Native Voice: Kim Sigafus on Writing About Bullying

Kim Sigafus and her dogs, Ani (tan and white) and Miike (black and white)
7th Generation/Orca

By Kim Rogers

Today, I’m excited to chat with Kim Sigafus. Kim is an award-winning Ojibwe author and speaker. Her young adult novel, Nowhere to Hide (7th Generation Books, 2019), is part of the Pathfinders series. From the promotional copy:

“Autumn Dawn is sick of being bullied at school. It’s not her fault that she doesn’t learn as fast as the other kids or that she speaks a little differently.

“Her home life isn’t much better. Ever since Autumn’s dad left, her mother can’t cope, so Autumn has to care for her baby brother and do all the housework. Her mother hasn’t even noticed the problems her daughter is dealing with.

“When Autumn’s Ojibwa aunt comes to visit, she recognizes Autumn’s dyslexia and speech problems. Can Aunt Jessie build a bridge between mother and daughter and give Autumn the confidence she needs to move past her challenges?”

Welcome to Cynsations, Kim!

What was your inspiration for writing Nowhere to Hide?

It was based on snippets from my own life. Bullying was a huge issue for me as I was growing up, and like Autumn, I tended to shy away from confrontation. I was a perfect target for a group of girls who thought I was going to take whatever abuse they threw my way.

It took me a long time to learn to stand up for myself.

Kim, author Joseph Bruchac and Kim’s editor, Kathy Hanson.

What advice do you have for beginning children’s-YA writers?

Spend some time thinking about a book before you even start it. Don’t just decide to write today and have nothing to say. You should have a synopsis in your head first. This will help with writer’s block. Some authors do a written synopsis.

Choosing situations that come from your own life sometimes helps get the creative juices going, too. How did you handle that situation? Maybe do the opposite of that because that might be interesting to flesh out.

When you think you are done, let it sit for a day or so. Get back to it fresh and then edit. Make it clean and tight, and make sure the storyline is moving fairly quickly.

Kim at the 2018 Outlander convention where she gave a presentation and completely sold out of books.
Kim in her Jingle Dress.

As a member of a community under-represented in youth literature, what did your perspective bring to your story?

I think people not in the Native community have an idea of how it is in the Native community. They really don’t understand how some of us think about life and what is important to us.

That can also be said for all nationalities living in this melting pot we call the United States.

The story of Autumn Dawn is not special. Bullying happens everywhere.

How she deals with it is special. How she copes with her issues of being half Native, dealing with how others, white and Native, think of her; that’s unique to our culture. She understands that in our culture, creating and dancing in the Jingle Dress is a way to send prayers and forgiveness to everyone in her life, whether they support her or not.

It is my hope that by letting non-Native people into our culture and sharing what is important to us, this will open people’s eyes to what is unique about us, and in the end, how we are actually all the same.

Life is a circle, and we are all intertwined in some way.

Cynsational Notes

Kim Sigafus is an award-winning Ojibwa writer and Illinois Humanities Road Scholar speaker.

She has coauthored two 7th Generation books in the Native Trailblazers series of biographies, including Native Elders: Sharing Their Wisdom, co-authored by Lyle Ernst (2014) and the award-winning Native Writers: Voices of Power, co-authored by Lyle Ernst (2012).

Her fiction work includes the PathFinder novels, Nowhere to Hide, Autumn’s Dawn (March 2020) and Finding Grace (August 2020)—all part of the Autumn Dawn series, and The Mida, an eight-volume series about a mystically powerful time-traveling carnival owned by an Ojibwa woman.

Kim is also is a playwright, lyricist, and sings and drums. Her family is from the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. She resides with her husband, two dogs, and four cats in Freeport, Illinois.

Kim Rogers covers children’s-YA writing, illustration, publishing and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations.

Kim writes books, short stories, and poems across all children’s literature age groups. Her work has been published in Highlights for Children, Guideposts Sweet 16, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and many other publications.

Kim is an enrolled member of Wichita and Affiliated Tribes  and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Much of her current writing highlights her Wichita heritage.

She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, two boys, and one ornery, but very cute Chiweenie dog named Lucky.

She is represented by Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.