My friend Stefania Moffatt recently announced the launch of her second children’s book, Headstrong, which is based on the true story of a girl born with a cyst on her brain and needed surgery when she was only nine days old.
I wanted to ask Stefania a few questions about her projects and her writing process and she kindly obliged.
Can you give us a bit of background in regards to your first book?
I self-published Everyday Superhero in 2012. Everyday Superhero is a children’s book featuring an eight-year-old girl, Kat, who has cerebral palsy (CP). The book highlights all the cool things Kat can do. Everyday Superhero is aimed for kids of ALL abilities. The inspiration for the book was my niece, Katrina, who has cerebral palsy. I was inspired by Katrina’s strong spirit and strength during major surgery and ongoing physiotherapy.
My goal with Everyday Superhero is to get kids and parents talking about cerebral palsy and to teach kids about sensitivity towards others and how to overcome adversity.
There are probably a lot of Fishbowl readers who want to hear about the writing process from your perspective, especially since you’re a busy mother of two! How did you find the time to write, edit, and do everything that needed to be done in order to get a book published?
I was committed to writing and publishing Everyday Superhero. I looked into a couple of publishing options, but I wasn’t comfortable with “shopping the book around” until a publisher picked it up. Since I have a background in media and public relations and I worked as a writer and editor I took on the task of not only writing the book, but publishing it as well.
In 2011 my youngest started school so I had time in the mornings to dedicate to writing. As any writer knows, I would spend hours working on text for one page only to delete it and start over the next day. Over the course of a few months I had written the book and was pleased with the story. I then asked for recommendations for illustrators. There are lots of talented artists out there. I chose an artist because her style was bright and beautiful. Turns out the illustrator, Jessica Fleury, lived minutes from me! Once the illustrations were complete the book was laid out by a local designer (Michael Beddall) and then it was off to the printer, which was recommended by a friend. I’ve simplified the process to fit a paragraph, however, there was lots of going back and forth with every professional involved. Once I had hard copies of Everyday Superhero I started a public relations campaign, which continues today. I reached out to bloggers, schools, organizations, media, libraries and relied on word of mouth. I’m indebted to everyone who helped me get the word out regarding this book, which was a true labour of love.
What would you say has been the toughest part of this process for you?
I love writing and the promotional aspect of self publishing. I would have to say that the toughest part of the process is keeping costs down. Because I’m a “one-man show” I’m paying for the illustrator, designer and printer out of pocket so I have to be careful with my spending. While sales of the book puts money back into my pocket it’s a process that relies on my hard work promoting the book and takes time.
So what inspired you to take on your new book?
The inspiration for the new book, Headstrong, is a friend’s daughter. I was actually talking to my friend in my kitchen when a lightbulb went off. Her daughter, Elissa, is such an inspiration having had brain surgery when she was only nine days old due to a cyst on her brain, which turned out to be hydrocephalus. (Hydrocephalus is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain.) [You can read a blog post from the mother's perspective.] The book teaches kids that you’re never too young to overcome challenges.
I took a different approach with Headstrong. I still used Jessica as the illustrator and Michael as the designer, however, I decided to make the book available as a PDF download for $10 on my site. Eventually I’ll make a hard copy of the book available, but that won’t be for a while. I think this approach is “safer”.
I know you’ve done a lot of writing – all kinds of writing – but did you ever think you’d be doing THIS kind of writing? It kind of sounds like a dream come true!
The simple answer is no. As a writer I wanted to see my name in print on some kind of story, but I never thought it would be a children’s book — let alone two! However, I’m happy and excited with the way things have turned out. I love that my books are real. They’re about real people and real events and that kids can be encouraged and learn from them.
Do you have some good advice for those who are interested in self-publishing?
My advice is to just start writing. If it’s a topic that you feel strongly about then make it happen. Also, ask around if you need to help to illustrate or design your book. There are so many talented people out there. There are a few options to self publish so I suggest that people do their homework. How I went about self publishing may not work for some people, especially if they’re shy about self promotion. In that case there are companies that will help you with promotion and/or support your project in other areas.
So what’s next?
I want to continue promoting both books while writing a third book. The book is a chapter book about a family of raccoons living in an abandoned mansion. Purely fictional. Of course, if an opportunity comes up where I get asked or am inspired to write a children’s book (or any kind of material) that is inspired by someone I will consider it.
I recently was certified to teach yoga so I want to focus on that while integrating my nutrition studies. Of course, I want to keep on writing and editing, which I love. I’m juggling a lot of balls, which keeps me happy and busy.
I think it’s important to get out and experience life because I typically write about what I know. Travel is very important to me, but so is everyday human experience. I love talking to people and watching interactions between others (people watching). I volunteer in my daughters’ school and a couple of their activities. I think it’s important to give back to the community while growing as a person.
Thank you Stefania! Stefania will be appearing with Elissa Mendes, the inspiration for Headstrong, on CTV Morning Live tomorrow (Wednesday February 26) at 8:10 a.m. If you’re interested in more information about Stefania, or buying copies of her book, I recommend you check out her website at stefaniamoffatt.com.
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