Cynsations

About Cynthia Leitich Smith

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Photo by Christopher T. Assaf.

Kid-friendly Bio

Cynthia Leitich Smith grew up in the Kansas City area. She has been a poet and a journalist since elementary school. As a teenager, she was the editor of her school newspaper. She went on to become the first person in her immediate family to earn a four-year college degree when she graduated from The University of Kansas. Then she went on to earn a law degree from the University of Michigan. Today, Cynthia is a writing teacher, an author of books for kids, and she helps other authors publish their books, too. She’s also a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, which is the fourth largest Native American tribe. Cynthia currently makes her home in Austin, Texas, and lives with two feisty Chihuahuas named Gnocchi and Orzo.

Teen-friendly Bio

Cynthia Leitich Smith grew up in the Kansas City area. As a teen, she was the editor of her school newspaper. She is a first-generation college graduate with a degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. She also holds a law degree from the University of Michigan. Today, Cynthia is an award-winning, bestselling author of books for young readers, on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the author-curator of the Heartdrum line at HarperCollins She’s also a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, which is the fourth largest Native American tribe. Cynthia currently makes her home in Austin, Texas, and lives with two feisty Chihuahuas named Gnocchi and Orzo.

Micro Bio

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee citizen) is a NSK Neustadt Laureate and NYT bestselling author. Her novel HEARTS UNBROKEN won an American Indian Youth Literature Award, and her recent books include ANCESTOR APPROVED, an ALA Notable Book and winner of the Reading of the West Book Award for Young Readers as well as SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA, which received six starred reviews and made numerous “best of the year” lists. Her 2023 releases are the YA novel HARVEST HOUSE and the MG graphic novel, THE BLUE STARS: MISSION ONE: THE VICE PRINCIPAL PROBLEM, co-authored by Kekla Magoon and illustrated by Molly Murakami. Cynthia is both the author-curator of Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperChildren’s, and the Katherine Paterson Chair at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program.

Mini Bio

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a NSK Neustadt Laureate and a New York Times bestselling author of books for young readers, including HEARTS UNBROKEN, which won the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award. Her recent releases include the middle grade anthology ANCESTOR APPROVED: INTERTRIBAL STORIES FOR KIDS, winner of the Reading of the West Book Award for Young Readers and an ALA Notable Book, and the novel SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA, which received six starred reviews. Both books were named to numerous “best of the year” lists. Her 2023 releases are the YA novel HARVEST HOUSE and the MG graphic novel the BLUE STARS: MISSION ONE: THE VICE PRINCIPAL PROBLEM, co-authored by Kekla Magoon and illustrated by Molly Murakami.

Cynthia is also the author-curator of Heartdrum, a Native-focused imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and the Katherine Paterson Inaugural Endowed Chair on the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Cynthia is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and lives in Austin, Texas.

Short Bio

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a NSK Neustadt Laureate as well as a best-selling, award-winning children’s-YA writer, writing teacher, and the author-curator of the Native-centered Heartdrum imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Cynthia’s latest releases are her middle grade anthology ANCESTOR APPROVED: INTERTRIBAL STORIES FOR KIDS and her middle grade novel SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA.

ANCESTOR APPROVED received four starred reviews and is the winner of the Reading the West Young Readers Book Award, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, an ALA Children’s Notable Book and a Kids Indie Next List Pick. It also was named to the ILA, Kirkus Reviews, Chicago Public Library, NY Public Library, Shelf Awareness, and Bank Street Best Books of 2021 lists.

SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA received six starred reviews and was named to summer reading lists by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. It also named to the Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Chicago Public Library, American Indians in Children’s Literature; Politics & Prose, and Parents Magazine Best Books of 2021 lists.

Her 2023 releases are the YA novel HARVEST HOUSE and the MG graphic novel, THE BLUE STARS: MISSION ONE: THE VICE PRINCIPAL PROBLEM, co-authored by Kekla Magoon and illustrated by Molly Murakami.

Her debut picture book, JINGLE DANCER, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, is widely considered a modern classic. She was named Writer of the Year by Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers for RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME and won the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Young Adult Books for HEARTS UNBROKEN, which also was named to YALSA’s Amelia Bloomer list and received the Foreword Reviews Silver Medal in Young Adult Fiction. In addition, Cynthia is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestselling YA author of the TANTALIZE series and FERAL trilogy.

Cynthia lives in Austin, Texas, which is Jumanos, Nʉmʉnʉʉ (Comanche), Sana, and Tonkawa ancestral land, and is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation. The Austin chapter of SCBWI has instituted the Cynthia Leitich Smith Mentor Award in her honor, and Cynthia is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters. She also serves on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, where she was named the inaugural Katherine Paterson Endowed Chair. In addition, Cynthia coordinates and leads the annual We Need Diverse Books Native Writing Intensive.

Cynthia holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas, Lawrence and a J.D. from The University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. She studied law abroad at Paris-Sorbonne University.

See recent interviews and articles featuring Cynthia here.