Category : Author of the Month

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Toronto-area doctor and author Lili Naghdi on adapting her family practice and author work in the face of COVID-19

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I am a family physician and researcher practicing in Vaughan, Ontario and I published my debut novel, On Loving, last year. I was born and raised in Iran and continued my medical education and research after moving to Canada with my husband and daughter in 1996. My particular interests are women’s and mental health.

2. What inspired you to write On Loving?

I’ve been a huge fan of literature for as long as I can remember, and one of my dreams as a young girl growing up in Iran was to become an author one day! Persian poetry has always been intriguing for me, and Forugh Farrokhzad, the late contemporary Iranian poet, who was also a women’s rights activist, remained a great inspiration to me since the day I first started reading her works. “On Loving” is the title of one of her famous poems written in Farsi. 

My occupation has been another source of inspiration for writing “On Loving.” Working throughout the years as a family physician enabled me to explore the effects of different basic emotions on people’s physical and mental health and to assess the role these feelings play in controlling people’s interpersonal relationships. I finally decided to share my experiences in both fields by creating “On Loving” and focusing on a young woman’s complicated life journey, a turbulent journey full of twists and turns, which ultimately helped this strong yet fragile accomplished woman achieve self-awareness. 

I trust that literature can act as a sturdy bridge connecting different cultures, so by using this bridge and the pages of “On Loving,” I introduced my readers to the rich Iranian culture and heritage, its ancient history, and, more importantly, real Iranian people through the eyes of On Loving’s main protagonist, an adopted Iranian-American physician. 

3. What is the main message you share in your book? 

I’ve always been amazed by how we, as human beings, react in our unique and different ways in similar situations or circumstances in life. Many of us never know who we really are and what we really stand for until it is too late. In other words, we may never get to know ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses, our true potentials until the last day we live! Understanding the importance of achieving self-awareness – most possibly the hardest task to succeed in life- through working on our pure feelings and emotions, was one my main messages to reflect upon and share with my readers. 

You may remember Ayn Rand’s famous quote from The Fountainhead: “To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.'” In fact, for many of us, most “emotions,” such as love, hatred, jealousy, joy, trust, sadness, … are so difficult to process and act upon in proper ways. It is essential to understand where they originate from and how they can morbidly affect our behavior, mental, and physical health.

To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I’.

Ayn Rand

4. How has your work as a physician impacted the story in On Loving

As a family physician with a keen interest in women’s and mental health,  I tried to draw more attention to the issues that I’ve found more prevalent and profoundly disturbing for most people. Common conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, suicide, homicide, bereavement, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), kidney failure/transplant, breech delivery, breast cancer, domestic violence, …  were among the topics discussed in this novel.

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Author of the Month

How an anxiety attack turned into inspiration for Jennifer Renieris’ first children’s book, Hawk Eyes

It can be in moments of darkness and fear that we find the inspiration to turn our life around. An instance that shifts our perspective in such a profound way urges us to forge a new path. It was while struggling with debilitating anxiety that author Jennifer Renieris experienced such an ‘aha’ moment. A hawk landed in her yard, and the symbolism of this simple moment shifted her perspective on life, providing the inspiration for her first children’s book, Hawk Eyes. Read about Jennifer’s inspiring journey and insight into the world of children’s publishing in our February author of the month feature.

The hawk’s ability to fly high, and keen eyesight, allows it to see the bigger picture, a new point of view, and a different perspective.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I grew up and still live in Southern Ontario.

Since high school, I have only ever been self-employed in various avenues, from agriculture to green energy. 

I had never viewed myself as a creative person. From my first ideas, to writing, to taking the leap to publish, each phase was a baby step up to the completion of book one, Hawk Eyes. Books two and three have unfolded with the ease of a new found love in the creative and productive process. 

I enjoy living with my blended family which includes three children, two cats, and a puppy. The puppy, Daisy, was an impulse buy while riding the high of my first book being finished and romanticizing my character of Aunt B, the Westie. 

Our home is supportive and, besides the critters, very peaceful. This supportive, stress-free environment has allowed me to open up to this new path and self-discovery. I have a house full of like-minded people to bounce ideas off. 

I love to travel. It is a great way to learn about other people and cultures.  Life has so much to share and to savour. 

2. What inspired you to become a children’s author? What was the inspiration behind Hawk Eyes?

I have worn many hats over the years. From managing my family to managing multiple businesses. Most of my time has been spent just getting &#$! done. Being stretched too thin paired with an unhealthy relationship can have its repercussions, and it did. I began having debilitating anxiety. I had no choice but to finally pay attention to my self-care. To feed and settle my spirit, I began journalling.

It was during one of our usually long winters, as I sat journaling, trying to abate an anxiety attack and praying for a reality shift from a particular situation, that a hawk landed in my yard right in front of me, then left. I had never seen a hawk in my yard before this. My curiosity was triggered, I needed to know more about hawks. Mainly I wanted to know if they were known to fly away with household pets. One of the fascinating articles that popped up was about hawk symbolism. I came to learn that hawk symbolism, among many other aspects, included perspective. This was a huge ‘aha’ moment for me. The hawk’s ability to fly high, and keen eyesight, allows it to see the bigger picture, a new point of view, and a different perspective. “Look at the BIG picture and remember why you are doing what you are doing,” I heard loud and clear. This was a huge ‘AHA’ moment for me; I felt incredible relief. 

How amazing would this be if I could share this experience, translate it into something children could relate to, I thought.

If you change the way you look at something, it can change what you see and can change how you feel about it.

I used this experience to challenge myself to tackle something creative. My intention was to take this ‘aha’ moment, using animal symbolism, and translate it into a story that children could relate to.

3. What message are you sharing in each of your three books? What do you hope children will walk away with?

In book one, Hawk Eyes, I use the symbolism of a hawk flying high, seeing a different point of view, a bigger picture, to share the message of perspective. If we change the way we look at something, it can change what we see and can change the way we feel about it. 

In book two, A Buck and a Puck, I use the symbolism of a buck, a male deer. He is very strong, yet he is gentle and graceful. His grace and kindness are his strengths. I wanted the reader to see that showing kindness to others, especially when we are frustrated, shows how strong we are on the inside. 

Book three, My Fine Feathers, is about embracing our uniqueness that shines from within. I use the Scarlet Macaw as my feature creature. Her bright primary colours scream at us to be unapologetically bold and beautiful just as we are. 

The main message I hope resonates with people sharing my stories, is that we always have a choice. We have a choice in how we look at any situation, a choice in how we treat others and a choice to celebrate our uniqueness, and that of others. This is empowering.

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Author of the Month

Montreal media icon Tommy Schnurmacher’s touching tribute to his mother receives high praise and acclaim

Montreal broadcaster and author Tommy Schnurmacher is receiving major publicity for his new memoir Makeup Tips from Auschwitz: How Vanity Saved my Mother’s Life. He’s been featured in Canadian Jewish News, The Suburban, Global News and the Montreal Gazette.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

His book has sold out in all the Montreal bookstores carrying it. It’s the #1 consignment book at Paragraphe Books, and all 104 copies at Chapters sold out in 90 minutes during a book signing. Way to go, Tommy!

We recently sat down with Tommy to ask him about all the attention his book has been getting since its release.

Q: What inspired you to write this book? 

A: The inspiration for the book came from veteran Canadian broadcaster Gord Sinclair, who was the news director at radio station CJAD in Montreal where I was the mid-morning talk show host. During commercial breaks, I would tell him stories of my childhood and my family dynamic when we first came to Canada from Hungary as immigrants. I remember him saying, “One of these days, Tommy, you are going to have to write a book.” I had often told the stories and I would write notes just for the fun of it, but the day Gord was talking about finally came and I finally sat down and wrote the book.

Your book has received high praise and acclaim. You’ve been featured in the Montreal Gazette, The Suburban, Global News and the Canadian Jewish News. How does it feel to receive so much positive attention for your book? 

A: It is very gratifying, of course, to see that people are enjoying the book. Many people can relate to having a special relationship with their mother. They can also relate to the immigrant experience and to taking care of parents who once took care of them.

Q: How are you promoting your book? 

A: Publicity does not happen on its own and books don’t just fly off the shelf. I use the “five in five” method. I do five things a day, five days a week to promote the book. It could mean writing a press release, sending an email, making a phone call or flipping through a book blogger directory. Every bit counts. Every bit helps. Some will pan out, some will not, but you just have to keep at it. 

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Author of the Month

Award-winning children’s author, Kristin Pierce, helps both kids and adults find their “inner compass”

Award-winning author Kristin Pierce’s children’s books are full of empowering messages about finding our real-life super powers of creativity, imagination and intuition. And it’s that message the author, herself, has fully embraced by not only writing a series of children’s books, but taking the lessons learned in self-publishing and coaching others on how to bring their own story ideas to life.

“It has been a lot of work and a ton of learning, but it has been so much fun,” said Saskatchewan-based author and mother of two.

Children's author Kristin PierceThe inspiration to write a children’s story first came a few years ago when she was putting together a rhyming scrapbook for her son about his first six-months of life. The rhymes began flowing and the book ended with some empowering verses.

“I looked at those last couple pages and said to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be neat to turn these lines into an empowering children’s book?”

Pierce says she couldn’t believe she had said those words aloud. “For almost my whole life, I didn’t believe I was creative, so this idea didn’t align with who I thought I was, so I dismissed it,” she said.

But the rhymes wouldn’t stop flowing, and several months later, while her son was napping, she wrote the first draft of her first book, Your Inner Compass That Could, in an hour and a half.

You are the one who knows your true self the best
You have an Inner Compass inside of your chest
If you learn how to listen, it will be your best guide
On life’s wonderful, magical, adventurous ride

Your Inner Compass That Could - book cover Tellwell Publishing

Your Inner Compass That Could was published by Tellwell in early 2018. The story encourages children to connect to and trust their inner self to guide them in life. It teaches children that there are no limits to what they can achieve and to pursue their passions and share their unique gifts with the world.

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Author of the Month Tellwell Books

B.C.-based author Mark Lloyd wins top prize at IndieReader Discovery Awards for sci-fi novel

A Place to Stay Forever by Mark Lloyd -Tellwell

British Columbia-based author Mark Lloyd is quietly celebrating a huge win after his book nabbed top prize in the science fiction category at the IndieReader Discovery Awards.

The humble author was looking for feedback and submitted the book on a whim. “I was surprised. I didn’t expect the story would win anything,” he said.

The award winners were announced in May at the New York International Book Expo. IndieReader gave the book 4.8/5 stars rating A Place to Stay Forever “an imaginative and quirky story that simultaneously hearkens back to both Philip K Dick and Douglas Adams.”

A straightforward, absorbing tale that unfolds inside a beefy futuristic setting. – Kirkus Reviews

A Place to Stay Forever - Tellwell Publishing - Mark Lloyd

The concept of Lloyd’s sci-fi novel is a mix of the Matrix and Black Mirror’s San Junipero episode. The protagonist, Miranda Sage, is plugged into an artificial reality where she is living out her life peacefully as an old man, when a power surge abruptly awakens the crew in a spaceship hurtling back to Earth. The crew has to hack back into the alternate reality through its only access point – the town of Penticton – and awaken consciously to explore a way to end the simulation without harming their bodies.

“I wanted to write a story that makes the readers think about something they haven’t put much thought in before. This book is about immortality, and the perils of being immortal,” said Lloyd.

Despite the virtual reality/alternate universe premise – the story’s locale is very real. Lloyd who grew up and lives in the Okanagan town of Penticton, loved the idea of turning his hometown into the setting of a sci-fi tale.

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Author of the Month

Tellwell publishing consultant Jennifer Chapin sits in the author’s seat to publish her new book

Saint Augustine, the Christian theologian and philosopher once said: “The world is a book. And those who do not travel read only a page.”

This sentiment echoes through the work of Jennifer Chapin who blends her love of the publishing industry with travel, philosophy, and a little magic.

By day, Chapin is a publishing consultant at TellWell whose main role is to inspire people to trust their work and take the leap of faith into self-publishing. By night, Chapin takes those leaps herself – travelling in her mind to ancient civilizations and fleshing out characters on paper.

granada-1

Chapin has just published her second book, The Poet and The Angel, which is connected to her current role at TellWell in that, as she brings the poet’s voice back to life and onto the page, she encourages authors to do the same with their voices. The novella also resonates with her former career in the non-profit sector.

“I have long been committed to the areas of social and environmental justice, through my pen and through being outspoken on issues that are of concern to me. Federico Garcia Lorca’s [the ‘Poet’] character resonates with me completely. I understand his defense of the downtrodden and I share his commitment to speaking out against tyranny,” said Chapin.

An avid traveller and photographer, Chapin weaves her first-hand experiences into her prose to successfully transport the reader to a new place. But don’t flag this as a fluffy travel novel. Chapin uses her writing as a vehicle to discuss bigger issues: freedom, tyranny and the truth.

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Author of the Month

Courtroom lawyer turned self-publishing success; Governor General’s Award nominee Leslie Hall Pinder on her life as a full-time writer

By Kate Bell

Tellwell author and Governor General’s Award nominee, Leslie Hall Pinder, puts her decades of experience in the courtroom on paper in her latest crime-fiction novel, The Indulgence. Learn more about the B.C.- based author’s career as a lawyer-turned-writer, how she got a testimonial from Margaret Atwood and why after traditionally publishing three books, she got decided to self-publish.

Photo Courtesy: The Georgia Straight

At age 12, Leslie Hall Pinder was told to write. She was encouraged by her school teacher and, following her teacher’s advice, Hall Pinder’s first short story was broadcast on CBC radio when she was 19-years-old.

Hall Pinder immersed herself into the literary world after high school and went on to complete her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Saskatchewan and Dalhousie University. She then started a Masters Program in English at the University of British Columbia, however, her interest in school was beginning to wane; she often skipped class and eventually dropped out to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time writer. But the author’s plan was put on hold when she found casual work in the case report section of the Vancouver Police Department – the lure of the law became absolutely irresistible. She quickly enrolled back in school and, in 1976, she graduated with a law degree from the University of British Columbia. Shortly after, Leslie became the first woman litigator at a large Vancouver law firm.

After working nearly 20 years in law, alongside writing and publishing two novels (one of which that was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award), Hall Pinder decided to step back from the legal world and begin writing full-time. She has been a full-time writer since 2005 and the courtroom still plays a major impact on her work which focuses largely on characters who undergo the difficult and corrupting struggle of truth as defined by the law.

After traditionally publishing her first three books, Leslie Hall Pinder chose to self-publish her fourth book with Tellwell. The Indulgence is a story about what happens when love turns to hate and everyone turns to the law.

The Indulgence

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Author of the Month

At 15-years-old, actor, model and author Ricko Dupri Sample already has two books to his name

ricko-sampleAt 15-years-old, Ricko Dupri Sample has major achievements to his name. He published one book with Tellwell at age 13, then another at 14. He’s heavily involved in the arts, not just as an author, but as an actor, model, dancer, and musician. Oh, and on top of all that, he’s also several years ahead in school, so much so that in grade 7 he started taking grade 10 classes, and now at 15, he’s in his second year of college in Washington State.

“It feels like an accomplishment, but in my opinion, it’s just the beginning,” said the young author.

Two years ago, at 13-years-old, Sample, began acting, modelling, and attending college. That’s when he also began writing his first book Bigfoot Untold. It started off as a screenplay to submit to a writing competition, but then, being as determined as he is, decided to turn it into a book.

bigfoot-untoldIn Bigfoot Untold, Sample shares his mother’s stories of growing up in an Indonesian village and the encounters she and others had with a mysterious and elusive creature. Sample says his mother had gravel thrown at her by the creature, and in her village a child was kidnapped and put into a dumpster. The child wasn’t physically harmed but was emotionally and mentally traumatized.

“The general theme is that Bigfoot plays tricks on people and does strange things. He hides in the bushes and messes with people. He represents a mysterious spiritual creature in the forest,” Sample said. “People are always trying to find Bigfoot, but they never can.”

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Author of the Month

Doreen Crick chronicles the Caribbean’s dark history through the tears and laughter of women

doreen-crick   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Doreen Crick didn’t dream about becoming an author, but at 83, she realized her three children and four grandchildren didn’t know much about the dark history of their Caribbean heritage so she began to research and to write.

“Like many people, they saw the Caribbean as a great vacation destination. They didn’t know the history of colonialism and slavery there,” said the author who is originally from Saint Kitts but now lives in Nova Scotia.

Over the next two years, she would write and publish two books with Tellwell. Seawater: Women’s Voices from the Shores of the Caribbean Leeward Islands is the history of several Caribbean islands, told through the laughter and tears of the women who were slaves.

“I wrote about how we survived around slavery. I didn’t focus too much on the devastation but rather on how we managed to cope with it, how we conquered our emotions to survive,” said Crick.

Seawater book

Seawater chronicles what happened in the 17th century when the British arrived in the Caribbean Islands of Anguilla, Nevis and Saint Kitts with slaves from Ghana to set up sugar and cotton plantations. But, in the book, Crick focuses on the women and children rather than the men.

“My school history books were about European men – whether they were scoundrels or heroes,” she said.  “I wanted to share a different history about women and children.”

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Author of the Month

Author Rika Mansingh on how to rewire your brain to become the best version of yourself in 2019

The Empowered Mind Diet Equation

With each new year, many people set intentions to change their diet and exercise habits, resolving to head back to the gym or eat healthier to look and feel better. But dietician, Rika Mansingh’s new book, The Empowered Mind Diet Equation, is a different take on nutrition – focusing on foods which feed the brain and in turn, lead to increased energy and vitality.

She says to achieve any goal, first, we need to conquer our minds, and one way to do this is by altering our diet.

“We should be mindful of what we eat and how it affects the way we feel,” she said. “This book is an uplifting and empowering read meant to change thoughts, feelings and behavior to rewire the brain and create new habits.”

Her book discusses how the brain is capable of not only repairing itself but also producing new neurons, regardless of age, through a process called neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.

Author Rika Mansingh

Mansingh has focused on the link between nutrition and the mind in her 17 years working as a registered dietician, most recently in Abbotsford, B.C. and now wants to bring her knowledge to readers outside of her private practice.

“Many clients have seen life-changing results such as losing weight, controlling blood sugars, changing disordered eating patterns and, especially, a reduction or discontinuation of medication.  Many medical conditions are preventable and with healthy dietary practices complications of lifestyle diseases can be avoided or eliminated completely,” said Mansingh.

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