Like Rain, author Cynthia Leitich Smith was raised, at least in part, in northeastern Kansas. Smith attended college in Douglas County, the home of fictional Hannesburg, and completed a journalism degree at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. During college, she worked at a few small-town newspapers as a reporter. Then she earned a law degree at the University of Michigan. Today she lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two gray tabby cats. She's a mixed blood, enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Cynthia Smith is also the author of the picture book Jingle Dancer, which Publishers Weekly called a "heartening portrait of a harmonious meshing of old and new"
In Her Own Words …
I'm a mid-to-southwestern kind of gal. Growing up, I lived in the Kansas City area, on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the state line, and as I grew older, I lived in Oklahoma, Michigan, and Illinois. Today Austin, Texas, is my home.
I was an only child, whose constant companions were a dog named Sir Gahald XIII (but called "Tramp") and an array of library books.
I developed an interest in reading at an early age, and won my local public library reading contest in Grandview, Missouri, when I was in the third grade. Some of my favorite books were Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume; and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Through reading I cultivated a desire to write, and published my first piece in the "Dear Gaby" column in the sixth-grade paper.
My interest in writing continued through high school, during which I edited the newspaper and pursued both dancing and cheerleading. After finishing high school in 1986, I went on to become the first person in my family to graduate from college. There I spent much of my time writing as a minority issues reporter for the campus newspaper and eventually completed my undergraduate studies in 1991 with a degree in journalism.
I never thought of writing and reading fiction as a viable career option, and so I finished law school in 1994, where I had been president of the Native American Law Student's Association. For a while I worked in a federal law job in Chicago, but I was bored. I decided that in order to be happy I needed to turn to something that not only mattered to me, but also affected others in a positive way. So I quit my job and embarked on a new career as a children's author
What I enjoy most about writing are the challenges. I like writing for different genres, and have so far written a picture book, a chapter book, and a middle-grade novel. Truthfully, I just want to continue improving. Once I create my characters, they begin to fashion the setting and plot around themselves. I assume very little at the beginning, and am always surprised by what I find.
I know that people often characterize my stories as "Native American" or of some similar nature and that's fine for reference purposes, but I intend for my books to go deeper than that. I try to weave real life into the stories naturally, helping me to attain my goal of offering a unique cultural and literary world through characters that laugh, cry, breathe, and, most importantly, live.
Cornelius Van Wright and YYing-Hwa Hu have illustrated many distinguished picture books, including Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, which was named a Selector's Choice Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. The couple lives with their daughter and son in New York City.