Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Home

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

It Took a Village: Thank you!

My journey to publishing my children’s picture book just came to fruition, as I opened one of the many boxes that were shipped by air, (the rest by boat). A natural feeling of fear overcame me, as my family and I hoped to get a first glance of the book. We were very nervous, especially my son Ralston, who was my main reviewer, critic, and idea generator through this entire process. Although the book was inspired by my daughter, my son had a lot to do with the content, illustration selection, and design. He is now 7 and an avid reader, so armed with his many years of experience with children’s picture books, I had a much unbiased critic at my disposal. Reagan was at school, and our anticipation overcame us, so we just had to see the book even without her being present.

When Stew, my husband of almost 12 years opened the top box and pulled out a copy, there was a level of relief on his face, and so I echoed his sentiments, and we all rushed to him to see the final product. What a joy!!! This is the most incredible experience one can be afforded: I was overcome by joy, relief, pride, excitement, contentment, all at the same time. I did not know what to expect as I opted not to get advance copies or F&Gs which are industry standards, as the production was delayed by an entire month as I explained in one of my previous posts.

We took I Love the Skin I'm In to Reagan at school, who was so happy to see the book she had inspired, and joyfully shared it with her teachers and friends.  She continued to hold onto the book on the ride home as if it was the only copy and someone would take it away from her. Her reaction reminded us all how far we have come and how these months just flew by.

So now is a time to celebrate and to share with all, the book that we all have been waiting for.  I am not being biased, when I say that this is one of the most beautiful books I have seen.  The quality is substantial and the feel and look is comparable to the quality. I do hope that it will be well received by the community at large. It is a book that comes from a place of love and endearment.

When we are faced with challenges, it is very easy to take the effortless route.  My path led me to many new discoveries, and I learned a lot along the way.  I am very grateful to all those who came along with me for the ride and supported me through this journey. Your support has been amazing. Thanks for emailing me, calling, contacting through my websites, posting on my personal Facebook page or on I Love the Skin I’m In’s Facebook page, calling, telling me in person, any way that you have supported me to help keep me going, I am grateful. I have been blessed with a very supportive network, and I thank you.
I Love the Skin I’m In will be available for purchase on the official publication date of June 20th, from and  So don’t forget to get your copy. I will be signing copies at the launch today, Saturday, so those of you who will be attending will get a first peek at the book.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Just Us Girls

After so many unsuccessful attempts to get all of us ladies together, we managed somehow to have our schedules coordinate and finally met for lunch, at Nobu 57th.

I decided to bring Reagan along on our lunch date because I wanted her to feel equally important in the production of the book, I Love the Skin I’m In, and to take her out of her comfort zone of French fries and chicken fingers.  She regressed slightly, not the typical, extremely energetic and talkative type that I am used to, but a quiet, more subdued Little Miss Muffet.  I guess the very modern but cool atmosphere and the very bustling city right outside Nobu’s heavy doors could have contributed to her unusual demeanor.   Nonetheless, she was enjoying just us girls style gathering.  I reluctantly asked our waiter whether he had any child friendly dishes on the menu and he immediately understood just what I meant.  He suggested the chicken skewers which were a hit. He was right, and Reagan had order two sets, and seems very content with her meal.

Rebecca and Haily both settled for the lunch boxes, which were by far the most elaborate I had ever seen. There were very interesting combinations, and extremely appetizing.  Myself on the other hand had everything on the menu.  I have always enjoyed their rock shrimp salad, however, I had that and quite a few other things, making it impossible for me to request dessert.  I had the perfect excuse that I was eating for two. That cliché is so overrated. The girls seemed to pretend that they understood. I am sure that they thought how piggish I was being, but hey, there are lots to be grateful for and we were having a wonderful time.

Both Rebecca and Haily are such amazing people. They are passionate about their work and we enjoyed just basking in our little creation, and talking about it like it is our baby. We are all hoping that the book will arrive before the launch, but if it is does not, there are definitely lots of reasons to celebrate.
We are just very grateful that we have come so far in the book production process, and at this moment, we just have to wait as our fate is in the hands of our beloved printer and shipper.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

One More Month to go

Slightly nervous, but more than excited about the book. It is being printed right now.  Hoping that the wonderful people at RR Donnelley, will produce on time and ship on schedule.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

Mother’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated holidays of the year. We can all attest to why such a popularity.  Moms are truly special, and Mother’s Day gives us an opportunity to communicate our feelings to our moms as well as have other’s extend their gratitude to us as mothers. I share the sentiments of many and feel that indeed it is the best day of the year for me. Not only because I get to be pampered by my family, but I get to enjoy those specially made handmade crafted projects and cards, that keep on getting better every year as my kids get older. They love to express themselves through art and I just enjoy their sense of creativity and confidence.

Their energy and excitement is what keeps me going, especially through this very trying time of my book production. It seems that over a month ago things were on track, and it looked very evident that the book would be published and shipped on time. However, there was an entire month of back and forth with files during the art and design transfer process, and the delay may have impacted the publication date. I am praying that this will not be the case, but when things are out of your control, fate and luck takes over. Maybe I was too ambitious in taking on such a huge project, or too ambitious with the design elements that I want in the book, and it does not help the process that I am a stickler for details. Well, all I can do at this point is hope that on my daughter’s 5th birthday, June 20th, the book will be available.

The printing company is RR Donnelley, one of the best in the world and has been the printers for most of the top traditional publishers in the US, and around the world. I sourced them, and although their main market is not small printers like me, they were willing to work with me. This makes it easier knowing that my book which is being printed by a top international printer, will be top quality as they stand behind their products.
At this point, I have gone through the first proofing process and just waiting for everything to be finalized, and go into full production. I am so humbled by this process, as I await the final product. I also thank you for your continued support through this, and do hope that all will be set for June 20th, 2012. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book and Baby due this summer? My oh my!!!

Stewart and I are elated to be expecting the arrival our third child at the end of this summer!

Almost 5 years ago we thought we had to abandon the possibility of having a third child, but someone else had a bigger plan for us. Even just 5 months ago, if someone had told me I was going to have a baby this year, the year of the dragon, I would have told him or her to go see a shrink! But here I am today, on the receiving end of a glowing face, a round swollen tummy, and hips that would put JLo’s to shame. I am loving my newfound curves and truly enjoying this whole process as it happens.

I often wonder how my parents managed with four kids and how other families I know have handled over five. I do believe that somehow we learn to cope with our situation, no matter the circumstances.

I have been quite busy both getting ready for the baby and at the same time working on a few projects. I have heard that the third time around is the charm, so I am patiently waiting to be charmed. There may be a bit more juggling to be done but, at the end of the day, life goes on –and the baby will fit perfectly into our lives.

My son turns 7 years old today, and we are keeping his birthday plans quite simple, and making it more of a family affair, and creating a memorable experience for him just as his other 6 birthdays. They are such grateful children, and I love the way that they are warming up to the idea of having a new pair of feet running around the house and vying for all of our attention.

The kids are looking forward to welcoming their new brother or sister into this world. They are already busy setting aside their favorite books for him or her. I am hoping that baby Raphael will be blessed with a keen sense of curiosity, one that will challenge me to explore areas that are important to him or her.

I look forward to reading “I love the Skin I’m In” to baby Raphael when he is ready, and hopefully he or she will find it as fascinating and enjoyable as my other two children have.

So by the time the book is due, I will be glowing with bliss for two main reasons: 1) that I will have published this great book with a great message and 2) I will be thrilled with the anticipation of observing how my children will interact with their new sibling and how this baby will inspire all of us and push us to do things differently.

There is always room in a mother’s heart for more love and I am hoping to be blessed with this wonderful being in many ways, just as our two beautiful children have and will continue to bless us.

We are ecstatic and we just can’t wait!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The last Lap

One of the beautiful illustrations in the book
This week marks a very important one in the production of the book, “I Love the Skin I’m in”.  All the illustrations are complete, and I am extremely impressed with Haily’s work.  I knew that she would have delivered great illustrations; however, I am still in awe of all the beautiful artwork she has produced to make this book come to life.  I have also shipped them all to the printer, after getting them scanned by my very efficient book designer,  Rebecca Stone, who truly went above and beyond her call of duty to help me get them out to their final production destination.  This is exciting!!!

Now we have to fine tune the text and make sure the placement is where we want them, as this will help the story flow beautifully.  I am slightly nervous because part of the process is out of my hands and I am now beginning to build a great relationship with my printer, and communicate all my ideas through my designer as we all work in unison to help meet our publication schedule.

We have already gotten all the required files needed to add to the book for marketing, distribution and sales purposes, now we have to double check everything to make sure that they are all in the right position, size, and of course there are no typos.  I trust the expert Rebecca with all the book design details; she has been doing this type of work as head designer at Random House Children’s book  for many years, and is able to deliver professional work in a timely manner.

Although my to-do list has significantly shrunk, I do have to explore the next stages of the book’s production process, which deals with distribution and marketing.  I am working on a dedicated website just for the book; I also have to create an e-book, for nook, kindle, and other e-readers, in addition, I am in discussions to create an app for iphone, ipad and android operating systems.  All this is to make the book more accessible to everyone. The book has such a great message to share with our children, and I am hoping that it will help enlighten and inspire kids to love the skin they are in no matter what they look like on the outside.
Thank you all for being on this inspiring journey with me.

Click on the highlighted link to check out our facebook page to see a few more illustrations or parts of it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My visit to the Eric Carle Museum, the Museum of Picture Book Art

Last week over the President's Day holiday, I took my children, along with my girlfriend Kathleen, and her three daughters to visit the Eric Carle Museum, in Amherst, Massachusetts. This is an amazing picture book art museum, the only one in the Northeast. We were taken aback by the current exhibits. One of the exhibits is of Eric Carle’s work, which is tremendous and richly appointed with various pieces. He is an amazingly talented artist and his style is so unique. Another exhibit was that of one of my favorites, Kadir Nelson. His work needs no introduction. The details are so vivid and realistic, and the paintings were so life like, and larger than I had anticipated.

Someday, Haily's work will be on exhibit at this amazing museum as well, as she is already on the right path. I am hoping that "I Love the Skin I'm In" will be part of their library and bookstore collection as well.

Hungry caterpillar?
This Museum is such a gem and should be visited by the entire family. Not just the kids and the kids at heart. There are lots of activities that will keep the children active, but also a few things that the adults can find fascinating.

Budding artist at the Eric Carle Museum
I was informed about the Eric Carle Museum by the Librarian at my son's school who is extremely versed in matters of books and art. I have been volunteering at my son's library since the beginning of the 2011/12 calendar, and I find it to be the most rewarding. I have learnt so many details about books and how the children interact with them and been fortunate to familiarize myself with so many different types of books. I look forward to volunteering every week, not only to broaden my knowledge, but get a deeper appreciation for books.
Writer at the Eric Carle Museum 

I do believe that books are an important part of children's understanding of the world, and it is important that they do read and hear a multitude of stories about people around the world, and of what will inspire and enlighten them, instead of single stories with narrow themes. I look forward to sharing my book with the world.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

OMG! The book is ready for pre-order

A photo of one of the illustrations in the book
We are now in the final stages of getting all the illustrations completed, scanned, and ready to support the text. This part of the book creation process, to me is the most exciting part, as each illustration looks more beautiful than the next. The colors are vibrant, the illustrations are complimentary to the text and they help create a fun book that every child and parent will want to discover. It is coming together so wonderfully that I can't wait to share it with the world.

Those of you who are anxious to get your copy, can pre-order from Barnes and Nobles and Amazon. Follow the links below:
The retail price is $15.95, but they are currently running a promotion of 10% discount special on the book.
Amazon is also another vendor where the book can be purchased.

Stay tuned, as we looking into adding more retail outlets.

Please note that even though the book can be pre-ordered, they will not be able to ship out until June 20th, 2012, the officially publication date.

Once again I would like to extend my sincere thank you to those who continue to read my blog, comment on my personal Facebook page, like our official Facebook page, talk about us and have your friends talk about us, follow us on twitter!/Theskiniminbook,send in your emails, just the out pouring of support that has made the process easier, and helped me push through this. Although the journey is still being pursued, but your continued interest and support have made completing the book a reality. Thank you!!! I also want to extend a special thank you to Haily and Rebecca, they continue to work tirelessly to create a great book that they are all so proud of. Thank you!!! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Dream Almost a Reality

Today as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, it presents an opportunity for me to reflect on the life of a man who continued to advocate tolerance, acceptance, respect and love of one’s self till the end. Not only has Dr. King’s message resonated with many for its positive message, it also serves as a guide for our children, who are learning to love, respect and accept each other no matter the color of their skin.

I am humbled to share with you the cover of my book. The book “I Love theSkin I’m In!” is a fun read, in rhythmic style that stresses on the universality of children, with phrases like “You are all so special like the colors of the rainbow, that all brighten up the sky whether red, green or yellow.” It seeks to explain that no matter what we look like on the outside we are all the same on the inside.

The book will be ready for purchase on June 20, 2012 and we are working hard to meet that deadline. Haily and Rebecca have been working tirelessly on the project with me. Haily continues to deliver very vibrant, amazingly creative and realistic illustrations, and Rebecca is working hard on art directing the project, editing, layout adjustments and just helping to create a very holistically flowing story with the images and text. It has continued to be a very fulfilling journey, and there is so much I am learning along the way. I feel extremely blessed to have found these very talented women to work on I Love the Skin I’m In!

I appreciate all the support and look forward to sharing with you the next stage.
Follow us on twitter @theskiniminbook, like us on Facebook and on our website,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, same vision

Aerial Tram Dominica's Rain Forest
 Today is New Year's Day, and I am very grateful for the past year and looking forward to a great 2012. There have been many changes taking place in my life as well as my family's life, including the journey to publish this incredible book. I have met quite a few people along the way, who are dedicated to making this project a reality, especially my partner in crime, illustrator extraordinaire, Haily Cryan. Her commitment to the project, professionalism, and reliability has surpassed my expectations, and I am so grateful for her never ending focus to bring this book to press.

I have been quite behind on posting, not because I am not drowning in material, but rather the last month has been quite hectic. My mother-in-law who lives with us is a bit more ill than previous months; we traveled to the beautiful Nature Island of Dominica for the holidays to spend time with my parents and my husband's parents, as Stew wanted this trip to be an extented celebration of his milestone birthday; the kids were out of school from December 16th. Things just got a bit more challenging. Thanks to Haily, there area few beautiful images to compliment the book. I can't wait to share some with you in my next post. Rebecca is also working hard on choosing fonts for the text, and trying to fine tune the cover layout.

Please stay tuned, we are trying our best to be on schedule. The year has just started and we want to start it off with a bang.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel

Move over Bird, Johnson and Jordan there is a new Dream Team in town, and we are not 7 feet tall, but we mean business.

A great children's picture book does not only consist of a great story line, and illustrations to support the text. However, it also requires a fantastic cover, an incredible interior layout and typography, which by default generates a professional look. I was very lucky to secure one of the most talented book designers in the industry with scores of books that bares her name and many years at the big houses behind her (11 years at Random House Children books, most recently as senior designer). The best thing is, she lives a mere 15 minutes from me. I am extremely grateful for this, and can't wait to bring all of our talents together.

The dream team is complete, and all three of us are plowing forward with the same vision, to create an amazing book in a not so long period of time.

The team is made up of:
Haily Cryan illustrator extraodinaire, and recent BFA graduate,
Rebecca Stone, veteran book designer and
Mayma Raphael passionate communicator-author.

We have just a little over 6 months to bring this baby to life, and from the looks of it she is being birthed by a motivated group of women.

Please stay tuned and thank you for going on this journey with us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some things are easier said than done

I may have taken on more than I can swallow, but I am not discouraged by  going through the initial pain of starting my own company, publishing a book that I beleive in, and sharing the book with all children to be inspired and empowered.

I knew deep in my heart that if I had the time, patience, the ability to give up lots of control on this project, the urge to not have this book in my exact words, there could have been an easier route to follow. It would have been so much easier for someone else, or a multitude of people to wear many of the hats that I am presently wearing. This week truly proved to me that I have to be prepared for the massive work that is in my future.

It was quite an accomplishment on my part, to get most of the items from the extremely long to-do list done, considering my family responsibilities have remained constant.  I consulted with accountants, attorneys, book designers, graphic designers, web designers, with the printers, signed contracts, bought the ISBN number for the book, contacted the Library of Congress, among other things that are pertinent to the creation and distribution of my book.

Among all this tedious work, the most rewarding has been working with my illustrator. She has such a professionalism about her that makes it easy to work with her. I actually look forward to her emails, as there is always something interesting going on, as she is working tediously on the cover, to make sure that it draws on the emotions from the title and the text on the inside. She is on point with her interpretation and depictions.

Sometimes you choose someone for a project and you are not certain about their work ethic, talent and interpersonal skills, and you feel somewhat disappointed with the process when things are not going as expected. So far my instincts have guided me correctly, and I am very pleased. Her work is just as important as mine, and we both feel committed to presenting something that we will be both extremely proud of.

As I approach this week, my to-do list has moved into a different stage, a stage where the decisions I make will in fact affect the outcome of the book, and I have to tread quickly, but with caution. I have to also listen to my heart, pay attention to details, go with my instinct, because it has rarely failed me and enjoy the process. This is a very rare opportunity, and I know that my children will be very proud of the outcome.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I have created my own publishing company

Essence December issue
There is a saying which goes, "if you want it done right, then do it yourself." Well, I have decided to do it myself and have created my own publishing company, called Mom Publishing. I will publish my book, market and distribute it through the right distribution channels. This is a gigantic challenge, but I will continue to be committed to the project. Now the real work begins.

Over the course of weeks, I also have had the honor of looking through over 400 artists' portfolios which were submitted for review to illustrate my book. It has been one of the most difficult things I had to do, to choose the illustrator who was going to illustrate my precious book project. I can't just let anyone who knows how to use a paint brush, and a desire to paint, work on my project.  I have chosen someone, whose work speaks volumes, and her style is what drew me to her in the first place. I had envisioned a style which was suited for the project and when I saw the illustrator's work, I knew that she would be the best fit for the job. I honestly can't wait to see how all this unfolds, and what she comes up with.

This week I have also been very involved in choosing the right printer to truly make this book a reality and on schedule, June 20th. There are quite a few printing companies out there, all promising to do great work, but how do you pick which one is best suited for the project, and for other projects on the horizon. Just like the process of finding the perfect illustrator, it has been a very time consuming process. I am still a mom and a wife, and also actively involved in my family's life. My kids are involved in their school and after school activities, I am being pulled in so many directions. Can I be disciplined about staying on track in the midst of family chaos?

Through all this chaos around me, I have been blessed with a wonderful article about me and my husband, that is published in a national publication with international distribution, Essence Magazine. Essence is a well respected, 43 year old magazine that features inspiring stories, cutting edge styles and in-the-know experts, on topics that are pertinent to Black Women. Stew and I shared our tips on making our marriage last and we are so grateful for the feature. I think that if we did not have a relationship that was based on love, mutual respect, understanding, and support of each other, I would not be going on this journey of publishing this wonderful book or creating my own publishing company to do so. So kudos to Stewart for the support he has given me over the 11 years we have been married.

Huge "THANK YOU" to Essence for celebrating our relationship by featuring it in its publication in such an amazing way in its December issue.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The cost and quality of self publishing are keeping me up at night

Since I have taken on the role of publishing the book myself, there are quite a few things I have to consider. Firstly, what type of book do I want to publish. Yes, it is going to be a picture book with lots of beautiful illustrations and so forth, but what about the complete look.

Fortunately, I am presently blessed with the luxury of time, and have gone through hundreds of picture books, looking at them from a different angle, not truly at the content, but from the quality of the product, the craftsmanship, the color, size, text, layout, illustrations, etc, etc. I want my book to have the quality and feel of a book published by one of the major publishing houses, and that readers will not be able to tell the difference, and sturdy enough to stand the test of time. So here are my criteria: Vivid, traditional illustrations, easy to read font, hardcover, jacket, large book, art paper, and of course great binding.

I have also been doing lots of research, went to a self publishing class, and looked into sites like Creatspace, and a few other self publishing venues, but I am quite discouraged by the lack of options, the loss of creative freedom and control, and most importantly the exuberant costs. For example, I put in my criteria on a drop down calculator option screen at for a hardcover book, and sadly to produce 5000 books, I am looking at $264,750.00 ($52.95) per book. Seriously, to manufacture a 32 page book, I have to sell my home, my kids, and the mechanical pet parrot we own, to publish a book of similar quality as the one I envisioned? No way! There is Createspace by Amazon, but unfortunately they do not produce hardcover books, and I have seen the quality, which does not align itself with my current project. Great option though, but not for this book. Also, you have to purchase books from them on top of the publishing cost. I have to find another alternative and fast, as my deadline is fast approaching, and I promised my daughter that the book will be published by her 5th birthday, which is June 20th.

In the meantime I have been reviewing quite a few portfolios of illustrators that I would like to work with. It has been lots of work, but it is well worth it. There are so many talented individuals out there, and they just need an opportunity to showcase their great work. Hopefully, I find one who shares my vision of the book, the look that I am going for, and we can collaborate on the various images that will bring the book to life.