Tag Archives: children’s books

Author of the Month

Children’s author and illustrator Fred Smith on creating cool animated videos of his book highlighting the unique father and son bond

Calgary-based children’s author, Fred Smith, is originally from Santa Maria, California, where he served in the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of sergeant. As his military career was winding down, he met his wife and moved to Canada to start a family. He retrained as a graphic designer and photographer. His adventures in fatherhood inspired him to write and illustrate his first children’s book, My Daddy’s Legs. Fred Smith is using his artistic talents to create animated videos of his book on his YouTube Channel, Uncle Freddie’s Courtyard.

1. What inspired you to write My Daddy’s Legs?

I was inspired by playing games with my son and it reminded me how I used to play with my grandpa and uncles.

2. Did you have a number of ideas for a children’s book? How did you decide on this one? 

I had one book idea before this; however, it was too ambitious for my skill level because it would have required its own app to be produced.

3. What are you most proud of in your book?

I am most proud of the rhymes and the fact that I illustrated the book myself.

4. How did you learn to illustrate and animate videos?

I got a diploma in graphic design in 2015, so I mastered Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and Premiere Pro. All of those tools talk to each other and allow me the opportunity to do something different.

5. It’s nice to see more books highlighting the unique relationship between father and son, especially with Father’s Day this month. What was your son’s reaction to the book? Does he love reading the story at bedtime?  

My son was excited to see the book but I don’t think he understands that every kid isn’t featured in a book. He knows that he is the lead character of the story and points out what he’s doing on every page.

6. What do you enjoy most about being a dad?

What I enjoy most about being a dad is seeing the world through the kids’ eyes when they experience something new.

7. What have you been doing to market and promote your book?

To market the book, I created a website as well as a YouTube channel called Uncle Freddie’s Courtyard, and I actively post new and original content on Instagram and my Facebook author page.

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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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Meet the Team

Meet Tellwell Designer Bonnie Mitchell

am_velocefondo20170709_01If your role at Tellwell were to be summarized into a book title, what would it be?

Word InDesigns Out: Translating Word files to InDesign files.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

When I’ve created a cover and book block that represent the book perfectly and the author is ecstatic with the results.

What do you think is the most important aspect of an author’s cover design?

Balancing text and imagery to capture the story or the essence of the book. This creates a powerful emotional reaction inviting the reader to take a closer look.

What is your favourite type of book to design and why?

Fiction. Yes, it is as broad a genre as it is open to the imagination. With a good book synopsis the cover has so many design possibilities. There are certain design principles that make the interior of the book readable, however, there is no limit to how the title pages, headers, footers, chapter starts and sections can be styled. I find it the best genre for pushing the limits of design and doing something unique.

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Meet the Team

Book Marketing Consultant Kendal Gerard’s take on joining Tellwell’s team

Kendal and her daughter Frankie.In January 2017, my family made the decision to move from Toronto to Victoria, BC (if you’ve ever spent a January in either location you’ll understand why.) I was right at the end of my maternity leave — my baby daughter had just turned one — and, in and amongst the chaos of selling our house, buying a new one, packing our boxes and changing our contact information everywhere, I was looking for flexible work in book publishing, specifically in children’s book publishing, which is where I have worked since graduating from Queen’s University in 2007 and the book publishing program at Centennial College in 2008.

By May, when we redeemed our one-way tickets to Victoria, I had been off work for nearly two years. (Though, believe me, I had read a lot of books in that time.) I had used the final few months of my pregnancy to complete a Masters in Education at the University of Toronto, which I had been chipping away at for a number of years while working full-time as the Marketing Manager at Owlkids Books (publisher of Chirp, chickaDEE and OWL magazines,) and my daughter was now nearly one and a half. In those two years, while I was home reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear for the umpteenth time, Tellwell had sprung into existence and I imagine I found this talented group of people much in the same way that you did — kudos to the individual who handles our SEO.

I didn’t have to spend very long on Tellwell’s website to realize that this was the place I wanted to work once we got settled in our new province. Even though no jobs were being advertised, I got the impression that Tellwell was the kind of company that would always find a way to make room for hard-working, enthusiastic, experienced people. Their commitment to helping authors create the best books possible means building a big team — so that every book will be matched with the ideal project manager, editor, designer and publicist. My first impression was not wrong and I was able to join Tellwell’s marketing team part-time in September, where I work on children’s books exclusively.

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Guest Post

Romance Writing 101 – Tips from Tellwell Author Victoria Grant

February.  Valentine’s Day.  Romance.  What images do these words conjure up for you?  If you’re like most of us, you’ll probably imagine a scene with two frosty champagne glasses sitting on a table in front of a roaring fire. Maybe a small silver tray of chocolate covered strawberries beside them. And a couple kissing on the bear skin rug in front of that blazing fire while the snow softly falls outside the panoramic window. (“Oh, Pamela, my darling, what did I ever do without you?”)  Ah, can’t you just feel the love?

image-for-back-coverBrutal snowstorm. Freezing cold. Romance author. What images do these phrases conjure up for you? Yeah, if you’re being honest, you haven’t bothered to give the lowly romance author a second thought, have you? Right now, as you read this, some of them are shivering to death wrapped tightly in a ratty old crocheted afghan, drinking a steaming mug of (insert favourite beverage here), huddled over a laptop, cursing the characters they’ve created because they just won’t cooperate. (Stop talking, get in that cab right now and follow her, you idiot!) Well, that’s me, anyway.

My vision of a romance novel, long before I took the plunge into writing one, was pretty much the scenario with the champagne, chocolates and lovers. And as I adore champagne and chocolates, I thought writing one would be such fun!  And what could be easier? All I had to do was create main characters who are forced to be together and hate each other on sight (or another well-loved trope that romance readers never seem to tire of), and then put them into unusual or unexpected situations where they have no choice but to work together. (“I will be yours for eternity, Humphrey, just as soon as we scale this jagged cliff and free dearest Aunt Letitia from the impenetrable fortress.”). They realize during their thrilling adventures that they’ve fallen totally in love with each other, the end. Simple, right?

Not quite. Just for a minute, think about all the major elements the romance author must include. The heroine must be flawed and vulnerable yet plucky and gorgeous and worthy of her hero, who is tenacious and virile, but ready to change his ways to have this amazing woman in his arms (“I shall give up my life as a frozen pea inspector to be with you, Edwina.”).  The story should be either adventurous or exotic or bodice-ripping or crazy fun, and include a considerable quantity of red hot, searing kisses that instantly liquify the main characters. (“Oh, Bernard, I’m all aflutter!”) And as the story unfolds, it has to sparkle with sensitivity, sizzle with steamy love scenes, and be witty and playful in all the right spots. And let’s not forget the must-have happily ever after ending (“As we all knew this would happen back on page three, we’re gathered here today to celebrate the union of Beauregard and Tamsin…”), or at the very least, a happy-for-now ending (“I love you, Gretchen, so I’ll overlook the fact that you just asked me to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.”).

As I wrote my first romance novel, I realized there was a whole heck of a lot more to it than just dropping the two main characters into a situation and hoping they’ll do all the work. (“Um, how do we get out of this hot air balloon, Mortimer?”) I discovered that while I have to include some level of action and/or adventure in my novels, to make them work my main focus must be on the feelings and thoughts of the main characters. This makes it easy for the readers to dive into the book and become that character. Even if the reader has been happily married for a decade or three, I want them to experience the excitement of that first look (“Dexter, who is that stunning, misty-eyed, raven-haired temptress with the heaving bosom staring at me from across this crowded room?”), the goose bumps from their first meeting, and all the blistering and passionate sensations from their first kiss. (“I’ll never wash these lips again.”)

And those five senses we take for granted are paramount when writing a romance novel. The touches, tastes, sounds, sights and scents (“What was that rumble?” Desmond asked, frowning. Yvette turned a sickly shade of chartreuse. “Forgive me, I had beans for lunch.”) – yes, all of them, granted some more than others, play a huge role in falling in love. Without them, a romance novel is just a travel brochure or a ladies shoe catalogue. The first love scene I ever wrote read like a WWE wrestling match. So not good! Why? Because I was focused more on body parts than on the main character’s feelings and sensations. (“That is your arm, isn’t it, Prudence?” “I thought it was your foot, Monty.”)  Yikes!

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Author of the Month Guest Post

“The passion for wanting to make a difference is stronger than my desire to stay comfortable” – Kimberley Parkinson shares her publishing journey

Like many Tellwell authors, Kimberley Parkinson took a huge step outside of her comfort zone when she decided to publish her first book. When her children’s book What Can You Do? was publishedParkinson realized it was time to get the word out about her book, and that she was going to be the driving force behind that. While marketing seemed daunting initially, her efforts were greeted with success and gratification. Now, she shares some of her early marketing experiences to encourage other authors to push themselves when they take the leap, and publish their writing.

whatcanyoudo

Kimberley Parkinson’s take on book marketing:

A smile appears upon your face. There it is, nestled proudly within your hands, the first copy of your published book. You take a moment to reflect on all the hours spent from the initial thought to the finished product. You have worked so hard and deserve to relish in satisfaction.

Then the next part of your journey beckons…marketing! A mix of excitement and nervousness takes over. What is the best route to take first? Who should I contact, what should I do, where should I go? This is when you take the time to address your strengths and weaknesses. I know with myself, I would rather sit back quietly and let the book sell itself as I am quite shy with this sort of thing. I am not a fan of social media outlets and the thought of trying to sell my book in person to stores or reading my book in front of others at events made me want to throw up! My comfort zone was very comfy, and it didn’t like to feel threatened. However, I knew that for my own growth I had to push myself beyond those comfortable limitations.

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I appreciated the knowledgeable advice and strategic outline that was given to me through Tellwell and needed to implement some of their suggestions. I had to at least try because I have always believed that there is no failure if I try. I wasn’t ready to do the social media thing yet, so I decided to go the good old-fashioned way. I travelled to locations that were within a reasonable distance and made sure to have copies of my book with me, along with props such as bookmarks, posters, etc. It was also important to have all my contact and book details ready as you don’t want to be fumbling around when asked.

Do your homework. Find out who the manager is, contact them directly, and most importantly, mind your manners. Be polite, be gracious for any opportunities that present themselves and be respectful to the ones that don’t. Unknown self-published authors tend to make some store owners apprehensive to take a chance on you and that is okay. Thank them for their time and walk out with your head held high. There will inevitably be some doors that close but if you believe in your book and most importantly yourself, you will start to see doors open. Patience and persistence is key.

Get your feet wet with smaller events at first if needed. I started with an intimate book signing/reading at my local library. It was a comfortable setting that helped me get over my nervousness. Have friends and family there for support. I felt much more at ease with their smiling faces around me.  Advertise your book in local papers, make calls, get your name out there. After you have experienced one event, the next ones won’t seem so daunting. This is all still very new to me too, and I am learning as I go.

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Author of the Month

Giving Back: Father Son Duo Pen Book for Burn Fund

All it took was an act of kindness for the idea of “Santa and his Super Hero” to come to life.

COQUITLAM,BC:NOVEMBER 29, 2016 -- Nathan McTaggart poses for a photo with the book and members of the Austin Heights Fire Station in Coquitlam, BC, November, 29, 2016. Nathan wrote about Santa getting stuck in the chimney and firefighters had to rescue him. (Richard Lam/PNG) (For Tracy Sherlock) 00046527A [PNG Merlin Archive]

A few years ago, three-year-old Nathan McTaggart was making a donation to a local food bank when a firetruck pulled into the area. The fire truck captivated Nathan and later on he asked his dad, Keven McTaggart, what would happen if Santa got stuck in a chimney and couldn’t get out. The fire truck and pertinent question formed the beginnings of what would become the book “Santa and his Super Hero”; a story about Santa getting stuck in a chimney while a firefighter named Nathan comes to his rescue.

The initial stages of the book were a challenge for Keven and Nathan, particularly the illustrations.

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“After a couple years of looking for someone to illustrate it, Nathan’s grade 4 teacher had her class do some illustrations as a preparation for a project that they were going to do.  She showed me the images and I was totally amazed,” says Keven.  The illustrations from the book were hand-drawn by the students in Mrs. Shinkewski’s Grade 4 class at Harbour View Elementary School.

But as the two started to put a draft of their book together they realized they wanted to give back to the community by donating some of the proceeds to a charity.

“The biggest take away from the book is that the net proceeds from the sale of Santa and his Super Hero will be donated to the Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund,” says Keven.

As part of promoting the book, Nathan and Keven have visited fire halls all over the world, “We’ve done about 40 fire hall visits in and around the Lower Mainland of BC, three in Washington State, one in Mexico, four in Manhattan, and more recently, we returned from a 16 day, 18 fire hall tour of Southern Ontario and Montreal,” says Keven.

posterOn October 13, Nathan and Keven will be launching Santa and his Super Hero at the Coquitlam Express hockey game. Nathan and Santa will be dropping the puck at the opening face-off at 7 p.m. and they will both be available for book signings afterwards. Members of the B.C. Burn Fund, the Coquitlam Fire Department and some Coquitlam City Counsellors will be in attendance.

 

 

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Tips & Tricks

September is the perfect month to hit the shelves as students hit the books

With summer drawing to a close and students heading back to school, we think it’s time to share some information for authors who wish to see their titles on the shelves of public libraries.

Demand for titles has been increasing and waitlists for books have been lengthening at libraries across North America, the most popular categories being children’s picture books, general fiction, mystery/thrillers, cookbooks, and memoirs/biographies. This is great news for both readers and writers as library budgets are growing to facilitate this.

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Here in Victoria, BC, the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) encourages the community to make recommendations for additions to its collections as libraries aim to provide desired and relevant content for its patrons. Recommendations can be made on the GVPL website at https://www.gvpl.ca/suggest-a-title/. Librarians make selections based largely on the credibility or relevance of a book. Once a book is in a library’s collection and reports on checkout rates are viewed, other libraries will often order the same books. As well, library users can request books be circulated from one branch to another.

Alternatively, the GVPL accepts donations which “enhance its collections.” Book donations must be suitable in subject and style for its intended audience, relevant to community needs and interests, and representative of notable trends, genres, and cultures. Many libraries are currently seeking additions to their e-book collections which are increasingly made available online. Find out more here.

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Author of the Month

An educator, an illustrator and a puppeteer walk into a bar…

lindaanddariapreview

…While that could be the beginning of a corny joke, it’s also, save for the bar, the beginning of Linda Briden’s story as an author.

Long before holding her new book, Know Me, in her hands, before retiring, before hosting her first workshop for children, Linda spent her days as a child and youth worker and a special education teacher.

“I’ve always worked with kids that didn’t quite fit the system,” she says. “The system wasn’t designed for these kids. These kids that had some challenges, that had different stories and, perhaps, had strengths and gifts that weren’t quite mainstream.”

After retiring and finally having some time on her hands, Linda felt compelled to find a way to keep helping the kinds of kids she’d spent years working with. This led to two very important things happening — a meeting about pictures and a meeting about puppets.

“It was kind of a perfect storm,” she says of Know Me’s early days. “I connected with this young woman who did the illustrating (Daria Pekh), and she was really keen to do something a little different from what she had been doing. I then developed a business partnership with a woman who’s a puppeteer, and we’ve created a workshop that incorporates the book and a performance piece which uses the text from the book.”

Linda and her Puppeteria workshop partner, Shelley King, wanted to create something to address the bigger ideas of inclusiveness, tolerance, and acknowledging individual stories. The idea of the Know Me workshops and book were born together as chicken and egg, creating completely cohesive and complementary companion pieces to one another.

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Guest Post

Why I chose to self-publish by Leena Korhonen

leena-korhonenHello, my name is Leena Korhonen and I’m the author of the children’s book called Mister Frog Collection, Vol.1 Sunny. It’s available in French and English on Amazon and other online retailers, as well as in some local bookstores. It will soon be also stocked in my city’s three libraries.

My adventure as a self-published author started in December of 2015. I had been telling goodnight stories about Mister Frog to my six children for years, until one evening, my six-year-old daughter suggested that I write them down. So I did.

After few weeks, I noticed that instead of a book they had become a series! My sister, who is an artist, offered to illustrate my stories. First I thought I’d contact big publishers with my book, but after some research I discovered they’d have all the rights to it. I heard horror stories, where the author did not have any control over their own artwork or the editor distorted the original text to something unrecognizable. In some cases, the author didn’t know that his or her book was a best-seller in another country and did not get paid.

So I decided to do it on my own.

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