By Lisa Caprelli
I wanted to create a character in a story that would include social emotional learning components to the messages found in Unicorn Jazz. Some top takeaways are:
- The importance of friendship
- The power of believing in others
- Celebrating your uniqueness
We are creating more Unicorn Jazz stories in its series while crafting fun and imaginative stories. It was important to me to incorporate elements from my own childhood that stemmed from the need for communication. Not just any communication, but valuable communication that parents and educators can use to have meaningful conversations about with children.
MUSICAL NOTE FOR A TAIL
A children’s book isn’t complete unless it has a song to go along with it. After initial back and forth drawing concepts, my illustrator of Unicorn Jazz, Davey Villalobos, a native of El Paso, made Jazz’s tail so unique by symbolizing a purple musical note. When I point that out to children, they smile with ooh’s and ah’s. When I first got that awe-inspiring reaction from the kids, I immediately knew that I had to copyright Unicorn Jazz to continue developing a jazzy world. I have a small team that is helping me license and grow this iconic unicorn, and I have to say – it has been the most magical and purposeful work I have ever done so far.
Above: Page from Unicorn Jazz showing the El Paso Zoo
FINDING AN INTERESTED AUDIENCE
The land that the family moved to in Unicorn Jazz is my hometown of El Paso, Texas. My intention with the story’s setting wasn’t to just use El Paso as a place in my book, I also wanted to put my Texas hometown on the map because I feel it’s such an amazing city of our country that simply just doesn’t get enough attention. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to share the messages from a children’s book with the help of my family and friends back home, many of whom have deep and rooted connections in educational values. Throughout my childhood, I always felt that my family was one centered around a culture of love, kindness and compassion and I just knew that I had to create a story focused around those same ideals.
From January to May of 2019 (with the help of the Ysleta Independent Elementary Schools: Del Norte, Dolphin Terrace, and Thomas Manor) I was able to read, speak and share my stories and songs that came from a little unicorn named Jazz along with her sidekick, Woof the Crow. Woof the Crow’s incorporation into my first book was important in that he is the one who believes in Jazz the unicorn and sees her through different eyes; he encourages her to use her talent that is her voice to sing. In doing so, Woof the Crow opened Jazz’s own eyes to finally embrace that she is different and to be proud of that fact as well herself.
BE YOURSELF – NATURALLY
You can truly become the person you want to be most, or rather the very person who you know you are in your mind and heart. I am living proof that the power of education from elementary school to college can truly change anyone’s life to fit their exact needs, regardless of their previous circumstances and troubles.
My generation didn’t grow up with access to the Internet nor had Google search readily available in our pockets. We had to learn by whatever means we could, and we kept at it until we figured it out. I soon came to realize that if I took the time to fully grasp and understand the many facets of communication, then I would be able to learn how to effectively speak up in order to enrich not only my home life, but the relationships that affect many of us including friendships, business relationships, connections and more.
I can honestly say that going out of my way to understand the broad spectrum of communication has helped me articulate my writing and storytelling to be able to create opportunities for the greater good.
Above: Revisiting my home school 36 years later: Thomas Manor Elementary.
Photo Credit Robert Lopez
During my school visits, I openly discuss my journey from growing up as a shy girl who was raised by a single mom of five kids, who wasn’t taught the fundamentals of basic communication skills in her own home, to a becoming a woman who would gradually become the change she wants to see in the world by the time she finished college with a degree in Social Psychology.
From then on, life would have me create a career to go on to brand and build several companies in my 30’s and early 40’s. One of the greatest joys I carry with me is that every principal, teacher, school counselor and student who was introduced to my book has welcomed all the lessons mentioned in the Unicorn Jazz stories with open arms and even more opened minds.
WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says to write about what you know. Unicorn Jazz touches on experiences and stories that had influenced me throughout childhood and have also paved so many paths for me in my adult years. So, when people ask me questions like how I come up with ideas for stories, or how to guide others to write their own story, it is through this personal and individualized mindset through which such morals are molded. My advice (and that of Stephen King’s) is to use what you do know – your own personal experiences with struggles, tragedy, circumstances, loss – to recreate a new story in the way you want it to be constructed. The plus side to every story that you put your own spin on is that it came from your own individualized imagination to create a wonderful fictional piece with its own set of morals throughout.
Photo Credit Robert Lopez
When speaking or reading to a classroom full of children I always ask them, “Who here uses their imagination to create something?” Almost all hands are raised high and proudly, to which I respond “Well, that’s how you create a book, it starts with an idea that comes from your own imagination. From that idea you can do action steps to create whatever you want to.”
LOVE PREVAILED OVER BEING POOR
Growing up I typically felt left out, invisible, and as if I didn’t matter. I was that girl who wore “trendy” coke bottle glasses along with mismatched clothes that never seemed to fit right. As you can guess, I was often made fun of for my fashion choices and then some, and as a result my confidence level was never high. One thing I did have that set me apart were my straight-A grades in school, although that only labeled me as a “nerd” among the other students. Nerdy, poorly dressed, and with a noticeable lack of confidence, I was almost always the last one picked or invited for any school sport and social event.
I remember one winter when my sisters and I were selected to receive free shoes from a downtown shoe store, thanks to a city program that was concurrently run with the police department. A policewoman had to pick us up in a police car to go get our shoes from the charity event because we didn’t have a car of our own to get around. However, when we finally got there, we realized that the local news was there covering the event, cameras and all. We were so embarrassed to be found out that we were poor that we hid behind each other so that our faces would not come out on the news later that evening for everyone in town to see. We were so ashamed of being labeled poor to the point where we never really walked around saying that word. We just knew that we never had enough food, clothing and basic needs to blend in properly. Even though we had government assistance through food stamps, it was never enough to feed our starving family of six. We always had to find other ways to eat, whether it was through the school’s free breakfast and lunch program or my grandmother giving us extra groceries. I remember never leaving a crumb on my plate because I was always so hungry. My sisters and I were always taught to never ask for anything extra and to just be appreciative of what was given, and appreciative we were.
WHAT IS POOR ANYWAY?
When I first went with my family to visit Juarez, Mexico, via a very long bus ride that took us down there, I saw something different than I was originally taught; there lived people who were poorer than we were. Although these people had the same skin color as me, they were simply born on the other side of the bridge. Ever since then I have always counted my blessings that I was born in El Paso, Texas – just a few steps away in the United States. I also learned that I could change my circumstances and life around in the near future. Of course, I didn’t know how long that would take, but through reading, education and perseverance, I was determined to change my life for the better. I did just that when I made the decision to move to Huntington Beach, California, in 2001.
HELPING IS CURRENCY
When I moved to California, I met countless people whom I was eager and willing to help in both business and personal matters. Little did I know that every characteristic that I had developed from childhood would serve me well regarding the sheer amount of new people, friends and business relationships I would form from then on and to this day. Whether I scored another contract or was coaching a new client, I always felt as though I had touched the lives of so many others by asking questions, listening to their concerns, and offering solutions. Looking back at it now, I’m very grateful for my past and childhood. It took every skill set I had in me to become an entrepreneur and never look back; all the uncomfortable moments I had growing up ended up with me emerging into a newfound aura of confidence that I would develop in my adult years. I’m also very grateful that, even though I grew up poor in what felt like an environment where there was little opportunity to excel based on my family circumstances, I was able to change my life over the next three decades thanks to the education system and love I was fortunate to receive from my family and friends. That’s my reason why, to this date, when someone helps me with something I need – be it a connection, a resource, or knowledge to build what I am currently working on (Unicorn Jazz and Skip a Step) – I return the favor by asking,
“What can I do to support your goals?’
It works like a charm every time!