Alyson Flippo is the author of Addie B. Strong – I Am So Strong, released Fall 2013. Ms. Flippo’s book was inspired by the desire to remind each and every reader of their vast potential – the strength that comes from inside. Given her own challenges as a young girl growing up, she was determined to do something to try to make a difference for our young girls of today. The story of Addie B. Strong her way of helping our girls focus on their strength and self-worth, instead of more superficial characteristics. She wants to help inspire our girls to see that they are amazing, not because of how they look but because of what they can do; that the only person they need to impress is themselves; that the sky is not the limit and there is nothing they cannot do.
An only child, Ms. Flippo grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and graduated from New Jersey’s Ramapo State College with a degree in business administration. Prior to her writing career, she spent 20 years as a paralegal at several East Coast law firms. She currently lives in South Florida with her husband and children, pursuing her passions which include eating ice cream daily, playing hide-and-seek, and spreading the love along with Addie B. Strong.
A: My daughter Addison, now 4 years old, was the initial inspiration for the book. While attending an art festival, my husband and I met a fabulous artist named Kathleen Murphy Willer. One of the things that appeared in her artwork was a childlike figure of a girl with the words “I Am So Strong” scribbled underneath. The drawing and sentiment were so simple but really resonated with both of us. In some ways, it reminded us of “Life Is Good” which is such a succinct but brilliant message. We both had an “aha moment” where we began thinking that this was the perfect symbol to build on to spread the message of strength and self-worth to young children. The character as originally drawn by the artist was very universal in looks and therefore could be anybody and we really liked that aspect of her. As we developed the character, we added her carrying the world over her head to emphasize just how strong we really are.
Q: When did your passion for children’s books begin? Did you have a favorite book when you were a child?
A: I have always had a passion for children’s books. My favorite books as a child were the Nancy Drew series, and then of course the Judy Blume books. My oldest child, a boy (now 13) and my youngest, a girl (now 4), so I have had the great opportunity of introducing to my daughter some of the books that my son and I enjoyed together. Both of my children love(d) rhyming books which are so much fun to read together and also helped to initially develop their reading skills.
Q: Did you take any workshops or courses before you started writing?
A: People cringe when I answer this but honestly, no. I spent several years working in law firms where I would prepare motions and legal briefs which helped me hone my writing skills. I have always loved writing though and used to write little stories when I was very young.
Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any difficulties along the way?
A: The creative process was not terribly difficult for me. I had a story and message inside my heart that I was yearning to share. The story came pretty easily because I had been thinking generally about the book for many months prior to actually writing it. I had about six initial paintings of the original then-unnamed character drawn by artist [and now] illustrator, Kathleen Murphy Willer, and I used them as my base to work with.
Q: What do you find most challenging about writing for children?
A: I think the most challenging aspect for me is keeping things very short and simple yet still telling a story that is complete and memorable. My primary audience is children ages 2 -8, and putting together a book that can appeal to a 2 year old as well as an 8 year old can be a bit of a daunting task.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I typically write in the middle of the night when the thoughts wake me up and demand to get out. Fortunately, the natural timing of these moments work well for me as no one else is up at 3am! As the book grows in popularity however, and as additional books are simultaneously in the works, it gets a little more difficult to balance things.
Q: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.
A: As a new author, and completely clueless about the book world, I spent a great deal of time researching self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. As timing was of the essence for me, and I had no idea if any publisher would EVER take on my book, I decided to self-publish and do an initial grassroots effort to get the book out there. I believe this was the right decision because it allowed me to accomplish what I wanted to do which was to share a message and help empower our young girls of today. I didn’t believe there was time to spare by going the traditional route.
Q: What was it like working with an illustrator and how much control did you have over the artwork?
A: My illustrator is an amazing artist who I have so much respect for. Had I not seen the original character drawn in one of her paintings that so inspired me, I would probably have never written the book. Having said that, I trust her to create whatever illustrations she feels pairs well with the words. We really tell the story together and our individual creative processes just naturally mesh. I think that it one of the things that make the book so amazing.
Q: How do you define success?
A: If I can contribute to the world and its people in a meaningful way, then I have succeeded.
For me success means accomplishing what you set out to do. The whole experience of writing and sharing this book has been amazing. I started sharing the book (and a book and doll combination package) locally through holiday boutiques and similar venues and the response was overwhelming. I have had the opportunity to speak with so many people (parents, grandparents, teachers, therapists) who all have the same reaction: “Where has this book been?” “Why hadn’t someone done this sooner?” “I wish I had this growing up.” People love to share their own story and I love to hear them all. I can’t tell you how many grown women (and men) have shed tears reading the book and for me that is the greatest testament to the success of the book.
Q: Do you think that becoming an author entails sacrifices?
A: Not any more than having any other job. I think whatever we do requires sacrifices. There is only so much time in the day to do everything we set out to do, but for me, and I’m pretty sure for most people, there is not enough time to do it all. The trick is finding balance – a continuing work in process.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring children’s writers? Do you know of any helpful resources you’d like to share?
A: The only advice I can give is to follow your heart and do what you can. Try not to get discouraged by all of the statistics you read and comments you see on social media stating that only a select few are lucky enough to be successful and that your work has the greatest chance of sitting on someone’s desk and never being seen. The upside of technology is that you can self-publish and at least maintain some control of your book’s destiny.
Q: What’s on the horizon for you?
A: I am actually in the midst of writing a second story in the Addie B. Strong series, and am developing a boy character to spin off and give a life of his own. I am very excited to have recently received the amazing opportunity to sell our books and products through Learning Express and Books-A-Million where they will become available for purchase in the upcoming months.