independent Bookshop Week, which will take place June 17-24…More than 700 independent bookshops will take part in the festivities…The aim is to celebrate independent booksellers and their shops, highlighting the role they play in their local communities and high streets.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

UW iSchool presents 2023 Native American Read-In to celebrate the work of Native American creators. Multiple Native authors, artists and storytellers will be featured, some of whom include Angeline Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek Nation), and Tasha Spillet (Manitoba Metis Federation). The virtual event takes place April 16 at 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. pacific, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. central, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Brick & Mortar Books presents Women’s History Month Author Panel featuring Christine Day (She Persisted: Maria Tallchief, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (Philomel Book, 2021)), Vicki Conrad (A Voice for the Everglades, illustrated by Ibon Adarne (Albert Whitman & Company, 2021)), and Maureen McQuerry (Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists series, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2022)). The panel will be moderated by Suma Subramaniam (She Sang for India, illustrated by Shreya Gupta (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2022)). The event, which celebrates these children’s book authors and the fascinating women they’ve written about, takes place Mar. 19 at 2 p.m. pacific at Brick & Mortar Books, 7430 164th Ave NE, Suite B105, Redmond, Washington.

Austin SCBWI’s in-person 2023 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference takes place Apr. 29 to Apr. 30 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Austin. Some sessions will be streamed and recorded. There will be opportunities to “learn your craft, boost your career, get feedback on your work, and meet…with fellow children’s book writers and illustrators.” The schedule includes keynotes, a publishing panel, breakout sessions, intensives and more. Registration is now open.


Bank Street Launches Margaret Wise Brown Board Book Award by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Center for Children’s Literature…held a virtual event for the inaugural Margaret Wise Brown Board Book Award…[which] honored the award’s first winners: Give Me a Snickle! by Alisha Sevigny (Orca, 2022) in the 0-18 months range, and Me and the Family Tree by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2022) in the 19-36 months category.”

Dial Books

Congratulations to the 35th Annual Lambda Literary Awards Finalists, especially in the categories of Young Adult, Middle Grade and Children’s Books. The finalists represent the best of LGBTQ literature in 2023.

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the Ezra Jack Keats Awards. The winners are Kari Percival for How to Say Hello to a Worm (Rise x Penguin Workshop, 2022)(Writer) and Doug Salati for Hot Dog (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2022)(Illustrator). The livestream award ceremony well take place Apr. 13 at 10 a.m. pacific, 12 p.m. central, 1 p.m. eastern.

Submission entries are now open for the 2023 National Book Awards. Only U.S. publishers may submit titles. Submitted books must have a publication date between Dec. 1, 2022 and Nov. 30, 2023. The deadline for submission is May 17 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. Submit entries here.

Scholarships & Grants

Young, Black & Lit Celebrates Fifth Anniversary With Writing Contest and Donations by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “2023 marks five years since the start of Young, Black & Lit, a nonprofit organization committed to increasing access to children’s books that center Black children….[T]he nonprofit is hosting the Young, Black & Lit Future Author Contest, which will select 10 young writers’ submissions to publish in an anthology of short stories….[T]he deadline is May 1.” Read the rules and submit your story here.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Oh, my! It’s been a huge week, Cynsational readers! What a joy it was to announce:

Rosemary Brosnan at Heartdrum has acquired Davy June’s Legendary Fry Bread Drive-In, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, a YA collection of upbeat, interrelated short stories by Indigenous authors Darcie Little Badger, Marcella Bell, Angeline Boulley, KA Cobell, Christine Derr, AJ Eversole, Jen Ferguson, Eric Gansworth, Byron Graves, Kate Hart, Karina Iceberg, Cheryl Isaacs, Andrea L. Rogers, David A. Robertson, Monique Gray Smith, and Brian Young. Publication is set for summer 2025; Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown, Ltd. did the deal for world rights.

Congratulations to Heartdrum author Jen Ferguson (The Summer of Bitter and Sweet)(YA), my fellow Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA faculty member Anna-Marie McLemore (Lakelore, Feiwel & Friends)(YA), Cynsations reporter Michael Leali (The Civil War of Amos Abernathy)(MG), as well as Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, and Daniel Sousa (Kapaemahu, Kokila)(PB), who are finalists for the Lammys or Lambda Literary Awards!

More Personally – Gayleen

Earlier this week I was thrilled to have lunch with fellow Cyntern AJ Eversole, and congratulate her in person on the announcement of Davy June’s Legendary Fry Bread Drive-In Anthology. I also spent a wonderful weekend with my granddaughter reading piles of board books, Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions (Abrams Appleseed, 2017) is her current favorite.

Personal Links – Cynthia

80 Most-Anticipated Young Adult Books: April-June 2023 by Jen from Pop Goes the Reader.

10 Must-Read Native American Authors by Laura Slackton from Book Riot. Peek: “Cynthia Leitich Smith…[h]er 2018 YA novel Hearts Unbroken will give readers a taste of her style (though she definitely writes across genres).”

Personal Links – Gayleen

SXSW Banned Book Library Highlights Texas’ Role as Book Ban Leader by Chris O’Connell from My San Antonio. Peek: “The exhibit features facts about book bannings (more than 2,500 in the U.S. and 9% are biography, autobiography, or memoir), a map showing the states most affected (yes, Texas ‘wins’ again), and displays physical books commonly found in these book bans.”