Tuesday, February 1, 2011


by Jacqueline Jules

Any questions? This portion of my school visits is my favorite part—and NOT because it usually comes at the end. I like to answer questions because they provide the answer to the question authors are most frequently asked. Where do you get your ideas?

My stories all grow out of questions. For example, when I sat down to write my picture book No English, I began with the question, “Can two people who don’t speak the same language become friends?” From there I continued with other questions. “Can you imagine what it’s like to be surrounded by people you don’t understand?” By posing and answering one question after another, I crafted a story about two second grade girls who found a creative way to overcome a language barrier.

For my chapter book series, Zapato Power, I began with a question I love discussing with students. If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Would you want super strength? Would you like to be invisible? How about super hearing or super eyesight? The possibilities were endless, and the more I considered the question, the more fun I had.

After much thought, I decided that my character of Freddie Ramos in Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off, would receive a mysterious box filled with super-powered purple sneakers. These shoes would give him the ability to run faster than a metro train. But my questions did not stop there. Who gave Freddie the shoes? How would Freddie use his special sneakers? Would it be easy for him to become a superhero? Where would he find superhero jobs at elementary school?

To write the sequels, Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Springs into Action and Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue, I also asked myself questions. What other mysteries could Freddie solve? What problems should he overcome? I have discussed these questions with students at schools, and their intriguing answers often ignite my imagination.

Questions are the fuel for my stories. Not only do they help me create, they help me revise. When I look over my first drafts, I have to ask myself questions, too. Did I make this scene clear enough for the reader? Should I give the reader more clues before the mystery is solved? Did I say anything that might confuse my reader?

I hope that after my school visits, my audiences will be ready to go back to their own writing notebooks and pose question after question until their imaginations are racing as fast as Freddie Ramos in his magic purple shoes.

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