Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of the ‘Tantalize’ series and ‘Feral’ series. Her award-winning books for younger children include ‘Jingle Dancer’, ‘Indian Shoes’, and ‘Rain Is Not My Indian Name’.
Her website at http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for ages 4-7 (picture books), 7 to 9 (chapter books), 10-14 (tween novels) and 12-up (YA novels) as well as YA short stories and narrative nonfiction. My stories include realistic fiction and fantasy.
Henry: I’m always doubly amazed by authors who can write both picture books and YA. Those are horses of a different color.
Your book ‘Jingle Dancer’ was chosen for the 2013 One Book, One San Diego for Kids program. Please tell us about that.
Young readers across San Diego are encouraged to read and discuss (in school and beyond) ‘Jingle Dancer’, contemporary American Indians, and those Native Americans whose nations are based in San Diego County.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
First that Native people have a past, present and future. That we are active in our traditional cultures and the larger world and that our traditions are thriving.
You also have written young adult graphic novels. Please tell us about that.
Tantalize: Kieren’s Story and Eternal; Zachary’s Story are adaptations of the first two prose novels from the Tantalize series. They feature new scenes and new points of view as well as Ming Doyle’s amazing art work.
Henry: You are my hero!
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
I find getting the first draft down to be the biggest challenge. Every word, every punctuation mark, every plot point is a decision. It’s much more fun to play with something that already exists.
Henry: So true.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Children and teens take in stories to the deepest imaginable level. What we put on the page can change the people they’ll become and the course of their lives.
Henry: With great power comes great responsibility.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
For me, it’s been a treat to interact with authors who were publishing when I was a young reader. Judy Blume once gave me a pep talk at a writing conference. I had a short story featured in the same anthology as Beverly Cleary. Magic.
Henry: I’ve had similar experiences. It’s been inspiring to meet amazing authors like Richard Peck, David Brin, Dan Gutman, Orson Scott Card, Dan Yaccarino, and Brandon Sanderson.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read, read, read, read, and then try to write at least three minutes a day. The words add up.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I write on a treadmill desk, walking and typing, with Olivia Newton John “Xanadu” album playing quietly in the background.
Henry: Xanadu!? Now you’re scaring me… 🙂
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Author Buried in Plot
(We all knew it would happen eventually.)
Henry: I see what you did there.
Where can readers find your work?
Bookstores, libraries, e-tailers. If it’s not on the shelf, just ask for an order to be put in.
This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.