Saturday, September 29, 2018

In Memory: Patricia Hermes

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Author Patricia Hermes died July 11, while Cynsations was on hiatus. She was 82.

After writing articles for national parenting magazines and an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times, a literary agent approached Hermes about writing for children.
"Hermes promptly wrote What If They Knew (Harcourt, 1980), a middle grade novel about a girl with epilepsy—something she had suffered from in childhood—starting at a new school. Thus began her career as a children’s book author," wrote Shannon Maughan in an obituary for Publishers Weekly
Hermes went on to write more than 50 other books, ranging from picture books through young adult. She often addressed "serious subjects, including death, incest, war, famine and slavery" reported Anita Gates for the New York Times.

In 2000, she began writing diary-style historical fiction titles for Scholastic's My America series before shifting gears to contemporary realism for the Emma Dilemma chapter book series published by Marshall Cavendish.

In 2010, Hermes did an interview with a Connecticut television and talked about how she was drawn to writing for children and her favorite series, Emma Dilemma. "It's my favorite because there's a lot of mischief going on, and Emma, even though she tries really hard to be a good kid, she gets into a lot of messes, which is what happened to me when I was little."

Friday, September 28, 2018

Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Robin Galbraith, Stephani EatonGayleen Rabukukk
for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview with Ibi Zoboi from Goodreads. Peek: “Elizabeth Bennet was the hero and love interest I didn't know I needed. I wanted to update her so she could be relatable to teens. So Zuri is Lizzie: supersmart, politically aware, has big questions about her place in this world, and, yes, falls in love.”

Advice from Tayari Jones to Writers in Difficult Times from Electric Lit. Peek: “This is a call to action for all of us, each according to her ability. This is a plea for truth telling in all of its complexity. I am asking you to be brave enough to forsake likes and shares in favor of revealing potentially unsettling realities.”

A Celebration That Lasts from Marion Dane Bauer. Peek: “The best thing about seeing my words—and Ekua Holmes’s magnificent art—appear in book form is knowing they are here to stay.”

Guest Post: Susan Fletcher on Journey of the Pale Bear from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: “As part of my research I contacted the Oregon Zoo, where I met, up close, the resident brother-and-sister polar bears…”

An Interview with Adrienne Kisner, Author of Dear Rachel Maddow by Lucas Maxwell from Book Riot. Peek: “... I am all about having a day job...Keep writing, and painting, and creating, young artists! Do not give up, your dream is not stupid. But maybe also consider being a barista, because artists still have to pay the bills. There is great creative freedom in knowing that rent is covered.”

Spotlight on Science Writers: April Pulley Sayre from Science NetLinks. Peek: “The original version of my book, Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust ...was rejected over and over, year after year. Then, one morning in a dorm at Vermont College, while studying for my MFA, I looked out at the sunrise and the entire book structure reorganized in my mind.”

How A Writer Reads by Meg Medina from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: "I read authors with roots from around the globe who offer me a wide range of lenses on life... reading across the age groups forces me to calibrate my ear, so that I can practice locating the voice of each age group when I sit down to write.”

Author Interview with Yuyi Morales from CBC Diversity. Peek: “I was working on a graphic novel when Donald Trump was elected president….My editor, Neal Porter, saw that I was stuck...he also told me that he thought the book I should be working on was my own immigrant story.”

Five Questions for Zetta Elliott by Katie Bircher from The Horn Book. Peek: “Traditionally in fantasy fiction, cities often figure as places that are unhealthy for kids... I want young readers to see Brooklyn the way I do — even after twenty-five years, my immigrant eyes still see magic and history and possibility around every corner…”

WNDB Announces the 2019 Walter Awards & Symposium at the Library of Congress from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “...The Walter Dean Myers Awards Ceremony and Symposium, to be held on Friday, March 29, 2019 at the esteemed Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The event will be co-sponsored​ ​by the​ ​Library​ ​of​ ​Congress Learning and Innovation Division ​and​ ​We​ ​Need​ ​Diverse​ ​Books.”

The Power of Literacy: Changing the Narrative of Toxic Masculinity by Travis Crowder from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “We reinforce toxic masculinity with our language, when we say that this is a ‘boy book’, or we appeal to male students with athleticism... and when we refuse to speak out against deleterious actions against men and boys who are not within the parameters of the norm.”

Kidlitwomen*: A Conversation with Karen Blumenthal by Julie Danielson from The Horn Book. Peek: “We settled on 'Kidlitwomen' as a name and then added an asterisk (not allowed in the title on the Facebook page) because the focus includes trans and nonbinary people...The diversity of issues was fascinating — ...conference experiences; #MeToo incidents; underrepresentation of people of color...people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+…”

A Few Thoughts on Ageism in YA from Mary Pearson. Peek: "...increased pressure on women in the writing world, thinking that a clock is ticking and their career choices are limited. ...why do we always try to box women in from the day they are born? I felt it as a teen. I feel it now."

Interview with Traci Sorrell by Carole Lindstrom from M is for Movement. Peek: “We cannot continue to have the majority of books available for children and teens created by people who are not from our Native Nations. Too many times, the homework has not been done to get it right..”

On Becoming A Black Girl Reader by T.R. Simon from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “By seeking and finding myself in books, I was able to make the journey from reader to writer, from my red bean bag to the pages of my own book. I became a black woman writer because books taught me how to love my mind as a black girl reader.”

Who Are Las Musas? from Las Musas Books. Peek: “We are the first collective of women and non-binary Latinx MG and YA authors to come together in an effort to support and amplify each other’s debut or sophomore novels in U.S. children’s literature...We are not one voice, but many.”

Ellen Oh On “Crazy Rich Asians” and Representation by Rachel Carter from Booktrib. Peek: “...we know that education is key in our battle against racism, sexism, ableism, prejudice, and hate. The more diversity that children are exposed to from a young age, the more likely they will learn empathy and tolerance.”

Writing Craft

Is Your Picture Book Actually A Chapter Book? Five Ways to Find Out by Hillary Homzie from Writing For Kids (While Raising Them). Peek: “Picture books almost always require an interplay between words and pictures. Chapter books don’t. If you find yourself leaning towards exposition that doesn’t require illustration, you might have a chapter book on your hands.”

Un-dead Darlings by Fran Hawthorne from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “...darlings need to stay in their coffins..However, there are other possibilities for this excised material if we abandon the idea of keeping our darlings intact as chunks of prose and consider, instead, what they indicate, arise from, and serve.”

7 Quick Tips for Mastering Pacing in Your Story by Claire Bradshaw from Writer’s Edit. Peek: “While many stories whose pacing is 'off' can be put down to slower, 'boring' sections, just as many find trouble when pacing is too fast, or when there are no slowed-down sections at all.”

The Four Habits of Highly Effective Flashbacks by Dean Gloster from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: “ Holly Black’s compelling and widely acclaimed 2013 YA novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, is a master class in how to use full flashbacks effectively...How does Holly Black make that work so well? For starters, her flashbacks follow all four good habits.”

Hero, Mentor, Trickster: Thinking about Archetypal Character Roles in MG by Jenn Brisendine from From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “I’ve listed some common character archetypes and given some examples from all sorts of MG fiction—recently published to modern classics, realistic to fantasy.”


Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves among finalists for $10K CODE Burt Award for Indigenous YA Literature by Jane van Koeverden from CBC. Peek: The short list is:


When Zero Is Greater Than One by Susan Spann from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Consider every aspect of the deal. Does it make business sense? Does it fit your plans and desires for your overall career? For where you are now, and where you hope to go?"

Abrams to Launch Megascope Graphic Imprint by Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Abrams has announced the launch of Megascope, a new imprint under its ComicArts program that will publish a variety of graphic novels focused on the experiences of people of color... The Megascope imprint will publish four to six books a year with the first book to be released in fall 2019.”

Interview with Jill Davis, Executive Editor from Harper Collins! by Jonathan Rosen at From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “Middle Grade seems to be where it’s at right now, likely because of the explosion and saturation in contemporary teen since John Green came on the scene.”


35-Point Checklist for a Great Author Visit from The Booking Biz. Peek: "The checklist is broken down by timeline, but this might change based upon your school district and schedule. Read through the entire checklist, then do each step in accordance with your school’s needs."

School Visit Survey Part 5: Next Steps by Michelle Cusolito and Jeannette Bradley from Polliwog on Safari. Peek: “Male authors are more likely to have publisher-sponsored school visits than female/non-binary authors...Even more striking, female/non-binary authors who had won a national ALA/ALSC award (ex: Caldecott, Newberry, Coretta Scott King awards, etc) had fewer publisher-sponsored visits than men who had not won an award.”

How to Build a Following with Uniqueness, Authenticity, and “Getting Crazy.” My Interview with Travis Jonker by Dan Blank from We Grow Media. Peek: “Travis would write a blog post, but then reread it and ask if it would truly grab someone’s attention. If not, he would go back in and 'get crazier,' meaning he would be more free, give more of himself, add more humor, maybe make it more in his own voice…”

10 Instagram Tips for Writers by Annie Sullivan from Jane Friedman. Peek: “The other day, a high school freshman walked up to my book signing. When I asked if she had a Facebook account, she said, ‘No, Instagram.’...Younger generations (and even some older ones!) flock to Instagram for its feed of beautiful pictures.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally - Cynthia

Author copies! Pre-order your signed, personalized book now!
Welcome to new Cynsations intern, Stephani Eaton! We're thrilled to have you on board.

Thank you to outogoing intern Kate Pentecost! Kate is now a Cynsations reporter, covering LGBTQIA and YA books.

Quiet week here, filled with MFA grading and getting ready for fall author-speaker events.

Tweeps, mark your calendars: I'll be participating in the "Indigenous Authors in MG" #mglitchat Twitter event from 9 PM to 10 PM ET Oct. 18 (that's 8 PM to 9 PM CT)!

BookRiot: Recommended: Interesting People and Their Favorite Books, featuring Gretchen Rubin and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Peek: "Apple in the Middle [by Dawn Quigley] is a rare contemporary story about a well rounded, likable native girl coming home to herself and her heritage for the first time. It’s ideal for those who like humor and elements of mystery."

36 of October's Best Young Adult Books by Dahlia Adler from BNTeenBlog. Peek:
"This month, you guys. This month. Look, I try to not to make grand statements like 'This is maybe the best YA publishing month of all time,' but you’ve got the returns of Anna-Marie McLemore, Nic Stone, Markus Zusak, Katherine Locke, Claire Legrand, Amy Rose Capetta, Destiny Soria, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and more..."
Remember to pre-order your signed, personalized copy of Hearts Unbroken, and it's your last call to pre-order the paperback edition of Feral Pride (both Candlewick)!

Link of the Week: Friends of Indigo Memorial. Sympathies and support to Children of The Glades (@OfGlades on Twitter). Peek:
"Sixteen-year-old Indigo took her own life. She struggled with anxiety and depression. She also fought fiercely against the anti-Native prejudice and queerphobia that was all around her. We want to keep up that fight for her and give a gift to 'all our beautiful hummingbird-hearted kin.'  
"We are starting this fundraiser because people are asking and wanting to give. Our library district was a haven for Indigo; a place for books and belonging. This was because our librarian Miss Ann welcomed her at the reference desk and at teen programs and guided her to books that enriched her and reflected her dreams and desires."
More Personally - Stephani

This month’s highlight was attending our local book festival, Bookmarks, the largest book festival in the Carolinas. Our family had a blast at Dav Pilkey’s keynote and enjoyed several panels the next day. My son raved over getting to do a hands-on graphic novel workshop with Jeffrey Brown and my daughter was inspired by the Our Stories, Our Voices panel hosted by Amy Reed. The whole family came away with more books than we could comfortably carry.

Stephani and Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants
Personal Links - Cynthia
Personal Links - Robin
Personal Links - Stephani

Thursday, September 27, 2018

New Voice: Nora Carpenter on Yoga Frog

By Robin Galbraith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

September is yoga month!

So as a former preschool teacher I was thrilled to interview Nora Carpenter about her fantastic new picture book Yoga Frog, illustrated by Mark Chambers (Running Press Kids, 2018). From the promotional copy:

Frog loves to practice yoga. And he will inspire kids to enjoy doing yoga, too. Follow Frog's yoga flow, from warming up to cooling down. 

Start with the mountain and chair poses, then work into giraffe, cat-cow, downward-facing dog, butterfly, and bridge. 

End with the quieting happy baby and savasana poses to help your muscles relax before going to bed or starting your day. 

For fans of Yoga Bunny and I am Yoga, Yoga Frog's simple, meditative text is complemented by playful yet instructive illustrations by Mark Chambers to teach youngsters how to start their very own yoga practice—and to have fun while doing so, too.

I love this book because it's perfect for teaching preschoolers yoga! What inspired you to write a picture book on yoga? 

Thank you! I’ve dreamed of publishing a kids yoga book for so long! About a year after college, I took a job teaching preschoolers. (Shout out to the JCC of Northern Virginia!) For the record, that job was one of the best experiences ever and ended up re-awakening my creative writing energy, which had been a bit stifled by academia. But that’s another story!)

Anyway, at the same time I was also becoming more and more engaged with yoga and yogic philosophy, and decided to further my own study through an intensive teacher training program.

I began teaching yoga to my preschoolers and found:

  1. They loved it.
  2. Due to their age and limited attention spans, I had to jazz the poses up a bit with imagination and fun.

I looked for resources, but at that time, the only things available were some flash card sets and a couple wordy books geared toward much older kids.

Fast forward a few years. While attending the MFA program at VCFA, I decided to write the book I wish I’d had for my preschool classes. To be clear, Yoga Frog is nothing like that first attempt, which emerged as poetry! But my teaching (both of pre-K kids and of yoga) is what inspired that initial attempt.

The selection of poses is perfect for the preschool crowd and the prose for each is clear yet poetic. How did you decide what poses to include, what to call them, and how did you go about writing the prose for each pose? 

Again, thank you! I chose the most popular poses from my classes that would both enable kids to release energy and also calm down/de-stress. During yoga teacher training, you’re taught to construct flows that warm up the body for “peak poses,” or the most challenging/intense pose in the flow, and then cool down/relax the muscles that were just worked.

You also learn which poses make good transitions to other poses so that you’re not having students bounce back and forth between seated and standing poses. I drew on that knowledge and my experience teaching lots of kids' yoga classes to construct the flow of the book.

I did wrestle with what to call some of the poses. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to include the proper Sanskrit names, but some of the English translations just aren’t very kid-friendly or engaging. For example, baddha konasana literally translates to “bound angle pose” and ardha matsyendrasana means “half lord of the fishes.” I never used those names in my kids classes.

My experience teaching kids yoga quickly showed me that kids have the most fun when there’s an imaginative element at play, and the most popular imaginative elements in my classes were pretending to be animals and other things relating to nature.

Nature names lend themselves so easily to interactivity. I mean, I have yet to meet a kid whose face doesn’t light up when “kabooming” during Volcano (malasana).

So I took some artistic license and included some of the English names I used in my classes, while still including the Sanskrit names underneath.

At the end of the day, the goal of kids' yoga is for kids to have fun. If they do, they’ll want to practice yoga again. And again. And again. Before you know it, they’ve developed a healthy and incredibly beneficial self-care habit.

You recently sold your first novel—a contemporary YA titled, The Edge of Anything—which is slotted for spring 2020 publication. Can you give us a quick pitch? 

Sure! The Edge of Anything is the dual narrative of high school volleyball star, Sage, and Len, an outcast teen photographer with a guilty secret. The book explores the transformative power of friendship and how it can help you find yourself and the goodness in life, even when everything feels broken.

A novel is such a different beast from a picture book. How do you juggle working on such different kinds of projects simultaneously? Wait, do you work on them simultaneously, or do you write a novel, then a picture book, etc? 

You aren’t kidding about how different the forms are! I started my creative writing career focused on novels, so I’ve had a steep learning curve with the picture books. (I’m actually gearing up for a picture book intensive regional SCBWI conference, and I’m so excited for everything I’m going to learn!)

Anyway, I’ve heard people make comments about how picture book writing must be “easy” because the stories themselves are short. That could not be less true. A great picture book story has to achieve an incredible amount in a terribly short format, usually 400-600 words.

It really is like writing poetry, and the process works a very different part of my brain and challenges a different part of my creativity.

I’ve noticed, in fact, that after working on the picture book form for a while, my novel writing flows better and smoother. For that reason, yes, I have started writing picture books in the midst of drafting novels. Each serves as a good “break” or “switch” from the other.

Honestly, no matter what form or genre you prefer, I think writers should constantly be testing and challenging their skills. Believe me, I know how hard it can be, but forcing yourself out of your writing comfort zone almost always improves your work.

As I’ve matured as a writer, I try to do this more and more. For example, a while back I joined a picture book critique group with some of my agent-mates, even though I am by far the greenest picture book writer in the group.

But that’s okay. I’m learning a ton and it’s a safe space to ask questions and get valuable, constructive feedback. And that feedback improves my writing as a whole, not just my picture book skills.

Even if one (or a bunch) of projects don’t work out, the skills you’ve learned from those projects will enhance your writing in unexpected ways.

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?

Once you get a book contract, there are suddenly all of these other professional responsibilities you have to juggle along with the process of writing itself: social media presence, interviews, panels, readings and any other type of marketing/promotion you and/or your publisher might set up. It’s exciting, but it does take away from writing time, so if you’re also balancing another job, kids, time with a partner, etc., it can definitely get overwhelming.

In addition to the short-term bouts of promotion that go along with book releases, I do carve out time to keep my website updated with links to reviews, blog interviews, upcoming events, etc.

Otherwise, I try to focus on the actual craft of writing as much as possible. That’s what I find rewarding and fulfilling (and yeah, also crazy hard and maddening at times).

I will say, I do love events. I’m pretty extraverted, so I love meeting readers and other writers and talking about writing and books. But I’m always eager to dive back in to the actual writing and creating process.

What advice do you have for beginning children’s-YA writers?

 Keep writing. Write through the inevitable fear, the “what-if-it’s-not-good?” insecurity. And know that every writer has that angst, often with every book. All you can do is write through it.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Leigh Bardugo, who also happens to be one of my favorite authors. She says: “I think the hard work of writing is just how long a book is terrible before it’s good.”

You must embrace the terrible. Get the draft on the page. You cannot craft a good book without first writing down its messy insides. Revision, re-vision, and revision again make a book great.

 Also, find a supportive writing community, people who will boost your confidence when needed but also provide you with honest, constructive criticism. Go to author and writing events, readings at local bookstores. Even if you’re introverted, force yourself to talk to at least one person there. You will find people just like you, looking for the same thing.

Cynsational Notes

Nora Carpenter grew up in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. After college she lived in Washington, D.C., where she became a Certified Yoga Teacher, before settling into the mountains of North Carolina.

She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and writes picture books and young adult fiction.

When she's not writing, she's doing something outdoorsy or chasing her three rocket-fueled kids. Check out the book trailer for Yoga Frog:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

New Voice: Dawn Quigley on Apple in the Middle

for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

This is a watershed year for the release of Native young adult novels.

From Eric Gansworth’s Give Me Some Truth (Scholastic, 2018), the followup to his If I Ever Get Out of Here (Scholastic, 2013), and Tim Tingle’s Trust Your Name (7th Generation, September 2018), the fourth in his No Name series, to the upcoming Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, October 2018), I’m pleased to feature a newcomer to the age market, Dawn Quigley.

Her debut novel, Apple in the Middle (North Dakota State University Press, 2018), features Apple, a teen whose mother, from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, died due to complications from her birth.

Raised by her white physician father and stepmother in an affluent suburb of the Twin Cities, Apple has never had contact with her mother’s family.

The story focuses on Apple’s experience during an extended summer visit with these unknown relatives on the tribe’s reservation located near the Canadian border in what is now north central North Dakota.

What first inspired you to write for young readers?

As I was writing some poetry I found myself sharing my frustrations of how many non-Native authors were creating books which were stereotypically shedding negative light onto Native culture. Here was my inspiration, my poem, and my call for the Native world to not let others tell our stories for us:

I am tired of seeing Indians portrayed as victims in literature.
I am tired of how Natives are dripping with alcoholism in your books.
And I am tired of images of sexually deranged,
violently abused and
educationally-lacking characters. 
Native people, arise!
We have, and are still, climbing the mountain of injustice;
Carrying our history on our back as we tread to the top to see the vision our ancestors told us of.
But, instead of glimpsing at the majestic vista,
Too often we must listen as writers plunge our People back to the desolate valleys again.
But you only show the darkness, shutting out the light of hope, and resilience; condemning the beacon of a better tomorrow to melt away.
We Natives have lived in nightfall, but revel in the sunrise of tomorrow.
We, at times, hibernate for a season, but awake in springtime of life. 
Native people, arise!
Our stories, like of old, must reflect the balance between darkness and light; between the highs and the lows; and between this world and the next.
Our history has been one of
tear-wrenching tragedy,
and historical trauma.
This must be remembered. This should be told.
But we also know the beauty of our culture; the history which we hold tight; and the values we pass down seven generations. 
So why, when we only have our imaginations to limit us, do we as Native writers and storytellers allow them to present only our darkness to the world?
Why do continually let
them tell our tales? 
Native people, arise!
Where are the heroic characters in our modern Native fiction?
There are too few Indigenous writers who shine the light on our culture.
But I am greedy. I want more.
Why don’t we write about our success -
Not success as the world may see it, but in our Indian way?
Tell us about your grandmother’s quilts. Tell us why your sister worked two jobs and went to night school for her college degree.
Tell us the time when your grandfather’s teaching touched your life.
Tell us.
Tell us.
Just tell us.
Honoring author Joseph Bruchac during the Native YA Today: Contemporary Indigenous Voices & Heroes for the 21st Century panel at the American Library Association conference. Author Cynthia Leitich Smith, moderator Alia Jones, Joseph Bruchac and Dawn Quigley.

Please describe your pre-publication craft apprenticeship. How did you take your writing from a beginner level to publishable? 

My greatest challenge was that I had no idea how to write a book!

In teaching middle school English and reading for most of my 18 years, I spent countless hours reading YA books for my students to select read-aloud and classroom novels.

I fell in love with reading books that could transform my students. I began writing letters to the editors of our local newspapers, then wrote full commentary essays. I gained a lot of confidence each time something was published.

Next I branched out to poetry. But to write a book, this was the challenge. I took a few courses at a local writer’s loft on how to sell and promote books, but not on the actual task of writing.

I did read only one book on it: Stephen King’s On Writing (Scribner, 2000). That book, and reading up to 10 books a month, were my teachers.

I would use favorite sections of a book to learn how the author crafted dialogue, the climatic parts, etc. Then I wrote roughly two pages a day for some time until I had a finished book! I didn’t outline my story at all, and this is something I will do in the future: begin with a rough frame.

What were the best and worst moments of your publishing journey?

The best moment was when I actually finished the book! I felt like a five-year-old wanting to run out and say, “Look, Ma, I wrote a book!”

Then the down side was trying to learn how to pitch and query editors and agents for my Apple in the Middle. I got many “bites” and asks for partials and fulls and also rejects, but it was one editor from North Dakota State University Press who made my writing career when the first line in her letter back to me was: "I love Apple. I love everything about her world."

Suzzanne Kelly loved my Native coming-of-age book, and this, so far, has been another great moment. My book has just come out, so I’m doing readings, signings, et cetera. I know I’m only beginning!

Rolling hills of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota.
As a member of a community under-represented in youth literature, what did your diverse perspective bring to your story? 

Turtle Mountain rose
I taught in K-12 grades for over 18 years, and it was challenging at times to find books and materials that reflected Native people respectfully.

As a Native teacher, I wanted to show the positive aspects of our culture. I knew that I have lived and seen these beautiful Native aspects and began to educate myself and my peers that there are books out there, but we all need to put in the effort to find, read and evaluate them.

I began this book because of a beckoning voice I kept hearing: Tell them the stories.

My first instinct was to push it away. How could I write a book? Who was I? But I felt this book was to be a legacy for my children to hear about my Turtle Mountain grandparents and what they taught me-and are still teaching me today even though their footprints are no longer on this Earth, but in my soul. And like many Native people who are storytellers, I knew that the best way to share history and life lesson is through the telling of tales.

As I was in the middle of the book, I started to wonder if this was meant to be more than just a family tale, but instead a way to let non-Native people peer through the keyhole to get a glimpse into our world. A world that is a beautiful one, but also a world that is many times misunderstood.

Cynsational Notes

Dawn Quigley, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, North Dakota, is an assistant professor in the Education Department at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Her website offers support for educators in finding, evaluating and implementing Native American curriculum content from an indigenous perspective.

In addition to her coming-of-age Young Adult novel, Apple in the Middle, Dawn has over 25 published articles and poems, in mainstream magazines, academic journals and newspapers, including American Indian Quarterly, Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought, Indian Country Today, Hollywood and Vine magazine, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

She was awarded the St. Catherine University Denny Prize Award for Distinction in Writing and has been a finalist in both the Minnesota Loft Literary Center's Emerging Writer award and its Mentor Series. Dawn lives in the metro area in Minnesota with her husband and two girls.

Traci Sorell covers picture books as well as children's-YA writing, illustration, publishing and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Her first nonfiction picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga illustrated by Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge Sept. 4, 2018) features a panorama of modern-day Cherokee cultural practices and experiences, presented through the four seasons. It conveys a universal spirit of gratitude common in many cultures.

In fall 2019, her first fiction picture book, At the Mountain’s Base, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre will be published by Penguin Random House’s new imprint, Kokila.

Traci is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt Literary Agency.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Survivors: M.T. Anderson on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children's-YA Author

Learn more about M.T. Anderson.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

In 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? (Mention the year your first book was published.)

My first book – Thirsty, a vampire novel (Candlewick) – came out in 1997. YA was a very different world then. It was an obscure, niche field within children’s trade publishing, which focused on the picture book.

Commercial success was basically impossible for YA books, except in the case of mass-market tween series, and even those series weren’t yet as profitable as they would become. YA wasn’t a place for the ambitious to go. It was really pursued for the love of the craft and out of love for the audience.

That really changed around the turn of the millennium, and I think my career rode on that wave of expansion. My first two novels were published in the somewhat quieter, more parochial world of YA as it had been … but by my third novel, the dystopian satire Feed (Candlewick, 2002), the industry had exploded into the public view. I was a beneficiary of that explosion.

The first bump I hit was after the 2008 crash. Suddenly, the market contracted. Several things assaulted the publishing industry simultaneously: as the economy went into deep recession, consumer spending dropped; library funding fell through the floor; and ebooks began decimating hardcover revenues. The income structure for books had really relied on hardcover sales, especially to libraries, and increasingly, libraries had less to spend on collection development.

At the same time, the number of titles published had gone through the roof, so each individual book was less likely to attract attention. At the corporate level, publishers and their parent companies were all staggering around like the wounded in a B horror-movie, tripping all over each other and, in fact, merging and disintegrating in new and bizarre combinations.

I had the same experience many people had during this period – and I want readers to know that even now, this experience is not unusual: the awful experience of watching books you love and have worked on with pride and pleasure slipping through the cracks.

In the midst of all the mergers, the firings, and the rapid staff turnover, many publishers’ marketing and publicity teams simply were not promoting a lot of the titles on their list. Communication between marketing and publicity departments – which are, somehow, separate at some companies – was nil. There were no thought-through strategies for promotion, and a lot of opportunities were missed.

One example: I had a publisher spend a lot of money to create some photo-ops for me – and then accidentally neglect to send the photos anywhere. I ended up feeling guilty because they’d wasted money paying for my travel. I hate self-promotion anyway, and wasting my publisher’s resources made my teeth hurt. But that kind of snafu was not unusual.

At the time, I was working on two lighter, younger teen series. In both cases, the first books had sold well. But after the crash, the sales plummeted. The same thing was happening to everyone around me, as we all clamored for attention from ever smaller marketing and publicity staffs.

You should know that everyone complains about that kind of neglect at some stage of their career. To some extent, it has become the new normal in a bloated and competitive industry.

That doesn’t make it any easier, emotionally and artistically. This is a book you crafted lovingly! You’ve lived with it for years, fostering its growth. Then it’s out in the world and can’t seem to get any traction. And worse, writers often blame themselves when a project doesn’t sell – though the mechanics of what makes a book take off are mysterious to everyone.

Please know that many of our industry’s most famous authors have stories in which projects they loved and believed in foundered and disappeared, never reaching their audience. You can’t take it to heart. It happens to everyone.

You just never notice those forgotten chapters in other people’s careers because, well, they’re forgotten – so the successful, in hindsight, seem as if they’ve always been successful.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your work. And love your work from day to day – because that’s what’s going to make it worth it, regardless of a book’s fortunes in the wider world.

One practical suggestion for avoiding self-pity and self-flagellation: In general, I recommend working on several things in alternation. It makes sense from several standpoints: You can put one project on a back burner for a couple of months while working up something else, and that absence is often key to gaining new insight on your own work.

A side-benefit of this is that when a book comes out, you’ve already left it behind. You’re working on something else and surging toward a different goal. You can afford to be more indifferent, therefore, to setbacks for a previous project.

Keep moving! Keep striving!

If you had it to do all over again, what—if anything—would you do differently and why?

What a great moment for me to contradict my previous answer! One thing I was noted for, early in my career, was trying out very different genres – horror, rom-com, picture book biography, sci-fi, historical fiction, middle grade adventure, etc. I love challenges and confronting myself with a new task, a new mountain to climb.

When I was younger, I dove into each new project blithely. But I have discovered that variety also has a cost. Authors who work in the same mode or genre develop followings in a different way than those of us who hurl things out toward different audiences.

Would I do anything differently, though? I’m not sure I would. I loved each of the projects I worked on. While I was working on each one, it was my world. Each one engaged a different part of me, different skills. How could I want to give that up? That joy, and that sense of exploration and discovery? That’s part of what writing is about.

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 talked about this a lot above, and I’d basically say that when literary historians look back at the early 21st century, they’ll see this period as a golden age for YA lit.

Sure, those of us in the thick of the industry might experience the present as something of a scramble – but now that the stakes (and, sometimes, the advances) are higher, we’ve attracted a lot of great talent to the field, people who otherwise wouldn’t have considered writing for teens.

I think that’s amazing – and if you’d asked me in 1995, when I was an editorial assistant, I would have said this extraordinary growth of the genre was pretty much impossible.

Oh, one industry factoid that young writers should know about: one of the reasons we became so profitable so quickly, as a sector – one of the reasons that corporate publishing licks their chops over our work – is that, believe it or not, our contracts dictate we receive proportionally smaller royalty cuts than writers for adults do.

That’s a hold-over from the days when YA publishing typically took a loss. So as YA sales exploded in the early 2000’s, and many more copies of YA books were being sold, publishers were making a few percent more on each book, too. (Money that, in the world of publishing for adults, would have gone to the authors themselves.) That meant giant profits, and YA came to seem even more delectable as a publishing investment.

All of this has contributed to making the genre so prominent in our national culture.

What advice would you give to your beginner self, if that version of you was a debut author this year?

With co-author Eugene Yelchin
That is a tough one. The flip side of the field being rich with variety is that it is incredibly hard to break into it and to get noticed. I am a New Englander, and hate self-promotion. It makes my severe little Puritan soul shrivel. The only P.R. event I’m really comfortable with is sitting in a graveyard during a drizzle, reading to the slate stones.

I would say that social media helps some authors, but at this point, we’ve passed the apogee of that approach. We’re glutted with tweets.

What about joining these groups of people who travel together and promote together?

Readings when you’re a young author can be demoralizing, because only your friends come, and you’re a writer, so you don’t have many friends. But I know several young writers who have banded together and traveled together, creating their own little tour, taking advantage of personal connections instead of staying at hotels etc.

It’s more fun to travel as a group anyway – and then each of you is a draw for friends and relations, so you actually get respectable regional audiences. Thumbs up all around.

What do you wish for children’s-YA writers (and readers), looking to the future?

More wonderful books – and more books that break the mold and tell us about experiences we haven’t heard about yet.

As a writer, what do you wish for yourself in the future?

Well, for one thing, I’m working on a book for adults at the moment, which is fascinating and challenging.

In looking to the past and the future, I’ve noticed one common theme in my career: I have miraculously found a way to anticipate trends by just enough that I completely miss capitalizing on them.

I published a vampire novel six years before the vampire craze, a dystopian novel four years before the dystopian craze, a steampunk series four years before the steampunk craze, and so on. Each one cleverly timed so that I never monetize the coincidence.

So if you’re a trend-watcher, here’s a word to the wise: I’m thinking that in a couple years, there might be a run on Russian espionage nonfiction.

Cynsational Notes 

The Survivors Interview Series offers in-depth reflections and earned wisdom from children's-YA book authors who have successfully built long-term, actively-publishing careers.

M. T. Anderson’s forthcoming novel, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, written with Eugene Yelchin, will be released in October 2018. It has been named to the 2018 National Book Awards Longlist in Young People's Literature. M.T. was the 2006 award winner for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party (Candlewick.)


Monday, September 24, 2018

Cynsations Intern: Stephani Eaton on The Joy of Writing

Stephani Eaton, photo by Tanya Odom
By Stephani Eaton
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

When I was in second grade, I wrote a poem about an impending storm that pleased my dad so much that he hung it in his office. It stayed there for years.

I recently asked if he remembered what it said and he rattled off: “This dark and rainy noon will soon pass the sunset of time.”

I had to laugh at the melodrama of my seven-year-old self. Laughed and said, “What on earth does that mean?”

He defended my first “serious” writing attempt as the start of my writing journey.

Second grade was a pivotal year, one in which words came alive for me. I remember bringing a story to Mrs. Giannone’s desk and in the middle of reading it she put her head on her desk and fell asleep!

Well, she didn’t really fall asleep, but I had used the word “nice” and she was showing me how boring that was for a reader. Her reaction amused me to no end. It lit up my brain and made me want to write, write, write.

Young Stephani at the keyboard
Yet, I learned later that too much pizazz in the writing just gets in the way of meaning. My dad would harp on me to “say what I mean” and not to embellish too much. In a book report on Ivanhoe, I had cooked up some flowery sentences. He asked what they meant and I couldn’t tell him because I didn’t know. Finally, after much back and forth and lots of frustration, I told him that I was just trying to say that the book made me think.

“Say that!” he said. He taught me not only the importance of clarity but precision. That’s what you get when your dad has a PhD in biochemistry but loves to read literature and history. The copy he gave me of Ernest Hemingway’s On Writing (Grafton Books, 1986) is still on my shelf.

In sixth grade, Mrs. Siltman told me I was good at reading and writing only after she told me I needed to stay in for recess because I talked too much. This is probably the year that I discovered Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabitha (Crowell, 1977) and Gilly Hopkins (Crowell, 1978). And it was one year before I met Anne of Green Gables (by L.M. Montgomery, L.C. Page & Co., 1908).

I wore those books out. All the while I was writing, writing, writing at home. We had gotten a new Apple IIc computer and it had Print Shop software on it. I obsessively made newspapers filled with stories of our family life to send to my out-of-state-grandparents. Grandparents are the best audience. 

In high school, the boy who sat in front of me in AP English frustrated me to no end. He aced all the timed writings and our teacher frequently used his work as the model to which to aspire. I was a good student, but no standout.

The same was true of my undergrad experience. I earned a BA in English and secondary education with a journalism add-on, but not with stellar grades. After graduation, I taught middle school and loved it. I had a whole crop of kids to introduce to books and writing. An added bonus, I got to teach my beloved Gilly Hopkins.

I needed to get a Master’s to continue teaching, so I decided I would pursue my first love and what I felt I never had time for in undergrad: creative writing. I worked and worked on a manuscript. I had no idea what I was doing.

I was promptly rejected. Several years and two babies later, I sat back down to write. It felt familiar. It felt right. But it was hard. I realized quickly that I needed and wanted to learn more. I wanted to take all those creative writing courses that I never took in undergrad, that I wanted to take in graduate school. So, I applied to four MFA writing programs.

I was promptly rejected.

It would have been wise for me to remember what I knew as a second grader, that: “this dark and rainy noon will soon pass the sunset of time.”

I boxed up my seventeen drafts that weren’t getting me into school.

And I started over.

I did what I could. I joined a critique group, went to some conferences, and listened to webinars. I read craft books such as A Sense of Wonder by Paterson (Plume Books, 1995) which fueled my purpose to write. I read blogs like this one (but few as good).

About eighteen months later, I had something that looked more like a story. A friend invited me to go with her to an SCBWI conference in New York.

By chance, we met some Vermont College of Fine Arts alumni, who were gracious when I confessed I had been rejected from their program. Later, one of them came to find me and introduced me to VCFA’s recruiter. They both sincerely encouraged me to apply again.

I texted my husband in a flurry of eagerness.

Seconds later he texted, “Do it!”

I did.

Even though I didn’t get in on the first try, when I did get to VCFA it provided me with everything my seven-year-old self could have dreamed of: encouraging mentors, a community of writers, a place to grow and experiment.

Katherine Patterson and Stephani in Oxford
I added to the champions in my corner a hundredfold. I even traveled for a week with, Katherine Paterson (the author of those books I wore out), during a VCFA writing residency in Bath.

But most importantly, VCFA gave me an excuse and a reason to don my favorite hoodie and sit down at the keyboard and write.

Stephani and family on a research trip
to the Bodie Island Lighthouse in North Carolina
Writing has become a family activity. My husband loves to write. My kids write. We share our writing with each other. We go on research trips together.

It has become part of the fabric of our family life.

The writing life is full of refusals, rejections, and revisions. No writer’s life is free of those storms, those “dark and rainy noons.” But those pass.

And even amidst those storms there is joy.

Joy in creation, joy in community, joy in those moments alone with the blank page and the promise of what’s possible.

Oh, and that boy who frustrated me to no end in AP English?

Reader, I married him.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Robin Galbraith, & Gayleen Rabukukk
for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

Nova Ren Suma On Ghosts, Unreliable Narrators, & A Room Away from the Wolves by Luann Toth from School Library Journal. Peek: “As a writer, it’s both a fantastic rollercoaster ride writing a [unreliable] narrator like this, and also a maddening puzzle, because even if the reader isn’t meant to know the full truth, I always need to, and I need to make sure all angles and avenues are covered.”

The WD Interview: Bestseller Jacqueline Woodson on Confronting Controversial Subjects & Writing Across Age Categories by Jera Brown from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “I get asked a lot about my literature in terms of the controversy of it, which, it’s not controversial to me. I’m writing about everyday life and real issues and real people—I mean real characters who are trying to find their footing.”

Q & A with Hena Khan by Alex Rah from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When I was growing up, I never saw myself represented in a single book that I read, and it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I finally had that shock of recognition and saw ‘myself’ in a book for the first time.”

Interview: Paula Chase by Edi Campbell from CrazyQuiltEdi. Peek: “These characters are bonded by their neighborhood...Sometimes adults forget there’s an entire world their kids live in outside of them.”

Advice for Young Writers, Office Cats, and Up in the Air: Three Questions with Ann Marie Meyers by Debbie Ridpath Ohi from Inkygirl. Peek: “Dare to dream, especially when life throws ‘curveballs’ at you, because no matter what happens, you’ll always veer back on the path if you keep your dream alive.”

Author to Author: A Conversation Between Nadia L. Hohn and Itah Sadu by Itah Sadu and Nadia L. Hohn from Anansesem. Peek: “Writers of colour are highly underrepresented in the publishing industry but have a long history of independent (self) publishing and developing alternative presses of our own...Movements like We Need Diverse Books and publications like Anansesem are needed to increase the visibility of our work.”

In Conversation: Yuri Morales and Neal Porter from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “One of the most joyful things for me, in the way we make books, is that we honor the love I have for Spanish. And the importance Spanish has for me. Spanish is not a language that opposes or cancels English, but is equal.”

Interview with Jonathan Roth, Author of Beep and Bob Book Three: Take Us to Your Sugar by Wendy McLeod MacKnight from Middle Grade Minded. Peek: “... I got frustrated with years of rejections of picture books and middle grade novels and just sat down to write something silly and fun from my heart... I think I benefited from both the power of letting go and from all the practice I had put into my other projects.”

Writing and Illustrating Muslim Characters in Children’s Literature: Interview with Author Saadia Faruqi and Illustrator Hatem Aly by Suma Subramaniam at From the Mixed-up Files. Peek: “It was really important to me not to make Yasmin or her family 'the other' – someone different because of their skin color or their religion or ethnic background. There is a sort of empowerment in that normalization that only minority groups can truly understand.”


The 2018 National Book Awards Longlist: Young People’s Literature from The New Yorker. Cyn Note: Shout out to pal M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, nominated for The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (Candlewick).


Ageism in YA Lit from Mary E. Pearson. Peek: "If older women in the arts become a rare species, will young writers fear for their own careers? Will middle-aged women just give up because of some antiquated message our culture perpetuates?"

Sorell’s Debut Book Features All Things Cherokee by Will Chavez from the Cherokee Phoenix. Peek: “After my son was born, I noticed nearly all the books I had were either traditional stories or about Native people and historical events prior to 1900. I wondered where all the fiction and nonfiction picture books featuring modern Native life were....That’s what inspired me to write for children.”

How and Why To Build Diversity into Your Speaker Program by Cynthia Leitich Smith from The Booking Biz. Peek: "Think about a balance of voices, their idiosyncratic and intersecting perspectives, because that will make for a richer, more layered and interesting conversation."

South Bend Bookstore Promotes Diversity Through Literature by Allie Kirkman from the Miami Herald. Peek: "Not only am I looking for a good story, but I am looking for the high-quality inclusive books. I am looking for marginalized voices."

NYRF 2018: Money, Status Will Drive More Diversity by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I don’t see this as a trend—I see this as about educating the retailers and the gatekeepers,’ said [Judith] Curr...”

Picture Book Recommendations: First/Native Nations by Jillian Helse from Heise Reads & Recommends. Peek: “I am concerned about the number of teachers I see recommending books... that are problematic in their representations of First/Native Nations cultures... many educators just don't know...To help with that, I decided to make a post compiling a few picture book recommendations…”

WNDB Mentorships from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We are offering mentorships to 11 upcoming voices...This is an opportunity to be matched with an experienced children’s book creator and receive individual support and feedback on a completed draft of a work-in-progress. Applications for the 2019 cycle will be open from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, 2018.”

'We Rise' Anthology Offers Call to Action by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek:”...impetus for the book dates back to the ugliness surrounding the 2016 presidential campaign….the Hudsons knew that they wanted to do something to reassure her (their niece), and millions of young children like her: ‘We’ve come through different challenges in the past, and we will get through this.’ We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (Crown Books for Young Readers in partnership with Just Us Books, Sept. 4, 2018)."


How to List Your Publishing Credits in a Query Letter from Nathan Bransford. Peek: “If you’re writing fiction, publishing credits can help. A bit. Sort of. But the current project you’re querying about is by far the most important thing.”

What Authors and Editors Wish They Could Say to One Another by Leila Sales from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “...I sometimes demand of my editor things that she cannot give; and as an editor, I’m aware that I sometimes keep from my authors things that they want….simply seeing the process from the other’s eyes doesn’t fix everything. But I do believe that it’s a start.”

Bologna Children’s Book Fair: How to Take Part. Peek: “The Exhibition is open to: illustrators, including professionals and newcomers, submitting unpublished works or works published in the last two years...Deadline for sending your artwork: Oct.5, 2018 (the postmark date serves as proof).”


13 Ways to Promote Before Publication by Therese Walsh from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Ideally, you’ll have three-to-six months before your book’s release to brainstorm, experiment, and implement your promotional plan. What’s worth your time? Here are 13 strategies to consider.”

How Traditionally Published Authors Can Repackage and Self-Publish Their Backlist by Jess Lourey from Jane Friedman. Peek: “I got my rights back to the first ten books in that series...It’s too soon for me to provide sweeping data on what works best, but one thing I know for sure: successfully publishing a book is a hundred times harder than I’d imagined…”

How to Support a Book or Favorite Author: 6 Easy Tips (Including Many Free Ones!) by Kelly Jensen from Book Riot. Peek: “This guide is meant as a way to spread the word about a book you love or you want to get more attention, and all of the tips are pretty easy and straightforward. Some will cost you a little bit of money while others are completely free…”

School Visit Survey: Next Steps by Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito from Polliwog on Safari. Peek: "...if everyone posted their school visit fees on their websites, and that information was freely available to schools searching for authors, it would reduce the misconception that authors are able to visit schools for free."

Writing Craft

Changed Perceptions Equals Character Growth by Kim Bullock from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "The towns hadn’t changed. The people hadn’t changed. My perception of myself and my place in that world had."

Need to Add Depth to a Character? Consider a Quirk by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “... I’d like to focus today on how to utilize quirks deliberately as a way of showing your character’s positive attributes. I’ve found that the best way to apply them meaningfully is by pulling them directly from the character’s personality or emotional wound.”

New Resources for Teaching Nonfiction by Melissa Stewart from Nerdy Book Club. Peek: “Many students connect more strongly to books with an expository writing style...And so the question we need to ask ourselves at this point is: Now that we know better, how can we do better?”

How to Write Fiction That’s Fresh by Cathy Yardley from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Being fresh and original depends largely on being different than existing material. If you haven’t read widely in your genre, it’s hard to say whether publishing professionals or the reading audience at large would consider your premise original or not.”

A Recap of My First Residency in the VCFA Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA by Sarah S. Davis from Broke By Books. Peek: “I scoured the internet to find first-person narratives of what a low-residency MFA experience is really like before I went, but honestly I just didn’t find much...So this is my honest account of what my MFA residency experience was really like.”

Guest Post: How to Write Middle Grade Cringe Humor by Dan Richards from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek: “Cringe humor is a great way to face our own fears by watching others navigate embarrassing situations. We learn that if they can survive an embarrassing moment, so can we.”

What to Write About When You Can’t Thing What to Write About by Claire Fayers from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: “... just last winter at the Scattered Authors’ Folly Farm retreat, we talked about the rhythm of the seasons and the danger of trying to be constantly productive when we need the fallow periods for stories to put down roots.”

This Week at Cynsations
More Personally - Cynthia

LoonSong Turtle Island 2018
This month's highlight was 10 days at LoonSong 2018 on Lake Elbow in Cook, Minnesota. I taught back-to-back workshops on a faculty with fellow authors Nikki Grimes, Bruce Coville, Marion Dane Bauer, Jane Buchanan, Sarah Aronson, Debby Dahl Edwardson, Jenny Meyerhoff and Carol McAfee as well as editors Cheryl Klein and Yolanda Scott.

Then Cheryl, Yolanda and Debby stayed on with me at LoonSong: Turtle Island, and we were joined by authors Tim Tingle and Dawn Quigley as well as author-editor Arthur A. Levine. The Turtle Island program was specifically open to Native authors.

Thank you to LoonSong founders Jane, Marion and especially Debby (who coordinated both workshops) and to all involved.

Author copies in the house!
Reminder! Pre-orders are really important to the success of books. To show my appreciation to anyone supports my writing in that way, between now and Oct. 8, if you pre-order Hearts Unbroken from my independent bookstore, BookPeople, or from another bookseller and fill out this form, you'll receive an autographed copy and a little swag, too!

Please also considering pre-ordering the paperback edition of Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral trilogy)(Candlewick, Oct. 2018). Thank you.

Congrats to Anne Clare Le Zotte (@annclezotte), the winner of the Hearts Unbroken ARC classroom set giveaway, sponsored by Candlewick Press!

Link of the Week: Hurrican Maria Anniversary Auction 2018 from Latinx in Kidlit.

More Personally - Robin

Last weekend I went to Jonathan Roth's book signing to get a small stack of his new book Beep & Bob, book 3: Take Us to Your Sugar signed for my Halloween-book project.  This series is just perfect for its age six-to-nine audience. I can't wait to give these books out at Halloween!

More Personally - Gayleen

Last weekend I was inspired and energized by the talent and creativity of this phenomenal group of illustrators and writers at Austin SCBWI's Picture Book Retreat. Red Fox Agent Abigail Samoun and Chronicle Editor Ariel Richardson presented fantastic workshops taking a deep dive into picture books. Huge thanks to Illustrator Coordinator C.S. Jennings for leading the event!