“We parents are the ones who should give our kids the opportunity and exposures” Deborah Haile
By Mical Tesfay
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to create a wonderful life is self- limiting beliefs. As a result of this beliefs, most of which are not true, you hold yourself back from taking the steps necessary to create the kind of life you really desire. The way you free yourself from these negative thoughts is to change your perception about who you are and what is truly possible for you to do. Mom and son best-selling authors and co- CEO’s who love to share world adventure and show how education through travel should be an integral part of any childhood are our guests for today’s Q&A- Deborah Haile and her son Jonah Seyum. Deborah was born in Sahel and grew up in Minnesota. She got her Master’s degree in Washington D.C and is currently living in Miami working as a Director of legal operations. At the same time she is growing her business Tiny Global Footprints, writing children’s books and inspiring world travel. Jonah Seyum was born in Atlanta, US. He is 8 years old and learning in 3rd grade. He is an award winning and young best-selling author. He loves reading books, spending time with family and traveling the world with his mom. Jonah has been to 11 countries and he is counting to visit more. The following is the interview of both Mom and son.
- I thank you for this interview Deborah and Jonah. How did you start writing and publishing books?
Deborah- Our first trip was to Dominican Republic. Jonah was 18 months old then. That trip was more like to get away from my daily busy life. I had full time job and had a lot of demanding things going on in my life. However, I needed to just get away from that life and had a quick family trip to the Dominican Republic. After that we went to Dubai, Eritrea, Cuba, and then Thailand respectively. After we visited those places, it felt like going on trips was something that we would continue to do. It takes you away from your environment and my kid was learning a lot from it. It was nice. So adventures and having fun was not really something we would stop from having. When we got back from Thailand, I printed out some pictures from the trip and I gave it to Jonah to show his classmates. He was in pre-school then. When he went to his class, he told them what he did in Thailand with me. He explained each picture very well. His teacher put everything into a sort of a book and gave me back all the pictures with everything he said written down underneath. I have always felt like people can get something when you are telling your story and have always wanted to write a book. Aside from that a lot people started asking me how my trip with Jonah who was then a baby, basically a toddler. I had to explain every individual I met all our experiences. That was exhausting. So I came up with a solution- to publish everything in one book and let other people know what exactly we did. However, my mentor advised me to publish it in a book series. So we named the book series Jonah global footprints which is Jonah going around the world and leaving his tiny footprints. The books teach about the culture, geography and things about the particular countries we visited. The book was written in the form of question and answer. That is one little kid would ask questions about what they eat, what they do, and where it is and staffs like that and he answering it. So by reading the books he is teaching other kids. We also provide tips on the back of the book like what is good for the kids when traveling to that specific country and places to visit. Jonah started writing journals when we travel to different countries. It is the foundation of his writing. Basically, we became the guide book for parents and children who are interested to visit of the specific countries we have been before.
- When writing, what is your part and your mom’s?
Jonah- even though I help with it, my mom basically develop the story, because she would make it clear to the audience what exactly is Jonah searching for. For instance, in the first book he was searching for elephant in Thailand. The book series inspired me to write my own book on my own. So my part is giving my mom my perspective when we write it down and my mom grabs some ideas from my journal. I also help with reminding her some moments, events and things that she forgot to remember. When I wrote my first book, my mom asked me about my passion. I told her that I like sports. So my mom supported me to write about my favorite sport. At first I asked my mom how I would write it. So she helped me by asking questions that can generate ideas.
- So how did it come out?
The book is called “basketball or soccer”. In the book, I go back and forth to see which one I like the most. In the book I provided reason why I like basketball, then again I also stated why I like the soccer too. That’s how it was written till the last page. It was about comparing both sports. At the end, I concluded that I like them both equally. Keeping the readers on track till the last page was the best part of the book. So it came out so well, I believe.
- How does it feel to work with your son?
Deborah- No words to explain. It feels wonderful. It feels like I’m giving him the opportunity to take responsibility for the potentials that he has already owned. Besides, I like it, because he is like my right hand as he helps a lot with my commitments such as selling books which he excelled in it. In advertising the books, Advertisement, he tries so hard to convince people to buy the books by going around and tell them, “I wrote this book with my mom. It is worth buying” and so on. I remember one event when we had a book fair, which at that time, I was a photographer. He sold all the books in six hours. He did such an amazing job which made me so proud of him. We also do podcasting; and he is heavily involved in that too. His talent came out naturally, and I have never forced him to do anything which made our work easier. I started it and he joined me with excitement. This job is very important for him because through this experience he is learning ownership, entrepreneurship, finance and business as a whole. He is learning business skills and life skills while working with me. It feels amazing to see my son working hard with me.
- Are there any upcoming books to be published?
Yeah. We have already wrote two books. They will be published when we get back to US. One of them is Jonah’s, “what does Daddy do all day?”. This book is about Jonah trying to find out what his Daddy does at work. He uses a lot of tricks to find out what his Dad is working. Finally, he finds out when his father tricked him that he wants to go out to play with him, but instead took him to his workplace. The other book is “filling my pocket with Nakfa in Eritrea”. They both are going to be published at the same time very soon.
- Any final messages?
Jonah- I want to inspire kids of my age to write about what they like, because it is fun.
Deborah- my message is to the parents. Show your kids the world by traveling. Ask them what they want to do, because, we, parents are the ones who should show to our kids both the opportunity and exposure!