West Virginia’s Million-Selling Children’s Author On A Mission
SHADY SPRING, WV—Shady Spring Middle School received a visit from one of the top middle-grade authors in the country last week. S. D. Smith, author of the million-plus-selling Green Ember Series, not only spoke to the middle-schoolers, but also donated hundreds of books so that each student could go home with their own signed copy.
Why would a best-selling author popular in California, Texas, Florida, and all across the country, be available to speak at a small middle school in rural West Virginia?
He lives down the road.
Adriane Wilson, ELA Instructor at Shady Middle, invited Smith to appear at the school. “I don’t think people realize that we have this incredible author,” Wilson said, “who does book tours all across the country and gets tons of fan mail from all over the world, is living kind of quietly in our community.”
S. D. Smith, “Sam” to his friends, is a native West Virginian who, despite opportunities that have tempted many creative professionals away from the state, has decided to stay. He coaches local kids soccer and stays involved in the community. Donating hundreds of books to local kids is simply an extension of that community focus.
“I dream of giving every middle schooler in West Virginia a copy The Green Ember,” Smith says. “I want to share the adventure and virtue and delight the story holds, for sure, but it’s more than that. I also want West Virginia kids to see that they can pursue a dream, pursue a creative business, and accomplish that in our state.”
Wilson said the students at Shady Middle were inspired. “He doesn’t just talk about a big, audacious story. He’s living it. And he’s living proof that these students can do amazing things.”
Many say that the Mountain State’s best export is her people, but Smith is intent on proving that wrong. “I want to demonstrate and advocate for the cause of pursuing big visions here. I want us to export amazing stories and values to other states and the world, not our most talented people. I want talented people to move here to work with us because we’re creating something world class, not follow the sad path of losing our best people. I’m staying. And I want to share my adventures with every kid in West Virginia. This was a fun part of that dream becoming a reality.”
The Green Ember has become a best-seller and Smith has been approached by multiple studios eager to make a film or TV series from the hit books. But Smith is focused on his audience. “We are open to collaborating with great partners—studios, investors, and talent—for our show or film series, but everything is about serving the kids who read the books, and will watch the shows or movies. These books have always been made with love and aimed at being a gift to every family they reach. And we are eager to involve our state and represent our state well.”
Andrew Mackay, Smith’s publisher at Story Warren Books, says that the popular author is an unofficial ambassador for West Virginia. “On tours through California and all over, Sam is an advocate for his home state. I can’t tell you how many people have vacationed in West Virginia after hearing about it from Sam’s tours and his online presence. He’s a great speaker and gets to speak to large crowds pretty often. When he does, he can’t help but bring West Virginia up.”
Smith frequently posts pictures of the beauty around West Virginia, and identifies its strengths in essays and poems read by thousands. “My dad taught me to love West Virginia,” the author says, “and I guess you could say it stayed with me. And I’m staying.” S. D. Smith’s eleventh book, co-written with his seventeen year old son, Josiah, is set in a small West Virginia town. The state’s culture is central to the adventure in Jack Zulu and the Waylander’s Key. A nationwide book tour is about to kick off and includes speaking at the HopeWords Conference in Bluefield, WV on March 24 and 25. But no matter where he goes, Smith is unlikely to ever forget where home is.
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Natalie Morell, Marketing and Communications Manager at Story Warren