This month, we welcomed author/illustrator Jolene Gutiérrez to our Ink Splat author interview. 

During the interview, Jolene shared with us about her experience writing and publishing with her own kids, her love of animals, what both inspires her and moves her to tears, her drive to be an activist, and her most recent published work, Too Much! An Overwhelming Day.

“Just explore, experiment, play. You’re going to grow your skills. You might find something that you didn’t know you loved. You might find a superpower you didn’t know you had.” -Jolene Gutiérrez

To learn more about Jolene’s journey, activism, and her diverse body of published works, please visit her online at www.jolenegutierrez.com or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @writerjolene.

Writing Challenge

“Sensory Sensitivities”

My book Too Much! An Overwhelming Day is based on my own sensory sensitivities. I often felt misunderstood and judged because I’m overly sensitive to a lot of things. Think about a time in your life when you felt misunderstood. Journal about that time and think about what you needed from others to feel supported. Did you get the understanding and support you needed? If so, reflect on how that made you feel. If you didn’t get the understanding and support you needed, reflect on what you wish would’ve been done differently. Then, write a fictionalized short story, a picture book, or a poem exploring that situation and your feelings. Feel free to change information as needed to preserve your privacy.

As a writer, your subject matter and intended audience from piece to piece seems quite diverse. How do you decide on your plotlines and what audience they are intended for?

Oftentimes, the topics dictate who my audience will be. For example, my book Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks, it’s a book about how animals with limb differences have been helped through technology, so it has many high-level concepts. I could’ve written about this topic as a picture book, but if I did, I wouldn’t be able to share as much information about the animals that had been helped. I would’ve probably had to choose one animal to focus on and wouldn’t have been able to share the more technical information about how they were helped. As a middle-grade book, I was able to share specific information about multiple animals.

And sometimes, a book comes to me in a certain format, and that gives me a hint about the audience. For example, my newest book Too Much! An Overwhelming Day came to me in rhyme, so I knew it would be a picture book for a younger audience.

 What strategies do you use when you’re drafting at the start of a writing project?

I often do a quick write of ideas, scenes, phrases, etc. as I start working on an idea to capture some of my thoughts. Early on, I try to search places like WorldCat or Amazon to check titles and topics. My stories sometimes come to me as a title idea first and I want to know if books with the same title already exist. It also helps to know what other books on similar topics exist in the world. These are often useful as competitive/comparative titles when you’re trying to sell your manuscript, so once I’ve done that, I’ll place holds on similar books (if any exist) from my public libraries. I’ll also start researching and pulling resources together so that I can immerse myself in a topic and see if there’s enough information and excitement there to warrant me working on a full manuscript.

Where did the inspiration come from for your newest book, Too Much! An Overwhelming Day (just released in August 2023)?

This was the book that I needed when my kids were young (and the book my parents needed when I was little). I was (and am) sensorily sensitive, and so are my children. For me, that means sunlight is too bright, some sounds are too loud, some scents are too overwhelming, some food textures are too yucky, some clothes are too itchy, etc. Too Much! is my way of helping readers either see themselves within its pages or as a way of growing compassion and understanding.

A special thank you to Jolene Gutierrez for sharing with us! 

Jolene Gutiérrez grew up on a farm in northeastern Colorado, surrounded by animals, plants, and history. She is an award-winning teacher librarian and has been working with neurodivergent learners at Denver Academy since 1995. She’s a wife of 25 years and a mama to two young adults, three dogs, two cats, and an ever-rotating variety of other rescue animals. Jolene is an active member of SCBWI, The Author’s Guild, and KidLitCollective, and a co-creator of #KidlitZombieWeek and the Picture Book Gold group. Jolene is represented by agent Kaitlyn Sanchez of Bradford Literary. She’s a contributor to If I Could Choose a Best Day: Poems of Possibility (Candlewick, 2025) and the author of Unbreakable: A Japanese American Family in an American Incarceration Camp (Abrams Childrens 2025, co-authored with Minoru Tonai), Mamiachi and Me (Abrams/Appleseed, 2024, co-authored with her son Dakota), The Ofrenda That We Built (Chronicle, 2024, co-authored with her daughter Shaian), Too Much! An Overwhelming Day (Abrams/Appleseed, 2023), the Stars of Latin Pop series (Rourke, 2021), Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks (Lerner, 2020), and Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader (Clear Fork/Spork 2020). Find her online at www.jolenegutierrez.com or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @writerjolene.


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