College Writing Professor Stops Teaching to Write “Dreadful” Children’s Book Series
It may not be potato salad, but one writer is hoping that Kickstarter will help him realize his dreams. Former English professor and father of four daughters, Sol Smith, has stopped teaching in hopes of promoting literacy and historical understanding through his books. The CALIFORNIA DREADFULS book series will bring California’s rich history, mythology, and cultures to life while mingling it with engaging horror that middle-grade readers will love.
“The idea came to me when I saw how many Goosebumps books my daughters were burning through at the Huntington Beach Library,” says Smith. “They love reading all kinds of genres and they have tackled many more avenues of literature than I had at their age, but the way they devoured the horror stories was amazing to me. As a professor, I know that all reading is good for cognitive skills, but what if reading books like those could also give them interesting historical or cultural perspectives?” Smith consulted his daughters on the form and structure of children’s horror stories before checking out dozens from his local library.
The first book is already completed, California Dreadfuls #1: The Ghosts of San Francisco Bay, tells the tale of two cousin’s from San Francisco’s Chinatown who get wrapped up with a ghost from Sir Francis Drakes ship and a rival ghost from a Chinese expedition that is said to predate Drake’s landing by over a hundred years. “There’s mounting evidence that Admiral Zheng He was the first foreign explorer in the California region,” Smith says. “The early explorers of California seemed like a logical place for the Dreadfuls to start.”
Taking a leap of faith, Smith started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the project and a website, www.californiadreadfuls.com. Without even finding a publisher, Smith decided that it was time for a career change. “In the 12 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve seen a decline in student reading skills. Perfectly intelligent students start out as readers and somewhere, school loses them. Most people will never read another book after high school. I did my best with my job, but I think that the important thing is to reach students earlier than college to get them to love reading! The California Dreadfuls will promote reading and education in a way I never could as a professor!”
This Kickstarter is to get the first four books of the series out the door in time for creepy November reading. This is a series of children's horror books (think Goosebumpian) that links modern times with California's rich history and mythology. It is a celebration of the geography and diversity of the Golden State, mixed with creeps and chills. Each book is between 15,000-20,000 words, perfect for the middle-grade readers and their parents. They are startling and macabre without being overly gory or discouraging.
My Four Daughters
The inspiration for these books lies not only in my love for California--it's people and it's rich and sorted past--but also in the literary journeys that my four daughters are making. As I have watched my girls grow as readers, I have seen a particular engagement in reading when it comes to youth horror stories. These stories generally invite playing along, a sort of "what would I do?" kind of participation that kids love. They see kids their own age or slightly older mixed up in a fantasy situation that raises the hairs on the back of their necks and they simply must read on to the next chapter.
Risks and challenges
I tend to write fast and I tend to write for long stretches of time. However, I have four girls between the ages of two and nine, so almost everything in my life is a challenge, if it has a deadline. I also need quick turn around from my editors and a tutorial on laying out work for a variety of print formats. So this will be an exciting learning experience!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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