This creator spotlight features Valene Campbell. Valene is an author and entrepreneur. In this interview, Valene talks about her experiences in business and her new book.
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Tame the Classroom (TTC): You are the founder and director of a home health care and wellness service. How has your experience been in this field?
Valene Campbell (VC): Getting started on this business was one of the largest learning curves that I have ever faced. I gathered knowledge on the clinical side as a trained physical therapist; however, you learn very little about the business side in school. My experience has helped set the tone in how I approach other areas in my life. Whatever I don’t know, I ask, research or just try until I get it right. And yes, the challenges will often present themselves. It is a competitive market based on the aging of the population. As a business owner, you have to be flexible with pivoting when it is necessary so that you can be identified from the crowd. I have embraced all the ebbs and flows of business ownership as they help me to grow personally and professionally.
TTC: Has your career in the health field inspired you to become an author? If not, what inspired you?
VC: Based on the topic of my debut children’s book and a couple of other titles that I am currently working on, the short answer is yes. The longer answer is that I have always had a desire to explore my creative side; however, having very traditional Caribbean parents who questioned the sustainability of the arts, lead me in a different direction. I am still very happy about my choice in matriculating as a physical therapist and becoming a business owner; however, there is something alluring about creatives. I’m not a linear thinker and never have been. I’m intrigued by an abstract mind. I have written and acted in several local plays over my lifetime and had put it down for many years as I was working on getting my business off of the ground. My daughter was born in June of 2019, and I have been on maternity leave (1 year in Canada). Like many businesses, much of my activities have been quelled as a result of COVID19. The change of pace and slowing down of activities inspired me to start writing again.
TTC: Your first children’s book is titled, The Amazing Zoe Defeats the Germie Germlins. Can you tell us what the book is about?
VC: This story was inspired by our current pandemic. I wanted to think of a fun, easy-to- understand message for children about what we are facing. The Germlins invade planet Earth, and they attack people and make them sick. Nothing seems to stop them, so the mayor of Niceville announces a lockdown – no school, no work, no going outside! Zoe, the main character, discovers how to ward off the Germie Germlins. This book helps children manage possible coronavirus-related anxiety. The message empowers children by letting them know that they also have a part in helping to ‘flatten the curve’.
TTC: What was the writing process like for this book?
VC: I sat down with my 7 year old nephew and basically interviewed him! I had my pen and paper ready and asked him several questions about how he was coping, now that he was being home schooled. I asked him what he knew about COVID-19 and explored some of his thoughts. I also spoke to a few friends who have elementary school aged children to get an extended grasp of their emotions. I began writing without fussing about punctuation or grammar. I just let the ideas flow and then circled back to review the flow, plot, etc.
TTC: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing The Amazing Zoe Defeats the Germie Germlins?
VC: Once it was written, I sent it to the parents of a sample group of children, from ages 4-8. I sent it to 10 different children and I was pleasantly surprised about how much they enjoyed the story. It’s definitely the feeling that I desired to capture but actually hearing it from them made all the difference.
TTC: How can classroom teachers best utilize this book with their students?
VC: This book will surely spark conversation around the importance of safety and hygiene when it comes to hand washing. It is highly relatable based on the precautions we currently have in place regarding this pandemic. The book presents as a visual for children to better grasp what germs look like and the role soap has in destroying them.
TTC: The main character, Zoe, is an African-American girl. Representation is so important, especially in children’s literature. Did this play a factor in how you chose to portray the main character?
VC: Yes, I certainly wanted to demonstrate representation by having a little girl of colour as the strong lead. You will also see there is representation of various ethnicities in the book that reflects a more accurate picture of the world around us. Zoe’s life is not one-dimensional. It is important to me that her conversations go beyond racial or social issues and that everyday life as a child is highlighted.
TTC: Are there more children’s books in the works? Will Zoe perhaps be a featured character in a future book series?
VC: I am excited to say YES, Zoe will be making several comebacks in The Amazing Zoe series. I like to touch on real life issues when I write, and I realize that Zoe has so much to explore and to teach us. I currently have a book in production now. It touches on unconscious biases that are often developed during childhood. This book is scheduled to be released in July 2020. I have also started a third that I will likely release in January 2021.
TTC: What is your favorite childhood book and/or author?
VC: I may be aging myself when I say this, but I absolutely loved any book from Judy Bloom, the Mr. Men series and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves.
TTC: What are you currently reading?
VC: It’s challenging to find time to sit down and read these days with my little one. After starting and stopping Becoming by Michelle Obama about 6 or 7 times, I decided to jump on the audio version. I’ve loved every bit of it, especially the personal touch of her own voice. Audio books will likely be my way of “reading” for a while.
TTC: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
VC: I like to read random articles on various topics. It’s like playing trivia with myself! I like to watch documentaries, try new restaurants, and travel when I can.
TTC: Do you have any tips for aspiring children’s book authors?
VC: Yes, just start! I sat back admiring when so many others announced their debut, but because I didn’t know what the process was about, it hindered me from getting started. Get the idea on paper first, flush it all out of the brain and then research the next steps in whether you want to self-publish or publish traditionally. When your ideas are on paper, you are more likely to follow through to the end.
TTC: Where can we find out more about you and your books?
VC: You can find my books on Amazon or feel free to visit my website www.valenecampbell.com for news about new releases, speaking engagements or more. I am also on Instagram @valenecampbell_
TTC: Thank you so much Valene.
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