My First Book Contract – Happy Dance!

Happy Dance! I have a book coming out! BOOGIE WOOGIE BIRD is a picture book that I jointly created with my talented friend, illustrator Sandra Severgnini. It will be published in coming months by Redback Publishing (Australia).

Goofy dancers and hopeless romantics alike will rejoice at Curlew’s tale of embracing his inner klutz to find both his groove and his soulmate. The frolicking text invites movement and interaction, so get ready to SHAKE YER THANG!

Illustration by Sandra Severgnini 2021

Sandra’s endearing illustrations capture Curlew’s gangly stride and sensitive soul. Filled with both whimsy and realistic detail, her images add another level to the story. I am honoured and proud to be working with such a talented and acclaimed illustrator!

The Story Behind the Story

Curlew’s story germinated in 2014 after an encounter with a weird bird in the staff parking lot. While walking up the bush path late one afternoon, I had the eerie feeling I was being watched. And I was! Two pairs of yellow eyes stared at me from the leaf matter. I’d disturbed a nesting couple of Bush Stone-curlews.

Their strange strutting, freeze-frame stillness, and unblinking stares gave me the heebie-jeebies! I scurried past them, launched myself into my car, and locked the doors. (I’m making that last bit up, but I did take the long way round for a while to avoid another creepy run-in.)

Another occasion happened at home when I woke to blood-curdling screams in the wee hours of the night. I raced to the deck to see if I could spot the fiends who, I was sure, were throttling a toddler in backyard. Expecting to see a bloodbath, all I could distinguish were ghostly silver eyes reflecting the moonlight.

“It’s just a curlew,” my husband mumbled. “Go back to sleep.” Over the years, we heard many murderous midnight ballads by the local curlews. Terrifying stuff.

Curlews, I concluded, were creepy. 

It’s interesting to me that I chose to write a children’s story about these birds. Was it therapeutic, a subconscious prescription of exposure therapy to help me overcome my burgeoning ornithophobia? My eventual cure came in the form of Sandra’s illustrations. From the moment I saw her first drawing of Curlew with his darling, knotty knees and pineapple-yellow eyes, I started loving them. Now, when I encounter a curlew, I always stop to say hello.

This one and his three young mates were roosting in the rose gardens of New Farm Park, Brisbane.

The Bush Stone-Curlew of Queensland, Australia, my photo

In 2014 I researched curlews and Queensland birds with courtship dances. After selecting some dancing birds that live more or less in the same region, I wrote my first draft. Many iterations followed over the years, always honing the fun language and shaping a satisfying story arc. I began sending it out in 2017, but 2019 was my lucky year.

That was the year I asked Sandra to read Boogie Boogie Bird. She loved it and gave me the ultimate thumbs-up: she could see the story in her head. She immediately asked me if she could illustrate it. I was gobsmacked! I can tell you: this is not how it usually happens. In fact (nota bene), it is not an advisable strategy as publishers almost always assign the illustrator. I got lucky, and we made it work! Happy Dance, Wiggly Woogie!

Sandra Severgnini – Artist, Illustrator & Children’s Writer

Sandra Severgnini, Illustrator

Sandra is the illustrator behind beautiful, award-winning children’s books such as Where’s Lucky (written by Jacqui Halpin), In the Shadow of an Elephant (written by Gerogie Donaghey), and the stunning non-fiction book Tree Beings (written by Raymond Huber with a foreword by Dr Jane Goodall). It won several awards, including the Wilderness Society’s Award for Children’s Literature. Sandra’s art background is botanical illustration, which lends her children’s illustration style clarity, vibrancy, and lush detail. She is amazing, and I’m still pinching myself about the blessing of partnering with her.

Details & Dates

The publication date is estimated to be March 2022, but the uncertainty arising from the pandemic keeps these things fluid. As soon as we know, I’ll update this space. I am so excited to share my first book with you!

10 responses to “My First Book Contract – Happy Dance!”

  1. Jocelyn Hawes Avatar
    Jocelyn Hawes

    Great news Ali. So pleased for you. Looking forward to reading your book.
    Love Jocelyn

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting Jocelyn! Much love!


  2. That’s so wonderful. Congrats on your forthcoming book and this hilarious blogpost! Curlews are indeed creepy…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting! Glad we agree on the creepy bit!


  3. And I’ll be sure to prescribe it for curlewphobia;)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Next time, Ali you hear a curlew in the night, you might be dancing the ballad of the bird. Cheers!


  5. Karen Tyrrell Author Avatar
    Karen Tyrrell Author

    Congrats Ali,
    I’m thrilled for you. You’ve worked long and hard for this. I wish you every success!
    Karen xx


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