23 July 2010 @ 01:47 pm
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:

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[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.

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[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.
 
 
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Martha Wells: Wheel Icon 2marthawells on July 23rd, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
That's Austin, all right. :) I live a little less than two hours away, and visit friends there a lot. It's also home to a great SF/F con, ArmadilloCon.
cynleitichsmithcynleitichsmith on July 23rd, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
I've been to Armadillo con before--great fun!
Martha Wells: Atlantis - bright skymarthawells on July 23rd, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, cool! I go every year and have a great time.
cynleitichsmithcynleitichsmith on July 23rd, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Janni
It's a treat to muse about my hometown! I greatly appreciate the opportunity.

The link to my blog isn't working, so in case anybody's looking for me, I'm here:
http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/
and here:
http://cynleitichsmith.livejournal.com/

Thanks again!
Janni Lee Simner: prickly pearjanni on July 23rd, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks, Janni
Oops--links are fixed now! :-)
Janni Lee Simner: prickly pearjanni on July 26th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks, Janni
Thanks, Cyn, for the post!

I love hearing about why and how different places speak to different people. :-)
Stina Leichtstina_leicht on July 23rd, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
yay, austin!! the first time i saw the bats come out from under the congress avenue bridge i couldn't help thinking of that scene in the ten commandments where the angel of death pours through the streets. it was creepy-cool. they formed a black swirl cloud.
Janni Lee Simner: prickly pearjanni on July 26th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
I finally about a year ago got to watching the bats emerge from under one of our bridges. Much smaller scale, but still--cool, cool stuff.
(Anonymous) on July 24th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
Austin, Texas
Anyone who can write poetically about a wonderful city as Austin (in the middle of summer, no less!) is a friend of mine! Thanks Cynthia!
jennifer_j_sjennifer_j_s on July 24th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC)
I really want to see those bats emerge--I was in Austin the wrong time of the year!

I think I will pass on the werearmadillos. I think I'll just read about those.
Angela L. Foxazang on July 26th, 2010 06:22 am (UTC)
Makes me want to visit Austin all the more! Especially the bats.
(Anonymous) on July 27th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Ah! What a lovely post -- thanks for featuring Cyn, Janni! Everything she says about Austin is true. But what she DIDN'T say is that she herself is a beacon of shining light for the writing community here. We love her!

And, yes, I'm pretty sure Congress is littered with weres and vamps. It makes all the sense in the world.
E. Kristin Anderson (Emily)ekanderson on July 27th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
Forgot to log in. That was me!
bethanyhegedusbethanyhegedus on July 29th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
Great interview!
As a new Austinite I agree--it's not the kind of town you could ever leave easily just as Cynthia's books are not the kind you can put down easily!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )