Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2016 Conference Faculty: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Meet the faculty of the 2016 Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. We’ve asked all our faculty members to answer 4 quick questions so we can get to know them better.

Next in the series is Cynthia Leitich Smith, author.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the critically acclaimed, New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling YA author of the Feral series and the Tantalize series. She also is the author of several award-winning children’s books.
In 2013, the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators instituted the Cynthia Leitich Smith Mentor Award in her honor. In 2014, Feral Nights was named winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Book Award and Cynthia was appointed to the national advisory board of We Need Diverse Books.
Cynthia is a member of the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. You may find her on the Web at and

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Cynthia Leitich Smith

What attracted you to children’s books?

Children’s-YA literature is arguably where Story reigns supreme. We seek to inform, entertain, challenge and uplift, but most of all, we’re tempting reading to keep turning pages. There’s little room for self-indulgence, a wide-open invitation to hope, and the people in the business are pretty terrific, too.

What’s the best part of your job?

I genuinely believe in what I’m doing. I know that books for young readers and all the education, conversations and industry to fuel them have the power to make a positive difference in the world. Better yet, I’m having fun every day.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Allocating my time. I’m an author, a writer, and a writing teacher. I’m an active member of the children’s-YA literature community. If only there were five of me, my stress level would plummet.

What’s the best piece of advice you were given that helped drive your career?

Remember that the world of children’s-YA literature is a small one. Err toward the professional over the petty. If you don’t find much to like in someone, seek out what you can respect–if only it’s that you have kid lit in common. Forgive readily. Give yourself–and everyone else–permission to stumble. Offer a hand up, even to those who’ve slighted you. Each of all us, all of us, need one another to offer our young readers the high quality of literary art that they deserve.

Come see Cynthia at the 2016 Austin SCBWI conference, May 14-15