Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Graham.
Hi Erica, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I attended Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to study speech-language pathology. During my clinical work, I frequently searched for play-based materials to help children reach their speech and language goals. While there is certainly a place for direct instruction and activities, I enjoy helping kids learn when they think they are simply having fun.
I frequently searched for books to include in my sessions. I discovered a need for more books that targeted specific skills. One of these skills was articulation. Flashcards and word lists are great, but supplemental books are extremely valuable. I began creating a series that caregivers and therapists could use to help with sound awareness and development. The Talking Tales series was born in 2016 with the release of the first three titles.
Each book focuses on a core sound or group of sounds in the English language. Each sound is presented in its naturally occurring word positions and blends. As an adult reads the book to their child and emphasizes the target sound, the child begins to develop an awareness of that sound. They then have the opportunity to practice the sound as they talk about the book and repeat common phrases.
The best thing about the Talking Tales series is that each book has a fun storyline, making this series exciting for all kids, regardless of speech skills. The Talking Tales series has now grown to seven titles with the recent release of “A Llama Stole my Flashlight.”
Shortly after releasing the first titles of my Talking Tales series, I decided to take on a second venture. I started my small business, “T&E Treasures,” selling various handmade items on Etsy and at local vendor events. Under T&E Treasures, I also became an authorized dealer of Aladdin Mantle Oil Lamps for the St. Louis area.
Over the years, the variety of handmade items I offer has changed, but my most popular items remain to be my handmade Marimo Moss Ball terrariums, a unique aquatic plant that is known for its low-maintenance care, toleration of low light conditions, and longevity–they can live to be over 100 years old!
Challenges arose in 2020 with temporary importation restrictions. These challenges are still being resolved, but I am thankful to be able to continue creating terrariums with baby Marimo Moss Balls that I have personally propagated over the years.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
As with any business venture, challenges are expected. I have faced many struggles along the way: How do I bring an idea to life? Will it work? What happens when a supplier quits carrying what I need? How do I market my items? Why is my marketing not working?
What do I do when I feel that my voice is drowning in the sea of millions of products? What if people don’t like my product? I have put a lot of myself into a book–can I handle the possibility of rejection? Maybe my idea isn’t as good as I thought?
Many questions made me consider leaving my passions behind. But it never failed that when I felt like I should leave my books and business behind, something would pull me back. A good example of this was when 2020 hit. I had my seventh book in the works when the world came to a stand-still. My motivation to write and illustrate vanished–just as it did with many of my author friends.
I almost scrapped the project, but during those couple of years, I would have a parent, therapist, or teacher reach out to me with how my books helped a child in their life. I would hear stories of how “Puppy’s Bubble” helped a child learn to read, or how a grandfather enjoyed reading my books over zoom calls with his grandson.
These heart-warming and inspiring messages reminded me of why I began writing in the first place–I am so thankful they did! I finally released my seventh book in April of 2022, and it is honestly my favorite yet!
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with my Master of Science Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. I also hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Using my education, expertise, and experience, I have been able to write and illustrate the Talking Tales children’s book series designed to help with speech development. Since its release, this Readers’ Favorite 5-star rated series has won multiple awards, including a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and multiple Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
These books are part of the various creative and hand-made items that I carry under my business, T&E Treasures. All of my items are inspired and created with love. My two favorite items continue to be my books and my Marimo terrariums, both of which I have a passion for designing.
The look on a person’s face when they hold a new book or terrarium makes my day–every time!
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I am not sure if this would be considered good luck, but I am incredibly thankful for the strong support I had from family and friends. Especially the author friends that I made early on in my journey.
Local author Del Henderson III encouraged me to turn my ideas into reality. Soon after, award-winning author Carole P. Roman reached out to me and quickly became a strong mentor as I navigated the world of publishing. I cannot thank her enough for her sharing her experience and wisdom!
In addition, I have felt very lucky when it comes to my customers. They have been AMAZING! Through word of mouth, I have seen my business grow significantly! This led to connections with local shop owners who were interested in carrying my items in their stores.
Honestly, I feared the “competition” of local makers and businesses when I started this journey, but I have discovered the exact opposite. We are at times each other’s biggest cheerleaders! I absolutely LOVE the supportive friendships and small business community in the St. Louis area!
- Website: talkingtalesbooks.com
- Instagram: @authorericagraham @tetreasures
- Facebook: @EricaGrahamAuthor @TETreasures
- Other: etsy.com/shop/tetreasuresstore