Guest Dispatches: Cynthia Leitich Smith / Austin, Texas

As anyone who reads Cynthia Leitich Smith’s excellent and informative Cynsations blog knows, Cynthia lives in Austin, Texas. Her love of the city shows through, and I wanted to know more about it–so I asked her to write a guest dispatch about her chosen home. I was thrilled when she agreed.

Here’s what she had to say:


[Austin pic]I’m a sense of place writer. My stories spring from suburban Kansas City, northeast Kansas, resort-town Colorado, small-town Oklahoma, downtown Chicago, and college-town Michigan—all places that I’ve lived or visited again and again.

But it’s Austin, Texas; where I now make my home, and it’s been singing to me since I first arrived. That feels like the right verb, “singing,” for a city that bills itself as the “live music capital of the world.”

Austin is the kind of place that’s almost impossible to leave—a capital city, a college town, high tech, overeducated, joyfully diverse. Crunchy, funky, corporate and entrepreneurial. Hippy, urban cowboy and urban cool. A 24-7 celebration of the arts.

Fascinated by its history under all six flags, and every other waiter has a Ph.D.

[Austin pic]It’s proudly weird. A foodie town, a fashion town, and has established its own dress code called—not surprisingly—“Austin casual.” It’s Molly Ivins’s and Ann Richard’s city. Willie Nelson’s and Lance Armstrong’s city.

(And yes, we do take our bike lanes very seriously.)

Green—politically and literally. Young, active, outdoorsy. Over 300 days of annual sunshine. Lakes sparkle, palm trees sway, flowers bloom.

[Eternal cover]It is my oasis and the first place where I’ve felt like I wholly belonged. It’s such a relief to find that. The place that is true to you.

It was in Austin that I could first see glimpses of worlds beyond this one. Rifts in the heat, shadows on the trail, eyes that glowed too bright…

Since 2001, I’ve been writing within a Gothic fantasy world largely inspired by Abraham Stoker’s nod to Texas in the form of his Dracula character, Quincey P. Morris.

[Holler Loudly cover]Well, that and the fact that the Congress Avenue Bridge is home to 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats that careen like swirling ribbons into the rising night.

When I joke with Texans from elsewhere that ghosts and bloodsuckers, angels and shape-shifters roam our streets, they claim that explains a lot.

Which brings me to my werearmadillos—does anybody else write ‘dillos my way?

I set my vampire-themed restaurant on South Congress AKA Main Street Austin, a music-shopping-entertainment district in the midst of re-gentrification, and then juxtaposed the local homeless against local money, old and new.

The angels were the easiest. Arch angels. Guardian angels.

I see angels on every corner, some of them wearing boots.


[Cynthia Leitich Smith]Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of Eternal and its companion Tantalize (both Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes and Rain Is Not My Indian Name. (all HarperCollins). She looks forward to the upcoming release of Holler Loudly, (Dutton, Nov. 2010) as well as Blessed and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story (Candlewick, Feb. 2011).

Cynthia is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her website 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 was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.

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