Author Alia Ella follows her heart


Alia Ella is a children’s book author and the founder of Art Heals Children, an organization dedicated to producing art, literature and other media for children facing physical and emotional challenges.

In addition to storytelling and playwriting, Ella has enjoyed performing as a jazz vocalist, accompanying trios and big band orchestras. She plans to incorporate jazz into her children’s musical to expose children to jazz and to capitalize on the contagious spirit of music to inspire people of all ages to believe in their dreams.

Ella’s spotlight on transformational themes is central to “Vinny’s Quest,” the story of a caterpillar ostracized within the bug community for his ungainly appearance and embarrassing lack of wings. Vinny transcends rejection by focusing inward on his core belief in himself and emerges as an inspiration to his peers, teaching them to appreciate the value of diversity and to believe in dreaming big. Vinny is but one of the colorful bug characters featured in the musical stage play Ella is developing for the San Diego children’s theater community.

To forward her own dreams, Ella has worked in production and development at Miramax Films, in the literary and talent divisions of William Morris Agency and in publicity at Rhino Records.

Ella’s inspiration for the projects she helms comes from a core value in her life: “I don’t listen to people who say it can’t be done. I follow my heart.”

What brought you to Solana Beach?

I grew up in the North County area of San Diego and moved up to L.A. about eight years ago. I decided to move back down to Solana Beach about three years ago because I missed the people and beauty of North County.

What makes Solana Beach special to you?

I’ve always loved the Cedros area in Solana Beach because it has so many great, artsy stores. I love the Belly Up! It’s a great place to see a live concert because it’s a small, intimate venue and has so much character. I also enjoy the North Coast Rep Theatre. It’s a great place to watch live theater because it is also small and intimate, and brings in so much talent.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Solana Beach?

I think I’d add a community performance space. When I was living in L.A., there was a wonderful venue called The Greenway Court Theatre. Every Tuesday, they’d have a poetry lounge where people of all backgrounds and ages could come in and recite a poem or show off a talent. Every time I went, I’d leave feeling inspired and more connected to community. I’d love to have such a place in Solana Beach.

Who or what inspires you?

People who live with passion. When I see someone putting their all into something, it enlivens me. Music, film, theater and dance inspire me as well.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

I’d invite my Grandfather Cook and Grandfather Henderson, who’ve both passed away. I was too young to appreciate the wisdom they shared when they were around. I know there’s a lot I’d learn from them now.

My Grandma Cook, who was so creative and bubbly, but I was too young when she passed away to appreciate her beauty.

Steve Jobs and Richard Branson because of their brilliant business and creative savvy. I’d love to pick their brains.

Billy Higgins, an amazing jazz drummer who was a dear friend of mine, just to see him and get a hug.

Julie Taymor, a woman who is a creative genius. I’d be interested to see how she created the costumes and puppets for “The Lion King” musical on stage.

Stevie Wonder, who inspires me with his music, his strength of character and fearlessness. I’d love to hug him, sing some music with him and just chat. I imagine he probably has tons of interesting stories.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

I feel a bit guilty. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time to read lately. I just finished producing and writing a short film for the 48 Hour Film Project that I haven’t had much time to do any reading. The last book I read was by Isabel Allende. It was called “Eva Luna.” I love the way she writes. It’s full of passion and wonder.

What is your most prized possession?

My heart. I was heartbroken over a failed relationship several years ago when a friend told me to “ treat your heart like it’s your most prized possession.” It was very good advice and has helped me to make choices that are better for me and my spirit.

What do you do for fun?

I like simple things like going to the movies and going on walks with friends. I love singing, dancing and going to see jazz downtown or shows at the Belly Up. And I LOVE to travel.

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

There’s still so much I want to accomplish! I would say my greatest accomplishments so far are my two projects, “Innervisions” and “Bug City.” They are stories I’ve written and am truly proud of. I also just finished a short film titled “The Tarot Reading,” which I’m also very happy with.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Move through your fear and do it anyway. Always be willing to learn something new. Follow your passion.