Julie Farrell & Becky Kemp
Julie Farrell is an Irish mama to five spirited young ones. Freestyler, fashion lover, monochrome addict and daydream believer. Dreamer is her first venture into children’s literature. Together with illustrator Becky Kemp they created a book for bedtime, written as a wish from parent to child, encouraging them to always reach for the stars. Julie worked with Helena, our Head of Creative to turn Becky's illustrations into a Momiji doll.
Name Julie Farrell
Can you tell us about how the concept of the Dreamer book began?
The concept of the dreamer book really began with my children. I am a huge believer in always reaching for the stars and I encourage my children to always do the same; to believe that nothing is impossible. The power of a child's imagination is an amazing thing. I wanted to introduce a story that would capture some of their wonderful dreams and hopes for the future. At the moment my 7 year old son wants to be an ice cream man, a tractor driver and to fix aeroplanes when he grows up. He has amazing stories about being all three. As a great man once said, if you can dream it you can do it!
What’s an average day in the life of Julie Farrell like?
Wow where do I start with an average day in my life? First of all there's no such thing as an average day! As a single mama to 5 children varying in age from 3 to 17 there is never a dull moment. I'd call it organised chaos. And we are very LOUD. Two dogs and two cats add to the zoo here. School mornings are mayhem, family dinners are messy and movie nights are noisy. But I love every minute and I wouldn't have it any other way. We laugh, we cry, we argue loads, we shout even more but we are a tight unit; a wild bunch.
The book’s illustrations are the work of the super-talented Becky Kemp of Sketch inc, how did the collaborative process come together?
Yes Becky’s illustrations are completely amazing. I fell in love with her work from following her on Instagram. Once I had the idea for the book and knew I wanted to use Birdie as the main character I knew Becky just had to bring her to life on paper in her style. The more I wrote the words and verses the more the whole dreamyness fitted in with Becky’s beautiful watercolour style. I approached her about working together and she was just as excited as I was! She is a huge fan of children's illustrated books and had always wanted the opportunity to be a part of one. And such a huge part she is, I genuinely couldn't have done it all without her. She has been an amazing friend as well as an illustrator. Many long nights spent fussing over the tiniest detail resulted in the beautiful illustrated masterpiece we can actually call our own. And I still want more of her amazing kokeshi dolls.
Did you self-publish the book?
Yes the book is self-published. I approached an Irish printers to see if they could do what I was looking for without the need for a publisher. I was so delighted that they could so I set up my very own Birdie Books in the hope of future titles down the line and it went from there.
What were the biggest challenges in creating the book?
The biggest challenge I faced was finding time to do it all! After morning school runs Birdie came with me to the scanners or the printers. Up long nights after kids’ bedtime. Even now with all the orders it's fitting it all in around the kids. My dad is amazing and helps me out with all the packaging and posting from his house, and he makes just about the best cup of tea ever so he sorts me out!
What was the most enjoyable part?
The most enjoyable part has been the look of pride on my children's faces when I handed them each one of the first finished book. Dedicated to them and with their mom’s name on the cover. I showed them first hand the you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. To dream really big! I told them I was going to write a book, I worked really hard and I did it. They were amazed. Even I was amazed I actually did it. But seeing how they looked at me I knew that I had thought them something that can't be learned in school. To believe in yourself.
Did you always know you wanted to have a creative career?
I started out as a graphic designer so I've always had an interest in being creative. Children arrived along the way as happy little surprises so plans changed but I always had the idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something. I just didn't know what it was yet. Becoming a single parent kicked me into action and I realised I could either do nothing at all and be sad or I could channel the new strength I was feeling with newfound freedom and put it into something amazing. The dreamer book was born.
What are the next steps for Birdie as a character?
I'd love to explore what else is in that wonderful imagination of hers! I'd love to see her friendship with Bowie, her best friend teddy bear develop. I'm hoping to introduce some new board-books soon featuring the cool dreamer bears. I really can't wait to see where Birdie can take us on our next adventure.
Birdie appears in many different outfits and situations in the book, what was it about the rockstar pose that you felt was perfect for the Momiji version of her?
Out of all the characters that Birdie becomes in her dreams the rockstar is my absolute favourite. It was actually the very first verse I wrote for the book. Probably because in real life Birdie is an effortless natural born rock star, complete with attitude and all. Cooler than I'll ever be and parties all night long! I thought a Momiji version of this little wild rockstar would be gorgeous. Perfect to give to someone that rocks your world.
We love that Birdie is an adventurous, bold character. Do you think that books, toys and animations often lack this spirit for female characters?
When I created the Birdie character in the likeness of my bold and adventures daughter I wanted to capture just that. Her untamed imaginative spirit. Not contained by being a boy or a girl. But by being a free and a wild child. I specifically included characters in the book that generally indicate male roles like a superhero or a spaceman and female roles like a mermaid or a fairy to illustrate that in your imagination just as in real life you can be whoever you want to be. You just have to believe in yourself and to be brave. I tell my children that every morning as I leave them to school, to have courage and to be kind (Cinderella totally stole my line!)
In the world of books for children and young people, which are your all-time favourites?
Hmmmm tough question there are just so many good books out there. My favourite books as a child were Enid Blighton’s The Faraway Tree and Charlotte’s Web. I still read that to mine now, they love it. Their current favourites are When the Crayons Quit, Night Monkey Day Monkey and I have just started reading Pippi Longstocking to them; she’s another little wild child! Oh and of course their absolute FAVOURITE book of all time has to be the Dreamer Birdie book... of course ;)
What’s your favourite thing about living where you do?
We live up the mountains and a short drive from the sea. It's as wild as we are. And it suits us perfectly. A small little house where we all live on top of one another but yet everyone has their own unique little space to daydream. Full of white space and colourful corners and a lot of cleverly hidden mess. Dublin in the lashing rain or the sunshine is an amazing place to grow up. A cup of tea and a chat solves everything. It is home.
What do you listen to when you’re working?
I wish I could say I actually had the chance to listen to some cool tunes whilst I worked but sadly no. The muffled sound of banging base from my teenager’s bedroom are the closest I'll get! I listen to the sounds mostly of my children murdering each other downstairs whilst I attempt to work. Oh and them going through all the kitchen presses eating everything I have just bought in the shop half an hour before dinner. Kids are awesome fun.
Friday nights or Sunday mornings?
Friday nights for sure! Kids gone to bed, wine in hand, takeaway ordered. Peace at last!! I could stay up all night, I don't do mornings. What's the saying, oh yeah "I will never be a morning person for the moon and I are too much in love". As all great dreamers are ;)