Tag Archives: childrensbook

International Author Promotes Sickle Cell Disease through her Children Books

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Jenica Leah is an award winning children’s author and publisher and referred to as one of the UK’s leading ambassadors for sickle cell.  Living with sickle cell anaemia herself, she has battled with the many complications that come with the disorder including having a stroke at 14 and a hip replacement at 25; but she has never let this stop her from being who she is. From being a full-time model to organising and managing catwalks with an international events specialist, Jenica Leah refuses to let her condition hold her back.  After undergoing total hip replacement surgery in 2014, which changed her whole outlook on life and her perception of her illness, Jenica Leah vowed to help others living with the sickle cell condition by being more open about her health and her journey, and by doing more to create awareness and get people talking about it. With her confidence and determination, she doesn’t see life as challenging; instead she sees the world as her oyster with endless possibilities.

 

TRGB Media: Tell us about yourself a little more

Jenica Leah: My name is Jenica Leah and I am a 29-year-old from the UK living with sickle cell SS. Referred to as one of the UK’s leading ambassadors for sickle cell, I share my journey via my blogs Me Myself & sickle cell on my blogsite and on YouTube.. I am also a publisher and the award-winning author of the first children’s book series about sickle cell entitled My Friend Jen which was released in 2016.

TRGB: When did you first learned that you were diagnosed with Sickle Cell?

Jenica Leah: I was diagnosed from birth. My parents both knew they had the trait and knew there was a chance I would have sickle cell. They got the positive results 6 weeks after I was tested at birth.

TRGB: How is your whole experience living with the disease? What symptoms do you suffer the most from?

Jenica Leah: My experience living with sickle cell now is manageable, however it has taken me years of complications and learning to understand my body to get to this point. I would say the symptoms I have suffered from the most aside from bad pain crisis is all the unknown complications that can come with sickle cell as I feel like I have had almost all of them. I always used to have pneumonia as baby and toddler and spent a lot of time in hospital; my first crisis I was around 9 months old. I had a stroke at 14, acute chest syndrome at 16 which very nearly took my life, gall stones throughout my teenage years which lead to me eventually having my gall bladder removed at 24. I was diagnosed with Avascular necrosis in both hips and I had a total hip replacement in my left hip when I was 25 as a result. I have also had multiple blood clots, and liver cholestasis. All complications caused as a result of my sickle cell and the way it has affected my body.

TRGB: Was becoming an author something, you always wanted to do? What was the journey like?

Jenica Leah: I have always loved writing as it is my outlet for certain things. I always find writing about good days allow me to remember how I was feeling and enjoy the moment longer, and writing about bad days or tough times allows me to get it out of my system so I can let it go and not harbor negative emotions. Becoming an author was not something I had planned to do at all but the moment I decided to turn what I had written into a book I was motivated to get it done; nothing and no one was going to stop me. The journey was fun although I encountered a lot of bumps in the road which I had to find a way over in terms of getting my book published.

TRGB: What was the inspiration behind your book “My Friend Jen?”

Jenica Leah: The inspiration behind my book was to be able to give something to children who are growing up living with sickle cell today that would provide them with peace of mind about their condition and also let them know that having sickle cell should not stop them from achieving their dreams — no matter what they are.  Growing up I despised the fact that I had sickle cell and always used to ignore it or try and hide it; mainly because I didn’t understand what it was so it was difficult to explain that to others. With the first My Friend Jen Book it’s a simple way to explain what sickle cell is and the basics of how someone living with it can stay well.

TRGB: I see on your IG page that you have a lot of supporters with your book and movement. How is the marketing going for your book?

Jenica Leah: When I initially published and released my book I honestly didn’t have a marketing plan. I just released it and went with the flow but the feedback and amount of support I had was unbelievable and that’s when I realized that I had created something so beautiful and so beneficial, especially for children who had sickle cell and children with parents who have sickle cell. By that point my book was more less marketing itself, I believe because it is the only one of its kind at the moment.

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TRGB: Since the book release, what type of events has the book participated in?

Jenica Leah: Since the books release It has been nominated for and won awards, been highlighted by news outlets, book stores and in particular has had a major impact in health conferences and pharmaceutical research. I also launched something called My Friend Jen Projects to be able to host my own events for the book which would help those in other communities around the world who may not be able to have access to the book otherwise. The book donation projects have been a huge success so far with regular sponsors and encouragement for it to continue.

TRGB: When does the sequel to the first book come out? Is it the same concept from the first book?

Jenica Leah: The sequel will be released within the next several weeks and is now available to pre-order at a reduced price. My Friend Jen was always intended to be a series of books that follows Jen on her journey growing up with sickle cell so the concept is somewhat the same and readers can learn more about sickle cell and the things Jen goes through.

TRGB: Are you currently working on any new projects?

Jenica Leah: The next major project we have will be the Jamaica book donation project which will take place between January and March 2019. So far, we have done book donation projects in Gambia and Nigeria so we are really looking forward to Jamaica being the 3rd book donation project.

TRGB: How has becoming an author made you a better person?

Jenica Leah: Becoming an author has made me appreciate writers a lot more as I know the depths one has to go through to be able to produce a book that makes a difference. More than anything though, I would say that becoming an author has made me humble and motivated to continue to advocate for sickle cell as I can see how my children’s book and even my blog, has helped people to become more confident in sharing their journeys with sickle cell also.

TRGB: How can readers connect with you?

Jenica Leah: Readers can connect with me via @myfriendjenbooks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They can also keep up to date with everything I have going on including new My Friend Jen releases and updates, projects and events by subscribing to the Me Myself & Sickle Cell blog site:  http://www.jenicaleah.wordpress.com

TRGB: As an advocate of SCD, what types of projects or events do you participate in to bring more awareness in the communities?

Jenica Leah: I try and get involved in as much events in the community as I can whether it’s fundraising events, motivational events or even fun days for children; there is always space to highlight sickle cell. I have also arranged blood donation days to encourage more blood donors and been involved in youth and school projects too.

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Children’s Book Author, Lenny Williams Inspires Children in the Black Community; New Book Releases August 18th

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  • It’s amazing to see a male author that writes children’s books because it’s very motivational! How did your journey as a children’s book author came about?

Well anyone who knows me personally knows that I absolutely love children. I may not want any of my own since I’m already the oldest of eight, but I still love the energy and joy children bring to the world.

Now when it comes to my journey as a children’s book author it was a very difficult one. In 2013 when I decided to write a bedtime story called ‘Dreaming Their Way Out’ I had no idea how I was going to publish it. I had also looked everywhere in the state of Delaware (which is where I live) for an illustrator for nearly two years, but the artists I contacted were inconsistent with communication, or sometimes didn’t want to take on the challenge of illustrating a book—even if I was paying them well.

So by 2015, I found an illustrator named, Ohana Tozato, on Instagram. The crazy part is that she lives all the way in Germany, but she was the only one who responded to my message, and from there on we created Dreaming Their Way Out. After a year and a half of working on the finalization of the book, and finally finding an independent publisher; my road to being a successful author had begun.

  • Tell us more about your books

 

When it comes to my books you will always find a common theme.

 

MAGIC!

 

I love creating unique and magic books! I have this undeniable urge to pull my readers right into my stories and into my world. I’ve found that once people read my stories they never want them to end or better yet they want sequels added to them. That makes me proud because it reminds me that I’ve just created a classic.

 

As an author I’m striving to be the best of all-time, and I also strive to be pioneer in the writing world. I don’t want any of my stories to be similar to someone else’s; it has to be on a level of its own. Don’t get me wrong I love supporting my fellow authors, but at the same time I love a friendly competition, and if you aren’t striving to be the absolute best in your field, then you’re wasting your time in my opinion.

 

Alright so about my books:

 

Dreaming Their Way Out is a magical bedtime story about seven orphans who are desperately yearning for a family. One night while dreaming about escaping the orphanage something indescribable happens; and they discover something amazing about themselves. They do not realize that this discovery will change their lives forever.

 

The Holiday Dream is a sequel to Dreaming Their Way Out. In this story the children take a trip to the North Pole to find the perfect gifts for their guardians. Throughout this journey they meet a peaceful nun, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, elves, and Rudolph.

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Asha the Princess of Matana is about a young black American man who meets an African Princess, outside the gates of her enormous kingdom; and the deeper you get into the story you learn that they ultimately fall in love with each other

 

Asha is filled with magic, romance, and adventure.

 

Snippet: After winning a trip to Matana, Africa, Jamal and his friend Tamir stumble upon a kingdom full of mystery and wonder. During the process of their journey they meet a princess named Asha. Jamal eventually helps the princess discover a power within her that she never knew was there. This story is dedicated to our ancestors and most of all to black women.

 

Education Is Power: A Snippet of the Life of W.E.B Du Bois This story is about African-American civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois and it teaches children about the need for education. Young W.E.B. Du Bois will be talking about how education gave him the POWER to become a great learner and a great teacher. This power, found through education, led him to become a leader, an author, a humanitarian, an activist, and an overall great person that made an impact in the world. Du Bois encourages children that they can do whatever they put their mind too through the power of education.

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She’s Divine Literally separated by two dimensions, the universe somehow finds a way to bring Noah King, and Diana Divine together, and ultimately teaches them that there’s beauty within life and the afterlife.

 

Hardworking college student Noah King earns an internship as a therapist at a care center for the elderly. He’s determined to complete it and finish his psychology degree early. But things take an unusual turn one night when one of his patient’s dead granddaughters, Diana Divine, appears in his room. Throughout their journey to figure out how and why they met and what their purpose is, their chemistry grows into an unbreakable bond.

 

This novel is romantic, magical, heart-wrenching, and wondrous all at the same time.

 

  • Everyone has to start from somewhere when it comes to writing and finding what they are truly good at. I read the story in your bio that you started writing your junior year of college in which your professor inspired you to do so.  What was going through your mind at that time?

 

At that time during my junior year of college I was going to school to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice to become an FBI Agent or detective one day. I was also interning with a law firm and the police department at the same time. I was so focused and concerned with being in law enforcement that it never truly occurred to me that it wasn’t a passion of mine. I believe I was more concerned about having a financially stable career over anything.

 

Now before I get to the actual story, I have to tell you that my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Szczuka, and my 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Sylvia, told me that I should become a writer one day. Every time the class had creative writing assignments, my teachers were blown away. They loved my imagination and where I would go with my stories. At the time I appreciated their comments, but I never thought that writing would be something that could impact my life financially, so I didn’t take it into consideration.

 

By my junior year of college after completing a creative writing assignment, my professor pulled me to the side and told me that I should seriously consider being an author. The funny thing is that I can’t even remember what I wrote about that day to make him even want to say that to me. But at that point I knew I had to give it a try.

 

Once I applied myself and truly devoted my time to writing a story that year, I noticed that not only was I a gifted fiction writer, but that this writing thing was also a passion of mine. In my mind, I told myself that once I graduated early that I would take a year off from applying at any police departments or law enforcement jobs to write stories.

 

That’s exactly what I did and from there on my life changed.

 

  • The fact that you have a very great imagination, your topics of choice are wonderful when you wrote your books. Where did the inspiration come from?

 

Thank you so much for saying that. Hearing compliments like that make my day.

Growing up I was inspired by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Space Jam, and every Disney movie you could think of; but for the most part I believe most of my inspiration comes from nature, especially the night sky. Once I star-gaze my imagination goes wild.

 

It sounds crazy but it’s something I can’t control. I think I’m just the source or the messenger God is using to bring new creative stories to the world.

 

  • How long does it typically take you to write your books?

 

It usually takes me a month to write a bedtime story or a very detailed children’s book.

 

Education Is Power was the quickest story I’ve ever written. That only took me a day to write because it was biography and it was an educational book for pre-k – 1st graders, so couldn’t write a super long story like I’m used to doing.

 

When it comes to my novels it takes about three months to write them, but about six months to a year to finish up the editing and re-drafting.

 

  • What type of message do you want people and kids to take away from your books?

 

After reading my stories I want people to spread love, magic, and positivity throughout the world because we truly need it.

 

  • I really like the character Asha you created. It reminds me of an animated movie she could definitely be in!  Have you thought about submitting the story as well as the character to the Disney network for possible movie or TV suggestions?

 

Thank you! People really love Asha. That story is going to be a hard one to top. While writing Asha I truly knew in my heart that I could convert it into an animation film one day.

 

I’ve actually submitted my early work to Disney before while I was in college but they told me they couldn’t accept it because it was against their policy too; and they also said they weren’t hiring writers either.

 

 So when Asha was published last year, I didn’t even attempt to send it to Disney because I didn’t want them stealing my work. But I did reach out to black owned film companies and animation studios about working with them, or to at least give me some advice, but they never answered me. I even tried reaching out to famous black directors, producers, and writers, just for advice, but I still haven’t received a response. So I know this is all going to have to be done on a grassroots level.

 

The sad thing is that once Asha continues to grow and it ends up in Hollywood, the people that I emailed and messaged before for help, will probably try to reach out to me then.

 

That’s just how it works I guess.

 

 

  • I see that you have a new book coming out called “She’s Divine” which is scheduled to be released August 18th. How long did it take you to write the romantic story? The story that’s on your website that led up to this story is very powerful.

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Yes my handful of fans are really excited about this upcoming novel She’s Divine ha-ha. It took me three months to write this story, or probably even two months.

 

And thank you! God truly intervened during that tragic moment in my life. When my cousin died last year it was hard for me to function through daily life. That’s why glad God caused a divine intervention throughout those difficult months because I truly needed it. Even though it’s hard to talk about I’m glad I wrote about the situation on my website. So if anyone is confused by what you and I are talking about right now, they can check out my website lennysimagination.com to find out how She’s Divine came about.

 

  • Since your books has been released, has there been any fun events you been to promoting your books?

 

That’s a tough one; I guess it’s a tie between every black book festival I go to.

 

  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?

 

Five years from now I see myself working in Los Angeles writing movie scripts and probably directing films.

 

  • When it comes to writing, what keeps you motivated and inspired?

 

I believe God, nature, my family, and good people continue to inspire me and motivate me to write. For me, writing is like a flame that will never burn out.

 

I would also say that having a great working relationship with my illustrator keeps me motivated. If you follow my page you can probably already tell that Kaitlin June is my favorite artist.

 

She’s the one who illustrated Asha and she’s going to illustrate the covers for my upcoming novels. I think Kaitlin is the only illustrator I’ve worked with who lives in the U.S. But besides that Kaitlin understands me and my themes, she does a fantastic job bringing my vision to life.

 

On top of that she’s very patient with me. Trust me I know because I can be very tedious and a hard-ass sometimes when it comes to having books looking and sounding immaculate.  But she continues to help and I honestly hope that her art travels all over the world, and that she becomes one of the most famous artist of our generation.

 

  • Are their any special writing techniques you use when writing?

 

Yes, first I write down notes and I mean as many notes as possible!

 

Secondly, I come up with a cover concept and contact one of my illustrators while I develop an outline of the story.

 

Once the outline is developed I begin to work on the 1st rough draft. This is the most important part when it comes to the writing process because you want to bring out all the imagination you can. The more information and detail—the better. 

 

I usually create about 50 rough drafts.

 

After my last rough draft is finished, I start on my first final draft and polish up what I’ve written.

 

After working on multiple final drafts, and I usually come to a realization that there is nothing else left for me to do, so I submit the work to my editor.

 

Once my editor is finished I submit everything (cover, back cover, edited draft) to my publisher.

 

Then the book is published once I find a perfect date.

 

  • What is next for Lenny Williams?

 

Well I have 4 novels left to write, and three more children’s books left to write.

 

Spoiler for the novels: They both have a sequel, which adds up to four novels.

 

I guess I can also spill the beans on the titles at least but I can tell you what they’re going to be about yet because that’s a surprise:

 

 

Roxanne’s World

Jackie’s World

Zena: Andre’s Last Hope part 1

Zena: Andre’s Last Hope part 2

 

 

After that I’m going to use my imagination to make a change in the filming world by consistently working on movie scripts.

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  • How can readers connect with you?

 

They can contact me at sugarraylenny@gmail.com or itsonus247@gmail.com

Or on Instagram at sugarraylenny or lennys_imagination. I basically message everyone back besides the pages that ask if I want 1,000 more followers, or if I want to make $2,000 in 25 minutes.

 

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