New York Times best-selling and award-winning author Cynthia Leitich Smith writes fiction for everyone, but she has a particular affection for young readers, from kids to twenty-somethings.
[NOTE: Looking for a shorter version of the bio?]
Cynthia's fiction is noted for its diversity, humor, lyricism, imaginativeness, compelling action, and mid-to-southwestern settings.
JINGLE DANCER, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, (Morrow / Harper-Collins, 2000)(ages 4-up) was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award, runner-up for the Western Writers Association Storyteller Award, and Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. It was also named to the Texas 2 x 2 List. School Library Journal said, “…a welcome addition to stories about traditions passed down by woman of a culture.” Book magazine named it among “Debuts that Deliver.”
RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (HarperCollins, 2001)(Listening Library, 2001)(ages 10-up) also was an Oklahoma Book Award finalist and earned Cynthia the title of 2001 Writer of the Year from Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Kirkus said it was “tender, funny and full of sharp wordplay.” School Library Journal called it, “a wonderful novel of a present-day teen and her patchworktribe.” Audio File added, "Rich with sorrow and the longing for resolution in a life diminished by loss, the story of Rain's journey toward her own identity is captivating and exceedingly hopeful." And Bob Langstaff at WAMV AM/Amhert, VA noted, "It's kind of like a combination of 'Northern Exposure' and 'Party of Five'." The audio production was aired as the November 2005 Book of the Month by Red Tales, Aboriginal Voices Radio, The Earth 106.5 (based in Canada).
Cynthia also is the author of INDIAN SHOES (HarperCollins, 2002)(ages 7-up). Kirkus declared: "A very pleasing first-chapter book from its funny and tender opening salvo to its heartwarming closer. An excellent choice for younger readers." School Library Journal hailed: "a good book for any elementary-aged reluctant reader and a necessity for indigenous children everywhere." INDIAN SHOES has been named a Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Award, to the 2003 Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education; and to Choices 2003, Cooperative Children's Book Center. It also was named to the NEA Native American Book List and the 2004-2005 Crown List. INDIAN SHOES was chosen as the featured intermediate title for "Read On, Wisconsin!" (an online book club for students sponsored by the state's First Lady) in March, 2005.
Cynthia's picture book SANTA KNOWS (Dutton, 2006)(Scholastic Book Club) was co-authored by her husband, Greg Leitich Smith, and illustrated by Steve Björkman. SANTA KNOWS is Cynthia and Greg's first book written together. The Horn Book Magazine named it among "Holiday High Notes." Kirkus Reviews called it "…a newly minted winner." Publishers Weekly cheered it as "fantastic," and The Miami Herald highlighted it among "Worthy Titles for the Holidays."
Cynthia's first upper YA novel was TANTALIZE (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(Listening Library, 2008), a gothic fantasy aimed at ages 14-up. It’s one of the new books that signal an expansion of her writing from contemporary realistic fiction to also embrace fantasy. TANTALIZE also was her first title set in Austin, where she now makes her home. The Horn Book called the novel an “intoxicating romantic thriller.” BookPage said the book “will appeal to fans—both teens and adults—of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” TANTALIZE was named a Borders Original Voices Nominee in March 2007 and Chapters (Canadian bookstore chain) named it a Junior Advisory Board Pick. In addition, the novel was chosen for the 2007 Texas Book Festival and the 2007 National Book Festival. The Bloomsbury Review cheered, “Cynthia Leitich Smith is the Anne Rice for teen readers.” TANTALIZE was also published by Walker (UK)(2008), Walker Australia and New Zealand (2008), and Editions Intervista (France)(2009).
The second book in what became the TANTALIZE series was ETERNAL (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)(Listening Library, 2009). The novel debuted at #5 on The New York Times best-seller list, #13 on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list, and was a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee. Booklist says, “Miranda and Zachary are complex, sympathetic characters, and their hopeful ending is well earned.” The Dallas Morning News says, "The ending to the love story (because it does become one, though a twisted one) is moving and hopeful in a way you don't expect." The San Antonio Express cheers, "The offer of redemption sets this tale apart from others that feed upon the current fascination with vampires and the occult that possesses preteens and teens." ETERNAL was also published by Walker (UK)(2009), Walker Australia and New Zealand, 2009), and Amber (Poland)(2010).
BLESSED was a YALSA Teens Top 10 selection. Kirkus Reviews cheered, “"Wild and ultimately fascinating"…"the pages fairly smolder in describing their [Quincie and Kieren] attraction to one another." The Horn Book added, "As in the first two novels, the main attractions are the clever and campy blend of the supernatural and the everyday and the thoroughly entertaining characters, human and otherwise. Even in undeath, Quincie has a zest for life that shines through as she balances supernatural duties with schoolwork and running her family restaurant, the vampire-themed Sanguini's. Romance blossoms, too, as she and her beloved werewolf, Kieren, prove their devotion to each other under deadly duress. A hearty meal for the thinking vampire reader."
DIABOLICAL was the last of the series’ prose novels. The Horn Book raved, "It's a considerable challenge for a series not to lose steam by the fourth book, but this one runs full force on the fires of hell and the sword power of heaven." School Library Journal cheered, “...this captivating story combines action, suspense, and romance with just the right touch of humor to keep it entertaining. A great finish to an original and satisfying series.”
Two graphic novels, TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY (2010) and ETERNAL: ZACHARY’S STORY (2012), both illustrated by Ming Doyle, compliment the series.
In recognition of the TANTALIZE series, Cynthia was chosen as a Spirit of Texas author by the Texas Library Association.
HOLLER LOUDLY, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010) is Cynthia's latest picture book. It was a Dolly Parton Imagination Library selection, featured at the Texas Book Festival, and a finalist for the Writers' League of Texas Children's Book Award. The Horn Book Magazine said, "Lively prose is complemented by an exuberant design and palette. Humorous details are found on every spread... The tornado, with a mouth of its own, adds an extra dab of perfect hilarity. A fabulous read-aloud that everyone will 'HUSH!' to hear."
Cynthia has published short stories, including “The Gentleman Cowboy” appearing in PERIOD PIECES: STORIES FOR GIRLS (HarperCollins, 2003)(ages 8-up); “The Naked Truth,” appearing in IN MY GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE: AWARD-WINNING AUTHORS TELL STORIES ABOUT THEIR GRANDMOTHERS (HarperCollins, 2003)(ages 8-up); “A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate,” appearing in MOCCASIN THUNDER (HarperCollins, 2005); “Haunted Love,” appearing in IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE (BenBella, 2008), “The Wrath of Dawn,” co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, appearing in GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD (Little, Brown, 2009), “Cat Calls,” appearing in SIDE SHOW: TEN ORIGINAL TALES OF FREAKS, ILLUSIONISTS, AND OTHER MATTERS ODD AND MAGICAL (Candlewick, 2009), and "Mooning Over Broken Stars," appearing in GIRL MEETS BOY (Chronicle, 2012). PERIOD PIECES was selected as a Bank Street Best Book (starred) and to NYPL Women In Books For the Teenage. IN MY GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE also was named to NYPL Books For The Teenaged. Her upper YA short story, “Riding With Rosa” appeared in the March/April 2005 issue of Cicada magazine.
Cynthia's essay "Isolation" appears in DEAR BULLY: 70 AUTHORS TELL THEIR STORIES (HarperTeen, 2011).
She was also named one of three honored authors by “A Gathering of Readers,” an International Indigenous Youth Reading Celebration during the week of April 18-22, 2005.
Throughout summer/fall 2005, she was a visiting faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She became a permanent faculty member in October 2005. Due to her heavy publishing schedule, Cynthia is currently on an extended leave from the faculty.
Cynthia has been a featured author/speaker at the Texas Book Festival and the National Book Festival as well as at schools, public libraries, museums, universities, and conferences of such groups as: the American Library Association; the Texas Library Association; the International Reading Association; the National Council of Teachers of English; Reading The World; The Second Native American Authors Conference; Star-Lit Children's Literary Festival; etc. She also is a popular cyber presenter (Maine Library Association; New Hampshire Library Association; New England Library Association; Turtle Mountain Teachers Association; Salisbury University Children's Literature Festival, Westlake (Texas) High School), etc.
Her website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, offers articles, interviews, reading recommendations, publishing news, and annotated links. It was named one of the top 10 writer sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest, and it was recognized among "Great Sites for Kids" by the American Library Association in the "Authors/Illustrators" category.
Articles by and about or quoting Cynthia, her books, and her Web site have been featured in: American Western Magazine; The Baton Rouge Advocate; Better Homes and Gardens; Brazos Family Magazine, Byline Magazine; Book Links; Book Magazine; California Kids!; Children's Literature; The Children's Writers' Market Guide; The Christian Science Monitor; The Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune; The Dallas Morning News; Horn Book Magazine; The Journal of Bibliotherapy; The Kind News; Library Talk; The Miami Herald; Radio Disney Chicago; The Topeka Capitol-Journal; Once Upon A Time; Our Children; Teacher Librarian; Writer's Digest; and many other outlets, including K-VUE/ABC TV Austin, K-EYE/CBS TV Austin, WEOL A.M. 930 in Elyria (OH), KCMN 1530 AM in Colorado Springs, KAMU TV in College Station (TX).
In addition, she and the covers of her first three books were featured on a poster published by the Equal Opportunity Division of the Bureau of Reclamation, which appeared at U.S. federal workplaces nation-wide, as part of a campaign “Building a Brighter Future for Our Children and Our Community” in celebration of Native American Heritage Month 2005, and Cynthia was highlighted with author Joseph Bruchac on the November page for the 2005 Author and Illustrator Birthday calendar, published by Perma-Bound.
She is a member of the Authors Guild, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the Writers' League of Texas, and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. 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 from The University of Michigan Law School in 1994. She also studied abroad in Paris, France during the summer of 1991 via a program sponsored by Tulane Law School and the University of Paris IV.
Cynthia has worked as a popcorn popper and cashier in a movie theater, a waitress (in a Mexican chain restaurant, and at a country club restaurant and pool), an attendant at a gas station, a receptionist at a law firm, a telephone operator at a bank, a law clerk (for a legal aid, for a small firm, for a government agency, and for a federal appeals judge), and an English tutor for students of migrant farm families. She has also worked as a reporter (for small-town and big city newspapers) and in public relations (for a non-profit agency, for a greeting card company, and for an oil company). In addition, Cynthia has taught legal writing and writing for children and young adults.
Cynthia was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Her previous states of residence are: Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma. She is a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Today, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her four cats and her husband, award-winning children's book author Greg Leitich Smith.