Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hey, Mom’s Choice readers! Today we’re proud to share our most recent installment of our ongoing interview series. We sat down with author Daniel E Brown, who wrote the Mom’s Choice Award-winning children’s book ELI- Pride of the Yazoo River. His story takes place in the small Mississippi town of Satartia, where a large catfish named Eli lives under a bridge. Two young children set out to catch Eli, as many have before. What ensues is a story of bravery, cooperation, and fairness that children of all ages are sure to enjoy! Continue reading below for our full interview with Daniel Brown.
MCA: Hi Daniel! Thanks for giving us some of your time. Would you mind telling our readers a little bit about yourself?
Daniel: I was born at an early age, and happy to be here! Ha! But really, I was born in a town of about 3500 people called Gibson City, Illinois. It was a place where everyone knew everyone, and it was a safe place to grow up. By no one’s indication was I the best and the brightest. I was eager to play whatever sport that was in season as a kid, and my dad thought it would be a great life-building experience to be a Boy Scout. I did end up making it to Eagle Scout, too. In High School I ended up with 7 Varsity letters and somehow won the Lion’s Club Scholastic-Athletic Award- I definitely didn’t see that one coming.
By the time my Senior year rolled around, I was recruited to play football at the University of Illinois, which was a dream come true for me. After one year, my University fired their Coach. For reasons I could never understand, there really was not a place for me on the team and I transferred to Mississippi State. It was an honor to be the leading scorer on the football team in 1979, and I found my wife at MSU. The most amazing thing is that I became Bi-lingual. I already knew how to speak “Northern”, but I was able to teach myself “Southern”! My wife is so Southern, that she can get three syllables from the word “cake”!
I graduated with a BS in Business, and my first job was with a bank in Jackson, Mississippi. I looked good. I smelled good, I dressed good. But I was about as broke as a church house mouse. My dad told me, “Son, go getcha a job in sales. Those fellas seem to be able to pay their bills.” Long story short, I did get into sales and I sold a very humble product in Jackson. I sold wiping cloths… you may also call them rags… same thing. My ego took a back seat when I got into a room with people and someone would say, “So what do you do for a living?” But you know something? I found out that I competed hard in sales just like it was athletics. I won salesman of the year. I told my then 95-year-old grandmother, “I really do make good money selling rags, but I am humbled when people ask me what I do.” She smiled at me and said, “When your grandfather took his grain to market on the farm, they never asked me what road I took to get here.” Great advice to anyone.
Long story short I did get into sales and I sold a very humble product in Jackson MS. I sold wiping cloths… you may also call them rags… same thing. My ego took a back seat when I got into a room with people and someone would say, “So what do you do for a living?” But you know something? I found out that I competed hard in sales just like it was athletics. I won the salesman of the year. I told my then 95 year old Grandmother, “I really do make good money selling rags, but I am humbled when people ask me what I do.” She smiled at me and said, “When your Grandfather took his grain to market from the farm, they never asked me what road I took to get here . ” Great advice to anyone.
I eventually formed my own company and moved to Orlando FL. It did quite well over the time that I ran it. Eventually, I began sharing stories with civic groups and sales companies and became a motivational speaker. I traveled all over our country teaching the concept of “winning.” That led to a radio show called The Next Level on AM580 WDBO in Orlando.
As it turns out people like a story. Charts, statistics, and diagrams are given out in speeches and people forget them. But, if I tell you a story about a little girl learning to ride a bike. You will remember it for years to come. A story has subtle power.
In 1997, I got a real estate license and formed a commercial real estate company called 828 Realty LLC. We have been blessed to have done well enough to allow me to take up a hobby of writing children’s books.
Truth be known, I have no idea what I will be when I grow up. If I ever grown up! hah.
MCA: What fun stories you’ve shared with us, thank you! There are some valuable life lessons you certainly carried throughout your entire life, and it’s clear you’re imparting some of them in the story of Eli. Can you tell us how your stories came to be?
Daniel: I guess it was over 30 years ago that I would fashion a bedtime story for my son. Cheryl would say, “You really should write these stories down. They are timeless. If you don’t do this, you may forget them.” I credit her with that decision. I did write the stories down long hand.. years later I typed them out on an old electric typewriter. In 2018, I found an old box in the garage stacked to the top with all of those stories. The silver fish managed to make a meal out of many of the stories, but some I could patch together and make them come alive again. Here was my goal. I truly wanted the last conscious thoughts of my son or daughter’s day to be positive, uplifting, adventuresome, and happy. I worked hard putting these stories together.
MCA: So many of our authors who are also parents say their books were inspired by the bedtime stories they told their own children, which we think is incredibly sincere and sentimental. Why do you think it’s important for children to have stories told to them?
Daniel: It is vital for children to have positive life experiences while they grow and try to formulate their thoughts in this day and age. My youth experience was completely different from what my grandchildren experience. There is so much sensory overload today. It’s okay to let the kids hear a story about a giant catfish that lives under a bridge. When you compare to iPads today, and the kids who have access to military games on their devices… our society seems to have lost something sincere, sacred and safe along the way.
MCA: It’s one of the reasons we love our Honorees for providing stories with valuable lessons that are wholesome while still capturing the imagination! Where did you find inspiration for the town of Satartia, and the characters you find there?
Daniel: Satartia is a lovely little Mississippi village that seems to be stuck in the pleasant atmosphere of yesteryear (and that is okay). As to Timmy, and Tori and Cletus Ray Johnson, those folks live on in the not-so-complicated village that has a little General Store which is still there. You can always count on sweet tea to drink and opinions to come from the people who gather there.
MCA: So, all said and done, after finishing ELI- Pride of the Yazoo River, what lessons do you hope your readers carry with them from the story?
Daniel: The one thing that stands out to me is that when you build the bond of a friendship, work hard to keep it in place. We live in a “disposable” world, it seems. When you plant the seeds for a true friendship… work overtime to keep that friendship in place. That is why ole Eli needed to be protected instead of coveted as a prize winning fish. Timmy and Tori saw to the Legend being preserved.
MCA: It’s refreshing to hear a challenging perspective on friendship in a world that is quickly changing and things are considered replaceable. Thank you so much, Daniel, for being a part of the Mom’s Choice family, and sharing Eli’s story with us and our readers!