Meet the Author:
Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.
The name of Lorna Gutierrez’s book says it all – Dare to Dream Big! This inspirational book was written to spark a growth mindset in young children. How could we pass up the chance to interview her?
We all have hopes and dreams for our children and Dare to Dream Big captures what all parents or caregivers want for them. Each page presents a positive message in a way that’s understandable for even very young kids. The diversity in the illustration is another reason we fell in love with the book. We had a great time sitting down with Lorna and learning more about her as well as her fabulous book.
In college you were a sports reporter. You’ve also worked as a journalist, researcher, graphic designer and script writer for commercials. What made you decide to write your first children’s book?
I never felt it was a decision. I think it’s honestly always been a part of me. I’ve always looked at situations and thought how they could be worked into a book. My brain just naturally does this and has always done this. “Well, this would be entertaining if it was presented like this.” That kind of framing. I self published a few books then decided to really make a go of it when my kids (I have two) were little. We were reading most days and I could see some of the stories that I had written for fun in print. But it was when we were leaving a restaurant that my son looked at the sky and said “Hello, Mr. Moon” and the first pages of that book popped into my head and I had to write them down. I thought how one may be confused about how the moon looks different each night and how I could explain it in a fun way. That way ended up being in rhyme, which I naturally gravitate to.
Dare to Dream Big is an inspirational book that helps encourage children and parents alike. Having big dreams, helping others, speaking out and taking time to enjoy simple joys are some of the themes throughout the book. What gave you the initial idea to write the book and was there a real life person behind any of the characters or situations?
The real life person behind the book is me. Things weren’t always easy for me when I was young. Despite that, I always knew that there was more out there and a particular situation can always be changed, and it starts with a thought and belief that it can be changed. Dare to Dream Big actually started as a poem I wrote to my younger self.
Since I was little I’ve always spoken up, defended those who were picked on, etc. and I honestly didn’t care about the consequences or if it made me unpopular because I felt it was the right thing to do. It’s just part of my nature and I’m super proud when I see my children do these same things. As a child, I was also pretty introspective. I was ok spending time alone with my thoughts.
How were you able to write about such “big” topics, but keep it at a level children could understand?
Writing things down actually helps me understand things too. I journaled when I was younger and it always allowed me to look at things from outside my head and onto a page. It works. I recommend it. Dare to Dream Big is essentially looking at a page of my journal.
Did you always plan for the story to be told in rhyme?
Rhyming is somewhat natural for me. I’ve always had a pretty good sense of rhythm in most regards. (Dancing, playing the drums.) I also think, in a way, rhyme connects older me to me as a child, if that makes sense. I also think it helps a story’s intention be more understandable. When I was a student and studied for tests, I’d come up with rhymes to help me understand difficult bits.
We really liked the diversity of the children in the illustrations. How important is this in your books and was it intentional? How much input did you have with the look and feel of Dare to Dream Big?
Dare to Dream Big first showed up as Dare in the UK. It was first published by a very inclusive publisher called Tiny Owl Publishing and then later sold to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Tiny Owl, and thankfully many other publishers now, put diversity as a priority after many years of many kids not being able to see themselves in books. We are a diverse world – and I truly believe diversity makes the world interesting. We can all learn from each other. I’m happy Dare to Dream Big shows diversity throughout its pages and yes, I did have some say in the illustrations but I think Polly did a great job!
What is the best part about being a children’s author?
The fact that children are enjoying something, that you wrote, in their everyday life. The fact that I may be making a tiny difference in a little one’s life.
Who were your favorite authors as a child?
Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume. All great. All different. All awesome.
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?
Keeping them away from screens. But, on the other hand, you can read books on screens now and if that’s your jam, go for it! Reading, I think no matter the type of book, awakens so many senses that you just can’t find from watching a TikTok video, for instance. And all media has their place, but I think it’s important to make time for those books, because they are truly enriching.
Are you currently working on anything we can look forward to reading?
Yes, I have a historical fiction chapter book/middle grade book (not in rhyme!) currently being shopped. (Publishing terms for being submitted for consideration) as well as a board book and an educational piece. (Those two are in rhyme.) Hopefully one will go from being “shopped” to “contract being signed” soon.
We’re very excited to be sharing “Dare to Dream Big” with many of our subscribers this month and look forward to Lorna’s upcoming work. Thanks again to her for sharing her thoughts on her work and reading in general. You can learn more about Lorna Gutierrez at her website here.
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