March 2023 Authors
Books By Balas
Children's Book Trio
What inspired you to begin the book publishing journey with your children?
The journey initially began with my son, Khalil. He’s ten years old, but he has been drawing since he was three years old. He first started drawing SpongeBob Squarepants and Disney characters. I always tell Khaill, “Whatever you do. Never stop drawing. That is your gift”. God blesses everyone with a gift or talent that we must explore throughout our life, with Khalil, his gift was pretty clear. So, I started this journey because I wanted to expose the world to Khalil's talents. Also, I wanted to showcase to Khalil one avenue he could utilize his artwork in the future.
"God blesses everyone with a gift or talent that we must explore throughout our life".
Can you describe the writing and illustration process with your children? Who writes? Who draws? How does the final book come together?
My son, Khalil, does the illustrations for all the books. I wrote the initial three and my daughter, Aniya, wrote our latest one, “I Love Myself”. We have learned a multitude of information throughout our journey, and our style has changed along the way as well. The first two books, “Why Dogs Chase Cats” and “The Lost Baby Spinosaurus” were done with the help of a graphic artist. Khalil hand draws the images, then the images are scanned, uploaded onto an ipad, and edited for perfection. A graphic designer edited our first two, and I edited the next two. However, our next book, “Stubs Saves The Day” is digitally drawn on the ipad entirely by Khalil. So, this will be the first digitally drawn book that he has complete control over. After the images are finalized, I upload the files to Adobe Indesign where the book is formatted, then I submit a pdf file to a printing company and wait for the printed copy.
Why is early childhood literacy important to you?
Early childhood literacy is important because reading is fundamental for success, especially for younger children. Children who have a difficult time reading at an early age are less likely to graduate high school. Reading helps build confidence and lifelong learners.
"Early childhood literacy is important because reading is fundamental for success, especially for younger children. Children who have a difficult time reading at an early age are less likely to graduate high school. Reading helps build confidence and lifelong learners".
Have your children and you been able to attend any events where you can promote your books?
Yes, we attend events quite often. I try to attend an event once or twice a month. Majority of the events we attend are either in the Bay Area or Sacramento. Although, I plan on attending events out of state in the future. Particularly in Atlanta, New Orleans, and New York.
Can you provide a synopsis of the book "The Big Friendly Dragon"?
The Big Friendly Dragon is a book about judging people before you actually get to know them. Bradley, the dragon is a big dragon that scares and intimidates everyone in town he encounters, but Bradley means no harm. He only wants to help. One day, the people in town experience a catastrophic event that requires help from Bradley, which in return helps them realize Bradley is not so intimidating after all. At the time, when I wrote this book Khalil loved dragons and he would draw them all the time, so I decided to write a book featuring a dragon as the main character.
Can you provide a synopsis of the book "Why Dogs Chase Cats"?
Why Dogs Chase Cats is our first book and it's a story I would recite to Khalil all the time. The story is an African American Folktale that answers the age old question, why do dogs chase cats? In the story, Dog and Cat heard about an exclusive party for horned animals so they devise a plan to enter the party, but Cat doesn't honor the agreement, which leads to a dispute in the end and of course “the chase.”
Outside of writing, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy with your kids?
I have four children and I have different hobbies with each of them. With Khalil, everything is centered around creativity. We record art videos for Instagram and Tiktok and build sculptures from clay. My daughter, Aniya, is an aspiring pianist so we spend a lot of time practicing the piano together. My youngest son is the only one that shows interest in sports so we spend our time at the park or in the driveway playing tee ball. My youngest daughter is only a year and a half so she spends a great deal of time in my arms, but I’m sure she will have a creative, artistic, and athletic trait.
What are some words of advice you can provide to parents who want to help their children pursue their dreams?
Kids will show or tell you at a young age what they love or enjoy doing . Once you figure out what that is as parents, you should put all your energy and focus into that dream or activity. Whatever that may be. It also helps to expose your children to different cultures, foods, cities, and activities. That will expand their horizon and provide them with more opportunities to excel at something out of the ordinary.
"Kids will show or tell you at a young age what they love or enjoy doing . Once you figure out what that is as parents, you should put all your energy and focus into that dream or activity. Whatever that may be".
You have some inspirational quotes on your Instagram page! How would you define success?
Everyone has their own idea of success. Which deems successful for me might not be successful for someone else. One might believe success is purchasing a home, graduating college, obtaining a high paying job, living on their own, starting a business, or making a million dollars. But success for me is closely linked to my children. I want to leave something for my kids, such as property, wealth, or a business. If my kids are successful, then I know I did my part.
D e ' A v i o n B l u
I n n o v a t i o n s
When did your author journey begin?
How would you describe your writing style?
My writing style is realistic fiction. My children’s books focus on school situations, confronting personal and social problems. This genre portrays characters coming to understand situations and others around them. I want the reader (children) to find joy in reading my children's stories. I love for my illustrations to resemble likeness of real life children. I often use real life characters (adults & children) that are found within my life. For “Nicole and the Fifth Grade Desk” I used my niece as the main character “Nicole” and myself as the teacher. For “Because I See You, I See Me” A Tribute to Black Teachers and Students is a book of admiration for black educators. I was inspired by my elementary education. In the illustrations for “Because I See You, I See You" you will find the likeness of several of my teacher friends.
Can you provide us with a brief synopsis of "Nicole and the Fifth Grade Desk"?
“Nicole and the Fifth Grade desk” is a reminder that starting 5th grade can be extremely scary for most students. Fifth grade is typically the last grade before students transition to middle school. This book can help ease students through their fifth-grade jitters. This book is a celebration of a school year full of great activities and in-depth learning. “Nicole and The Fifth Grade Desk” reminds all children that starting a new grade can be a bit scary but throughout the school year they will feel comfortable.
Can you provide us with a brief synopsis of "Because I See You, I See Me"?
Because I See You, I See Me, is a reminder that when children see teachers who are a reflection of them, it empowers their goals and aspirations. This book highlights the importance of diversity in the teaching profession and the long term positive impacts it can have on children of color.
What inspired you to write both of these books?
School year 2021-22 was a great year. The students returned to the school building full-time from virtual online learning. The students were willing and excited to learn. My students inspired me to write this story. Also, my niece, Caitlyn. She was scared about starting fifth grade and had numerous questions for me about 5th grade because she knew I love teaching that grade. So, one day I decided to write all the great things about 5th grade.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are my teacher friends. Brian Keith Harris, Franklin Willis, Silvana Spence, Lanesha Tabb to name a few but there are many more.
Your book illustrations are inclusive? Why is diversity and representation important with illustrations?
It was very important to me to make sure my book represents my community. I wanted my students, family, and friends' children to see illustrations that reflect/represent them. I wanted all children of color to be represented in the children’s book that I published. Growing up there were very few children books that depicted girls with dark complexions.
"It was very important to me to make sure my book represents my community. I wanted my students, family, and friends' children to see illustrations that reflect/represent them. I wanted all children of color to be represented in the children’s book that I published".
What are some words of advice you can give to future authors?
Write the story even if you're not sure what to do with it. Write the story! Don’t talk about writing, don’t plan on writing Write the story! If you want to improve your writing the only option is to write. Read books that spark your creativity about what you are proposing to write. If it is a children’s book, then look at different styles of illustrations that you may want to include in your children’s book.
"Write the story even if you're not sure what to do with it. Write the story! Don’t talk about writing, don’t plan on writing Write the story!"
Tell us more about your teacher journey! How long have you been a teacher? What grade(s) and subject (s) do you teach?
I started my teaching journey in August 2014 when I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve taught Special Education AU Self-contained classroom (Kindergarten - 3rd Grade) and (Fifth Grade-Special Education) since 2018.
Outside of writing, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?
I love doing things with my family, shopping, exploring new countries, and being creative.
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