Tag Archives: tellwell author of the month

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

Psychologist, professor and author Ronna Jevne on how to cultivate and find hope during the Covid crisis

TELLWELL APRIL AUTHOR OF THE MONTH RONNA JEVNE

Hope is a fascinating phenomenon. A day with it guarantees nothing; a day without it is very difficult. It can’t be injected. It can’t be x-rayed and yet we know when our hope is down.

Ronna Jevne has been a psychologist, researcher, university professor and leading authority on hope. She is a founding member of the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology and the Hope Foundation of Alberta, a research centre associate with the University of Alberta whose mission is to explore and apply the phenomena of hope. She is the author of several books, including the recently published Finding Hope: Ways of seeing life in a brighter light. Jevne, and her co-author, James Miller, invite new understandings about hope, how to foster hope in our own lives and offer strategies for finding and practicing hope.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I laugh a lot, love deeply, and have a thirst for adventure. I believe life is not a problem; it is an experience to be lived. My pen and my camera are constant companions. I am passionate about photography, and I manage to stay fit while wishing it didn’t require exercise.

I loved every day of my life as a psychologist and professor.  I have had the privilege of working in education, health care, corrections, and academia. Over the years, I have seen extraordinary courage in the midst of life’s most serious challenges. 

I stepped back from the mainstream of professional life to be with my husband in the last chapter of his life.

I live now on eight acres of heaven, share my life with my husband, Hal Martin. Hal and I are lifelong friends who had amazing partners. In a brief window, we both lost our spouses. We now share our lives.

Life has given me new opportunities on all fronts. In this new chapter of my professional life, writing is central. My role in the Prairie Wind Writing Center, a partnership with my present husband Hal, is to take the lead in designing workshops/retreats, writing books, and promoting therapeutic writing with clients and professionals.

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2. Can you summarize what your book is about in a few sentences?

Finding Hope: Ways of Seeing Life in a Brighter Light (2nd edition)

Finding Hope: Ways to see life in a brighter light is a shortcut to hope. After an introduction to the value and qualities of hope authors Jevne & Miller offer time tested strategies to enhancing your hope. Each strategy is a one-page explanation and illustration of a “how to”. Written in a personal style and accented with quotations and photographs, Finding Hope is not only about hope, it is an experience of hope. 

3. You are a leading authority on hope through your work as a researcher, university professor and psychologist. What is it about hope that fascinates you?

Hope is a fascinating phenomenon. A day with it guarantees nothing; a day without it is very difficult. It can’t be injected. It can’t be x-rayed and yet we know when our hope is down. It is different than faith, coping, or resilience. People who have hope approach challenges differently than those who feel less hope. They achieve more, handle uncertainty with more confidence and have better health and well-being, Yet, hope was until the last couple of decades was virtually ignored by the scientific community.

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Author of the Month Uncategorized

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

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.

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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

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

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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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