We are excited to celebrate one of Tellwell’s talented authors, Marielle de Vassoigne for this Author of the Month feature. Join us as we explore the beautiful world of Choosing Love Over Pride and its unique themes of love, acceptance, and individuality.
The power of social media combined with the relentless devotion of a mother’s love has brought tremendous success to Heather Shtuka’s Missing From Me
Heather Shtuka penned her #1 bestseller, Missing From Me, after her son Ryan went missing. In this insightful interview, she opens up about her grief, her son’s legacy, the power of social media for community-building, and how her story has gone on to support other families who have missing loved ones through her organization, the Free Bird Project.
I will never understand the concept that there is a reason this has happened. There can be no reason that makes sense that my son is not here living the life of his choosing. But I believe strongly there can be a purpose.
To get started, tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Heather Shtuka. I was born in Comox, BC, where I lived with my father, mother, and older brother for the first six years of my life. My father was in the air force, and when I finished kindergarten, we made the first of many moves to Trenton, Ontario. A far cry from the ocean waters and rainy weather I was used to, but still, I loved living in small-town Ontario. Despite a brief move to Ottawa, it was in Trenton that I graduated high school. Soon after, my dad made his final move with the air force and chose Edmonton, AB, for his retirement. Feeling the need for a change and wanting to remain close to my parents, I followed soon after. Even the chilly winters here could not mask the warmth and genuineness that I felt from the people living in this province. One of them became my husband, Scott. We met, fell in love, and married in seven short months. Looking back now, I can only imagine the fear our parents felt at the rush in which we began our relationship. But I knew that in Scott I had found a kindred soul. Twenty-eight years later, I still marvel at my good fortune.
I have held many titles that describe me as daughter, sister, friend, and wife. But my favourite and perhaps most fulfilling has always been a mom. I have been blessed to have had three imperfectly perfect children, Ryan John Marcus, Jordyn Delaney, and Julianna Michelle. I was a stay-at-home mom for most of Ryan and Jordyn’s childhood. During that time, I did carpools, hot-lunch programs and countless volunteer hours at their schools. Then, three years after the birth of our third baby, I ventured back into the workforce, accepting a position with WestJet Airlines. I loved the hustle and bustle of the airport and the people I worked with. I honestly never thought I would leave. I did not anticipate the loss of my son would lead me to other less tangible yet still significant holes that would never be filled. But perhaps the adage that when one door closes, another opens is correct. I completed my degree in public relations in the years since Ryan’s disappearance and embarked on a career in communications and advocacy. I also wrote my book, Missing From Me.
Through a brave story of reflection, trauma healing, and heroism, one author blazes a trail toward better communication
November 15, 2022 / by Ben Graham
This month we celebrate Blaise Hunter, an engaging and insightful author who has turned adversity into empathy and grown as a writer and leader. More than an author, Blaise is also an international speaker, podcast host, copywriter, fertility expert, and certified human rights advocate. A breaker of chains, she tackles the realities of issues women face, from low confidence and lack of identity to social injustices. In 2020 she won the Influencer Award at the Canadian Women of Inspiration Awards.
I am continually birthing my purpose. It is my vision to see others fulfill their dreams as well. – Blaise Hunter
What inspired you to write Captain Communicator?
In all honesty, the meaning behind my work is to stay alive. I wrote this book because I refuse to wither and die emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Disease, miscarriages, trauma, pain, and heartache don’t define me. By reconnecting the communication portals, I starve a rare autoimmune condition and inject healing into my inner and outer world. My book is a deliberate provocation to trigger us forward. Communication is connection. We must connect to the nemesis and let it propel us into growth. We can all relate to experiencing trauma, miscommunication, conflict, and illnesses. My vision was to take the reader along my healing journey and inspire others to heal the dis-ease in their lives by exploring various aspects of communication. Captain Communicator demonstrates the importance of being hungry and desperate to live. Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying, “Most people die at twenty-five and don’t get buried until seventy-five.” Emotionally not dying is the key to my not dying physically. The words in this book are my battle cry. Vulnerability, humility, courage, and a relentless spirit provoke connection.
Captain Communicator is your second book. As an author, what type of growth did you experience between the first and second book?
Great question. I see exponential growth in my writing skills and confidence with this book. We all began somewhere, and I loved my raw, blind ambition with Heroine: Embrace Your Flaws & Own Your Awesome, but with experience comes wisdom. I have acquired many tools and strategies but saw the most growth with my actual execution of the book launch. Knowing what I want and advocating for the vision to be birthed indicates a blossoming. I also challenged myself to be even braver with my words and vulnerability. Heroine was a courageous step forward in discovering freedom and power. Captain Communicator highlights a woman who has come into her own and is the hero of her story. She still has giants in her life, but she co-exists with them like a true protagonist. I am proud of each stage and how they’ve shaped me into a seasoned writer.
Inspired by her child’s experiences with OCD during the pandemic, Lisa Bournelis pens Louie and the Dictator to empower those living with mental illness.
Your story is gold. Your vulnerability will help others in ways you may not have realized or imagined.
Lisa Bournelis is a mom, taekwondo black belt, healthcare change consultant, and former humanitarian aid worker. She has served all over the world, from Africa to the Balkans to Afghanistan. Inspired by her child’s experiences with OCD during the pandemic, she wanted to uplift children struggling with anxiety during this extraordinary time, by showing that they are the heroes of their own stories, and by sharing the hopeful message that adjustments to the way we think can transform our circumstances.
What inspired you to write Louie and the Dictator?
Like many parents of children with additional needs, the pandemic presented an additional layer of isolation. As access to resources and supports were cut off for the most vulnerable children, and as anxieties were heightened by the continued uncertainty, I wanted to provide a message of hope and inspiration for other anxious and neurodiverse children based on my son’s experiences.
From this time of darkness, the uplifting middle-grade novella Louie and the Dictator was born. The story is designed to take children on a journey that has them see themselves as heroes of their own story, while incorporating clinical elements within an adventurous narrative.
I also wanted to be purposeful in giving back and supporting the team that helped my son prior to, and following, the pandemic. I donate a minimum of 20% of my royalties to the paediatric OCD research team at BC Children’s Hospital.
Phil Earle’s father, Guy Earle, lived an exhilarating life. With his new memoir, I’ll Go the Length of Meself, Phil hopes to showcase his legacy as a great mariner, businessman, humanitarian, and exhibitionist, along with many other attributes.
“There will never be another Guy Earle, there couldn’t be.”
This is his story, and Phil is proud to share it.
Never let failure define who you are, but instead, learn about yourself and grow from it.– Phil Earle, author of I’ll Go the Length of Meself
Tell us about yourself.
From my mother and maternal grandparents, who were wonderful, I grew up believing their high standards for truth, compassion and integrity. From Captain Guy, my father, and my paternal grandparents, I learned to have respect for people and the world, and to have a drive to give the best of whatever life has given me.
What inspired you to write I’ll Go the Length of Meself?
In the beginning, I wanted to tell the story of the remarkable life of my father—this after he had been gone fifty years. And I finally, at the age of seventy, through maturity and wisdom, realized that no one had a life like him.
After finishing the book, it became obvious to me that Skipper Guy was a gifted, brilliant product of the people and culture of his era.
A second story was thus revealed in the book, the story of the great maritime people of the coast of Newfoundland. It became obvious to me that much of what I admired and expressed about my father and the culture of his people is strongly embedded in my character as well.
As an English major, writing has always been a part of Ryan Lawrence’s life. It was only after leaving his long-time profession that he took his education and a passion for writing and began his author journey.
Ryan currently lives in London, Ontario, with his husband Todd, their cat Dora, and a massive comic book collection that once fell on Todd (Ryan assures us that he’s okay).
We’re thrilled to welcome Ryan as our author of the month for June. Read on to learn his advice for authors when self-publishing and marketing their work . . .
Toot your own horn! Be proud of what you have created, and never feel embarrassed to promote yourself. Excitement is contagious!– Ryan Lawrence, author of Vindictive
“Good Morning, Blake: Growing Up Autistic and Being Okay” author shares his secrets to media success!
Blake “Crash” Priddle has appeared on CTV News, the CBC and City News Calgary to talk about his inspiring and vulnerable memoir.
Always be a leader, not a followerBud Priddle, Grandfather of Blake “Crash” Priddle
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am 28 years old and I currently work as a radio announcer and news reporter in Northern Manitoba for Arctic Radio. I am on the autism spectrum.
If you want to learn more about my life and my career you will have to get a copy of the book, or visit my website and go to the FAQ section!
Your story is definitely an inspiring one! What was it like opening up about the vulnerable parts of your life, and why did you feel they were important to include in your book?
It was difficult reliving some painful memories from my childhood, and as an adult. This includes issues I had with anxiety and depression. For the most part, writing has been cathartic, like journalling. Putting words down on paper releases the pain and also lets you relive the good memories too. I think sharing my vulnerability helps others realize they are not alone in their journey which might give people on the autism spectrum and their families hope.
Rishma Govani is an experienced communications professional with over 20 years of experience in the media industry. She is passionate about creating tangible change in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. She is the author of the children’s book, Sushi & Samosas: a trip of tasty transformations, and is currently working on her second children’s book, Bright Lights & Forever Flights, a journey of loss, love and hope around the world. She is the proud mother of her two kids Khalil, and Mila and their puppy, Hero.
Rishma has been featured by several media outlets, including Global News, Reading With Your Kids Podcast & Salaam Storytime! Her social media presence is booming and her work with popular creators and influencers has provided visibility for her book Sushi & Samosas: a trip of tasty transformations!
Read on to learn what advice she has for authors!
What inspired you to write Sushi & Samosas: A Trip of Tasty Transformations?
The genesis behind Sushi & Samosas is a little dinner club idea called TFLC which stands for Toronto Food Luck Club. The club’s mission was to try a different ethnic cuisine once a month. The club was active for 13 years trying over 100+ cuisines in the GTA with over 150 members.
The dinners started to slow down when our children were born but the essence of the book remained true for our children – try something new and your world expands!
Check out Toronto Food Luck Club.
How have your personal experiences influenced your book?
I was born a traveler, literally and of perspective – of word, of food, of music. I consider myself a world citizen and I am determined to raise our children as growing humanitarians who are open to every possibility that exists globally.
The book sets out on a journey of changing perceptions by the mouthful. I know first hand that knowing a bit about other cultures, about your neighbours, about different cuisines allows the ease of talking to strangers and bringing the world close together. It connects and unites us by our similarities and does away with our differences. I personally live by this ethos and my experiences have influenced the book.
What has the author’s journey been like for you? What are some successful and challenging moments?
It’s been a very long journey from start to finish. At times, it’s been exhausting especially during the recent publicity blitz I’ve been on, but I’m very proud of the book and the central message of it. It’s timeless and universal. I’ve been successful getting the word out through school readings and other media opportunities.
For me, just getting the book published was a success. Would I love to sell a million copies, too? Of course! But that wasn’t my goal going into it. I wanted to help as many people as possible.Serena Holmes, author, The Accidental Entrepreneur
2022, here we are! How are you all doing? Rested and energized for a new year, we hope. However, if you’re more so in the mind state of, What? A new year! Where do I begin? What do I focus on? know that you aren’t alone. Take a breath. You’re doing your best.
One of the best ways to get out of a funk is to take a page of advice from someone who’s been in a similar situation and managed to work their way out of it. Take Serena Holmes, for example. Serena is the author of The Accidental Entrepreneur: Turning Tragedy into Triumph to Embrace my Destiny in Entrepreneurship. Serena doesn’t just offer advice and inspiration for growing entrepreneurs based on her success and accomplishments, she gives readers a look at what it took to get there, including the hardships she faced growing up.
In a 4/5 star review from IndieReader, C. S. Holmes said, “THE ACCIDENTAL ENTREPRENEUR by Serena Holmes is an introspective, hopeful self-help tome offering detailed facts and figures regarding one woman’s journey towards creating a self-sufficient, self-actualized life.” If you’re looking for a book to inspire and motivate you, this is it! Moreover, when we asked Serena if we could feature her as Tellwell’s January Author of the Month, she agreed to not only answer our questions, but to share the lessons she learned from self-publishing, so that other authors could benefit. Find out about her self-publishing tips and how she’s used media mentions and online marketing to build a following of over 14 thousand on social media!
Serena, tell us a bit about yourself.
Where do I begin? I just celebrated my fortieth birthday. I am a proud mama to a gorgeous two-year-old girl named Sienna, and a happy wife. I became a mom pretty late in life, since I was focused on my career throughout most of my twenties and thirties.
I have had my own brand-experience agency called Tigris Events for the past eighteen years, and also obtained my real estate license this past year. Before COVID, I loved to travel but am fortunate to have a family cottage to get away to when I have some downtime.
What inspired you to write The Accidental Entrepreneur?
Running your own business can be a lot like riding a roller coaster. There are plenty of ups, downs, and learning curves, especially since you have to figure out most things for yourself. I had a lot of crazy things happen throughout my childhood that I believe helped give me the foundation to be successful as an entrepreneur. Between those experiences and those I gained during my time as a business owner, I felt compelled to write and publish a book about it to help others on the same path.
What was it like opening up about the vulnerable parts of your journey as an entrepreneur, and why did you feel they were important to include in your book?
Opening up in this way was extremely nerve-wracking. I was worried about upsetting some people, but in no way was I trying to do that. The experiences were what they were, and for those that I included in the book, I felt it was important to add context for readers and detail the kinds of lessons that were learned along the way.
Our December Author of the Month, Vali Benson, has been sweeping up the book awards this season. Her young-adult fiction book, Blood and Silver, won a gold medal in two categories at the San Francisco Book Festival, took first place at the New York Book Festival in the young adult category, and won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for best first chapter book! She has generated over 100 reader reviews, and offers up her book-promotion insights to authors on how to generate buzz for your book, reviews and awards.
Published in 2020, Vali Benson was faced with marketing her book during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving online, she began the process of gaining visibility for her book by submitting for book reviews. What came next can be accredited to Vali’s hard work, consistency, and dedication to making Blood and Silver a book on every family’s bookshelf.
Read on to hear about her award and review success, plus her advice for new authors!
Tell us a bit about yourself & your book.
I have been a writer all my life. I can also now call myself a published author. It still seems like a dream, but it’s true. However, it would take some time to develop. My parents never encouraged my creative interests, so I studied retail in college. After I graduated from the University of Illinois, my husband and I moved west. We started and operated a couple of successful businesses. When we sold them, I decided to retire early to pursue my dream of writing. I currently live in Tucson, Arizona, with my husband, two sons, and grandchildren.
Ever since I can remember, I have had a book in my hand. As a lifelong reader, I often thought, “I could do better than that.” So, I decided to finally do something about it. Blood and Silver is my first book. It is a young-adult historical fiction novel about a twelve-year-old girl in 1880’s Tombstone, AZ, who runs into all kinds of trouble trying to save her mother’s life. I like to think it has an entertaining combination of history and heart. The inspiration for Blood and Silver was formed from family outings. When our boys were little, we used to take them to Tombstone for the Wild West show. I was amazed when I learned that this little town of just over thirteen hundred residents had once been a boomtown of fifteen thousand. I couldn’t imagine it, but I knew there had to be a great story there.
What were some of the more significant lessons you learned writing and publishing a book? This could be about the process itself, or about you.
The process of publishing a book is extremely personal and I’m sure it is different for everybody. For me, I was not quite prepared to hear other people’s reactions to my work, either positive or critical. Blood and Silver had only been a story in my head. When other people had access to my words and ideas, I felt that they were no longer mine. Those feelings gradually dissipate with each positive review received or award won.
What have you been doing to market and promote your book?
Honestly, I don’t do anything earth-shattering. From day one, my project managers and consultants at Tellwell have guided me in the right direction and I have tried to follow their suggestions as close as possible. A major marketing strategy that was stressed to me was to establish a digital footprint. Simple steps include creating author profiles on selected social media platforms such as Facebook and Goodreads. An author website is not a necessity, but I would strongly recommend it. I try to regularly update my success on these forums thus consistently cultivating fresh interest for my book. The key is to generate constant buzz.
- Introducing Mark Mionda, one of Tellwell’s treasured book-marketing associates
- A treasure trove of page-turner giveaways!
- September author celebrations
- Author Bryan Cole unveils the complex world of paladins in his fantasy novels ‘Beginning of Arrogance’ & ‘Futility of Defense’
- August author celebrations