Tellwell's 2019/2020
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Author Success - In the media, awards, reviews Tellwell Books

Celebrating Black Authors: Black History Month

It’s Black History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions that Black people have made to history, society, and culture. We’ve had the privilege of working with so many talented Black authors on their self-publishing journey, and we want to share a few of their unique stories with you!

From National Hero and first Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Sir Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds, to eight-year-old author Adetola Babatunde who wrote her first children’s book to combat Covid boredom, to motivational speaker, coach and consultant Anthony Sanni, we hope you check out the stories from some of Tellwell’s Black creators.

Tequis McGann

Kyra’s BIG Appetite

Kyra’s BIG Appetite is a humorous story written in a playful rhyme scheme. Kyra is a rambunctious child with a sweet tooth she can’t seem to control. She has an unhealthy diet consisting mostly of cookies, ice cream, and cake. Although Kyra’s mother warns her that unhealthy eating will catch up to her, she does not listen. Kyra now faces the responsibility of making a decision about her eating habits. What will she decide?

Tequis McGann, a GTA native currently residing in Toronto, Ontario, graduated from McMaster University in 2015 with an Honours Bachelor’s degree in English. In 2018, Tequis returned to school to pursue an interest in learning American Sign Language, and in 2019 she graduated from George Brown College with an ASL and Deaf Studies certificate. A passionate writer and poet, Tequis tells stories inspired by real experiences and people. Through her extensive career in the social service industry focusing on mental health, seniors, at-risk youth, and children, Tequis has a plethora of experience working with ethnic and culturally diverse people. Her love and fascination for the difference that people bring to their communities, motivate her to detail these idiosyncratic encounters through storytelling.

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Meet the Team

Tellwell project manager Joy Comendador offers advice to first-time authors

What puts a smile on your face every day? 

Learning something new, helping others in small ways, and showing appreciation. When I push my limits and accomplish things that I once thought were very difficult, that puts a wide smile on my face. 

What do you enjoy most about working with authors?

“Meeting” a lot of interesting people, knowing their stories and how they came up with their books is delightful. My absolute favourite feeling is when my authors tell me I’ve helped them fulfill their dreams.

What advice do you have for authors going through the publishing process?

My advice is to ask a lot of questions, especially for first-time authors. Having patience throughout the process is really important too. I understand the excitement in wanting to be published quickly, but I advise authors to not rush through approving drafts— take the time to carefully review them:)

What advice do you have for authors who are considering publishing their manuscript?

I’m trying to write a book myself as well so I would say, don’t hesitate and take a leap of faith because it will be your legacy.

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Author of the Month

February’s author of the month – Poetry author Utanu Maa’s lessons in resilience

For February’s author of the month we are celebrating Utanu Maa! Utanu came into Tellwell without any prior publishing experience, and with little knowledge on how she could market her book. Over the last 6 months, Utanu has embraced her new role of authorpreneur and has successfully been featured on a number of blogs, received a beautiful review from IndieReader and is connecting with poets and readers all over the world through her social media.

“Utanu Maa’s RISE AND FALL OF MY BELOVED is a short biographical poetry collection, focused heavily on the themes of grief, mourning, recovery and resilience. The story is deeply personal, it speaks for countless individuals who are voiceless and marginalized. Nevertheless, the writing never seethes with anger at the injustice and unfairness. Instead, it is full of empathy, understanding and acceptance, and may be a cathartic experience for some readers, especially those trying to heal from trauma.” – Archita Mittra for IndieReader

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Utanu Maa, also known as Utanu Adele Mafandala, my birth name. I published my debut book of poetry last year using a pen name, Utanu Maa, just to keep it short on the book. I live in Toronto, Ontario and worked as a public servant within the Ontario Court of Justice. I had previously lived many years in Montreal where I migrated from the Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1991. I was born and raised in DRC where I studied French Literature and Civil Law, and pursued education in Paralegal studies and Fashion Management after moving to Canada. I am a proud mother of a young man who is building his career as a Fine Art artist after graduating from the Memorial University of Newfoundland Fine Art/Visual and Technology last year.

2. What inspired you to write your book?

I needed to heal from the profound grief and loss I carried after the death of  my only sibling and brother from my mother. I lost my brother to HIV/AIDS. He suffered a lot, and it was painful to him, and to me as a sister to witness my loved one going through a myriad of pains and health complications until he died. I cared for him for the last two months of his life. I was deeply sad and devastated. 

I grieved from April 2019 until April 2020; I felt weary and burdened, I desperately needed to talk to someone to share and ease my pain. But Covid-19 had forced the entirety of humanity into confinement. My anxiety, along with everyone elses, increased and I felt so lonely inside and out.  

My son was away for studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In solitude, the only voice you can hear is yours inside of you or your own murmure, and the only person you talk to is your own double. So, my only rescue was to write and pour all my grief onto a paper to start a journey to resilience, gratitude, and healing.

3. How have your personal experiences influenced your book?

In my book, I expose not only the pain and suffering caused by the HIV virus but also the shame, stigmas, discrimination, rejection, and isolation that our society inflicts to people living with HIV. So, I write about a virus that is still active, still very infectious, and deadly to bring awareness for protection, inspiration for resilience in hard times, aspiration for a healthy and compassionate society, a testimony and reflection about the voiceless and vulnerable people in our society. 

Each poem of my book depicts a true story and personal experiences.  I am the witness of the events happening throughout the journey that my readers embark in my book. I wrote about what happened to my brother, from his childhood as a vulnerable orphan infant, marginalized but resilient to survive and grow, to his rise as an accomplished and successful engineer, and to his fall and death as a HIV/AIDS patient. 

My writing is also a journey into learning to express gratitude despite challenges because life is a blessing.  Our life is filled with many blessings, big or small, but we tend to forget to count them when facing hardship, struggles. One morning as I was weeping, thinking of my brother’s struggles in childhood as a vulnerable and neglected six months old orphan infant when my mother died, recalling the bullies he endured because he did not speak earlier like other kids and was labelled mentality retarded and incapable of succeeding at school, and counting the pain, sufferings, shame and rejection he faced and how he beat all odds and became an accomplished Master in Structure and Building Engineer, a still small voice stormed me inside and spoke to me in this way: “count instead the blessings of his life and heal from that because death is not a punishment”. 

From that moment, my brother’s death became the beginning of a new life in everlasting peace.  My grief taught me to express gratitude, and with gratitude, I found resilience to overcome and heal. These are the two main lessons in my book: resilience and gratitude to overcome grief, and heal.

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Author Success - In the media, awards, reviews Tellwell Books

Tellwell Authors Promote Their Self-Published Books in the Media

As part of Black History Month we’re shining the spotlight on a few of the Black authors we’ve had the privilege of working with over the past year. These self-published authors are promoting their books in a range of unique ways. Take a look to inspire your own book promotion ideas!

Record a podcast at your launch event

Author Ray Byfield recorded a podcast episode to answer questions about his new book at his launch event. Last September, Ray hosted a socially distanced book launch to celebrate the release of This Business of Life and Business. He shared this video to his YouTube page; he posted it to his website; and, he promoted it on his Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

Creating one piece of quality content can go far when you adapt it for promoting on each of your platforms.


Pitch to journalists for a deeper connection with your audience

Arnelle M. Cruz was interviewed by The Hollywood Times to discuss her book The Survivor Story of Arnelle: A Girl from Africa. Arnelle opens up about what it was like growing up in Liberia, and she tells readers how they too can overcome adversity.

Interviews and feature stories, like Arnelle’s interview, give readers a deeper insight into your story.

Arnelle M. Cruz – visit her website here.

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Book Marketing Tips & Tricks

TIPS & TRICKS: Author resources that exclusively promote POC authors

#imatter: Unicorns Sleep Here by Irony James

When meeting with author Irony James about her upcoming inspirational novel #imatter: Unicorns Live Here, she posed the question of not only what resources were available to her as an author, but also what resources were available to her as an author of colour. Irony is passionate about being a black, female author, and wanted to connect with fellow POC creatives within the industry to share her story.

This conversation prompted a deep dive into festivals, organizations, and platforms that pride themselves on giving black authors a voice, and allowing them to make connections with other POC creatives. 

We wanted to share some of our awesome findings with you!

APPLICATIONS

The StoryGraph
The StoryGraph is an up and coming virtual library platform! Created by Nadia Odunayo in late 2019, The StoryGraph prides itself on being ethnically diverse with it’s authors and content, instead of focusing on only mainstream books. Similar to Goodreads, The StoryGraph provides readers with a place to find great new reads, and review their favourite books.

When signing up for the website, readers are prompted to fill out a survey discussing their reading preferences including favourite genres, favourite book characteristics, genres that they would be uninterested in, and what they don’t like about certain books. The StoryGraph uses these preference tags to recommend different books to users across the platform, so readers can request to see books that only feature POC Characters, LGTBQ Characters, books written by POC authors, etc.! Readers are also prompted to rate books based on criteria like themes, moods, pace, and the characters themselves (such as character development, how diverse the characters are, whether or not the characters are loveable, or if their flaws are on display, etc.), so the ratings can’t be skewed or biased.  

Similar to Goodreads, The StoryGraph provides users with the option to create reading challenges that are accessible to the whole community. They have a a whole section of these challenges dedicated to reading #OwnVoices, with challenges such as 100 Black Novelist You Should Read, Inclusivity Reading Challenge, and Reading Writers of Colour 2021, among others. 

The StoryGraph is definitely a platform to keep an eye on, as it’s going to be one of the most important virtual libraries around!

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Author Success - In the media, awards, reviews Uncategorized

Celebrating award-winning authors, rave reviews and publicity!

Congratulations to each of our authors for their terrific accomplishments! 

D. Robert Hardy

Raven’s Apprentice

D. Robert Hardy, author of Raven’s Apprentice,  is an Award Winning Finalist for The Best Book Award 2020 in the New-Age Nonfiction Category.

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Meet the Team Tellwell News

Turning the page to 2021 – Tellwell team members share their New Year’s resolutions!

Home workouts, new reading lists, and words of inspiration are among the Tellwell team’s New Year’s resolutions. Take a look!

JH, Subject Matter Expert/Publishing Consultant

New Year’s Resolution is to burn those quarantine gains and get back in shape!

Charlyne, Project Manager

My new year’s resolution is to be committed to my personal growth; physically, mentally & spiritually. This year, I want to focus on quitting toxic habits that are not good for my body. I’ll start to be more active and live a healthier lifestyle. I also aim to be more kind to me and allow myself to be vulnerable enough to accept my flaws. And, keep in mind that not everything is in my control and that it’s okay to screw up sometimes because that’s what makes us human. Lastly, I want to always look at the bright side of things, be more grateful and celebrate life everyday.

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Author of the Month

Award winning author Kathleen Boucher’s practical advice for new authors! – Tellwell’s January author of the month

Our January author of the month, Kathleen Boucher, is an award winning author, certified lifestyle coach, a certified neurocoach, a certified stress and wellness consultant, and a registered nurse! Kathleen’s book 9 Ways to Empower Tweens #Lifeskills is a self help book for tweens, teens and adults alike! The book focuses on practical life skills. These life skills include how to have more confidence when presenting in class, the importance of work ethic, a simple writing technique to help deal with anger, and more. There are exercises at the end of each chapter that tweens can use to integrate what they’ve learned. Kathleen has been featured in many articles and blogs, on top of receiving high praise from industry professionals like IndieReader!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a registered nurse working in an Intensive Care Unit full time, an award-winning children’s author, lifestyle coach, neurocoach and stress & wellness consultant. Want to learn more about Kathleen, click here! 

In 2014, I wondered if there was something else I could do to help people. I prayed for guidance. Two weeks later, I remember sitting bolt upright at 0300 am in the morning.  The voice inside my head indicated that I should write children’s books. So I did.

2. What inspired you to write your book?

I want to help parents and teachers with techniques that helped me raise my children.  I am told that adults find these strategies useful as well. Bonus!

3. How have your personal experiences influenced your book?

My son was very active and had a hard time focusing on homework when he was in elementary school. I did some research that showed that with intense focus, one could bend time and get more done. For example, have you ever crammed for an exam and have gotten a lot of studying done? 

Before we started his homework I made sure my son was rested. The idea was for him to do his least favorite subject first, and get it out of the way. I put a timer at the end of the table and made it fun by seeing how much he could get done in five minutes. Once he finished what he disliked doing, the rest of the homework flowed because he was focusing on subjects he loved. 

4. What were some of the more significant lessons you learned writing and publishing a book?

  • Write what inspires you. 
  • The first draft is only the beginning. Don’t be afraid of rewrites. In fact, expect to do more than one rewrite. 
  • Writing an outline really helped organize my thoughts. Figure out what works for you.
  • Take the time to create a rapport with an illustrator so that he or she understands your vision. Then allow them the creative freedom to be fabulous. 
  • Accept constructive criticism with grace. Step back and look at your work from a different perspective. The new angle may make your work better.
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Meet the Team

Tellwell marketing consultant Angela Gascon on the one habit authors should practice daily to promote their book

1. Tell us about your role at Tellwell.

I am a book marketing consultant with Tellwell! This means that I help authors build awareness for their book and credibility for themselves as an author through a variety of activities. This could include a consultation and strategy, where I would instruct authors on ways to promote themselves effectively, or I could actively promote the book on their behalf through services such as media outreach, creating an author website and social platforms, or promotional materials!

2. What did you do beforehand?

Before I started my role at Tellwell, I was a marketing & development associate with a theatre company called Drayton Entertainment. I was in charge of their social media channels, as well as publicity. This would include coming up with content for our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter platforms, as well as scheduling interviews with our artistic director, actors, and creative teams for upcoming shows.

3. What does a typical day or week look like?

The best part about my job at Tellwell is that every day is different! Some days/weeks, I have a heavy focus on consultations, where I get to meet with authors from across the world to chat about their book(s) and goals, and get the marketing process started. Other days/weeks, I have a heavy focus on design, where I get to create websites, social media graphics, and book backgrounders. With a variety of services, and a variety of clients, it’s something new every day, which I love!

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