Congratulations on your first picture book, Please Don’t Change by Diaper, which came out in September. You are also the mom of two adorable little boys, just started brewery with your husband and are the president of the Toronto Inuit Association. Wow. How do you manage it all?
Thanks Lisa! I drink a lot of coffee. I also try to forgive myself when I inevitably drop some balls as we’re all allowed to make mistakes.
Q. This is your first book. How did you come up with idea for this book?
A. My older son Raymond hates having his diaper changed. When he was about eight months old, I was doing our regular routine of me making up stories trying to get him to stop fussing during a diaper change. While he stilled fussed, I thought, wait a second, I should write that down! That’s where Please Don’t Change My Diaper! started.
Q. Why do you think little ones – and their parents – will enjoy it?
A. Rhyming is fun for both parents and kids, and diapers changes are a shared experience. While it’s not something that anyone looks forward to, it’s something that you can look back on and be glad it’s done.
Q. What has been the response so far?
Kids far and wide are loving it, I’ve received photos from fans as far as Australia flipping through it, and messages from parents that they have a similar experience with diaper changes.
As a note, my 12-year-old son picked up the book because the adorable illustrations by Toronto’s Emma Pedersen and read it cover to cover. We knew of a certain little one who had the same view – the world is ending, don’t change my bum. It made us laugh.
Amazing! I’ve heard that older kids are enjoying it too. Maybe it’s nostalgia kicking in?
Q. Can you please tell us how this book came to be from idea to finish product?
A. After I finished the first draft of the manuscript, I read it to many friends and family to make sure it wasn’t just me that thought it was funny before submitting to Inhabit Media for consideration. After a few months, I got word that they would like to move forward, and then we spent more than a year getting it ready for print. Then COVID happened, so the release date was pushed from June to September.
Q. Did the book change a lot from idea to final product?
A. It became longer, and I added the winter theme so that the kid could wear a nasaq. Nasaq is the Inuktitut word for hat, Raymond always wears a Pangnirtung-style hat and I wanted that to be part of the book as that’s where my mum is from.
Q. Did you have a choice as to who illustrated your book? What do you enjoy about Emma’s illustrations? Did you work together through the process of creating this book? How?
A. Inhabit Media chose Emma as the illustrator. We didn’t work together directly through the process, we only met when we did the virtual book launch in September 2020! I love Emma’s work and think her style is perfect for Please Don’t Change My Diaper! She really captures expressions, and there are so many emotions happening in the book, excitement, fear, dread, comfort. Emma also reflected the story being from the kids’ perspective, so everything we see in the book is at kid level opposed to an adult telling the experience.
Q. What are you doing to promote your book?
Lots of Instagram! Inhabit Media has been so supportive and helped connect me with different organizations that promote Canadian authors. I’ve been part of Telling Tales and continue to do Zoom readings. Toronto Lit Up! supported my book launch party, which moved to an online format due to COVID.
Q. You make up songs for diaper changes, face wiping and more. Do you think there are other books waiting for you to write?
A. My second book is called Benny the Bananasaurus Rex. It’s about a tyrannosaurus rex who eats so many bananas that he turns into one! The release date is fall 2022 through Inhabit Media.
Q. What type of books do you see yourself writing in the future (just picture books, middle grade)? Why?
A/ I see myself writing more picture books. My kids are energetic and give me a lot of inspiration! Raymond got a ukulele for his birthday recently, so we’re making up even more songs than usual! I’ve started drafting a middle grade book that’s inspired by the outdoors, it’s very fresh so we’ll see if what it turns into.
Q. What is your dream job?
A. I’ve always wanted to be a business woman. I like figuring out how to make things happen. Now I am living the dream of running a business with two kids and a dog while promoting my book during a pandemic.
Q. You and your husband, Sean, just opened Red Tape Bespoke Brewing. Sean first brewed Celebration Saison to celebrate the arrival of your son, Raymond. According to your website, Sean brewed the beer, which was bottled champagne style, and you designed the labels and “the night of Jan. 11, 2018 was filled with sounds of corks popping across the land as our family and close friends received the news of Ray’s arrival.” What a fun idea. How did you go from creating a beer for friends and family to wanting to create your own brewery?
A. Opening a brewery was a far away dream for a few years. Sean loves to brew and I wanted to own a cool bricks and mortar business. The experience of sharing beer to celebrate a milestone was the first inspiration to take a step forward. Having Ray, and now Jack, really inspires us to build something that we can be proud of, and that our kids can be proud of too. Hopefully, it will inspire them to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.
Q. Does Red Tape have a location? You opened the brewery during a pandemic. Can you tell me about the timing? Are you doing business despite not being allowed to open? Can people still purchase beer from you? What is special about your beers?
A. We’re located at 159 Main St. in the Upper Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto.
No one tells you to include a global pandemic as a risk when you’re writing your business plan, so it’s not something we had considered.Tweet
By the time everything was shut down in March 2020, we were already into construction and had equipment ordered so there was no turning back. We managed to get through construction with about six months of delays in the end.
Luckily, our retail shop is considered essential so we’re allowed to open! Our store is open Monday to Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., and people can order from shop.redtapebrewery.com. We offer free local delivery and flat rate shipping across Ontario. We’ve had a lot of inquiries about bespoke beer! We’re speaking with people who are planning their weddings for the future, also with people who are happy to have their bespoke beer packaged into cans, as we’re still able to offer cans, no keg service.
Q. What is your background (you mentioned designing the labels for the beer)? How does your background help in what you are doing today?
A. The greater part of my career was spent as a project management consultant primarily doing IT implementations with the government, then I was a policy analyst with the province for a couple of years. My background helped with the planning part of the business, and helps with navigating the reporting aspect of alcohol. We hired a graphic designer, Manar Samman, who does our labels with our input.
Q. Can you please tell me about the Toronto Inuit Association? What is this organization and what does it do?
A. The Toronto Inuit Association (TIA) is an organization that we started to support Inuit living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We were 100 per cent volunteer run for a few years, though we’ve had staff since 2019. We offer online programming right now due to COVID, things like mitten making, workouts, and storytelling. We offer several support programs to community members as well.
Q. Why is this organization important? Do people have to be Inuit to become a member or participate in its events?
A. We’re a small board, and I happened to be at a meeting in 2016 when we needed someone to drive the organization to become a non-profit organization. It’s important because there is so much diversity among Indigenous people, and it’s often assumed that we’re all the same. Inuit need a voice in the GTA to make sure that our unique needs are met since it’s often assumed that we have status cards. TIA is a great networking opportunity for Inuit who feel isolated and far away from their home communities.
Q. What is next for you?
A. Oh gosh. A lot more hard work. A lot more play time outside with my kids! I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Q. Feb. 17 is I Read Canadian Day. Why is it important to read Canadian?
A. When kids see themselves in someone, it’s inspiring to them. By reading Canadian to our kids, they see the diversity that we represent and recognize that they can do anything they put their mind to, whether they’re from Toronto, Geraldton, Hope, Tatamagouche, or Pangnirtung.Tweet
Q. Who are your favourite Canadian authors/illustrators?
A. Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko were my childhood favourites. In addition to them, my kids and I love Celina Kalluk, Richard Van Camp, Sheree Fitch, Ceporah Mearns, and Nancy Mike. Of course, Emma Pedersen is one of my newest all time favourites!
Q. Who will you be reading (Canadian) Feb. 17?
A. I’m reading the anthology Taaqtumi. With my kids we’ve got Sleeping Dragons All Around by Sheree Fitch on repeat at the moment
Q. Anything else you would like to say?
A. Buy my book! Buy my beer! Just kidding, but I won’t mind if you do.