How a cheeky, real-life pelican inspired a book about cleaning up our oceans – Tellwell’s July author of the month Renee James
Renée James is the talented Australian children’s author of Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican. Her book was featured as one of the best-reviewed books by IndieReader in May, she has been reviewed on a number of book blogs, and has been featured on the Clarence Valley Independent!
Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican touches on the impact of ocean pollution, such as rubbish, on wildlife – an important theme in line with “Clean Beaches Week” that took place earlier this month July 1-7.
Renée’s ‘monkey see, monkey do’ attitude has inspired her to pursue her dreams and become an author! Learn more about Renée and discover her advice for authors!
PATROOSH, THE CHEEKY PELICAN is an illustrated children’s story that hits all the marks: appealing and memorable central characters, high entertainment value, and its function as a powerful educational tool.~Amanda Ellison for IndieReader
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I try to live my life thinking I can’t preach to my kids to achieve their dreams if I don’t do the same thing. I believe in monkey see, monkey do – I feel very passionate about that with children, especially in their early years.
I come from a background in communications and 15+ years in the commercial television industry. I have worked on a variety of creative projects both nationally and internationally.
I currently head up my own video production company called Mystery Lane Media.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, and publishing a children’s book is something that I have wanted to do since I was 18. I’ve made a career out of helping others achieve their creative visions through storytelling in the form of video, which led me to where I am now, delving into author life at age 35.
I love nothing more than spending time with family and friends. I am passionate about travel, beach days, and, of course, story-time. For me, my children are the bee’s knees as they’re constant reminders to be present and always make time to play.
What inspired you to write Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican?
My family and I spend a lot of time over at a beach area near a local boat ramp, and over the years, we have become very familiar with the pelicans and seagulls’ habits. So, the inspiration for writing this book came from observing my own children’s hilarious interactions with them. The story flowed naturally for me as it’s based on our own experiences with one cheeky pelican in particular, whom I named Patroosh.
It was the real-life Patroosh who inspired the characterization and illustrations for this entire book. The seagull’s character, Seamus, was inspired by my two children Jack and Grace, as they’re always picking up any rubbish they find floating around and wanting to keep, in their words, “wildlife homes clean.”
Tell us about the success you have been having with Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican (and please don’t be shy).
It’s been an absolute whirlwind regarding how well this book has been received since launching in March this year. I am genuinely full to the brim with gratitude for the amount of support shown towards Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican.
I have received lovely emails from people in Hawaii, France, Canada, America, England, and nationwide here in Australia. So, the fact that this cheeky pelican has travelled so far around the globe has been incredible.
The local newspaper, Clarence Valley Independent, did a lovely write-up about the book in April.
It made the IndieReader’s list for one of the best-reviewed books in May.
We just wrapped up a blog tour where this cheeky pelican had the adventure of a lifetime travelling virtually across the globe.
Numerous primary schools and daycares across Australia have added this book to their story-time routines and school libraries, which has been a wonderful experience.
What have you done to connect with your local community to market Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican?
I have been doing book readings at local daycares and primary schools, which I have thoroughly enjoyed! I love seeing how the children engage with the story and illustrations. It sparks hilarious conversations too, which has been a lot of fun.
I always take bookmarks to use as giveaways while I’m there too.
What advice do you have for authors pitching to schools, or daycares?
It always helps if you know a parent with a child at the daycare or school, as it instantly gives you a personal connection.
I would never go to a daycare or school without enough giveaways for all children and educators in the class because who doesn’t love a freebie plus, as an author, it doubles up as marketing and more exposure.
If I don’t know anyone personally at the center, I will introduce myself, saying that I’m a local author who would love to donate a copy of my children’s book. Then, I would also let them know that I’m more than happy to do a reading while I’m already there delivering the book.
How did it feel to receive a 4.5 out of 5 stars on your IndieReader review? How has this rating affected your marketing?
I was incredibly anxious waiting for the IndieReader review to come in when it finally did, and I found out it had been IR approved; I felt both relieved and excited.
Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican, is my first book, and I think having this rating gave me the assurance I needed as a debut author.
Being IR approved and making their list for the best-reviewed books for May gave me the confidence to market my book. It also helped gain exposure, increased social media followers, and more bookstores started to list my book.
What are some of the valuable book marketing insights and tips you learned while promoting your book?
Having book reviews and families sending photos of their children from all over the world with my book has helped with social media content as it’s engaging and authentic.
Katie Hennessy is my Tellwell Marketing Consultant, and I listened to all of her advice prior to launching when it comes to being consistent and authentic.
I also believe in asking for help when you need it, so don’t be afraid to seek advice from marketing professionals.
The blog tour was a fantastic experience and helped increase reviews and gain new exposure outside my reach.
What advice do you have for a new writer?
If you have an idea for a story that excites you and you know others will enjoy it, then back yourself, put pen to paper, and give it a go.
Do your research about self-publishing versus traditional and educate yourself about the pros and cons for both.
I’ve had a great experience with Tellwell and highly recommend them to anyone wanting to go down the indie author road.
Patroosh, the Cheeky Pelican touches on the impact of ocean pollution, such as rubbish, on wild life; July 1-7th was ‘Clean Beaches Week’ – what suggestions can you offer to help beach goers be smarter with their environmental impact?
My best advice would be to pick up after yourselves to make sure that you haven’t left any litter behind when you leave.
Whenever my children and I go to the beach or park, we always have a bag for any random rubbish we see lying around, and we put it in the bin on our way home.
Sometimes making a minor change by not just walking past litter but stopping to pick it up can go a long way.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m new to the world of storytelling through books, and I am so grateful for the opportunities and support that I have received and continue to receive this far.
I want to say a big thank you to Tellwell for honoring me with the July author of the month and sending my best wishes to all the other writers out there.
Be sure to also check out her website www.reneejamesbooks.com for some awesome family friendly activities and worksheets!