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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Need for Strong Female Characters: Guest Post by Sherel Ott

Today I'm pleased to be handing the blog over to Sherel Ott, author of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia.

Here's Sherel, with a post on strong female characters. Be sure to check out the links and giveaway at the bottom of the post!

I have four nieces, who at the time that I decided to write Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Topngia were between the ages of four and nine.  As an avid collector of animation movies, I had noticed that there were not a lot of positive, strong women of color on the big screen or in a book for them to identify with in a positive way and dream to be just like that person.

I found it offensive that women of color were portrayed and valued for their physical assets, dancing skills or trying to scheme their way up the ladder as if they did not have a mind or the ability to make it to the top on their own.  I also had noticed that a lot of the female heroine characters were timid, needing direction, guidance and rescuing. I wanted to show the girls and women, in general, that they don’t need to be like that if they can believe in themselves. Society has devalued women and made them devalue themselves so much that they believe that in order to be whole or fulfilled, they have to be part of a couple and that they are weak otherwise.  I wanted women and girls to see themselves as being capable of handling any situation on their own.

I decided to write this book for the middle-school aged/tween genre because it is during this time that girls AND boys formulate who they are and learn to either value or devalue themselves based on the information or feedback that they get from the other people they interact with.

I think we should start when they are young to help teach girls to love themselves and see themselves for who they are and not depend on someone else to tell them or validate them on how beautiful or popular they are or if they’re smart or dumb. Because of things like this, society has put labels on people and try to make them fit into certain category. When we don’t fit into any particular category that they deem appropriate, they then try to make them fit by attacking their character, making them doubt themselves, having them compare themselves to others (whom they say are beautiful, smart and socially acceptable) instead of letting them be their own unique, individual self. This is how we cause a lot of identity issues and self-esteem problems with girls and boys.

Each book in the series will highlight different problems/issues that girls will go through growing up, helping them to navigate some of the pitfalls.  I don’t expect to reach all the girls, but I do hope to reach quite a few girls and instill in them the value of their own self-worth.  I want girls and women to know that yes we may be the fairer and “weaker” sex, but that does not mean that we are weak; that we can be strong of mind and character and that yes with training, we can be strong of body as well. Women can be cunning, industrious and inventive just like men.  We can stand on our own, support ourselves and our families if need be. Women are just as POWERFUL as men.

Even though my books are for girls, because of the issues and problems that the characters will be facing in the book, it will be good for guys as well.  The problems and issues will not solely be narrowed to just female situations, but can be broad enough to be issues that boys can identify with as well. They too will go through some of these same problems with possibly a different variation and this will help them to be able to identify with some of the situations and problems in their own live and help them to grow and solve them and provide them with different coping skills as opposed to aggression and anger.

About Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia

All Janai wants is to be just like everyone else. Being the Princess and having to try out for the Warrior Maidens is just part of her problems. She has the present Warrior leader unhappy with the fact that she is trying out, because that means her time is almost up and she enjoys her “status” too much to give it up without a fight. Not to mention someone just froze two of her guards into living statues with the fabled Mist Flowers of Tonga. Now she and a small group of warriors must travel to a forbidden city and obtain the antidote before the two guards are lost forever…all in 24 hours. Is she capable? Will she make it in time?

About Sherel Ott

An eclectic collector of animation movies, Sherel Ott is a writer of fantasy and romance stories. One day while watching an animated movie, she noticed that there weren’t a lot of movies or books with girls of color in leading roles…as heroines, adventurers or with strong moral characters and wondered… Where were the influential leaders, doctors, lawyers or royalty of color? Why weren’t there any strong black female characters where a girl of color could be proud of her skin color and the type of person representing and say … “I want to be like her!” Wanting something more for her own nieces to look up to and strive to emulate, other than what girls of color were currently being portrayed as or should settle for is how her book initially took form. She wanted to show that there are black princesses, warriors, adventurers of all walks of life. That she should be and can be recognized for what she does and who her true self is, not be prejudged by what color her skin was.

As a fan of all fantasy, magical, mystical, celestial and other worldly creatures, Sherel began reading sci-fi/fantasy stories at a young age.

"I have always been a sci-fi and fantasy type of person. I always felt as a child that I belonged in those types of worlds rather than here. Reading them had always been my way of escaping from my shyness as a child." Sherel Ott. She had started collecting fairies of all types and now has a mini collection of collectible faery ornament to decorate her Christmas tree every year.

Sherel creates her stories first by writing them out and then typing them on the computer. She feels she gets her inspiration greatest when she writes and from nature itself. She strives to present her stories in a way that anyone can relate and identify with no matter how old or young...with a little fun, a little action/adventure, yet with a hidden message. Writing since the age of 14, her first published book--Adventures of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia -- brings a story of strong African American females. It's an adventure series particularly geared towards girls, although boys will also find it an enjoyable read.

When Sherel is not writing, she is working as a full-time Family Nurse Practitioner and has been so for the past 17 years. She presently resides in Felton, DE.
Social Links:
Webpage: http://www.sherelott.com/                
Facebook:  Sherel Ott Author    
Twitter:  @SherelOttAuthor

Where to Purchase: Amazon

Radio Appearance (information via Sherel's marketing staff): Please join us tomorrow, August 13th, for a live online interview with Sherel and Literary Diva, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/diva29 at 1:00p.m. EDT. If you miss the interview, it will be available later in the day on Literary Diva’s site and Sherel’s.

Other Blog Stops on the Tour: Check where Sherel is each day on her ten day tour by clicking here: http://www.sherelott.com/virtual-book-blog-tour-schedule/.
1st Prize: $50 Amazon.com gift certificate and signed copy of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia

2nd Prize: $25 Amazon.com gift certificate and signed copy of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia

3rd Prize: $10 Amazon.com gift certificate and signed copy of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway via Facebook (click link)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Decatur Book Festival, Here I Come!

Hi All!

What are you doing over Labor Day weekend this year? How about a trip to Decatur, Georgia for some literary delights? With categories ranging from fiction to journalism, food & cooking to feminism, the Decatur Book Festival will have authors and literature in attendance for every reader.

I'll be on the Children's Stage, which will also host lots of folks you've heard of~ Jeanne Birdsall (The Penderwicks series), Ingrid Law (Savvy, Scumble, and the upcoming Switch), Adam Gidwitz (Dark and Grimm series), Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone series, Chasing Secrets), Rodman Philbrick (The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg and Freak the Mighty), and lots more! (full children's author list HERE)


One month from today, on Sunday, September 6th, I'll be on the Children's Stage with MEG CABOT (!!!), author of The Princess Diaries and many other books. I just read her new MG Princess Diaries spinoff, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess and loved it. Here's some information about our session:

Happily Ever After
Children's Stage at Decatur Recreation Center presented by Decatur Education Foundation

Sunday, 3:45-4:15

Sometimes, life takes unexpected twists and turns! Meg Cabot (From The Notebooks of a Middle School Princess) and Jessica Lawson (Nooks and Crannies) weave tales of ordinary girls finding extraordinary adventure!

Session Link: https://www.decaturbookfestival.com/sessions/view/5571c5c729b076a6559ad505

Full Children's Stage Schedule:https://www.decaturbookfestival.com/sessions/index/venue:555f31f4171201f16269c735

Festival Website: https://www.decaturbookfestival.com/

Hope to see you there!