Day 4: Nikki Shannon Smith

Nikki Shannon Smith is an author, fourth grade teacher, and advocate for literacy, educational equity and social justice. She believes words wield power. She is the 28 Days Later Day 4 honoree.

NIKKI SHANNON SMITH is an educator, presenter, and the award-winning author of 20 published and forthcoming books. She writes everything from board books to young adult novels. Her recent titles include OUR BEAUTIFUL COLORS (Little Golden Books), and the first three titles in her board book series Brown Baby Parade (Crown Books/Random House). Nikki is also the author of the AZALEAH LANE chapter book series and five titles in Capstone’s middle grade series, Girls Survive. LENA AND THE BURNING OF GREENWOOD: A TULSA RACE MASSACRE SURVIVAL STORY won the 2023 Oklahoma Book Award. Her middle grade novel, STRANDED, is forthcoming from Scholastic in September 2024. Nikki is from Oakland, California and is represented by Jennifer March Soloway of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more about Nikki at

Publication Journey:

My publishing journey has been long and winding with unexpected turns, bumps, and triumphs, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s uniquely mine, and it’s made me the writer that I am. I set out to be a picture book author in 2007. My first book sold in 2010 (The Little Christmas Elf/Little Golden Books) as a result of a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. I just knew I was on the fast track… an agent, a book a year, and so on, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I didn’t have another release until 2019 and it was a young adult novel told in alternating perspectives, written for the educational market! But after that things did start moving fast, and my publishing credits between 2019 and 2024 include nineteen books. If anyone had told me in 2007 that I would have a board book series, a chapter book series, and a middle grade book that would win the Oklahoma Book Award, I probably would have laughed. For some reason, I had an extremely limited view of the possibilities. But by staying open, taking risks, being willing to learn, and by saying yes to new things, I flourished. And that winding road has led me closer to myself and back to my roots, which include poetry. Everything that has happened on my journey—the highs and the lows—needed to happen for me to fully become who I am as a person and as a writer.

The Backstory:

Each book I’ve written has a backstory, but the one that surprised me most was the one behind Our Beautiful Colors and the Brown Baby Parade series. I don’t think I need to recap how horrible 2020 was: pandemic, shut-down, politics, police brutality. I had sunk into a state of despair, and at the forefront of my mind were the children. I remember crying at my desk, staring out the window at the trees and saying, “What about the babies? They need to know they are loved.” I grabbed a piece of binder paper and drafted a poem. It was very rough, but it was full of love, and I knew I had something. I sent it out to three critique partners, revised it, formatted it as a Little Golden Book, and sent it to the editor there. I woke up to an offer the next morning. Within a few weeks, I was invited to write additional books and got an offer of representation from Jennifer March Soloway at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. We submitted a proposal for Brown Baby Parade, which now has six books under contract. Our Beautiful Colors and Love is All Around released on the same day, and both were Amazon Editors’ Picks. Love is All Around was named one of the Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year for 2022. These books reiterated for me the importance of writing from the heart, and how therapeutic words can be.

Positive Impact of Being an Amplify Black Stories Cohort Member:

When The Brown Bookshelf members offered the opportunity to apply for the Amplify Black Stories cohort, I immediately applied, because I knew we shared the same core values: community, uplifting and celebrating Black voices, honoring our past, and securing our future in the publishing industry. I am honored to be a member of Amplify Black Stories and have benefited from discussions about topics ranging from marketing and promotion to self-care. I’ve gotten to know a group of talented, like-minded, inspiring people. I also developed a strong connection to the people and campus of the Highlights Foundation, who partnered with The Brown Bookshelf for Amplify Black Stories. Most importantly, I became part of what I consider to be a family and that is priceless to me.

Connect with Nikki on Social Media:


Instagram/Threads: @nikkishannonsmith

Twitter/X: @nikki2smith

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