As a child growing up in Kamloops, Zuzy Rocka loved to surround herself with her favourite children’s books. Her mother owned a preschool, and Rocka had access to all the classics.
“Like everyone, I adored Dr. Seuss. He has such a positive mentality. I loved Guess How Much I Love You, with the rabbits. That was my favourite book and it was a big inspiration for me,” Rocka said.
“We probably had 100 children’s books and I would have read every single one at least three times.”
When she wasn’t deep in a book, Rocka often had her head in the stars.
Now living in Sun Peaks, the 22-year-old Rocka has recently written, illustrated, and self-published her own children’s book, and she didn’t have to look far for inspiration.
Shelly the Star-Gazer tells the story of a young girl travelling on an adventure into the cosmos and making new friends along the way.
“I absolutely love stars. Shelly is definitely a lot like me. She’s always staring out the window and wanting to go on an adventure. I wanted to write a book that would make for a great bedtime story.”
Shelly the Star-Gazer began as a poem Rocka penned several years ago and rediscovered as she was moving to Kelowna for college. Over six months, Rocka rewrote the poem, and spent countless hours illustrating to bring her tale to life.
“I started with little sketches, and then I put together a storyboard with really simple designs. Then I’d sketch it, add watercolours, ink it, and scan it to my computer and put it into Photoshop.”
With the book completed late last year, Rocka was tasked with finding a publisher.
“I did a lot of research on how to get it published, and I knew I wanted to get the book out in time for Christmas, so I decided to self-publish.”
While Rocka was happy with the end-result, she said she would definitely consider a publisher for her future books.
“It’s very doable, and Canada is really good at making self-publishing virtually free, but there’s a lot of work that goes into marketing a book. I’m glad I’ve done it so I understand that side of the business.”
Rocka already has plans for at least two more books.
“One is going to be about a bear who swallows a balloon,” she laughed. “And the other one is about a boy with a really messy room that comes to life.”
When she’s not writing or painting, Rocka is a passionate snowboarder and photographer.
“I’d love it if I could write children’s books for the rest of my life and just go snowboarding.”
Shelly the Star-Gazer can be found at the Sun Peaks & Region Farmers’ Market every Sunday, along with a range of other artwork by Rocka. It can also be purchased online through Amazon and on Kindle.