Are You Ready for Some Football? Author’s sports series scores with children
Sherri Graves Smith is on a mission to get the next generation excited about reading, and she’s using sports to do it. Hope for Women recently spoke with the author about her books. Hope: Why did you decide to write books for children rather than for another genre?
I evolved into writing children’s books, and it came as a result of my volunteer work. My parents instilled the importance of serving as a child. They didn’t want us to just do acts of service at church, so I went with my parents to volunteer in other avenues.
I started reading to children and working with children as a teenager. After I started practicing law, I started tutoring and reading to children in homeless shelters and in schools in underserved communities. I continued to do this after becoming in-house counsel at The Coca-Cola Company. When I was suddenly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at the age of 36, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I knew I wanted to do something besides be on chemotherapy for the rest of it.
My manager at Coca-Cola knew about my reading to children and asked me whether I was interested in becoming a mystery reader at his children’s school. I resumed reading to children while undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and I found myself thinking about the stories and the lessons in them. My imagination was sparked, and I became inspired to become a children’s author.
Around that time, an Alabama fan poisoned trees on Auburn’s campus, and I was very disturbed by that. I am a graduate of Alabama, and I thought it set a terrible example. I wanted to teach manners and good sportsmanship in a light-hearted and fun way. I decided to use team mascots and have them teach those lessons in the context of a game day.
Hope: What do you hope people learn from reading your books?
I have been going through cancer for eight years. I think a lot about the legacy I want to leave and what meaning I want my life to have. My books are meant to be tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted and witty, but with a lesson that is meaningful, universal and endearing. I like that Game Day Rules is not just about manners and good sportsmanship, but dealing with life and its ups and downs. I hope those lessons can bring meaning into a child’s life and stay with him or her as they mature.
Hope: What plans do you have to expand the Game Day series?
I have over 50 schools all over the country. That is very exciting when I think that I started out with one book in 2012. I am emerging into HBCU books with the Magic City Classic and Southern Heritage Classic. Those books feature a battle of the bands and a parade. I would love to expand to the HBCU series and go into the NFL. The Bayou Classic Game Day Rules is pending review.
Hope: How did you go about partnering with schools and teams to do books about them?
I am a nut for college sports, especially football. When I started with the Game Day Rules series, I picked bitter rivalries like the ones between Alabama and Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan State, then I moved to basketball, like North Carolina and Duke. I was an attorney with Coca-Cola before writing and I used my law background to figure out what was permissible and what was not. Fortunately, the publisher, Mascot Books has the licenses and oversees the process of gaining approvals and paying the royalties.
I have an alphabet and counting series where I actually take sports traditions and sports facts and make them rhyme to teach. I spend a lot of time researching this, and since I have been on chemo for eight years, it gives me something fun and constructive to do with my time. Schools are now starting to commission me to do this, and my publisher handles the logistics. I am really humbled and excited to see how things are developing.
Hope: What message do you have for people who might believe you have your hands full battling chronic cancer?
God is able. One of my go-to scriptures is, Unless the Lord builds a house, he who labors, labors in vain. I drove two hours without incident to a book show recently. When I arrived, I lost my eyesight because of a blinding headache. It turns out that there is a lesion on my brain and I need to have radiation. The thing is that while I am here, I live for God and His glory. When He calls me home, I will willingly go into His arms. As long as He gives me the strength and ability to do this work, I will. My hands are full, but I am in God’s hands. He holds me and He is my everything.
Hope: Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have a new series I just launched entitled Lil’ Sherri. The first book is entitled Is My Cup Empty? It takes things in life that are empty and shows how they can be filled. It is about overcoming adversity, hope and optimism. This is told through my eyes as a six-year old. I want to continue to teach life lessons in a gentle way through my writings.
To learn more about Sherri Graves Smith and purchase her books, visit www.gamedayrules.com.