How do you pronounce your middle name?
“Leitich” is prounced Lie-tick. First a long “i,” then a short “i,” followed by a hard “k.” I hope this is clear. I’m afraid I don’t have the ability on this program to use pronunciation marks.
Why are so many of your protagonists' parents dead?
I’m pleased to report that the protagonists in SANTA KNOWS, co-authored by my husband Greg Leitich Smith
, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006), ETERNAL (Candlewick, 2009), and HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton, 2010) all have two living parents.
Do you prefer 'Native American' or 'American Indian'?
I prefer “Cynthia”—“Cyn” to my pals. Or if it helps, the most specific citizenship answer would be my tribal affiliation, which is the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, though I’m also biracial (of Euro-American heritage).
With my characters, their backgrounds, personalities, and voices result in different answers to that question. Uncle Leonard, down home on the Okie lakes, from INDIAN SHOES (HarperCollins, 2002), might say “Indian” while Cousin Elizabeth, a young attorney, from JINGLE DANCER(Harper Collins, 2000), might prefer “Native American.”
For me, it’s a character question, not a political question.
Are all of your stories about Indians?
My first three books and a few of my early short stories focused on Native characters and themes. It’s an honor to craft stories that reflect today’s Native people, and I’m grateful for all of the enthusiasm and support from the community and our friends. I’m sure such tales will continue to appear among my published works.
However, I’m a writer of diverse interests, and I can only grow by experimenting. My first foray into non-Indian fiction was “The Gentleman Cowboy,” from PERIOD PIECES: STORIES FOR GIRLS(HarperCollins, 2003).
My more recent books are non-Indian in focus. TANTALIZE (Candlewick, 2007) and ETERNAL (Candlewick, 2009) are both upper-level YA gothic fantasies. SANTA KNOWS, co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith (Dutton, 2006) and HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton, 2010) are both humorous picture books.
This Huge Site
Why did you create this huge children's and young adult literature Web site?
When I quit my day job to become a full-time writer, my commitment was not only to my own work (which is nevertheless my life’s blood) but also to the body and community of children’s and young adult literature as a whole.
As a young girl, my mother took me every Saturday morning to our local public library. Books became some of my best friends, a relationship that continued to grow and deepen as I entered elementary school and beyond.
Much of the happiness I’ve enjoyed in this life would’ve never come to pass if it hadn’t been for books and their influence on me. In sum, I love reading. I love writing. I love readers and writers and artists and teachers and librarians and publishing people and booksellers and literature analysts and, well, you get the idea….
This Web site is my way of giving something back.
Do you make any money off the site?
How do you have any time to write?
Some days I don’t. Generally speaking, though, the site and my blogs take about an hour a day to update, up to another two for correspondence. That leaves me plenty of time for reading and writing and traveling and speaking. I’ve heard there’s something also called “a life,” but I’m not sure what that means. This is as close as I’ve come.
Who is the primary audience for this site?
To the extent I can tell, school and public librarians use the site the most, followed by teachers, university children’s/YA literature professors and their library/education students, writers, illustrators, book marketers, young readers, parents, other child care givers, publishing journalists, and mainstream media writers.
How much traffic does this site generate?
According to SmarterStats, the site attracts 40,000 to 60,000 visitors monthly. Though it varies, most visitors are from: the United States; Canada; the United Kingdom; France; Australia; the Netherlands; Italy; Spain; and Germany. Within the U.S., most hail from: California; New York; Washington; Virginia; Georgia; Texas; New Jersey; Illinois; and Pennsylvania. Most Canadians hail from: Ontario; Alberta; British Columbia; and Quebec.
What if I want to print and/or distribute materials on this site?
You are welcome to print a copy for your personal reference. By simply using the print function in your browser, you’ll receive a black-and-white text copy without the background graphics, colors, and sidebars.
If you would like to print and distribute copies of any pages for non-commercial educational use, you are welcome to do so. However, please keep the copyright information intact, provide my URL (www.cynthialeitichsmith.com) for reference, and let me know. I’m always delighted when the materials are of use to educators.
What if I want to republish materials on this site from my own site, blog, or a real-space publication?
Please contact me for related discussion and potential legal permission. Among other issues, compensation and full attribution would be considerations.
How can I support this site?
Basically, do what the site does: go big picture. Use your voting power to support school and public libraries. Use your dollars to support quality trade books. Read at the library, at home, in schools, everywhere you go. Spread the word that good books matter. Looking for something more? Please consider supporting If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything,
“assisting Indian Communities in Increasing Literacy Skills While Preserving Native American Identity.”
Advice, Promotion, Getting Listed, Review Policies
What advice can you give me for writing, illustrating, and/or publishing a children's/YA book?
Read. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out my bibliographies
. For more support, try the reader resources
Once you’ve read and studied a lot (by which I mean at least a couple of hundred books in whatever genre interests you most), keep reading and begin writing. Work on craft, and along the way, be sure to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, both the national organization and your regional chapter (see the main site for chapter contact information and URLs).
Once you’re reading and writing, take a look at my writer resources, which include suggestions helpful to illustrators and publishers as well. The Children’s Book Writers’ Reading List: A Technical and Inspiration Bibliography should help you along your learning curve. Please note that if you can’t afford the books listed, request them through interlibrary loan.
Don’t miss the page of writing links, especially The Purple Crayon from children’s book editor Harold Underdown. The How-Do-I-Get-Published? Quiz is particularly useful as is Basic Information For Writers and Illustrators. The people at Writing4Kids also have some great writing support products for beginners.
As for illustrators, I am not the best person to ask. But again, I suggest studying the articles on The Purple Crayon for illustrators and joining SCBWI. In addition, the site does features some interviews with illustrators that may be of interest to you.
As for publishing, I don’t know much about that either, but this site does include interviews with two successful self-published authors Debbie Leland and Jerry Wermund, both of which describe their process.
What if I'm a young (under age 18) writer?
Take a look at the information for the question above. Surf over to Aaron Shepard’s young authors page.
See also Tips for Teen Writers from Cassandra Clare. Here’s a sneak peek: “I can only say what works for me or what I’ve observed, and in this post I’ll talk about what I remember about being a teenage writer and what was helpful for me.”
Teen Ink is a national teen magazine, book and website featuring teen writing, information, art, photos, poetry, teen issues and more. All articles are written by teen authors who are students at schools. Teen Ink is also a book series published by HCI Teens. More than 25,000 teens have been published in the magazine and its companion Poetry Journal. Teen Ink runs a London Summer Program for teenage writers.
Also of interest: Figment is a community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you’re into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all at figment.com.
Those recommendations aside, I feel compelled to add that I began working with my editor and agent at a relatively young age (in my twenties), and more times than not, I wish that apprenticeship had lasted longer, that I’d had more years to really focus on my craft without the pressures of publication.
How do I get my site listed on CLSCYALR?
Send an email
with a 30 (or fewer) word description of your site in the following format:
Site title: attribution (official, publisher, fan) includes features. Author’s (or Illustrator’s) books include X, Y, Z.
(If you are a Texas author, please note that as your link may be listed on both the general and Texas pages.)
Children’s and Young Adult Author Cynthia Leitich Smith : official author site features biography, bibliographies, articles, interviews, links, etc. Smith’s books include Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000), Rain is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), and Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). Visit: http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/
A reciprocal link (as listed above, actually) is requested but not required.
Please be advised that not all of this information may be included in your link. I do not promise to link to every site suggested.
NOTE: I seldom link to publisher Web sites, preferring author/illustrator sites.
May I link to your site?
Sure, and thank you. You may download a copy of our mini-logo (see top of the guide bar to the right) and re-upload it with a link from your own server. A text link is also fine. See the description above, and let me know when it’s out so I can visit your site and perhaps create a reciprocal link.
I have written the next Harry Potter. Would you please give me your editor's or agent's name and address?
No. However, if it happens that you actually did write the next Harry Potter, please don’t let my editor or agent know that I turned you down on that request.
Would you critique my manuscript?
No. Sorry, I’m plenty busy critiquing Greg’s manuscripts and those of my critique group and mentees. Here’s what you should do: Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Your local SCBWI regional advisor can help you find a critique group in your area. See also professional book doctors/private teachers
Whatever you do, don’t send me your manuscript or art and then ask for comments. About once a week, my email program crashes because someone attached and sent an enormous art file.
What about my Native-themed manuscript, can you help me with that?
No. Sorry, but I get one-to-three requests a week from published authors, many of them friends, asking for help with related manuscripts. While I appreciate the effort to do homework, I have to preserve time for my own writing. For background information, see: Teacher and Library Resources for Native American Children’s Books
(there is a lot of information of use to writers as well).
As a member of the children’s literature community, I often speak about Native children’s literature, and I’m hopeful that this increases awareness and understanding. Please, however, don’t thank me in your supplemental pages for assistance unless I have offered in advance for my name to be used this way. Some folks take such a nod to mean that I have personally vetted and approved the story on cultural accuracy grounds, and, again, I’m busy enough with my own work without taking on that kind of responsibility.
Would you help me identify a book I remember from childhood? I recall a few cryptic details...
Sorry! I’m not good at that particular game. However, you might want to try asking on a children’s literature list serv
or surfing to one of the featured links on my Childhood Favorites
School Visits, Book Copies, Autographs
Would you like to visit our school, library, etc.?
Maybe! See the events page
How do I order your books for school events?
See the sidebar of the events page
Would you donate a copy of one of your books to our organization for a fund-raising event?
Thank you for your interest. Please note that children’s/YA authors do have to pay for our own books (yes, I think the publishing companies should give them to us), and that autographed-book raffles/auctions have become quite popular. Due to the high volume of requests, I’m no longer able to provide autographed books to individual schools. However, umbrella organizations and associations are welcome to request one by writing here,
and I’ll select one recipient each month. Individual schools and subsequent organizations are welcome to request an autographed book plate. Please send a copy of any related promotional materials.
Will you autograph a fabric square for our class author quilt?
Yes, but only IF you supply the square, the fabric pen (one with ink in it, please), and a self-addressed stamped envelope with the proper postage. In theory, it’s a great project. In practice, most of those I’ve been sent lacked either a pen (harder for an urban Austinite to find than you might think) and/or an SASE. Again, I’m really glad to do it, but please just check and make sure that I have everything I need to fulfill my end of the assignment.
Can I have an autograph for my copy of your book?
Sure! Just email me
a snail (regular postal street address), and I’ll send an autographed book plate right away.
More, More, More
What if I want to know more about you?
I’m flattered! Check out my bio
and/or my articles page
, which includes a number of interviews. You may also want to read “The Naked Truth” from IN MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE: AWARD WINNING AUTHORS TELL STORIES ABOUT THEIR GRANDMOTHERS.