Dear NAACP Image Awards, Give Me an Explanation or My Money Back

To the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee, I feel like you took advantage of me. I’m a hard working Black man, I don’t have $300 to throw away without an explanation. Ya’ll got some ‘splainin to do…

My name is Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and I’m a self-published author out of Tappahannock, Virginia. On October 24, 2016, I received this email from Malica McLyn, Literary Coordinator at the NAACP Image Awards:

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I was so excited, the first thing I did was post the email on Facebook. It received a ton of likes and support from my Facebook friends. I spoke with Malica over the phone and decided to submit my second book Tameka’s New Dress.

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Tameka’s New Dress gives girls of color a new-found confidence by celebrating their #BlackGirlMagic. Tameka, a gifted Kemet Middle School student, is accused of pushing another student in the hallway. When Mrs. Lopez, Tameka’s principal, mentions to Tameka that she may be suspended, Tameka starts to panic. Tameka’s fear stems from the abuse and neglect she experiences at home. Tameka’s dress is her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from past trauma and bullying. The dress gives Tameka the ability to love unconditionally without the fear of being hurt.

Fast Forward to December 14, 2016…

I log onto the NAACP Image Awards  website to find they’ve selected nominees for the Outstanding Literary Work  – Youth/Teens. I saw several deserving books, but I couldn’t find mine. I wasn’t mad that I didn’t make the cut, I was mad that I wasn’t notified by the award committee first. It felt like the time I didn’t see my name on the cut list for the JV Basketball.

In addition to the $220 nonreturnable application fee, I had to mail off 15 copies of Tameka’s New Dress to NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee. Just like the application fee, the books are also nonreturnable. I was notified about the opportunity just seven days before the deadline. Honestly, I don’t even know if the committee received or reviewed my books.

Last year I submitted Amazon Best-Seller Nelson Beats the Odds for several different literary awards, including the VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award. The VLA notified me via email before making their official announcement. Included in the email were reviews from committee members. Not one of the literary awards I applied for required an application fee- they only required me to send them copies of my book. I didn’t stress it because the committee would typically donate the books to a local library.

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I emailed my concerns to the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee on December  14th, 2016- five days later I’m still awaiting a reply. Where’s the transparency? The $220 fee I submitted is nonrefundable, I get that; all I want is some accountability. I have 3 simple questions for the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee:

  1. Did you receive my books?
  2. Did you review my books?
  3. Where is the feedback from your reviews?

To the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee, I feel like you took advantage of me. I’m a hard working Black man, I don’t have $300 to throw away without an explanation. Ya’ll got some ‘splainin to do…

Daughters Love for Dresses Inspires Author-Therapist’s New Book

Tameka’s New Dress is a visual tale of loss, hope, and female empowerment. Tameka’s dress is her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from past trauma and bullying.

Click here to order a copy of Tameka’s New Dress. Add the Tameka’s New Dress filter to your photos by downloading the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator app from the App Store.

Best-selling author Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW was inspired to tell the story behind Tameka’s beautiful dress by his two daughters. “Morgan and Mali transform into queens every time they put on a new dress,” explains Sidney, “All they want to do is twirl around in circles and smile.”

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Tameka’s New Dress is a visual tale of loss, hope, and female empowerment. Tameka’s dress is her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from past trauma and bullying. The dress gives Tameka the ability to love unconditionally without the fear of being hurt. This blog will explore three major themes from Tameka’s New Dress, colorism, bullying and grandfamilies.

Tameka, a gifted Kemet Middle School student, is accused of pushing another student in the hallway. When Mrs. Lopez, Tameka’s principal, mentions to Tameka that she may be suspended, Tameka starts to panic. Tameka’s fear stems from the abuse and neglect she experiences at home.

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One of Traci Van Wagoner most aesthetically pleasing illustrations show Tameka holding the fabric for her new dress, visualizing herself as warrior queens Nefertiti, Nzinga and Nandi. Tameka’s grandmother uses the African wax cloth to sew her a new dress after she comes home from school crying. Tameka’s grandmother, a true alchemist, turns lemons into lemonade by sewing Tameka a new dress.

Throughout Tameka’s New Dress you will find references to Queen Nefertiti. Queen Nefertiti is the wife of the of one of the most famous pharaohs of acient Kemet, Akhenaten. The two began a religious revolution in Kemet, or Ancient Egypt, that influenced contemporary religions like Christianity and Judaism. After Nefertiti’s husband died, scholars believe she ruled Kemet as Neferneferuaten.

On the very next page is an illustration symbolizing the rising of a phoenix. In Kemet, or Ancient Egypt, the phoenix originated as the Bennu. Greek historian, Herodotus, said the Bennu came from Arabia every 500 years. Before the phoenix dies, it builds a nest of cinnamon twigs, lays down it and dies. A new phoenix rises out of the ashes, able to regenerate when injured by a foe. Tameka embraces her African roots and her transformation into a phoenix symbolizes her overcoming past trauma.

Sidney warns parents not to leave it up to the school system to teach their children about history. “I grew up thinking the Egyptians were white,” says the best-selling author, “When I learned the truth, I vowed to teach it to my children.”

Grandfamilies

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A 2012 United States Census Bureau survey found that 10 percent of all children in the United States lived with a grandparent. Of children living with their grandparent, aged 18 years and younger, an estimated 2.7 million grandparents were the primary caregivers for the children. Compared to other ethnic groups, African-American children are more often raised primarily by a grandparent. According to a Pew Research Center report, African-American children are twice as likely to live below the poverty line compared to children whose grandparents are not primary caregivers.

Sidney asked one of his college friends, Tanisha Carter, to write a poem about her experience growing up in a grandfamily. Her poem “The Golden Matriarch” is featured in the Tameka’s New Dress graphic novel and on the mixtape. Below is an excerpt from Tanisha’s poem:

And she even gave me knowledge I never knew

She exposed me to the disheartening facts of being black

Because of our history that she lived this wasn’t fiction she was talking, this was fact

And today I am grateful for all of that.

Author-Therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW believes grandparents raising their grandchildren is on the rise. “I’m seeing more and more families where the grandparents are the primary caregivers. Grandparents of color face a number of challenges such as poor health, poverty and a lack of access to critical resources,” says Sidney. His experience working with families headed by grandparents encouraged him to author and self-publish Tameka’s New Dress. “When young people read Tameka’s New Dress they will find characters and experiences they can relate to,” explains Sidney.

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Cherlanda Sidney-Ross

Tameka’s New Dress features the author’s sister, Cherlanda Sidney-Ross, a former social worker and Family Services Supervisor. Mrs. Ross is contacted by Tameka’s guidance counselor and asked to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. The social worker removes Tameka and her brothers from their chaotic home environment and places them in the care of their grandmother.

“My sister has always been a role model of mine. I credit her with inspiring me to enroll in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work and pursue my Master of Social Work degree,” said Sidney. He wanted to honor his sister and the thousands of other child welfare workers advocating for children every day.

Colorism

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Sidney hopes Tameka’s New Dress will help lift the ugly curse of colorism.” I want girls of color to know that it’s our shared history that unites us, not our complexion,” says best-selling author. Tameka’s New Dress pays homage to Beyonce by including a line from “Sorry”. Mesha, the book’s antagonist, bullies Tameka because she is a new student and is light-skinned. After class, Mesha approaches Tameka and says, “You must be the new girl! Hey, light bright! You must think you’re cute like Becky with the good hair!”

Tameka’s New Dress features a quote from Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, who spoke candidly about being picked on because of her complexion in Glamour Magazine. Sidney grew up not far from the Johnville plantation, a place where his great grandparents were enslaved. “Light-skinned vs. dark-skinned was alive and well when I went through school,” says the best-selling author, “I wanted to explore the concept in Tameka’s New Dress because it continues to impact young people’s self-esteem.”

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Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight, one of Sidney’s former classmates, submitted the book’s foreword. Her experience with colorism made the political personal. In the foreward she writes:

Tameka’s New Dress, resonated with me and I know it will for many others. Like Tameka, I have been persecuted for being a fair-complexioned, Black girl with “good hair”…despite the many successes of African-Americans, society equates being Black with being inferior. It’s sad. As a Black, educated, articulate, professional and driven female, I cannot and will not subscribe to these stereotypes. I believe in and pledge my life to Black excellence.

Bullying

“When I heard about what happened to Amy Francis-Joyner  on the news, I thought it was eerily similar to Tameka’s story,” says Sidney, “I decided to dedicate my book to Amy’s memory because she did not deserve what happened to her.”

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Amy Francis-Joyner

What happened on April 21, 2016 was a tragedy; Amy Francis-Joyner lost her young life and Trinity Carr’s life will forever be altered. On Tameka’s first day at her new school she is harassed by three bullies. Initially, Tameka runs home crying after being tormented by her bullies. The book’s ending teaches young people how to mange conflicts verbally. “Violence should always be the last alternative, not the first,” says the best-selling author.

At the end of Tameka’s New Dress, Tameka opens up her heart to forgiveness. Without forgiveness, Tameka would not have been able to reclaim her beauty and heal from the abuse and neglect she experienced throughout her life. “Hurt people hurt people,” says Sidney, “Bullies are oftentimes being victimized themselves.”

Tameka’s story celebrates diversity and visually empowers readers. Tameka’s New Dress’s author hopes his graphic novel will give girls of color new-found confidence. “My hope is that Tameka’s New Dress will inspire girls to find beauty inside themselves and others,” says Sidney.

About the author: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is a therapist, author and business owner. He is the author of Nelson Beats The Odds, Tameka’s New Dress, and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. With the help of Protenza Global Solutions, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app . For inquiries, email him at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. Please visit his website at www.creative-medicine.com for more information.

Grammy Award Winning Artist’s Unreleased Yearbook Photos and Demo

Not only is Chris a great singer and performer, he was also a really good basketball player. A lot of folks from Tappahannock said he could have easily played D-1 if he pursued basketball instead of a music career.

My name is Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and I am the author of Nelson Beats the Odds , Tameka’s New Dress and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. I wasn’t the first person from Tappahannock, Virginia to beat the odds, that honor belongs to Grammy Award winning artist Chris Brown. A few years ago, my fiance and I were going through some stuff and she found a demo CD Chris Brown passed out before he became famous.

I didn’t know he went by “C-Syzle”, even though we rode on the same school bus to school in the mornings. Chris and his family attended a church my father pastored for over 20 years. I saw Chris at least six days a week, so you can only imagine how surprised I was to see him on BET. I remember watching the “Run It” video at Old Dominion University like, “yoooo, that’s Chris Brown!” Chris had star power since Kindergarten. The older kids on the school bus would practically beg him to sing Candy Rain by Soul For Real every single day. We would also ask him to do Michael Jackson and Usher Raymond impressions. 

My fiance is a few years younger than me so there were photos of Chris in her old yearbooks. I was shocked to see how tall he grew- the Chris Brown I remember was a short, curly haired kid. His older cousin was in my grade, the two were inseparable.

Chris is a natural born entertainer. I remember him wooing the crowd with back flips and Harlem shakes during half time of varsity basketball games. Not only is Chris a great performer, he is also a really good basketball player. A lot of folks from Tappahannock said he could have easily played D-1 if he pursued basketball instead of a music career.

Not many people make it big from Tappahannock Chris, so it’s been amazing watching your career take off. I knew one day you would be famous, but had no idea you would be one of the most talented artists of this generation. Through the ups and downs, you will always have my support. You single-handedly put our town of the map and inspired me to push Nelson Beats the Odds to the top.

About the author: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is a therapist, author and business owner. He is the author of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. With the help of Protenza Global Solutions, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app . For inquiries, email him at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. Please visit his website at www.creative-medicine.com for more information.

Author-Therapist Seeks to Inspire Struggling Students with Free App

Author-therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW ’s latest addition to his box of therapeutic tools is the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOs mobile devices.

Author-therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW ’s latest addition to his box of therapeutic tools is the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOs mobile devices. The free app allows iPhone, iPod and iPad users to substitute their own photos to create composite images personalizing the characters’ faces in the book’s illustrations.

Shortly after releasing Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, a semiautobiographical comic book about a young man who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator app.  The author-therapist partnered with Potenza Global Solutions, a successful IT company out of India, and released the app on October 7, 2015. The author-therapist found the Indian IT company on freelance website called Upwork.

Below are a few of Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator’s features:

Sidney says his inspiration for the app came from an unlikely source:

I met a lady at a National Foster Parent Association conference in Norfolk, Virginia and she suggested I create a page in my book where a kid could add their face to Nelson’s body. She believed young people would be inspired to beat the odds if they could picture themselves in the book. That is when the light bulb went off, instead of having kids mess up their book, I could create an app that would help them celebrate their strengths and improve their self-esteem.

Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator is a simple way to inspire the world with creative photos. Users can snap a photo with their iOS device or choose a photo from their photo library. Apply stunning filters, photo effects, and an ever growing collection of stickers, comic strips, frames, word bubbles, text art and more. Users can crop out their faces and place them in one of ten Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress illustrations. Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator allows users to share their photos on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more.

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Sidney’s app allows users to add graduation caps and gowns to their photos- he hopes it will encourage struggling students to beat the odds. “We underestimate how powerful images are,” says Sidney, “If a kid can see themselves graduating, they may think twice about quitting school.”

While attending Essex County Public Schools (ECPS), Sidney struggled academically and behaviorally. He spent seven years in special education after being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Sidney graduated from Essex High School in 2001 but with a 1.8 GPA, ranking at the bottom of his class. The author-therapist went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services from Old Dominion University in 2006 and his Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Click here to order a copy of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress or Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One.

The self-esteem app includes one more big surprise, free access to Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress eBooks. “I want every kid to have the opportunity to experience my books,” says Sidney. The best-selling author hopes to release the app on android devices summer of 2017.

About the author: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is a therapist, author and business owner. He is the author of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. With the help of Protenza Global Solutions, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app . For inquiries, email him at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. Please visit his website at www.creative-medicine.com for more information.

Best-Selling Children’s Book Author Spills the Tea on Self-Publishing

My success as an author-publisher has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Since releasing Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, I’ve been featured on MicheLA, Fox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News.

Click here to order a copy of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress or Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One.

My name is Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and I self-published Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, a semiautobiographical comic book about a young man who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education. I released Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One and Tameka’s New Dress this past summer. The compendium  gives readers a chance to experience Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress in one thrilling graphic novel.

After being diagnosed as learning disabled and spending seven years in special education, the last thing I thought I would become was an author. I wasn’t a big reader or writer growing up, in fact my poor handwriting landed me in special education. Despite my challenges, I always dreamed of starting my own business. My dream came true in 2015 when I launched Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC. I used the my company to publish my three graphic novels. 

My success as an author-publisher has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Since releasing Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds,  I’ve been featured on MicheLAFox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News.  Last year, I shared my wisdom in a workshop entitled “Self-Publishing and Social Justice“. I created the workshop to help prospective self-publishers create stories with social justice themes. Below are nine tips that helped me sell nearly two thousand books online and become an Amazon best-seller.

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1. Build a Following

The most common piece of advice I’ve heard from successful authors is to start a blog. I took the advice and started Nelson Beats the Odds on WordPress.com. My blog “Former special education student publishes best-selling children’s book” has over 50,000 views and over 24,000 Facebook shares. The blog’s popularity landed me interviews, speaking engagements and a huge increase in book sales.

My social media portfolio includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat. My Facebook page is very popular, accumulating over 9,600 likes, thanks in part to Facebook ads.  I joined several Facebook groups including Black Educators Rock, an online group with over 150,000 African American educators. Sharing posts in the group helped my book become an Amazon Best Seller in the Kindle Store Learning Disability category.

My visibility on Twitter @ronniesidneyii, @nelsonbeatstheo, Instagram ronniesidneyii, @nelsonbeatstheo, Tumblr @creativemedicinehtw and Snapchat @nelsonbeatstheo is steadily growing. Instagram is great because it allows you to simultaneously post on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Flickr. Instagram is also owned by Facebook, so your Facebook ads appear on Instagram for no additional cost.

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2. Find your Target Audience

From day one my goal was to inspire young people to beat the odds. When I grew up, there were very few children’s books with African American characters or characters with disabilities. I was in special education for seven years and I know exactly how it feels to be a struggling learner. Nelson Beats the Odds is a reflection of my experiences and a testament to my grit.

My experience working with families headed by grandparents inspired me to write and self-publish Tameka’s New Dress. As a therapist, I’m seeing more and more families where the grandparents are the primary caregivers due to parental substance abuse, incarceration and mental illness. The grandparents face a number of challenges such as poor health, poverty and a lack of access to critical resources.

Nelson Beats the Odds gave me access to networks I was previously unaware of. I have worked with the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC), I’m Determined, Virginia Council for Learning Disabilities (VCLD) and Virginia Council for Exceptional Children (VCEC) to advocate for the needs of exceptional education students across the state of Virginia. I’ve been invited as a keynote speaker by the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Union University, VCU School of Social Work, Central Rappahannock Regional Library and the National Foster Parent Association.

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3. Hire/Recruit Free Lancers and Friends with Desired Skill Sets

Once I decided to write Nelson Beats the Odds, I went to Facebook to see if I could find an illustrator. Unforunately, none of the dozen or so referrals caught my eye. After joining eLance, over 30 illustrators from around the world expressed interest in working on Nelson Beats the Odds. Imagine that! Design caught my attention because of their diverse portfolio and personal connection. Kurt Keller, 1/2 of Imagine that! Design, told me he was diagnosed with dyslexia and spent several years in special education. I felt safe leaving my story in his hands because he related to it.

I worked with a variety of friends on both Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress. A high school friend named Tiffany Carey Day has been my biggest contributor, serving as chief editor on both books. Editing is not my strong suit, so Tiffany and others helped me out tremendously.

*Unfortunately, eLance no longer exists, so I encourage authors looking for illustrators to visit Upwork or Hire an Illustrator.*

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4.  Be Fearless

You’ll never have enough time, money or support. Get use to long nights, overdraft fees, maxed out credit cards and disappointments. One of my favorite musicians Fela Kuti said it best, “the secret to life is to have no fear.” Fearlessness created the foundation for my success.

My life changed when I stopped being a bystander and started being the baby who picks up a remote control for the first time and presses every button until something happens. One of the strengths of being diagnosed with ADHD is impulsivity. There have been times when I hopped in my car with a trunk full of books and set up at an event I just heard about. My journey has taught me to trust my instincts .

Last year I read two of the most empowering books ever written, “The Alchemist” and “The Secret“. The insight offered in the two books are invaluable, particularly for those seeking their divine purpose. There is an awesome video Steve Harvey did last year about jumping. In order for you to launch your dream, you have to be fearless and jump.

5.  Set a Modest Kickstarter Goal or Use Sites like Indiegogo

The biggest mistake I made was setting my Kickstarter goal for Nelson Beats the Odds at $10,000. I was really ambitious and thought I could reach the goal in 45 days. I only managed to raise about $1,800. Since I didn’t reach my goal I was unable to receive any money. When I began working on my second book, Tameka’s New Dress, I set my goal for $700. I raised a little over a grand this time around but hit my goal.  Crowdfunding sites are great platforms to launch your vision. I recommend you research Kickstarter other crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and GoFundMe before you make your decision.

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6.  Stay Hungry

I’m pushing my brand just as hard today as I did when I first launched. Since releasing Nelson Beats the Odds, I’ve been featured on MicheLAFox and Friends WeekendNBC 12 News and Comcast. My work ethic and persistence also landed me interviews with Understood.org, Teach.com, ADD.org, Virginia Pilot, Free Lance Star, Rappahannock Times Dispatch and the Richmond Times Dispatch. Work your butt off to be the best in your respective genre and they visibility will come.

7. Use Multiple Publishing Platforms & Distributors

When I realeased my first book, Nelson Beats The Odds, I didn’t know anything about publishing. Every website I searched recommended using Createspace. The site is free, easy to use and has great customer service. In less than a day my book was available on Amazon and Kindle. I encourage everyone to try CreatespaceAmazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Ingramspark. It’s very difficult to get books into traditional book stores, but the three sites listed above give you access to Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BarnesandNoble.com, BooksaMillion.com.

Amazon also has a feature called Author Central. I created an Amazon author page that allows me to upload my blog, biography, photos and videos. The page also gives you access to the Nielson Bookscan. The bookscan gives you an opportunity to track your sales and view which region your books are most popular in.  As of October 16, 2016 I have sold 1,911 books. On average, I bring home about a $1,000 in online sales.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is another great service.They have a feature where you can offer your eBook for free five times over the span of 90 days. I also encourage authors to publish their book in paperback, hardcover, eBook and audio book. The more platforms you have, the more accessibility customers have to your products.

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Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and Neal Shusterman, 2015 National Book Award Winner

8. Network & Promote
Since writing Nelson Beats The Odds, I’ve had an opportunity to meet authors, educators, musicians, poets, clothing designers and artists. I intentionally surround myself with successful people. I spend a lot of time scanning social media and other internet websites for events and individuals to network with. I vend at least once per week. Vending is a great way to make money and network.

When I released my first book, I asked friends to share photos of their children reading Nelson Beats The Odds. It was an effective strategy that increased my visibility. I started #iBeatTheOdds, a popular Facebook social media campaign , to give individuals a platform to share stories about how they beat the odds. It was liberating for me to share my story and I want to give others the same opportunity.

After releasing Nelson Beats the Odds, Sidney was inspired to develop the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOS mobile devices. The companion app allows users to customize photos and share them with friends on social media.  The app gives the brand an additional platform to promote on.

9. Expect Nothing and Appreciate Everything

Developing thick skin is mandatory because not everyone will buy into your dream. There when nothing goes your way and you want to quit. Shake it off and bounce back- you will learn more from your failures than your successes. Remember, always show gratitude to those who helped you along your personal journey.

For inquires, please contact us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. For more information about our services, please visit www.creative-medicine.com.

From Special Ed to Best-Selling Author, Hear how Nelson Beat the Odds

Sidney self-published Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, a comic book about a young man who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education. Since releasing his book, Sidney has been featured on MicheLA, Fox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News.

Click here to order a copy of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress or Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One.


After being diagnosed as learning disabled and spending seven years in special education, the last thing Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW thought he would become was an author. Sidney, an author, therapist and entrepreneur, hails from Tapphannock, VA, otherwise known as the home of Chris Brown. On August 21, 2015, Sidney self-published Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, a semiautobiographical comic book about a young man who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education. Since releasing Nelson Beats the Odds, Sidney has been featured on MicheLAFox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News. Last week he released Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One, which includes his second graphic novel Tameka’s New Dress. The compendium  gives readers a chance to experience Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress in one thrilling graphic novel.

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While attending Essex County Public Schools (ECPS), Sidney struggled academically and behaviorally. He spent seven years in special education after being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Dysgraphia. The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school. In eighth grade Sidney was told by his Pre-Algebra teacher that he wasn’t going to college. “That was a pivotal moment in my life. I made up in my mind that I was going to prove him and everyone who doubted me wrong,” says Sidney.

Nevertheless, Sidney graduated from Essex High School in 2001, but with a 1.8 GPA. With limited options regarding four-year colleges, he decided to enroll in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. The following year, he transferred to Old Dominion University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services in 2006.

In 2011, Sidney enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) School of Social Work program to learn how to better serve at-risk youth. At VCU he earned a 3.5 GPA and was inducted into the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges. One year after earning his Master of Social Work degree,  Sidney self-published  Nelson Beats The Odds. The book became a platform for Sidney to share his childhood experiences and bring attention to the plight of students with disabilities.

Sidney credits his parents and former teachers for helping him beat the odds. “My mom always told me I was smart and Mrs. Tobey, my former special education teacher, always made me feel like I was smart. With their support, I knew I could be whatever I wanted to be”, says Sidney. The best-selling author has some advice for parents and teachers, “The next time you look into the eyes of a special education student, I want you to see a future best-selling author, social worker, app developer, professional speaker and entrepreneur.”
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2016 MOVE Conference

Sidney, whose middle name is Nelson, hopes his books will inspire young people to overcome their challenges. “I want Nelson Beats the Odds to resonate with young people, particularly African-American males and students with learning disabilities. I was in special education for seven years and I know exactly how it feels to be a struggling learner,” explains Sidney.

Studies have shown that students with learning disabilities face difficult odds and experience poorer academic outcomes than students without learning disabilities. A 2011 study by the IDEA Data Center found that African-American students in Virginia made up 23.8% of the student population but represented 31.6% of students diagnosed with a specific learning disability. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Black and Hispanic students with disabilities face much higher rates of school disciplinary actions, drop-out rates and experience lower rates of graduation.

Sidney’s second book, Tameka’s New Dress, features a familiar character from his previous book. Tameka is one of Nelson’s best friends, however, unlike Nelson, she is a well-behaved straight A student. Tameka’s poor grades and behavior at her old school alerts her principal that something was going on at home. Mrs. Ross, a character based on the author’s biological sister, is contacted by Tameka’s guidance counselor and investigates the abuse and neglect allegations. Tameka and her brothers were removed from their chaotic home environment and placed in the care of their grandmother by Mrs. Ross.
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In the United States, approximately  10 percent of all children live with a grandparent. Roughly 2.7 million grandparents had primary responsibility for grandchildren under the age of 18 who lived with them (Ellis & Simmons, 2014).

“I’m seeing more and more families where the grandparents are the primary caregivers due to parental substance abuse, incarceration and mental illness. The grandparents faced a number of challenges such as poor health, poverty and a lack of access to critical resources,” explains Sidney. His experience working with families headed by grandparents encouraged him to author and self-publish Tameka’s New Dress. “When young people read Tameka’s New Dress they will find characters and experiences they can relate to,” says Sidney.

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The success of Nelson Beats The Odds can be measured by its previous #1 rankings on the Amazon Best Seller list. When asked what it felt like to be a best-seller Sidney added, “It feels great! To come from a small town like Tappahannock, Virginia and inspire kids from all over the world with my book is humbling. My goal from the start was to encourage struggling students to beat the odds and that’s exactly what I’m doing.” Sidney credits much of his book’s success to his illustrators Imagine That! Design.

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After releasing Nelson Beats the Odds, Sidney was inspired to develop the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOS mobile devices. The companion app allows users to customize photos and share them with friends on social media. Sidney also started #iBeatTheOdds, a popular Facebook social media campaign that gives individuals a platform to share stories about how they beat the odds. For inquires, please contact us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. For more information about our services, please visit www.creative-medicine.com.

 

Simone Biles, Tameka’s New Dress and Why Grandparents Matter

Compared to other ethnic groups, African-American children are more often raised primarily by a grandparent. According to a Pew Research Center report, African-American children are twice as likely to live below the poverty line compared to children whose grandparents are not primary caregivers.

Purchase a copy of Tameka’s New Dress by clicking here.

Simone Biles earned four gold medals and one bronze medal during the 2016 Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro. Team USA selected the 19-year old American gymnast to be their flag bearer for the closing ceremony. With Simone’s rise to stardom came undue criticism about her traumatic past.  Sports commentator Al Trautwig publically shamed Simone by saying her grandparents Ron and Nellie Biles “may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents”. Simone responded to US Weekly exclusively by simply saying, “My parents are my parents and that’s it.”

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Simone’s mother, Shannon Biles, suffered from an alcohol and drug addiction. Shannon lost custody of Simone and her younger sister Adria due to her inability to raise them. Social services intervened and the girls were placed in foster care. Ron and Nellie Biles, Simone’s grandparents, adopted Simone and her sister on Christmas Eve in 2002.

A 2012 United States Census Bureau survey found that 10 percent of all children in the United States lived with a grandparent. Of children living with their grandparent, aged 18 years and younger, an estimated 2.7 million grandparents were the primary caregivers for the children. Compared to other ethnic groups, African-American children are more often raised primarily by a grandparent. According to a Pew Research Center report, African-American children are twice as likely to live below the poverty line compared to children whose grandparents are not primary caregivers.

Author-Therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW believes grandparents raising their grandchildren is on the rise. “I’m seeing more and more families where the grandparents are the primary caregivers. Grandparents of color face a number of challenges such as poor health, poverty and a lack of access to critical resources,” says Ronnie. Ronnie’s experience working with families headed by grandparents encouraged him to author and self-publish Tameka’s New Dress. “When young people read Tameka’s New Dress they will find characters and experiences they can relate to,” explains Ronnie.

Tameka, a gifted Kemet Middle School student, is accused of pushing another student. When the principal mentions to Tameka that she may be suspended, Tameka starts to panic. Tameka’s fear stems from the abuse and neglect she experiences at home. Like Simone, Tameka’s mother suffers from alcohol and drug addiction. Also like Simone, Tameka is removed from her home by social services and placed with her grandparents.

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After coming home from school crying, Tameka’s grandmother sews her a new African wax-cloth dress. The dress gives Tameka a new-found confidence. The author was inspired to tell the story behind Tameka’s beautiful dress by his daughters. “My daughter Mali feels like a queen every time she puts on a new dress,” explains Ronnie, “It transforms her, all she wants to do is smile and twirl around in circles.”

Tameka’s New Dress features the author’s sister, Cherlanda Sidney-Ross, who’s a social worker and Family Services Supervisor. Mrs. Ross is contacted by Tameka’s guidance counselor and asked to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. The social worker removes Tameka and her brothers from their chaotic home environment and places them in the care of their grandmother.

“My sister has always been a role model of mine. I credit her with inspiring me to enroll in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work and pursue my Master of Social Work degree,” said Ronnie. He wanted to honor his sister and the thousands of other child welfare workers advocating for children every day.

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“It actually probably saved my life. It is the reason why I am where I am today because my grandmother gave me the foundation for success that I was allowed to continue to build upon. My grandmother taught me to read, and that opened the door to all kinds of possibilities for me.”

Oprah Winfrey, American Media Proprietor, Grandfamily

Both Tameka and Simone are strong young women with grandparents who love and support them. Their stories celebrate resilience and creatively empower Black girls to beat the odds. Most importantly, both Simone and Tameka illustrate the pivotal role grandparents play in the African-American community.

Tameka’s New Dress, the second installment of the Nelson Beats the Odds series is currently available for sale. The graphic novel is illustrated by Imagine That! Design and published by Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC. Please visit our website for more information about Tameka’s New Dress. For inquires please contact Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW at ronnie@creative-medicine.com.