Cynthia Leitich Smith


Today Cynthia Leitich Smith joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! Cynthia has written several books for both kids and young adults. This includes the Feral series, Feral Nights and Feral Curse, and the Tantalize series.


How did you get started writing?


Before I learned how to write, I dictated poetry to my mother, who dutifully scribbled it down and now points to it as early evidence of my talent. I forged on as a poet in elementary school, earning a white participation ribbon in the district fair.


In sixth grade, I got my big break. I had my own column, "Dear Gabby," in Mr. Rideout's classroom newsletter.


I went on to serve as editor of my junior high and high school newspapers, majored in journalism (with a concentration in English) in college and co-founded a gender-rights journal in law school.


As for my creative writing career, I launched into that within a couple of years after graduation.


With not a word on the page, I quit my law job to write full-time. I got lucky. I had to do some freelance magazine work and part-time teaching in the interim, but within two years, I'd signed with my literary agent and sold my first book to HarperCollins.


Who influenced you?


My parents and grandparents, my great aunt Anne, Wonder Woman, George Lucas, Charles Dickens, Joss Whedon, and children's-YA authors/illustrators Kathi Appelt, Annette Curtis Klause, Michael Lacapa, and Nancy Werlin-among many others.


Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?


As a child, I loved Kit from The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. More recently, I've bonded with Mary Quinn of the Mary Quinn Mysteries by Y.S. Lee.


What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?


Be your own competition and your own cheerleader. In a crowded field with lots of rejection, it's too easy to lose yourself in the comparison game or to doubt your own abilities. Stretch yourself, push yourself, and encourage yourself. Go Team You!


Where is your favorite place to write?


It depends on how you define writing. When it comes to getting words down on the screen, I'm a floater around my house-the sun room, the sleeping porch, the big denim chair in the upstairs parlor.


But for note scribbling, I'm often on the go. I'll write on napkins in restaurants, tickets in movie theaters, the back of my hand in the car. Once I'm in a story, some part of my mind is always spinning on it.


What else would you like to tell us?


Don't forget to floss, eat something green every day, and if you're suffering from writer's block, try dancing in the dark to Olivia Newton John's "Xanadu" album.