Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Once, a Bird by Rina Singh, illustrated by Nathalie Dion (Orca Book Publishers, 2023).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Cover Reveal for Monolith by Jess Rinker with Kathie MacIsaac from MG Book Village. Peek: “[T]here are many subplot aspects…that don’t have a neat and tidy bow. I firmly believe that kind of unknowing is the best representation of real life and the whole point of this story…[I] always found comfort with the people who admit they don’t know everything…, who seek for answers but are still okay if they don’t find one.”

Candlewick Press

Looking Through a Storyteller’s Lens by Avani Dwivedi by CBethM from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “Storytellers are people who tell stories, but to me they are treasurers of time; they go through their lives observing and capturing moments and people they find interesting and then, they cast them in their stories. I believe observation is the most important skill for each writer to learn.”

The Lan­guages of Belong­ing: A Con­ver­sa­tion Between Ruth Behar and Mar­jorie Agosín from Jewish Book Council. Peek: [Mar­jorie Agosín:] “I could not have cho­sen a more mean­ing­ful path…than writ­ing in this [YA] genre. Writ­ing for young ado­les­cents is a way to engage with a new gen­er­a­tion. As authors, we want to instill a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties. We want to give young peo­ple agency, the capac­i­ty to dream and to be resilient when faced with adver­si­ty.”

Innocence, Here and Abroad: Taboos About What Can’t Be Shown in Picture Books Vary Around the World by Daniel Hahn from The New York Times. Peek: “One common sticking point is that what differs from market to market is, fundamentally, the concept of children and childhood: What is expected of and for children? How much agency should they have? How much do adults trust in their general robustness in the face of The World?”

Equity & Inclusion

Harry N. Abrams

Author Interview: Chad Lucas from The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Peek: “[B]ook banners and fearmongers are not interested in protecting kids…They want to force their narrow, bigoted view of the world on everyone. I grew up in that… environment where it took me a long time to embrace my own queerness…[Books] help kids escape that box, and…help kids who already don’t fit in that box feel seen.”

In Conversation: Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Gary Gray Jr.:] “[M]y goal is to ensure that my storytelling embraces a wide range of characters and experiences, with a particular emphasis on celebrating and representing Black children. Through these stories, I hope not only to empower and engage Black children, but also to encourage other students to learn from and connect with the Black experience.”

Spilling the Tea With Author Laurel Goodluck from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I want Native children to see themselves in this modern world as their whole selves. When I was a child…I would get teased about attending powwows, wearing beadwork, or knowing my culture….[This book] is an anthem to kids everywhere to rock their culture in any way they choose by…strutting their style, and honoring new and old traditions….”

The Innovation Press

What’s Already Been Told by Tonya Abari from KidLit in Color. Peek: “There can never be too many stories that exist, especially for groups that have historically been marginalized…My advice to new writers who have stories that have seemingly already been told: tell your story anyway. The spectrum of our experiences run…deep. Perhaps the topic has been written about before—but it definitely hasn’t been written by you.”

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee): YA and Children’s Author and Curator from National Endowment for the Arts. Peek: “There was a time when one of the red-hot, most sensitive debates in publishing and fiction was who had the right to write about whom?…[F]or me, is about whether or not I have sufficient lived experience to authentically and accurately and respectfully reflect any given character from any given community in that particular role.”

Q&A With Zehava Cohn by Patricia J. Murphy from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Whenever I see a woman in a [difficult] position—whether she’s unable to share her own feelings, exercise her own rights, or fight for herself—I’ll want to fix it. With any injustice that comes to a woman at any age, there’s a part of my brain that says we can’t have that….”

Writing Craft

Harry N. Abrams

In Conversation: Alex Aster and Ali Hazelwood from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Alex Aster:] “The setting came to me first. I love celestial elements, so I wanted to create a magic system built from the stars, sun, moon…Then came the characters. I wrote several different manuscripts, and the plot varied, but the title, character names, and magic system always stayed the same….[It] was always a young adult fantasy novel.”

Interview With Gabi Burton, Author of Sing Me to Sleep by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “Detailed worldbuilding can be fun but know when to let go. A lot of authors spend a ton of time developing every element of their fantastical worlds….Know your world inside and out, build the world so readers can envision it, but not every detail you crafted about your story should make it into the book.”

Q&A: Jennifer Chen, Author of “Artifacts of An Ex” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I made a timeline of my writing journey for an Instagram post so I looked through all my emails leading up to my debut book. It was a long 14 years of trying to sell a book. I’ve had more rejections than offers….[T]his isn’t the first book I’ve written. It’s the first book I sold.”

Margaret K. McElderry Books

Interview With Ciera Burch About Finch House with Anne Westrick from MG Book Village. Peek: “There are usually a few themes…I know I want to convey when I start writing…I also tend to draw on real life things, whether my own experiences or something I’ve seen or read….[E]motions tend to emerge as I write, based on what the character wants or what might be happening to or around them.”

Kin: Rooted in Hope: Interview With Carole and Jeffery Boston Weatherford from KidLit in Color. Peek: [Jeffery Boston Weatherford; his artistic medium:] “Scratchboard is a subtractive medium in which artists use metal instruments…to scratch the surface off the top of the scratchboard paper to reveal lightness underneath….One illustration may [be] drawn up to three times before the final illustration is scratched. That is also true of digital scratchboard which I used for the first time in this book.”

Interview With Jumana Rahman and Maryam Huq from ReadingZone. Peek: [Maryam Huq:] “I’m primarily a digital illustrator and…my style tends to be made up of bright, saturated colors and a range of textures to add a…vintage feel. I like to use interesting perspectives and compositions to add an element of fantasy to the environments I draw inspiration from, based on photographs I’ve taken on my travels back home.”


Spotify’s Streaming Audiobook Service Launches in the U.S. by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Spotify has announced that its streaming audiobook service is now available the U.S., giving tens of millions of Spotify premium subscribers access to a catalog of more than 200,000 audiobook titles—including titles from…the Big Five publishers….[A major] publisher told PW they are confident that [the] Spotify program will prove to be ‘additive’ to the digital audiobook market….”

HarperCollins Posts Big Gains in Q1 of Fiscal 2024 by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Revenue in the quarter ended September 30, 2023, rose 8% over fiscal 2023 at HarperCollins, and profits jumped 67%. Executives at parent company News Corp expect the publisher to show marked improvement over last year.”

How Will AI-Generated Content Change the Writing Industry? by Andrea Moran from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: “There is some concern that soon we’ll see novels ‘written’ by AI taking the place of those produced by living, breathing humans—but I think that concern is overblown…For starters, the programs we have available to us now (like ChatGPT and Rytr) simply regurgitate content and writing styles found on the internet.”


Literati Launches E-commerce Platform for Teachers by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Literati is launching Literati Classrooms, a new e-commerce platform aimed at preschool and elementary school teachers….Sales on the site or resulting from the magazine… [will] generate 15% in book credit to be used at Literati’s online store for classroom purchases….[Jessica Ewing, Literati CEO:] ‘We are on a mission to…help[] kids find great books….’”


The Society of Children’s Writers and IllustratorsBookStop is now open to the public and continues through Dec. 22. BookStop is an annual promotion that enables members to showcase and sell their books on the SCBWI website. You can also purchase books there. Find more information and details for creating a BookStop page for your book here.


Librarians Turn to Civil Rights Agency To Oppose Book Bans and Their Firings by Mead Gruver from AP News. Peek: “[L]ibrarians who were…fired [for refusing to ban books] have filed workplace discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And as culture war battles to keep certain books from children and teens put public and school libraries increasingly under pressure, their goal is redemption and, where possible, eventual reinstatement.”

You’ve Heard of TikTok, But Do You Know About BookTok and LibraryTok? by Catherine Hollerbach from Public Libraries Online. Peek: “BookTok and LibraryTok are areas of TikTok focused on book recommendations and library services. Many public libraries have book displays in their public areas featuring the latest trends on TikTok in addition to other bestsellers…Being well versed in readers’ advisory at the public library now means being familiar with what is trending on…social media sites.”

The 2023 School Library Journal Summit: A Vision for the Future takes place Dec. 1 to Dec. 3 in Atlanta, GA. The summit “brings together leaders in the K-12 school library community, with content and programming developed for school and district level librarians, library leaders and K-12 administrators.” Jeff Kinney will be the keynote speaker. See the list of speakers and the schedule here. Register here.

Education/Other Resources/Events

The Anti-Defamation League presents Changing the World One Word at a Time: Conversation and Read Aloud with Cynthia Leitich Smith. The free online event includes a reading, discussion and Q&A, as well as a book giveaway randomly selected from registered participants. The event takes place Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. eastern, 4 p.m. central, and 2 p.m. pacific. Register here.

American Indians in Children’s Literature: Young Adult Books from “Debbie Reese (tribally enrolled at Nambé Owingeh) of American Indians in Children’s Literature is pleased to provide this list of young adult books by Native Writers. Their books reflect their lived experiences as Native people. Please share them in November and all year round!”

Soho Teen

The New York Public Library Pelham Parkway-Van Nest branch presents Author Talk With Abiola Bello. Abiola Bello will chat about her YA debut novel Love in Winter Wonderland (Soho Teen, 2023). The free virtual event takes place Dec. 5 at 12:30 p.m. pacific, 2:30 p.m. central, 3:30 p.m. eastern. Advanced registration is required (virtual link will be sent one day in advance).

Reminder! The free virtual Winter Book & Author Festival, presented by Penguin Random House, Library Journal, and School Library Journal, takes place Dec. 7 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. pacific, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. central, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern. It will be packed with author panels and interviews, book buzzes, and more. “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.” Register here.


Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 National Book Awards, and special acknowledgement to author/illustrator Dan Santat, winner of the Young People’s Literature award for A First Time for Everything (First Second, 2023).


NYT, NYPL Announce Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2023 from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In its 71st year of highlighting children’s books, the New York Times Book Review and the New York Public Library have announced the 10 winners of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award.”

2024-2025 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List Released from Texas Library Association. Peek: “The Texas Library Association’s 2024-2025 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List was announced…[S]tudents in grades 3–6 from across Texas revealed the books on the list….[It] is one of the most distinguished children’s literature lists in the country….The primary goals…are to introduce children to a variety of quality books, develop critical reading skills, and honor and encourage authors.”

Scholarships & Grants

Arte Público Press Receives $500K Grant from BANF from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Arte Público Press, the nation’s oldest and largest publisher of US Hispanic literature, has been named one of 11 ‘Houston Cultural Treasures’ by the BIPOC Arts Network & Fund. The honor comes with $500,000 in general operating support over a two-year period and additional funds for technical support.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Hey there, Cynsational readers! Are you at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference in Columbus, OH? If so, please find me. My  schedule:  

Fri., Nov. 17

noon to 1 p.m. signing Sisters of the Neversea, 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, 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