Writers on Writing: Cynthia Leitich Smith/Short Stories

Looking for a quick read? Or want to take a chance with a new genre without over committing? How about reading a short story? Cynthia Leitch Smith uses her expertise to guide us through some of the basics of short stories.

From a writer’s perspective, what are the essential differences between a short story and a novel?
Cynthia_Leitich_Smith_Black_SilverAt the risk of stating the obvious, the short story is…shorter. How much shorter is a subject of some debate and arguably a matter of publishing predisposition and/or posturing.

I tend to consider the short story one that takes the protagonist to (or just past) the precipice of change. It’s a narrower, more focused story than the novel, one with texture but not fully developed subplots.

How common is it for a young adult author to write short stories?Things_Ill_Never_Say
Quite common. I’m perhaps on the more prolific end. I’ve published seven YA short stories, mostly in trade hardcover anthologies (one in Cicada Magazine) and two middle
grade shorts, likewise in anthologies. My most recent are “Cupid’s Beaux” which appears in Things I’ll Never Say: Stories of Our Secret Selves, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015) and “All’s Well” which serves as a chapter from Violent Ends, edited by Shaun David Hutchison (Simon Pulse, 2015).

What young adult short stories or collections would you recommend for educators, librarians or teens?moccasin_thunder_large
My top pick would be Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005), with the caveats that I’m among the contributors and that I dearly wish there was a more current collection of shorts
by Native authors.

open_micI’d also like to highlight Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, edited by Mitali Perkins (Candlewick, 2013).

Are fan fiction short stories very popular with teens?
Teens and grown-ups, too. You’ll find both among the readers and writers. Setting aside the copyright implications, fan fiction is essentially about imagining “what if” with the work of character and world building already in place. It’s an invitation to play with plot.

feral_Pride_finalWhat can we expect from you in 2016?
I look forward to the paperback release of Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2016), the final novel in the Tantalize-Feral universe. To varying degrees, the heroes of the Tantalize books join those of the Feral novels. It was great fun to write, especially those scenes in which protagonists who’d never previously met (like Quincie P. Morris and Yoshi Kitahara) appeared on page together. By that ninth book, I know what each might say or do under a given set of circumstances. The novel is a love letter of sorts to both the heroes and their most devoted readers.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is an award winning and best selling author who is noted for writing with diversity, humor, lyricism, imaginativeness, compelling action, and mid-to-southwestern settings. A complete list of Cynthia’s short stories can be found here. Her YA short story “Cat Calls” is available at no charge from Barnes and Noble.