If you could make a major change in the world what would it be?
I would make it so that everyone, regardless of age, had access to free healthcare and a quality education that included a cultural awareness component. Children would have to learn early on, to respect and understand each other's cultures and/or differences.
What is your secret to handling Adversity?
One of the things I do to handle adversity is to try my best to persevere through whatever comes my way. I struggle at times in this area, because life can be so unpredictable / challenging, however, once I have time to think things through, I can usually work through most things with a healthy dose of optimism and faith. If need be, I will also reach out to others who can support and guide me
Do you believe to be a good writer, it is necessary to be an avid reader?
I think in order to be a good writer; you must first become inspired by literature in some way, shape or form. This would require reading! Now an avid reader? Not necessarily, but the biggest advantage to being one is knowing the various ways to structure a piece of literature and adapt it to a specific audience
What are your favourite children books from your childhood?
I have many favourite books from my childhood. My sisters and I would act out 'MacBeth' by Williamshakespeare, or I would curl up and chuckle my way through Gordon Korman's 'I Want to Go Home'. When the book 'Are You There God? It's Me Margaret' by Judy Blume hit the scene, it was quite the topic of discussion amongst my friends for a long time. I of course enjoyed the classics like 'Cinderella', 'Charotte's Web' and happily got lost in the adventures of 'Pippi Long Stocking' (in french too 'Fifi Brindacier'). I thoroughly enjoyed 'The Witches' by Roald Dahl as well.
How important is it to you to see Black characters in books?
It means everything to me as a black person who has struggled with her identity in the past. It is an opportunity to feel visible; included in the human experience. This type of connection is extremely important particularly for young children.
What is your goal with the "Loving Me Series"?
The goal of the Loving Me Series is to expand globally while teaching children the powerful message to love who they are because they are all born unique on purpose!
Will we be seeing any other products added to the "Loving Me Series"?
Most certainly, there will be other products to compliment the Loving Me Series. There are currently 2 eBooks already available online for just $2.99 each. As well, there's the very popular Loving Me Song (feat. Jay Martin, Owen O' Sound Lee, Black Blush and Raven Groves) that is now available for just $0.99 cents on iTunes and other sources. We cannot wait for the fans of the series to see what else The Loving Me Team has been hard at work creating!
Do you plan to write children's books exclusively?
Not at all. At this time, children are my main focus, however, I do enjoy writing articles or exploring other topics for different age groups. I would definitely welcome the challenge of writing creatively for them as well sometime in the future.
Okay, I admit I am a fan of your work. Have you received any harsh or negative criticism of your books?
I have been fortunate enough to receive the criticism I did from one source so far, and it was quite helpful. The fact that this parent took time out of her day to write to me, let me know that this weighed heavily on her heart. Once my team and I read the letter, we really took it seriously because we felt like if one child responded in the way the parent had described, then there could be more who would too. So we worked immediately to correct the issue she had mentioned and have been better for it ever since. I wanted to point out that as a self published author, all financial responsibilities fell on my shoulders, however, the correction was worth every penny and I recently wrote her and thanked her for letting me know early on! I am all for constructive criticism because it challenges us to improve and grow.
Writing, self-publishing, distributing and marketing your books is quite a handful. Can you share some of the challenges and rewards of taking your destiny into your own hands?
A wise person once told me that writing the book was the easy part. I didn't believe them so I had to learn the hard way. Once the book was completed, I really didn't know what to do with it. I loved the finished product, I believed in it, but marketing was way out of my comfort zone. I had to begin the painstaking process of getting my book out to the public and it was not easy, and still isn't. I worked with a team of people I put together over the years and leaned on the advice of others who have gone before me. I also thought outside the box and tried as many things as I could. There was no path set out before me, so I kept hacking away. I wish I could say it was easy, but it wasn't. It was sheer determination, a few tongue lashings from my team of people who cared deeply about this project that kept me moving forward in the right direction. Most importantly, I love these books and when I hear the amount of children who are loving themselves as a result of them, I feel really blessed and humbled. Loving the journey that leads to success is just as important as loving the success. I have been fortunate to have met so many amazing people. I really feel that no amount of success is achieved on one's own, everyone has angels along the way who somehow made the journey easier or more efficient. I have to thank my amazing team as well as all those who supported my books in any way shape or form. I am proud to give you the exclusive, first, official announcement that my Loving Me Series has been picked up by a publisher! This journey has taught me that with courage and sheer hard work, nothing is impossible.
What makes you smile?
It always makes me smile seeing children connect with the message in the books. I also enjoy wit, humour, recounting stories using vivid detail and people watching! Not to mention stealing some time to myself to read something great, or getting lost in my imagination and writing until I hear my name being hollered!
What is the single most important factor that prepared you to become a writer?
The single most important factor that prepared me to become a writer was someone's belief in my ability to connect with others through my writing. I knew I wanted to work with kids, but I didn't know I would publish anything until Sean Liburd, owner of Knowledge Bookstore, asked me after one of his book club sessions when I would put out my own book. To know he believed I could do it helped me to believe it too and I found the courage to get it done. I leaned on those who allowed me to and I am grateful for all the help I received!
Would you define yourself as an avid reader?
I would absolutely define myself as an avid reader. I was the book worm in my family. There is nothing like embarking on a suspenseful journey using only the words from a story. Books are the best escape! Now if only I could find more time these days.
Are these books you would expose your children to or do you have new favorites as an adult?
Well, I have to say, for my own children, my first priority would be to get them excited about reading amazing books that have characters who look just like them who are having fun, exploring, using their imagination, building their self confidence, problem solving, etc. Some new favourites I would read are the Loving Me Series (I am slightly biased!), Christopher Clean Up Your Room by Itah Sadu, Marcus Teaches Us by Eleanor Wint and Stop Kissing Me Mommy! by Nadine Chevolleau. I would certainly slip in some classics that I enjoyed here and there when they are a bit older and perhaps during trips to the libraries when it is time to explore a wider variety of fun books.
We live in a multicultural society do you feel it is necessary to reflect that in your books?
One has to stay true to the story first and foremost. For instance, if there is a story placed in a village in Cameroon, it may present as a bit odd that the villagers are multicultural and could come off as disingenuous. However, multicultural characters are important to include, whenever there is an opportunity to because when children go out in the world, they will see, go to school with, work with all kinds of different individuals. It is good for kids to see an accurate reflection of this in their literature so they can adopt a positive attitude early on.
We live in a time where branding is everything. How would you describe your brand?
I would describe my brand as unique, inspiring and edu-taining. Nothing beats seeing children connect with the message in the books of celebrating and loving who they are while simultaneously getting to learn great information that is vital to building their self worth!
Was it important not to give your characters names?
Yes, it was a conscious decision not to give names to the characters in the books, so every child who read the story, could more easily see themselves throughout the pages of the books, rather than a character other than themselves. I love that most kids think the story is really about them, because it is!
Speaking of characters can you share a few of your favorite characters from black literature you have read?
I am all too happy to share some of my fave characters from black literature. Let's see, I have to mention Gideon in 'Sleeping With Strangers' (Gideon series) by Eric Jerome Dickey. It was the best suspense/thriller I have ever read and I love the main character was black! There was Belle in 'Belle and the Beau' by Beverly Jenkins, Sable Fontaine in 'Through the Storm' by Beverly Jenkins and Nathan McCall in 'Makes Me Wanna Holler'.
What is the best compliment you have received to date about your books?
The best compliment I hear is from those who say they wish these books had been around when they were growing up. It affirms the commitment I made to fill a niche market for kids who I felt were being overlooked. I love that other ethnicities can read these books by an African Canadian children's author while taking in the universal message to love exactly who you are.
What role does being Canadian born of African parentage play in your creative process?
Having been raised by an African mother gave way to some very fun and interesting times. Talk about culture clash! If I wanted to sleep out in May, I would have to start breaking her down in January! Some family members did some geneology work and discovered that my sisters and I come from a family of scholars; our grandfather was gifted in languages and translation and was often chosen/hired to translate for foreign heads of state. My mom sacrificed so much and struggled so much to keep all of us with her and I am so thankful to have her in my corner. I have had many creative ideas in my time but to know how much she supports what I am doing with these books means the world to me. I want to give back as much as I can and continue to make her proud. I had a lot of exposure to African culture through the Embassy parties our family would attend growing up and my mom's friends were from 'back home' too. There was a lot of music, food and dance...ooh ooh! I loved to dance to African music. Prince Eyango was my fave. I had his dancer's moves down pact. I didn't play video games, I played outdoors and had fun with creative games my sisters and I would make up, since we didn't have that kind of disposable income to purchase the latest toys and gadgets. My creative energy was always allowed to be expressed. I would read, dance for hours or write. My mom would never complain.....ok sometimes when I hogged the TV to play the DVD's with African dancing from back home, but other than that, it was awesome! I feel it is my creative express