When Booki Vivat decided to start using a planner, she had no idea that it would lead to a book series. After realizing she had so much going on in her head, Booki decided that it was time to put pen to paper and bring her doodles to life. This is how she started her middle school books series: Frazzled.
With her latest novel coming out late last year, and her next one still in the works, we were able to get our hands on her first two novels: Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom and Frazzled #2: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes. You can check out our thoughts on the novels below:
Review of the Frazzled series by Booki Vivat
We live in a society that tells kids that feelings aren’t always the best. However, I believe that is ridiculous. Feelings are great! Even more than that though, feelings are natural. That’s what I love most about the Frazzled series by Booki Vivat: It allows feelings to be the norm.
Middle schooler Abbie is just your average young girl… except she’s not because no one is ever average when you actually learn about them. The biggest thing for Abbie is that she is “always in crisis,” hence the title of the series. In Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom, Abbie’s biggest issue is that she doesn’t have a “thing” like everyone else. Besides that, she’s dealing with other regular middle schooler issues. In the second novel, Frazzled #2: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes, things become even more crazy when a “diabolical” cat joins her family. Needless to say, this series is equal parts hilarious and passionate.
The Frazzled series is a must have for any kid who is always thinking the rest of the world has it figured out except for them (which is basically every kid… and adult for that matter). My favorite part of this series is how the illustrations and the story itself go hand-in-hand. It takes a true creator to make a story like this flow so easily. The illustrations make this story unlike anything else because it’s in no way a graphic novel. It’s unique. The illustrations are guided by the words and the words are guided by the illustrations. It’s basically the perfect blend of doodles and writing and should be enjoyed by anyone who adventures into it!
Q&A with Booki Vivat
We were able to sit down and talk to Booki Vivat ourselves! We learned more about how Frazzled first started, where she finds her inspiration, and how writing for kids is tons of fun. Check it out here:
To begin, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am the author and illustrator of the Frazzled series, a highly illustrated middle grade book series about a girl named Abbie Wu who is always freaking out! I basically have a lot of feelings and doodle about them for a living.
When did you realize you had a talent and a passion for drawing and storytelling? What inspired you the most to follow your passions?
Ever since I was young, I liked writing and drawing my own stories, but I don’t know if there was a definitive “ah-ha” moment that made me realize that this was something I could actually pursue.
Instead, I think it was more of a turning point that began once I started keeping a planner. I thought it would help organize and make sense of things, but over time, doodles of my feelings and emotions took over every page! My planner evolved into more than just an organizational tool. Instead, it became a creative outlet and visual record of my life.
Most of the things I decide to create are really a product of what I’m feeling and experiencing, and the art just comes out of a desire to see those things expressed visually. That’s how I ended up creating the Frazzled series!
Can you tell us a bit about your Frazzled books and why you were inspired to create it?
The idea for Frazzled actually came from a pretty dramatic doodle I made in a moment of personal crisis that said: “I live my life in a constant state of impending doom.” When my editor saw it, she pointed and told me, “There’s a story here. That’s our girl.”
So I began writing about a hilariously dramatic kid who always felt like she was living on the brink of impending doom — just like me. That was the beginning of Abbie Wu, a girl with a lot of feelings and a lot of fears. With all her angst and uncertainty, it seemed only natural for Abbie to be in middle school! I wanted to write a character who didn’t have things figured out and shed light on the fact that maybe most of us don’t.
Why did you decide to create for younger generations versus adults?
For me, middle school was when everything shifted. 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. As I was writing, I felt like I was both excavating my past for inspiration and working through my own unresolved feelings about growing up.
Plus, writing for kids is more fun than writing for adults.
Your background is in teaching, book selling, and book publishing. How did you transition from those things to what you are doing now?
The great thing about children’s literature is its ability to be so distinct and specific while still tapping into ideas that are ultimately universal. When I was teaching middle school English in Korea, I noticed how much my students reminded me of myself when I was younger. Their feelings and fears were so familiar to me, so revisiting those experiences in Frazzled was an easy transition.
The shift from working in children’s publishing to writing for children was also pretty natural. While I was a book publicist, I was able to immerse myself in tons of fantastic children’s books and help spread the love of reading to new generations of readers. As an author-illustrator, I still get to do that!
Though there were some challenges to this transition, working in publishing prior to becoming an author taught me a lot about the importance of perspective. As an author, so much of the publishing process is out of your control—and that’s terrifying! There are so many things that need to happen to get a book published and so many factors that influence the life of that book. Working in the industry kind of kept me in check and reminded me that I could only control was what was on the page. At some point, I knew I just had to focus on that and trust that it would find the right readers.
Can you tell us a bit about your process and how you create your books?
The idea for Frazzled came out of my illustrated daily planners, so I knew I wanted to use the interaction between words and art to pull readers into Abbie’s world. Once I had a solid sense of who Abbie was and what exactly she was up against in middle school, figuring out how to combine these visual and narrative elements into an actual book was another challenge entirely!
Turning Frazzled from doodles into a finished book involved a lot of trial and error. It wasn’t until I began writing and drawing simultaneously that the whole process began to flow naturally. Sometimes I’d write a scene and figure out what I wanted to draw later, other times I had an image in my head and would write around that. Frazzled is heavily illustrated, but it’s much less structured than a comic or graphic novel. The layout and structure vary from page to page, so my creative process was constantly adapting and evolving as I was telling the story.
Which writer/artist has inspired you the most and why?
I’m constantly being inspired by other writers and artists around me, so it’s hard to name just one! When it came to finding inspiration for Frazzled, the first person to come to mind is Louise Rennison, the author of the Georgia Nicholson series. After all, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging got me through my middle school years.
Louise Rennison perfectly captures the awkwardness, absurdity, and sheer madness of being a teenage girl. She draws humor from her own ridiculous life experiences and manages to take readers into her character’s head without ever feeling heavy handed or forced. Through her writing, she taught me the value of being able to laugh—even in the most mortifying moments of your life. That was exactly the sort of dramatic, hilarious spirit I wanted to bring to Frazzled.
What has been the biggest struggle for you as a creative person in this industry?
The hardest thing about being in this industry is also what makes it kind of great. Publishing cultivates and celebrates the work of so many talented writers and artists, but because of that, it’s easy to fall into this trap of “imposter syndrome.” I’m realizing that this is a pretty universal struggle that comes with any sort of creative endeavor.
In some ways, working in publishing complicated the process of writing Frazzled. While I was staring at blank pages and trying to figure out my own story, I was surrounded by tons of amazing books. It felt like Frazzled would never get to that point! I really had to force myself to push all those thoughts aside and just try to make the best book I could.
What advice would you give to struggling writers and artists out there who are trying to accomplish their dreams?
Do not dismiss or devalue your creative work. I 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.
Is there a fun fact about yourself that might surprise our readers if you were to share it with them?
Frazzled is a very personal project to me for many reasons, and even though it’s a work of fiction, there are a lot of things about Abbie’s character and life experiences that are rooted in my own. We share a flair for the dramatic, intense love of pastries, and complicated relationship with cats. Many of the characters (I won’t say which ones…) are eerily similar to people I grew up with and some of the embarrassing moments (I definitely won’t say which ones…) are directly pulled from my childhood. I also ended up drawing references to things I like, including (but not limited to): The Beatles, The Godfather, Julie Andrews, Back to the Future, and Settlers of Catan.
Also, yes… my name is really Booki.
What do you want kids to learn most from your books?
It’s okay to be frazzled! At its core, Frazzled is about trying to figure out who you are, where you belong, and realizing that sometimes it’s okay not to know. Abbie goes into middle school feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. She really just wants to survive, but what she learns along the way is that, even in her angst and uncertainty, she has power, a voice, and the right to be seen. I want my readers to know that their feelings and emotions are valid. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing or to feel uncertain about it, just as long as you don’t let that feeling stop you from actually doing things. In the end, the most important thing is staying true to yourself.
Your writing/illustrating career seems to have only begun! Where do you see yourself going from here?
Sometimes I feel a little like Abbie Wu in that I’m not really sure what I’m doing or what’s in store for me—which is both exciting and a little terrifying.
For me, representation is incredibly important. Growing up, I never really saw many characters that looked like me in books or media. I think, to some extent, that lack of visibility is always at the back of my mind, so I want whatever I do to help bridge that gap.
I’m currently finishing up the third book in the Frazzled series—FRAZZLED #3: MINOR INCIDENTS AND ABSOLUTE UNCERTAINTIES. Beyond that? Who knows! No matter what I’m end up creating, I want to continue to challenge myself as both a writer and an illustrator!
Do you have any final words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?
Doodle more! You never know where it may lead…