Cristina O'Connell on Building Children's Self-Esteem


Cristina O’Connell always knew that she wanted to work with children. She loved their honesty and their innate goodness. She also knew that she was an entrepreneur and a goal-setter. A dancer for most of her life, Cristina opened two dance studios: On Pointe and On Pointe Too. Shortly after, she started a children’s party company. Now, she’s kept the momentum going and published a children’s book: The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet, illustrated by Kevin Cannon.


Cristina wrote this book in response to something she noticed in her dance classes. “Sometimes little girls are timid in class, and they almost let it ruin their experience,” she says. “I want them to know that it’s okay to be scared. If you don’t give up, you can succeed at whatever you do.”


The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet is about a little girl named Savvy who is terrified of going to her first dance class. With the support of her mom, her brother Ry, and her dance teacher, Savvy begins to feel safe. She overcomes her fear, connects with the other kids, and ends up having a great time in dance class. 


Just like Savvy, there are many kids who struggle with fear of judgement, meeting new people, and trying new things. Cristina has observed that “on some level, kids have all the same insecurities as adults. You have to meet kids where they’re at. Remove their fear of the unknown by setting the stage for what they’re going to do.” To get kids to open up, it is crucial to create a positive environment where they know they are welcome, and where they know what is going to happen.


As children carry many of their childhood experiences into adulthood, Cristina knows that making kids feel safe to explore their passions is vital. Self-esteem is a key to success, and Cristina knows that kids will identify with how you treat them and what you tell them. She too was a timid child. She had to conquer her fears to become the entrepreneur she is today. “I was fortunate to have supportive parents,” she says. They helped her establish healthy patterns for goal-setting and exploring her passions, and she hopes to help other children do the same.


Cristina’s drive to help children achieve their goals compelled her to write her book. At first, she didn’t know where to start. She only knew that she wanted to publish independently because it would give her the most creative freedom and control over distribution. After she wrote her manuscript, she began to search for an illustrator. She found Kevin Cannon, and immediately connected with his illustration style. Kevin recommended that she work with Wise Ink, who coincidentally has also published Andy Frisella’s children’s book series, an entrepreneur that Cristina admires. The stars seemed to align, and Cristina was on her way to becoming a published author.


The thing that surprised Cristina most about publishing was the in-depth nature of the process. As someone who is used to working quickly in business, book publishing taught her that good books take time. She learned to trust everyone on the team to work to their strengths, and to trust that everything would happen in the right way at the right time.


As a businessowner, Cristina is using her connections to get her book out into the world. She’s reached out to local children’s boutiques, dance studios, and other businesses in her community to make sure that her work connects with the people who need it most. She also plans to use her book as a tool for parents and children to be able to connect around the child’s sense of self-esteem and safety.


Cristina is looking forward to writing her next book in the series, which will focus on Savvy’s brother, Ry, and his journey in dance class. She wants little boys to know that strong boys dance. She wants to empower everyone to feel comfortable exploring their interests with nonjudgement. She says that “with courage and hard work, you can conquer your fears and achieve your goals.”


Working with children has taught Cristina that there is an inner child in every one of us. She encourages all adults to listen to that child’s voice, trust their own sense of right and wrong, and trust their intuition. Don’t be scared to follow your dreams.


And to any author who is thinking about publishing, Cristina says, “Go for it!”



The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet will launch on November 24th, 2019 at the Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside, CA. You can preorder her book here.

A Look Back at Banned Books (Infographic)

Of course you know that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has stirred up controversy over the years. You might even know that the Harry Potter series has the most commonly challenged books of the 21st century. 

But did you realize that Charlotte's Web was banned in Kansas just 10 years ago? Or that Green Eggs & Ham was banned for its portrayal of Marxism?


The good people over at PrinterInks have put out this handy infographic to show some of the most prominent and/or ridiculous bannings of all time.

5 Books (Not About Writing) That Every Author Should Read

Writers often begin their relationship with storytelling as readers and then graduate into producing their own literary works. While writing, it can often be beneficial to step back into your role as a reader to remind yourself of what initially drew your attention to the craft. Apart from being an entertaining pastime, reading can also teach authors important tools of the trade. We’ve compiled a list of five general interest books that are enjoyable reads and whose writing also offers valuable examples of good writing craft.

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1. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore is a fun genre-bending read that acknowledges and then subverts genre tropes. The novel follows a young girl named Jane who is making good on a promise to her recently deceased aunt by exploring the island of an eccentric, rich family. Within her first day on the island, abundant mysteries emerge, and Jane endeavors to track down answers to her many questions. As the reader selects which question they want answered, the are also selecting between five different genres, ranging from fantasy to thriller to sci-fi. Besides from being a quick read full of quirky, memorable characters, this book is a study in knowing the craft. Cashore demonstrates her masterful skill as she moves her characters between genres and storylines. She gives authors a great example of what it means to use the traditional writing tools in a way that ultimately creates something entirely new.

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2. the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur is a collection of poetry and art that took the world by storm. The autobiographical collection speaks to Kaur’s experiences with immigration, family, self-love, body positivity, and love. The poems are elegant and powerful and are paired with line drawings done by the poet herself. These poems are significant because Kaur writes for a broad audience in a way that still speaks an honest, personal truth. Kaur found an audience in a global market that doesn’t always honor poetry, and she did this because of her skill of making often-marginalized groups’ voices universally relatable.

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3. Rez Life by David Treuer is a complex examination of Native American life on the reservation. Weaving together historical documents, legislation, tradition, and personal anecdotes, this novel constructs a complex narrative that challenges assumptions about a culture. This book is significant in its storytelling. Treuer tells a story that’s been part of our cultural consciousness for centuries but does it in a way that provides a new angle to the story and encourages readers to come at the subject from a new angle. This book is a good reminder that no story has been told too often and that there are always new voices to bring to the table.

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4. What Editors Do by Peter Ginna is a collection of essays written by various people in the publishing industry. The collection works its way through the entire publishing process (from agents, to acquisitions, through copyediting and marketing). The essays are written by a powerhouse collective of industry professionals and give a real, honest glimpse into the profession. This is a great read for authors who are seeking a peak behind the curtain. It will help you understand the details of the entire publishing process, and hopefully add clarity and understanding to your future interactions with others who are part of the publishing process.

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5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien weaves stories of a Vietnam veteran through his experiences during the war and his life decades later while he’s trying to acclimate to civilian life in the U.S. Blurring the line between being a novel and a collection of short stories, between being fiction and nonfiction, this work tasks the reader and the author both with holding the weight of collective trauma. It challenges the idea of truth in storytelling, asking us to balance our regard for emotional truth and factual truth.O’Brien broaches a heavy subject in a way that feels authentic to his topic. He’s an example of breaking convention when the convention doesn’t suit your topic, and using convention when it does.

Celebrating our 2019 Award Winning Authors!

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Wise Ink authors took the award season by storm this past year, with nearly a dozen titles winning medals or landing as finalists in some of the top independent book award ceremonies of 2019. Wise Ink published many amazing books this past year and we are thrilled to highlight the accomplishments of some of the projects below. Coming from a large pool of diverse and thematically-varied writers, these stories run the subject gamut, spanning from topics like true crime and small-town mystery to journeys of self-discovery and healing.

Three primary award ceremonies took center stage in Wise Ink’s book awards: the IBPA Ben Franklin Awards, the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY Awards for short), and the Midwest Book Awards.

The Ben Franklin Awards are regarded as one of the highest national honors for independent publishers, include over fifty categories that recognize excellence in editorial quality and design.

The IPPY Awards were the first awards that were open exclusively to independents, and winners are chosen from around the world. Winners are featured in articles on the Independent Publisher website and promoted in press releases, among other rewards.

And with a local focus, the Midwest Book Awards recognize exceptional quality from independent Midwest writers – a demographic that the Midwest Independent Publishing Association strives to serve through education, networking, and peer recognition.

Without further ado, here are the details about the awardees!

Amy Pendino’s debut novel The Witness Tree, a thrilling mystery that takes place in rural Iowa and centers around the removal of an ominous double-headed tree, was a Silver Winner in The Ben Franklin Awards’ Best New Voice: Fiction category. The Witness Tree also won the gold medal for the IPPY Awards’ Midwest - Best Regional Fiction category and was a finalist in the Midwest Book Awards’ Fiction - Literary/Contemporary/Historical category.

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In a similar vein, Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann’s true crime page-turner The Girls Are Gone covers the real-life events of 2013 that surrounded the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki, two sisters who vanished in the midst of their parents’ divorce. The Girls Are Gone took home the gold medal in the IPPY Awards’ True Crime category.

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Another title that nabbed the gold medal was Running to Graceland by John Slayton, a contemplative novel about a group of freshly-graduated friends who go on a road trip filled with choice, consequence, and self-discovery; it won in IPPY Awards’ Popular Fiction category.

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Turning to the introspective side of things, Susan Hannifin-MacNab’s A to Z Healing Toolbox, which guides readers through active and intentional healing after experiencing trauma, was the Gold Winner of The Ben Franklin Awards’ Psychology category.

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German Awakening, a skillfully-woven story about author Amy Hallberg’s retreat from a small town in the U.S. to West Germany through an exchange program, received the bronze medal in the IPPY Awards’ Midwest – Best Regional Nonfiction category.

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Author Jenney Egertson’s Before I Leave is the culmination of a fifteen-year-long journey to recount the stories and wisdom of a diverse group of women over the age of 80. Filled with lessons about integrity, resilience, and forgiveness, Before I Leave took the silver medal in the IPPY Awards’ Aging/Death & Dying category.

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Humorist Kim Kane tackles the “taboo” topic of the female aging process in Sparkle On: Women Aging in Gratitude, a witty book that covers every imaginable base as it encourages women of “a certain age” to continue living with grace and gratitude. Sparkle On was the bronze medalist in the IPPY Awards’ Women’s Issues category.

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To round it all off, there were also several winners with stunning visuals that accompanied the writing. With a beautiful collection of accompanying photography, Charles R. Stinson’s Connections explores his architectural process and the stories of the people behind his designs; the book was a Silver Winner in the Ben Franklin Awards’ Coffee Table Book category.

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And last but not least, When I Fly With Papa was the gold medal awardee for the Midwest Book Awards’ Religion/Philosophy category. When I Fly With Papa is Dr. Claudia May’s three-movement poem brought to life in the richly-illustrated pages of a children’s book, which explores how the reader’s relationship with Papa as God can be experienced in a variety of different ways.

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Congratulations again to these authors - it is incredibly exciting to see such talent being recognized and awarded. Wise Ink looks forward to this next publishing year and the bountiful stories it will bring.

7 Podcasts Every Author Should Listen to This Year

We know that authors are busy people, so we’ve taken the time to compile seven podcasts that can help you learn important skills of the trade and entertain you as they educate. These podcasts will help you master grammar, market your books, and give you some good stories to listen to for inspiration.

1. Helping Writers Become Authors by K.M. Weiland: K.M Weiland is an author herself, so her input on the writing process feels genuine and useful. She begins every podcast with an update on her writing, which helps you feel like you’re not alone if you struggle with writer’s block or think that outlining your book is difficult. She then launches into a brief tip about specific writing strategies. Her episodes are usually under 20 minutes long and are full of helpful examples and strategies to help make your writing better.


2. The Entrepreneurship Elevated Podcast by Mike Michalowicz: This energetic podcast helps entrepreneurs gain the skills they need to run a profitable business. The podcast is recorded with a few friends, and sometimes a guest speaker, and is primarily an enthusiastic conversation. However, woven into these conversations are good tips about how to market yourself, build community, and make a brand. Authors need to be the number one promoters of their work, so this podcast can help you focus on the business side of your work as an author. These episodes are usually about 50 minutes long.

3. The Marketing Book Podcast by Douglas Burdett: Every week, Burdett interviews an author of a book about marketing. The episodes include useful links and other resources that let you take your learning beyond the podcast. Every week’s author has valuable marketing information that they’re happy to share, and if you enjoy the episode, you know that the guest speaker wrote a whole book about the topic! Marketing your book is an important part of being an author, so these are valuable skills to learn.

4. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips: If you’ve ever used Grammar Girl’s website, you know how helpful she can be when it comes to those little grammar or spelling tips that you’ve never quite mastered. These brief episodes (around 20 minutes each) give you two grammar lessons apiece, but she has a way of slipping in details so you learn way more than you expected. This podcast is a great way to refresh your grammar knowledge or search out an answer to a question you have.

5. Writing Excuses by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Daniel Wells: Brought to you by four iconic fantasy and science fiction authors, this podcast focuses on writing techniques that have a fantasy element but can be easily extended to other types of writing (such as world building and writing characters who are different from yourself). These podcasts are designed to be brief and informative and are usually under 20 minutes long. Between all of these big-name authors, there’s a lot of experience to be shared and learned from.

6. Copyblogger FM by Sonia Simone: This podcast is focused on content marketing and will give you tips on copywriting, building a social media platform, and understanding how to maximize your website. These episodes are usually around 25 minutes long, and each episode gives you tips on specific techniques. Maximizing your online presence is very important for authors, but it’s a difficult skill to master, and this podcast will help you feel more comfortable about it.

7. The Stoop Storytelling Series by Laura Wexler and Jessica Henkin: Every Sunday, Laura and Jessica post a new story from a guest speaker. The two introduce the episode, and then play a recording of the guest telling a story that relates to whatever the predetermined topic is (ranging from love, to immigration, to dogs, to holidays, and anything else you can think of). This is a great way to think of new ways to tell a story and to recognize the value that your lived experiences have in becoming an interesting story. The episodes range in length from 15 to 35 minutes, depending on how many stories they feature.

And as a little something extra, we’ve included an eighth bonus podcast: our own! WiseInk recently launched our own podcast, called Buzz: Book Marketing Made Easy. Based on their incredible book Buzz: The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing, this podcast is brought to you by Dara Beevas and Roseanne Cheng. This podcast gives tips to authors about how to best market your book!

Four Great Books for Spring!

The holidays just passed, and it can feel like you’ve used all of your creative gift ideas. We’re here to help you shake up your gift-giving with four books that will make a perfect gift for that special person in your life.


Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward, by Meredith Crosby is the perfect book for the hardworking women in your life. Written by a woman who has worked her way up many corporate ladders (including working for McDonald’s, 3M, and Comcast), this book gives real, concrete advice on moving your career forward. Full of personal anecdotes and advice from her mentors, this book will help your loved one keep her career momentum going.


Better Parenting: A Guide for Somali Parents in the Diaspora, by Ruqia Abdi is the perfect book for first-generation parents. Parenting is never easy, but parenting second-generation children adds an extra level of challenge. This book helps parents learn to balance American culture while still upholding the values of their family’s heritage. This insightful book blends research, a deep understanding of community, and personal experience to offer a useful guide for Somali parents.

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Sanda, The Girl with the Magic Smile, by Sabina Mugassa Bingman is the perfect gift for adventurous young children who are interested in exploring their own culture. The children’s book describes Sanda’s experience with the traditional art of teeth-carving on her island home. The energetic young girl learns to embrace her inner beauty and honor the importance of her cultural traditions. This book teaches powerful lessons on self-acceptance to young children.


Healing: The Radical Act of Self-Care, by Dr. Joi Lewis is the perfect gift for the worn-out activist in your life. It can be exhausting to give so much of yourself to causes that can seem endlessly overwhelming, but this book will remind your activist loved one to take a step back and focus on healing themselves before they can heal the world. This book provides a method for reclaiming one’s humanity using both self-care and community care and would make a great gift for your loved one who needs to focus on healing.

Three Tips for Engaging Your Audience as a Speaker

Many authors wonder, “Do I need to be a public speaker?”

It’s a tricky question; plenty of authors are skilled with pen and paper but hate the idea of speaking to a crowd. You don’t need to be a professional public speaker in order to reach your audience, but in order to effectively market your book, you should probably have some public speaking skills in your back pocket. At the very least, you’ll want to be comfortable enough with public speaking to do readings and similar events to promote your book. To help you out, we’ve put together some tips on how to feel more comfortable in the podium spotlight.

Tip #1 - Talk about topics you enjoy talking about. If you’re trying to speak on an unfamiliar topic, you’ll most likely be stressed on the stage, and that stress will show. It’s much harder to engage with your audience if you lack passion for the subject matter. Before agreeing to speak at an event, ask yourself what you know the most about. What are you interested in (related to your book, of course)? Is there a subject area that you have spent time and energy learning about? What do you think your audience wants to hear?

Tip #2 - Find a way to personally connect with your audience. One effective way to do this is to open with a personal anecdote that relates to your overall topic. Do you have any life lessons to share based on your past experiences or mistakes? What are some relevant life hacks that you have discovered and want to share with your audience?

Tip #3 - Make sure you’re speaking to groups at locations that connect with your book topic or genre. Ultimately, it isn’t worth spending a lot of time and energy on a speaking engagement that won’t bring new readers to your book. Look for places that cater to your audience’s demographic and seek out speaking opportunities at those locations.

Every author is different, and thus every author’s approach to using promoting their book via speaking engagements is going to be different. The amount of public speaking you want to do is up to you, but it’s somewhat inevitable when it comes to selling your book and promoting yourself. Practice makes perfect, though, and the more experience you have with speaking to an audience, the easier it will become.