We’re thrilled to welcome an exciting new talent to the children’s book industry with the added bonus of a specialised expertise in the world of psychology and neurodiversity. Chelsea Luker is an inspiring role model, master in her domain, and all-round lovely person. She runs her own Psychology practice, Connect Us Psychology, in the neuro-affirming space, as an Autistic/ADHDer herself working towards a world that is inclusive and understanding. Her new middle grade title, Square Me, Round World, is a collection of stories brought together by her own experiences of growing up feeling ‘different’, written (and illustrated by Eliza Fricker) in fun, imaginative and eye-opening ways. Chelsea’s work aims to empower readers to acknowledge and embrace differences, implement self-care, draw on their own individual strengths and challenges, and foster genuine connections and well-being by appreciating everyone’s authentic selves. Please get to know Chelsea Luker! 🙂

Congratulations, Chelsea, on the release of your valuable new middle grade for neuro-affirming audiences, Square Me, Round World! This is a book that ultimately will resonate with readers on many different levels. Can you briefly tell us what it’s about?

Square Me, Round World is a collection of seven short stories exploring life for those who don’t quite fit into our round world. It covers off on things such as feeling different, making friends, masking, emotional regulation, burnout, sensory overwhelm and sleep difficulties.

Please talk us through the premise of the title.

I wanted a title that would convey the feeling of not fitting in. I went through quite a few placeholder titles, before landing on Square Me, Round World. I really like metaphors you can visualise and I feel this conveys the feeling of not fitting in so well.

Coming from a place of your own lived experience, why were these stories so important for you to write and share?

As a late-identified Autistic/ADHDer, I didn’t have a reason as to why I felt so different when I was growing up. I also just assumed everyone around me was finding things just as challenging as I was, given that people internalise so many things about their experience of the world. Once I had a reason so much made sense. I want anyone who connects with Square Me, Round World to feel that sense of connection with others and that sense of understanding for themselves and those around them.

You’ve incorporated specific traits that are characteristic of Autistic/ADHDer children into these insightful, fun, imaginative and endearing stories. What do you hope readers will glean from these short tales, and do you have a favourite?

I hope readers will be able to gain an insight into some of the experiences of Autistic/ADHD life. I hope readers will be able to use this understanding to work toward a world where inclusive practices are not an afterthought. I hope readers will be able to see themselves and know they are not alone in their experiences.

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite story, I think they are all my favourite for different reason. Finding Your Flock was the first story I wrote and it reminds me of my own flock, which always makes me smile. I have also found that The Mask has been well received for illustrating a powerful concept and message in an accessible way.

Your illustrator, Eliza Fricker, absolutely brings these stories to life with her zestful, expressive and inclusive illustrations throughout. How did you come to collaborate, and what do you love most about her work?

I have been a fan of Eliza’s for a long time and have several of her books on my bookshelf. I had no idea what sort of illustrations I wanted for the book and thought having Eliza illustrate would be out of my reach. I impulsively decided to contact her, on the off chance she said yes – and here we are! Eliza absolutely nailed the (very limited) brief! I have aphantasia (which means I cannot picture images in my mind), which makes conceptualising anything before I have a visual extremely challenging. Eliza just rolled with it and produced images far beyond what I could have hoped for. I think she captured the balance between simple and complex so effortlessly and certainly made the book come together.

Do you have a favourite quote or saying from your book that really resonates with you personally?

So many! But I think I’d go with, “Rosie found that life was a little bit easier when she was herself”. The journey of unmasking as an adult is a long and complicated one and I am very privileged to be in the position where it is a choice. But it is certainly a lot less capacity draining when you feel allowed to be yourself.

Working as a psychologist in this space, what advice can you offer parents and educators utilising Square Me, Round World as a tool? What other resources do you have available?

I have written a discussion guide in the back of the book to help you facilitate conversations with people about the content of Square Me, Round World. I have also made an information guide, which is available for free on my website. This will provide you with a bit more insight into the experiences described in Square Me, Round World. Further, I have worked with an Autistic educator and academic to produce an eBook for teachers to use Square Me, Round World within the classroom. This resource matches the stories with the applicable Australian curriculum and provides ideas for bringing neurodiversity into the classroom.

*All resources are available here.

What has been your greatest feedback on the book so far?

Every single bit of feedback has brought tears to my eyes. I have had parents tell me their child has seen themselves in the stories and felt understood. I have had late-identified adults tell me the book was healing for their inner child. I have had Maggie Dent identify the book as, “…a brilliant book that needs to be in every university, every ECEC, school and community library.” This feedback is the reason I wrote the book and it brings such warmth to my heart.

We can’t wait to see more of you and this title out in the (round) world! Where have you been promoting it?

All of the places!! Marketing is not my strong point, so I am lucky to have great support here (thanks Romi!!). My local bookshop, The Book Warehouse (Ballina and Lismore) are stocking the book. There are a few online stores stocking the book: Monty and the Worm and The Happy Giraffe were very early stockists to jump on board! There a few podcasts, a few interviews, and three book launches coming up (because who wants to stop at one!).

Thanks so much for sharing your incredible work and delightful stories with us, Chelsea! It’s been an honour! 😊

Chelsea Luker is an Autistic/ADHDer psychologist, and is the proud owner of Connect Us Psychology. With a deep-rooted commitment to the Autistic/ADHD community, Chelsea dedicates her professional life to supporting Autistic/ADHD individuals across the lifespan.

Chelsea is also a parent to two young neurodivergent children. Drawing from her lived and clinical experience, Chelsea wrote “Square Me, Round World” to provide a deep dive into the lives and minds of Autistic and ADHDer individuals, with the hope that this would contribute to the journey toward an inclusive world where every glittering part of every individual is celebrated and embraced.

Find Chelsea Luker at her website: connectuspsychology.com | Facebook | Instagram

TONIGHT is the VIRTUAL BOOK LAUNCH for Square Me, Round World with Chelsea Luker and Eliza Fricker!

Please head over to Chelsea’s Facebook Page at Connect Us Psychology to join in the fun!

Join in this multi-dimensional adventure with Chelsea Luker and Eliza Fricker and their valuable resource with Square Me, Round World, embracing all shapes of readers across the blogosphere!

#squaremeroundworld #autismadhd #inclusion #acceptance #selflove #middlegrade #justkidslit

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