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reflective conversations, publishing information, writer insights & inspiration, bookseller-librarian-teacher appreciation, children's-YA literature news & author outreach

Updated: 2018-02-25T15:15:49.503-06:00


Cynsational News


By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Robin Galbraith,Gayleen Rabukukk & Kate Pentecost for CynsationsAuthor/ Illustrator InsightsInterview: Uma Krishnaswami on Treadmills, Knitting, and P.G. Wodehouse from The Booking Biz. Peek:“I don’t think that inspiration is necessarily a sparkling gold-tipped wand. For me, it comes more slowly, seeps into the mind and refuses to leave me alone. I try to keep myself open to ideas. When one shows up, I test it out by writing around it and asking questions about it.” Young People Are Our Hope: Talking with Lilliam Rivera by Keah Brown from The Rumpus. Peek:“The Education of Margot Sanchez is a little love letter to the Bronx, to my home. I hope that when people read about it, they see one Latina story of many in the Bronx.”Cecil Castellucci, Author of Don’t Cosplay With My Heart, on Rejected Books Opening New Doors by Jocelyn Rish from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek:“I realized that I had a lot of stories to tell and that I didn’t have to be precious about what was going into one book. That I could use things that I had to chuck from one story down the line.”Eric Pinder and the Perfect Pillow by Adi Rule from The Launch Pad. Peek:“I’m a painfully slow writer, whether writing picture books or nonfiction articles or shopping lists. What I like best about picture books, and poetry, is having fun with how words sound read aloud. It’s like using the language as a musical instrument.”Wouldn’t You Like to Know...F.C. Yee by Timothy Horan from VOYA Magazine. Peek:“For ideas, they can come to me at any moment of the day, usually whenever I’m relaxed and not worrying about anything in particular. I have to lay a groundwork of forced brainstorming first, usually unproductively, and then that lets relevant thoughts attach themselves to the foundation throughout the day.”Diversity & InclusionNative American Books for Young Readers by Art Hughes from Native America Calling. Peek:“[Debbie] Reese helps sort out the exceptional books from those that sink into stereotypes or misinformation. We’ll get her take on the best books by Native authors.” Note: Also featuring author Marcie Rendon and author-illustrator Julie Flett.Why We Need Diverse YA Books That Represent Marginalized Characters In All Of Their Complex, Quirky Glory by Kerri Jerema from Bustle. Peek:“...there is something more subtle at play here, too — the incorrect insistence that all people from marginalized backgrounds are only living authentically if they are dealing with pain or abuse of some kind, most often directly related to their race, religion, or sexuality.”Eight Fantasy Must-Reads Featuring Black Main Characters by Della Farrell from School Library Journal. Peek:“From mermaids to Marvel tie-ins and more, the following middle grade and YA fantasy novels each star Black characters as their main protagonists, and all are excellent reads.”Black History Month 2018 from Out of the Box at The Horn Book. Peek:“To commemorate Black History Month, we will send around a series of articles, speeches, and reviews from The Horn Book archive that are by and/or about African American authors, illustrators, and luminaries in the field — one a day through the month of February, with a roundup on Fridays."Celebrate Black History Month Every Month with Picture Books by Della Farrell from School Library Journal. Peek:“ are 16 recent picture books to share with little ones throughout the year but especially during Black History Month.”Recommended by Angie ManfrediRecommended Books with Queer Joy and Happy Endings by Angie Manfredi from Queer Books for Teens. Peek:“Happy endings, resistance, finding your people, dreaming of future worlds, solving the mystery of self, and getting a swoony kiss with your love interest: queer readers of YA deserve to experience these moments and see mirrors of their lives in the fiction they read.”See also Diversity and Inclusion: Themes and Communities, Teache[...]

Organizer Interview: Laura Pegram on Kweli Conference


Laura Pegram, Kweli Journal Executive Director By Traci Sorell for Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsI am honored to showcase Kweli Journal and its Executive Director, Laura Pegram, on Cynsations.Kweli’s The Color of Children’s Literature Conference for Native/POC emerging writers and illustrators will take place in New York City on April 6 and April 7.I first attended this conference in 2016 just after I sold my first picture book. Meeting the legendary Joe Bruchac, who was on faculty that year, as well as other emerging Native/POC writers like myself gave me a community that I could connect with all year long. I’ve been a cheerleader for the conference ever since, especially for the networking and the information shared by faculty.Last year, Cynthia Leitich Smith gave the keynote with even more Native writers in attendance. But this wonderful event does not happen without Laura Pegram and her vision to create a welcoming environment for Native/POC writers to learn, ask questions, network and celebrate together.Native authors at the 2017 Kweli Conference. Back row: Brian Young (Navajo), Renee Sans Souci (Omaha Tribe of Nebraska), Alia Jones, Kevin Tarrant (Hopi/Ho Chunk) Front row: Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation), Kara Stewart (Sappony), Anna-Celestrya Carr (Métis), Carole Lindstrom (Métis/ Ojibwe) Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), Murriel Borst-Tarrant (Kuna/ Rappahannock Nations), Marcie Rendon (White Earth Anishinabe)Laura, Kweli Journal focuses on supporting writers of color in a variety of genres. How did the idea of having a national conference specifically for Native and POC writers and illustrators for children and teens first come about? How long has the conference been in existence?As an education activist and a multidisciplinary artist, I have always been guided by the NACW motto “lifting as we climb.”Once I met with folks at Dial Books for Young Readers and had my first book contract in hand for Daughter’s Day Blues, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (2000), I looked for ways to give back to the community.As the Acting Director of the John Killens Young Writers Workshop, I created curriculums for young children and teens enrolled in Saturday enrichment programs in Brooklyn using interdisciplinary arts (poetry, music and dollmaking, for girls and boys, to study the history of Black Cowboys and Black Indians). The program culminated with a field trip to Dr. George Blair’s New York Riding Academy on Randall’s Island and a horseback riding and grooming lesson.As an instructor at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in Manhattan (now defunct), I designed workshops for emerging children’s book writers of color, modeled in part by the children’s literature course I took with June Jordan as an undergraduate. Notably, June’s reading list for the course was global and inclusive, a first for me. It served as a beautiful and inclusive model for Kweli years later when I was newly disabled and adjusting to life in a wheelchair.I have autoimmune disease, and it’s on the rise in the black community. After my discharge from the hospital, I tried to be optimistic about my prognosis. From my fifth floor walk up, I joked with my at-home nurse and at-home physical therapists and listened to second-hand accounts from friends about the arts world that was now in my rearview mirror.Then one day I realized that it didn’t have to be behind me; I could create an alternative arts community from my living room. In the summers of 2008 and 2009, I gathered three of my former students from Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center (FDCAC) to serve as editors and readers and four friends and colleagues from FDCAC to join our founding board of directors. We had our first board meeting in a Harlem brownstone, with donated food and space, wholly owning our vision for a multicultural literary community.In December 2009, we happily pushed Kweli out into the world after a hard labor. Over the past eight years, a small army of volunteers has helped Kw[...]

Author Interview: Charlene Willing McManis on Mentorships & Believing in Your Work


By Traci Sorellfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsI first met Charlene Willing McManis at Kweli’s 2016 The Color of Children’s Literature Conference in New York City. (She's dressed in yellow below.)Native writers at Kweli’s Color of Children’s Literature Conference in April 2016Front: L to R: Charlene Willing McManis (Grand Ronde); Andrea Rogers-Henry (Cherokee Nation); Marcie Rendon (White Earth (Anishinaabe) Nation)Back: L to R: Natalie Dana (Passamaquoddy); Laura Kaye Jagles (Tesuque Pueblo); Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation); Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki); and Kevin Maillard (Seminole)Both of us attended the conference for writers and illustrators of color and Native Nations for the first time. Her bright smile and quick wit enveloped me right away.A few months before the conference, Charlene became a member of the inaugural class of We Need Diverse Books’ mentees and was granted a year-long middle grade novel mentorship with Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle. Her middle grade manuscript, "Indian No More," was recently acquired by Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low.Charlene’s book highlights her childhood experience during one of the most impactful periods for Native Nations in contemporary U.S. history. The federal policy of terminating its treaty responsibilities with some tribes like Charlene’s Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in the 1950s caused major discord for tribal governments, programs and families. During this same era, the federal Indian relocation program, which moved Native people out of their traditional homelands and into cities, created a massive exodus of families. Charlene’s upcoming work will provide a window for Native and non-Native children to see what someone their age experienced in terms of identity, connection and family relations during this upheaval.Charlene agreed to answer a few of my questions about her writing journey and offer advice for other writers.How did being selected to participate the inaugural We Need Diverse Books year-long mentorship program in 2016 and working with award-winning author and poet Margarita Engle help writing this story?Author Margarita EngleThat was so wonderful to be selected! I was so honored to work on "Indian No More" with Margarita Engle as my mentor. It was a wish come true!She was so insightful in my work and helped me tremendously to improve my storytelling.I definitely suggest writers to submit their work to the We Need Diverse Books’ Mentorship Program and Lee & Low Books’ New Visions Award.I’d love to hear more details about your mentorship. Did you do one round of revision or multiple with Margarita?  What component of your writing do you think she helped you with the most?Regarding the mentorship, after the initial shock and excitement of winning it, Margarita sent me a wonderful letter of what was in store. I kept all her letters, by the way. We emailed regularly on my manuscript with regard to her great insight into what I was trying to say in my story. What helped me the most was her knowing my story and giving me suggestions to expand on my characters, especially the grandmother. Her suggestions brought more clarity on grandma. She also was a big help with my Cuban friends in Los Angeles. Since we were all kids, no one really talked about politics or race. But I knew they were very proud of their heritage and that their mother was a doctor in Cuba but was a nurse in Los Angeles. She gave me insight as to why. So I feel my book was greatly improved and more colorful with her help. You also mentioned unpublished writers submit their novels for the Lee & Low Books’ New Visions Award. Did you enter that contest? (At Margarita’s suggestion or on your own knowledge?)  Is that how Tu Books came to find your manuscript and give you an offer or did you submit it through the slush pile?I sent my my manuscript to the New Visions Award competition later that year and was in the running but didn't win. However, a year later, Stacy asked[...]

Survivors: Jane Kurtz on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children's-YA Author


Learn more about Jane Kurtz.By Cynthia Leitich Smithfor CynsationsIn children’s-YA writing, maintaining an active publishing career is arguably an even bigger challenge than breaking into the field. Reflecting on your personal journey, what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success? It feels to me as if my publishing journey has been nothing but bumpy—and of course all the bumps and bangs and bruises have stabbed my writer’s heart over and over.I started publishing at a time when smaller publishers were getting gobbled up by bigger publishers and editors were losing their jobs in consolidations. I long to have been part of a world where a long-time editor would work with and nurture a writer’s career.One of my mantras has been Respect the Mountain. I’ve been nimble, kept my eyes open for opportunity, learned from other people around me, and cultivated my team.What does that look like specifically?One example: I broke into the New York publishing scene with retold folktale picture books connecting to my childhood in Ethiopia. When that door closed, I published some contemporary picture books connecting with Ethiopia.When editors began to say to me, “We can’t seem to get any picture books set in Africa to sell,” I published picture books set in the U.S. but still connecting with Africa.I also found ways to weave my Africa connections into other genres, editing a short story collection (Memories of Sun (Greenwillow, 2003)) with other people’s stories (including a mix of well-known and brand new authors) and publishing middle grade/YA novels like The Storyteller’s Beads (Gulliver, 1998), Saba: Under the Hyena’s Foot (American Girl, 2003) and recently Planet Jupiter (Greenwillow, 2017).I began to volunteer my time to work with artistic volunteers (many of them kids) to create local language books for Ethiopia. Having a “multicultural” story at the heart of my real life went from being an asset to a liability in terms of publishing possibilities.It didn’t matter. I’m stubborn. I stayed determined, even though parts of that journey hurt like crazy.If you had it to do all over again, what—if anything—would you do differently and why? I would love to have caught on earlier that readers would actually be interested in and not scornful about my childhood in Ethiopia—because it would be great to have caught the folktale wave when it was hot (in the 1980s) and not at the tail end.The big reason I missed the wave is that I was living in a small town in southern Colorado and checking books out of the library, not knowing how to look at what was on the cutting edge.I tell people, when it comes to picture books especially, read what’s being published now.The field and body of literature are always evolving. For you, what have been the stand-out changes in the world children’s-YA writing, literature and publishing? What do you think of them and why?I think picture books have changed the most (for me) over my lifetime of publishing.As I entered the field, picture books were getting longer and more sophisticated, being used more widely with readers older than the (then) conventional four-to-eight-year-old reader. Now they are short, snappy, really text-and-illustration interactive, and geared (for the most part) to three-, four-, and five-year-olds.I’m determined not to whine about the changes even though I miss getting to use all those lovely words.Nonfiction is soaring in picture books, which opens cool worlds. Also, I was always the funny kid in my family, and I’m getting to use my humor more.Who would think that someone who started out by publishing Fire on the Mountain (E.B. Lewis’s first foray into picture book illustration—a lovely and elegant picture book)(Simon & Schuster, 1994) would now be getting ready to publish What Do They Do with All That Poo? illustrated by Allison Black (Beach Lane, 2018).What advice would you give to your beginner self, i[...]

New Voice: Nic Stone on Dear Martin


William C. Morris Award FinalistBy Robin Galbraithfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsNic Stone is the debut author of Dear Martin (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017). From the promotional copy:Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.What first inspired you to write for young readers? Reading books written for young readers! I didn’t pick up a YA book until I was 26. That first foray was The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008), and I read the entire trilogy over the course of five days.That then started a dystopia kick for me, and I read the first two books of the Divergent  series by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books, 2011) and the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver (HarperCollins, 2011). Then I picked up my first John Green book, and that was that.There was something about the Young Adult category that spoke to me in ways literary fiction hadn’t, and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that YA wasn’t a thing when I was a teen, so there was this hole in my reading life.Now I write for the kids like me—specifically the African American ones—who are still underrepresented in the YA sphere. What was the funniest moment of your publishing journey?The first time I went through professional copyedits, there was a note about the spelling of a particular curse word. I’d spelled the first part of it (because of course it was a compound curse word) “motha” and the note said something to the effect of “I think this should be ‘mutha*****’ because this way it looks like ‘MOTHa*****’. Okay?” I will never ever forget this note. What model books were most useful to you and how?The answer to this changes depending on the book I’m working on, but for Dear Martin  there were five specific ones:1. A Visit From the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan (Anchor, 2011), which is the book that helped me to see that I could play with various storytelling formats in one single novel;2. When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, 2014), which helped me settle into my black boy character’s voice;3. Grasshopper Jungle  by Andrew Smith (Dutton, 2014), which loosened me up a bit and made it clear that irreverence is an okay thing in books written for teens;4. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (Atheneum, 2011), which was so beautiful and lyrical and helped me find my prose rhythm; and5. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Delacorte, 2009) which showed me the power of reaching into the heart of a story and keeping the plot from taking over.These books will always hold a special place on my shelf.How are you approaching the transition from writer to author in terms of your self-image, marketing and promotion, moving forward with your literary art?For me, this part of the journey has been the most surprising part and it’s largely because of the way the world is changing with regard to author visibility and accessibility. It’s weird to me that people want to see me and hear from me and connect with me as a person above and outsi[...]

In Memory: Ursula K. Le Guin


Authors William Alexander and Ursula K. Le GuinBy Robin Galbraithfor Cynthia Leitich Smith’s CynsationsAuthor Ursula K. Le Guin died while Cynsations was on winter hiatus.Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018) from The Horn Book. Peek:“Author Ursula K. Le Guin, who challenged the male-dominated fantasy and science fiction fields starting in the 1960s, died January 22, 2018, in Portland, Oregon. She was eighty-eight. "Her YA novel A Wizard of Earthsea (which explored the struggle of good versus evil as an internal struggle, not an external one) won the 1969 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction."Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88 by Gerald Jonas from The New York Times. Peek:(Parnassus , 1968)(reprint HMH Books)“Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. "But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles.”Ursula & Iris by William Alexander from his blog. Peek:“She [Le Guin] collaborated a few times with my youngest daughter. Together they told stories about monkeys and cats…. Iris is five years old now. I told her that Ursula died today. "‘I’m going to go invent a machine that makes dead people alive again,’ she announced, and then went into the playroom to get started. She’s still there, right now, reinventing the very first science fiction novel. "I like to think that Ursula would be proud of her.”Where to Start with Ursula K. Le Guin by Nicholas Parker from The New York Public Library. Peek:(Scholastic, 2009)“If you’ve never read Le Guin before, you’re missing out on some great literature. You don’t have to be a hardcore fantasy fan to appreciate the beauty of Le Guin’s writing, her wonderful storytelling, or the vivid fictional worlds she creates… We’ll help you figure out where to start.”A Book From Ursula Le Guin For Every Age by M. Lynx Qualey from Book Riot. Peek:“Le Guin’s oeuvre is sprawling and it can be difficult to know where to step in. "Although not if you’re six months old: In that case, you really should begin with Cat Dreams."(Harper Perennial, 2017)Ten Things I Learned from Ursula K. Le Guin by Karen Joy Fowler from The Paris Review. Peek:“I can’t possibly provide a complete list of what she taught me, by word and example. But here is my starter list… "1. There is no reason a book of ideas can’t also be deeply moving, gorgeously written, and inhabited by people who take rooms in your heart and never move out.”Le Guin and the Sleeping Castle by Bonny Becker from Books Around The Table. Peek:"She engages the reader...there's almost no way to read [Ursula] Le Guin and not have one's mind opened to ideas, feelings and possibilities that feel like your own explorations. That refresh and engage your mind and your emotions."Margaret Atwood: We Lost Ursula Le Guin When We Needed Her Most by Margaret Atwood from The Washington Post. Peek:“When I finally got the brilliant and renowned writer Ursula K. Le Guin all to myself on a stage in Portland, some years ago, I asked her the question I’d always been longing to ask: ‘Where do the ones who walk away from Omelas go?’ Tricky question! She changed the subject….  “How do we build Omelas, minus the tortured child? Neither Ursula K. Le Guin nor I knew, but it was a question that Le Guin spent her lifetime trying to answer, and the worlds she so skillfully created in the attempt are many, varied and entrancing.”(The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was originally published in 1973 in New Dimensions 3, a hard-cover science fiction anthology edit[...]

In Memory: Julius Lester


By Gayleen Rabakukkfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsAuthor Julius Lester died Jan. 18 while Cynsations was on winter hiatus.Julius Lester, whose literature explored African American life, dies at 78 by Emily Langer from The Washington Post. Peek:"He once wrote that 'the need to know more about my individual past led me to begin studying slavery.' ...To Be a Slave (illustrated by Tom Feelings, Dial Books for Young Readers,1968), (was) a Newbery Honor book."At Publishers Weekly, Shannon Maughan shared author-illustrator Jerry Pinkney's remembrances of Julius:"'What existed for him was the work at hand. He was not distracted by looking back at all, and he was completely living in the present. That was a powerful thing that we can all learn from.'"Julius Lester wrote nearly 50 books, including works of nonfiction, fiction, memoir and folklore, in addition to children's literature. According to The New York Times, "he was also variously a literary and cultural critic, folklorist, photographer, civil rights worker and professional musician."As an essayist, he was a contributor to The New York Times Book Review, The Village Voice, Dissent and other publications. A resident of Belchertown, Mass., he was a retired faculty member of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst."Award-Winning Author Julius Lester Leaves Behind Storied Legacy by Rocco Staino from School Library Journal. Peek:"His last book for children in 2016 was the publication of the allegorical tale The Girl Who Saved Yesterday (Creston, 2016)."His fellow authors took to social media to express their sorrow and gratitude."[...]

Cynsational News


Cynsations reporter Traci Sorell checks proofs of her debut picture book.By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Robin Galbraith & Gayleen Rabukukk for CynsationsAuthor/Illustrator InsightsKate DiCamillo: How She Became a Bestseller after 473 Rejection Letters by Linda Morris for The Sydney Morning Herald. Peek:“DiCamillo often makes a game of asking children to guess her number of knockbacks [rejections]. ‘They start with five or 10. And then they will get really excited and say '50'. And I'm like 'nope, nope, nope'. Some kid will always say, 'Well, why did you keep going'?’”Nicola Yoon, Author of ‘The Sun Is Also a Star,’ on Her Writing and Publishing Journey by J.D. Myall from Writer’s Digest. Peek:“Let your freak flag fly. Your odd, quirky, unique voice is what makes your story special. Be who you want, and be joyful.”Interview with Author N. H. Senzai by Jacqueline Houtman from From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:“As Americans, whether we consciously realize it or not, we have a particular connection with refugees; at one point of time, most of our families sought refuge in this country. They arrived from all around the world, fleeing war, persecution, famine or just hoping to find a better life for themselves and their children.”PW KidsCast: A Conversation with Christopher Paul Curtis by John Sellers from Publishers Weekly. Peek:“Christopher Paul Curtis discusses his new novel, The Journey of Little Charlie (Scholastic, 2018), as well as his past Buxton novels and the effect that his Newbery Award and Honors have had on his career."Rocking Out with Celia Pérez by Julie Danielson from Kirkus. Peek:“I’d tell you the first rule of punk, as laid out in Celia C. Pérez’s novel of the same name, but then I’d want you to read this entertaining book for yourself to find out.” Note: Congrats to Celia her 2018 Pura Belpré Honor Book!Jason Reynolds on Serving Young Readers with Long Way Down by Trevor Noah from The Daily Show. (links to video) Peek:"Long Way Down author Jason Reynolds describes his path to becoming a prolific writer and makes the case for expanding the literary canon to reach more kids.”DiversityA book to use in goal setting.Culturally Responsive Approaches to Goal Setting with Students by Lindsay Barrett from Lee & Low Books. Peek:“Engaging students in self-driven goal setting, planning and completion of action steps, and reflection are powerful practices for culturally responsive classrooms.”In 2018, How Does Using Diverse Children’s Books Factor Into Conversations with Kids about Race? by Crystal Duan from The Riveter. Peek:“A book doesn’t have to be conspicuously about race to allow conversation either, Gibney says. ‘You can get a book about ballerinas, and have a conversation about race that book, either because the book features people of color or because it doesn’t.'"Resolutions, Role Models, Big Changes and News! by Lindsey McDivitt from A is for Aging, B is for Books. Peek:“Those of you who read this A is for Aging blog on a regular basis realize this post is far more personal than most. I started this website and blog because I believe strongly that it’s important we show even young children strong role models of every age.”Kweli: The Color of Children's Literature Conference (for IPOC) will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 7 at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan, New York City. Peek:"... keynote address by MacArthur 'Genius' Angela Johnson, and panels and workshops with award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors and illustrators Samira Ahmed, Julie Flett, Rita Williams-Garcia, Vashiti Harrison, Kazu Kibuishi, Javaka Steptoe and Nic Stone. ...four separate tracks this year: a Publishing Track, a Novel Track, an Illustrated Books & No[...]

New Voice Interview & Giveaway: Kerri Kokias on Snow Sisters!


By Traci Sorell for Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsIn addition to covering publishing news pertaining to Native creators for Cynsations, I am excited to shine a spotlight on fellow Epic Eighteen authors and illustrators, all of whom have a debut picture book coming out in 2018.One of the first releases from our group is Snow Sisters! by Kerri Kokias, illustrated by Teagan White (Knopf, 2018).From the promotional copy:Just like snowflakes, no two sisters are alike, but that doesn’t mean they can’t work together to make the perfect snow day! When snowflakes fall, two sisters react very differently. One is excited and the other is wary. The first sister spends the morning outdoors, playing until she’s all tuckered out. Meanwhile, the second sister stays indoors, becoming ever more curious about the drifts outside. Soon, they switch places, and spend the second half of the day retracing each other’s footsteps. But each sister puts her own unique spin on activities like sledding, baking and building.     Since winter has descended upon most of the nation, I thought it would be the perfect story to start off this series.Upon reading Kerri’s book, I noticed how the marriage of her text and Teagan’s art come together seamlessly. And although my sister and I both loved to play in the snow as kids, I appreciated how the book shows the differences between the way they interact with snow, the winter scene and, more generally, navigate the world. I related to that so much, yet it’s not an experience I’ve seen so well featured in a picture book. Kerri, what was your initial inspiration for writing this book?Kerri at Snow Sisters! book launchSnow Sisters! was initially inspired by its structure. I wanted to write a story as a reverso poem, meaning featuring mirrored language.I played around with several different story ideas over a long period of time before landing on this particular story. The text for Snow Sisters! builds up to the middle of the story and then repeats itself backwards for the second half of the piece.The two sisters’ stories are told parallel to each other with the first sister’s story unfolding on the left panel of each spread and the second sister’s story unfolding on the right. The sisters’ stories themselves are also in reverse language of each other. Using this structure where the same words are used in opposing ways seemed to suit the story of two sisters who are different and yet connected.What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in writing this story? Because of its unique structure, described above, writing Snow Sisters! was very much a logic puzzle. Any minor change I made affected other parts of the book. Kerri's Post-it Note work boardBecause of this I pretty much wrote this story on Post-it Notes. I laid them out on a tri-fold board so I could see the whole story at once and easily reposition or change text. Each spread started with a column of Post-it Notes for the text on the left panel and a column of post-it notes for the text on the right panel. Aside from wrestling with word order, I had to figure out how to develop character and plot within this mirrored structure. I spent a lot of time playing around with specific word choice and ways that the words could have different meanings for each sister. My favorite picture books are ones where the text and illustrations work together to tell the complete story; where they each bring something to the book that the other does not. So, it was natural for me to envision how the illustrations could work with this structure. As an author, I needed to figure out the story, but I didn’t need to be limited by the text spelling it all out. So yes, my manuscript has a lot of illustration notes. Not art direction, mo[...]

Author & Editor Interview: Jessica Lee Anderson, Madeline Smoot on Uncertain Summer


By Gayleen Rabakukkfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsI've always had a fascination with Bigfoot; the idea that an ape/human creature could be secretly living in the woods both intrigued and terrified me as a child.So when I got the opportunity to chat with the author and editor of Uncertain Summer by Jessica Lee Anderson (CBAY, 2017), I couldn't pass it up. First, the promotional copy: For decades something has lurked in the swampy lakes of East Texas. Could it be the elusive Bigfoot?Everdil Jackson thinks so. Her whole life she’s grown up listening to the stories of the Bigfoot sightings around Uncertain, Texas. When a TV show offers a million dollars to the person that can provide conclusive proof of Bigfoot, Everdil, her brother, and two friends form a team to snap a picture of the beast. With any luck, they’ll prove the impossible and win the money Everdil’s family badly needs. But tracking a monster, especially one nobody’s been able to catch, proves trickier than Everdil expected. With each new adventure, Everdil seems to create more problems with her friends and family than she solves. In the end, she has to hope that her brave, foolish actions will ultimately make things right with everyone, including Bigfoot.Jessica - authorPatterson-Gimlin Sasquatch image and Jessica's dog, JoJo Jessica, what first sparked the idea for this book?I’ve always been intrigued by cryptid tales, and it was after watching the Patterson-Gimlin film that I looked over and felt like Bigfoot was lurking in my living room.It was just my old terrier, JoJo, staring at me—she resembles a mini-Sasquatch.The experience fired up my imagination and I knew I wanted to write story featuring Bigfoot with a twist of course.(As an aside, the Patterson-Gimlin film is now over 50 years old, and folks are still debating if it is real Bigfoot footage or not!)Have you had a Bigfoot encounter?I can now say that I’ve eaten Bigfoot!The amazingly-talented Akiko White created a Bigfoot cake for the book release party.Baby Bigfoot created by Akiko White (see creation video at the bottom of this post)I did spend some time out in Uncertain, Texas and searched for Bigfoot while hiking and exploring the area. I smelled some skunk-like odors in the air that made me think that there was certainly the possibility that Bigfoot was lurking around a woodsy corner.Scenes from Uncertain, TexasHow do you navigate that fine line between spooky fun and too scary?This seemed to come naturally for me because I tend to get spooked easily when it comes to scary books and movies. My imagination seems to run overtime (even while I’m sleeping)!After writing the first draft, I layered in extra adventure and upped the stakes as well as the spooky fun aspects of the story. I enjoy writing, and I love the revision process…most of the time.Do you have any writing tips to offer?Gayleen & Jessica at Texas Library Association conferenceMy path from idea to publication took about seven years.If I were to go through the whole process again, I would sit down and create a detailed outline that would offer direction yet still leave much room for creativity during the actual writing process. The story lacked much shape in the earlier drafts.So, advice? I would say find a process that helps you as a writer to be the most efficient, and spend the time getting your manuscript in the best shape possible.Keep fighting for your story even if there are some bumps along the path! I'm so glad I didn't give up on this book.I noticed you've done a lot of travel and school visits to promote this book. How do you balance promotion/writing/being a mom?My background is in education, and before my full-time writing days and being a stay-at-home mom, I was a teacher. I love spending time in the classroom and in variou[...]

Survivors: Daniel Kraus on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing YA Author


Learn more about Daniel Kraus.By Cynthia Leitich Smithfor CynsationsIn YA writing, maintaining an active publishing career is arguably an even bigger challenge than breaking into the field.Reflecting on your personal journey (creatively, career-wise, and your writer's heart), what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success?The the only bumps of note have revolved around me figuring out what kind of life I wanted to live inside of publishing.It only took me one book to realize that I'm not someone who's going to make a second career of attending conferences and schools, and doing every single blog interview on offer, and so forth.I've seen friends go down that route and be swallowed by it, good writers who hammer and hammer away at so-called promotional opportunities when they could be writing a second or third book.That's where I'm comfortable: at the desk. You might consider me prolific, but I see myself as someone who decided where to focus his energies and has kept to that. If you had it to do all over again, what—if anything—would you do differently and why? Learn more.There are two minor compromises I made with my first book that still irk me. One was a structural thing and one was a single sentence that I didn't think needed to be there. They hardly ruin the book, but to this day, they bother me. And so I don't do that anymore.I'm entirely open to editorial suggestion, but I'll never agree to something I don't believe in. It's not worth it if it's still going to still be depressing to me when I'm old. The field and body of literature are always evolving. For you, what have been the stand-out changes in the world children's-YA writing, literature and publishing? What do you think of them and why? There have been the obvious demographic shifts that, while still small, have been encouraging to see. Beyond that, I don't see a lot of change.The best-seller list is still a mixture of great books and middling junk food. The most daring books still rarely get noticed. The pervading opinions that YA lit has to offer a positive message or avoid immorality are still boringly in place. What advice would you give to your beginner self, if that version of you was a debut author this year? Learn more.I probably did some large-group events where there were only white authors. I wouldn't do that today. What do you wish for children's-YA writers (and readers), looking to the future? A lot of lip-service kudos are given to books and characters that occupy moral gray areas, but I still feel like a lot of adults who read YA (not the kids, mind you) can't really take it when it gets hot in that particular kitchen. Their what-about-the-children alarms go off.That's not a great environment for innovation or expression, and certainly not transgression.In an area of publishing that likes to think of itself as open-minded, it often feels fairly closed-minded in this regard. This kind of hesitancy, however, does present prime opportunities for small presses and self-publishing, and so I expect those two areas of the lit world to continue to thrive and become even more important.As a writer, what do you wish for yourself in the future? Now available! Learn more.Time. I need much more of it. I have a dozen projects I want to write and the fact that I won't get to them all before I die -- yes, I'm thinking about death -- has really started to hit home.I also want to help writers who are talented but maybe not well known for a variety of reasons, maybe because of where they come from or what they choose to write about.This kind of assistance is largely done quietly, behind the scenes, and is almost always more gratifying than publishing a book myself. Cynsational NotesWhy Do You Write Such Dark YA Fiction? by Daniel [...]

Cynsations Intern: Kate Pentecost


Learn more about Kate Pentecost.By Kate Petecostfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations“So, wait, you’ve been doing this for how long?” People often ask when I tell them how long I’ve been writing. “Since the fourth grade,” is the answer. That was the grade in which I learned that I wanted to be a writer—specifically a writer for children.I learned then that there was nothing that felt better to me than being around children’s books. Discussing them, holding them, reading them, and, most of all, writing them. I wrote my first book when I was 12 and began submitting it when I was 13.My first rejection letter (a physical one! back when we were still in the snail mail days) came from Scholastic Press.I framed it, because it meant that I was officially On My Way to becoming a published author. The book itself was about a mercenary who slew monsters and who helped a princess return to her rightful throne—after falling in love with her, of course. (It was pretty derivative, but hey! I was twelve!) I did not get published at twelve (thank God!) but I did learn that a book can be written and, moreover, that I can write one. I learned that all I wanted was to learn how to tell—really tell—the stories that were in my mind. So I focused my life toward learning how to be a writer.The path, as it turned out, was filled with both beauty and tragedy that would shape my writing forever. The tragedy, however, is another story for another time, and one that I do hope to address here at Cynsations, so I’ll focus on the beauty for now.I went to the University of Houston, where I focused on Creative Writing, of course.I remember being the only one in the program who wanted to write for children—something that seemed to confuse my peers and professors at times. Most of my peers were working on short stories geared toward adults, and writing short stories is an entirely different beast, indeed. But alongside them, I learned invaluable things about style and method. Also about art.My illustration flourished, and I’m finally fairly happy with it.Houston is where I became accustomed to hurricanes and floods and unending summers, where I learned what “genderqueer” meant, and that it applied to me.It is where I made most of my lasting friendships. It’s where I tried drag for the first time, and learned that I make a pretty good Freddie Mercury and a pretty good John Waters (shown here with my best friend, Austin drag queen, Honey St. Clair.)It’s also where I met my husband, who is the best person in the entire world, and without whom I don’t know where I’d be.From there, I applied to my dream school, Vermont College of Fine Arts, one of the only places that has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.When I got in, I actually screamed—something I’d never usually do. It was an amazing, incredibly worthwhile experience that helped inform my writing and my character in more ways than I can describe.Kate (right) with classmate Autumn Krause, who recently signed her first deal with HarperTeen!VCFA was, for me, the first place I felt as though I was where I needed to be, the first place I felt like I could completely and utterly be myself and celebrate the art I love so much with like-minded people. It is, in a word, perfection.Since then, I’ve worked in many different aspects of writing, literature, and education.Selling books at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan. Trying to keep banned and challenged books on the shelf with the National Coalition Against Censorship. Editing and Performing for a regional publisher in Texas.And, of course, my day job, teaching American and British Literature at a Title 1 high school in Houston. (Where I get art like this on tests about the Romantic Poets.)I am now represent[...]

Cynsations Winter Hiatus


By Cynthia Leitich Smithfor CynsationsMany blessings of the season, Cynsational readers!Effective immediately, this blog is on winter hiatus until sometime in early 2018. In the meantime, please find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I'll continue sharing bookish news about writing and illustrating books for young readers, the creative life, and publishing as an industry--along with some adventures of my own.Thanks to everyone who was featured or contributed a guest article to Cynsations this fall. Most appreciated!(If your post was turned in but has not yet gone live, our apologies for the delay. It'll happen ASAP next year.)Thanks also to interns Gayleen Rabakukk and Robin Galbraith and to reporters Carol Coven Grannick, Traci Sorell, Christopher Cheng, Melanie Fishbane, and Angela Cerrito. You are all wonderful people and talent writers. Color me your fan!And of course thanks to all of you Cynsational readers for joining us, for supporting the world of children's-YA literature and young readers and for signal boosting our efforts!Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!Personal Links:Author Kwame Alexander on How Giving Back Changed His World View by Tamra Bolton from Parade.We Need Diverse Books -- newly redesigned website!Next Wave of Children's Bookstores: Getting Political by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly.The Secret Life of "Um" by Julie Beck from The Atlantic.Merriam-Webster’s new etymology tool is both educational and terrifying (plus useful to writers) by Reid McCarter from The AV Club.Austin class! Plotting, Not Plodding: How to Make the Most of Story Circumstances and Stakes with Greg Leitich Smith from 6:30 p.m to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Writing Barn.Highly Anticipated LGBTQA YA of 2018 by Dahlia Adler from Barnes & Noble.Repicture Age from Getty Images.[...]

Survivors: Tim Wynne-Jones on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children's-YA Author


Learn more about Tim Wynne-Jones.By Cynthia Leitich Smithfor CynsationsIn children’s-YA writing, maintaining an active publishing career is arguably an even bigger challenge than breaking into the field. Reflecting on your personal journey (creatively, career-wise, and your writer’s heart), what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success? Yes, that first magical published book. And then the struggle to get the next one out – the terrible twos! Followed by all that jockeying in mid-career. When, exactly, is the career of writing ever easy?And then – suddenly – you’re old. The question is: How old? Are you ever not six; are you ever not sixteen? Childhood is a renewable resource.C. S. Lewis said something to the effect that you don’t leave childhood behind the way a train leaves a station. I guess the big problem with age is not so much from staying on track but running out of it. Reflecting on your personal journey (creatively, career-wise, and your writer’s heart), what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success? There is an inevitably to walls. You’re going to hit one. Maybe a bunch. I don’t really believe in writer’s block; if you’ve got nothing to say, chances are that you won’t be able to say it and that’s probably a good thing.So when I hit the wall, it wasn’t that I stopped writing; it’s just that nothing I wrote was any good. Two whole novels finished. Finished and… well, rubbish. Soundly rejected. And this was after many books -- awards, even – some real success. I thought my innings were over. I’d had a good at-bat and I needed to let go.Hey, I could teach. I do know some stuff. The letting go was critical -- the best thing that could have happened, giving myself the time for the well to fill up. Giving myself the time to realize there were things I cared deeply about and needed to say.That was eight or nine books ago.Stephen Sondheim said something like this: I know how to write a perfect song and that’s the problem. There’s no arrogance to that statement; to my mind, it’s an admission of the reality that knowing how to do something well, knowing the craft, the tricks of the trade, does not guarantee you much. The deal is always being renegotiated. Your vows have to be renewed. It has to matter. If you had it to do all over again, what—if anything—would you do differently and why? On the republishing of his first novel, The Man Within (1929), Graham Greene was asked if he wanted to make any editorial changes, since they would have to typeset the book, again. He read it and, if I’m remembering rightly, wasn’t very impressed. Actually, I think he cringed but that might be me projecting. So it became for Greene a question of not changing a single word or rewriting the whole thing. He opted for the former, more honest decision.I’d have to say much the same thing about my career. Could I have done a better job of it? I’m sure. But who knew it was actually going to be a career?Every book was just that – one book, the only book I ever wanted to write, at that particular moment in time. So you live with the decisions you make. No regrets.The one thing I’m sure about is that disappointment is as inevitable as rain and unless you want to live in an arid place, get used to it. On a more practical note, I should probably be more of a self-promoter or hire someone to do it for me. But that wasn’t the norm when I came into publishing. I got used to publishers who actually went out and sold the book. The changing face of the industry has left me in the dust, to some extent. I’m not very sellable as an aut[...]

New Voice: Kate Hart on After the Fall


By Traci Sorellfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsKate Hart’s YA novel, After the Fall, debuted in January 2017 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. From the promotional copy:Kate Hart's debut YA novel After the Fall is a wrenching, emotional read and an intense conversation starter about issues of sexual consent. Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens. He doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a girl, except when he decides she needs rescuing. But Raychel doesn't want to be his girl anyway. She just needs his support as she deals with the classmate who assaulted her, the constant threat of her family’s eviction, and the dream of college slipping quickly out of reach. Matt tries to help, but he doesn’t really get it… and he’d never understand why she’s fallen into a secret relationship with his brother. The friendships are a precarious balance, and when tragedy strikes, everything falls apart. Raychel has to decide which pieces she can pick up – and which ones are worth putting back together. Publishers Weekly said After the Fall “has a lot going for it—well-defined and believable major and minor characters, in particular—as well as a lot going on. The book takes up consent, slut shaming, issues of class and (to a lesser extent) race, unrequited love, and competition between siblings—and then adds a tragic accident and the resulting guilt and fractures.”I’m pleased to welcome Kate to Cynsations to talk more about After the Fall, what she is writing now, and her thoughts about working on a future project with her tribe, the Chickasaw Nation. What was your initial inspiration for writing After the Fall? I started writing After the Fall in 2010, when I had just trunked a paranormal manuscript and wasn’t sure where to go next. Someone online suggested the “I want” technique, so I sat down and made a simple list with “I want to write about…” at the top, followed by random topics that appealed to me.After “hiking,” “the Ozarks,” and “keeping up with the boys” showed up, I wrote a random line about rock climbing that led to an entire scene, and six weeks later it was an entire book.A lot has changed in the manuscript since then, and it took a lot more than six weeks to reach the book’s final form, but that scene stayed and the first line remained the same. What has your author journey been like since publication in January of this year?It’s been complicated, because my health took a downturn right around the book’s release (which also coincided with the week of the Inauguration), and an even worse downturn this fall.I was lucky enough to attend several book festivals in the spring, and meeting readers has definitely been my favorite part of the experience, so being unable to travel for promo later in the year was really disappointing. But that’s life with a chronic illness, and hopefully I’ll be better prepared to manage those issues next time around. What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing the text to life?The assault that Raychel’s character experiences is loosely based on my own, so when the first version of the book went on submission in 2010, it was very difficult for me to separate criticism of her actions from criticism of my own teenage behavior.Seven years later, it’s not fun to read reviews that victim blame or claim that I, as an author, have somehow made light of the issue, but the time it took to get the books on the shelves gave me a while to develop a thicker [...]

Canadian Children's-YA Literature Awards


By Melanie J. Fishbanefor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsThis fall a number of awards were given out to the best of Canadian children and young adult books.Here’s the rundown of who won, the shortlist and more.The 2017 Canadian Children’s Book Centre AwardsEvery November, in a gala event at The Carlu in downtown Toronto, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC), in partnership with TD Bank and other donors, gives out $145,000 in prizes to the best in Canadian children’s writing and illustration.A similar award ceremony occurs in Montreal, Quebec distributing French language awards.English Awards:TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($30,000) Winner:The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill (Groundwood Books, 2016)Finalists ($2,500):A Day of Signs and Wonders by Kit Pearson (HarperTrophy Canada)The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence (Tundra Books) Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka  (Groundwood Books, 2016)When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett (Highwater Press)Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ($20,000) (Sponsored by A Charles Baillie):The Snow Knows by Jennifer McGrath, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon (Nimbus Publishing)Normal Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction ($10,000) (Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation):Canada Year by Year by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Kids Can Press)Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ($5,000) (Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund):Blackthorn Key, Book 2: The Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands (Aladdin)John Spray Mystery Award ($5000) (Sponsored by John Spray):Shooter by Caroline Pignat (Razorbill Canada)Amy Mathers Teen Book Award ($5000) (Sponsored by Sylvan Learning):Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (Dutton Books)See the full list of finalists and comments from the jurors.French AwardsPrix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse ($30,000):Même pas vrai by Larry Trembly, illustrated by Guillaume Perreualt (Éditions de la Bagnole)Prix Harry Black d l’album jeunesse ($5000) (first time awarded):Au-delà de la forêt by Nadine Robert and illustrated by Gérard DuBois (Comme des géants)Governor General’s AwardsEvery fall the Canada Council for the Arts gives the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards, which recognizes the best in Canadian English and French books.Winner Young People’s Literature – Text (English):The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Demaline (Dancing Cat Books)Shortlist Young People’s Literature – Text (English)Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman (Razorbill)Hit the Ground Running by Alison Hughes (Orca Book Publishers)The Way Back Home by Allan Stratton (Scholastic Canada)Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston (Inhabit Media)Winner Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books (English):When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Fleet (Highwater Press)Shortlist Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books (English):Short Story for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood Books, 2017)The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill (Groundwood Books)Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2017)When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James (Tundra Books)Winner Young People’s Literature Text (French):L’Importance de Mathilde Poisson by Véronique Drouin (Bayard Canada)Shortlist Young People’s Literature Text (French):Chroniques post-apocalyptique d’une enfant sage by Annie Bacon [...]

SCBWI Books for Readers Increases Book Access


Omar Bah, director of the Refugee Dream Center with Lin Oliver, SCBWI executive directorBy Gayleen Rabakukkfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsBack in April I interviewed Lin Oliver, executive director of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators about the organization's new initiative: Books for Readers.“In the U.S., many low-income communities have as few as 1 book per 300 children. We as an organization would like to help change this,” she said. “With our initiative, we can advance our organization’s mission as children’s book creators and literacy advocates, and help increase access to books for kids in desperate need of them. It’s a natural fit!”Recently, the two organizations selected by a sub-committee of the SCBWI Board of Advisors received the first donation of new books: the Refugee Dream Center in Providence, Rhode Island and the Kinship House in Portland, Oregon. At both celebrations, authors and illustrators took part in demonstrations, storytimes, crafts, refreshments and book distribution. Books were donated for each organization's lending library and one book was given to every child to take home. "We hope that by giving books to these children we can help build their dreams," Lin said. "Every child deserves books and dreams!”Illustrator Jannie Ho assists at the illustration station.The Refugee Dream Center is a post-resettlement refugee agency. It offers referrals, social level assistance, and skills development such as English language education for adults, health promotion and cultural orientation, youth mentoring, and case management.In addition, the Refugee Dream Center is a strong advocacy agency for the rights of refugees. Books received by the Refugee Dream Center will outfit a classroom library for its ESL program and promote the center’s goal to help refugees work towards self-sufficiency and integration.In addition, each child in attendance got their own book to take home.“Unlike most book-to-reader relationships, these books will be the first books that our children will read in their new language, that will assist them with their English mastery, and that will help them become part of their new culture—and feel part of it, too!” said Kara Skaling, Program Coordinator of the Refugee Dream Center.The Kinship House provides outpatient mental health services to foster and adopted children and their families. The books gave a boost to Kinship’s lending library and became the first books to keep for many of the children they serve.“Many of our children have lived lives most of us can't imagine. These books will bring light, restore a piece of their childhood, and offer them the joy many families take for granted!" said Melissa Smith-Hohnstein, LCSW and Clinical Director of Kinship House.SCBWI members and staff gathered to celebrate the Books for Readers donation to the Refugee Dream Center.The Books for Readers celebration also included dinner.[...]

Cynsational News


By Cynthia Leitich Smith,Gayleen Rabakukk & Robin Galbraithfor CynsationsAuthor InsightsBest Books of 2017: Ibi Zoboi by Alex Heimbach from Kirkus Reviews. Peek:“When Ibi Zoboi's family moved from Haiti to Bushwick, Brooklyn, they found that the change wasn’t as positive as they’d hoped. ‘Sometimes if we’re trying to leave somewhere broken, we’re moving into somewhere that’s even more broken,’ Zoboi says." Bestseller Angie Thomas on Writing, Bestsellerdom, and Diversity in Publishing from Nathan Bransford. Peek:“For a long time there was this myth in publishing that black kids don’t read, and THUG (The Hate You Give, HarperCollins, 2017) along with other great books has proven that to be a lie. Black kids will read if you give them something they connect with, and other kids will even read about them.”Getting at the Truth with Chris Harris by Julie Danielson from Kirkus Reviews. Peek:“Before Lane signed on, I’d had this idea that the writer and the illustrator could have an antagonistic relationship throughout the book. But Lane was the one who really seized on that idea, almost as if he’d been waiting for an excuse to say, ‘Sure Chris, yeah, let’s pretend we don’t like each other!’”Traveling Through Time, Facing the Past: An Interview with YA Author Katherine Locke by Lyn Miller-Lachmann from The Pirate Tree. Peek:“By adding magic and fantasy, and using that as a lens, almost like using eclipse glasses to look at a solar eclipse without hurting oneself, I hope to make tough, complicated parts of history more accessible for today’s teenagers.”DiversityTwo New Middle Grade Novels Explore Racism, Past and Present by Kiera Parrott from School Library Journal. Peek:“Systemic racism in American history and its ongoing effects are explored thoughtfully through the lens of tween characters" in The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, (Arthur A. Levine, March 2018) and Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renée Watson (Farrar, Straus, Giroux Jan. 2018).Best Queer Books of 2017 by Danika Ellis from Book Riot. Peek:“Luckily, the Book Riot community reads a ton of LGBTQ+ lit, so this post is to gather up our favourite queer books published in 2017, all in one place.”Loving Locks with Sharee Miller by Julie Danielson from Kirkus Reviews. Peek:“I wished these images [of natural hair] were around when I was younger, and I wanted to take this celebration of natural hair and put it into a story for little girls out there that were struggling with loving their hair, like I had as a child.”7 Intersectional Fairy Tale Retellings by Aimee Miles from Book Riot. Peek:“In 2017, we’re riding the fourth wave of feminism in all its commercialized glory. It’s about time to highlight some third wave-influenced intersectional fairy tales now that the third wave feminists are all grown-up.”Happy Hanukkah from The Horn Book! by Shoshana Flax from The Horn Book. Peek:“If you’re looking for latke literature, there’s no shortage, from board books introducing the basics of Hanukkah to more complex stories. Here are some recent picture-book additions to the Hanukkanon.”See also the newly redesigned and improved We Need Diverse Books website.Writing CraftBased On a True Story: 4 Advantages to Fictionalizing the Truth by Jess Zafarris from Writer’s Digest. Peek:“My decision to write a novel versus a memoir was based on four advantages I saw in fiction over truth:”Dying to Know, Afraid to Find Out: Building Tension in Fiction by Lynne Griffin from Writer Unboxed. Peek:“It’[...]

New Voice: Lisa Bunker on Felix Yz


By Gayleen Rabakukkfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsLisa Bunker is the debut author of Felix Yz (Viking, 2017). From the promotional copy: “If it wasn’t for the fused-with-Zyx thing, I suppose I would just be normal—whatever that means.”When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead. This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?Told in an unforgettable voice full of heart and humor, Felix Yz is a groundbreaking story about how we are all separate, but all connected too.What first inspired you to write for young readers?It might sound a touch dramatic, but it’s true: when I was a child, stories saved my life. I was a quiet, shy, word-geeky kid carrying the secret burden of an unexpressed gender identity, and I found refuge and solace and strength in the books I loved. Those books also showed me my purpose in life, which is, I believe, to pay it forward by creating as many more such stories as I can—particularly stories that offer refuge and solace and strength to other young LGBTQ+ humans who are just beginning to figure out who they are, and maybe feeling alone in that.Gender-neutral pronouns Lisa used in Felix Yz.Please describe your pre-publication craft apprenticeship. How did you take your writing from a beginner level to publishable?Whatever else I was doing, I also just kept on writing. I wrote pastiches of stories I loved. I started dozens of stories and novels I never finished. I filled notebooks with character sketches and plot outlines and drafts of scenes. And, I paid attention to how the makers of stories that touched me managed to do that. Not just books: TV and movies and theater too. I still do. Whatever story I’m taking in, part of me is just enjoying it, feeling all the feels, and another part is like, oh, see how they used foreshadowing there. Effective story-craft give me no end of geeky glee.What was the funniest moment of your publishing journey?Not so much funny ha-ha as funny heart-warming coincidence.My partner and I had planned to spend a few days in New York City just before Christmas, so we arranged to meet our agent, Bri Johnson (she represented both of us at the time), for a get-to-know-you lunch.A few minutes before our scheduled meeting, Bri got the email from Viking with a pre-empt offer for Felix Yz, my first book. So as the last thing before her holiday break, Bri got to tell an author in person about an offer, which she said she had never gotten to do before. And of course it was my big break, so it was a magical day all around. Lisa giving a reading of Felix Yz.How are you approaching the journey from writer to author in terms of your self-image, marketing and promotion, moving forward with your literary art?I actually really enjoy the business-y half of authorship. I’m an organized person and a hard worker, and I understand and accept that th[...]

Guest Post: Lyn Miller-Lachmann on Literature in Translation as Empowering Own Voices


By Lyn Miller-Lachmannfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsBefore becoming a translator, I wrote historical fiction set in part in Chile, a country I knew from working with exiles who had fled the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s as well as with musicians inside the country who were working underground to restore democracy.In addition to my knowledge gained from personal relationships and spending time in Chile, I read works of fiction and nonfiction by Chilean authors, in the original language and in translation. These books were the original Own Voices, and translators were the people who made these voices available to those who didn’t speak or read Spanish.My award-winning novel Gringolandia (Curbstone Press, 2009) portrayed one of many refugee stories, past and present. Eighteen months ago, Claudia Bedrick at Enchanted Lion gave me the opportunity to translate a book about a refugee family in Portugal fleeing a brutal dictatorship that ruled from 1926 to 1974. This family left in the mid 1960s in search of a place “where all children go to school” and ended up in Communist Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Prague Spring. Henriqueta CristinaGrowing up in a small town in the interior of Portugal, Henriqueta Cristina and her family were close friends with a family that was forced to flee, and their experience became the core of her debut picture book text Com 3 Novelos (O Mundo Dá Muitas Voltas), illustrated by Yara Kono (Planeta Tangerina, 2015). I translated that title to Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World)(Enchanted Lion Books, 2017).And change the world it does!Not finding the freedom they seek in their new home, the young narrator and her mother set about creating beauty and bringing change to their corner of the world. At a time when so many countries are closing their borders to families seeking safety and freedom, Three Balls of Wool shows how refugees and immigrants can enrich their new homes. They bring knowledge, skills, creativity, vibrant cultures, new ways of doing things.Photos of the Portuguese and French editions from an exhibit featuring illustrator Yara Kono at a public library in Vila Franca de Xira, a town outside Lisbon, Portugal.Own Voices books are authentic stories, mirrors for those who share the backgrounds and experiences, and windows for those who do not. And right now, we need authentic window books more than ever, to develop the capacity for empathy and understanding.Through the efforts of We Need Diverse Books, Teaching for Change, and others, we are seeing more books about and by people of color, and those books are making their way into schools and onto bestseller lists. I believe that international books in translation are the next front line in terms of diversity and Own Voices.In times of crisis, people look to examples from the past and from other countries to offer guidance.Set during the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal, and under Communism in Eastern Europe, Three Balls of Wool offers these examples, in an authentic and age-appropriate way. Here are some questions to think about and discuss with young readers:What is it like to live without freedom? Why do people take risks to have freedom? What can we learn from others forced to make the choice between staying in a bad situation or moving to places unknown where they may or may not be welcome? How would you welcome someone from a different land, from a different culture, who speaks a different language? How do people fit into their new home[...]

Guest Post: Janni Lee Simner on Setbacks & The Writing Journey


By Janni Lee Simnerfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsIn writing, as in many professions, there's a lot of emphasis on getting that one big break. This is the story we tell about writers: that we slave away for months or years or decades and then—at last!—that first story or first novel sells. Our career is launched, and we ride off into the sunset, where we happily keep writing and selling our work forever. That's a good story. There's a reason we're drawn to it. And very rarely, it does happen that way.Yet for every J.K. Rowling, whose first break is the break that sets the course for a lifetime's career, there are thousands of working writers whose stories are far more complicated than that—and that's okay.It's more than okay. It's normal. I ran a blog series called Writing for the Long Haul where I asked writers who've been publishing professionally for a decade or longer—often much longer—to talk about their careers and their writing lives. Those careers looked different in a lot of ways, and seeing the many shapes a writing life can take was illuminating all by itself.But the one thing that really struck me was this: nearly every writer who wrote for the series had experienced setbacks along the way—generally setbacks after their first sale—and had continued writing anyway.As I edited posts for the series, I realized that when we see a writer whose career seems to have been propelled by their first big break, without any stumbling blocks once that first book hits the shelves, we're often seeing a writer early in his or her career, well before the ten year mark.It's relatively easy for a career to look like it's on a straightforward upward success trajectory over the short haul. Over the long haul, with occasional exceptions, things get more complicated.The terrain grows more uneven, and the ups and downs kick in. Reading Cynsations' new Survivors series, I see a similar pattern: our field changes, as writing survivor after writing survivor makes clear, and so our careers change, too."I have had many ups and downs in this unexpected journey into writing," G. Neri says, while Alex Flinn talks about how what publishers are looking for—and what they promote—can change dramatically over time. When I sold my first short story in the early 1990s, I thought that was it: I'd broken in, and this writing thing was going to be easy now. Then my second story got rejected, repeatedly, and I spent a couple years writing many more stories before I sold one again.Then, when I sold my first three books, the middle grade Phantom Rider trilogy, I thought I'd really broken in. Instead my next several books and book proposals were rejected, too, and I waited nearly a decade to sell my next novel, Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer.Those years were active and important for me creatively, and I became a much better writer during them, but professionally, they were pretty silent.To an outsider, my career might have looked like it was over. A few years after that I shifted to dark YA fantasy as author of the Bones of Faerie trilogy, and I've also recently started sharing nonfiction writing insights as author of the Writing Life series of chapbooks.One of the books in that series, Doing What You Love: Practical Strategies for Living a Creative Life, is just out in paperback. I expect I'll keep rebooting my career and reinventing myself, if I keep writing at all.At first I thought setbacks meant that I had failed. Now I know they mean I've been writing long enoug[...]

Survivors: Monica Brown on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children's Author


Learn more about Monica Brown.By Cynthia Leitich Smithfor CynsationsIn children’s-YA writing, maintaining an active publishing career is arguably an even bigger challenge than breaking into the field. Reflecting on your personal journey (creatively, career-wise, and your writer’s heart), what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success?I think the bumps I've encountered have come both from within and without. The publishing industry is constantly in flux and there are so many things that have to happen to bring a book into the world.I've had difficulty getting certain manuscripts published, but I've been stubborn enough (and had enough self-belief) not to give up, to wait for the connection, to seek out, with the help of my agent, Stefanie Von Borstel, visionary editors and publishers, like Adriana Dominguez, Nikki Garcia, Alvina Ling, Jason Low, Louise May, and Reka Simonsen.One of the biggest challenges as a writer is knowing when to hold tight to your vision and when to allow others to help you shape a story. A great editor will make your writing better, but there are some situations when you need to stand firm.When I've made editorial changes I haven't felt good about (which has been rare) I have indeed regretted it. Conversely, when I have stuck to my vision, my perseverance has paid off.Now available from NorthSouth, 2017!Another challenge has been managing not the writing, but everything else. Few people realize how much non-writing work goes into a successful writing career.I've made sacrifices of sleep, family time, and balance to accomplish what I have as a writer and professor.Writing is a creative process that, if we are so lucky, yields delight—stories, art, inspiration, connection, change, celebration, affirmation—of our young readers and in our own lives.Publishing is also business, that requires negotiation, compromise, marketing, social media, appearances, interviews, tweets, taxes, Facebook posts, website updates, talks, school visits, conferences, and book festivals. There are many delights in the latter list—like connection with readers and comraderie with other writers—but one thing is sure, while you are doing the latter, you won't be doing the former—the actual writing and researching.And then there's the whole world—I am a teacher and an activist and a mom and a partner and a sister and a tía and a friend. Try to enjoy it! If you had it to do all over again, what—if anything—would you do differently and why? The only thing I would do differently is take better care of the body my brain is housed in.I feel like I've put my heart, soul, and time into my craft and making sure my books get into the hands of children, so I have no professional regrets. The field and body of literature are always evolving. For you, what have been the stand-out changes in the world children's-YA writing, literature and publishing? What do you think of them and why? This is an impossible question, because it does seem that, in terms of diversity in children's literature, we take one step forward and two steps back.I feel part of some positive changes in children's publishing, by introducing my mixed-race, multicultural protagonists—Marisol McDonald of Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/no combina, Mariso McDonald and the Clash Bash/y el fiest sin igual, and Marisol McDonald and the Monster/el monstruo (all Children's Book Press); and my beloved Lola Levine, th[...]

Cynsational News


By Cynthia Leitich Smith,Gayleen Rabakukk & Robin Galbraithfor CynsationsAuthor/Illustrator Insights Art, Selfishness & the Sinking Ship by Anne Nesbet from Project Mayhem. Peek: "The very language we use to talk about writing (those of us who aren't full-time writers--or those of us who have families to take care of) is telling: we 'steal time,' or we 'sneak in some words.' Lurking in these phrases is the idea that we are somehow cheating when we write...."J.L. Powers and Broken Circle! by Adi Rule from VCFA The Launch Pad. Peek: “I sort of knew I wanted to direct this book towards an independent press. Cinco Puntos and Akashic are friends and allies, and it was very natural for me to see if Akashic wanted to publish this book. I couldn’t be prouder that they did!"Interview with Tony Abbott by Michelle Houts from From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. Peek: “The Summer of Owen Todd may be one of the first middle-grade stories to talk this way about the sexual abuse of a boy, but what is still needed is a book for younger boys who are very much the prey of molesters.”The Power of the Picture Book: Don Tate from Kids Talk Kid Lit. Peek: "When I was a kid, books didn’t attract or hold my attention. I struggled with comprehension. I couldn’t always remember what I’d read. Plus, reading had to compete with what I loved best—drawing and making things with my hands."Children's Author & Poet Kwame Alexander on Comedy Central. Note: video clip with interview and poem recitation.DiversityField Notes: Lucha Libros: Bilingual Battle of the Books by Annmarie Hurtado from The Horn Book. Peek: “Lucha Libros started in response to the growing body of research on the importance of bolstering kids’ reading skills by third grade, and from hearing so many parents (especially non-English-speaking parents) tell me how hard it was to motivate their children — boys in particular — to read.”Dear Social Media: Thank You For Dear Martin by Rebecca Marsick from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “The students I work with care deeply about many social issues, but they don’t often come into contact with people who are different from themselves. Therefore, when I encounter a book like Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Crown, 2017), I can barely contain my excitement.”Diversifying the Canon of Inspirational Book Quotes by Ann Foster from Book Riot. Peek: “Inspirational book quotes are great for so many things: cute mugs, framed poster prints, wedding vows, bullet journals, and more. When we started noticing that the go-to quotes tend to be from the same group of primarily white male authors, we looked around for some more diverse options.”Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2017 from Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature, compiled by Dr. Claudette Shackelford McLinn, Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada, Lettycia Terrones, and Patricia Miranda. Writing Craft(Too) Close Third Person by Jeanne Kisacky From Writer Unboxed. Peek: “But characters, to come across as alive and fully-realized, have a will of their own….And in my case, deep third person let the characters show me where I’d been a jailor, boxing them into the story, rather than setting them free to find their way to the end on their own terms.” See also Overcoming Reader Resistence to Suspension of Disbelief by Donald Maass and Three Ways to Discover Your Character's True Motivation by Jim Dempsey from Writ[...]

Tim Tingle Named 2018 Recipient of Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award


By Gayleen Rabakukkfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsEarlier this week the Oklahoma Center for the Book announced Tim Tingle as the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2018.The award honoring a body of work contributing to Oklahoma’s literary heritage, was named for Oklahoma historian Arrell Gibson, who served as the first president of the Oklahoma Center for the Book.Tim is an award-winning author and storyteller and citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. His great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, and his paternal grandmother attended a series of rigorous Indian boarding schools in the early 1900s. In 1993, he retraced the Trail of Tears to Choctaw homelands in Mississippi and began recording stories of tribal elders.He received his master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Oklahoma in 2003, with a focus on American Indian studies.While teaching writing courses and completing his thesis, “Choctaw Oral Literature,” he wrote his first book, Walking the Choctaw Road (Cinco Puntos Press, 2003). It was the selected book for the Centennial “Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma” program in 2005 and was also selected for Alaska’s One Book–One State program.His children’s book, Crossing Bok Chitto: A Chotaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom (Cinco Puntos Press, 2006), garnered over twenty state and national awards including the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award, and was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review.In June of 2011, he spoke at the Library of Congress and presented his first performance at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. (A video of that performance appears at the end of this post.)Tim was a featured author and speaker at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., based on critical acclaim for How I Became a Ghost (Roadrunner Press, 2013), which won the 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Award. In February of 2016, his novel House of Purple Cedar (Cinco Puntos Press, 2013) won the American Indian Youth Literature Award, and was a finalist for the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction and made the finalist list for the Dublin Literary Award in 2016.Tim's other books include:Salty Pie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light (Cinco Puntos Press, 2010), named a finalist in the 2011 Oklahoma Book Awards for children/young adult Danny Blackgoat, Navajo Prisoner (Native Voices, 2013) named the 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Awards Honor BookDanny Blackgoat, Rugged Road To Freedom, (Native Voices, 2014) No Name (Native Voices, 2014), winner of the 2015 Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers AwardDanny Blackgoat: Dangerous Passage (Native Voices, 2017)No More No Name (Native Voices, 2017)His next book, A Name Earned will be released in January, 2018 by Native Voices.In a starred review of A Name Earned, Kirkus Reviews said, "In Bobby and Lloyd, Tingle highlights the resilience that young people have as they navigate family challenges. What is most special is the bond that develops between Bobby and his father, a father-son relationship that defies the odds, depicting a healed father on the other side of sobriety."As a visiting author and performer, Tim reaches audiences numbering over 200,000 annually. He has completed eight speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing stories to children of military personnel stationed in Germany.Tim also coordinates the [...]

In Memory: Sheila Barry


Photo courtesy of Heather Camlot; used with permission.By Melanie Fishbanefor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsOn the 21st of November, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre held its annual Canadian Children’s Book Awards, an evening devoted to awarding the best in children’s literature. Among the always decadent dishes and clinking glasses, there was feeling that something was missing—or someone. A little less than a week before, on the 15th of November, Groundwood’s publisher, Sheila Barry, had died from complications from her cancer treatment. One of Canadian children’s publishing’s strongest advocates for diverse, quality children’s books that never strayed from telling challenging stories, Sheila believed, “Whatever sequence of events it describes should be seen from a child’s point of view. The book should depict children as active participants in the story. And it should emphasize the fundamental human rights all children are entitled to, even if it also shows that sometimes those rights are not respected by adults.” I never had the chance to work closely with Sheila, but I did get to have lunch with her once a number of years ago. We chatted about books (of course), how she had decided that she wanted to learn the piano, and then she asked me: “What would the perfect day in your life look like?” The question, so pointed and so relevant, forced me to stop and consider, well, everything.Over the years, I’ve often thought about Sheila’s question, particularly during challenging periods, and, weirdly, my days are starting to look like how I mused during that afternoon lunch. I imagine that it was this type of question that made Sheila an incredible editor. She could hone in on what it was you were trying to do, asking exactly what you might not necessarily have the right answer to, but hoping that maybe you might get close. I asked a few people I knew who had worked with Sheila if they would be open to sharing their experiences working with her. Here is what they said. Editor-author Shelley Tanaka, who worked alongside Sheila, wrote: “Sheila deftly carried on the legacy that Patsy Aldana had built, publishing books that speak to a child’s sense of joy and wonder while continuing Groundwood’s commitment to books that are about something, that reflect a commitment to social justice and diversity issues, and children's engagement with the world and with each other. She also had a great gift for friendship, and for collaboration. She really represented what we all love most about children’s book publishing.” Author and creative producer Jon-Erik Lappano said: “Sheila was unafraid in her approach to stories. In conversations we had, she wasn't primarily concerned with how well a story would sell. It didn’t need to fit neatly into a genre or have wide audience appeal. Sheila trusted in stories that needed to be told, and was confident that those stories would find an audience. She was also tough – she knew what you were capable of and would delicately push you until you found it in yourself. She invested time in crafting stories together.Author Nadia Hohn added: “Sheila handled my stories with care. She gently took them and like Malaika’s Costume rinsed them with 'rose water' so they could shine through. She was a patient and caring editor.”Sheila took chances. On stories, on people, an[...]