Author Interview: Lori M. Carlson on Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories For Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (Harper, 2005). Features “A Real-Live Blond Cherokee And His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate” by Cynthia Leitich Smith; other contributing authors: Joy Harjo; Sherman Alexie; Richard Van Camp; Linda Hogan; Joseph Bruchac; Louise Erdrich; Susan Power; Greg Sarris; and Lee Francis. See also Lori M. Carlson on Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young And Latino in the United States (Henry Holt, 2005). See also Lori Marie Carlson on Red Hot Salsa (Holt, 2005).

What was your initial inspiration for creating this anthology?

I was inspired to create Moccasin Thunder a long time ago, after I gave a talk at a New York Library Association convention in Saratoga Springs. I was talking about the need for good young adult fiction that spoke to kids of all ethnicities and races in America. A librarian from Buffalo asked if I would do a book of Native American stories for teens. Actually I had wanted to do such a book in the early 90’s but I was afraid that my motives would be questioned by some politically correct critic. (I could just hear someone scoffing, “What does a woman of Swedish and Italian ancestry know about the Native Amemerican experience.” That sort of comment.) So even though I had the intention of doing a book like Moccasin Thunder for quite some time, I had let fear get in the way of acting on my intention, of trying to do some good. One day, I let my fear fly away. And I sat down at my desk and began to write a proposal.

I decided to focus on stories because storytelling is so important to Native American cultures. And I felt, too, that there was a real need for a book that explained Native American teens’ feelings, situations, hopes, dreams, fears, loves, grievances in an anthology format for all American teens. I wanted to edit a book of truly contemporary stories that revealed the truth about Native American experience in the United States today, stories that shouted “We are here and WE MATTER.”

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Quite a few years passed from spark to publication because there were some unforeseen inhouse events at HarperCollins that slowed down publication. But I really do believe that books are born when the moment is just right. I am happy that Moccasin Thunder came out in 2005, as for me personally it was a very difficult year and the book’s publication gave me cause for joy.

What were the challenges in bringing it to life?

Honestly, this book was a kind of blessing and gift. Every single writer who contributed to Moccasin Thunder enriched my life by sharing words of wisdom, thoughts about living, kindness, and artistry. I remember getting off the phone with Lee Francis, thinking “This man’s voice is so beautiful and strong…what music!”

If there were challenges in bringing it to life I wasn’t aware of them, as doing this book was like praying. A deeply moving experience.

Cynsational News & Links

Promote It Yourself: With Book Sales Flat, Authors Find Creative Ways to Pitch Their Offerings by Kerry A. Dolan from

The 2006 Sidney Taylor Awards and Notable Children’s Books of Jewish Content (PDF file) include Hanukkah, Shmanukkah!, by Esmé Raji Codell, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Hyperion, 2005)(author interview) and Jerusalem Sky: Stars, Crosses, and Crescents by Mark Podwal (Doubleday, 2005)(recommendation).

The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction went to Louise Erdrich for The Game of Silence (HarperCollins, 2005).

Teacher Guides: Author, Poet, Teacher from Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. Lots of new guides! Don’t miss this wonderful resource! See picture books, middle grade, and young adult!