Author Speak: Naomi Vowels of 'Where Are My Shoes?'

Naomi Vowels with her debut book

Naomi Vowels with her debut book

The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!

Roald Dahl

Team Gumtoo loves books, especially books for children and young adults. Our book-shelves are lined with creations of beloved authors ranging from Eric Carle to Dr. Seuss to Roald Dahl to Julia Donaldson to Rick Riordan and of course, J.K. Rowling.  And it is no secret that we love stickers too 😊.

Imagine our joy, when we got a fantastic opportunity to combine both our loves! This happy chance came our way through the talented sister-duo of Naomi Vowels and Frances Atkins of Red Shoe Stories. The company creates personalized books for young children. Their debut book is titled ‘Where Are My Shoes?’ and is aimed at the infant to six-year-old age group.

Just like you, we were curious to know more about this delightful-sounding book. We also wanted to learn how our stickers would be a part of the journey of ‘Where Are My Shoes?’.

We reached out to Naomi, who kindly consented to an electronic tête-à-tête. Read the excerpts of the interview:

Sister Love: Naomi Vowels (left) and Frances Atkins

Sister Love: Naomi Vowels (left) and Frances Atkins

Team Gumtoo: Hi Naomi, congratulations on your debut book! We would love to know more about you, your company and your book. But first things first.

Could you tell us something about yourself? How did you decide to become a writer?

Naomi: Hi Team Gumtoo! Thanks so much for taking the time to learn a bit more about us and our business … we love talking about it!

So, a little bit about me … I’m a relatively new resident of Singapore, having moved here in early 2017. Before that my husband and I had lived in Geneva, Bangkok, Dili and Sydney … we’ve definitely moved around a bit over the past 10 years but I’ve loved settling into this wonderful city of amazing food and incredible culture!

I should also mention that my sister and business partner, Frances, lives in Sydney with her husband and 3 children. We’ve been working together on Red Shoe Stories since 2017 and it’s given us even more of a reason to visit each other in our cities!

Team Gumtoo: What motivated you to get into the children’s books space? Tell us more about your company.

Naomi: Frances and I had been toying with the idea of taking a break from the corporate world to pursue something a bit more creative and a bit more ‘us’ for some time. We have always been huge book lovers, and bookshops are pretty much our favourite kind of store (we could spend hours!). So, when Frances had two small children and our attention turned to the children’s section, we rediscovered the wonder and sheer delight that a magically illustrated story brings (and not just for the children, but adults too!). And so that became our inspiration for Red Shoe Stories; We  wanted to create stories that empower and boost the confidence of children all around the world.

Our company, Red Shoe Stories, is based in Singapore. The name actually comes from the red shoes we wore to our first day of kindergarten! For us, red shoes symbolize growth and discovery, and remind us that we love reading today because we loved reading way back then, when our little feet fit into those red shoes!

About Red Shoe Stories

About Red Shoe Stories

Team Gumtoo: What is the story behind ‘Where Are My Shoes?’? We don’t want major spoilers, can’t wait to lay our hands on the book 😊. But could you tell us in brief?

Naomi: Something really exciting about our book is that it is personalized! This means that customers can put certain details into the story that are unique to their own child. For example, your child’s name is woven into the narrative of the story and also appears on the front cover. You can customize what their character looks like (hair style, hair color and complexion) and choose an adventure buddy to join in on the adventure.

AND, what we think is the best bit, you can choose the shoes they wear throughout the book! The idea is to pick a pair of shoes your child loves to wear, something familiar that they can instantly connect with! We must admit, it was lots of fun creating all the different combinations of characters and shoes for the story!

So, without giving too much away, I can tell you that the story is about a lost pair of shoes. The child in the story (remember it’s personalized so the name is different in every book!) recalls all the things they did during the day to try and remember where they left them. It’s a beautifully illustrated adventure about a peculiar, yet very clever, pair of shoes … or boots, or sandals, or sneakers, or gumboots!

Personalized characters and shoes

Personalized characters and shoes

Alexis and her pink sneakers star in her copy of  ‘Where Are My Shoes?’

Alexis and her pink sneakers star in her copy of ‘Where Are My Shoes?’

Illustrations that hark you back to your carefree childhood

Illustrations that hark you back to your carefree childhood

Team Gumtoo: That’s wonderful! We are almost wishing we were kids again….

We were very happy to make customized stickers for ‘Where Are My Shoes?’. What made you think of stickers in the first place? And how did you use the stickers?

Naomi: Well, who doesn’t love stickers, right?

Again, Frances’ children were the source of inspiration for this because they are absolutely crazy for stickers! Whenever I go back to Sydney to visit them I am always armed with stickers (and books!).

We ran a Kickstarter campaign in May for which one of our rewards was a sticker and colouring-in book package. We reached our funding target, so the next step was to actually get them printed. We’re really happy with how they turned out and have received great feedback, so we’ll be offering them on our website, together with our personalized picture books and colouring-in books.

Goodies for the Red Shoe Stories Kickstarter Campaign

Goodies for the Red Shoe Stories Kickstarter Campaign

Custom Stickers for Red Shoe Stories, made by Gumtoo Stickers

Custom Stickers for Red Shoe Stories, made by Gumtoo Stickers

Team Gumtoo: That sounds really cool! What are your future plans? Any other book in the pipeline?

Naomi: At the moment we’re super busy getting our website developed (which was what we raised money through our Kickstarter campaign for) where customers will be able to personalize their own books and instantly preview the entire book with all their customization.

We’ve also started writing our next book…. but you’ll have to interview me again to hear what that one’s about (hehe)!

Team Gumtoo: We will be glad to!

Thanks Naomi for speaking to us. Good luck for ‘Where Are My Shoes?’ and for your future ventures. Happy reading and happy writing to you! Happy sticking stickers too!

Naomi: Thanks guys! It’s been wonderful working with you – we’ll be back for our next round of stickers soon!

Team Gumtoo: <Cheshire Cat grins >

Bonus: Get Inspired to use Stickers

Are you an aspiring author or illustrator looking for unique ideas for promoting your work?

Read how talented illustrator and fellow sticker-lover Teresa Ong used custom stickers from Gumtoo here.

Read how Evangeline Neo, a creative comic artist used custom stickers for a book promotion event here.