In a recent entry, I explained some of my struggles as a blogger. I thought it would be helpful to talk to some of the bloggers who I admire to hear about their experiences and to see if I could glean any advice. So here is the first of my interviews.
Cynthia Leitich Smith is a prolific and highly praised author for children and young adults. Her work spans from picture books and other works for young readers to exhilarating YA novels such as the Tantalize series. She is also the author of the popular KidLit blog Cynsations — the go to place if you want to know about new books, new authors, and what everyone in the KidLit world is talking about. She very graciously answered my questions about blogging with the thoughtfulness and generosity her blog readers have come to expect.
CLS: I began blogging in November 2004. My original thought was that it was a great way to feature time-sensitive information like author event dates or book award announcements, as opposed to uploading such news on my main author site and having to concern myself with taking it down again.
Also, I had been distributing a children’s-YA writing/literature/publishing newsletter via email for some time, and it occurred to me that formatting it on a blog program would be quicker, easier, and potentially available to a wider audience.
MFB: Your blog is well-known as the go-to place for news on children’s literature. I see it as a community service in the kidlit world. Did you set out to provide this service, or were you simply sharing and writing about things that interest you?
CLS: I’m an avid lover of youth literature and fascinated by publishing as a business. Beyond that, I’m a trained journalist. I have a degree in news/editorial and public relations from The William Allen White School at The University of Kansas, Lawrence.
Cynsations is a way for me to feed my inner cheerleader and my inner Lois Lane. I didn’t go in with a clear vision for what the blog has grown into today, but the evolution seems natural, given my professional history, interests, and personality.
CLS: The original newsletter that I mentioned featured two author interviews a month, so I transferred that aspect to Cynsations and then began to further develop it.
I began by contacting children’s-YA publishing professionals that I’d met personally, online or off. Before I knew it, I was reaching out to kidlit folks from around the world.
For the weekday features, I do Q&A interviews, host guest posts, and facilitate the occasional series such as “New Voices,” which highlights debut authors; “Writing across Formats,” featuring those who publish across market lines; and “Craft, Career & Cheer,” which provided an opportunity for established pros to offer their perspective during tough economic times.
I also host guest posts by a variety of professionals (not only authors and illustrators but also publishing attorneys, publicists, editors, agents, educators, librarians, etc.)
In the case of, say, the “New Voices” interviews, I do outreach to publicists and cooperative promotional groups of debut authors, and what not to let them know that I’m on the lookout for writers to feature. I also pour through review copies for books that might be of interest to my readers and simply keep an ear to the ground.
On the latter, sometimes it’s about joining in on whatever’s being buzzed. Other times, it’s about making a little noise for someone that I especially believe in and/or find intriguing.
CLS: First, it’s probably helpful to know that I read incredibly quickly, every word, with full comprehension. It’s the closest thing I have to a superpower.
Each day, I read new posts from approximately three hundred blogs and follow highlighted links to twenty or so more. I also skim my tweet, facebook, and Google+ feeds for additional links of interest and snag others discussed on my author e-lists.
CLS: Definitely. Cynsations is specifically a place of information and inspiration. I’m always asking myself: what is the takeaway for people who love books for young readers?
The exception is the “more personally” section of my Friday kidlitosphere round-ups. But even if I’m referencing, say, a movie I saw that week, I make sure that reference stays within the tone of the blog.
It’s critical to put positive energy into any creative community, and blogging is one way to do that. By positive, I don’t mean superficial or Pollyanna, but rather being consistently substantive and uplifting. I mean saying “yes, try this” in a myriad of ways, over and over again, in a world that too often says “no.”
I’m also profoundly grateful to the inspiration and knowledge I’ve gained from my readers and contributors. Big picture, blogging has taught me a great deal about my own craft, the industry, and the magical people in the conversation of books.
Thank you, Cynthia! I wish I had your super power of reading that quickly.
Stay tuned for more interviews including Melissa Walker.