About the Author: Long Version

At the Illumine Award Banquet

Cynthia Leitich Smith is best known as an author of fantastical and realistic fiction for young readers.

Her latest YA novel, HEARTS UNBROKEN, was named to ALA YALSA’s Amelia Bloomer list and the 2018 Foreword Reviews Book Award Silver Medalist in Young Adult Fiction, among other honors.

She is also the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling YA author of the award-winning FERAL series, which includes FERAL NIGHTS, FERAL CURSE, and FERAL PRIDE, as well as the critically acclaimed TANTALIZE series, which includes TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, BLESSED, and DIABOLICAL.

Two graphic novels, TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY and ETERNAL: ZACHARY’S STORY, both illustrated by Ming Doyle, complete the series.

These YA adventure-fantasies were originally published by Candlewick Press in the U.S., Walker Books in the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, and additional publishers around the globe. The series are often noted for their diverse protagonists, humor, social conscience and compelling action. The books are available in hardcover, paperback, electronic and audio editions.

Cynthia is also the author of several award-winning children’s books, including: JINGLE DANCER, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu; RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME; and INDIAN SHOES, illustrated by Jim Madsen; all published by HarperCollins.

Cynthia was named a Writer of the Year by Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers in recognition of RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME. She is an enrolled tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation /ma(:)skó:k-î/

She also is a member of the Advisory Board of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is a member of the Honorary Advisory Board of the We Need Diverse Books nonprofit organization.

She has been twice featured at the National Book Festival. Her titles have been honored among Notable Children’s Trade Books in Social Studies, Oklahoma Book Award finalists, NEA Choices, CCBC Choices, Bank Street Choices, Children’s Crown List selections, YALSA Popular Paperbacks, Writers’ League of Texas award winners, TLA Spirit of Texas (YA) choices, and more.

She was named the first Spirit of Texas Young Adult author by the Young Adult Round Table of the Texas Library Association and the first young adult author to be honored with the Illumine Award by the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation. The Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators also instituted the Cynthia Leitich Smith Mentor Award in her honor.

Cynthia is a popular writing teacher, serving on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and leading workshops hosted, for example, by SCBWI chapters, the Highlights Foundation and Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.

Cynthia’s website at 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 was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column. School Library Journal said of Cynsations, “If you read only one blog, this is it!”

Cynthia makes her home in south-central Austin. Order books by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

(“Leitich” is pronounced Lie-tick. First a long “i,” then a short “i,” followed by a hard “k.”)

Cynthia has written several poems, essays and short stories. Highlights include:

  • “Stories for Dinner,” which appears in THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (Millbrook, 2019);
  • “Amazing Auntie Ann,” which appears in I REMEMBER: POEMS AND PICTURES OF HERITAGE, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Lee & Low, 2019);
  • “Girl’s Best Friend,” which appears in THE HERO NEXT DOOR, edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Random House, 2019);
  • “All’s Well,” which appears in VIOLENT ENDS, edited by Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon Pulse, 2015);
  • “Cupid’s Beaux,” which appears in THINGS I’LL NEVER SAY: STORIES ABOUT OUR SECRET SELVES, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015);
  • a letter in DEAR TEEN ME: AUTHORS WRITE LETTERS TO THEIR TEEN SELVES, edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally (Zest, 2012);
  • “Mooning Over Broken Stars” (a companion to a story by Joseph Bruchac), which appears in GIRL MEETS BOY, edited by Kelly Milner Halls (Chronicle, 2012);
  • “Isolation,” which appears in DEAR BULLY: 70 AUTHORS TELL THEIR STORIES, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones (HarperTeen, 2011);
  • “The Wrath of Dawn,” which appears in GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009);
  • “Cat Calls,” which appears in SIDESHOW: TEN ORIGINAL TALES OF FREAKS, ILLUSIONISTS AND OTHER MATTERS ODD AND MAGICAL, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2009); and
  • “Haunted Love,” which appears in IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, 2008);
  • “Riding with Rosa” which appears in Cicada magazine (March/April 2005);
  • “A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate,” which appears in MOCCASIN THUNDER: AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES FOR TODAY, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005).

More Information

Cynthia was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Her states of residence have included: Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Michigan Law School reading room

She graduated with degrees (in news/editorial and public relations) from the White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, Lawrence in 1990 and (in law) from the University of Michigan Law School in 1994. At Michigan Law School, she was a co-founder and senior editor of The Michigan Journal of Gender & Law. Cynthia also studied abroad in Paris, France during the summer of 1991 via Tulane University Law School and the University of Paris IV.