Cynthia Leitich Smith to Headline 2021 Neustadt Lit Fest

October 12, 2021
by  WLT

A photograph of Cynthia Leitich Smith inset with the Neustadt Lit Festival logoWorld Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, will host the 2021 Neustadt Lit Festival on Zoom from Oct. 25–27.

The festival features numerous panels exploring the work of Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), winner of the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.

Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today’s executive director, said that the decision to move the annual festival online again will make the event more accessible than ever before. “While we made this decision in the interest of safety, we are excited about the potential to offer viewers everywhere an opportunity to attend this event,” Davis-Undiano said.

Interested attendees are invited to sign up for free for any of the nine virtual events here. The full schedule for the virtual festival can be found here.

In addition to panels celebrating Smith’s work, attendees can enjoy readings and book giveaways from the 10 writers who will serve on the jury to select the next winner of the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. The 2022 laureate will be announced during this year’s lit fest.

Smith is a New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling YA author of the Tantalize series and Feral trilogy. She was named Writer of the Year by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers for Rain Is Not My Indian Name and won the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Young Adult Books for Hearts Unbroken, which also was named to YALSA’s Amelia Bloomer list and received the Foreword Reviews Silver Medal in Young Adult Fiction. She is the author-curator of Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, which will launch its first list in winter 2021.

Smith lives in Austin, Texas, and is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation.

Monica Brown, an award-winning author of many picture books, including Waiting for the Biblioburro, nominated Smith for the NSK Prize and chose her novel Hearts Unbroken as the representative text for the jury to read. Hearts Unbroken tells the story of a Native American teenager who uses her position as her school’s newspaper editor to report on racial tensions that erupt in a small Kansas town over casting in a local production of The Wizard of Oz.

Highly respected within the literary community for its recognition of excellence, the NSK Prize was first given in 2003 to Mildred D. Taylor, author of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Past winners include Brian Doyle (2005), Katherine Paterson (2007), Vera B. Williams (2009), Virginia Euwer Wolff (2011), Naomi Shihab Nye (2013), Meshack Asare (2015), Marilyn Nelson (2017) and Margarita Engle (2019).

An esteemed panel of authors selects both the finalists and the winner based solely on literary merit as well as the importance of an artist’s overall contribution to children’s literature. NSK winners are awarded $35,000, a silver medallion and a certificate of recognition.