Mark Ceilley

When Mark Ceil­ley shared that his next book was a pic­ture book offi­cial­ly licensed with Queer Eye, the tele­vi­sion show now stream­ing on Net­flix, we were curi­ous about the expe­ri­ence of writ­ing for a well-known brand with well-known men who are makeover consultants.

In the book, The Fab Five — Karamo Brown, Antoni Porows­ki, Bob­by Berk, Tan France, and Jonathan Van Ness — are por­trayed as chil­dren who already have their fab­u­lous tal­ents. When they meet a young boy, Mason, who is feel­ing fear­ful of invit­ing friends to a birth­day slum­ber par­ty, the Fab Five embark on a mis­sion to help Mason build self-con­fi­dence and to pre­pare for the most amaz­ing sleep­over possible.

Mark Ceil­ley has taught Pre‑K, Kinder­garten, First and Sec­ond grades and is cur­rent­ly a Read­ing Inter­ven­tion­ist. He holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty. His first book was Cin­derel­liot: A Scrump­tious Fairy­tale, co-writ­ten with Rachel Smo­ka-Richard­son and illus­trat­ed by Stephanie Laberis (Run­ning Kids Press).

Mark Ceilley
Mark Ceil­ley
Slumber Party Magic!
Queer Eye: Slum­ber Par­ty Magic!

How did it come about that you wrote a sto­ry about The Fab Five, famil­iar to mil­lions from the tele­vi­sion show Queer Eye?

Mark:   My edi­tor, Julie Matysik, who I worked with on Cin­derel­liot: A Scrump­tious Fairy­tale sent me an email in Jan­u­ary 2022 ask­ing me if I would be inter­est­ed in writ­ing the book.

Are you a fan of the show? Did you con­scious­ly incor­po­rate their per­son­al­i­ties into the story?

Mark:   Yes, I am a big fan of the show! I love watch­ing it! Before I wrote the first draft, I researched each of the Fab 5. I also watched many episodes. From my research I found inter­est­ing facts about each of them, their back­ground, inter­ests, etc. From watch­ing the shows, I observed their man­ner­isms, ges­tures, and speech pat­terns. I took many notes. I then tried to incor­po­rate real life char­ac­ter­is­tics into the boy char­ac­ters in the sto­ry.  I tried to bring out their per­son­al­i­ties in a real­is­tic, child-like way.

Since Queer Eye is a brand, what para­me­ters did the pub­lish­er give you for the story? 

Mark:   The pub­lish­er gave me a gen­er­al sto­ry line. So, I knew ahead of time what the plot would be and how each char­ac­ter would help Mason, the main char­ac­ter hav­ing a birth­day party.

This pic­ture book reads like an episode of Queer Eye for the ele­men­tary school read­er and fan. What did your teacher self bring to the project? 

Mark:   In all of the pic­ture books I’ve writ­ten (some are not pub­lished yet) I write it from a lens from both child and teacher.  Since I’ve taught ele­men­tary school for over 25 years, I have a feel for how kids act, what they might say, and so on. My teacher self looks at a sto­ry won­der­ing things such as would a child say or do that? Is that devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate for a child of a cer­tain age. I also looked at word count: would the sto­ry be too short /too long to keep their atten­tion? Is there enough action and a vari­ety of set­tings that kids would find interesting?

The book is light-heart­ed and fun and yet it has the emo­tion­al ele­ments of the show: address­ing fears, evok­ing con­fi­dence, tak­ing pride in rec­og­niz­ing new skills. How much revi­sion went into this man­u­script to make it so heartwarming?

Mark:   It took approx­i­mate­ly three to four revi­sions until we got to the final man­u­script. The revi­sions were minor such as word changes/deletions, clar­i­fy­ing a con­cept, and expand­ing the dia­logue or actions of a char­ac­ter. All the edits and revi­sions made for a stronger and sat­is­fy­ing sto­ry. Writ­ing this book was a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence for me. The whole process was col­lab­o­ra­tive. I am proud to be a part of writ­ing a book that incor­po­rates themes of friend­ship, kind­ness, coöper­a­tion, and build­ing self-confidence.

Thanks for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence with us, Mark. So many of us are fans of the show … we’re in awe of your role in bring­ing a Fab Five sto­ry to kids and fam­i­lies. We love that it’s a con­fi­dence-build­ing and tal­ent-rec­og­niz­ing book, which is what Queer Eye is all about!

Queer Eye: Slum­ber Par­ty Mag­ic! A Fab­u­lous Pic­ture Book
writ­ten by Mark Ceil­ley
illus­trat­ed by James Jef­fers
pub­lished by Run­ning Press Kids / Hachette Book Group, 2023

Slumber Party Magic!
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Diane Kress Hower
Diane Kress Hower
5 months ago

Mark, con­grat­u­la­tions on a great inter­view. I enjoyed hear­ing more about your process.

David LaRochelle
David LaRochelle
5 months ago

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Mark! I enjoyed get­ting a glimpse of what it was like work­ing with an estab­lished brand of char­ac­ters. I’m look­ing for­ward to read­ing this, your lat­est book!