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.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Welcome and thank you for joining us for another installment of our interview series. We were honored to speak with Mom’s Choice Award-winning Author Ornella Kotupanova-Sole, who wrote the MCA award-winning book, Miracle of Life. Miracle of Life is about a young lion cub who is learning about life, love, separation, and loss. It is truly a heartfelt story that is described by the author as “a little book for your children to read, to help them understand love and life when things don’t go as they wished.” Keep reading to learn more about Ornella Kotupanova-Sole and her award-winning book!
MCA: Hi Ornella! I would first like to thank you for taking the time to sit down with us and allow us to get to know you a little better. Can we start the interview by getting to know a little bit about yourself and your background?
Ornella: I am a creative single mom battling terminal cancer – this became something like my slogan unfortunately, or badge of honor. However, I am much more than just that. Since a young age, I’ve loved everything to do with art, craft, and design. It gives me incredible gratification to know I can create something from nothing. I also love to write, which is the reason for ending up as a founder of a children publishing company. Life itself has been a massive influence and inspiration for me and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
MCA: You sound like a very strong woman! It is truly amazing that you have been able to find such positivity through such a terrible illness. Can you share with us your journey with a terminal illness?
Ornella: Well, it has been a dynamic journey. If someone came six years ago and told me I would be diagnosed with cancer, beat it, give birth in an against the odd circumstance, then face cancer again, this time terminal, write my will at age 29, open a publishing company and publish 2 children books with a cause, I probably would have laughed and not believed it. However, it’s life and life it is unpredictable and beautiful, and we need to learn to appreciate it with all the good and the bad before it is too late. Cancer has taught me a lot; it made me better and happier in many ways, as unexpected as that might sound. One thing I’ve realized is it is not what you have in your life, but what you will leave behind. Our actions have a massive impact on people’s lives; it’s important to be aware of the trace of feelings and memories we are leaving behind.
MCA: Thank you for sharing that with us, you have gone through and accomplished so much! The impact we have on others is a very important lesson that we can all benefit from learning. At what point did the idea to write a book that helps children and families through a terminal diagnosis enter your brain? Tell us about this process!
Ornella: As soon as I got the terminal diagnosis, I thought to myself, what can I do in a limited time that will describe the upcoming situation to my son, but also will soothe his pain, keep me alive and have a social impact. I wanted to explain, but also to inspire him and give him some comfort, so I sat down and started writing. Initially, I thought it would be just a story with a couple of illustrations, dedications, and photos, something similar to a scrapbook. But then during an interview I was giving for BBC Radio at that time, the journalist made me realize the potential the book might have on other families battling separation, terminal illness, and loss. This was the moment when I started to rearrange my ideas and concepts to create a book with a cause instead of just a personal memento. Books live forever, just like art and music. I just want every parent in my situation, who is wondering how to explain life and comfort and soothe their little ones, to have the opportunity to do so through our book and stay, one way or another, immortal.
Ornella: At the beginning, the response was very mixed; some parents found it inspiring and touching; others found it sad and disturbing. However, even the latter fell in love with the book once they found out the story behind it is true. We worked with a family psychologist to make sure the book can be only beneficial for the healthy growth and development of any child’s mind no matter if the story applies to them or not. It’s hard, sometimes as parents we just avoid topics we think are harsh, unnecessary or inappropriate. Still, the truth is that this way of thinking is a mistake; kids need to be mentally and emotionally prepared and aware. Like I’ve said, life is unpredictable; you never know when it will surprise you, so why wait? Let’s not forget that books should teach us something as well as leave an emotion, a simple thought, and I think Miracle of Life achieved that. My team and I are happy that the parents the book is intended for have been touched by the book, and the rest find the book useful to open up subjects they usually wouldn’t. The book is slowly accomplishing its mission, and I am humbled and grateful to be a part of this magical and emotional experience.
MCA: I agree, I feel as though people, in general, try to avoid topics that are considered “dark” or “harsh,” so it is incredible that you are shedding some light on such a sensitive topic. We’ve heard a little about your plans for charitable giving through the proceeds of Miracle of Life, can you tell us more about that?
Ornella: To be honest, from the beginning my intentions were never to make a fortune from the book. It was more to make a difference, create an opportunity as well as leave an inspiring and meaningful legacy. So in terms of supporting and donating, our initial goal is to be able to donate 100 books per year to parents in palliative care and in-hospital wards, giving them the chance to personalize their own story by hand. This will leave a precious memento to be passed down and read to generations to come.
We are also planning to donate £1 of each sold book to cancer research and family-orientated charities.
I am a strong believer in the pay it forward movement.
MCA: What a wonderful way to give back! What are your hopes for your son as you more urgently consider what you want him to know and believe in his lifetime, especially in light of your diagnosis?
Ornella: I just want to set a good example for my son. I want him to face all obstacles in life with a positive, “I can” attitude. I can only hope that what I have created will make him appreciate life even more, but also be inspired and humble enough to carry on my mission. Nothing is impossible! Miracles do exist and he is a living example of that as well as the fact that I’ve outlived my diagnosis by 22 months. I want him to believe in himself, to never stop dreaming, and to be an able, strong-minded and well-mannered human being.
MCA: It sounds like with a mother like you, there is no doubt he will be. If you could ensure the readers of your book walk away with one thing, what would that be?
Ornella: I am an artist, so I would love to know that my creation has made someone feel something…hopefully, something beautiful. Life and death are inseparable and we have no control over them, but the one thing we can control is how we deal with them. After all, we are what we leave behind and it is not about what we have. The feelings, the lessons, the moments, the memories, those are the essential things we leave behind.
I can only hope that Miracle of Life reflects on that as well as being a useful but sentimental and soothing item to keep our voices alive.
MCA: Thank you Ornella, and thank you for such a beautiful interview. As I’ve said before, you sound like a very strong woman and we are very grateful you took the time to speak with us here at MCA!
You can learn more about Ornella and her award-winning book, Miracle of Life, by visiting her MCA Shop page!