Writer to Writer
By Susie Kralovansky
Today I’m excited to invite Cynthia Levinson to chat about all things writing. Cynthia tells true stories about brave people, and the injustices they’ve faced. She is the author of several books, but her latest, The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art has received five starred reviews, and is a Horn Book Fanfare Pick, a Golden Kite Award, is a National Jewish Book Award finalist, AND is a Sibert winner! Wow!
Cynthia, how do you generate ideas?
I’m always on the prowl for topics that will intrigue kids, keep me engaged through years of research, and, ideally, appeal to a publisher. Whenever I read the newspaper and books, watch movies and plays, go to concerts, and talk with friends, a side of my brain is wondering, “Is there something here I can write about?” Or, one project can lead to another one. That’s how The Youngest Marcher, my second book about civil rights in Birmingham, came about. When I’m really lucky, an editor asks me to write a book. That happened with Fault Lines in the Constitution and my bio of Hillary Clinton. And, then, sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, an idea pops into my mind, like, hey, what about an Arab-Jewish children’s circus? (Watch Out for Flying Kids!) And, gee, I wonder, Who Owns the Moon?
What’s the wildest thing you have done for research?
Just one? It’s a toss-up between spinning on a lyra (which is a circular trapeze bar), leaping onto a trampoline, and dangling from silks attached to the ceiling in a circus ring, on the one hand, and doing research in a condemned building surrounded by yellow police tape, on the other.
What’s your best marketing tip?
Help other writers. Help them improve their writing; support their books on social media and in presentations; go to conferences; maintain friendships and professional relations. Then, they’ll genuinely want to help you make your writing better and share your books.
What keeps you going?
A combination of fascination with a topic and deadlines. Hardly anything makes a subject more interesting than an editor who’s expecting the next draft.
What’s your favorite research source?
That depends on the subject, of course, but, for me, nothing beats being there—whether “there" is a circus ring or living with Arab and Jewish families in northern Israel or sitting at the piano where the head of the Birmingham Movement Choir practiced “This Little Light of Mine.” I have no idea how I’m going to write about space without going there!
What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?
My least favorite part is the timeline. Everything in children’s book publishing takes soooo long. Often, it has to, so we get everything right for our readers. But, as the bookstore owner in Jenny Ziegler’s new book, Worser, says, “Sheesh!” My favorite part is learning what’s behind the magic curtain—how decisions are made about trim size, paper weight, printing, marketing. I find the business side of publishing fascinating.
You can find Cynthia on:
Twitter at https://twitter.com/cylev
Or on her website https://cynthialevinson.com/
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We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.