Author of the Month

Author of the Month2023-02-06T22:19:44+00:00

December: J.A. SMITH

December is a month filled with anticipation and expectation, with wonder and magic. To celebrate these days, I’d like to introduce you to J.A. Smith, more familiarly known as Jeannie, my friend and a fellow writer whose first children’s book- Poppa’s Treasures — was released at the end of November. Smith is a retired educator, having taught French in grades 7-12 for more than 33 years. She and her husband have been married for 51 years and have two sons and two “extra-special” grandchildren. A resident of the Dayton area for over half a century, Smith also spends a significant part of the year at their second home near Lake Erie, in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Her first literary endeavor, Shore Lines, is a collection of reflections on her life at the lake. Her new book, Poppa’s Treasures, is a children’s book written to help young people and parents deal with the grief of losing a loved one. In full disclosure, Jeannie and I have been colleagues and friends for more than thirty years. I’m thrilled to introduce you to her as a debut author in 2024.



Janet Irvin: Welcome, Jeannie, to my author’s corner. I’ll start by asking how long have you wanted to write.
Jean Smith: I really don’t know how long I’ve wanted to write. I do know I’ve always felt pretty comfortable writing but mostly just speeches or cards and letters to friends.
JEI: What experiences in your life prompted you to compose the essays in The Shore Lines?
JAS: Shortly after I retired, a very dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful blank book as a Christmas gift with the instructions to write why and what I liked about living on the lake. Every now and then, I’d write an essay and then file it. For my 75th birthday, as a gift to myself and others, I decided to compile them in book form.
JEI: Your new book, a children’s book but one that resonates with adults as well, Poppa’s Treasures, is at once sad and uplifting. Why did you write this story?
JAS: Poppa’s Treasures was inspired by a true event. When my mother passed away ( and that was over 30 years ago), my youngest son was just thirteen at the time. It was the very first time he had dealt with a death and he was very reluctant to enter the room where she was laid out. In my very best St Exupery‘s The Little Prince imitation, I told him that what was there in the casket was just a shell, that all her good stuff was gone. It was in my own grieving process that I realized that all her good stuff was not gone; in fact, she left little treasures for us that comforted us with a sense of presence. With Poppa’s Treasures, I wanted children to understand that although a loved one may be gone, there’s a way to fill their absence.
JEI: Can you explain the process it took to bring either of your books into print?
JAS: The process of bringing both books to print was verydifferent. The Shore Lines was self-published. My husband used to own a printing company so I was fortunate to still have some contacts to work with. With Poppa’s Treasures, I needed an illustrator and I knew I wanted to make it available to more than just family and friends. I found Braughler Books which met both those needs. Braughler Books is a hybrid publisher which meant that I had a financial responsibility as well.
JEI: What was the most challenging aspect of the writing process?
JAS:  The most challenging part of writing was opening myself up to criticism from those I respect and love. The first time I had someone read the whole book or the whole story, it was like being emotionally naked with nowhere to hide.
JEI: How long did it take to complete the first drafts of each work? How long until publication?
JAS: Completion of the two drafts was totally different. For The Shore Lines, my stories spanned more than ten years. However, once I started working with my contact at the printer and infinite revisions, I had the book in hand within a few months. With Poppa’s Treasures, I wrote the first page about ten years ago, filed it, and then left it alone. Last October, after receiving compliments and encouragement from The Shore Lines, I reopened that dusty file and started working earnestly on it. By May, I was under contract with the publisher. I did have personal help with editing and with creating scenes for the illustrator. By the end of October of 2023, the book was in hand.
JEI: What writing plans do you have going forward?
JAS: Obviously, I’m very slow at establishing my writing goals but I am very encouraged by positive feedback. Invariably, people assume I’m already on to my next book and I’m a little embarrassed when I come up blank. However, I am thinking about entering one of my reflections from The Shore Lines into some kind of competition.

JEI: How have your years as a teacher informed your ideas and your approach to writing in general?

JAS: My last 25 years of teaching was at Alter High School and I was pretty involved in their Kairos retreats. Not only did I write several speeches of my own but I also worked with many students in writing theirs as well. Nonetheless, I found myself always writing albeit student or teacher recommendations, critiques, parent letters, course introductions, and proposals.

JEI: Where is your favorite place to write?
JS: Writing for me is singular, so solitude is the most important. However, most of The Shore Lines was, indeed, written in full view of Lake Erie shorelines. As a side note, it’s not uncommon for me to jot down thoughts while exercising on the elliptical!
JEI: You and your family spend a lot of time at your condo on the shore of Lake Erie? What makes it so special?
JAS: Lake Erie offers me many gifts and opportunities that I never take for granted. There is just something special about water for me. Morning coffee on the patio ranks right up there at top of my list. I am also fortunate to have a creek in my backyard in Dayton. It’s a different kind of flow, but it still has some of the magic.
For more information on Jean Smith and Poppa’s Treasure’s, contact her at or jeanniesmith4470 on Instagram
November 30th, 2023|Author of the Month|

Previous Months’ Authors

December: J.A. SMITH

November 30th, 2023|Author of the Month|

December is a month filled with anticipation and expectation, with wonder and magic. To celebrate these days, I’d like to introduce you to J.A. Smith, more familiarly known […]

November: JUDE WALSH

October 31st, 2023|Author of the Month|

Welcome, Readers, to the November edition of my Book Nook. This month I’m featuring a woman who crafts memoir pieces guaranteed to lift the spirit and provide guidance for the […]

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