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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jean Sousa Previews Her Newest Children's Board Book, My Gramps Loves Me

During our recession in 2008, I found myself laid-off from being an executive marketing director in the precious metals industry for almost 30 years.  Finding quality work was difficult and the odds were extremely bleak that quality employment was around the corner.

I acted upon an idea I had for years...writing a family series of toddler board books.  Writing a book was going to be the "easy" part, getting it illustrated would be a challenge that would become a journey.  After two attempts with professional illustrators falling flat, I decided to contact my local high school to tap into the talents of an art student, Alanna Mehrtens.  The superior whimsical mouse illustrations have brought "My Grammy Loves Me" to life, and they helped pave the way for her college acceptance.

I was able to produce this quality board book solely on my own by using only USA resources!  Because I was laid-off due to overseas production, I was determined that my books would be American! 

Our relationship continues with the recent completion of "My Gramps Loves Me,” scheduled for release during the fall of 2011. 

To complement my series of books for toddlers, I also offer t-shirts...now what grandmother would not like to see their grandchild running towards them with a "My Grammy Loves Me" image!

Tell us about the genre of your work. 

My quality board books are 20-pages and are for children ages 1-5 years of age.  Whether you are known as Grammy, Grandma, or Grandmamma, etc., it is the bonding relationship that is important to capture in the minds of a child.  These precious memories will last for a lifetime.

Why did you choose this genre?

I was inspired when I was blessed with three granddaughters!  I also reflected back into my childhood and remembered how lucky I was to have experienced the bonding relationship with my grandparents.






What are some of your books, stories that have been published?

            "My Grammy Loves Me,” was published in  2009
            "My Gramps Loves Me,” will be published in the fall of 2011
            "My Mom Still Loves Me,” is targeted for 2012 completion

What ages do you direct your books?

Children ages 1-5 years of age.  These books are great for early readers!

Can you tell us more about your books, and where we may find them?

"My Grammy Loves Me,” ISBN #978-0-9824254-0-4. The books are available on my website at http://www.mjdesignventures.com/, and you can order via email, or through gift and non-traditional bookstores as well as http://www.esty.com/.  My books are meant to be special gift items for a grandchild, baby shower gift, a new grandmother-to-be gift or just give your parents one when you tell them they will soon be grandparent!
"My Gramps Loves Me,” ISBN #978-0-9824254-1-1.  It will be available this fall.

Do your books have a teaching objective?  If so, what is it?

My books are meant to teach small children the importance of family relationships.  A child needs these relationships to feel important and prosper in life.

How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

"Grammy" came to be when I became a new grandmother and could not find anything in the stores.  All I could find was "grandma", "grandmother" and sometimes "nana.”

"Gramps" was what my father was called.

My whimsical mouse character has no name...gender-free!  It has been written this way so a boy or girl can relate to the story and events.

How did you develop the character/s of your in each of your books (If you have more than one)?

There is only one "whimsical mouse star"!  I knew I wanted an "eye catching" animal for my books.  Having a gender drawn character (boy or girl) would limit a child’s association with their Grammy.  When I became a grandmother and sat for hours just holding and rocking them I reflected back on my childhood thinking of all the fun experiences I was lucky enough to have with my grandparents.  (I was able to experience the love and precious moments of both sets of grandparents.) 

I remember baking with one of my grandmothers and being covered with flour and she just laughed and made me feel just fine...I remember times just sitting on her overstuffed couch and reading books then helping me to read the words myself. 

As my granddaughters grew, I so enjoyed taking them to the park for a swing...and now they still love to go and run, jump and slide in the same park.  Sometimes I do not just watch...I swing and slide right alongside of them, and they love it!  "Oh, Grammy, you're silly!" 

I love to golf and the grandkids know that and they talk about when they get bigger they want to golf with Grammy.  This idea of them golfing with me in the near future made gave me the idea of the golfing page in "My Gramps Loves Me.”

What is your favorite thing about your book/s?

The illustrations are unique, simple and colorful.  The expressions on Grammy's face are priceless and the whimsical mouse reacts to all situations.  My books are not your computer-generated drawings!   The books are of high quality; coated to withstand a damp wipe to remove any "stickies" a little one might a left while turning the pages.

Is your book illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience?

I could not afford a professional illustrator and decided I would approach my local high school to see if I could tap into the talents of an art student.  It was right before summer break and a junior, jumped at the chance to have a unique summer job.  Just think of the experience she would capture working in a professional relationship!

I gave the art director a copy of the text of my book and she gave it to the students that wanted to have the opportunity for summer employment.  Once I saw the samples, I knew immediately who I would like to bring my book to life.  I met with her and her parents to make sure they approved.  We then met to review ideas for each page, and by the end of the summer, my book was fully illustrated!  She even used our experience for her college essays, and she was accepted into a graphic arts program.  We continue to have a great business relationship and she looks forward to all the editions to come.

How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?

I love bringing smiles to young kids makes my heart glow! 

Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published?

It took me 2-1/2 months to find (at the time) a board book printing company in USA.  Most printing companies have an office location, but print overseas.  Because I was in marketing for over 30-years and had produced many catalogs, I knew how to marry image and text files and my printer, Pint Size Production (Amherst, New York) agreed to work with me.  I compiled the files and sent them via the internet.  A wonderful experience and we are working together on "My Gramps Loves Me" now. 

Why and when did you begin writing, and what is your writing schedule?

I began writing in 2008 after being laid-off during this recession and was having great difficulty in finding a quality job at a "senior" age.  "My Grammy Loves Me" was written in an hour!  Guess I had the words in my mind for years!  For "Gramps,” I made an outline of what I wanted to say and within a few weeks it was finished. 

What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

"My Gramps Loves Me" will be released in the fall of this year.  "My Mom Still Loves Me" is targeted for 2012 and will be about all the "bad" things a child does...like coloring on the wall...and Mom still loves them.

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?

If you have an idea, use your American Spirit to make it come to life!  Do not keep putting it off until it is too late.  I set up my own company and produce my books totally on my own with many hours spent working and learning on the internet.  If you believe, you can succeed!

What do you do when you are not writing?

I spend many hours on the internet promoting my current book and t-shirts along with attending wholesale shows, fairs and festivals.  I also take the time to spend precious moments with my three granddaughters who continue to capture my heart and make me smile. 

I do book readings and book signings. My first book reading was at a local cafe that holds a children's morning group.  What a moment!  I had so much fun reading to the kids and hearing their Grammy stories was heartwarming.  While waiting for all the kids to arrive I gave them a coloring page (I make for kids events) and would you believe that one little girl colored the picture with the exact same colors that were in the book...and she hadn't seen the book yet! Other readings have been at preschools, I get the same fun reaction from all the kids..., and their stories could be books of their own!

I have not released my books to the "traditional bookstores" (Barnes & Noble, Borders) as of yet.  I am marketing my books as a unique and special gift items that can be purchased in gift stores, Esty.com and on my website.  I will reconsider where I put my book as time goes by, but right now my books are signed at readings, shows (wholesale, fairs, festivals) and via purchases on my website and Esty.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
November 2009...my books arrived!  Pallets of books arrived for me to pack away into a climate-controlled area.  I felt so proud of this accomplishment I did completely on my own.  My dream was real...now let the selling begin!

In the corporate world, I started as a clerk and one day I just sat back in my office and said...you made it!  I was the Executive Marketing Director for a precious metals company.  After a short while my bubble was popped and I was laid-off, the company closed from declining sales due to overseas competition.

ACE!  Yes, even though I am not a really good golfer, I got a hole-in-one!  It was on a 152-yard par 3 hole, and was witnessed by my foursome and friends on the hole right beside us. What a feeling!



You can learn more about this author at:

            Website:  http://www.mjdesignventures.com/

            Facebook:  MJ Design Ventures:  http://www.facebook.com/jean.sousa2

            LinkedIn:  MJ Design Ventures

2 comments:

4a572456-0ba0-11e1-8ada-000bcdcb471e said...

What a wonderful and inspiring person Jean is. I'm so proud to have the honor of knowing her and of seeing her dreams of authoring children's books unfold. She has worked diligently and without compromise towards this dream and the outcome is simply PRECIOUS. My own grandson has an autographed copy of "My Grammy Loves Me" and two adorable onsies. I can't wait for the next in the series to become available.

4a572456-0ba0-11e1-8ada-000bcdcb471e said...

What a wonderful and inspiring person Jean is. I'm so proud to have the honor of knowing her and of seeing her dreams of authoring children's books unfold. She has worked diligently and without compromise towards this dream and the outcome is simply PRECIOUS. My own grandson has an autographed copy and two “My Grammy Loves Me” onsies. I can't wait for the next in the series to become available. We want the whole collection.