Episode 346: Curating a Middle Grade Anthology of Intertribal Stories – Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Cynthia is a New York Times bestselling author known for her award-winning children’s and YA books. She writes both realistic contemporary stories and fantastical narratives, and most recently, she won the American Indian Youth Literature YA Award for Hearts Unbroken published by Candlewick.

Today we’ll be discussing one of her most recent projects: Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for kids, a Middle Grade anthology published by Heartdrum, a Native-focused imprint at HarperChildren’s where Cynthia is the author-curator. In addition to her work in publishing, she is also on the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a citizen of Mvskoke Nation and makes her home in Austin, Texas.

In this episode Cynthia and I discuss:

  • How the lack of Native representation in Middle Grade books inspired Cynthia’s writing and the impetus for Heartdrum.
  • What elements are important to include when writing specifically for Middle Graders and how MG is distinct from YA.
  • Why it’s important to create an inclusive feeling  of a “we” not “me” book within diverse literature.

Plus, her #1 tip for writers.

About Cynthia Leitich Smith

New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith is known for her award-winning children’s and YA realistic contemporary and fantastical books. Most recently, she won the American Indian Youth Literature YA Award for Hearts Unbroken, published by Candlewick, and she looks forward to the release of Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, a Middle Grade anthology published by Heartdrum.

Cynthia is the author-curator of Heartdrum, a Native-focused imprint at HarperChildren’s and on the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children’s and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s a citizen of Mvskoke Nation and makes her home in Austin, Texas.

You can find Cynthia on her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

A collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.

Featured contributors: Joseph Bruchac, Art Coulson, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth, Dawn Quigley, Carole Lindstrom, Rebecca Roanhorse, David A. Robertson, Andrea L. Rogers, Kim Rogers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Monique Gray Smith, Traci Sorell, Tim Tingle, Erika T. Wurth, and Brian Young.

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 346

(Right-click to download.)

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!

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