Alyson Flippo is the mother of two children. When she gave birth to her daughter at age 44, she had experienced enough of the challenges placed on young girls to cause her great concern. She has related that she would lie in bed each night and worry about how to prepare her daughter for the array of challenges that lay ahead.
It was during those long nights that she realized the world needed to begin sending more positive messages to our girls as soon as they enter this world so they can develop the strength needed to fend off the often negative messages received from the media and other sources. Her book was inspired by her desire to remind each and every reader of their vast potential – the strength that comes from within.
Determined to do something to try to make a difference for all of our young girls of today, the character and story of Addie B. Strong is her way of helping our girls focus on their strength and self-worth, instead of more superficial characteristics.
Ms. Flippo grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and graduated from New Jersey’s Ramapo State College with a degree in business administration. Thereafter she studied at The New School for Social Research in New York City. Prior to her writing career, she spent 20 years as a paralegal at several East Coast law firms where she spent much time writing legal briefs. She currently lives in South Florida with her husband and children, and is working to develop a line of Addie B. Strong books.
What was your inspiration for Addie B. Strong – I Am So Strong?
My daughter Addison 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. 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.
Do you plot in advance or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I would have to say it is more from the seat of my pants. I will wake up in the middle of the night with words floating around my head and get up and jot them down. Sometimes they are very scrambled and disjointed and sometimes the thoughts just flow beautifully on their own. I have always loved rhyming and that seems to be what comes most naturally from within me. I of course end up re-working things a number of times, but the basic story lines usually come to me at once.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
It is my greatest hope that our young girls will 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. It’s really that simple.
Did your book require a lot of research?
The book did not require a lot of research, but as I began to formulate my thoughts to explain why the book and its message is so important, I learned of the staggering statistics connected with eating disorders and suicides by young girls which seem to be directly related to the negative messages children are inundated with – from what they should have to what they should look like. I continue to do more research on these topics and each time I learn more I become that much more determined to help inspire our very young people with messages of empowerment. Through the character of Addie B. Strong, I hope to give them something concrete to keep in their heads and hearts.
How was your experience working with an illustrator?
Just as Addie B. Strong – I Am So Strong is the first book I’ve ever written, it is the illustrator’s first book as well. But we had an immediate and amazing connection and both share the same passion about spreading this message. We work together really well, in part because we trust each other to do what we do and, to quote from the book: “the rest comes along. . .” In this first book (and in the books we are currently working on together), I write the story, we talk about it a bit, and then Kathleen creates a story board. We do a bit more collaboration and bouncing things off of each other, but for the most part, we simply trust and respect each other’s contribution and things come together pretty organically. It really is a magical experience.
Did you go the traditional way or did you self-publish? Are you happy with your decision?
After researching the pros and cons of self-publishing, I decided that this was the right way to go for me. I wanted to begin getting the message out there immediately and decided that a grassroots effort would be the best way to do it because at least I would have some control. It really was never my intention to be an author per se, I just wanted to do something to make a difference for our kids.
How do you define success?
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 stories 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.
Where is your book available?
The book (and book and doll combination package) is available at select Learning Express stores nationwide (we were just accepted and endorsed as a national vendor); and the individual book will be available at select Books-A-Million stores in the upcoming months. Both items are also available for purchase online via Amazon and through our website.