Dr. Marlene Bryenton is a retired Employment and Insurance Officer who had a 36-year career with Service Canada. In 2003, she received an Honourary Doctor of Laws Degree from University of Prince Edward Island. She also received the Order of PEI in 1998. Following her retirement, she discovered the joys of writing for young audiences, with her third book set to be released this May.
We asked her to share the story of this newest adventure with us.
(photo caption: Dr. Marlene Bryenton with grandchildren Anna and James and illustrator Leanne Bowlan)
Tell us about your new career as a children’s author.
I have written three children's storybooks namely, Anna's Pink and Purple Glasses, Jaya's Magic Wheelchair and The Magic Toothbrush. Anna's and Jaya's storybooks were distributed to 3000 children in kindergarten and grade two all across the Island. We hope to launch The Magic Toothbrush in May 2021. This is thanks to businesses and charities that sponsor the storybooks. Our goal is to once again distribute the storybooks all across PEI. We have won awards including The Public Schools Branch Inspire Award, and three Purple Dragonfly Awards for Best Cover, Best Illustrations and Best Interior Design. Anna's and Jaya's storybooks also won Canada Book Awards.
What inspired you to start your business?
We started in October 2019. I noticed Leanne Bowlan posting doodles on Facebook. I contacted her and asked if she would like to illustrate a children's storybook. I was laid up at the time requiring a hip replacement but I was able to use the computer to write.
Have you experienced any unexpected surprises since starting your business?
My biggest surprise is that I was able to write not one but three storybooks. They feature my four grandchildren: Jaya, Brynn, Anna, and James.
What have your successes been?
Writing the three storybooks and winning awards; and the fact that 3000 children have received each of my storybooks!
How has COVID-19 affected your business? Has it changed the way you operate? Taught you any important lessons?
My team includes an illustrator, an editor and a formatter. We could not meet as a team during the COVID-19 lockdown so we depended on our computers. We could not sell our books at local stores and we could not do book signings. This greatly limited our ability to sell storybooks. It is also difficult to obtain sponsors for the storybooks during COVID-19.
Other than COVID-19, what challenges has your business faced and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was securing sponsors. I gave myself more time to do this function.
Is there anything else we should know about your business?
I hope to have my storybooks in all provinces across Canada. I found a sponsor for Jaya's Magic Wheelchair in Surrey, B.C. where Jaya lives. Surrey Firefighters and B.C. Physiotherapy both sponsored storybooks for children in Jaya's school. I also found a sponsor for Katzie Elementary, Surrey, B.C. The Jays Care Foundation affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays has also sponsored my storybooks and are including Jaya’s storybook in a pilot of their Challenger Baseball Program. If it’s a success, they’ll sponsor more storybooks.
For more information about Marlene’s books or to contact her, visit her website or her Facebook page.
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