Friday, May 20, 2005

Fan Mail

Yesterday, I was honored to receive a couple of letters from readers of "Riding With Rosa," a short story of mine that was published in the March/April 2005 issue of Cicada, a YA literary magazine, (p. 69, Vol. 7, No., 4).

Thematically, the story looks at the dynamic of a biracial boy, passing as white, and that of a gay boy, who's just been "outed," in a contemporary high school plagued by racism and homophobia. Though their personal circumstances are unique, the commonalities are explored.

The letters focussed on praising the sensitive portrayal of diversity of sexual orientation and the anti-bigotry subtext.

I write stories as stories first. I start with the character, consider his/her circumstances, etc. That's the literary writer's place. But certainly, it is gratifying when young readers say that my work challenged, enlightened or validated them.

Cynsational News & Links

Author Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, whose debut book (Sketches From A Sky Tree (Clarion, 2005)) I just recommended a few days ago, now has a debut blog, too. Surf over to Vaughn Zimmer to celebrate the launch, and shower Tracie with congratulations and good wishes.

Jacqueline Davies has added a few nifty PDF updates to her author Web site, including: (1) An Editorial Correspondence on The Boy Who Drew Birds between Jacqueline and Houghton Mifflin senior editor Ann Rider; (2) Booksignings: Stepping Into the Abyss. Note: the first took a while to download on my dial-up, but since I'm the last person in the world on dial-up, this probably applies only to me.

Building on Wednesday's news about the L.A. Times review and signing for A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield (HarperCollins, 2005), surf over to hear "Seeing Red," an interview with Amy about the book on "The Exchange" from New Hampshire public radio. Available on Real Audio or Windows Media. See also Amy's About the Book: Inspiration.

Inspired by One Writer's Journey, Debbi Michiko Florence's LJ (May 19 post), I found out my aura colors. They are: violet, green, and, to a lesser degree, yellow. Thanks for welcoming the newly syndicated spookycyn to LJ, Debbi!

Speaking of spookycyn, lately, I'm blogging about my ballgown & boots dream.

4 comments:

Don Tate II said...

Cyn, I am always amazed at how writers are able to step outside themselves and write from another characters point of view, and do it convincing. I'm curious how, you, a native American adult woman were able to write about the thoughts, actions, and reactions, lifestyle of a gay teenage boy. Do you research, interview a kid of that age to get their points of view or, as you wrote, just tell the story, and as the talented writer you are, the portrayal becomes real? Is there a right or wrong?

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Actually, in this case, the point of view character is the biracial Native boy, so it was arguably less of a "leap."

That said, it's often talked about, the question of who should write about whom and how.

My take is this: we all have to write crossculturally, crossgender, crossorientation, etc., or how else can we reflect the diversity of our real world in our fictional ones?

It's essential.

Even if we stick with a protagonist much like ourselves, there are still secondary characters to think about.

So, we have to find our own inner, say, teenager, boy, Irish-American, whatever it may be, and then write with courage and respect.

Sometimes research helps and sometimes it doesn't.

I don't know, for example, what it's like to live in fear of being physically attacked because one is gay. But I do know what it's like to fear it as a woman.

I don't know what it's like to fear that people will hate one if they discover one's sexual orientation. But I do know what it's like to fear people will hate me because I'm Native.

I have been in situations where my physical safety was in jeopardy, and I have had people reject me once they discovered I didn't just happen to tan really easily.

We all have more in common than we realize. The basic human emotions are universal. They're true. And they can be trusted to draw upon in crafting truth in fiction.

Kim said...

Great question and great response! I loved "Riding With Rosa" and wondered the same thing, Don. The story was beautifully woven, and I felt like I was right there on that bus. It was another one that gave me that "I wish I would have written that" feeling, this time because it was so far from anything I've experienced being raised in a not-so-diverse part of the Midwest. (Right, I know it takes place in my state ;-) The write from the common experience advice makes lots of sense!

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Kim, thank you for your kind words about my story and my exchange with Don! Happy Writing!

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