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  • Writer's pictureMartina Hanna

Stories of Faithful Imagination: A Heart-to-Heart Interview with a Coptic Orthodox Children's Author

  • Who are the SuperHolies and why did you dedicate a series to them?

    • The SuperHolies are the children-friendly representation of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Traditionally, you would see each gift of the Holy Spirit represented as a fruit. I swapped the fruit illustration for Super Heroes because I truly believe the Fruit of the Holy Spirit gives us special powers, like the ones touted by Super Heroes.

  • What motivated you to create the series?

    • Spider Man–I am serious! More accurately, my son’s love of Spider Man–we watched countless hours worth of Spider Man cartoons (the theme song has since become a trigger for me- LOL) and it got me thinking about our children’s fascination with Super Heroes and Super Powers and I wanted a resource/book/toy/tool anything really that would convince our kids of the power of our Faith.

  • Have you had clergy’s blessings/support for these books?

    • One of the happiest days of my life was receiving Pope Tawadros’ blessings for the SuperHolies. Our loving bishop, HG Bishop Boulos, presented the books to His Holiness, and he signed one of them and gave me his blessings. The books are also carried by Saint Mary and Saint Moses Monastery Bookstore, the bookstore of Saint Shenouda’s Monastery in Australia, and various parishes in the US and Canada. I received the greatest support and encouragement from wives of clergy! Fellow writer Phoebe Farag Mikhail, fellow writer and content creator extraordinaire Laura Philopateer (Coptic Dad and Mom), and the newest member of the Tasonis of my heart: Martina (We the Copts)!

  • Who are your readers? / What is the age range of your readers?

    • My readers come from various cultural and Orthodox backgrounds. I recommend the books for children aged 3 to 9 years old, although I hear from parents that their 10 years old still read the SuperHolies. Ancient Faith has been a tremendous supporter of the series from its inception till now.

  • Who is Mireille?

    • Someone striving, as we all are, to reach heaven but who gets distracted by a corporate job, chores, to - do lists, and our son’s active social life. I am also blessed to serve at our parish and in our diocese. My husband and I have been navigating life together for 21 years. To sum it up, Mireille is a wife, mother, and an undeserving servant of our loving Lord.

  • When did you start writing?

    • Probably as soon as I learnt my alphabet. I live in a parallel universe often, curtesy of my imagination that never quits. Anything can spark my imagination, something as simple as a squirrel climbing a tree, I wonder where he has been, where he is going, if he has a family, where he hides his nuts, does he prefer a sunny day or not….

  • How did Philo and the SuperHolies come to life?

    • When we were blessed with our son (he is a miracle baby- story here), our lives changed, our objectives changed and our outlook changed. My aim became a healthy obsession: how to grow in Christ as a family. Philo LOVED watching super heroes, particularly Spider Man. After countless hours of watching Spider Man together, the idea started taking shape in my mind. I wanted our children to realize they also possessed super powers. The Fruit of the Spirit grant us genuine powers that can help us overcome any challenge. They just needed to be represented in a child friendly way- enter the SuperHolies.

  • How do you manage between being a mom, wife, working full time and writing?

    • By the grace of God–there is no other way, believe me, I tried. Practically speaking, though, I compartmentalize: although I love writing and creating content for our children and fellow Christian families, my priorities need to be attended to first. First priority: my time with Christ is not negotiable. We must carve out time for prayer, for Bible reading, and for spiritual reading. I dedicate a certain amount of time every week for my writing/website/book needs and that time is carved out once my priorities/duties as wife, mother, and Church/Diocese servant are addressed. I start the year with a plan for the SuperHolies and the two other book series I write (The Guardian Angels series and the Super Secret TreeHouse Bible Club series) as well as the articles I would like to write for my website and then I divide those objectives by month and weeks to make it attainable. Spoiler Alert: I do NOT achieve everything I plan to do. Such is life. But I am forever grateful for every writing goal our Lord allows me to complete.

  • Can you share a success story or positive feedback from your readers that motivated you?

    • Every time a parent writes me a private message to tell me their children “activated” the SuperHolies, I wipe a tear of gratitude. This is way I wrote the series: to help empower our children through the Holy Spirit. I have been blessed with hundreds of reviews for the SuperHolies, but my absolute favourite feedback was a private message from a mom who sent me her child’s picture/video asking when the next SuperHoly would be published.

  • What is your advice to young writers who are interested in writing children’s books?

    • To be realistic about the journey and the outcome. It is very difficult to get published: I self-published the SuperHolies (under my publishing company: Chrysostom Publishing House) as I could not find a publisher who would even read my proposal! It is only after many years I now have 2 traditionally published series. Christian children’s books are NOT lucrative. This is not a JK Rowling market where you could sell millions of books. Although, one never knows, you may have the next Chronicles of Narnia in your hands! Just be aware that you are writing for a small niche market that is very competitive. However, if our Lord gave you the gift of writing, then by all means, use it for His kingdom, despite the challenges, frustrations, effort and time. It is well worth it. If your book can touch the heart of even one child, then your efforts have been repaid.

  • What is your advice to a busy mom who has a passion for writing?

    • Use Notes on your smartphone–keep it open at all times and jot down your ideas as you go. You might have a free 10 minutes here and there, start writing, keep going, page by page, your dream will become a printed book, don’t give up, you can do it, I believe in you!

  • Finally, do you have any recommendations for parents shopping for children’s books that agree with our Orthodox teachings?

    • Read the reviews on Amazon–they help provide some clues as to the content of the book. Ask the servants at your parish or your priest if they heard/read it. Purchase the books from a trusted Orthodox website (We the Copts, Coptic Dad and Mom, Ancient Faith and/or any Orthodox/Coptic church bookstore). This will assure you the books have been vetted and will have Orthodox content.

  • Mireille, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Your dedication is truly inspiring to many Orthodox artists and parents out there. May God bless your work and talent. We the Copts proudly carries some of Philo and the Super holies book Series. Check them out here!

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