I was first introduced to Amy L. Sullivan through a mutual friend. She is the author of When More is Not Enough: How to Stop Giving Your Kids What They Want and Give Them What They Need and her new children’s picture book series, Gutsy Girls: Strong Christian Women Who Impacted the World. Today I’m happy to introduce her to Ungrind readers as we chat about her background and the inspiration behind her newest book. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and writing on her website.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your family? What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing books?
I am a northern girl who somehow found herself living in the South. I married my high school prom date, and I am the mother of two girls. Our family loves the outdoors, and on most weekends, you can find us camping, hiking, and playing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I work for a leadership and development company in Chicago. I write, and I speak, and I like to learn the stories of everyone around me.
On your blog you mention you “met Christ through a medicine man on a Navajo reservation.” Can you tell us a little more about that encounter and how becoming a Christian has changed you?
My story of salvation can best be summed up by saying this: God loved me so much that he chased me to a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and used someone who wasn’t even a Christian to direct me to Him. Being a Christian has made me softer, more forgiving, more open to forgiveness, and more likely to notice the many miracles which surround me.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
Always, always. I have always wanted to write. Before I knew how to write words, I created stories in my head.
How did you come up with the idea of creating the picture book series Gutsy Girls: Strong Christian Women Who Impacted the World?
I came up with the idea for the Gutsy Girls picture book series when I realized there was an enormous hole in the market for picture books highlighting the brave deeds of Christian women. There were loads books for middle readers and young adults, but virtually nothing for little ones. I have two daughters, and I want my girls exposed to the stories of strong women.
How did Gladys Aylward become the first woman for the series? When did you first learn about Aylward’s story?
Honestly, I had an extensive list of women I considered to kick-off the Gutsy Girls series. However, Gladys was the perfect for three reasons: she relied completely on God (even when God’s plans seemed outrageous!), she showed fierce determination and a love of adventure, and Gladys was completely and utterly average. Although, I’ve met many people who have enjoyed Gladys’ story for years, I was only introduced to Gladys three years ago after reading The Little Woman, written by Gladys herself and Christine Hunter. I knew The Little Woman was about a missionary, but I had no idea the amount of adventure it contained.
I love how engaging the story is and how you capture so much of Gladys’ life into a short children’s biographical story. This is your first picture book, so I’m wondering how has the writing process been different (easier, or harder?) than writing adult non-fiction? Any words of wisdom to share with someone who is aspiring to be a children’s picture book author?
Writing a picture book is very different than writing any other kind of work. I had to find a way to share important and often difficult to understand historical details of Gladys’ story and find a way to keep the story appealing to children. My advice to aspiring picture book authors is to share the little details of a story. For example, in an early version of Gutsy Girls, I said Gladys packed her bags to leave for China. It was my daughter who asked me what Gladys packed, and in turn, pushed me to include the contents of Gladys’ suitcase (which by the way included meat cubes, yuck!). The contents of the suitcase was a detail I didn’t think about, but a detail which interested kids.
I loved the whimsical illustrations! Can you introduce us to the illustrator of Gutsy Girls, Beverly Ann Wines? What was it like collaborating with an illustrator?
Beverly Wines is an artist who works in a variety of mediums. She has been interested in illustrating for years, and after a short amount of arm twisting, I was able to sweet talk her into taking on Gutsy Girls. Whimsical is the EXACT word I used during my first meeting with Beverly when I described my vision for the illustrations. I hoped Bev could capture Gladys as plain, but I also hoped she could make the illustrations appealing to young readers. I think she nailed it.
My very favorite part of Gutsy Girls is that you make the point that “Gladys showed us even ordinary people can be extraordinary for God.” You don’t put her on an unattainable pedestal, but instead, encourage the reader — an ordinary girl herself — to also consider being gutsy for God. Will this be the overriding theme for the whole series?
Oh, good question! It is my hope to tell the story of each gutsy woman in a way that allows readers to relate to the woman. So, yes, being ordinary for an extraordinary God is an overriding theme in the series. However, each woman’s story will be different because not all of the women are going to show bravery in the same way. In fact, one of the women uses a pen to demonstrate great faith and courage.
Can you share who is next up in the line-up of Gutsy Girls?
Of course, I’d love to share. The next gutsy women in the series of Gutsy Girls is the always inspiring and utterly fabulous, Corrie ten Boom. Watch for Corrie to make her appearance during the summer of 2016.
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