Amanda Cottrell: Three books in less than a year!

Amanda believes in getting support from people who have been through the self-publishing process, to avoid headaches and dead ends.

Her mission is to help people develop and explore their creative gifts through art, yoga and mindfulness. Author, illustrator, and grade 3 teacher (B.A, B.Ed, M.Ed), she lives in Calgary, Alberta with her daughter Ella. Her passions are drawing, creating, yoga and reading.

Ella also loves to draw and paint, she even helps her mom with some of the illustrations for her books.

Find Amanda on  Her website!   

On Instagram!

Show Notes

Introduction:                     00:00                     Welcome, to The Wrighter’s Way podcast where we celebrate writers who have completed their books and inspire writers who haven’t joined, Laurie and her guests as they talk about writing, books and life in between chapters.

Laurie:                                  00:17                     Hi everybody. This is Laurie with the Wrighter’s Way podcast where we celebrate authors like Amanda and celebrate people who don’t have their books out yet, but they’re getting closer. So welcome Amanda. Thank you for coming on here with me.

Amanda:                              00:36                     Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Laurie:                                  00:39                     Take two. We’re learning. I’m still new. That’s what I’ve been saying it all day. I’m still new at this. So let’s start by just introducing yourself and your background and what you do and a little bit about your books.

Amanda:                              00:57                     So I am a teacher. I teach grade three. I’ve taught everything from grade two to grade six. I finished my master’s in education technology, focusing on creativity. And then I really wanted to start writing children’s books. It just came naturally and I wanted to. I was at a retreat, I did a meditation and then the book just came to me about it’s okay to feel. And so especially because I was going through a divorce at the time and had a toddler and there’s a lot going on. So I was like, oh my students see this as well. And so originally that book took me about four years, just to compile and do the artwork because I illustrate all my books as well. At first I was just going to publish it. I’m using a Mac book creator and create. Sorry, my cat just j ped on the counter. And so I was going to create it just with a Mac book and just share it with my students. And then, , I had some friends actually contact me saying that I should contact you and follow you on instagram. And then I came to a couple of your workshops to learn how to actually get it up on Amazon so I could share it with more people. And then the ball was rolling, rolling. And so I published my first book in November of 2017 and it was the, it’s okay to feel like illustrated it. , all the pictures are very different because they are meant to be pictures of all the different feelings on some of them are actually even photographs that I took and then used a filter to make my daughter look different so that you can really tell that it’s her. And then at the same time I was actually illustrating a book for another lady. And so both books came out at about the same time. I’m not entirely sure how she published hers though. I just did the pictures for it. And then, , since then I’ve been, I also, one of my other passions is yoga and so, the three curriculum we study four countries, Peru, India, China, Russia, and Ukraine. And I took this course to become a kids yoga instructor as well for my…Hi Kitty! So anyways I had, I wrote these stories as part to help teach yoga in the classroom, but also to teach about the countries that we study. So my second book was called a Yoga Journey through India and I illustrated it and published it in June of 2018 and then just published one last week called Yoga journey through Peru. So that’s a sequel to, well not a sequel. It’s in combination with the Yoga journey through India and then I have to others because we study for countries in grade three. It will be a yoga journey through Ukraine and the yoga journey through Tenesia. And then I also just published one actually yesterday with my girlfriend. We coauthored it. So I, I did all of the illustrations and, and ended some of the writing. She did the majority of the writing but we just have it up on kindle right now and because kindle and createspace has changed a little bit. We’re just playing with how to get the, the paperback on. That’s changed a little bit though. Paperback should have been published today, but it’ll help us hopefully by the end of the weekend when I figured out.

Laurie:                                  04:28                     You could add that as one of the lessons that you’ve learned along the way. Be Flexible! If you are going to be dealing with Amazon really in a way. That is so cool. I have your book cover that I know you can’t see, but the journey through Peru so that people can see it and I can find you by your name of course, but like anybody in Canada who is a teacher and and watching this should get these books because what a great addition to the curriculum because I can’t imagine there’s that many, books teachers don’t want to be using.

Amanda:                              04:59                     Yeah, students love it. They are like trying the yoga poses and there’s like partner Yoga poses and they love that. I’m actually writing along with them and so I actually like print off copies of my book ahead of time and ask them to see if you can find any mistakes if you find a mistake so I’ll give you like a prize because then they learned that the editing process is hard. Even adults miss typos all the time. I’m the one I just published with the girlfriend called ‘I am fearless: A yoga story for kids and superheroes’. I published it on kindle and then was working on the paperback edition and then I caught two more mistakes just actually just before I got online with you. And reuploaded and I told the kids today, I said there are three mistakes you find them because I found them last night, so for two days on kindle. The kindle version of my book had two mistakes on, so if you catch another one I can fix them.

Laurie:                                  06:03                     That’s funny. That is so cool. That teacher who’s writing and you’re sharing the process with your student and the ups and the downs because there’s always both, right?

Amanda:                              06:14                     Yeah. In my first Book I had about 20 copies of it and I had at home and I found it. One of my students actually. Well first I got the proof copy and I found a typo and then I said, guys, can you find the Typo that I’ve found that I was disappointed. I got my proof copy and paid for it. I had to re upload the whole thing and then she was. One of my students was reading through it word by word, one of my lowest students for reading and my class and she found a mistake where I wrote your instead of you, so tell them the kids like my new kids this year. I said there’s two mistakes in this book. If you can find them, then you’ll get a pencil.

Laurie:                                  07:02                     That is awesome. What a fantastic teaching tool, you’re teaching them. So many things there and then that student last year who was a bit low probably had such a boost from that.

Amanda:                              07:14                     Her reading went from really a struggling reader to to reading at grade level by the end of the year.

Laurie:                                  07:20                     Oh my goodness. Yeah. That’s fabulous. Good for you. Everybody needs a good teacher like that.

Amanda:                              07:26                     That was my goal. I had a lot of kids reading below grade level at the beginning of the year and they caught them all up with my. My big literacy goal for myself.

Laurie:                                  07:35                     That’s hard. That’s so hard. I have three kids and helping them learn to read has been a struggle, like a head banging on the table type of struggle with them and yeah, hats off to you. Fabulous teacher lady. So let’s talk about, like your frame of mind. So you knew you wanted to write a book, you had the inspiration at that retreat when you were meditating and you kind of wrote that whole, it’s okay to feel.

Laurie:                                  08:09                     So how were you feeling before you published it? You knew you wanted to write a book. You had written it down. You’re working on illustrations but just to share with people so that they can really, you know, identify with you and your story because I’m sure there’s so many people who can. How were you feeling at that time?

Amanda:                              08:26                     Well, like I said, I was really just going to publish it for my classroom so that we could use the book and in my classroom and then they think it’s really cool that it’s, the kids think it’s so cool that it’s up online and that you can order them. And, my librarian is so wonderful. She made like a little stand in the library and it says like written by our own Ms. Cottrell and then she has like all of my books, the ones that I illustrated, the one that I illustrated and then the two other ones that were published last year and then she’ll get the, the two new ones of them and so the kids actually even this year she had them shelved, and I have kids from different grades. They don’t even know their names being like, where’s your books? They’re not on the shelf. I’m like, oh, they must be. Somebody must have signed them out. But they’re just hidden on the shelf somewhere. So she’s got to bring them back over there. So great. There’s such such a great school and great kids.

Laurie:                                  09:27                     Oh that’s wonderful. And that’s so inspiring for the students because so many students I’m sure would love to do this for a job, for a career.

Amanda:                              09:37                     Yeah, absolutely.

Laurie:                                  09:38                     Okay. So you felt kind of, it was almost like you weren’t planning on it, so it’s almost like you took a shot almost accidentally. Well, I guess I’ll publish it.

Amanda:                              09:49                     Yeah. Well, and too, like, because I’m a teacher, I’ve found so many in all the grades that I’ve taught, there is not enough resources specifically on what you’re teaching. So even before I went to that retreat, before when I first had my daughter, I was going to write some books called like Ella’s Adventures in Peru or Adventures in India and link it to like the science curriculum to where we studied like the rocks and the minerals and the buildings and structures so I could tie the science and the social studies curriculum together because there’s really no books out there that tie those together and I’d like to teach with inquiry where we tie our social studies and our language arts and everything together. And so I, I had the ideas to write the books anyways. And then they turned into a yoga versions of the books because so many of our kids need to move and they’re wiggly and they, they need to be up and moving and it’s just a fun way to teach, to teach them.

Laurie:                                  10:49                     So. Cool. Okay. So now fast forward a few months, actually fast forward twelvish months, you’ve published three books, so how do you feel now?

Amanda:                              10:59                     I feel really good. I have so many ideas and so many books that I want to do. I need to learn how to market better. I know you said that you check it every day and you’re adjusting things all the time. I’m so busy with work and with my, my seven year old now that I’m and being a single mom, I check mine like once a month and so I really need to. One of my new goals is to learn how to market myself better so that I can sell more on Amazon and get, get recognized for what I’m about to start selling like one or two books using the Amazon marketing services. I’m selling a little bit, like a few each month and then now I’m selling almost a book a day, which is fantastic. Well in August I sold a book a day and then in September I think even though I’m a little bit confused with how everything switched over from createspace, last time I checked when I was just on create space was selling a book a day for September eand then now it’s all on crepaceates or on KDP and I’m not entirely sure how many I’ve sold…!

Laurie:                                  12:04                     I know! And there isn’t a nice number anymore.

Amanda:                              12:06                     Yeah, it’s not the, (YOU HAVE TO ADD!) I’ll have to figure that out. I also have to figure out the banking stuff a little bit more to because even though I have like almost $400 in receivables. I haven’t been paid yet that I have to figure out.

Laurie:                                  12:24                     Okay. So this is really good to share with people, especially people like we’re right at that publishing stage to realize that you’re not instant millionaire just because you’ve published your book and there are ups and downs. So, you know, you deal with Amazon and it’s a huge corporation and so there’s some ups and downs for sure.

Amanda:                              12:43                     Yeah. My, like on my vision board is to sell 100 books a day by the end of the year, so I’ll let you know if I get there

Laurie:                                  12:51                     If you keep spitting them out like this. Just by sheer quantity.

Speaker 1:                           12:55                     Yeah. Well, and one of the other things that I’m looking into as I want to start donating a dollar per book that I sell to a cause, but they just haven’t quite found the right cause yet. So that’s something that I’ve been looking for as well.

Laurie:                                  13:09                     I love that idea.

Amanda:                              13:11                     Especially, I want it to be for kids. I want it to be a meaningful for kids. Kids with mental health or kids like I’m not entirely sure what it’s going to be yet. I contacted actually Canadian Mental Health Association and emailed them asking like how would I donate a dollar per book? Nobody got back to me.

Laurie:                                  13:31                     They don’t want your money!

Amanda:                              13:33                     So because I did like a couple, like emailed a couple of places actually in the summer just asking how to go about donating a dollar per book and nobody got back to me. So in grade three, our curriculum also is being a good citizen and so I might get the kids to look into, to a program or something that I could donate to and then get, see, see what happens.

Laurie:                                  13:55                     Well that’s the way you tie everything back to your class and the curriculum and teaching them. I wonder if when we put the podcast out and it’s on youtube and on facebook and everywhere, if people have ideas, can they send their ideas.

Amanda:                              14:11                     Absolutely. I would love that. Actually. I was even thinking … I just texted one of my girlfriends tonight for the school that’s up by my house. I live in Auburn Bay and two brand new schools got built in Auburn Bay since my daughter’s been in kindergarten. They both opened the same year when my daughter started kindergarten and the public school got funding from the government right away when they applied for it and they got a playground built. But the Catholic school hasn’t got a playground built yet. So I was thinking of even doing like a short promo, where I could donate a dollar per book that I sell from October to December, to help build this school that’s just down the street from me, a playground because that’s really meaningful to me. Like the kids don’t have a playground. Yeah. Local, it’d be focused. But I do want to do something more with, more underprivileged kids. In Auburn Bay kids are pretty privileged, but a playground is still a pretty essential thing for a school. So I’m, I’m pretty passionate about teaching.

Laurie:                                  15:21                     I think that people realize that’s really generous because I’m guessing that’s about a third of your process. So that’s really generous and Kudos to you for doing that. Uh, this isn’t my cat, this is my three year old up to bed please. I was talking to a guy a few weeks ago, and he was like, oh, your mom is so hard right now. I am in full mom mode almost all the time! Oh well. Such is life. Okay. So much to ask you next. You’ve worked with a few other authors like April and the author, I forget the dog book now.

Amanda:                              16:11                     Yeah, it was called Blues Mountain Christmas and it Cynthia O’Donnell. I’ve never actually met her. I know her daughter, one of her, one of her friends tagged me in a post on facebook saying I’m looking for an illustrator and one of my friends tag me saying, my friend of mine is a good illustrator,

Laurie:                                  16:30                     Oh I like the online world and connections!

Amanda:                              16:34                     So I illustrated for her and Cynthia is actually a teacher as well, but teaches up in Fort Mcmurray at the university. I believe so, yeah. I’ve never met her, but it illustrated the book for her, which is fantastic.

Laurie:                                  16:48                     Cool. Okay.

Amanda:                              16:50                     So I forgot to say what the book’s about. I actually met the dog that the book is about.

Laurie:                                  17:00                     The dog’s the most important, right?

Amanda:                              17:02                     Yeah. The inspiration behind the book.

Laurie:                                  17:05                     So what advice would you give and you have a wealth of experience now because you have your own, but then you have these other authors that you’ve worked with. So what advice would you give to somebody? Let’s say in your position a teacher with ideas for curriculum , tie ins or something like that, or somebody’s desperate to write a book and especially you know, as somebody working full time and, you know, with not loads of time, other hand, what advice would you give to somebody that’s just like you?

Amanda:                              17:33                     My advice is just to do a little bit every day and even if you can do a little bit every day, like spend some time doing a bit like on the weekend or something. So because I’m a single mom, my ex husband actually has my daughter every second weekend, so I spent a of time every second weekend on my projects, on my projects which are, which are drawing like even, but you can take your work anywhere with you. I took my, I actually, I was driving on the highway this summer and a rock chip came up and hit the rear window in my car and shattered it. And so I was working on one of the books illustrations for the books and I spent four hours sitting in the glass shop getting the window fixed drawing, waiting for them to fix my car! And so you just have to use the time that you have. So even though my day got totally thrown, I spent the whole day with like crayons sitting there, going all the illustrations for the book while I was waiting for my car to get fixed. You have to just take your stuff with you all the time. You never know where you’re going to be at your child’s like dance class or hockey game or whatever, where you have 20 minutes to just sit and draw like or, or to write or whatever it is that you’re doing. And if you, if you’re not a drawer, so many people are like, I can’t draw. Well then then find somebody that you love to work with that, that will draw for you. Because for me, what I do is I do a sketch for them really quickly. And then I say, do you like this? If you like it, then I’ll color it sketches, don’t take the coloring and the details that, that take a long time to do.

Laurie:                                  19:23                     And is there any light bulb sort of lessons that you’ve learned over the past year or so that maybe surprised you?

Amanda:                              19:34                     Absolutely. The first one is to access help where you can, so you, Laurie have been instrumental in helping me save so much time and stress and showing me the ropes on how to get my book up and published. So paying, coming to your workshops and then paying you to spend some time with me online. I couldn’t have done it without you or it would have been hours and hours of stress and I was like ‘three kids at home to usually be a kindergarten teacher. She knows how to do it. She’s got it up on Amazon. She’s selling over 100 bucks a day and that’s, that’s my goal is, especially as a single mom, I want to have like, a different, different method of income coming in.

Laurie:                                  20:23                     Yes, that would really alleviate the pressures.

Amanda:                              20:27                     Yeah, yeah.

Laurie:                                  20:28                     Okay, so speaking of money, I like to ask people a little bit too personal question, which is, how many dollar signs have you made? Only because I want people to know. We’ve already talked about this a little bit. You’re not instant millionaire, but you can make money and what’s the best thing that you’ve used it for?

Amanda:                              20:44                     Well, like I said, I got paid yet because it’s still know it’s coming. I got a US bank account and everything and then it didn’t work. And then, now everything’s switched over to KDP, so I think I can use my Canadian account but for some reason that wasn’t working so I’m still playing with that, but I’ve been spending the majority of it basically just on re reinvesting into marketing to, to sell more books, which has been fantastic. But one of my goals is to. I have, I have, I have things that I, that I want to buy, but one of my goals I was telling you before is that my parents have this very rustic cabin where there’s no power. Electricity. We use propane, we use solar lights and I really want a composting toilet. At nighttime, so I don’t have to go outside! I told my my dad that I’m going to buy a composting toilet. Never. Oh, come back on here and I’ll be like, look, here’s my composting toilet east time with my cell phone because there’s a gap in order or Wifi or anything. So just use some data and you make some pictures and that is so fun. I love that answer at exactly. (we were laughing too much to translate here!) Also because I’m really scared of the propane shower we have. So it’s to like buy a real shower. That would be nice. So if ever the check comes in first, the toilets second shower, that’s like not like scary, noisy, loud and smells like propane. It scares me. So I just washed my hair in the lake.

Laurie:                                  22:40                     Yeah, yes. Okay. So can you share where people can find you? I don’t know if you have a website or …

Amanda:                              22:47                     I have a website on my website is called www.artmindfulnesscreativity and it’s just and it’s because it my initials are AMC, so. Oh, oh yeah.

Laurie:                                  23:06                     Okay. Cool. So I’ll write that wherever I write show notes as well. And of course on Amazon and as well as, which is nice for all of us Canadians to get to. Well, thank you so much.

Amanda:                              23:24                     I find my books just by searching my name.

Amanda:                              23:26                     I just searched me on amazon. I find myself telling people that just google me on Amazon. How does that work? Yeah, I just searched me on Amazon. That’s what I tell my students on how to play. We’re searchable. Your accomplishment. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess other thing I should say tell you is that my daughter helps illustrate the books as well. Much to my anxiety and stress.

Laurie:                                  23:59                     Oh really?

Amanda:                              24:01                     Like, “Mommy I want to help you.” And then she’ll start coloring or start painting depending on what, what medium I’m using. But she always does a good job and, and she helps. She helps a lot with the illustrations. So she is an amazing artist.

Laurie:                                  24:21                     I love that. Because you are. Yeah. That must be a priority in your house. It is. You can see in the background.

Amanda:                              24:30                     That’s a canvas that we painted together.

Laurie:                                  24:34                     Is it a three set?

Amanda:                              24:36                     It’s a three set. Oh goodness, and there’s little blue footprints all over my basement because she was about four memories. A wonderful memories.

Amanda:                              24:54                     Little blue footprints. Awesome. Well thank you so much for being on here with me. I really appreciate it. I love talking to you. So let’s do it again with your fourth.

Laurie:                                  25:07                     Yes, absolutely. Thanks. Okay. Take care. You too.

Amanda:                              25:14                     Bye. Bye.

Outro:                                   25:18                     You’ve been listening to The Wrighter’s Way podcast for show notes, links to guests information, and to learn more about The Wrighter’s Way. Check out Until next week, enjoy this chapter of your life.