Hello world, and Happy New Year!!
After a rough start to the year thanks to my computer crashing (remember to backup your files, people!), I’m back. Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jolene Gutiérrez, author of the nonfiction book Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks published by Millbrook/Lerner Publishing. Check out her author journey below.
BUT first- YAY! Jolene is generously giving away a critique for a non-rhyming PB (750 words or less). All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends Jan 29, 2021.
Please describe the journey to publication for Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks.
My Bionic Beasts book journey started in 2018 when Millbrook/Lerner Publishing editor Carol Hinz put out a call for STEM picture books. I’d never written a nonfiction picture book, but I’m fascinated by many STEM topics, so I decided to give it a try! I wrote a 1,000 word picture book titled Bionic Beasts and explored ways humans are helping animals through science, technology, and engineering.
Within a few months, I heard back from Carol. She asked if I’d be willing to expand the book from a picture book to a middle grade book with five chapters, each about a different animal. Of course, I said yes!
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I chose to write about animals with prosthetic limbs/body parts because I grew up on a farm where injured animals were oftentimes “put down.” This broke my heart, then and now, and I wanted to help animals in some way. After shadowing a veterinarian as a teenager, I realized that wasn’t my path, and now I know that writing one of the ways I can help animals. My hope is that this book will inspire children to become people who think about how they might help animals.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“Not long ago, a bird without a beak might have starved to death. An elephant without a foot would have hobbled painfully, permanently damaging her spine and remaining legs. Now animals like these are becoming bionic beasts, animals who have artificial body parts that help them move or function.
Using innovative designs and technology such as 3-D printing, humans can help animals in need. People around the globe—including students like you—are making custom prostheses, replacement bionic body parts that allow animals to move, eat, and live their best lives.”
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process changes depends on the project. I teach full time, so I’ve learned to use every spare bit of time and postpone bigger projects until I have breaks from school if possible. Because I’m a mom and my kids have always been active in extracurriculars, I’ve also learned how to write while sitting on the sidelines at soccer practice, in the school cafeteria, or in my car. I also try to approach different parts of a project at times when I’m mentally able to handle them. That means I might be organizing research and reading through notes after work and then doing some of my social media promoting and connecting at night after dinner. I might save my actual writing for the weekends when my brain is energized and better able to function. While I believe that the practice of writing every day is important and can be beneficial for writers, I’m not always able to do that, so I offer myself grace around that and just find time when I can.
Please tell us a bit about your book Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader.
Oliver wants nothing more than to be a good friend. As he’s studying class guinea pigs Mac and Cheese, Oliver hears his teacher mention how Mac and Cheese are the best of friends. Oliver thinks, “Oh, NOW I know how to be a good friend!” But when he tries nuzzling and snuggling his classmates like guinea pigs do, Oliver’s classmates quickly show him that they don’t like when he invades their personal space bubbles. With the help of his teacher and classmates, Oliver learns that being a friend means respecting personal space.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
This past July, I signed with agent Kaitlyn Sanchez! Kaitlyn is amazing and has helped me get some of my manuscripts ready for submission. I’m so excited for what the future holds because, as you know, Kaitlyn is a powerhouse in so many ways. I also just released the series Stars of Latin Pop with Rourke Educational, and I learned that a poem of mine will be included in a poetry anthology from Charlesbridge.
Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Oh, goodness! I’m a librarian and write for basically all ages, so that’s a tough question. I love stories that will make a difference in children’s lives and lyrically written books. Some of my favorites include Elena K. Arnold’s An Ordinary Day, Francisco Jiménez’s The Christmas Gift: El regalo de Navidad, Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers, Patricia MacLachlan’s The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse, and Laurel Snyder’s Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. At the middle grade/young adult levels, some of my favorites are Jerry Craft’s New Kid, Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch, Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Under the Mesquite, Leslie Connor’s The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, Paul Mosier’s The Train I Ride, and Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
If writing is your calling and publication is one of your goals, keep writing! Your journey may be long and arduous, but take comfort in the thought that you are on the right path and growing as a writer and person. Every day, know that you’re one day closer to achieving your goals. If you don’t give up, you will eventually make your own dreams come true!
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
This one’s easy—a horse! I think they’re the most beautiful animals. I love speed, so the fact that horses can gallop is an added bonus. I used to ride when I was younger, and there was nothing better than sitting on a horse’s back and feeling like I was flying.
Jolene grew up on a farm, surrounded by animals, plants, and history. She is an award-winning teacher-librarian and has been working with diverse learners at Denver Academy for the past 25 years. She holds a Master’s degree in Library Science. She’s a wife of 22 years and mama to two teenage humans, three preteen dogs, a kitten who plays fetch, and an ever-rotating variety of other animals including a crested gecko, a ferret, and a rescue squirrel. She’s an active member of SCBWI and The Author’s Guild, a We Need Diverse Books mentorship finalist, a Writing with the Stars mentee, a Highlights Foundation scholarship winner, and the winner of the Cynthia Levinson nonfiction picture book biography scholarship to the Writing Barn. She’s an active member of the Perfect 2020 PBs group, a member of the critique group 6 Ladies and a MANuscript, and a co-creator of #KidlitZombieWeek.
Jolene is the author of a picture book, MAC AND CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE INVADER (Spork, 8/20), a nonfiction middle grade book, BIONIC BEASTS: SAVING ANIMAL LIVES WITH ARTIFICIAL FLIPPERS, LEGS, AND BEAKS (Lerner, 10/20), and the biographical 4-book series STARS OF LATIN POP: SHAKIRA, OZUNA, J BALVIN, and SOFÍA REYES (Carson Dellosa, 01/21). She is represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary.
My books can be purchased here: https://bookshop.org/shop/writerjolene
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