Regan Macaulay Likes To Work Collaboratively

Please welcome Regan Macaulay! Regan is the author of several children’s picture books. Her latest Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana is officially out today! Isn’t that cover adorable?! Happy Book Birthday Regan and Libby!

“This childrenʼs picture book is about Libby, a lonely cactus plant who has trouble believing in herself. However, when lovely, confident Violet moves in next to her on the windowsill, Libby learns that the things that make her different also make her special.”

I really like how this book features a cactus and a violet plant. Growing up, we had tons of plants on our windowsills. My grandma had a cactus that lived for years and years, and my mom always had violet plants. It makes me smile to think the plants may have been friends like Libby and Violet. 🙂

But enough about me; I want to hear from Regan. She’s stopped by today to talk a little about the collaborative partnership she’s had with each of her illustrators. Take it away, Regan!

I love what I do, which is writing. In particular, writing for children as it brings with it specific rewards for which I am so grateful.

Working on picture storybooks over many years and now starting to see those works published in the last five, it got me thinking about what’s special about writing these short, most concise stories, where the text shares the storytelling effort with the images on each page.

What’s stimulating for me about working in the picture book category is that, since I do not have the patience to do the artwork myself, I always have a partner helping me tell the tale. So far, I’ve had the privilege of working with four gifted illustrators on five – soon to be six, then next year, seven – picture books. 

Alex Zgud worked her magic through water colour on Beverlee Beaz the Brown BurmeseSloth the Lazy Dragon, and Merry Myrrh, the Christmas Bat. We traded my storyboards for scanned sketches and paintings via email over many months on each work.  

Wei Lu works digitally, but her styles for Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast (a sort of anime look) and upcoming picture book Dog Band (water colour, but via computer) are strikingly different, though always brilliantly colourful in the life she brings to my characters.

I’ve actually never met Javier Duarte, who works as a freelancer through Mirror Publishing. I merely sent my storyboard ideas for each page of Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far and he sent back the fully formed illustrations (black and white first, then colour once confirmed or tweaked if I had notes), ready for the next step in the publishing process!

Now, with Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana, released by Mirror World Publishing (note that this is a different publisher than Mirror Publishing), I have been blessed with a truly unique collaborative experience I will never forget. For many reasons – the search for the right publisher, then a change in publishers, as well as the technically involved artistic process of our new illustrator, Gordon Bagshaw – Libby has been years in the making. I worked with a co-writer, my husband, Kevin Risk. Our publisher, Justine Alley Dowsett, was even more closely involved than she usually is with the completion of the book over the last year or more. And Gord constructed a 360 degree digital “set” – the kitchen, in which most of the story takes place – in minute detail and with breathtaking art that straddles the line between photorealistic and fantastical illustration with digital painting.

Once Kevin and I had the manuscript vetted over several years by several different sources, including editors, publishers, educators, and parents and their children…after revisions galore…we were able to watch and participate in Gord’s step-by-step illustrating process, as if we were leaning over his shoulder. Yet Gord, though Canadian, lives in Sao Paolo and Kevin and I are both in Toronto, Ontario, and when Justine joined the process, she did so from Windsor, Ontario.

What a fabulous age to live in if you are creative, even in these uncertain and often scary times. We can reach across the miles and work with anyone anywhere in the world!  And with this recent book project, Libby, it often felt a little bit like shooting a film (and filmmaking is a part of my background as well). Gord carefully chose angles for each “shot” or page from any vantage point in that kitchen set, and was able to place the characters in their performance space and let them catch their light. Then he was able to show us every stage – from rough and unrendered to the final version ready for printing.

It seems to me there are many ways to tackle putting together a picture storybook, but one constant for me is the need to work collaboratively, even more so than you would on a typical novel. This is something I recommend writers of children’s literature become accustomed to, but I also think most writers will find it a fun, supportive and inspiring process.

Regan W. H. Macaulay writes novels, short stories, children’s literature, and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film, and television. She is an animal-enthusiast as well, which led her to become a Certified Canine and Feline Massage Therapist. Other picture storybooks include Sloth the Lazy Dragon, Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far, Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast, Merry Myrrh the Christmas Bat, and Beverlee Beaz the Brown Burmese. She is also the author of The Trilogy of Horrifically Half-baked Ham, which includes Space Zombies! (based on her film, Space Zombies: 13 Months of Brain-Spinning Mayhem!—available on iTunes and on DVD), They Suck, and Horror at Terror Creek.

My View Book Review: Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far by Regan Macaulay

Title: Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far

Author: Regan Macaulay

Illustrator: Javier Duarte

Publisher/Year: Mirror Publishing/2017

From Back Cover: A good Samaritan takes her to a local animal shelter that cares for “special species” like Tamara. There, she learns about the plight of rescue turtles just like her.

When Tamara, a baby Red-eared Slider turtle, was chosen from the pet store and taken home by a little boy and his mom, she thought it was the start of a good life. And it was good, for a while, until the boy lost interest in her and forgot to clean her tank, and sometimes even to feed her. Not knowing the right thing to do, the boy’s mother released Tamara into a nearby creek. But the Painted turtles who lived there told her she didn’t belong, so Tamara set off to find a place where she did belong–a place where she could thrive.

I love reading animal stories, and if I can learn a little something in the process, all the better. Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far is engaging, with an interesting story and delightful illustrations, and it’s also educational. Readers, young and old, will learn how to properly care for a Red-eared Slider turtle. I learned that owning a Red-eared Slider requires a lot of commitment. They require a tank with room to grow, clean water, and lamps to bask under, among other things. I also learned that Red-eared Sliders should not be released into just any old creek or pond. Doing so will disrupt the ecosystem and displace native species.

Growing up, we had several pets in our home: cats, hamsters, fish, a parakeet. We never had a turtle, but I think I would have liked one. Having pets is a terrific way for kids to learn responsibility. And caring for animals helps children develop compassion for other living things. That said, if you’re going to get a pet, it makes sense to learn all that you can about the animal’s needs first. Make sure that you and your child are ready before you bring home that dog, snake, iguana, rabbit, guinea pig, gerbil, etc.

And if you have a child at home who’d really like to have a turtle for a pet, Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far is a great first guidebook on turtle care.

My View Book Review: Sloth the Lazy Dragon by Regan Macaulay


Title: Sloth the Lazy Dragon

Author: Regan W.H. Macaulay

Illustrator: Alex Zgud

Publisher/Year: Guardian Angel Publishing/2016

Back Cover Blurb: Sloth is a lazy and overweight dragon taking up space atop a hoard of gold and jewels within a mountain inhabited by dwarves. One dwarf helps Sloth lose weight through diet and exercise. The grateful dragon, now able to fly, leaves the dwarf and his people a special gift.

Radish the dwarf bravely and cautiously enters the cave where Sloth the fire-breathing dragon resides, surrounded by mounds of gold and precious gems. Radish is hopeful that Sloth won’t eat him and offers to help the portly dragon lose weight. Sloth is skeptical at first, wondering why the little fellow, so small he’s “hardly a mouthful”, would want to help him. But he’s keen to get in shape, so he accepts Radish’s offer. After three years of exercising and eating healthy, Sloth is ready to fly again.

Being a dragon fan, I was immediately drawn to this book. When I was much younger, I collected dragon figurines, along with other mythical creatures, such as winged horses and unicorns. Lore that features these fantastical beings continues to fascinate me. 

What I like most about Sloth the Lazy Dragon is that it’s not your typical “knight defeats evil dragon and rescues the princess and all the townsfolk” kind of story. Instead, we meet a chunky, overweight, can-barely-move dragon and a little dwarf who is willing to put his fear aside and help him. There’s no damsel in distress, but rather, a suffering dragon. There’s no weapon-wielding, white-horse-riding hero, but rather, a tiny man with a beard and a pointy cap…and oh yah, some free weights.

Through a clever story told with a captivating voice and filled with interesting words, like diminutive, atrophied, and dirigible, as well as enchanting and fun illustrations, this book, oh so subtly, relays the message that being active and eating nutritious foods is important for your health. Kids will eat this story up, no pun intended, because it will capture their imaginations. 

Favorite lines:

“Why do you not fly outside the mountain?” the dwarf asked anxiously.

“Use your eyes, little man,” the dragon snorted. “Can you not see my girth?”

My View Book Review: Beverlee Beaz The Brown Burmese by Regan W.H. Macaulay

Title: Beverlee Beaz The Brown Burmese

Author: Regan W.H. Macaulay

Illustrator: Alex Zgud

Publisher/Year: Cricket Cottage Publishing/2015

Back Cover Blurb: Beverlee Beaz, the brown Burmese, longs for adventure and has the powerful imagination to make it happen! On a lovely but otherwise ordinary day, she seeks excitement among the forests and fields surrounding her home, where she lets her imagination run wild. The ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary in the eyes of this little brown cat. Let’s follow Beverlee on her adventure…through the forest, and inside her mind!


As Beverlee the cat sets off from home on a beautiful sunny day to explore the neighboring countryside, she hasn’t a clue what’s in store for her. She’s eager for adventure and heads to the meadow. She spots a monarch butterfly, and that’s when it happens–her imagination takes over. The butterfly becomes a parrot, then a rabbit becomes a kangaroo. It’s great fun at first, but then the animals she meets begin to transform into more frightening creatures. Can Beverlee control her imagination before her imagination gets her into big trouble?  

Though I now have a dog (whom I adore), I grew up with cats and have a special fondness for them. I remember especially our family cat, Sammy, an orange and white kitty, who loved to explore outside. He’d be away for hours until one of us called him home for supper. (Back then, the issue of indoor cat versus outdoor cat hadn’t taken hold yet.) But what was he doing all that time? Perhaps he was a bit like Beverlee, yearning for adventure, letting his imagination run free, and probably getting himself into trouble. Upon occasion, he did come home sporting battle scars. But the adventurous little tiger lived a good long life.

Beverlee Beaz The Brown Burmese is gorgeously illustrated with lots of color and beautiful, imaginative borders around the pages that have the text. The illustrator also did a fabulous job depicting the overactive imagination of our playful feline star Beverlee Beaz. Overall, the story is fun, the main character is sweet, and the illustrations are lovely–well worth a look!