Tag Archives: black history month

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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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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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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