Recently, we found a children’s book that we instantly knew our girls would love, called Penny and the Magic Puffballs by Alonda Williams. It’s about a girl who wants to wear her hair hanging down like her straight-haired friends, but her mom instead helps her love her kinky afro puffs. Check out our interview with Williams below.
Alonda Williams, author of Penny & the Magic Puffballs
Why did you write Penny and the Magic Puffballs?
I made up the story to help my then 8-year-old daughter appreciate and love her hair. She often complained about not having straight hair like the other girls in her class. I looked for books that would help, but found none. So I made up a story. I used the story to help her realize that it is ok to be different. Any child or adult for that matter, who has at times felt different, can relate to Penny’s situation and can find encouragement in the story’s enduring message. It is ultimately about embracing what makes you uniquely you.
How long did it take you to write?
Well, I made up the story in one sitting — at bedtime with my daughter roughly 5 years ago. Once I decided to write it down, it took a few months to get input from others and to have it proofread. Then it sat on a shelf for a few years. Every time I saw a little girl with puffballs, I would say to myself, “If I had written the book , I could give it to this little girl.” I didn’t have a sense of urgency about completing the book until last August (2013), when I decided to finish it as a tribute to my mother — who passed away last May. My mother loved the story and always wanted me to publish it. It is my tribute to her. I call it “beauty for ashes” since completing the book was my way of dealing with the grief for my mom. Once I had a sense of urgency, it was complete in 3 months.
Can you share the business aspect of publishing your book?
I self-published the book and did most of the work for the book in the wee hours of the night. I found an amazing illustrator (Tyrus Goshay) on the Guru freelance website
. I used a print-on-demand publishing company and used a freelance copy editor. My neighbor did the graphic design.
Any recommendations for other mothers who are considering publishing?
I would encourage other mothers who have stories to tell to go for it. I’m happy to help guide you along the way. I will be doing free workshops as well as include information on my blog about publishing a book on a shoe string
. Publishing the book is relatively inexpensive and easy in comparison to marketing the book. Marketing can be expensive if you are not careful. I would encourage all aspiring mom writers to build a solid marketing plan inclusive of really precise audience targeting. I would also encourage you to own all rights for your work including copyright and trademark.
What type of feedback have you received from readers?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I so love to get notes from moms who say that the book has been helpful
and that their girls are enjoying it. I guess the one complaint I’ve received is from one mom who says that now her daughter won’t wear any style other than puffballs. [On her Facebook page, lots of moms have sent in pics of their puffball princesses
What obstacles have you come across in publishing and selling your book?
The biggest obstacle has been distribution and time. As a self-published author, I have to do everything myself (or with the help of my hubby). For example, to get the book included in school and county libraries, I have to reach out to each individual librarian and make them aware of the book and how to order. This takes time – that as a busy working mom, I don’t always have. Additionally, large retailers like Walmart and Target typically deal with large publishers and rarely engage with independent authors. So I have to be persistent in trying to get large distribution deals.
What are your plans for Penny or for other books?
Well, this story was a staple in our bedtime routine for over a year . Each night I would add more adventures for Penny and her friends and my kids loved it. In total I’d outlined over 30 stories for Penny and her friends. Now that the first one is done, I plan to make it a series and my vision is to one day see Penny on a TV screen. We already have a Penny calendar,
but more merchandise will be available late spring and the next book should be out by summer.
What suggestions would you give to parents who want to boost their children’s self-esteem when they’re faced with peer pressure?
The two greatest pieces of advice I can give are:
1) Love them unconditionally and make sure they know that you always have their back. This means don’t show severe disappointment if they don’t do something well, rather praise the effort (if they really did their best) and guide them on how best to improve. For example, my daughter struggled with writing outlines in 3rd grade and would not do well when she was assessed. I worked with her on the weekends and every opportunity to help her think in outline form. I helped turn a weakness into a strength.
2) Help your children find their superpower. Everyone is good at something and finding and operating from a place of strength will do wonders for self-esteem. It may take years, but it is worth doing. I feel that this is one of the greatest gifts I can give my children. Practically speaking , this means exposing your children early to a variety of activities, even those that may be unfamiliar to you. Also, expose them to a variety of career options and people who are involved in these careers. Have dinner with someone who might have an interesting career or hobby. My goal is to help my children uncover their natural strengths and guide them towards finding out how to use their strengths in their life’s work.
We love this book so much that we want to share it with you all. Enter our giveaway contest and win a Penny and the Magic Puffballs book AND t-shirt for your little one!(The Rafflecopter will randomly choose a winner.)