For a Highland author, an early start

Erin Smedley, 11, writes a 75-page mystery, and 75% of the profits are going to Make-A-Wish Foundation


From its first words, the new book by Howard County resident Erin Smedley is designed to hook the reader: " `The ... ' That was the last thing Frank Gibonsin was able to say before he died. He had not but two witnesses, and they were both children."

And so the mystery, titled The ... , begins. Over the next 20 chapters, readers get to know 15-year-old twins Jesse (a boy) and Marrni (a girl) as they attempt to decipher the meaning of their grandfather's last word and find a hidden family treasure.

The book, sold for $11.99 by publisher-on-demand Lulu, was written and illustrated by 11-year-old Erin, who lives in Highland and is entering sixth grade at Lime Kiln Middle School.

What's more, 75 percent of the book's profits are going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic.

Erin has been enjoying a summer of sailing and sleepover camp, but she has also been monitoring sales of her book. Her mother, Marci Smedley, said that more than 100 books have been sold and nearly $500 raised for Make-A-Wish.

Erin, who lives with parents Marci and Bob and younger brother Justin, started writing the book in the spring, she said. The project was not a school assignment, it was just something she wanted to do. "I wanted to be an author," she said, taking a lunch break during sailing camp near the Baltimore Museum of Industry. "I had a lot of ideas for a book."

Erin said she likes fantasy books such as The Chronicles of Narnia, and has always made up characters and stories in her head.

She said that in writing her book she would finish her homework, then sit down at the computer. The 75-page story came pouring out over the course of about a month. She said she had the beginning and end planned before she started writing.

"I just needed the middle," she said. Most times, the words came easily, she said, but "sometimes I couldn't really think, so I had to just sit there."

Her parents helped with some editing, but the story did not require any major additions or deletions, she said.

Marci Smedley helped her daughter get the book published through Lulu, an on-demand company that sells books online. (It can be found by computer-searching the name Erin Smedley.)

Erin knew she wanted some proceeds from book sales to go to Make-A-Wish because she has a friend who spent most of fifth grade battling cancer. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is enabling the girl and her family to travel to Italy, Marci Smedley said.

"This kind of lent itself as a good opportunity to help other people," Marci said.

The book's dedication page praises the girl for "fighting to the ends of cancer."

The ... was published just as the school year was ending. Erin's brother, Justin, 8, brought the book to class. He said his friends were impressed. "It's good," said Justin.

Erin said she is at work on her next book. "This time, it's going to be a series," she said. The series will be called The Sorceress Chronicles, she said, and the first book will be The Sapphire Stone. She has created the main characters.

But she is not revealing any more details. "You'll have to wait and see," Erin said, grinning. "I know what's going to happen, but I have to put it in a story."

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