I write and illustrate a middle grade children's book series called FRAZZLED. Basically, I doodle my feelings into books. Ask me anything!

Booki Vivat
Jun 13, 2018

I'm Booki Vivat, the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling middle grade series, FRAZZLED.

This book series started in a very unconventional way-- through doodling! With Frazzled, I get to use my love of doodling to channel all the worries I had (and have) about growing up into a bunch of hilarious, illustrated books for kids.

It's been a crazy journey getting published and being able to interact with so many awesome readers. I'm also a huge book nerd and literary fangirl, so getting to be part of this world as an author/illustrator has been kind of amazing. I'm still pretty new to this, but I'm happy to share what I've learned so far.

So ask me anything!

www.bookivivat.com

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Is there a unique or fun fact about yourself or your writing that might surprise the readers?
Jun 18, 6:49PM EDT0

A lot of people ask if "Booki" is a pen name, but it's NOT! I’ve had the name Booki since before I could even hold a book!

I swear I am not making this up. When I was younger, people used to say that I was destined to be a librarian or work in publishing or write a novel. I figured that most of them were joking, but now I’m starting to wonder if it was true. I guess, considering everything that’s happened, it kind of fits!

Jun 21, 10:56AM EDT0
Do you have a mirror book? A book that made you feel as if you saw your reflection on the page?
Jun 18, 10:18AM EDT0

I loved the Baby-Sitters Club series when I was a kid, and one of the main reasons was Claudia Kishi.

It wasn't only that she was Asian-American... it's that she was also just a normal kid—a kid like me. She defied all the typical Asian stereotypes I'd seen in movies and television. Her identity wasn't wrapped up in an immigrant story or exotic historical fiction. She was quirky and artsy, and she loved junk food. Even though I definitely wasn't as cool or fashionable as Claudia, seeing her on that page made me believe that I could belong there too.

More recenty, there's this amazing picture book that just came out called DRAWN TOGETHER, written by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat. Image result for drawn together dan santat

My family is from Thailand and Dan Santat draws a lot of inspiration for the art from Thai culture, so seeing this book gave me a very distinct feeling of recognition and familiarity that I don't ever really get to experience. 

Representation is incredibly important to me. Growing up, I never really saw many characters that looked like me in books or media, and I think, to some extent, that lack of visibility is always at the back of my mind. Hopefully, some kid will pick up FRAZZLED, see Abbie Wu, and feel seen the way that I felt when I saw those mirror books.

Jun 21, 11:30AM EDT0
What tips would you share with struggling writers and artists out there who are trying to accomplish their ideas?
Jun 17, 4:58AM EDT0

Do not dismiss or devalue your creative work (or maybe I should say, always value it)!

I actually still have to remind myself of this constantly!

In the past, I used to dismiss a lot of my writing and drawing because I was embarrassed it wasn't good enough or I was afraid people would think I was a total fraud. I just wrote off everything I created like it didn't matter and like it wasn't important—it didn’t “count.” But the truth is, everything counts! 

No matter what, creative work is still work. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes heart! You are choosing to make something that is your own, and nothing can take away the value of that action. Plus, doing the work is the only way anyone gets better, so don’t disregard the importance of your efforts and just keep working!

Jun 18, 10:39AM EDT0
Some writers hear their characters’ voices as they create. Does that happen to you?
Jun 17, 4:48AM EDT0

Because of how FRAZZLED came about, there is definitely a strong connection between the fictional character of Abbie and me as a real life creator.

It isn't hard for me to write in Abbie's voice because there is a part of me that was (and, to some extent, still is) "Abbie Wu." Or, I guess, "Abbie Wu" is (to some extent) a fictional extension of me.

With this particular project, it's less that I hear her voice as I create and more that I'm tapping into a perspective/point of view that is already kind of a part of me!

Jun 18, 10:12AM EDT0
Why did you decide to create for younger generations versus adults?
Jun 16, 7:02AM EDT0

In FRAZZLED, Abbie Wu is starting middle school and facing some very middle school specific problems—too much homework, neighborhood bullies, locker mix-ups, complex lunch dynamics, evil teachers, etc. Underneath all that, she's trying to figure out who she is, where she belongs, and what her Thing is. For me, those questions are much larger than just middle school. 

BUT I chose to place her there because, for me, middle school was when I started to ask myself those very same questions.

Even though I'm an adult now, I still find myself coming up against those same ideas. The specific context of what we're going through may be different, but essentially, the ideas/themes/questions we are exploring are the same. When you really think about it, some of the big, basic human questions we ask ourselves aren't just isolated to a certain life stage.

I probably could've chosen to explore these ideas from a more adult perspective, but if I'm honest, I think it's a little more fun writing for kids.

Jun 18, 11:22AM EDT0
When you look through your old doodles, how have your feelings towards the circumstances in the doodle changed and has your reaction to a doodle ever caused you to change an important decision, if so, what was it?
Jun 15, 8:29AM EDT0

It's really fun looking through my old doodles! It's kind of like revisiting a memory through an old  photograph or memento. Seeing certain doodles brings back all the feelings I felt in those moments. 

Sometimes I doodle to release my feelings and other times I doodle to overcome them! 

When I reflect on these doodles, my feelings aren't totally changed, but I do benefit from having a little more perspective. For example:

I drew the doodle on the left a year ago when I was working on book 2 and the doodle on the right a month ago when I was working on book 3. 

Looking back at these reminds me of how I felt in those moments, but also allows me to see my own patterns of thought and ultimately have a better perspective when dealing with this similar feeling in the future!

Last edited @ Jun 15, 7:58PM EDT.
Jun 15, 2:27PM EDT0
How many doodle diaries and art materials do you go through in a month, how many diaries do you currently have and when do they date back to?
Jun 15, 7:33AM EDT0

Each planner covers the span of an entire year!

I've always doodled in my planners (even when I was much much younger) but I didn't start saving them until 2009. Any of my planners before that from high school or middle school are either destroyed or somewhere in my parents' garage!

My 2009-2012 planners are all different shapes/sizes/styles, but in 2013, I found the perfect planner for me, and I've been using this type of yearly planner ever since!

Jun 15, 12:37PM EDT0
Do you think it is important for middle school kids to understand feelings like anxiety and stress to be more aware so they can know how to handle them? Was that the message you wanted to send through your book?
Jun 14, 8:28PM EDT0

It's definitely important for kids (especially those who tend to be a little more frazzled) to realize that their feelings and emotions are normal! Everyone worries, and it’s not necessarily bad to worry about things.

Abbie has a lot of fears, but one of her biggest is the idea that everyone has things figured out except her.

Over the course of the book, she realizes that it’s actually okay not to know what you’re doing or to feel uncertain about doing it—just as long as you don’t let those fears stop you from actually doing things!

Anxiety and stress are very isolating, and it's easy to think that you're the only one with those kinds of feelings, so when I was writing this book, I mostly wanted to normalize the fact that anyone (and everyone) feels frazzled to some extent!

Jun 15, 12:51PM EDT0
Why did you start doodling and to what extent can your doodling be considered an obsession?
Jun 14, 6:35PM EDT0

I started drawing stick figure doodles with my friends in middle school. We were just playing around and having fun! 

Then I started keeping a planner and doodling in it, which I guess is where my style started to develop more and my "obsession" began.

It's probably fair to call it an obsession since I can't imagine ever stopping! 

Jun 15, 12:05PM EDT0
How was the reaction to your first book in the Frazzled series? What is the best review you got for it?
Jun 14, 5:01AM EDT0

As an author, you always hope your story will resonate with people, but the response I’ve gotten so far has been beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

It still feels so surreal to think of people reading this thing that I made! To hear that they feel connected to Abbie and her story is very humbling and special to me.

The best review I got was probably my first review from a young reader... just because it was the first time I saw that my book was actually connecting with the readership I had written it for!

Jun 15, 11:45AM EDT0
What was the craziest part of your publishing journey?
Jun 14, 12:02AM EDT0

So many things about my publishing journey have been absolutely CRAZY in the best possible way.

Starting from how the very beginning and book got started, it feels like every step of the process has been so unexpected and surprising. 

But the absolute CRAZIEST part? Definitely this:

Jun 15, 11:13AM EDT0
Do you read your own fan mail? What was something that a fan has sent you that made you feel like you were over the moon and why?
Jun 13, 10:52PM EDT0

Yes! I love getting fan mail and I definitely read everything I receive!

I feel so awestruck anytime someone sends me drawings inspired by FRAZZLED. It's crazy to think that readers are putting time and effort to reach out to me and that my art is inspiring them to create art of their own! 

Jun 15, 11:04AM EDT0

My son Max and I met you last week at the Woodland. He just finished Frazzled and said "this is the best book I've ever read". His question is will you make more books in this series ?  What is Abbi Wu going to do in a 3rd book?

Jun 13, 9:49PM EDT0

WOW! That's such high praise! I'm so glad he likes the series! 

There will definitely be more adventures to come for Abbie Wu! I'm finishing up the art for Book 3 now and it should be out in February. In the third book, Abbie and her friends leave home for the first time and go to camp! 

Last edited @ Jun 15, 1:49AM EDT.
Jun 15, 1:43AM EDT0
Which authors would you completely fan girl over and why?
Jun 13, 5:27PM EDT0

There are so many! TOO MANY!

So I'll just go with one of the first authors/illustrators that comes to mind. It's  someone I've actually gotten the chance to meet and fangirl over multiple times... KEVIN HENKES!

I've already written about why I'm such a huge fan of his so I won't go on too long here, but I will add that, after meeting him in real life, I can confirm that he is one of the kindest, most genuine author/illustrators ever.

No matter how hard I try, I will never NOT fangirl over Kevin Henkes.

Last edited @ Jun 15, 1:30AM EDT.
Jun 15, 1:29AM EDT0

What do you MISS most about Middle School/High School?  What do you NOT miss? xoxo

Last edited @ Jun 13, 4:01PM EDT.
Jun 13, 4:01PM EDT0

Jun 15, 10:37AM EDT0

Your AMA is amazing thank you! Given that there is not a lot (if anything) done on the topic of mental health with kids at school and your books seem to be covering that in a very light, engaging and accessible way, have you thought of going a step further and working on some sort of program/project to educate kids about mental health using Abbie’s stories?

Jun 13, 3:03PM EDT0

Thanks so much! This AMA has been so fun to do! :)

I haven't really considered doing anything more educational regarding mental health issues! I'm definitely open to partnering with educators and mental health professionals to further engage readers in a dialogue about anxiety, but I generally see FRAZZLED as more of an entry point into the conversation rather than an educational resource.

There are a lot of great resources and middle grade books about dealing with anxiety and they all vary in how they talk about mental health. I think that the more books we have that speak openly and thoughfully about tough topics, the better!

Hopefully, in its own way, FRAZZLED can be just one of the many books that help young readers feel more comfortable engaging and dealing with their feelings of anxiety.

Last edited @ Jun 15, 1:14AM EDT.
Jun 15, 12:58AM EDT0
What was the most fun about writing your books?
Jun 13, 10:40AM EDT0

It's really fun being able to write and draw personal references and inside jokes into the book. 

Some people may catch them. Others may not. Sometimes only people from my real life will understand!

Being able to draw funny, embarrassing moments and know that only I (and maybe a few of my friends/family members) know what's really true is kind of a secret joy of mine.

Last edited @ Jun 13, 12:31PM EDT.
Jun 13, 11:25AM EDT1
How has your love for literature influenced your own writing?
Jun 13, 9:35AM EDT0

I have always been a book person, and being a book person inevitable led me to want to tell stories too. Reading has always challenged and inspired me to see the world from different perspectives. And it continues to do so, especially now that I'm a writer and illustrator!

HERE is a list of some books that I loved growing up.

My love of literature definitely impacted FRAZZLED!

Growing up, I was always drawn to stories with interesting, complex female main characters. Books like Harriet the Spy, Ella Enchanted, and Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging had a special place in my heart. In each of these books, I was always struck by the girl at the center, and I looked to those girls to help shape who I was and who I wanted to become.

In the end, they’ve also played a part in the creation of Abbie Wu, who I can only hope will be the kind of character that means something to this next generation of readers too!

Last edited @ Jun 13, 12:10PM EDT.
Jun 13, 11:48AM EDT0
What methods have you used to promote your series considering the unique content of your books?
Jun 13, 3:36AM EDT0

For me, self-promotion is the strangest (and hardest) part about being an author/illustrator. But it's also an important part of the publishing process!

Some people are great at it, but it doesn't necessarily come naturally to me. Luckily, the content of the book is pretty much in line with my real life personality. One time, I was anxious about speaking on a panel and my friend in marketing consoled me by saying that even if I was nervous, at least I was "on brand." #FRAZZLED

I don't really have any specific strategy, but I tend to promote my books using methods that feel most natural and comfortable for me. That happens to include: lots of school/library visits, sharing doodles and snapshots of my life on Instagram, and connecting to readers/gatekeepers through Twitter.

I also work closely with my publisher and am always up for whatever marketing they have in mind. Because of the visual nature of the book, this often includes lots of doodling!

Whenever I need to promote myself, I just try to have fun and be as honest/real as possible. That's how the book started and I always want to stay true to that!

Last edited @ Jun 13, 10:32AM EDT.
Jun 13, 10:30AM EDT0
Why is your target audience specifically middle school children and how did you determine that this would be the ideal audience for Frazzled?
Jun 13, 1:13AM EDT0

I didn't necessarily set out to write for a certain age group, but I knew that I wanted to place Abbie Wu in middle school.

Middle school is when everything shifts. Suddenly, you’re asked to figure out who you are on top of everything else, and the worst part is that it feels like everyone has it figured out but you! Frazzled came out of that very real, very palpable angst and uncertainty.

There’s something about the middle school experience that we can’t help but carry with us into adulthood, and I wanted to explore what exactly makes it such a pivotal life stage.

I've actually found that the best audience for FRAZZLED is Grades 3-6... kids in the stage right before middle school. I think a lot of those young readers tend to really identify with Abbie's feelings. That being said, I'm an "adult" and I still identify with her too...

Jun 13, 10:44AM EDT1
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