In her latest picture book, Allen the Alien, Stephanie Ward shares her desire to foster community and encourage everyone to welcome new people into new places.

What do you love about writing children's books?

I love having the opportunity to create stories from the ideas that are swirling around in my imagination. When those stories become books that I can share with children and a little face lights up with understanding or laughter at the words I’ve written, it’s an absolute joy.

What inspired you to write Allen the Alien?

I drew an alien (that I called Allen) on my notebook way, way back in high school. My mother and I designed some greeting cards with Allen and space-y puns for birthdays. When I started writing for children, I jotted down Allen the Alien in a brainstorming of ideas and it was one of the first manuscripts I brought to my writing group at Writing NSW. All told, I probably could have flown to the outer regions of our solar system and back in the amount of time this story has been percolating.

Did you have any personal experiences that contributed to this new book?

I’m a nomad and have lived on three continents (and counting), so I am Allen -- always the new kid on the block. I’m immensely grateful for those kind people who make me and my family feel welcome in a new place. So, I dedicated this book to anyone who feels out of place and everyone that welcomes them.

How did the writing process for this book compare to your previous children’s books?

Allen the Alien has a total of only 132 words, but it went through the same editing process, namely write, revise, review, revise again, review again, etc. In fact, in the end, one of the few lines was actually cut! The most interesting part about writing this was knowing that the pictures would tell a totally different story than what Allen was conveying in the text.

What do you hope your readers will take away from Allen the Alien?

I hope the story sparks readers to think about how similar we all are despite our differences. The more I travel, the more I’m amazed at the consistencies between us – our collective humanity.

What was it like to work with an illustrator on this story? Were there particular images or experiences that you were excited to see?

I was blown away by the style of Aleck Morton’s illustrations and the spectacular colour palette he used. It was galaxies apart from my first doodle of Allen – and that is a wonderful thing! The details in the spreads are endlessly entertaining. People often say that illustrators ‘bring their characters to life’, but Aleck created an entire universe for Allen and told so much of the story through the images. I’m completely in awe.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

I recently completed my first middle grade novel and was so excited to see it win first place in the UK’s Yeovil Literary Festival. The manuscript is currently out on submission (fingers crossed). The ideas keep swirling, so I keep writing them down whether in picture book format, novel or poem.