By AJ Eversole
Hello there! It’s AJ here to ecstatically introduce the next anthology out from Heartdrum!
Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, offers a wide range of innovative, unexpected, and heartfelt stories by Native creators, informed and inspired by lived experience, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.
Today I am thrilled to reveal Davy June’s Legendary Fry Bread Drive-In, a young adult anthology, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith. The book is slated for a summer 2025 release.
I was able to catch Cynthia and ask her a few questions about how the anthology came to be.
What made you decide on a YA anthology after a middle grade?
An interconnected anthology is an opportunity to celebrate and nurture community, both on the page and behind the bylines. Many Indigenous writers for young readers are new voices—new to publishing and new to each other. My hope for Davy June’s is to offer them opportunities for connection and collaboration while also raising awareness of their creative work more broadly.
Beyond that, Ancestor Approved (Heartdrum, 2021) proved that there was a real enthusiasm for Native voices among booksellers, educators, and young readers. Short-form fiction is especially well suited to classroom use.
Meanwhile, kids and teens need reading ladders, made up of books that bring them step by step through their reading journey. I’ve always written across age-categories, and I’ve been told time and again how terrific it is for kids to be able to grow up with my Native fiction.
Davy June will serve as a next step for teens who read Ancestor Approved when they were younger.
What went into the decision-making process when choosing contributors?
My focus was on Indigenous writers who had a proven interest in writing for teens (and who I thought might be willing to sign on). Obviously, there are a rising number of phenomenal YA writers out there in the intertribal creative community! So, I simply strived for a mix of established, up-and-coming, and new voices bringing perspectives informed by a range of intersectional identity elements, including geographic.
We all have a journey ahead, but I can hardly wait to see how it all turns out!
I am proud to announce the following contributors have signed on to write for the anthology:
Darcie Little Badger is an Earth scientist, writer, and fan of the weird, beautiful, and haunting. She is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. Her Locus Award-winning debut novel, Elatsoe (Levine Querido, 2020), was a National Indie Bestseller, named to over a dozen best-of-year lists, and called one of the Best 100 Fantasy Novels of All Time by Time Magazine. Her second novel, A Snake Falls to Earth (Levine Querido, 2021) was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and received a Newbery Award Honor. See Darcie’s Cynsations interview.
Marcella Bell was born and raised in Salmon Nation but now lives where kalo grows. In addition to being an author, she is a book person, a honeybee enthusiast, and a fan of anime, travel, corvids, karaoke, and the Portland Timbers soccer team. Whether working on romance like the Closed Circuit series and Harlequin Presents, or youth fiction, Marcella is interested in reflecting and centering the people, places, and experiences she’s known.
Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is a storyteller who writes about her Ojibwe community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She is a former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Angeline lives in southwest Michigan, but her home will always be on Sugar Island. Firekeeper’s Daughter is her debut novel, and was an instant #1 New York Times Bestseller.
K.A. Cobell (Staa’tssipisstaakii) is a Pitch Wars mentee and an author of young adult thrillers. She’s an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she spends her time writing books, chasing her kids through the never-ending rain, and scouring the inlet beaches for sand dollars and hermit crabs. Looking For Smoke is her debut novel, releasing in Summer 2024 from Heartdrum/HarperCollins in the U.S. and Penguin Books in the U.K.
Christine Derr, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. A current student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program, she enjoys writing picture books, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. She runs the blog Paw Prints in the Sink, is a regular contributor for Knoxville Moms, and has written articles for regional publications. She resides in East Tennessee on ancestral Cherokee land with her spouse, children, and a motley crew of Disney-named pets.
Jen Ferguson, Métis (on her father’s side) and Canadian settler (on her mother’s side), an activist, a feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice armed with a PhD in English and Creative Writing. She believes writing, teaching and beading are political acts. She is represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Her debut young adult novel, The Summer of Bitter and Sweet (Heartdrum, 2022), won a 2022 Govenor General’s Literary Award and is a 2023 Stonewall Honor Book. Her next YA book Those Pink Mountain Nights is forthcoming from Heartdrum/ HarperCollins in September 2023. Her novella “Missing” won the Malahat Review‘s 2022 Novella Prize and her essay “Off Balance” was selected for the Best Canadian Essays 2020. See Jen’s Cynsations interview.
AJ Eversole covers children’s-YA writing, illustration, publishing, and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations. She grew up in rural Oklahoma, a place removed from city life and full of opportunities to nurture the imagination. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and writes primarily young adult fiction. AJ currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas; with her husband. Follow her on Instagram @ajeversole or on Twitter @amjoyeversole. See AJ’s Cynsations post.
Eric Gansworth (Sˑha-weñ na-saeˀ), a writer and visual artist, is an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation. He was raised at the Tuscarora Nation, near Niagara Falls, New York. Currently, he is a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. In 2016, he was NEH Distinguished Visiting Professor at Colgate University. Gansworth’s work uses synthesized verbal and visual images from the Haudenosaunee cosmology world, popular culture, and current indigenous life.
His books include Mending Skins (Bison Books, 2005) (Pen Oakland Award), Extra Indians (Milkweed Editions, 2010) (American Book Award) If I Ever Get Out of Here (Scholastic, 2013) (Honor Award, American Indian Youth Literary Award; One Book, One Philadelphia 2020), Give Me Some Truth (Scholastic, 2018), (Whippoorwill Award) and Apple (Skin to the Core) (Levine Querido, 2020), winner of a Printz Honor award and National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature. See Eric’s Cynsations interview.
Byron Graves is an Ojibwe author from the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. His debut novel, Rez Ball will be released by Heartdrum on September 12, 2023. Byron is represented by AKA Literary Management and Rez Ball is the first title in his two-book deal with Heartdrum. Byron’s writing is a fictionalized reinterpretation of his lived experiences growing up and being from the Red Lake Indian Reservation and, as of now, has been written as Young Adult. His writing portrays an honest balance between the trials and tribulations that his people face, the hope that so many hold in their hearts, and is laced with plenty of Indian Humor as well as life lessons. Byron currently resides in the Denver area. When not glued to a book or his laptop, he can be found skateboarding or at a retro video game arcade. See Byron’s Cynsations interview.
Kate Hart: Born in Oklahoma and raised in Arkansas, Kate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation with Choctaw heritage and a member of the Tulsa chapter of Matriarch. She lives with her family on a mountainside outside of Fayetteville, where she enjoys hiking, tending a large garden, and playing with dog Norbert and cat Pippin. She also co-owns Natural State Treehouses and occasionally sells woodworking and fiber arts as Kate Hart Studio. Her literary work is represented by Alexandra Levick at Writers House. Her YA novel, After the Fall (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017) received a BYFA nomination and was named an Arkansas Gem by the Arkansas Center for the Book.
Karina Iceberg: Karina (Aleut/Alutiiq) is represented by Root Literary and a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.
Cheryl Isaacs Cheryl is a Kanienke’há:ka/white writer from Southern Ontario. She is a teacher, runner and lover of language. Her debut YA novel is forthcoming from Heartdrum in Fall 2024. She writes for, and with, all those who came before her.
Andrea L. Rogers is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She graduated with an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Her young adult collection of short stories, Man Made Monsters (Levine Querido, 2022) won the Walter Dean Myers Award, and was named to the Best of Year lists of Washington Post, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Horn Book and the New York Public Library. Her other books include Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story (Capstone, 2020) and her work has appeared in You Too? 25 Voices Share Their #METoo stories from Inkyard Press, Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids from Heartdrum, and in the anthology Allies, edited by Shakirah Bourne and Dana Alison Levy (DK, 2021). Her picture book called, When We Gather, is forthcoming from Heartdrum. See Andrea’s Cynsations interview.
David A. Robertson, (he, him, his) is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone (Portage & Main Press, 2017), which won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award and the McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People Award. The Barren Grounds, Book 1 of the middle-grade The Misewa Saga series (Puffin, 2020), received a starred review from Kirkus, was a Kirkus and Quill & Quire best middle-grade book of 2020, was a USBBY and Texas Lone Star selection, was shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award, and was a finalist for the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award. His memoir, Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory (HarperCollins, 2020), was a Globe and Mail and Quill & Quire book of the year in 2020, and won the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction as well as the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award at the 2020 Manitoba Book Awards. On The Trapline, illustrated by Julie Flett (Tundra Books, 2021), won David’s second Governor General’s Literary Award, won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, and was named one of the best picture books of 2021 by the CCBC, The Horn Book, New York Public Library, Quill & Quire, and American Indians in Children’s Literature.
Dave is the writer and host of the podcast Kíwew (Key-Way-Oh), winner of the 2021 RTDNA Praire Region Award for Best Podcast. His first adult fiction novel, The Theory of Crows, was published in 2022 and is a national bestseller. He is a member of Norway House Cree Nation and currently lives in Winnipeg. See David’s Cynsations interview.
Monique Gray Smith is a proud mom of teenage twins, an award-winning, best-selling author and sought after consultant. Monique’s most recent novel, Tilly and the Crazy Eights (Second Story Press, 2018) was long listed for Canada Reads 2021. Monique has nine books ranging for readers across the life span. Children’s books include My Heart Fills with Happiness (Orca Book Publishers, 2016), You Hold Me Up (Orca Book Publishers, 2017), When We Are Kind (Orca Book Publishers, 2020), Lucy and Lola (McKellar & Martin Publishing Group, 2018) and I Hope (Orca Book Publishers, 2022). Her Young Adult and Adult books include Speaking our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation (Orca, 2017), Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience (Sono Nis Press, 2014) and recently released, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults (Zest Books/Lerner, 2022).
Monique’s books are used to share wisdom, knowledge, hope and the important teaching that love is medicine.Monique is Cree, Lakota and Scottish and has been sober and involved in her healing journey for over 32 years. She is well known for her storytelling, spirit of generosity and focus on resilience. See Monique’s Cynsations interview.
Brian Young, author and filmaker, is a graduate of both Yale University with a Bachelor’s in Film Studies and Columbia University with a Master’s in Creative Writing Fiction. An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, he grew up on the Navajo Reservation but now currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. His debut novel, Healer of the Water Monster (Heartdrum, 2021), won the American Indian Youth Literature Award and was an NEA Read Across America Selection. It’s companion book, Heroes of the Water Monster is due out from Heartdrum on May 23, 2022.
As an undergraduate, Brian won a fellowship with the prestigious Sundance Ford Foundation with one of his feature length scripts. He has worked on several short films including Tsídii Nááts’íílid – Rainbow Bird and A Conversation on Race with Native Americans for the short documentary series produced by the New York Times. He was a participant of the 6th Annual Native American TV Writer’s Lab with the Native American Media Alliance, where he learned to write Television Scripts.
Cynthia references “reading ladders,” a phrase coined by Dr. Teri Lesesne. Check out Reading Ladders: Leading Students from Where They Are to Where We’d Like Them to Be by Teri Lesesne (Heinemann, 2010).