With the release of Dear Bully on September 5th, we are celebrating it's release and message here at BNR. From Sept. 4th to Sept. 14th, we will be having authors that contributed to DB on the blog.
Today on the blog is Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize and Blessed:
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, BLESSED, and TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY (Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins) and HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton). Her website at http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ 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 cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column.
Interview with Cynthia
What first turned you on to writing?
Like many writers, I began as an avid reader. My mom took me to the public library for books on Saturdays, and my dad took me to the local convenience store for comics on Sundays. I also fell in love with stories on the big and small screens.
I played “pretend” longer than most kids—focusing on superheroes and “Star Wars” in part because my beloved pal next door was a few years younger.
By second grade, I was writing fiction and poetry for fun. By sixth grade, I had a column, “Dear Gabby” in Mr. Rideout’s classroom newsletter. I went onto become editor of my junior high and high school newspapers before majoring in news/editorial (with a concentration in English)at the University of Kansas, going on to earn a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and then launch into writing fiction full-time.
But if I had to pinpoint a handful of specific influences, I’d say The Wild Things, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Nancy Drew, Terabithia, The Witch from Blackbird Pond, Stephen King, “Teen Witch,” “Meatloaf,” Bram Stoker and Joss Whedon.
What interests you about children's and YA books?
For young heroes, so many of their experiences are new. There’s a kiss, there’s a first kiss, and there’s your first kiss ever. Which will you remember for the rest of your life? It’s a matter of heightened intensity. Beyond that, kids and teens have extra limits placed on them by the adult world, so they often must work harder, stretch and grow more to meet their challenges. Finally, young readers are the best audience in the world. It’s an honor to work for them.
Are there any other paranormal creatures you would like to write about?
I’m pretty excited about the wereotter in my upcoming novel, Diabolical (Candlewick, Jan. 2012), but that manuscript is (newly) finished.
Hmm. I’m yet to tackle fairies, but they’re tempting me at the moment.
How is writing about younger characters different from adult characters?
In addition to the factors mentioned above, it’s important to keep in mind that intelligence and talent are innate, not functions of age. There are kids out there who’re smarter, more talented at this or that than every adult they know.
In contrast, wisdom and skill are earned over time, effort, multiple failures, and persistence.
What can we see in the future from you?
My latest release is my first graphic novel, Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle (Candlewick, 2011).
Beyond that, I look forward to the publication of my latest YA short story, “Moon Over Broken Stars,” which will appear in Girl Meets Boy, edited by Kelly Milner Halls (Chronicle, Jan. 2012) and the previously mentioned novel Diabolical.
Another graphic novel, Eternal, is currently in production, and I’m writing a new paranormal YA prose novel, Smolder, which is set in the Tantalize series universe but emphasizes new and previously secondary characters.
Why did you decide to get involved with Dear Bully?
I knew Dear Bully anthologist Carrie Jones from her studies at the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. (I’m on the faculty.) She has such a wonderful heart and is so passionate and sincere that I knew the project would be terrific.
I also had been bullied myself from fourth through ninth grade, and I wanted to toss out a line of hope to kids who found themselves in a similar situation. I wanted to let them know that others had survived it and gone on to live their fondest dreams.
Other than bullying victims, who should read this book?
Perpetrators, the people who stay silent and/or get involved from the sidelines. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, administrators, clergy members, law enforcement officials, politicians, social workers, private tutors, employers of teens—really anyone who has children and teens in their lives or cares about our society in the whole. In other words: everybody.
How have your experiences made you stronger?
Absolutely. Ultimately, being bullied made me realize the importance of reaching out to others in positive ways. You never know when someone needs a kind word, hug, or unexpected show of solidarity.
How should someone reach out for help or support?
Try confiding in your closest friends and/or an adult you can trust. It’s also okay to take refuge in story or to find safe havens in other kid communities. If school is a battleground, get involved in church or local theater or a GLBTQ teen center—wherever you feel safe and valued.
Where you can find Cynthia:
Giveaway item: One graphic novel of Tantalized
Type: US Only
Requirements: 13 years or older
How to enter: Leave a comment on this post with your name and some way to contact you
The giveaway closes on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 11:59pm EST!
I want to thank Cynthia for stopping by for the Dear Bully Spotlight You can check out the DB website here and buy the book on Amazon now!
Peace and Fangs,