Studio Feature: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Jewell Parker Rhodes will never forget the first story she wrote in third grade. It was called “The Last Scream.” She remembers reading it aloud to her classmates and feeling as though they were sharing something magical. “Everyone—imagining—together!” Jewell says.
That special sharing of thoughts and feelings is what led Jewell to become a successful children’s book author. “A story is only finished when someone hears it or reads it,” Jewell explains. “Listeners and readers are every bit as important as authors. So if you’re reading my books—and, especially if you like them, we’re engaging in creativity together. Through words, we’re connected.”
One way Jewell connects with her readers is through her strong and well-formed characters. She believes that creating characters is a writer’s most important skill. Her book Sugar is about a spirited, curious girl who wants to play with friends, listen to stories, and have fun. But Sugar is a 10-year-old ex-slave who has to work hard, all day, on a sugar cane plantation. To create Sugar, Jewell says, “I visualized a little girl with pigtails, hands on her hips, complaining, ‘How come I have to work? How come I can’t play?’ ”
To create characters for your stories, Jewell offers a list of questions for you to think about, such as her name, what she looks like, what she wears, and what special habits she might have. Go to The Studio to find out more about how to develop characters and why the Girl Scouts inspires Jewell to write about “strong girls who are smart, capable, resilient, and kind.”