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  • "Steplings is a tender and deeply touching story that deftly unwinds the tale of an endearing young man's coming-of-age and first love with such pitch-perfect dialogue and engrossing plot that its characters that leap off of the page and into your heart. Steplings is a novel as timeless as it is unforgettable." ~

    -Sarah Bird, How Perfect Is That, The Yokota Officers’ Club, and The Gap Year

  • "You know when some horrible accident occurs and you can't look away? Something that commands your reluctant horrified attention? Like a train wreck, plane crash, volcanic eruption? Meet Jason Sanborn. He is that train....." ~

    -Michelle Lancaster
    Texas Book Girl and Library Thing
    (read full review)

  • “Launched with scenes and exchanges of dialogue that are laugh-out-loud funny, C.W. Smith's Steplings maintains the rare wit but sobers up in a hurry. A nineteen-year-old boy, grieving over a first love's broken heart, and his eleven-year-old stepsister, yearning for her prior home and family, take off hitchhiking in the middle of the night and share an adventure that is hair-raising, tender, and wise. Here is an accomplished novelist at the top of his game.” ~

    -Jan Reid, author of Comanche Sundown and
    The Bullet Meant for Me

  • ".... The author tucks in complications and minor adventures for all (the young folk are never put into real danger), plus a realistic if poignant resolution, but these only form a backdrop for his exploration of each character’s constellation of strengths and flaws.... rich in psychological insight and lit by occasional flashes of humor. (Fiction. 15-19, adult)" ~

    -Kirkus Review (Aug 1, 2011)
    (read full review)

  • “With Steplings, Charlie Smith has flawlessly captured the experience of being young, misunderstood, and full of longing. He manages to craft a tale that is at once gorgeously heartbreaking and a page-turning adventure. His ear for dialogue and lyrical prose are irresistible, as are his complex, loveable Jason and Emily—these aren't characters in a novel, they're people I know. Smith has accomplished that rarest of literary feats: to leave the reader on the final page equal parts exhilarated at having finished a gripping work of fiction, and forlorn at not being able to spend more time in the world he crafted.” ~

    -Melissa Kirsch, author of The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything

  • "Smith’s prose is rich and sophisticated, yet accessible, and the dialogue is right on….Though Jason and Emily grapple with universal teen issues, their troubles feel like uncharted territory when expressed through pitch-perfect narrative voices. Steplings is “a friendly, hopeful, humorous, and thoughtful book about growing up,” said Powell, though “watching Jason self-destruct is akin to watching someone in a horror film go down into the basement.” ~

    -Mary Powell, author of Auslander and
    Galveston Rose

  • "Steplings touches our hearts with the struggles and failures that are a part of finding our way, whatever our age. With both sensitivity and a strong narrative thrust, the book portrays the tugs between generations, couples, and, most especially those conflicts within ourselves as we come into adulthood, which often takes an entire lifetime. C.W. Smith's deftly written book is compelling on many levels.” ~

    -Kate Lehrer, author of Confessions of a Bigamist

  • "Lordy, Steplings is a novel you read with increasing awe and dread, for C. W. Smith, page by page by artful page, is laying bare the illusions by which the American family sustains--and deceives--itself. In the matters of romantic love, marriage, community, school, class, and work, we're in peril, not least from our benighted yearnings for grace and harmony. Mr. Smith has used his great compassion and his enviable gifts as a storyteller without peer to detail what so animated Updike in the Rabbit series of novels: our innocence and our sentimentality for what never was. You won't read a more achingly beautiful book this season."~

    -Lee K. Abbott, author of Dreams of Distant Lives, Living After Midnight, and All Things, All at Once







It's 2003 with the country embroiled in a war in Iraq. Nineteen-year-old Jason Sanborn feels lost. He dropped out of high school just two months shy of graduation, and now his former classmates are off to college, the military, or minimum-wage jobs. The only pressing date on his calendar is an upcoming appearance in court on an assault charge, and when his over-achieving, beloved girlfriend, Lisa, departs for UT Austin to study premed, Jason can hardly abide his hometown of Mesquite. When his mother died two years back, his father Burl, fifteen years sober, fell off the wagon briefly, but he has since met a new wife, Lily, in AA. Lily brings a daughter into the house: Emily, an eleven-year-old know-it-all whose existence irritates Jason.

Three days before Jason's court date, he gets a "we can still be friends" letter from Lisa. Heartbroken and determined to convince Lisa of his worth, Jason decides to hitchhike to Austin. Since Emily also hates the new family circle, she is desperate to rejoin her father, a UT professor, so she demands to accompany Jason on his mission. When Burl and Lily find their children missing, Lily puts out an Amber Alert for Emily, accusing Jason of abducting her daughter. The frantic search that ensues threatens to destroy the tentative household that Burl and Lily have just begun to establish, and the end of the journey brings surprises for both the children and their parents.





Review of C.W. Smith's Steplings

By MiraCranfill

“Taking place in 2001, the backdrop of Steplings is the Iraq war, and the novel's conclusion is unafraid of tackling social issues on a fine, intimate scale.”
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Steplings on Top 40 list of novels for school libraries

By Jill Toye

“Readers will fall in love with the characters and this book deserves wide readership.”
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'Steplings' on target

By Robert Flynn

Happily, Smith's lifetime achievement is not yet complete and a new novel, “Steplings,” is proof of it. Jason and Emily are step-siblings in a family ..."
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C.W. Smith takes to Texas highways and social media byways to tout his new novel, Steplings

By Tarra Gaines

"These are interesting times for literary writers, interesting as in the supposedly ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Bookstores are closing. University and small publishing houses are publishing less fiction while larger houses tend to be unwilling to take risks on new or even established writers unless they come with their own following.."
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C.W. Smith and His Angsty Teens: Dallas Writer Releases New Novel, Steplings

By Brentney Hamilton

"SMU students may remember C.W. Smith as the curmudgeonly creative writing prof who had permanent dibs on a particular wooden chair in Dallas Hall; others know him as the mentor and ally who helped them find their voice, or who simply told them for the first time that they were good at something..."
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Book review: Steplings, by C.W. Smith

By Joy Tippimg

"Texas novelist C.W. Smith has received just about every literary award the state and region bestow, and his latest work, the sprightly and wise, Steplings, will no doubt add to his reputation as a Lone Star star..."
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Kids prove better at adapting than parents when they run away from home

By James Renovitch

"It's said that kids adapt to change better than adults. What's usually not mentioned is that predicting the nature of that adaptation is nigh impossible..."
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Book Trailer of the Day: Hitchhiking Across Texas

Steplings by C.W. Smith (TCU Press).

Watch Book Trailer


Award-winning professor launches new book

By Lucy Higginbotham

"It’s funny how events in your youth can circle back to you later in life. When Charles William (C.W.) Smith was an oil field hand loading pipe onto trucks, he probably didn’t think it would show up in one of his novels decades later..."
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"Mapping a complex web of emotional ties and stress fractures, Texas suthor C.W. Smith constructs long paragraphs of rumination and painful flashbacks that move among all the major characters' points of view (with one significant exception)..." Read more >


Well-remembered youth produces novels, 'Steplings' author says

By David Martindale

"Sometimes an author just never knows where the next story idea will come from -- or where it will lead..." Read more >


Former SMU English professor launches his ninth novel

By Natalie Posgate

Friends, family, ex-students and colleagues of C.W. Smith packed into the Degolyer Library's Stanley Marcus Reading Room Thursday night for the launch of his latest novel "Steplings." Read more >



Book Review: Steplings by C.W. Smith

By Bridget

"Steplings takes the reader an empathetic journey through the trials and pitfalls of teen years while exploring blended families and the odd relationships bred within them..."
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