Saturday, January 20, 2024

Q&A with A.C. Szul, Ariana A. Szul, and Victoria A. Szul




A.C. Szul and his daughters, Ariana, 8, and Victoria, 12, are the authors of the new children's picture book Fun Day: A Buddy & Swifty Chipmunk Champs Series Adventure. The book is the third in a series. The Szuls live in Florida.


Q: Why did you decide to write a new Buddy & Swifty story?


A: A key part of our planning back in 2015 was the strategy we developed to try for at least three stories in the Buddy & Swifty children’s book series. An odd number, but it was a goal.


Two children later, with both collaborating on the latest kidlit, we released Fun Day ( ) in early January of this year.


In 2017, when we published our second book, Magical Lake, we felt that we were on a roll. There was a great deal of adventure left to tell about the chipmunk friends central to this series; we brainstormed themes, plots and characters, and also took many photos across Pennsylvania’s scenic Pocono Mountains.


In fact, the initial idea of a “fun park”-type destination for this latest book came from our youngest daughter during a road trip in the Poconos.


Q: What was it like for the three of you to collaborate on the book?


A: The Fun Day children’s book is incredibly special because it was the first in this Buddy & Swifty series that involved both of our kids as collaborators and writers. For about 18 months we prepped, discussed, planned, brainstormed, and wrote, and also collaborated closely with Rigina Pietrowski, the series illustrator.


During that time, as the kids grew older, they became more vocal with their opinion and their confidence level increased. For me personally, it was amazing to watch and experience as we focused on the text for each page, the dialogue, and the critically important story arc.


By the end of 2022, after the invasion of Ukraine, we were committed to publishing Fun Day to build awareness and raise money for humanitarian and medical aid to that country. Today, as we envisioned, we’re contributing 100 percent of proceeds from sales of this book to the Ukrainian people.


Q: What do you think Rigina Pietrowski's illustrations add to the story?


A: Fun Day features more than 15 pages, including an eye-catching cover, with vivid full-color illustrations, thanks to Rigina. In addition to being our friend, she’s a tremendously talented and skilled graphic designer.


In one word, she’s a visionary.


The appearance, the feel, and the brightness of the last two books — Magical Lake and Fun Day — is to Rigina’s credit.


When we sent to Rigina the Fun Day book text along with photos we took of the scenic Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, what we saw next was truly a lovely sight — a rebrand of the main chipmunk characters, new scenery, and a fantastic imaginary place that we immediately all wanted to visit.

She also captured the Ukrainian themes we intentionally placed throughout the story, such as borscht soup and the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.


The same happened with Magical Lake. We placed our trust in Rigina and each time what she delivered went far and beyond all that we hoped to achieve to entertain readers with the Buddy & Swifty adventure stories.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: It’s the universal lessons parents teach their children that help reinforce character traits and behaviors to benefit throughout their lives: trust, adventure, humility, friendship, personal responsibility, and love.


It’s what my parents taught me and what my wife, Anya, and I reinforce with our children.


Raised in my grandmom’s home, Babi — “grandmother” in Ukrainian — instilled in me from the age of 10 the importance of personal responsibility. Immigrating to the U.S. from Ukraine, she was a strong, intelligent, and successful woman. When some days challenge me, I think of what she would do, and that nudges me forward.


One of our goals with these books has been to weave in those over-arching themes and make it enjoyable to the readers. The hope is that those themes resonate for children as they read the book or listen as it’s read to them.


In Fun Day, the three chipmunk friends face challenges and with the benefit of friendship and trust of one another, they (spoiler alert) persevere.


That’s life in a nutshell — as human beings to surround ourselves with those who we trust, who we love, and who we admire. And as parents, adore and teach our children to be the best they can be and also make a difference in the lives of others.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: With our last book in this series written and published — we always planned to keep it to three stories — our focus is to get word out as widely as doable about Fun Day.


It’s not about us, or the characters. But rather about lending a helping hand to families torn apart because of a cruel and brutal invasion of a sovereign country — Ukraine.


For each Fun Day book sold on Amazon, 100 percent of the proceeds go to humanitarian and medical aid for Ukraine.


Consider the following: The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine recently reported that because of the war in Ukraine, tragically at least 10,000 people have been killed, with more than 18,500 injured since early 2022. Over 560 of those killed were children, said the U.N., adding that actual figures may be “significantly higher” because of ongoing challenges during a war.


As an American with deep Ukrainian roots, this is personal. The joy of such a fabulous initiative with our kids coupled with a clearly defined mission to help others suffering unspeakable pain and loss.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Publishing a book, whether it’s a children’s book or a memoir, is much easier than generally thought. With technology, a commitment to see it through from start to the last page, it’s very much a realistic goal.


The secret is (drum roll) planning, planning, and more planning. Have a strategy with tactics, goals, and a timeline. Look to trusted partners for counsel and obtain a second pair of eyes on the content.


Give yourself plenty of time. Take breaks and engage in activities you enjoy. But stay disciplined to return to your book and keep focused on that last page.


Happy writing. In the end, you’ll look back at it as a lifetime achievement.


Buddy and Swifty are online on X (formerly Twitter) and at 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with the Szuls.


  1. Thank you for sharing with your readers about our latest children’s book. We hope readers enjoy the story.