Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Remembering by Xelena González, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview With Ruth Behar and Gabriel Frye-Behar, Authors of Pepita Meets Bebita by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “Write because you have a passionate need to tell a story that only you can tell. Write with love and compassion….[P]ersevere and write whenever and wherever you can. If you’re stuck, go to the library, or to your favorite independent bookstore, and find inspiration and light among the authors who’ve come before you.”

Carolrhoda Books ®

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Talks With Roger by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: “[W]hen I read books that I feel are kind of preachy and didactic, I’m a little put off. I try hard to be balanced in my thinking and in what I produce. There are two sides to every question and to every story. I try to keep that in mind always.”

Rostam’s Picture-Day Pusteen by Ryan Bani Tahmaseb and Fateme Mokhles by John Schu from MrSchuReads. Peek: [Ryan Bani Tahmaseb:] “[M]any of us, myself included,…feel like we have a responsibility to honor certain moments, individuals, experiences, or feelings—and crafting stories about them is the best way we know how to do that. Given that humans have been doing this since the very beginning, story is clearly a vital part of what it means to be human.”

Daniel Nayeri: There Are Many Ways To Experience Stories by Lisa Bullard from Macklin Community. Peek: “I hope readers, teachers, and librarians will…grab one of my stories and say…‘[T]his one was ambitious.’ Sometimes, the ambition is…to tell a perfectly polished story—what I call an ‘evolution on the norm’….[O]ther times the ambition is to tell an inventive story that tries to create something new—what I call a ‘revolution of the form.’”

Equity & Inclusion

Astra Young Readers

It Matters by Maya MacGregor by CBethM from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “Writing about characters like me, who are neurodivergent and agender or otherwise nonbinary, is intricately woven into my experience of self in a world that frequently communicates to me—both implicitly and explicitly—that I am somehow aberrant and do not belong. I’m unable to separate where my autism and gender identity are tangled together….”

Indigenous Reads Rising from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We created Indigenous Reads Rising…to provide a resource where teachers, librarians, and readers can embrace the diversity of Indigenous children’s and teen literature. This site includes articles about best practices, book lists arranged by age category and topic, and additional resources for educators, librarians, booksellers, families, and writers alike.”

I See Color by Valerie Bolling, Kailei Pew and Laylie Frazier by John Schu from MrSchuReads. Peek: [Valerie Bolling:] “[The illustrator and I] are both committed to telling stories that honor our diverse world, and we hope this book encourages children—and their adult readers—to listen to others and learn from their experiences and to do their part to ensure that our world is a place where all feel they belong.”

Union Square Kids

Four Questions for Rhonda Roumani by Amanda Ramirez from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “If you ask a kid, ‘What do you know about Syria?’ I think they might say ‘war,’ and they might say ‘refugees.’ But Syria wasn’t always that way….I found that it was hard to tell them about the beginning of the revolution, and about how there was a very small period…where there was a lot of hope….”

Writing Invincible, Fathers & Mothers of Black America by Wade Hudson by CBethM from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “For centuries, the history and experiences of Black Americans have been marginalized….I wanted to share with young readers how and why what we now know as Black America began. It is a story…rarely recognized. How different this country, this world, would be without the music, literature, art, creativity and contributions made by Black Americans from the very beginning.”

How To Bird…Interview With Rasha Hamid! by Sara Holly Ackerman from Picture Book Builders. Peek: “I wanted readers to know that this book was for them, and that no one has the right to make our public green spaces unwelcoming. There have been too many stories of harassment, discrimination, or inaccessibility when it comes to Black people…, disabled people, women, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community in…public natural spaces.”

Writing Craft

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

MacKids Spotlight: Mitali Perkins [Hope in the Valley] from MacKids School and Library. Peek: [About research process:] “I interviewed people involved with affordable housing, and the history of Silicon Valley’s development, read a ton of books and articles, and visited Sunnyvale’s last working orchard and historical preservation society’s museum. I also spoke to some of my friends with parents who were interned in California’s concentration camps during WWII.”

Author Interview With Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow by Shifa Safadi from From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “With Picture Books, I’m cutting out elements to make a book feel whole…[It] feels complete when it’s concise and focused. A Middle Grade is the same in needing to be focused but there are…many elements in terms of the character arcs and plot to bring into that focus. It’s expansive and narrow, which makes it hard.”

Dashtoon Uses AI To Turn Storytellers Into Comics Artists by Catherine Shu from TechCrunch. Peek: “Dashtoon wants to make anyone with a story to tell into a comic-artist, even if they can’t draw. It provides aspiring comics creators with a suite of generative AI tools, and a publishing platform that releases new episodes daily for impatient readers. To seed the platform, called Dashtoon Comic Reader, Dashtoon commissioned about 30 comics….”

Union Square Kids

Book Talk: Five Questions With Alex Bostic by Emily Liner from The Dispatch. Peek: “My approach for illustrating the book…was: First, read the manuscript. Then do a series of sketches for each page. They get OK’d by the art director. Then do revisions from that. Complete those revisions and then start painting. Then get revisions from the paintings. The job takes from eight months to a year to complete.”

Nina Crews: Celebrating a Storytelling Life by Lisa Bullard from Macklin Community. Peek: “I enjoy doing research and truly get lost in it. I collect so many more facts and images than I use…This is partly because I’m having so much fun looking and learning, but also because I don’t know what I need at the outset. Creating any piece of writing or art involves deeply imagining the subject.”


Kindle Direct Publishing Will Beta Test Virtual Voice–Narrated Audiobooks by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In a…Kindle Direct Publishing community forum [post],…[KDP] announced that it has begun a beta test on technology allowing KDP authors to produce audiobook versions of their e-books using virtual voice narration. The ability to create an audiobook using synthetic speech technology is likely to result in a boom in the number of audiobooks produced by KDP authors.”

NWU Releases Platform and Principles for Generative AI Policy by Sophia Stewart from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The National Writers Union…published an official platform, drafted and ratified by the union’s Generative AI Working Group, identifying the principles shaping its organizing work on generative artificial intelligence and its impacts on writers and media workers….[T]he NWU stated: ‘The work [that media workers] produce is being used to train these systems without our knowledge or consent.’”

The Transformative Role of Artificial Intelligence in the Publishing Industry from Fadel. Peek: “Traditional methods of content creation, distribution, and marketing are undergoing a profound transformation, thanks to the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. According to Digiday+ Research, half of publishers are already using generative AI….In this whitepaper, we explore the substantial advantages AI brings to the publishing sector, along with a nuanced examination of its potential disadvantages….”


The Soaring Popularity of Audiobooks, How Authors and Publishers Can Leverage It from John Marshall Media. Peek: “Whether you’re an author or small book publishers, consider producing your own audiobook….[I]t’s high time to ensure that your readers can both read and listen to your books….Although many see Audible as the retail leader in audiobooks, there are dozens of other retailers…If you’re only on Audible, you’re missing 50% of the market….”


Binc Launches “Read Love Support” Year-End Campaign from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “The Book Industry Charitable Foundation has launched the Read Love Support year-end campaign with a goal of raising $150,000 in donations before Dec. 31 so the organization can continue its commitment to never turn away anyone in need….[D]onate here. Binc…continues to see double-digit increases in the number of financial assistance requests and grants provided every month….”


Painted Words Rallies for Libraries and Literacy by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Picture book author Jenny Fox…is on a mission to inform children, caregivers, and policymakers about the value of libraries and diverse books. At Painted Words [Represents]…Fox launched a postcard campaign to advocate for school librarians and the freedom to read….She worries that cutbacks to library services, which coincide with radical book banning efforts, undermine children’s education….”

LA Report: Gen Z & Millennials Love Libraries, Print Books from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “Gen Z and millennials are using public libraries…at higher rates compared to older generations, according to a new report…by the American Library AssociationGen Z and Millennials: How They Use Public Libraries and Identify Through Media Use draws on a nationally representative survey to reveal the attitudes and behaviors young Americans have regarding library use….”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Cinco Puntos Press

American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage: Booklists and Resources from Colorín Colorado. Peek: “Colorín Colorado has an in-depth series of themed booklists for children and young adults featuring Native titles. We encourage educators and librarians to look for opportunities to include these stories across the curriculum throughout the year! In addition, we have compiled related resources and videos for educators and families.”

Native American Heritage Month 2023 from Bookelicious. Peek: “Ribbon skirts are worn today…as a symbol of cultural significance…[and] as a beautiful fashion statement. While they mean different things to different Indigenous communities, ribbon skirts are broadly considered to symbolize culture and kinship, identity and resilience….[L]earn more about ribbon skirts, and other traditions and experiences of Indigenous Americans [with these listed] books….”

Shanghai Children’s Fair Gearing Up for Its 10th Edition by Teri Tan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he China Shanghai Children’s Book Fair, the biggest event dedicated to books and content for children in Asia Pacific, will be held at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Centre….With nearly 600 publishers adding 20,000 new titles per year…, China remains one of the largest children’s book markets in the world.” The event runs from Nov. 17 to Nov. 19.

The 2023 NCTE Annual Convention takes place Nov. 16 to Nov. 19 in Columbus, OH. The convention is the premier annual event for English language arts and literacy educators. “Learn from experts and participate in various sessions on a range of topics that will inspire your teaching. Meet educators from around the country and enjoy social and cultural events, including a book fair and awards ceremony.” See the keynote speakers here and the almost 700-session schedule with authors, illustrators, creators and educators here. Register here. Find Cynthia Leitich Smith’s speaker information below.


Congratulations to the 12 authors whose books were selected to the 2024 Pacific Northwest Book Awards (PNBA) Shortlist, and special congratulations to the two children’s books shortlisted: Making More: How Life Begins by Katherine Roy (Norton Young Readers, 2023) and Weird Rules to Follow by Kim Spencer (Orca Book Publishers, 2022). 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 2023 Governor General’s Literary Awards, and a special shout out to the Young People’s Literature winners: The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett (Clarion Books, 2023)(Young People’s Literature—Text) and When You Can Swim by Jack Wong (Scholastic Canada, 2023)(Young People’s Literature—Illustrated Books). These prestigious awards “celebrate remarkable literary works published in Canada…across seven categories….”

Candlewick Press

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books were selected as the 12 finalists for the Barnes & Nobel 2023 Book of the Year. “The program, now in its fifth year, asks B&N booksellers across the country to nominate a title they find truly outstanding and in which they have felt the most pride in recommending to readers over the previous year. This year, the list features six novels, four non-fiction books, one middle-grade title and one picture book.”

Congratulations to the 2024 Southern Book Prize Finalists, and especially to the six finalists in the Children’s & YA category. The prize, selected by Southern independent booksellers, celebrates great taste in southern literature.

Scholarships/Grants/Author Visits

Teachers & librarians! Traci Sorell and Kate Messner are making their Rethinking Thanksgiving: A Virtual Author Visit available for November at no cost. In lieu of payment, they ask that you make a donation to the Native Fund at We Need Diverse Books or the Highlights Native Creatives Scholarship.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

This month you’re more likely to find me out on the road than in Austin, though I was delighted to be joined by Heartdrum authors at a local Native Heritage Month Celebration (photo and more info below from Gayleen). Highlights of my trips include a keynote, breakout, and signing for the Kansas Association of School Librarians, a Jingle Dancer storytime for the National Women’s History Museum, a middle-school visit in Wichita, and a stop by Watermark Books & Café. Huge gratitude to all!

Today, I’m keynoting for the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers in Santa Fe, and next week I’ll be at the NCTE conference in Columbus, Ohio. Will you be at NCTE? Where to find me:

Fri., Nov. 17

noon to 1 p.m. signing Sisters of the Neversea (Heartdrum) at HarperChildren’s booth #114;

2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. “New Indigenous Authors/Illustrators: Connected: Writing Story, Tradition & Social Change” at A-110/111, Room Level Main, Convention Center;

3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Signing Harvest House and Blue Stars: Mission One: The Vice Principal Problem with co-author Kekla Magoon at Candlewick Press booth #225.

Sat., Nov. 18

1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. “Teachers as Readers: Creating Time for a Joyful Reading Life” at Kojo Kamau Junior Ballroom B, Hilton 402

More Personally – Gayleen

Last weekend I had a fabulous time attending the Heartdrum author panel hosted by BookPeople at the Austin Public Library! There’s always something special about hearing a book’s backstory from its author, and that’s even better when it happens in a place as wonderful as Austin’s Central Library. Authors L to R: Dawn Quigley, Kim Rogers, Brian Young, Laurie Goodluck and Cynthia Leitich Smith.