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Social Entrepreneurship Central to Faculty Literary Award

When DeVoe Moore Center Director and faculty member Sam Staley started writing the novel that would become St. Nic, Inc., he didn’t think he would be rebooting capitalism through a fun, fanciful tale of Christmas. But he did, and the central role he gave social entrepreneurship helped bring in a silver second-place award at the Royal Palm Literary Awards announced in Orlando on October 17, 2015.

The awards, sponsored by the Florida Writers Association, a nonprofit organization with nearly 1,500 members, uses a rigorous tiered evaluation process to select winners. This year’s awards attracted nearly 378 entries. Staley’s novel was awarded in the the competitive category of Published Mainstream/Literary Fiction.

St. Nic, Inc. started out with me using my economics training and experience in business to map out the realities of running an enterprise like the one projected in myth,” says Staley, who teaches a senior seminar on social entrepreneurship. “I was surprised at how practical it really was. A global enterprise of this nature could exist in real life. We have the technology, and the social mission of providing toys and other entertainment to small children, particularly underprivileged children, already happens on a smaller scale.”

Staley admits he had to add a bit of science fiction to the background to enable the North Pole to remain secret in pursuit of its mission, but information technology already exists on the scale needed to coordinate and produce these products and fund the company’s humanitarian goals. In fact, Staley's Santa Claus is actually Nicole Klaas, a fourth generation “Claus” who was a software engineering prodigy at MIT before being called back to run the family business after her father has a heart attack.

The novel is fast-paced action adventure—a “comic thriller” according to Reason magazine—with a plot propelled by a rogue Drug Enforcement Agent determined to shut the North Pole down because he is convinced it’s an international drug cartel. Nevertheless, the business elements shine through. One professional reviewer at the popular book review website Readers Favorite writes: “The best part of the novel was when [Staley] was describing the history and inner workings of the company. You could feel the warm glow of pride and excitement emanating from the pages.”

The novel has a strong social justice theme as well. The North Pole doesn’t have elves (or the other trappings of mythology), but little people (dwarves) have found the world the Klaas’s have created a welcome haven from the discrimination they face in mainstream society. The little people in the novel are doctors, lawyers, software engineers and all manner of mainstream professionals, but the tensions between prejudice experienced in the world of a society geared toward “average sized” people sets up the climatic scenes as readers ponder whether the North Pole will survive or be destroyed.

"When the talented Staley tosses DEA agents, moles, computer whizzes, and a multi-national CEO into one action-filled plot, you get...a story that sparkles like the North Pole on a sunny day," wrote award-winning author Donna Meredith in her Tallahassee Democrat review. St. Nic, Inc. offers a fresh vision of what modern tools like the Internet and high-speed delivery services could accomplish in the hands of the right Little People. This heart-warming reimagining gives us reason to believe—and fall in love all over again with our most cherished time of year.”

The book is published by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, a traditional, Tallahassee-based publisher that features authors from the south and books on southern themes. St. Nic, Inc. is available on the publisher's website (syppublishing.com), other online retail book outlets such as Amazon, independent bookstores, and the Little People of America’s website (www.lpaonline.org).

More information about St. Nic, Inc. can be found at the author’s website, www.srstaley.com.