Author Spotlight: Cynthia Harmony
June 3, 2022
We are excited to feature author Cynthia Harmony and her picture book, MI CIUDAD SINGS, illustrated by Teresa Martínez (Penguin Workshop), out on June 24. Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Hi, Kidlit411 thanks so much for having me on the blog!
I’m an educational psychologist from Mexico City. I’ve worked creating interactive exhibits for children’s museums and science centers. When I was in graduate school I decided picture books were my favorite format, but it was until 2016 that I took my first PB class and decided to pursue this goal.
Congratulations on your picture book, Mi Ciudad Sings! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you, I’m very proud of this story because it’s set in my hometown and shows the community in a moment when their humanity shone bright inspiring people from all around the world. It’s based on a real event, the aftermath of a strong earthquake that took place in the city in September 2017. People of all ages rallied together becoming helpers, creating an outpouring of generosity, while they sang together “Canta y no llores” (sing don’t cry) to give each other strength, resilience and hope.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I published for the educational market in Mexico and the US first. Then as I focused on picture books, I attended my first writing conference in 2018 where I got a professional critique for an early version of Mi Ciudad Sings. In 2019, I found my first agent and this story was acquired at the beginning of 2020. So it took four years from first draft to book, which seems so long to people outside of the industry, but probably average or short for a lot of us in the kidlit world. So I feel very fortunate for my path.
What projects are you working on now?
My next book coming out with Viking in 2023, A Flicker of Hope, is a parallel story about a girl that waits for the monarch butterflies to bring her papá back home. I’m extremely excited about this book because I got to work on it with my WNDB mentor Rob Sanders in 2020, and also because of the talent that came on board to bring it to life.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read a ridiculous amount of recent books in the age category you want to publish to give you a sense of what’s relevant and fresh (I’m talking about constantly maxing out your library card). And write everything and anything that interests you, but watch for those stories and characters that really make your heart beat a little faster. They probably encapsulate a unique lens of a universal truth that only you can share. Follow those stories and revise, revise! (yes, a ridiculous amount of revision too : )
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I worked as a 3rd grade teacher and at the local newspaper in the evenings when I lived in Playa del Carmen, QR. I loved learning the ins-and-outs of running a newspaper and the kids were so much fun! However, hurricane Wilma cut my time in the Riviera Maya short before returning to Madrid to defend my dissertation. This was another time in my life when I was deeply moved by Mexican people supporting each other, working hard to rebuild the town and donating food no matter how little they had. These experiences have stayed with me and I believe it’s another reason why Mi Ciudad Sings came to be.
Where can people find you online?
My website cynthiaharmony.com
Cynthia Harmony is an author and educational psychologist, originally from Mexico City. She has published for the educational market and was awarded the 2020 "We Need Diverse Books" Mentorship. Her picture books MI CIUDAD SINGS (2022) and FLICKER OF HOPE (2023) will be released simultaneously in English and Spanish by Penguin Young Readers. When not writing, Cynthia can be found in a museum with her kids, dancing to a Latin beat, daydreaming of tacos, or planning her next family trip.
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