‘Create a Story’: The power of creative storytelling

By Mala Sharma

Posted on 08-20-2020

At Adobe, we’ve always believed that everyone has a story to tell, and we enable storytellers to unleash their creativity to bring those stories to life. This past spring, as a way to inspire more hope and connection in spite of the challenges of COVID-19 and social injustice in the world, our Brand Purpose team launched the “Create a Story” creative writing competition as a way to invite our employees and their children to create original short stories exploring the themes of heroism, kindness, connection, and resilience.

Every story submission to “Create a Story” counted toward a $10,000 grant to support Save the Children and the vital work they do in early childhood education. We received more than 100 submissions and our four winning stories (one per theme) got an additional $500 to donate to a charity of their choice. Additionally, through our Creative Residency Community Fund, we commissioned artists to create cover illustrations for each of the winning stories.

I had the privilege of being on the judging committee, along with Lesley Graham, director of community impact for US programs at Save the Children, and Anna Daviscourt, children’s book author/illustrator and 2018-2019 Adobe creative resident. It was a real treat to be able to read all of the submitted short stories and see the imagination of parents and children at work. I set aside an afternoon over our summer shutdown, grabbed a cup of tea, and poured over the beautiful stories and imagination. I was so impressed with how articulate all the storytellers are in both prose and verse! I laughed, shed a small tear, and was impressed by the wisdom. Selecting winners is always hard to do when there is so much talent, so thank you to all who participated. I hope you enjoyed the experience as well. Lesley, Anna, and I are amazed by your talent.

Please read more about the winning stories and their source of inspiration below:


“A Dragon Says Hello” by Andy Terranova. Illustration by Alena Skarina.

Andy took his story about dragons very seriously – first, brainstorming with his 4-year-old (Connor) and 2-year-old (Lucy) during bath time one night. With great ideas in hand, his wife and Andy laid out the basic structure of the story, and then he did some research on the mythology of dragons and came up with a list of differences and similarities for each creature in the story as compared to a dragon. Andy has loved children’s poetry ever since he was introduced to his first Shel Silverstein book as a kid.

The inspiration for the story? “Our story was inspired by the racial protests happening today,” says Andy. “I wanted to teach my kids the power in finding something in common with someone, to help develop their empathy and emotional intelligence. Our story fit perfectly with the theme of Connection. So often we latch onto things that are different, but the fact is we humans are 99.9% the same. It just takes a small shift in our perspective to appreciate that.”


“Hidden Heroes” by Jennifer Vitiello. Illustration by Sonaksha Iyengar.

While Jennifer initially wrote this story about everyday heroes herself, she was sure to ask her 9-year-old son (Drew), her husband (Joe), and her sister (Amy) for feedback. In the end, each person was able to incorporate a little bit of their individual magic into the final story.

When asked what inspired her story, Jennifer said, “There were several things that inspired my story. First, the current pandemic brought to light the true heroes in our society, and with the opportunity to write about heroism, I wanted to include as many of those professions as possible. Second, having a 9-year-old, I know their “heroes” often wear capes, so the third-grade classroom location was inspired by my son. Finally, my sister was a major inspiration. In the story, Drew’s aunt (the main character) is a nurse. In real life, my son Drew’s aunt (my sister Amy) rescues cats; her selflessness inspires me every day. The reason for changing her from cat rescuer in this story to a nurse was so the illustrator would have the ability to make the characters animals instead of humans if they chose.”


“Maggie’s New Boots” by Kevin Davis. Illustration by Azusa Okumura.

A fan of Dr. Seuss books, Kevin wanted to write a story that rhymed in Dr. Seuss style. After choosing one of the ideas he was contemplating, he opened up a blank document, started writing, and started rhyming. He shared the story with his daughter and wife so they could collaborate to make the story a success.

On the inspiration for his story, Kevin says, “There is so much negativity, hatred, and bullying in our world right now, so I wanted to write a story that provided an example of the opposite of that. Hopefully this story inspires children to show love and kindness, and to stand up for others.”


“The Perfect Pirate” by Mark Walker, Sr. Illustration by Jozsef Vass.

Mark worked closely with his wife (Lauren) and son (Christian) to author “The Perfect Pirate.” As a family they’ve been telling stories for several years. The full version of “The Perfect Pirate” will be their third original story performed at the world-renowned Timpanogos Storytelling Festival this Fall.

As a way to celebrate these stories – and continue to share them with more people– we created a digital booklet with all the stories and their accompanying illustrations.

We hope you enjoy this unique creative collaboration – and maybe, even feel encouraged to start creating your own stories with the children in your life.

Topics: Creativity, Design, Creative Cloud,

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