Tag Archives: UK

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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Author Spotlight: Diane Guntrip

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How did your writing journey begin?

This is a difficult question for me to answer. From a young age I have always been actively involved in some creative pursuit. I trained as a teacher specialising in English and Textiles and taught Textiles for 6 years. Later I became a jewellery designer and also ran a business featuring designer pillows all whilst I continued with my teaching career. There has never been a time when I have not been busy with some form of creativity. So to return to your question, I decided to write short stories, perhaps 15 years ago. There was no idea of publishing. ‘Dear H’ began in a different format to the present diary. The writing was spasmodic and one day, the story had become longer and had transformed into a dairy.

My neighbor’s granddaughters read the manuscript and urged me to publish the book. After submitting it to a few publishers with no offers of a contract, I lost interest. It was not until my circumstances changed, a badly shattered wrist, that led me to re-edit the book and I made the decision to self publish.

Was writing something you always wanted to accomplish as one of your goals?

No, I can’t say it was. I was busy expressing myself creatively in other ways.

What do you want your readers to take away when reading your books?

‘Dear H’ is for young people of aged 10+ although a lot of adults have read and enjoyed the book. It was originally written just as a book to be enjoyed. However, once the book was completed, I saw it in another light. The book is a diary written by 12 year old Amanda who is constantly being bullied. I have been instrumental in presenting workshops in primary schools and the book has proved to be an excellent discussion tool where the students can speak freely on bullying, depression, self-esteem, diary writing and their dreams for the future etc. The book is motivational and inspiring.

‘The Daisy Chain’ is the sequel and is written for girls from 13+ years. Amanda is now a student at a prestigious music academy. She is determined to set up an anti-bullying support group called the Daisy Chain. The book introduces new characters who are experiencing problems of adolescence. Amongst them the reader sympathizes with mental health issues and an unplanned pregnancy. Again, the book is for enjoyment but is full of ‘tips’ and discussion points.

How many books have you written?

So far two, ‘Dear H’ and ‘The Daisy Chain’.

Do you plan to publish more in the future?

I have made a start on ‘Tilly’s Story’. This is the story of how Tilly, in ‘The Daisy Chain’ has to leave the college due to her pregnancy and give up her place at a music conservatorium.

Have you had any book signings? If so, how did that go?

For both of my books I arranged book launches which were held in my local Art Gallery. These were well advertised with guests of honor. Book signings were part of the events. I also sign books when I visit schools to do workshops.

What marketing strategies do you use for your books?

I have a website, www.dianeguntrip.com. Initially for the book launches, I was featured in the local paper and on community radio. I have also been featured in blogs and a recorded radio interview. I use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. I approach schools and associations to offer to speak.

Are there any challenges getting people to support you?

Yes, especially as the books are self-published. A lot of institutions, some libraries and book fairs do not accept authors who are self-published.

What is your writing style like? Any special places you like to go to write at?

As both books are diaries, I would say they are chatty, easy to read, conversational. I can only write when I am in my study with the door closed!!

How can readers connect with you and buy your books?

I can be contacted via the Contacts Page on www.dianeguntrip.com or directly on dianeguntrip@hotmail.com

For Australian residents the books can be ordered from the website. For elsewhere they are available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk. Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository.

Tell the readers more about the types of books you write.

My books are fiction and the characters are all from my imagination. However, the issues that are mentioned are all problems that young people can encounter in today’s world. I hope that my books will inspire others to have the strength to follow their dreams.

 

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Author Spotlight: Beatrice de Cecil

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  • How did your writing journey begin?                                                                                Since I can remember I’ve wanted to write.  In fact, I’d tried to write at various stages in my life but the words or story would never come.  Any job I held in my adult life left me feeling incomplete, like I was missing something and just settling.  I realized I never truly belonged in any of them.  So in 2012 I made major lifestyle changes including walking away from traditional employment.  Depression found me with my head buried in lots of books after which I concluded it was time to give my dream of writing another go.  One wintry day in October 2016 I opened my laptop and started typing.  To my delight I discovered the words and story which had evaded me for so long had found me, they now flowed freely and  Whispers of the Realm was born.    Was writing something you always wanted to accomplish as one of your goals?
  • Yes, it’s been a lifetime dream since childhood.

    What do you want your readers to take away when reading your books?

  • Satisfaction, pleasure, enjoyment.  Perhaps the desire to read another.

 

  • How many books have you written? 
  • One
  • Do you plan to publish more in the future?

Yes.  I’m halfway through writing the second book and already in the planning stage for a book three.

  • Have you had any book signings? If so, how did that go? If not, do you plan to have one to connect with new readers?

No book signings yet but yes I aim to do them when my debut novel is released.

  • What marketing strategies do you use for your books?

I have the usual social media channels including a Facebook page and up-to-date website; both are actively promoted.  I also belong to several Facebook writers groups where I network regularly.  I designed some awesome business cards which are handed out at every opportunity.  Word of mouth.  I’m open to suggestions and always looking at new ways to market!

  • Are there any challenges getting people to support you?

No.  I’ve found people to be very supportive and enthusiastic.  When people find out I’m an Author it actually seems to ignite their interest, they want to learn everything about me.

  • What is your writing style like?

Any special places you like to go and write at? It’s important I’m connected to what I write, the best way to achieve that is to write from the heart.  If I can feel it, I can express it and it will work.  I’m a perfectionist which means I’m constantly editing.  It can take me a long while to produce something I’m happy with, I won’t start the next component unless the last is right!  A special place doesn’t have to be physical as long as I have peace or gentle Celtic music I can pretty much write anywhere although I avoid crowds preferring the company of my dogs and to be in nature.  

  • How can readers connect with you and buy your books?

Readers can connect with me at my website www.beatricedececil.com  Facebook:  https://facebook.com/beatricedececil  E-mail:  beatricedececil@gmail.com   Links will be available on my website to purchase my books and also available through the publisher (details will be available at a later date on the website and Facebook).

  • Tell the readers more about the types of books you write? Are some of them based on real life experiences?

I write fantasy and paranormal.  Yes, I like to blend real life and knowledge in my novels.  Before I started writing seriously, I kept a dream journal for several years.  Many of my dreams have been adapted and used in my first book.  I also found my personal experience as an Aura reader insightful and helpful when writing Whispers.

  • I was reading your bio on your website and I noticed it said you read eight books in a week! Wow! How do you do it?

Lol  Reading has always been a good therapy for me.  Since childhood I’ve been an introvert and as a teenager the neurological disorder epilepsy appeared in my life.  I became even more reclusive, losing myself in books and listening to music.  Although I came to terms with my condition, my love of reading continued.  A few years ago something cropped up which led to depression followed by PTSD with spells of insomnia so I turned to reading.  Devouring 8 books in a week was quite commonplace at the time.  Nowadays, it’s more like 2-3 a week.  

  • Whispers of the Realm sound interesting. When is that set to release?

I’m not sure!  I recently signed Whispers of the Realm, my debut novel, with a notable U.S. publisher.  There’s a lot of prep work involved before it’s ready for the market.  I’m thrilled to be working with them and anticipate it will be later this year.

 

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