Renaee Smith-Her Jamaican Roots, Freddie book series, and more!
Being a writer doesn't always come naturally to some people. Some make it simply a hobby but others like International Award Winning Author Renaee Smith, she's made it her career, a fulfilled and successful career. From a beloved children's series to a tasty cookbook filled with her roots of Jamaican culture, Smith has a permanent stamp on the writing industry.
When asked about how she got started, Renaee was clear that her expertise of writing and cultivating an ever growing business as an author and writer came naturally to her and made it worth the time and effort.
Was writing always apart of you? Many don't take writing seriously once they start, how did you know writing was lifelong?
I am an avid reader and it seemed like a natural progression for me when I started writing poetry. Poetry is such a wonderful way to express your thoughts and ideas. My time spent living in New York City found me logging my thoughts while riding the subway, in my mind I called it Poetry in Motion. Funny enough I saw the slogan a few years back when I visited the city and rode the subway. It wasn't until 2011 when I was inspired/encouraged to write and publish my book.
Did you go to school for writing? How did your education help along your interest in writing? Did it strengthen or weaken your passion for your craft?
My first degree is a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science and I have a Masters degree in Actuarial Science and Insurance. So, you see, writing is a departure from my field of study. I am a numbers person, but have a deep appreciation for writing and the arts. Growing up I was involved in speech competitions, plays whether I acted in them or directed them - this I did while in college and received an award.
What were your inspirations when you wrote your first book? How did they influence you today?
I am a foodie and was looking for a recipe for pineapple tarts, a treat I would indulge in during my high school years, when school was dismissed. I scoured the internet to find the recipe, and in my research, it became apparent to me that there were no cookbooks that had all the delicious desserts I remembered from my childhood in Jamaica. It was then that I was encouraged by my husband and my friend Andrine "to pen to paper" as we say in Jamaica to write and publish my first book.
"The Great Compost Help" is the first novel that Smith has written, a beloved children's novel that is not only informational-giving children the knowledge of how to care for the environment, but a memory keepsake for not only Renaee and her family but others as well.
How was the storyline behind "The Great Compost Help" created? Share with readers the inspiration behind the best seller!
The book deals with recycling kitchen and garden waste using composting to save the environment. My son had to create a science experiment and memories of being in Jamaica and creating and maintaining my own compost heap was my inspiration for writing this book. The title of the book actually came to me in a dream.
You showcase your Jamaican background in everything you do, including your writing-describe how your Jamaican background stems into your novels such as your cookbook "Memba When", "Jamaica's Forgotten Treats" and other children’s books.
It wasn't until 2011 when I was inspired/encouraged to write and publish my book. My first published book was a cookbook - "Jamaica's Forgotten Treats". This book paid homage to the many desserts that I enjoyed as a child growing up in Jamaica.
Being a Jamaican born and raised automatically flows into my writing.
Readers are able to connect with you personally through your storytelling, how does your Jamaican culture fit that narrative of connection?
Bits and pieces of my life are mentioned from my childhood in Jamaica. If you know me, you will see references to my track days in primary and high school. Jamaica is one of the most well-known Caribbean islands and I am proud to be a Jamaican.
What message do you send to readers when they read in-between the lines-your books story and your personal one?
Jamaica's is a very diverse island where many people and cultures converge to create a melting pot, which is expressly stated in our motto "Out of Many One People". There is so much to be learned about Jamaica and in my role as an unofficial ambassador, my message is an open invitation for people to connect with our culture through the spoken and written word.
What were the inspirations/messages behind your most famed children's books surrounding the character "Freddie"?
When I write my children's books, there is always a message or theme. The purpose of my books is do three things - Entertain, Inform and Inspire. When a child or adult reads any of my books I want them to enjoy the story. The story should educate them on a particular issue or topic and it should inspire them to make a change personally, in the community or in the environment.
What lessons can a child learn when reading the series?
In the Freddie Series; the child learns about composting and saving the environment in "The Great Compost Heap", they learn perseverance in "Freddie's First Race", they learn compassion and empathy in "Freddie's Good Deed" and they learn about the importance of family in "Freddie Goes to the Beach".
Smith brings all together to share in reading and writing along with tasty treats and while it's not an easy venture, she makes her effort shine every time.
What made you start the Independent Author's Book Expo? What is it's significance to your life as am writer and entrepreneur?
Independent Authors Book Expo started out of a need to give independent authors a bigger platform to share their books than they would normally have on their own. In 2011 when I published my first book, there were few events where an independent author could share their books.
How has it helped with networking for new writers?
If you did find an event it was so expensive that it was cost prohibitive for a newly published author to afford. As an independent author, I could identify with their plight, and so, in 2014. the Independent Authors Book Expo was birthed. Since then, this event has introduced over 350 independent authors to local, national and international audiences.
With ever growing success for "Poetry, Pastry and Punch" events, what about it gives you motivation to continue after all these years?
Poetry, Pastry and Punch is an event that brings me great pleasure. Each year during Poetry month novice and seasoned poets, spoken word artists in and around the tristate share their gifts of the spoken word with a likeminded community. In addition to this, we are treated to delectable pastries and punch which yours truly prepares from recipes from my dessert cookbook "Jamaica's Forgotten Treats". It is my belief that poetry soothes the soul and this is my gift to the community.
Renaee Smith takes pride in not only being able to share her knowledge of the written word with men, women and children around the world, but actively bring individuals together to rejoice in each others talent of the written arts. When it comes to black women in particular, Smith see's the importance of sisterhood! A sisterhood that means not only working together but learning from each other as well.
As a black woman, entrepreneur and author, what does Women Empowerment mean to you?
Women Empowerment means working collaboratively with women from diverse backgrounds to bring about systematic changes in our local and global communities. Women empowerment to me means sharing each other's burdens when that load gets a little too heavy. It means celebrating each other's successes as we navigate this thing called life. When we realize that we are stronger together, when we pool our resources, we CAN achieve greatness.
Your name and brand has gone international with the success following not only your business but books as well. What advice would you give to young black woman authors and entrepreneurs who see you as a model for success, who see you as an inspiration?
I would say that I am honored to be seen as a role model. As a black female author and business woman it can be tough at times, but I have never let those attributes be a stumbling block for me. To me, they are my super powers. Whenever I write or do business, I work with a spirit of excellence always trying to do better than my last book or event or venture. I'm my own competition. Being from the Caribbean and journeying to the United States to pursue my Master's degree, I learned some hard lessons, but they have propelled me to the position of running three businesses :- a nonprofit, a publishing company, my own brand while working full time.
What about the journey as a whole, any regrets and advice to share?
The journey has not always been easy, but I put God first in my life and studied harder, worked harder to get where I am and I make no apologies for it. My advice to young black authors and entrepreneurs is simple "Work Hard, Stay Focused and Never Give Up" and you can achieve your dreams - words from my second children's book "Freddie's First Race". As you traverse the ladder of success remember to be confident in your abilities, but be respectful and show humility, no regrets.
What upcoming projects can readers expect from you?
Since 2011 I have been publishing a book almost every year so, yes, I am working on a new book; in fact, I have two in the works, one of which I am partnering with my mother. There is more to come for 2021 and beyond.
What about your non-profit organization, any new news?
As my nonprofit Independent Authors Book Experience continues to focus on literacy, we are happy to report that our 8th Annual Independent Authors Book Expo will be in person this year on August 7, 2021 from 11AM to 5PM in Roselle, New Jersey. Due to the pandemic last year we had to host the event virtually. Although that appeared to be a challenge, we were able to do the pivot. We hosted 20 authors, one of the authors was live from India due to the fact that the event was virtual. We were also able to reach more people nationally and internationally because of that and had a viewership of over 2200 people. We are expecting this year to be the biggest and the best event yet.
Does Independent Author's Book Expo have any other projects lined up for the rest of the year into next year?
My nonprofit Independent Authors Book Experience has various projects in the pipeline that we are rolling out for our students. This project will help with the Learning Loss they experienced during to the pandemic.
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