- Who is Toneal?
- Literary Extraordinaire
- Social Activist
- Black Man Project
In many circles, I’m affectionately known as, “The Book Lady”, and that’s because whenever anyone has a question that has anything about a book – from writing to editing to publishing – they know they can ask me, and chances are I’ll know the answer; and if I don’t, I know someone who does!!!
My knowledge is a direct result of the time I have invested in the literary world. I’ve been quoted as saying, “Literary is my life!”, which is so ironic because prior to becoming a published author in September 2010, I had no desire to be an author; it wasn’t anything I ever wished or pursued – and other than the books I used for my education, I didn’t even like to read – crazy, ain’t it? However, and unbeknownst to me, God had a plan for my life.
Shortly after publishing my first book, I ranked #3 as the National Black Book Festival’s Best New Author in 2011. The ceremony was being held in Houston, Texas – the same weekend as my college graduation. I was to receive my Masters degree, but I decided to go to Houston because I’d never been and having received my bachelors degree, I knew that my name wasn’t going to be called individually, yet it would be in Texas, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to make.
On the road, I remember hearing God tell me that this book would simply serve as a catalyst for what I would do. At the time, I had no clue what that meant; I was still trying to wrap my mind around what it meant to be an author… but I quickly found out!!! I spent that year touring the country with my book and meeting authors everywhere. We’d exchange stories, and although I didn’t think there was any difference between what we were doing, wherever I went someone would say, “You need to have your own organization.” So, after praying about it, I formed what was then known as Authors Promoting Success in 2013, which was/is purposed to educate authors on what it means to be an entrepreneur as well as provide platforms for exposure (in 2019, I changed the name to Artists Promoting Success to include performance and visual artists).
The following year, I established my own imprint, APS Publishing, which really came about after advising numerous people on how to write and publish their own. I researched what was needed to officially be a publisher, and learned that in addition to experience, educationally a degree in Communication was advised. Wouldn’t you know that was my major? A bit eerie how things work even when you’re unaware.
Later that year, I heard God tell me that I needed to start looking for spaces to open a bookstore. Now, I need you to understand this was very difficult to accept because I’d never run a business, or knew anyone who had a business; however, I trusted God because I knew enough to know that if He was telling me to do it, He’d bless my obedience. So, in 2015, I opened APS Books & More Bookstore inside of Chicago’s Ford City Mall. I stayed there for close to two years before relocating to my own location in Little Village (26th & Lawndale).
Then, in 2017, I created the APS Book Awards, which was solely open to independent authors. The contest runs from January to April, and the winners are celebrated at the Awards Gala. The first year we hosted almost 200 people – and keep in mind, there were no mainstream names (even our entertainers are independent) – simply people excited to celebrate the literary arts. I deemed it, “The Emmy’s for the Literary Industry”; to see people come from all over, including Delaware, Georgia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky in their finest attire, I couldn’t be more proud.
In 2018, I formed the Writers Society. It served as a book camp, teaching individuals how to write, granting feedback and information on how to be an author – beyond writing the book.
So, as you can see, if it has anything to do with writing, editing, publishing, reviewing, even marketing, directly or indirectly, I’m connected to it some type of way. But I think the fact that I mentor others, by lending my advice and expertise, is why I’m known as “The Literary Extraordinaire”.