Friday, December 01, 2017

Cynsations News

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

Author/Illustrator Interviews

An Interview with Author Christina Soontornvat by Michele Weber Hurwitz from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek:
“At its heart, a story has to be about what these characters want and need, deep in their souls, and the ways they overcome many obstacles to get there. So in that way, I think fantasy and realistic fiction are very similar!”

Allen Say: Pictures that Come Straight from the Heart by Julie Danielson from BookPage. Peek:
"Starting a new book is always exciting and scary. In this one, there was more scare than excitement...I had to find out how a child without hearing or speech—and possibly autistic and dyslexic—had managed to teach himself to draw and succeeded in producing a vast body of artwork from reclaimed wastepaper trash bins."

The Chat with Governor General's Award Winners David Alexander Robertson & Julie Flett by Trevor Corkum from 49th Shelf. Peek:
"I remember reading through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action early in 2016, and how they called for Residential School history to be taught from kindergarten all the way to Grade Twelve. I knew there were excellent books about the history out there, but a lack of resources for very young learners."

Picture Book Month: Why Picture Books Are Important from Picture Book Month champions (continued)


Some Truths, but Lots of Lies: Indigenous Peoples in Children’s Literature by Debbie Reese from ASU Libraries. Peek:
“I believe the books Native students read in school play a significant role in how Native students fare. Teachers and librarians have a role to play, too, in the success of Native students. For me—and I hope for you—that means selecting books that accurately portray Native people and our nations.” See also, Debbie's Best Books of 2017.

The 2018 Ultimate List of Diverse Children’s Books by Mrs. G from Here Wee Read. Peek:
“I’m definitely looking forward to sharing most (if not all) of these books with my little readers. I tried to target books that will likely have: stunning illustrations, read aloud appeal, a kid-friendly theme – or all three!”

Four Native and Indigenous Creators and Comics You Should Know by Andrea Ayres from The Beat. Peek:
"Native Realities Press is committed to producing and amplifying comics about, by and for Native and Indigenous people, something that is desperately needed."

Where You Can Find Bilingual and Spanish Children’s Books by Sarah Ullery from Book Riot. Peek:
“Almost all public schools in the United States have an ESL (English as a Second Language) program, but it’s also equally important that English-speaking students are exposed early to a second language.”

Writing Craft

3 Ways to Boost Your Word Count Every Writing Session by Janice Hardy from Fiction University. Peek:
“Boosting your word count and increasing your productivity is easier than you’d think. A few small changes in your process can lead to big results.”

How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy by Derek Beres from Big Think. Peek:
"Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well. You make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you." 

When a protagonist goes missing… from A.B. Westrick's blog. Peek: from author Lindsey Lane:
"I like story structures that have space for the audience to enter in and make connections....As writers, we can ask the audience to lean in and make connections. We don’t have to spell everything out."


7 Questions For: Public Relations Expert Fauzia Burke by Robert Kent from Middle Grade Ninja. Peek:
“Start early! Many authors come to me seeking advice a few weeks before publication, but I recommend authors begin building their online platforms (social media, blogging, website, etc.) at least 18-24 months before their book releases.”

Women Lead the Independent Publishing Movement by Cheryl Willis Hudson from CrazyQuiltEdi (part of the When Women Speak series). Peek:
“Because diverse communities have long hungered for authentic and self-affirming books for their children and because statistics have shown that books by people of color are only a small fraction of the books published by the industry as a whole, we knew that Just Us Books could not wait for larger publishing companies....”

Is It Too Late to Start Writing After 50? by Julie Rosenberg from Jane Friedman's blog. Peek:
"The depth of my experiences—both personally and professionally—have informed my world view and, with it, my writing." 

2018 Writing Retreat

Join authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Nikki Grimes, Bruce Coville, Debby Dahl Edwardson, Sarah Aronson, agent Michael Stearns and more for LoonSong: A Writers Retreat Sept. 6 to Sept. 10 in Minnesota. Peek:
"We offer a smorgasbord of activities for writers to pick from: stimulating lectures and panel discussions, writing prompts and workshops, readings and one-on-one marketing, agent, and editorial consultations.

"Participants will be invited to read their own work. An agent and editor will be present at all readings. Our presenters include seasoned writers, marketing specialists, an agent and an editor who will help you grow your career, develop new approaches to craft and think deeply about the writing life."


Congratulations to winners of the TD Children’s Literary Awards, and nominees for the 49th NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens and Children!

We Need Diverse Books Names Its 'Bookseller of the Year' by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Sara Luce Look, the co-owner of Charis Books & More in Atlanta, is the winner...She is passionately devoted to building a better world through books and she does her research, making sure that each book on the shelf is not tokenizing a group or identity but deeply reflective of that group or culture’s true lived experience.” Note: Congratulations to Austin’s BookPeople, one of four finalists.

Call for Submissions: 2017 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally - Cynthia

Kekla, Cyn & E at Savannah Children's Book Festival
On Nov. 17 and 18th, I had the honor of participating in the Savannah Children's Book Festival. The 17th was dedicated to a teen event, and I appeared on a YA panel with fellow authors Kekla Magoon and E. Lockhart (pictured to either side of me).

Our teen audience was outstanding--attentive and thoughtful in asking questions. The librarian hosts were top notch and absolutely lovely to visit with. And I adored Savannah.

It's a gorgeous, friendly city and offers up some of the best (and richest) food in the nation. Kekla and I stayed an extra day at the hotel to work on manuscripts on the hotel veranda.

Since then I've been busy with copyedits on my upcoming YA novel, Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, January 2019). I dropped off my marked-up copy to go out via FedEx yesterday morning. It was a fairly straightforward process, though I did need to include a copy of a newspaper quote from the 1890s and struggled a bit with my own style of capitalization, influenced in part by high school newspaper style, which is thematic to the story.

Meanwhile, I'm reflecting on the memory of Frances Lee Hall, one of my former advisees in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Frances died in 2016, and the grief is still fresh. She was a wonderful writer and a lovely person.

Her agent, Marietta B. Zacker, sold her middle grade novel manuscript, "Lily Lo and the Wonton Maker," to Egmont USA in late 2013. Unfortunately, the international published closed its U.S. operations about a year later and canceled the contract. Frances didn't live to see her book published.

But her writing group is working to make her dream come true now. You can pre-order a copy (or two or three) from Inkshares. If they don't make their 750 order mark, all money will be refunded. If the book goes to print, proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for Frances's daughter Emmie.

The musical production of "A Christmas Carol" at Austin's Zach Theater is recommended!
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins) featured on picturebooks4learning.

6 YA Books To Celebrate Native American Heritage Month by Kristen Carter from BookRiot. YA books by Native American authors about Native American characters including Feral Nights (book one in the Feral trilogy) by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick).

More Personally - Gayleen 

Robin and Gayleen; Bethany Hegedus with students at The Writing Barn.
The Cynsations interns (AKA Cynterns) enjoyed an afternoon together with Cynthia in Austin. We talked books, writing and blogging. Lots of fantastic posts in the works!

I was also very inspired by young writers this week. On Tuesday, I had the honor of assisting Bethany Hegedus at The Writing Barn, hosting a sixth grade field trip. The students' enthusiasm and excitement about how they could Be The Change gave me hope for the future! On Wednesday, I shared a few ARCs and writing tips with a high school Girl Scout troop completing their Novelist badge.

Personal Links - Cynthia

Thursday, November 30, 2017

New Voice: Liara Tamani on Calling My Name

By Robin Galbraith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Liara Tamani is the debut author of Calling My Name (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2017). From the promotional copy:

This unforgettable novel tells a universal coming-of-age story about Taja Brown, a young African American girl growing up in Houston, Texas, and it deftly and beautifully explores the universal struggles of growing up, battling family expectations, discovering a sense of self, and finding a unique voice and purpose.

Told in fifty-three short, episodic, moving, and iridescent chapters, Calling My Name follows Taja on her journey from middle school to high school. 

Literary and noteworthy, this is a beauty of a novel that deftly captures the multifaceted struggle of finding where you belong and why you matter.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I started writing Calling My Name to explore and heal the wounds of my teenage self. 

Like Taja, the protagonist of Calling My Name, I grew up in a very loving and religious family. My family was always in church—Bible study, choir rehearsal, Sunday services, Vacation Bible School, Church conventions—you name it, we were there. Also like Taja, I had a lot of doubts and questions about religion but quickly learned that I wasn’t supposed to have these doubts and questions, that their presence meant I might not be saved. So I dealt with them internally, fighting against the fear of hell, which was very real to me at the time. 

And when I became sexually active in my later teenage years, my fears were compounded by guilt and shame. Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun.

While Calling My Name is not my story, it was definitely born out of my experience. And I wanted to share my truth, to give voice to the struggle of sexual shame and guilt (which a lot of teenagers deal with, especially girls), and to speak to the terrifying experience of departing from one’s family and community teachings to find one’s own way.

What model books were most useful to you and how?

Because Calling My Name is written in vignettes, I mostly studied novels that were composed of interrelated vignettes and short stories. 

I read any short-story cycle or novel-in-vignettes I could get my hands on, but my favorites were The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros ( Arte Público Press, 1984), Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks (Harper & Brothers, 1953), and Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997). I loved the lyricism, economy of language, voice, and characterization in these books. I love their liberated story structures. 

I studied their linking devices and transition techniques. These books taught me how to construct relationships between my vignettes and stories in order to connect them and move the larger story forward. 

They taught me how to take the images, observations, ideas, and threads of dialogue in my individual vignettes and stories and expand them within the larger social, cultural, and emotional context of my book.

As an MFA in Writing student/graduate, how did that experience impact your literary journey?

I wrote Calling My Name during my MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I started the first piece at the very end of my first semester, fell in love with the voice, and spent the next year and a half adding to the novel piece by piece. Upon graduation, I had a finished, polished book. I didn’t plan it that way, but I was very fortunate to have it happen that way.

It was great to have each new chapter of my novel critiqued every month by an adviser. It was also nice to be able to dedicate the critical analysis part of the program to studying books and techniques that would help me write Calling My Name. And the structure and discipline of the MFA program was invaluable. I don’t think I would have written Calling My Name so fast without the deadlines.

Obviously, an MFA isn’t essential to becoming a fiction writer. There are so many paths, but this one was the right one for me. And one of the best things about the program is the lifelong community of writers it creates. 

I can’t tell you how much inspiration and support I’ve received by being connected to the VCFA community. And that inspiration and support has been vital to me through all parts of my publication journey.

Dream Keepers YA Authors Panel with Renée Watson, Nic Stone,
Liara Tamani, Jacqueline Woodson, Ibi Zoboi, and Vashti Harrison 
As a member of a community underrepresented in youth literature, what did your diverse perspective bring to your story?

Taja is a young African-American girl, and her culture is on full display in this book; it’s embedded in the story. Some issues with race come up because race is always a factor for black people, and I wanted to be honest about the ways it’s a factor in Taja’s life. 

One issue involves the time when the neighborhood families of Taja’s white friends move away when the neighborhood starts becoming too black. Another issue surrounds the hard time Taja has with the new black girls at school who thinks she talks too white.

These issues are present, but they aren’t the focus. While books that explicitly deal with America’s race problem are very important (especially in these times), books that remind readers that black people and people of color have more than race problems, that we are whole human beings, with the whole spectrum of human problems and human joys are equally as important. 

Taja is African-American, but she is also just a teenage girl who is trying to figure out her path in life—a human experience so many of us can identify with.

Cynsational Notes

Booklist gave Calling My Name a starred review, "An excellent portrayal of African American culture, gorgeous lyrical prose, strong characters, and societal critique make Tamani’s debut a must-read."

Liara Tamani lives in Houston, Texas with her daughter.

She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College and a BA from Duke University.

Read about how illustrator Vashti Harrison designed the cover for Calling My Name at Epic Reads. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Survivors: Nancy Werlin on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing YA Author

Learn more about Nancy Werlin.
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?

I apologize in advance, because this is a big question and I have a lot to say. This isn’t a topic that can be reduced to a few pithy lines—at least, not yet, and not by me.

I don’t know that I have advice, exactly. I have experience to share, though.

I published my first YA novel in 1994. I just now in 2017 published my tenth novel, and I feel like I’m halfway through the career I plan and hope to have. Yes, I want a 50 year career.

During the first half, I’ve watched many other writers’ careers grow and change. I’ve also watched many writers’ careers disappear. The disappeared are usually good writers and sometimes their books were great. Some were lauded and won prizes. Some were on bestseller lists. Some got startlingly large advances. Some had publishers who were ecstatic about them; sent them on tours; poured marketing money upon them. But none of those “wins” were necessarily predictive of a long career.

With shocking, terrifying speed, one year’s darling could become “Who?”

This was true even when a writer’s craft got better and better over time . . . sometimes the audience simply would not follow; sometimes the publisher found newer fish to fry. Whatever.

Often there was no rational explanation. Things change.

That’s life.

There’s a computer programming class I took in college, in a bizarre coding language called APL that required you to think in multiple dimensions.

The professor said to us, “Look to your left. Now look to your right. Only one of the three of you will still be here by the end of this course.” (I wasn’t, by the way. I didn’t care enough about APL to fight, to learn.)

My point is that being a writer with a long career requires you to develop multi-dimensional thinking and planning and—both inside your soul and outside in the world—to fight for it.

When I look at the writers who are still here, those with a ten-year career or better, I find them to be determined and adaptive and persistent and lucky—by which I mean both that they’ve had some genuine random luck, but also that they have figured out how to make their own luck when things didn’t go their way.

(An aside about genuine random luck—I believe that if you stick with it, some luck with find you. It probably won’t be the luck you expected and it won’t arrive when you expected or for the book you expected—but it’ll show up. Sometime. Eventually.)

Moving on to discuss what I mean by fighting.

Nancy at her day job.
I believe you need to have a good financial plan for living. Different people come up with different solutions. I’ve kept a day job this whole time (as a technical writer at a software company), which gives me financial flexibility and choice; it means that money from publishing does not rule me or constrain my choices.

(My corporate overlord does rule me, but that is the choice I have made and I did it with my eyes open. Some people couldn’t stand to do this. For me, it’s easy.)

I do not see many successful long-term writers who aren’t pragmatic about money. If they didn’t start out that way, they become that way, simply because multiple years at it either teaches you to adapt, or wears you out. “Do what you love, and the money will follow” turns out to be—at best—incomplete advice. Long-term writers figure out–sometimes kicking and screaming and unhappy about it—how to make it work financially.

I have found that the only stable thing in the writer’s life is your desire to tell stories. Beyond that, you have to take responsibility for yourself and for your choices if you are to survive.

Often, you have to make choices when you’re blind to their ultimate impact, because you will be affected later by random and uncontrollable factors that change the results of your choices.

Your publisher fails or is acquired. Your editor leaves to have a baby and never comes back. Your husband loses his steady job with the health insurance. You have to get a new agent. Family illness means you can’t write for a while. The list of things you can’t foresee goes on and on. Among them are delightful things too, by the way. Life, again.

But even though there’s a lot you can’t foresee, but there are yet some things you can take action on—and you need to be in charge of those things.

Mostly, your control is about your own self. I believe that a writer has to face the facts about who she is—about the kind of work she does, about her process, about her reception in the world, about the ways in which she grows her craft, about what makes her happy in life, about her financial reality, about her family situation, about what she’s willing to stand up for and fight for, and about what is not worth fighting about.

She must understand the structure of her own self and work with it—similarly to the way you’d work to write a sonnet within the limitations of its defined form. You cannot be who you are not. You must make the very best of who you are.

My husband Jim McCoy, who’s a life coach, calls this “Playing the You game.”

Who am I, creatively? I write one book at a time, slowly, sometimes painfully, and only with regard to what story is pulling at me—which is usually something that is thematically personal.

I always struggle to find time (yes, my day job cuts me here), mental space, and faith to write and revise, over the three-to-four years that each book takes. A salesperson at my publisher told me recently that she liked that I "never borrowed from myself" from one book to the next. I had never thought of this before, and while I think it’s true, I must add that I see there has been a cost to this approach, in an industry where many publishers and readers are eager to see a new book from an author in a few months, not a few years.

But still, this is who I am. My creative rhythm isn’t in synch with the market, and neither is my compulsion to write individual rather than series books.

(I just mentioned that my day job cuts me in terms of time. But it saves me, too, because I don’t have to finish a book too soon in order to receive a check.)

In terms of managing a bumpy career, I have to say: What long-term career is not bumpy? None.

That said, in mine, I have had an extraordinarily spectacular piece of luck: my editor, Lauri Hornik. She was an assistant editor at Houghton Mifflin when she bought my first novel. She has published every book since, and she is now President and Publisher at Dial.

Lauri is creative, smart, and sane; I trust her taste and her heart and her advice and her leadership. She kept me over the years, and I have kept her. This means that her presence has softened the bumps. Sometimes my books have sold well for her, and sometimes they have not. Sometimes my books have gotten raves from the critics; sometimes they have gotten pans.

I haven’t had to walk this path alone.

I don’t know what the future holds. I have seen many good writers be “let go” by their publishers, and many good editors lose their jobs, and many other things happen in our industry, so I can’t take my partnership with Lauri for granted.

What I do know is that I will fight for it.

Ginger Knowlton
What does that mean? It means that I work to keep our lines of communication open; I will take an active role in discussing business matters directly with Lauri rather than stepping back to let my agent handle it, especially when the topic is sensitive (yes, money).

To further manage the bumps, I try to divide my creative soul from my business soul.

For that, another long-term relationship has been vital, with my agent, Ginger Knowlton. But I need my agent to handle business, not creative issues—and as I said below, I still keep my hand in on business issues. I am a person who needs whatever control I can get. I honor that need.

All of this makes me suddenly realize something: That my long-term career has been full of long-term relationships, period. This also means my long-term friendships with other writers who are on this same path of sustaining a writing life through the downs and ups. I work hard to keep up these relationships and to keep friendships alive.

Being a good friend and having good friends is important to me.

Lastly—and I’ve gone on a while, eh?—you asked about bumps to the heart. My heart is a road full of potholes and cement patches. But I work to remember the good things that have happened, the readers who have appreciated my stories and my own delight in them.

But I need to be careful. I have learned to keep my head down when I’m writing a book and also after I’ve published it, and to obey this rule above all: to love my book and to honor who I am and what I have achieved.

This means that I do not compare myself to others. For example—being truthful—I used to almost enjoy beating myself up with the specter of Laurie Halse Anderson. I would say to myself: “Laurie works harder than you! Laurie is more gifted than you! Etc.”

A few years ago, I confided in Laurie that I did this. She was horrified, and having that conversation helped heal me. I suddenly saw how wrong it was to use the avatar of another writer as a way to punish myself for my perceived shortcomings. Wrong and unfair, to me and to her. Her heart is as pockmarked as mine. She is not on some pedestal of achievement. She is a real person.

Everyone is.

But as I think about my heart, what I come back to is how much I love creating stories, and how important I think stories are. Lots and lots of different stories.

There’s a sort of fable I tell myself. I imagine that a single reader has picked up one of my books for free at the city dump. The book has lost its cover and front matter, so that there’s no sign of my name anywhere. The reader reads the book. The reader loves the book—for a while, it’s her favorite and her friend. She never knows who I am, and I never know about her. And let’s suppose further that this is the only reader there ever is, for that book. Let’s say that nobody else ever liked it. But for this one reader, for whatever reason, this was the book.

In terms of my purpose in the world, this has to be enough.

And in terms of my inner creative life, the joy I get from persisting on my storytelling path, and my knowledge that I am honing my craft, has to be enough, too.

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

It’s not that I think I have made no mistakes. I believe I have. But I can’t see very clearly down any other paths I might have taken. Sometimes I do wonder about what would have happened if I’d quit my job and thrown myself emotionally at the job of making a living from writing, without a regular paycheck. Would I have found a way to write faster? Would I have taken on work-for-hire projects that would have surprised me by being delightful to work on? Would I have decided to be a teacher?

But when I think about that Nancy, she isn’t me. I say of myself, “I can’t let go of the side of the pool.” I am a conservative manager of my life. I have been playing the Nancy game as best I can.

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?

Many, many, many more books are published in the YA field now than previously. It used to be that perhaps there were twenty debut authors a season, tops. Now, there are dozens.

This means that in the world of traditional publishing, there are even more bodies by the side of the road than there used to be. There’s more competition. This means publishers expect more failures—they account for it upfront, and in most cases, they don’t care too much if it’s you. They move on.

But there is also more opportunity. One change I absolutely love is the rise of indie publishing. It’s wonderful to have the option of complete control over your work. I used to say: Nobody can ever stop me from writing. Now I can add: Nobody can ever stop me from publishing.

Even though traditional publishing works for me now, it gives me enormous pleasure to see the freedom that is possible if you are an indie writer. I notice especially how empowering this has been for romance writers.

The other big changes are how visible and accessible both writers and readers are today, with social media. Social media pressure can have huge impact on a writer’s career, for good and for ill.

Honestly, I don’t know how to judge this. I don’t have time in my life to participate in social media, and I don’t even know how to follow a conversation on Twitter. I see things I love happen out there sometimes, and I see things that make me quail. I don’t have any wise analysis about it, though. I just don’t know enough. Someone else will have much better analysis on this big issue.

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

I’m going back (predictably) to money. Work to get your financial house in order so that you can have a long career. Don’t indulge in magical thinking. Don’t decide that being an artist means you can be irresponsible about money.

Take care of yourself.

Use both sides of your brain.

Make lots of friends! And Nancy?

Get a little more exercise.

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

New suspense-thriller--now available!
I wish for a publishing environment that gives writers less stress and less fear.

I wish for all to have sufficient time to write each book the way they want to write it, without feeling as rushed and as scared as I sense writers feel in the current climate.

 But even as I write that wish, I suspect I'm thinking back to a time that never really was . . . that writers have always felt rushed and anxious. And that we always will.

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

To write each book slowly and carefully, until I am fully satisfied with it.

To grow my craft with each one, trying new things, loving the work.

To have Lauri publish them and have Ginger do the contracts.

To turn then to the next story.

To go on working alongside my writer friends, both the old ones like you, and the new ones that come into my life and delight me.

To always find the time and space somehow to write, even as the world outside does what it does, and even as my life changes as it does.

My home is where I am.

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.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Book Trailer: Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, iIllustrated by John Parra

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra (NorthSouth, 2017). From the promotional copy:

The fascinating Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is remembered for her self-portraits, her dramatic works featuring bold and vibrant colors. 

Her work brought attention to Mexican and indigenous culture and she is also renowned for her works celebrating the female form.

Brown's story recounts Frida's beloved pets—two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn—and playfully considers how Frida embodied many wonderful characteristics of each animal.

Monday, November 27, 2017

New Cynsations Reporter Traci Sorell

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Traci Sorell joins the Cynsations team as a reporter covering children's-YA writing, illustration, publishing and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators.

Traci writes fiction and nonfiction for children featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies for the trade and educational markets. She has been an active member of SCBWI since August 2013.

In April 2016, Charlesbridge acquired her first nonfiction picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, from the slush pile. It will be published on September 18, 2018.

The story 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.

Traci is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She grew up in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located. She is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

She also has a Master's degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. Previously, she taught at the University of North Dakota School of Law and the University of New Mexico.

She also worked as an attorney assisting tribal courts nationwide, advocated for national Native American health care, and directed a national nonprofit serving American Indian and Alaska Native elders. She now lives in the Kansas City area and is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt Literary Agency. Follow Traci on Twitter and Instagram @tracisorell.

Cynsational Notes

Traci's Reading Chair
Why I Speak Out? by Traci Sorell from Edith Campbel at CrazyQuiltEdi. Peek:

 "...there is an education process that must happen with many editors, art directors, agents and other publishing industry staff, who, like most people in this country, know little about Native/First Nations sovereignty, culture and people. 
"Thankfully in my experience thus far, everyone I’ve worked with has been hungry to learn and has been open to my feedback and that of others in the Native community featured in my stories."
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