Living the Creative Life
In some ways, Connie was like most the other kids growing up outside of Atlanta in what she describes as a "one-stoplight town," constantly running around the neighborhood and finding entertainment where she could. In other ways, however, she was different; her creative side came out early in life, and by age ten she was designing and creating Barbie clothes. At fifteen, Connie designed and made her first outfit for herself. "I always liked standout, loud clothes," she laughs, remembering her designs.
While she initially thought she'd go into fashion design as an adult, in her early twenties she decided she couldn't pass up on a promising opportunity in technology in Atlanta. Consequently, for several years she worked for Kent Datacomm, building local and wide-area networks for Fortune 500 companies across the country. During this time, she met her husband Jim, and the two eventually married. When her company began dissolving branch offices, Connie left the industry and focused on starting a family.
A little over a year after their son Jimmy was born, the Sewells decided they wanted to raise their children away from the city. So, in early 2004, when Jim's business opportunities seemed promising here, the family moved to Hilton Head. Connie was initially quite reluctant, and explains, "I was not on board, and came kicking and screaming. I couldn't imagine leaving the city and all the shopping a woman could ever dream of." Now, however, she loves living here, and says, "It took some time, but I wouldn't trade this life for anything. I live on a beautiful island with a diverse population. I have two wonderful children and an amazing husband who supports all of my dreams. What more could I ask for?"
After the birth of her daughter, Summer, Connie started a business called Lollipops and Teenybops, and offered novelty parties and camps for girls. Her specialties included fairy, princess, diva, and girl themes, as well as camps and parties that emphasized interests like fashion and sewing.
It was during her efforts to create a little girl character for her Lollipops and Teenybops website that Connie conceptualized the idea behind Summer Saltz, her children's book coming out this May. One day, while she was in the thick of designing her website character, she purchased a cute pair of sunglasses for her daughter. That afternoon, a friend dubbed Summer "Little Miss Hollywood," which morphed into a nickname, and ultimately Connie combined this idea with her website character to create Summer Saltz, her book's endearing protagonist.
As she began designing and writing, Connie did extensive research on all aspects involved in publishing a children's book. In the end, she decided to do it all herself, hiring various professionals for assistance, including an illustrator, an attorney, an editor, a book designer, and a printer. Connie points out, "Basically, I managed and did what a big publishing company would have done with a team."
Connie hit a set back last year when she broke her back during a skiing trip and spent a good part of the year immobilized during her recuperation period. The accident, one that could have been much worse, did slow her down, but Connie's unwavering spirit kept her focused.
After an almost three-year process, Summer Saltz is nearing completion, interest from booksellers is mounting, and book tours are already in the works. This milestone, however, is only the beginning. Connie's started her own publishing company, Tiny Hands Publishing, and she already has plans for other children's titles, including both additional titles in the Summer Saltz series and books with new characters.
When asked about self-publishing, Connie mentions some of her past accomplishments and admits, "This was way more intense and much harder than anything I'd done before." She smiles thinking about when she initially envisioned the concept for Summer Saltz, and says of the magnitude of the task, "I had no idea." To those considering self-publication, she advises, "Go for it, but be prepared to work hard. If you do it right and spend time marketing, you will be successful."
Summer Saltz will be available at: www.summersaltz.com, Connie's upcoming website, as well as at local bookstores and retailers.
Connie's obsessions: "Music, I love music!
Cadbury chocolate. Being face-to-face with my little ones while they sleep; there's nothing more peaceful."
Miscellaneous fashion achievements: As a child, Connie created a mermaid costume that won a $500 prize at a Halloween costume contest. More recently, Connie's company, Lollypops and Teenybops, hosted a fashion show at The Gap.
On writing: Connie's been writing stories since childhood. When she broke her back last year, her mother brought her a folder with some of her childhood stories. Connie groans and laughs as she describes her "really morbid, gory, off-the-wall" stories, but says, "I have managed to redeem myself with a fun, energetic, quirky children's book that will hopefully entertain children for years to come."