Polish-Canadian author Monika Blichar shares advice for aspiring creatives and provides insights on the people and places that have influenced her the most.
I have always wanted to write my own book and I still have some very detailed books I created from elementary school on my bookshelf!Monika Blichar
Monika Blichar wears many hats. She is both a congenial creative and a goal-oriented entrepreneur eager to create growth and opportunities for herself and others. Monika’s latest project, My Magical Gnome, provides wholesome entertainment to children while fostering creativity and a sense of wonder. In addition to talking about her latest project, Monika also shares her experiences as an artist and entrepreneur.
The first time Tellwell readers saw you was as the illustrator of Murray The Dragon by Cristina Petersen. What sparked the move towards publishing your own story?
I loved working on the artwork for Murray the Dragon, and it was a great way to start learning about publishing, as the author, Cristina, is a good friend of mine who I have known since high school. It was great fun to work with a friend and a talented writer to launch our first real published book together. I have always wanted to write my own book and I still have some very detailed books I created from elementary school on my bookshelf! It dawned on me just before Christmas 2019 that I needed to launch my own book. I feverishly came home from the art studio and told my family all about my idea. For the next two years, I focused a lot on writing, illustrating and bringing to life my own story, which is inspired by my childhood and our hometown of Wroclaw, Poland.
What inspired the story of My Magical Gnome?
My family emigrated from Poland during martial law in the 1980s. I have always felt a strong pull to go back to Poland, and when I was 12, I started going to reconnect and meet my relatives, see where my family is from and learn more about my culture. I love going to Poland, and Wroclaw in particular is a magical place. Every time I go, I feel an amazing magical energy there that truly lives within the people and the places. This magic is even more pronounced because Wroclaw has gnome statues all over the city, especially in the summer, [when] you will see people taking photos of the gnomes and wandering the city with maps hunting gnomes. Young and old alike are enchanted by these statues and the believer in me knows that they truly are magical statues, like my family told me when I was younger!
Besides the new book, you have an art boutique and studio that hosts art camps for children and your own podcast. Do you have any tips that ambitious creators can use to manage multiple projects of their own?
The evolution of our art studio came with just over a decade of work, and we have been able to manage because we have a really wonderful team who are dedicated to the growth of the company. We are always adjusting, pivoting, adding, shifting and adjusting to make things work and step out in new directions so that the company is doing as much as possible in terms of serving as many clients as possible. If I were to give other creatives advice when managing projects, it would be to really be clear about what you want to do and offer in the marketplace, and also find the right people, employees, contractors or business associates who will help, inspire and motivate you to succeed.
Who are your biggest influences as an entrepreneur, and why?
My biggest business influence at this time is definitely Grant Cardone. I’ve listened to many of his audiobooks and read many of his books and find them absolutely amazing as a business owner. When I started as a small business, there was so much I didn’t know. From marketing to client acquisition to lead generation to how to motivate your team, I was learning everything as I went. That came with a lot of hurdles and challenges! Looking back, I wish I had found Grant’s materials sooner because he has so many valuable ideas, strategies, step-by-step instructions and passion for business which are so helpful and insightful. Personally, my family is a big influence too. I want to make sure that I can contribute to my family’s success and also help my relatives, especially those like my grandmother who have struggled through life being from Poland, having to go through war, communism and martial law. I feel really lucky to have been able to immigrate to Canada. I want to give back to my family and my community as much as possible.
When teaching children about art, what is the most important thing you hope they get out of it?
When we are young, we have this amazing attitude about life. Anything is possible. We aren’t afraid to try new things. We never say things are impossible. We believe in magic. These are the sentiments that we like to instill in all of our classes. Whether the students are working on painting, drawing, sewing or mixed media, we try to encourage all of them that anything is possible, that they can create anything. Our teachers work with toddlers to seniors and the goal is always the same: to make them believe that they can do anything. This kind of encouragement is my utmost priority because I believe that most of the world’s problems can be solved by going back into this childlike wonder and excitement we lose along the way at school, in our careers and in our lives as “responsible adults.” Why can’t we create our dream life? What stops us from pursuing our dreams? When did the majority of people accept the notion that we have to be satisfied, happy with what we have, where we are, rather than pursue excellence, abundance and mastery? As an educator, that is my number-one goal. The art itself is a by-product of the creativity, imagination and the no-quit attitude that we as a team really work on fostering in our sessions with all of our students, young and old alike!
The process to create a toy is actually quite fascinating and funMonika Blichar
One of the aspects of your project that stood out to our team is the My Magical Gnome doll you created. Can you tell us about what made you decide to create a toy to accompany your book?
The plushie toy was inspired by the first painting I did many years before I even wrote the story, and [it’s] really how the whole concept for the book and toy started. I love painting and the work that is on the cover is sort of a visual synopsis of the story. At the time, I didn’t know what I was painting but often when I paint images like this one, I just allow myself to zone out and paint. It’s a kind of pop-art surrealism. I don’t analyze, critique or plan. I just let the creativity come out of me. Once the idea for the story came, I knew that I had to create a toy that would go with the book because I just know how much children and adults love little mascots to carry with them. As a visual artist, I have created all kinds of pieces for people to acquire and buy, including cards, fashion, home decor, prints and even jewellery. The toy was something that I wanted to do as I knew that with the toy, the story would become that much more real and magical for kids as well as adults, as they would have a real-life little companion to cherish and go on adventures with in person. I’ve been selling the toy since March 2022, and the photos that people send in of his adventures really warm my heart. He’s been all over the world with kids and adults, has experienced everything from spas to going to work with his owners, and even helped fundraise in third-world countries. It’s amazing to see both young and old enjoying the toy; he brings so much joy!
What was the toy-creation process like?
The process to create a toy is actually quite fascinating and fun. After I was able to draw the main character, I sent in my drawings and the manufacturer was able to create a prototype and sample for me. It was a pretty easy process, and the toymakers we worked with were just wonderful at creating the toy from the drawing. They really captured the vision, and when I saw the first samples I knew he would be a perfect little addition to the story. I am hoping to make additional toys and accessories for the toy and story in the future! I’ve had requests in for a girl gnome, so I’ll have to make a second book with a new character soon!
Do you have advice for developing authors who are thinking about taking a leap into indie publishing?
I think too many of us wait too long in life to pursue our dreams, and as a result we let many years pass by without doing what we really want to do. Since I had experience publishing before with Murray the Dragon, I knew that the route I wanted to take was to go with Tellwell again for this project. The process is really laid out for authors and the team is really great. I think I probably could have sold this story to a large publisher, but I didn’t want to wait years to release the story or have to change my vision of what the story is about. For me, indie publishing is a great way to work at your own pace, guarantee that you get distribution, and also a great way to retain control over your project. I would highly recommend indie publishing with Tellwell to other authors too!
Where can our readers follow you and connect online?
I am really easy to find online! Just type in my name and you’ll find me on social media, in articles and on various websites quite quickly! To find the Magical Gnome, go to www.mymagicalgnome.com