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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - JOLENE GUTIÉRREZ

I'm so happy to host my friend, the wonderfully talented writer Jolene Gutiérrez, on the blog today! Jolene is a generous supporter and cheerleader in the kidlit community. She has two 2020 books - MAC AND CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE INVADER (just released!) and BIONIC BEASTS: SAVING ANIMAL LIVES WITH ARTIFICIAL FLIPPERS, LEGS, AND BEAKS, releasing October 6. Read on for Jolene's thoughts about stories, creativity, and connection. Welcome, Jolene!

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

Personal space and social emotional learning are near and dear to my heart because I have a child who struggles with social skills and I teach at a school for diverse learners. In my book MAC AND CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE INVADER (published August 11 through Clear Fork Publishing) my main character, Oliver, is doing everything he can to learn to be a good friend. He knows class guinea pigs Mac and Cheese are best friends, so he studies them and tries to do what they do, but his classmates don’t want him to snuggle with them. My main character, Oliver, is a child with autism, and when I learned that Callie Metler-Smith was offering critiques, I shared my manuscript with her because she’s a mom to and aunt of kids with autism. I hoped she’d understand my character, and she absolutely did! She helped make the story stronger, and then she surprised me by offering me a book contract!

For my book BIONIC BEASTS: SAVING ANIMAL LIVES WITH ARTIFICIAL FLIPPERS, LEGS, AND BEAKS (out October 6 through Millbrook/Lerner Publishing, preorder link, my inspiration is a bit darker, but I think your blog readers will likely be adults, so I’m ok sharing it here. I grew up on a farm where … well, have you read Charlotte’s Web? Death was very much a reality for injured or smaller animals on our farm as well, and I hated that. I remember reading in Elementary school about a horse who broke his legs and was saved because some people created a sling that allowed his legs to heal. I love animals, and I love stories of hope and innovation. BIONIC BEASTS let me investigate these stories and share them with kids (while hopefully encouraging some of my readers to grow up and become people who help animals, too)!

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

Writing is my gift to myself. I try to showcase my creativity by allowing myself to explore and experiment with writing various genres and styles. Poetry and verse novels are some of my favorite styles of writing--I feel most creative when I’m writing poetry. I’m a teacher librarian, and teaching poetry to my students is one of my favorite things. We call our poems word paintings, and for many of my students, poetry just feels freer and more open than some other forms of writing. There is so much power in even one tiny word.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

My day job as a school librarian gives me a window into kids’ minds, and having worked with kids for so long helps me put myself in their shoes when I’m writing.

Regarding staying connected to the KidLit community, I try to stay involved by taking classes and attending workshops and webinars. I’m an active member of SCBWI and participate in writing contests when I can. I try to read other writers’ books and blogs. I’m part of a couple of debut author groups, and we work to support each other. I am active on social media and have various critique partners. My critique group 6 ladies and a MANuscript hosted #KidLitZombieWeek this past June, which was a great way to connect to our wonderfully supportive KidLit community. Also, as part of a group of 2020 debut picture book authors, I will be sharing publishing tips on August 18th through a virtual event at The Detroit Writing Room - join us and register at


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, and an ever-rotating variety of other animals including a crested gecko, a hedgehog, 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 2018 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 debut author group Perfect 2020 PBs, a member of the critique group 6 Ladies and a MANuscript, and a co-creator of #KidlitZombieWeek. Jolene is represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary.

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 (Carson Dellosa, 01/21).



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David McMullin
David McMullin
Aug 17, 2020

Congratulations! I know how great Mac and Cheese is, and Bionic Beasts looks amazing!


Sandra Sutter
Sandra Sutter
Aug 17, 2020

Congratulations, Jolene! Love your work and learning more of your inspiration for these two books.

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