I cannot contain my excitement over this! My chapter book 𝘾𝙖𝙣 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙃𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙈𝙚? has been awarded the GOLD MEDAL in the Readers' Favorite International Book Awards for the Children's - Religious Theme genre! Check out this shiny certificate!
I sent my manuscript in to Readers' Favorite for a review package over a year ago, which meant it was automatically entered into their annual contest. I was already very happy to receive three 5-star reviews from them. I didn't actually have any high hopes in winning any award for the contest, as my picture book didn't get any placing in last year's contest. But after logging into my account, I saw that I had in fact received an award–GOLD! I couldn't believe it! I had told my author friends chat group on Instagram that I'd be taking a break from IG, but then half a day later, I couldn't resist hopping back on and sharing the exciting news with them. A fellow author friend, Victoria Smith, also received an award for her debut book, Big H and Little h Dog, so it only seemed right to share and celebrate together! How could we not?
I thought I'd also share a bit more about this book and some of my upcoming plans.
This book was published on 23rd June 2020, in remembrance of my dad, who passed away from pancreatic cancer on the same day in 2017. This fictional story was created from my grief. I wrote it as a form of self-therapy, creating conversations I wanted to have with my dad. The title 𝘾𝙖𝙣 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙃𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙈𝙚? is a not only a question Renee asks her dad, it's a question I also ask my dad and my Father in Heaven. I often wondered if God could hear my prayers. When I prayed for my dad to get better and he didn't, I thought God did not exist. It took me a long time to realize that even if my prayers are not answered, He still hears me. Even if I pray the most ridiculous prayers, He still hears me. And even if I don't pray at all, He hears my thoughts and knows my heart. No, He did not answer my prayers for my dad to get better, but He hears me and all my sorrowful, painful cries. I do not know what His plans are, and I may never fully understand how God works, but somehow, it was through my dad's death that I came to really know God and found faith in Him. It was this life-changing event that brought me the greatest gift of knowing Jesus. It was through grief that I found my gift and my voice and it unlocked something inside of me. God did not answer that particular prayer, but He answered so many others, even ones I didn't know I needed to pray for. When I was led to an amazing Christian mentor, coach and editor, Marcy, I knew God had something to do with it, even though I never prayed for it. She encouraged me to share and to be brave, and guided me through the entire publishing process. She continues to encourage and support me and many other authors she has coached, and I'm so grateful! When I connected with other passionate, talented and supportive authors, I knew God had something to do with it too, even though I never prayed for it, because those connections have helped me so much through all the ups and downs of publishing and marketing. They were also my first readers who reassured me that my book was worth reading, even if my own friends or relatives weren't interested in reading it. God knew exactly what I needed and provided everything that was necessary to help me through this process. I did not pray or expect to win any award or to make a lot of money through publishing. My mum paid for the book to be printed locally so we could donate them to people in need. So that was what I prayed for–that the book would go to those who needed it. I prayed that God would take it where it needed to go. Whatever the steps or means for that to happen was in God's hands. For me, publishing the book was already an answered prayer and a huge accomplishment. Everything else was a bonus, and God continues to surprise and bless me in ways I'd never dreamed of. He hears every word and thought, even wordless prayers and cries, and He is always listening.
This book was something I created from my grief–something I never expected to do in my life. Though I do not wish grief upon anyone, for those who have experienced it, I want you to know you are not alone and that grief can become an unexpected gift in your life. It can inspire and unlock something in you that is waiting to get out. The pain and sorrow that come from grief can ignite a spark and lead to an amazing masterpiece.
Since publishing my book, I had also been inspired to create a grief journal to help others on the journey to create something from their grief too. It's something I'm very passionate about. There have been research and studies about the benefits of using creativity to cope with grief. Negative energy can be channeled into creative work as a means to assist with loss or trauma. Henry Seiden, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist states that, "Creativity is the essential response to grief." (https://www.headspace.com/articles/grief-creativity-together) It's a way for us to express our innermost feelings and emotions in a healthy manner. I hope that through this journal, grievers will be inspired to create something too. It can be a poem, a letter, a song, a painting, anything at all. It took me a long time to realise what I could create, and it not only helped me to process and heal, it allowed me to use what I had created to help others and that was truly the greatest gift that came from grief. I cannot wait to finish my grief journal and share it with you all. I've been working on it for quite a while and I hope that it can help and inspire even more people to create from their grief.
If you haven't had a chance to check out Can You Hear Me? you can find the links to purchase here: https://www.yychani.com/can-you-hear-me at a retailer of your choice. There is also a Discussion & Reflection Guide available for download.