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A Fan of Letters: Why I May Not Write Your Child Back

I love being an author. I love that these stories are finding a place in so many homes around the world. I’m honored. It’s astonishing to me that so many precious kids have found adventure and love and light in The Green Ember Series. I LOVE hearing from kids! It’s such an honor to receive these beautiful letters and art and questions and the profoundly encouraging words!

  

I have over a hundred unopened letters from all over the world beside me right now. Letters from California to Maine, and from exotic places like England, China, and Cement, Oklahoma. (It’s real!) My email and social media inboxes are teeming with unread and unanswered messages.

My heart’s sincere desire is to respond thoughtfully and fully to every letter and email and comment and message I get (especially from kids!), but reality is against me and I can’t quite keep up! It was easier to respond earlier on, but as things have grown, that has changed. I love the connectivity opportunities of the modern age and it truly is a wonderful time to be an author. However, I am honestly not able to respond to everyone. (Not and write more stories.) So many of you just want to share something encouraging and I always see those and I am always so grateful to you. Lots of people have questions and our team tries to respond as we are able, but we are a very small operation and it can be challenging.

I recently read Deep Work, by Cal Newport. Among its many insights, Deep Work reveals the habits of people who produce unusually excellent work. Common among many of these excellent individuals is a habit of almost never responding to any kind of message or request. Many only check email for one or two hours only one day a week. I don’t plan to do that just yet, but I do want to move in a direction where I’m spending as much time and energy as I can on the things I am most clearly called to. It happens that this is also what most of you want from me as well. More books! Movies/series (potentially)! While I don’t class myself with these “top performers” at all, I am convicted by the call to be more intentional and protect space to create generous, hospital work—to protect my best ability to serve my readers (including these beautiful children).

It’s amazing to be able to have a connection between author and reader, but it also makes things challenging. What I want to be clear about is if you haven’t received a quick (or slow) reply from me, it is NOT because I don’t value you and your note/letter/email/comment. Many of us already struggle with a “normal” level of email etc. When that is cranked up quite a lot, it becomes profoundly difficult to manage. This is an awesome problem to have! I’d take it over “no one cares enough to write” any day! 🙂

I just wish I could write back to everyone with the thoughtfulness and consideration I feel each communication deserves. Especially to kids. But I can’t. I hope you understand and can extend me grace. Please know that I am so grateful for you and honored so much that you care enough to write!

My friends and counselors advise me that it is completely normal to not expect to hear back from an author, but I am really uncomfortable with that. However, if more stories are going to happen, I probably have to make significant concessions to that convention.

As I (necessarily) become more difficult to reach personally, I hope that I am blessed to be able to continue to share stories that carry within them the best of what I’m able to offer the world. And these stories can be copied and shared, like Heather Longtreader’s tale, and fan into flame those sparks of resistance against the darkness we all so desperately need.

The seed of the new world smolders…

Bear the flame,

Sam

21 Comments

  1. You said we could copy your books. Thanks for making the copyright void! Rip offs will be in stores soon. ?

    Just kidding, I’d never copy your books!

    1. are they in an alternate universe, because they may not have the same lunar cycle as us, making them not have the same calendar. I’d like to have a proper mourning, too, though.

      1. If this be the case, one can still potentially calculate a corresponding date. In some stories the translation is one-to-one. However, even in those without such convenience, including the liturgical calendar, we are still able to determine a suitable time for the proper fasts and feasts. Perhaps Mr. Smith will be so kind as to tell us which day on our calendar should be set aside for cooking far too many pancakes ;>

  2. Can we expect the 4th Green Ember book within a year…….next March? I don’t want to rush genius, so take your time! YAY, to S.D. Smith! #theBIGESTcliffhangerEVER!

  3. Hi! I met you yesterday and would like to say thank you for introducing me to Pete Peterson! So, as you said in Rabbits with words, I’ll keep this simple, Thank You!

  4. I wasn’t expecting to get a reply, but a couple months after my letter was sent I was presently surprised to see an envelope adorned with my name and a “Bear the Flame” sticker!

  5. Hi Mr. Smith!!
    I was so excited to find out that you were able to write back to me!! I would like to thank you!!!

  6. It may be “ normal” not to hear back but it annoying especially when one has a 3rd grade English assignment to write to an author. I did mine writing to Beverly Clary and never heard anything back while my classmates were getting all kinds of cool stuff back and looking at me like “ did you even really do the assignment?”

    So, yeah it’s normal not to write back especially now because writers do their own marketing. I think there was a time when publishers did that.

  7. Hi S. D. Smith!
    I love love love your books!! Before I stated to read them I was the weird lonely kid in my grade but the day my mom got me the book my whole world started to make sense! The story made me feel confident in myself and like I could take on the world. I have a few questions and ideas I want to share with you. But the problem is, I live in Connecticut so it would take a long time for my letter to get to you and I would like you to get it sooner. Is there a way for me to contact you not by letter? I think you are able to see my email and you can use that to contact me. If you can’t see it please tell me! I know that you are very busy so whenever you have a free five minutes shoot me an email please. I would love a professional opinion on my ideas! Thank You for writing these books and helping me feel confident in myself! Enjoy life and stay happy in these hard times!

  8. Dear S.D. Smith,
    I have just finished Ember’s End, and I have found that I LOVE your books. You’ll be happy to know a very good friend of mine recommended the series to me, after a very good friend of hers recommended it to her. The flame is eagerly being born all over the world! Thank you for bringing #RabbitsWithSwords into existence. Congratulations, you are the only author who’s made me want to read the copyright page. 😉 I’d have to say that as of now, you, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis are my three favorite authors. I pray that God will bless you and your family. Don’t stop writing!
    Also, pancakes are delicious.

  9. Is there a way I could get ur personal Email? No i’m not a stalker Lol, and I promise not to spam u. But my best friend and I really love ur books and I was wondering if u were open to the idea of looking over her book. she wrote as a sequel to “The Tales of Old Natalia” not expecting it to become anything, just out of curiosity, but I see a lot of potential and I think it might interest you. Anyway u can reach me at eden.c.rodriguez@icloud.com

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