We had the good fortune of connecting with Jolene Gutiérrez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jolene, why did you pursue a creative career?
After I had my children, I kind of lost myself. I was a teacher, a librarian, a wife, and a mother, but who was I, really? What did I like to do? If I was gifted with a free day or even some free hours, what would I do? To answer that, I thought back to my childhood. What did I want to be when I grew up? I wanted to be a librarian, but I also wanted to be a writer. As I was tinkering with that idea and telling myself that I’d write a book someday, a couple of friends who shared a passion for the written word passed away, so my writing mission became even more important. I wanted to write to honor those friends who also wanted to write someday. Now, as a writer, I write to help kids connect with stories and see themselves within books. I write to make the world a better place. And I also write for selfish reasons. Every now and then, words pour out and make me feel connected to something bigger than me. That’s just magical.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I love telling stories of unsung heroes, of histories we should know about, and stories of kindness. I write in a variety of genres, styles, and levels, and I always have multiple projects going on. Professionally, it’s taken years of hard work, networking, and growing my skills, but I finally have books published, have connected with an amazing agent, and have more books on the way. There were lots of days of rejection, frustration, and stagnation, but I always gave myself permission to stop if the work no longer called to me and I also told myself that as long as I kept trying–writing, submitting, and refining my craft–I would eventually succeed. I’d like the world to think of me as an author who truly cares about her audience and who has worked hard in order to get her stories in front of children.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Because my parents were born in southeastern Colorado and much of my family still lives there, I’d take my friend there first. We could spend time at the Amache National Historic Monument, Sand Creek Massacre National Monument, and Bent’s Fort. From there, we could travel to southwestern Colorado and explore Mesa Verde National Park and some of the ruins in that area. Traveling north up I-25, we’d stop at Garden of the Gods to hike and explore, and if the time is right, we could have fun at the Renaissance Festival in Larkspur. In Denver, we could visit some of our amazing local independent book stores: Tattered Cover, Second Star to the Right, Bookies, and more. And we could walk around downtown and explore Union Station, the Dairy Block, and the 16th Street Mall.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to Denise Vega, https://www.denisevega.com/. Denise visited the school I work at during the time when I was exploring what I wanted to do creatively. She ran a workshop with some of our high school students and I sat in on it. She asked us, “Are you a writer?” I said that yes, I’m a writer, but I admitted that I hadn’t written anything recently. I told Denise and my students that I would write “someday.” Denise challenged that and asked me, “Why not today?” Her reminder to start working now on our dreams and goals was a turning point in my life, and I’m so grateful that she supported me as I started down this path.
Shaian Gutiérrez, Eduardo Gutiérrez, and Karen Gilbert