Interview with C.V.Smith

Welcome to an interview with    C. V. Smith, author of  Nettie Parker’s Backyard      


I was born in Los Angeles and have lived here all my life.  I have been very fortunate and have traveled to many places in the U.S. as well as abroad.  I am married and have two older children, a daughter and a son.  I now also have two young grand-daughters whose personalities helped me shape Nettie’s personality: one of sweetness, caring about others, and determination.  I was a special education teacher for almost thirty years and now do part-time substitute teaching and tutoring.  I also volunteer at a homeless shelter. 

I hope everyone will purchase my book for a special child in their lives.  I think it provides a great moral compass, while at the same time is a comprehensive history lesson about a pivotal time in the world and a whimsical mystery all rolled into one!

A brief synopsis.

  Nettie Parker’s Backyard is a WWII historical-fiction novel for 4th-7th graders.  The book tackles important lessons against bullying and intolerance toward race, religion, and the physically challenged.  To keep readers captivated, these themes are woven into the story with ribbons of mystery and mysticism.  The title character, always magical and compassionate, cares for eight Jewish refugee children, proving love is the greatest force of all in a surprise twist ending. 

What made you decide to write this book?

  I have been a teacher and para-educator for over 30 years, most of which were spent in classrooms where students were just beginning to think for themselves and about themselves.  The book is written for ages 9-12, the time when youth questions everything.  Adolescence is starting and many children feel insecure about themselves, their relationships with peers, or even their own families and homelife.  These insecurities manifest themselves in various behaviors; some children withdraw into themselves, while some overcompensate for their fears by bullying others.  I have witnessed that when bullying begins, even if innocently meant with only an off-handed word or two, prejudice often follows not far behind.  I wrote this novel hoping to illustrate to children that bullying and intolerance toward race, religion, or the physically challenged have no place in our world today.  Certainly, with tools such as the internet, facebook, twitter, etc., the world is becoming smaller in many ways.  We must all learn to accept one another and appreciate our differences, rather than let them separate us.  I further believe that more must be done to inhibit bullying; not doing so only enables the passing of prejudice from one generation to the next.

 Where did the title come from? 

 First I had to come up with a name for my main character, an African-American woman of Gullah heritage originally from the Rice Coast of Africa and most recently from the Sea Island of St. Helena off the coast of South Carolina.  “Nettie” was a friend of my parents who always gave me books as gifts while I was growing up.  I thought it was a unique name, and as it signified books and a love of reading to me, I thought what better name than this to give her.  Since mysterious items appear in Nettie’s gardens, hence I used the word “backyard” in the title.

 Do you always write in this genre?

  Nettie Parker’s Backyard is the only work I have written in the historical-fiction genre.  I also have written a collection of poetry, prose and raps entitled “Stuff” which is an anthology of works for kids in crisis.  Again, my many years of teaching and working with a vast array of children of all ages inspired both books.

  What was your inspiration to write and when did you start?

  I’ve always written and have always enjoyed writing.  This is my creative outlet, as difficult as it sometimes is.  I wanted to be a writer from the age of ten.  I remember at that age having a neighbor who was a published writer.  I would visit and chat with him; I recall him telling me that the first tools I needed as a writer were a good dictionary and a thesaurus.  At first I thought I wanted to write in the field of advertising, but creative fiction overtook that idea when I was in my twenties.

  What was your destination to publishing? ie are you self published.

  I am self-published and I really don’t consider that as actually being ‘published’ in the true sense of the word.  My ultimate goal is to have Nettie Parker’s Backyard picked up by a conventional, brick-and-mortar publisher.

  Do you have a website to share?

  The book’s website is

 Please feel free to share an exerpt.

 “Aunt Nettie!” I called through the screen door out of breath.  “Are you home?  I came so you can help me with my history today.”

“Yes, Halley, I’m here, I’m coming,” Aunt Nettie called as she pushed the screen door open for me.

“What’s that statue doing over there in the corner of the porch?” I asked as I went into the house.

“What statue?  Where?” asked Aunt Nettie.

“Over there!” I said as I pointed around to the left.  “See it?  It’s just behind the swing,” I added.  Aunt Nettie wheeled herself through the open screen door onto the wooden porch.  Looking in the direction I had pointed Aunt Nettie could just make out the top of a light-gray stone figure.  She wheeled herself closer to get a better look.  And since I wanted a better look, too, I followed right behind her.

“Why, it’s a sculpture of a young boy,” said Aunt Nettie.  “He looks like he’s about your age, don’t you think, Halley?  He seems awfully content just sitting there, reading his book with both legs stretched out in front of him.  I wonder what he’s reading that he’s enjoying so much,” Aunt Nettie said.

“Sure, I guess he looks about twelve years old…maybe even thirteen.  Why is he here on your front porch?” I asked.

“I have no idea, Halley.  I didn’t buy it.  There’s no card on it so I doubt anyone sent it to me as a gift.  The only store around here that sells anything like this is Mr. Peterson’s garden shop.  Hmmm…this is strange, all right.  Well, let’s get you some lemonade and cookies and start your lesson.  It’s probably just been delivered to the wrong address.  Bob Peterson and I are old friends.  I’ll call him when we’re finished and ask him if he knows anything about it.”

But later when Aunt Nettie called Mr. Peterson about the statue he didn’t know anything about it, either.

“The only thing I can think of is that my new driver delivered it to you by mistake,” said Mr. Peterson.  “A statue of a boy was supposed to be delivered to someone who lives way on the other side of town.  He must have gotten confused because both your street names and numbers are similar.  I’m sorry for the mix-up, Nettie.  Say, I’m going to be in your neighborhood tomorrow on business.  Is it okay if I come by and pick it up then?”

“That’ll be fine, Bob,” said Aunt Nettie.  “It’s not that it isn’t a nice statue but I know somebody will be missing it soon.”

“Of course, Nettie.  Sorry for any trouble this caused you,” Mr. Peterson said as he ended the call.

“No trouble at all, Bob.  See you tomorrow,” replied Aunt Nettie.

When Mr. Peterson came by the next day to pick up the statue all he could do was rub his whiskered chin and look very puzzled.

“This isn’t my statue, Nettie.  I’ve been examining it and what’s even more surprising is that it has no markings on it at all.  You see, these types of statues come from a mold.  Even though statues can be made by the thousands each one has certain letters and numbers stamped into it.  Those letters and numbers match up with production lists, styles, manufacturers and so on.  But this one has no markings of any kind!  I have no idea at all who made it or where it came from.”

“How can that be?” Aunt Nettie questioned.  “If somebody had sent it to me as a gift they would have included a card with their name on it.  Otherwise, how would I know who it came from?”

“Nettie, this statue is much bigger than the one I thought had been delivered by mistake and I didn’t drive my truck today.  If you leave it on the front porch somebody might try to take it or it could get damaged.  Let me use your wheelbarrow and move it around to the backyard for the time being.  I’ll do some checking to see who might have made or sold it.  Until then let’s just leave it in your flower garden, all right?” Mr. Peterson asked.

“All right, Bob, but please try to find out who it belongs to,” said Aunt Nettie.

“I promise I will.  Now, don’t worry about it…enjoy it for a while!” called Mr. Peterson as he went to get the wheelbarrow.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Several weeks went by but Mr. Peterson still couldn’t find out anything about the statue.  He had no idea who had bought it, where it belonged or where it came from.  He knew Aunt Nettie liked it and began thinking that maybe she should just keep it.  But when a second statue appeared in the backyard next to the first one Aunt Nettie got really upset!  She called Mr. Peterson right away:

“…yes, Bob, I just saw the second statue this afternoon when I went out to water my tomatoes.  No, I’m sure it wasn’t there this morning or I would have seen it.  I know you’ve done all you could to find out about the first statue.  But now that there’s a second one I don’t think either was delivered by mistake.  Somebody is deliberately sending these statues to me–but who, and why?  None of it makes any sense at all.  If this keeps up I’ll have an entire classroom of children out there in no time!  What?  Oh, the second statue is also of a little boy.  He has on an old-fashioned…an old-fashioned…oh, my God!” Aunt Nettie screamed as she dropped the phone on the table.  She wheeled herself down the rear ramp and into the backyard faster than I’d ever seen her go before.

“…Nettie?” yelled Bob Peterson into the phone.  “Are you all right?  Nettie, are you there?…”

Whew!  You know, the appearance of these mysterious statues really happens later on in the book.  The story actually begins with Aunt Nettie’s ancestors in Africa hundreds of years ago.  She’s going to talk all about them in my history class tomorrow because she’s the guest teacher.  I’m really excited about it and I hope you’ll be there to listen, too!

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