When my son was a toddler, I became frustrated with the options of faith-based children’s books. Every time I went to the bookstore, I could only find stories that were impractical and did not feature Black main characters. I desired more diversity in children’s books because with every book I read that featured characters who didn’t look like him, I felt like I was feeding into the narrative that his stories didn’t matter enough to be written about. But I believed in children’s literacy too much to stop buying children’s books altogether.
One day, I was inspired to do something about it.
Eleven years ago, I watched my son Obinna standing on top of the stairs in our home, staring down at me with a curious grin. It was around Christmas time, when wearing pajamas all day long was encouraged. With one hand fixed on a candy cane and the other gripping his trusty yellow blankie, my son was content. He was more than content; he was carefree and not anxious about anything. He smiled at me in his blue Superman PJs in a confident manner that assured me he could do anything! He was fearless. I knew then that I had to show up for my son and children just like him in a way that I never have before. Because of that moment, I was inspired to begin writing my own faith-based
At first, I was overwhelmed because I did not know the first thing about publishing a book. I was so excited to get started but also frustrated because there was no clear direction on exactly what I needed to do. I did not personally know any writers and I was not exactly “famous.” So, after months of internet searches and book reading, I determined that this task of creating diverse children’s literature was better suited for someone with more time, stardom, and resources than I had. Fast-forward through two more kids, an evolving career, and other excuses; this story stayed filed on my computer for 10 years and I forsook the vision that God had put on my heart to do.
After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I realized that life is too short to not pursue dreams and passions that may be a little scary at first. So, with the help of a free website, I started looking for literary agents. Six months and 56 query letters later, I did not have a firm lead on any agent who was interested enough to take me on as a client. I did have a handful of agents who were interested in my manuscript but were not thrilled that my story ended with a short devotional for families and a prayer. These agents mentioned that they were not in the market for faith-based books because they are not as marketable as regular picture books and wanted me to consider taking the devotional out of the book. Comments like these confirmed my frustration with the publishing industry and the type of stories that mainstream publishing houses are pushing out audiences. Regardless, I decided that literally removing “God” from my story was a dealbreaker.
I prayed that God would help me on my publishing journey to figure out what I needed to do next, because I did not have a clue. He reminded me to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” Matthew 6:33. I understood that no matter what I decided to do next, God would bless it if I did it with him in mind. I was inspired to move forward with the tools that God had given me. With lots of research, reading, time, money, effort, and a little help from friends, I was able to publish my first book in the series, The Adventures of Super Obi: Nothing to Fear , on November 20, 2020.
Since that day I have been so grateful to God and proud of what I was able to accomplish independently. I was able to crowdfund over $8,000 on Kickstarter to help with the illustration, printing, marketing, and distribution of my book, I have received numerous five-star reviews, sold hundreds of books (through my website, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Walmart.com), booked speaking engagements, vended my books in local fairs within my community, sold directly to bookstores at wholesale quantities, and so much more. I am currently on track to have my second and third books completed this year (2022) and I look forward to adding more adventures to The Adventures of Super Obi series!
About the author: Dominique Okonkwo is a Haitian-American author and mom of three who lives in Miami. She is constantly inspired by her children and their many family adventures. Dominique oversees the children’s ministry at One Miami Church with her husband Louis. Her picture book series stars an adventurous young boy with a trusty blankie who learns the lessons of life with the help of the Word of God. For more from the author, visit dominiqueokonkwo.com.