Tellwell children’s author Rachel Greening’s book If My Oak Tree Could Speak tied for second place for Best Picture Book (5 and under), and received an honourable mention in the poetry category for the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards!
Tellwell illustrator and cover design consultant Jamie Jamandre spends her days illustrating beautiful images for Tellwell’s children’s authors and consulting with authors about their cover design. Get to know Jamie, learn what illustration styles she’s most drawn to, and what she believes makes for a really good illustration.
I think the key to a good working relationship is communication and understanding.
Jamie Jamandre, Tellwell Publishing Illustrator
What inspired you to become an illustrator?
Like many illustrators, I’m largely inspired by cartoons, comic books, animated films and Japanese anime. Sci-fi and fantasy genres inspire me the most.
What do you love about illustrating children’s books?
I like being able to peer into the lives of the authors, and hear their stories. Stories from people of all walks of life, their families, their values, or the places they are from – I like getting a glimpse into their world through the power of their words.
What design/illustration styles are you most drawn to?
Although I appreciate all sorts of design styles, I find myself most drawn to soft watercolors and painterly styles, as well as pen and ink drawings. I like playing around with gradients and textures and experimenting when I can with my artwork.
What do you think makes for a really good book illustration?
Tellwell project manager Gezel Zorobrado has been working at Tellwell for about three years. In her role, she helps navigate authors throughout the various stages of their book project, from manuscript to distribution. She is a ray of sunshine, with big smiles and lots of laughs to share. Gezel is about to welcome her first child this fall:)
Never be afraid to share your stories with the world. You may inspire others to do the same.
What do you enjoy most about working with authors?
It is very fulfilling to play a small role in helping authors achieve their dreams and complete their goals. It brings me much joy! I like forming friendly and strong relationships with authors so they know they can rely on me to be their ally.
How would you describe your personality? What motivates you?
I am an introvert. I prefer having a quiet environment to think, reflect, and focus. I’m motivated to achieve my full potential and continue growing individually and professionally. I appreciate it when people recognize my efforts.
What is the most common misconception when it comes to the self-publishing industry?
Authors, at times, confuse the self-publishing model with the traditional publishing model. There is a common misconception that once the author submits their manuscript, we will do all the legwork to bring their book to market.
While Tellwell certainly takes many of the pain points away during this process by creating the cover, laying out the interior, editing and distribution (depending on the author’s package), it still requires the author to submit input, approve changes and be involved in the process.
The authors who are most engaged during the production process tend to carry the same enthusiasm in marketing their book, which is crucial to success.
A really great book cover is one that captures the book inside it in some fundamental and, perhaps, unforeseen way.
Von Langoyan, Tellwell book cover designer
What do you enjoy most about designing book covers?
I enjoy the creative process of capturing and evoking the essence of a story through visuals. The cover needs to both intrigue a reader and give them a sense of the book’s genre and content. I enjoy staying up to date on design trends and using them in my process so our covers look fresh and contemporary.
Our authors sometimes have a vision for how they would like their covers to look, and I work with their input to create something they would love, and that is also captivating and current.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
Social media and the Internet, in general, are great for inspiration. I follow artists and designers who I admire to see what they are working on.
What have been some of your favourite covers that you’ve created for Tellwell? Tell us why.
I’ve had the pleasure of working on several book covers for the talented fiction author Monique Gliozzi, who lives in Australia. Monique’s books Foresight, Vestige and Diversity are paranormal thriller/mysteries and we wanted the covers to evoke a sense of supernatural spookiness.
Monique had a clear idea of what type of cover she wanted and provided us with really great, detailed instructions. I used a number of design elements to create a sense of haunting and mystique, such as the illusion of depth, partially hidden titles and objects, and surrealism.
For May’s Mental Health Awareness month, we are acknowledging some of our Tellwell authors whose books include themes of anxiety, depression, insecurities, and emotional expression. These books aim to give the reader a better understanding around mental health and how to recognize and communicate various feelings.
I Don’t Want to Go To School is a book that is intended to help children and families deal with separation anxiety, especially when it’s their first time at school. For some children, every day is like the first day because they are afraid their families will not return to pick them up. I wrote this book to reassure children who are still working on a secure attachment, that school is fun and families always come back because they are loved. Most books that address these issues use animal characters, but I chose real-life illustrations that the children can relate to. Lastly, this book will help teachers present classroom transitions to little children more effectively.
A story about a young girl who has a worry bully that keeps visiting and making her tummy and her head hurt. Whether it’s when she’s trying to join a game with friends, speak in front of her class or go for a check-up, he keeps showing up. He seems to be EVERYWHERE! But with help from some people who care and a big dose of bravery, she begins to learn just how to send her worry bully away.
For May’s author of the month, we are celebrating Miami-based author, Jennifer S. Segarra!
Over the last few months, Jennifer has successfully been featured on a number of influential #bookstagram pages like @the_bookish_mind and @nerdybibliophilee, interviewed by notable outlets like KidlioMag, Children’s Literature and the Reading With Your Kids podcast, and has connected with readers all over the world through her social media!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Jennifer S. Segarra. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. My parents immigrated to this country when they were young. My father is from Cuba and my mother is from Puerto Rico but also half Filipino.
I am a married mother of two beautiful children, and have an Italian Mastiff fur baby. I am bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish. My husband is from Cuba and we have been married for 15 years.
I love to cook, travel, discover new things, and LOVE reading books!
What inspired you to write El Lechón Choncho otherwise known as Choncho the Pig?
Since I was a young girl, I always loved reading, and this may sound quite weird but I loved being given assignments where I needed to write book reports, essays and stories in my own words. However, my mother always told me the story, since I was a little girl, of her favorite family pet pig named Choncho. I always told her she needed to make this a children’s book.
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.
Our January author of the month, Kathleen Boucher, is an award winning author, certified lifestyle coach, a certified neurocoach, a certified stress and wellness consultant, and a registered nurse! Kathleen’s book 9 Ways to Empower Tweens #Lifeskills is a self help book for tweens, teens and adults alike! The book focuses on practical life skills. These life skills include how to have more confidence when presenting in class, the importance of work ethic, a simple writing technique to help deal with anger, and more. There are exercises at the end of each chapter that tweens can use to integrate what they’ve learned. Kathleen has been featured in many articles and blogs, on top of receiving high praise from industry professionals like IndieReader!
In 2014, I wondered if there was something else I could do to help people. I prayed for guidance. Two weeks later, I remember sitting bolt upright at 0300 am in the morning. The voice inside my head indicated that I should write children’s books. So I did.
2. What inspired you to write your book?
I want to help parents and teachers with techniques that helped me raise my children. I am told that adults find these strategies useful as well. Bonus!
3. How have your personal experiences influenced your book?
My son was very active and had a hard time focusing on homework when he was in elementary school. I did some research that showed that with intense focus, one could bend time and get more done. For example, have you ever crammed for an exam and have gotten a lot of studying done?
Before we started his homework I made sure my son was rested. The idea was for him to do his least favorite subject first, and get it out of the way. I put a timer at the end of the table and made it fun by seeing how much he could get done in five minutes. Once he finished what he disliked doing, the rest of the homework flowed because he was focusing on subjects he loved.
4. What were some of the more significant lessons you learned writing and publishing a book?
Write what inspires you.
The first draft is only the beginning. Don’t be afraid of rewrites. In fact, expect to do more than one rewrite.
Writing an outline really helped organize my thoughts. Figure out what works for you.
Take the time to create a rapport with an illustrator so that he or she understands your vision. Then allow them the creative freedom to be fabulous.
Accept constructive criticism with grace. Step back and look at your work from a different perspective. The new angle may make your work better.