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Is This Book a Hit?, Dear Diary, Black Star News, Help Me If You Can, And More: Let’s Blast April To Smithereens!

SD SMith BLAST Better

Are you sick of this picture yet?

The Green Ember is…Kind of a Hit?

Shew! This has been a little bit bonkers. Somehow we continue to see more and more kids and families find our story. I’m so grateful to all of you. You are the people making that happen. I hesitate to use the word “hit,” but thanks to you, I don’t know what else to say. We just received our third printing (and twice as many in this printing) and already over half of them are accounted for. I don’t want to brag. Really. I just want to celebrate with you all the fact that something pretty special is happening. We are so grateful to you, for you, and we’re excited about where this adventure is headed. It’s honestly not all fun and games, but it is an incredible honor.

Some new book news below, but first, a little journal-ish entry….

A Day in the Life

(I wrote this recently.)

Today was a great day. I was privileged to spend an hour with a small class of 3rd graders who were about halfway through reading The Green Ember as a class. Their teacher, Patty, is a friend from church, and she began reading the book to them a few weeks ago. I got to read them their next chapters and then field really intelligent questions from the class. It was an honor and really fun! They were so interested and engaged. Their enthusiasm was catching.

I left feeling so encouraged. It was the most fun I’ve had at this author gig in a long time. I think that’s because sales sometimes can just feel like numbers. So, while it’s exciting to see more people getting the book, and it’s gratifying to read positive reviews, it’s different than getting to be there in person and see the excitement and anticipation on the kids’ faces. The next best thing is getting mail from readers, especially kids and parents who loved reading the book together as a family. I LOVE hearing from kids and getting drawings. But nothing beats meeting the kids in person. Honestly, and you may find this hard to believe, but the visit lifted me out of a bit of a slump. I was starting to struggle to feel the way I think I should feel about this amazing journey we’re on with the book.

I think I’m just learning how to live in this new reality. I love so much about it, but it is very hard work. It’s a challenge to balance all the urgent demands of two full-time jobs (at least), a young family of six, and all the other things life has for families.

So, please hear me when I say I am so deeply grateful for every kind word of encouragement, every email, letter, hug, and pat on the back. I love hearing from your kids. It’s amazing. It’s so wonderful to know the story is connecting with families. If you think of it, please pray for me and my family. As my friend Andrew Peterson so eloquently sings, “It’s not war, but it’s a fight.”

Black Star News

I am so excited about the new prequel novel coming your way this summer. If you loved The Green Ember, I think you’ll enjoy The Black Star of Kingston as well. It’s shorter, so there’s not as much room to develop things, but it’s going to be a fun look into the backstory of characters mentioned in Ember. If you ever wondered what happened to the rabbits from the prologue, then the answer is coming.

Zach Franzen has completed the cover art and right now Paul Boekell is working with publisher Andrew Mackay on cover design. Hopefully it will be as awesome as this was.

That was Paul poking fun at me after I asked him to make the author name slightly bigger. Read about that and the very exciting story that Paul and his family are living right now, right here.

I got great story feedback from Helena Sorenson Aman and now it’s on to other editors. We’ve got the same gang back together who did such a wonderful job with The Green Ember.

I had hoped to provide you with a cover image, but it’s not quite there yet. But I do have this…

(That is what’s known as a little tease.)

Can You Please Help Us Out With Something Exciting?

We want to make The Green Ember an AR (Advanced Reader) Book. This will help in a number of ways. Many kids only read books with this label because they receive credit for it in this program. So, this is a bit of a wall. It’s hard for small publishers to get on the AR, but if they hear from people all over the country, then it will help tremendously (especially if you’re a teacher–but every one helps).

Your part is very easy. Here are the steps.

1. Go to this site. Renaissance.com 

2. Then click on Customer Center (Top Right)

3. Create a profile. (Just takes a few seconds.)

4. Click on Customer Center again (Top Right)

5. Scroll Down to AR Support (on the right column)

6. Then click on Suggest AR Quizzes

7. Then fill in the form like this:

Quiz Type: Literacy Skills

Book Title: The Green Ember

Author First Name: S. D.  (note spacing)

Author Last name: Smith

ISBN #: 0986223506

Publisher: Story Warren Books

Estimated Interest Level: Middle-Grade (4-8)

It looks like this image…

Thank you so much!

Reviews and Interviews

I was so honored to be the guest on Circe Institute’s Podcast, hosted by my friend, David Kern. We are big fans of Circe, but not fans of how hard it is to pronounce. This interview is definitely low-key (my wife said it made her a little sleepy), so you might enjoy it if you want to hear more of my heart as a storyteller, a West Virginian, a sometime African (for real), and if you need a cure for insomnia.

Here are some of the best reviews I’ve seen lately.

This one is by Liz Cottrell from Living Books Library. It’s called Dear Mr. Smith.

Reading To Know did a nice review here. 

I enjoyed this from Jenny at Heart of a Mother.

Author Talks

I mentioned above about being in a class where my friend Patty teaches, and that was a real thrill.


It was an honor to be invited to a wonderful event in beautiful Alderson, WV. Brittney Cassity did a tremendous job organizing and leading the event. I’m so grateful to her. Andrew Mackay (publisher, friend, Canadian fer-ner) and I shared a table with local celebrity author Belinda Anderson. It was great to finally meet her and to buy her latest book. I got to ask her some questions and she was very gracious with this rookie. I’m grateful. I met Eric Fritzius, podcaster, actor, and author. That was a pleasure and I nabbed his new book as well. (Dude has a golden voice.) There were other kind people and it was a delight to meet them and to be around my people, West Virginia authors.

Oddly enough, our readers have been from all over and, though we’ve gotten great support from many local friends and family, we haven’t had much time yet to connect with West Virginia readers. I want very much to do more local events, and this was a great start.

(I caught this pretty lady reading a rabbit book.)

I’m so grateful for friends new and old who have begun creating events for me.

Upcoming Events

I used to play soccer in high school with Brenda Conley’s son and am friends with all her kids. Mrs. Conley contacted me recently and has brewed up an unbelievable event at her school in May. I can’t wait to go to Ravenswood Grade School on May 22. I don’t want to share all the details, but she is ensuring that all the kids go home with a copy of the book! Wow.

Melanie Johnson, a wonderful lady whose kids have been in a Classical Christian homeschooling group with ours, is organizing an event in Lewisburg for May 28. I’m excited about this! If you are in the area, please come out to the Open Book in Lewisburg at 3:30 on May 28.

I’ll be in Charlotte for Inkwell 2015 in June. That’s going to be amazing. I’ll be talking to parents there on Saturday and then speaking at church to kids at CAC on Sunday.

I have a couple of events planned for October (in Nashville with The Rabbit Room and on-line with The Read Aloud Revival Membership Site). More on this later. But if you haven’t heard of The Read-Aloud revival, you need to get on the podcast, and join the membership site. It’s amazing.

I have to take off work for these events, so I can’t do as many as I’d like. But that said, I would love to do some more.

I would love to come to your school, or homeschool group. If you are “inner-ested” please contact Andrew Mackay at:


Are These Essential Oils Gluten Free?

Not exactly the same thing, but there’s a lot in common with the Gluten Free Religious Movement and the EO Religious Movement. This either will make you laugh, or offend you. Possibly both?

Things of the Month Things

Book of the Month: The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Do you have these? Listen, if your family loves The Green Ember, then you will definitely love this incredible series. Andrew is more than just a singer and a pretty face. (Well, two outta three ain’t bad.) Sincerely, AP is a friend and he’s been very good to me. But the story is amazing apart from that. It’s just wonderful. Get it!

Music of the Month: The Milk Carton Kids. Michigan. Great.

Movie of the Month: The first two-thirds of Interstellar? No, let’s go with the entirety of Cinderella. We loved it, from 3 year old girl, to crusty old man (me). All six of us, half-boys and half-girls, loved it. Well, half of us are boys and half are girls. We are not all half-boy, half-girl. Though that would guarantee a reality show, I guess.

Writing Tip of the Month: Stop reading writing tips looking for the silver bullet and read Paradise Lost. Despair. Realize you can’t ever do that, then just relax and stick it to the snobs by doing what you can do. Create something. Ship something that isn’t ready. Tell people about it. Invite them to enjoy it. Be prepared for hard things. Keep working.

The End

Okay we have reached the end of this newsletter. If you think about it, life is like a newsletter. One second you’re bragging about your book and the next minute you’re asking people to request an AR Quiz and buy your next book and to book you to come speak to their precious children for some reason. Ya know? It’s uncanny.

Seriously, God bless you all. Even you people from Ohio. And thank you from the heart of my bottom. I mean, the bottom of my heart.

I’m on your side. Thanks for being on mine.


(Our family last summer preparing to see our soccer team, Liverpool.)

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