Authors: Cynthia Voigt

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2017

Author

February 25, 1942

Boston, Massachusetts

Biography

Cynthia Irving Voigt has produced dozens of young adult novels. Dicey’s Song merited the Newbery Medal in 1983 and the American Library Association (ALA) Best Children’s Book citation. A Solitary Blue was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1984 and the ALA Best Young Adult Book. Although many of her other novels have received awards and favorable reviews, Voigt says the real pleasure of being an author comes during the writing itself. She continues to write prolifically from her home in Deer Isle, Maine.

Frederick C. and Elise (Keeney) Irving provided a stable home in rural Connecticut for their daughter Cynthia, her two sisters, and twin brothers. She attended Dana Hill boarding school in Massachusetts, where she developed self-reliance. During her youth, Voigt read books that stimulated her mind and imagination and influenced her to become a writer. She graduated from Smith College in 1963 and began working for an advertising agency in New York City.

Courtesy of Cynthia Voigt

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Courtesy of Cynthia Voigt

In 1964 she married and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she attended college long enough to earn a teaching certificate. Previously, she had vowed never to teach, but she discovered that she loved her young students and the classroom setting. In 1965 she moved to the East Coast and taught at Glen Burnie, Maryland, and then at The Key School in Annapolis. In 1971, her daughter, Jessica, was born. That same year, she divorced her husband. In 1974 she married Walter Voigt, a teacher of classical languages at The Key School. In 1977 her son, Peter (Duffle), was born. A reduced teaching schedule allowed her to begin writing Tell Me if the Lovers Are Losers and The Callender Papers. These novels received recognition after her award-winning successes with Homecoming, Dicey’s Song, and A Solitary Blue.

Voigt’s Tillerman series includes Homecoming, Dicey’s Song, A Solitary Blue, The Runner, Come a Stranger, Sons from Afar, and Seventeen Against the Dealer. Some of the issues confronting her well-drawn characters include child abandonment, alienation from adults, poverty, racism, and physical and emotional changes that occur during adolescence. Voigt’s inspiration for the series came after she saw a group of children waiting in a car parked in front of a supermarket. She wondered to herself what would happen if nobody ever came back for those kids. Her fictional answer to that question began with Homecoming, as Dicey Tillerman and her abandoned siblings, James, Maybeth, and Sammy, begin an arduous journey from New England to their grandmother’s home in Maryland.

A Solitary Blue, Sons from Afar, and Seventeen Against the Dealer are sequels to Homecoming and Dicey’s Song. The Tillerman family and their friends continue to struggle with emotional handicaps that threaten future maturity and happiness. The Runner and Come a Stranger are prequels. The story of the children’s uncle, “Bullet” Tillerman, in The Runner gives insight into Gram’s stubborn, eccentric personality when her needy grandchildren arrive in Homecoming. Mina Smith’s previous experience with racism and rejection in Come a Stranger explains why she befriends Dicey.

Voigt’s preference for writing a series allows her to develop characters beyond the pages of one book. Her historical adventure novels Jackaroo, On Fortune’s Wheel, The Wings of a Falcon, and Elske have a medieval, Viking-like setting and courageous protagonists with generational family ties. In the course of the series, a masked woman bandit robs the rich to help her destitute community, pirates kidnap youths and sell them into slavery, heroic youths escape and return home, and a clever girl restores the rightful queen to the throne.

Voigt’s series Bad Girls involves preteens Margalo and Mikey as they scheme to achieve popularity in middle school. Each girl has a unique personality. Always clever and mischievous, they combine talents to confront authorities in the classroom, peers on the playground, and parents getting a divorce. Adolescent crushes, social cliques, athletic competition, and fashion consciousness contribute to their humorous situations.

The Mister Max series stars a preteen detective in the Victorian era taking cases to support himself while he attempts to unravel the larger mystery of his parents' disappearance; it is a lighter take on the idea, previously explored in the Tillerman series, of children having to make their way in the world without the aid of adults, aimed at younger readers. The Davis Farm books, Angus and Sadie and Young Fredle, are also for younger readers and feature animal protagonists.

Family relationships undergird most of Voigt’s other fiction. Her well-developed characters strive for resolution of realistic teenage conflicts and situations involving self-discovery, physical disabilities, the rock music business, drugs, ethnic prejudices, homosexuality, and incest.

Author Works Children’s/Young Adult Literature: Homecoming, 1981 Dicey’s Song, 1982 Tell Me if the Lovers Are Losers, 1982 A Solitary Blue, 1983 The Callender Papers, 1983 Building Blocks, 1984 The Runner, 1985 Jackaroo, 1985 (reissued as The Tale of Gwyn, 2015) Izzy, Willy-Nilly, 1986 Come a Stranger, 1986 Stories About Rosie, 1986 Sons from Afar, 1987 Tree by Leaf, 1988 Seventeen Against the Dealer, 1989 On Fortune’s Wheel, 1990 (reissued as The Tale of Birle, 2015) The Vandemark Mummy, 1991 David and Jonathan, 1992 Orfe, 1992 The Wings of a Falcon, 1993 (reissued as The Tale of Oriel, 2015) When She Hollers, 1994 The Bad Girls, 1997 Bad, Badder, Baddest, 1997 Elske, 1999 (reissued as The Tale of Elske, 2015) It’s Not Easy Being Bad, 2000 Bad Girls in Love, 2002 Angus and Sadie, 2005 Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?, 2006 Young Fredle, 2011 Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things, 2013 Mister Max: The Book of Secrets, 2014 Mister Max: The Book of Kings, 2015 Teddy & Co., 2016 Long Fiction: Glass Mountain, 1991 By Any Name, 2017 Edited Text: Shore Writer’s Sampler II: Stories and Poems, 1988 (with David Bergman) Bibliography “Cynthia Voigt.” In Children’s Literature Review, edited by Alan Hedbled and Thomas McMahon. Vol. 48. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Article includes major works, biography, analysis of major works, interviews, and commentaries. “Profile of Cynthia Voigt.” In Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, edited by Sally Holmes Holtze. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1983. Voigt tells of her childhood ambition to become a writer, authors who influenced her, her education, marriage, and family. Includes a bibliography. Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth. Presenting Cynthia Voigt. New York: Twayne, 1995. This biography contains photographs, a chronology of Voigt’s life and publishing history, and six chapters on adolescent-related themes in the novels. Includes notes and references, a selected bibliography, and an index. Voigt, Cynthia. "Award-Winning Author Cynthia Voigt Reflects on Her Career." Interview by Charles Eichacker. The Ellsworth American, 28 Dec. 2015, www.ellsworthamerican.com/living/arts-a-living/award-winning-author-cynthia-voigt-reflects-on-her-career. Accessed 24 May 2017. A brief interview about the author's career and influences in a local Maine paper.

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