Saturday, March 5, 2011

Edmund Smith --The Silver Poplar

THIS MONTH'S GIVEAWAYS ARE The Silver Poplar and Yellow Zone. TO BE IN THE DRAW, POST A COMMENT. For submissions for author interviews to aussiewriters, email Wendy Sargeant at aussiewriters (at) gmail (dot) com (without the spaces), but before you do, be sure and post a comment.

Edmund Smith's The Silver Poplar is the CALEB winner in the Biography section. As we witness the tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand and think of those left without loved ones, Edmund's story as an orphan with a keen sense of the grace of God is a real witness for humanity. Welcome, Edmund.

The issues of adoption and fostering are pivotal to your work. What do you think of adoption, fostering and surrogacy now?

A. Fostering and adoption have undergone great changes since the times The Silver Poplar is set in, and in many ways for the better. More efforts are made to ensure compatibility between would-be adopters and children - even efforts are made quite often to match them for physical likeness. Foster mothers frequently find it hard to hand back babies after short care, but their love is such that many of them continue to foster other little ones. Love for abandoned children or ones not naturally your own by way of adoption or fostering is special.

At what point did you decide you would have to write this story down?

A. Although The Silver Poplar was only published in December 2009, it was written in a long form roughly 30 years ago--written out of a crying need to give way to emotion about my past as a bewildered boy in an institution for neglected children. The story was eventually shortened and set out to make more explicit the wonderful change the grace of God brought about in me at age 17, a year before I left the institution. What was initially designed for a secular publisher became one with a Christian one in mind.

How did your family and friends react when you made it public?

A. Some were surprised to learn of my past, for I had said little about it, feeling few would understand. Many have expressed admiration for my honesty and the ability I had to capture the spirit of the times in which I lived. Reactions have varied in terms of being saddened or amused by the book's content. One friend remarked my experiences "were full of an overwhelming sadness," and yet said it is written with grace and humour.

What do you say to people who experience depression and self doubt?

A. It is a difficult question to answer in a few words but, based on my experience, ultimately I seek to point out the need to rest in the grace of God through Christ. One friend, whom I knew well in younger days, wrote to me upon reading The Silver Poplar and said, "you have an incredibly strong spirit to have endured all that life has presented you," but I do not feel that way about myself. I often feel frail and fragile, even in knowing the grace of God is at hand for me in Christ. I can still get depressed and can be vulnerable to self-doubt, and for that reason can have empathy for those who suffer in that way. As I said, whatever help can be given, ultimately there is a need to rest in God's power and mercy.

Can you recommend other biographies that have inspired you?

A. If it means recommending what is still purchasable, there is no guarantee all the books mentioned can be now obtained. Life in Jesus by Octavius Winslow is a lovely book, to do with the author's mother who was widowed at 40 and then went to America, giving birth to nine children. I remember someone reading the book and being driven to kneel in prayer, when previously kneeling was not the thing to do. That is the kind of book it is.

Other books to inspire have been: Richard Wurmbrand's Christ on the Jewish Road, The Pastor's Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand, Augustine's Confessions, Arnold Dallimore's Spurgeon and The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun.

Tell us something about your story.

A. At the age of six I entered a country place in Victoria called The Sutherland Homes for neglected children. I entered there believing I was an orphan. The place was my home for 11 years. At the age of 15 I discovered I had a sister; we were separated from one another when I was four. In the rest of my time at Sutherland, we knew nothing of our parents.

In my late teenage years my guardians believed I had the ability to do Fifth Year at Eltham High. It was then 'Auntie Lil' sent me an unwanted Bible. I set out to burn it. How I did not is disclosed in The Silver Poplar, which ends by telling of how I discovered at long last much about my family history and the triumph I had at a family reunion in Tasmania in 2002.

Where can we buy the book?

A. It can be bought through Koorong, Word bookshops or QBD Or, it can be bought directly from me at a reduced price.
The email address is eksmith (dot) email (at) gmail (dot) com, should anyone wish to contact me and have the book posted.

Thanks, Edmund, for showing us how great tragedy can be turned around.



  1. Thanks for the great interview - I look forward to reading The Silver Poplar

  2. Sounds like a wonderful story. I'd love to read "The Silver Poplar", so please enter me in the draw.


  3. Thanks for stopping by, Mandy. You can email your details to aussiewriters at gmail dot com to be in the draw as I can't see any here.

  4. Sounds an inspiring read. Thanks for the interview, Dale