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A story to tell: local author discusses novel

In addition to the books he has published, local author David M. Smeltz has plenty of stories to tell.

Smeltz has a die-hard passion for education and history. He attended Frontier before it actually was established as the school it has become today. He attended Buffalo State College, taught at Frontier for many years and after retirement he continued on with his love for lecture teaching as an adjunct professor at Canisius College.

Before beginning his book venture, he has written articles for The Sun, and interest pieces on things such as the book beloved by many, “Little Women.”

The six book series of historical fiction is entitled “The Adventures of Sidney Sawyer,” covering the Civil War era. Smeltz takes Sidney Sawyer, whippersnapper brother of the famous Tom Sawyer, and places him in Buffalo writing his personal memoirs the year Mark Twain died.

The first three books are complete and available on Amazon, Kindle and Nook. Each novel takes about a year to write and he fine-tunes them to historical accurate perfection.

Fellow writers may be curious to pick his brain on the most commonly discussed topic amongst other writers: The Process.

“It took a terrible amount of time,” said Smeltz. Upon seeking publishers, he received the dreaded message all writers experience. “You’re not ready.”

This day in age, with print publication deteriorating and a completely unfair world where popularity trumps talent, Smeltz has achieved something great.

“The only first time authors now, are celebrities like Snookie. Snookie wrote a book, she got published! But if you’re a first time author now, you have to self publish, promote your book, and if I sell enough copies then an agent will contact me, and I’ll be off to the races,” he said with a laugh.

Smeltz spoke of his deeply rooted love for history. As all stories go, what is the origin?

“One history teacher,” he said. Mr. Jehle, a Frontier teacher and veteran of the Pacific Campaign of WWII. “He was a natty dresser, and full of bounce. He made me love history.”

During his youth at summer school Smeltz would sit through a 90 minute study-hall and would wonder what to do with so much free time. He began to pick up history books, particularly thick ones.

“I found out very early, if I had a book that is this thick and I start reading it, I’m going to have fun and I won’t be bored for this much,” he says, motioning with his fingers the thickness of the book.

For his next series, Smeltz hopes to find a more lovable character than Sidney whom will be placed in Vietnam.

Only eight days after graduating high school, Smeltz was hit by a car in 1965 in front of Hamburg on the Lake. His knee was destroyed and replaced which in turn deferred his draft to serve in Vietnam.

“I’m a little embarrassed. All of my friends went and I didn’t,” he said. His life experiences play a vivid role in his writing. Not only is he bountiful and precise with his historical knowledge of politics and war, but the culture as well.

“I lived through the 60s and they were a lot of fun. I was a hippie. I had mutton chop sideburns, I had bell bottom pants without the pockets so I looked good from the back. I wore the sandals,” he reminisced. “I was ‘cool’.”

When contemplating history, one puts on hindsight vision goggles. After living through such various times, I asked him which era he would live in if given the opportunity to time travel.

“Oh my goodness. I couldn’t imagine living in any other time. I lived in the absolute golden age of education. College in the 60s was open to everybody,” he said. “I would not pick another era, ever. I could not imagine a better life than the life I’ve had.”

In nearly every anecdote it was clear his passion for learning and teaching is strong. One I found to be the most moving, was one from teaching at Canisius.

He would teach three hour lectures on human growth and development for adolescence. At the end of his classes, they would applaud.

“It was charming,” he said with the most honestly humble grin.

David Smeltz will be having a reading, discussion and book-signing at the Hamburg Village Library at 7 p.m. on July 9 and also at the Lake Shore Library at 6:30 p.m. on August 13.


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