A Homeschool Mom and Author - A Very Special Homeschool Guest

My Homeschool Guest today is very special.    She is a homeschooling mom and children's book author!    

I've gotten to know Jenn through her blog, Little Homeschool on The Prairie, and was thrilled when she realized her dream of publishing a book.   I have been curious about how she actually DID this, and she agreed to share her story with us today. 

Jenn's post will inspire you.  Share it with your children... mine were interested to hear how she actually published a book!  

Her book, Just Plain Nora, is wonderful.   My daughter, Anna, read this book in one sitting and immediately asked when the next book will be coming out!    

I consider it a privelege to welcome Jenn today and please leave a comment so you can have a chance to win a copy of Just Plain Nora!  


I’ve always liked to write, but I’ve never really thought of myself as a writer.

Publishing a book was not something I had planned on doing.

What started the whole process then?

Homeschooling, of course.

We are relaxed homeschoolers, interest led learners, unschoolers…whatever you want to call us. We believe that learning is a life-long process and that you are never really finished.  We see exploring, playing, discovering, creating, and learning as a part of our everyday routine.

Not too long ago, the girls found out that one of their favorite American Girl dolls was being retired, and they were not happy. Both girls are pretty big fans of the historical dolls and books. Rather than just being bummed about the whole thing, I challenged them to do something constructive…to create their own American Girl…a historical girl, one whose book they would most like to read.

The girls worked on their projects for about a week.  They each decided on a time period in American history and set out to learn a little about what life would have been like for a girl their age.

Abby’s time period was 1881. She decided to name her girl Nora. She did some reading about frontier life and pioneers to come up with information about Nora’s family and daily life: chores, hobbies, clothing, and schoolwork. She compiled her information together on a project display board along with some maps, drawings, photos, and a short story about her “American girl.” Molly did the same with her girl and it turned out to be a fun, meaningful activity for both of them.

End of homeschool story.

Maybe not.

After I saw all the work the girls put into their projects, I knew that I wanted to write a story to go along with the characters they had created, so that’s how the idea for Just Plain Nora came to be. I simply wanted Abby’s character to come to life, to be “real.” I wrote Nora’s story for Abby for Christmas that year with plans to tackle Molly’s story next. I originally printed the story off the computer and put it in a binder. I read a chapter out loud every night and really enjoyed the feedback from my family. It was special and really, just for us.

Then Abby suggested that I get the book published.

That just sounded like way too much time and trouble to me, but I wanted to do it…because she believed that I could.

I quickly found that there is a huge market for self-publishing. I looked at many different publishing options, and it looked pretty easy…if you are an organized, efficient, self-motivated, detail oriented person. However, I am not. I had written the story- which to me was the fun part. Formatting the text, designing a cover, and acquiring an ISBN number did not sound like anything I wanted to do.

I had just about decided that publishing the book wasn’t going to happen when my husband surprised me with proofs of the illustrations. He found a very talented local artist who was willing to try her hand at illustrating Just Plain Nora. Once I saw her beautiful rendition of Nora, I was back on track.


I decided to send a manuscript sample to Christian Manuscript Submissions. I paid $98 to have my sample on file with them for six months. During that time, it would be made available to several publishing companies that utilize their services.

I waited for four months before I heard anything. Finally, I was contacted by Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson.  To say I was thrilled would be an understatement! The next few months were busy-crazy as I went through the process of editing and making changes to the manuscript as I got feedback from the publisher. I was all too happy to just focus on the details of the story while and not have to worry about fonts, formatting, the book’s cover, ISBN, and copyright information. The publisher took care of all that. The writing and rewriting took a lot of time though, more than I ever thought it would. But by carving little bits of writing time into the early morning hours (and a few late nights), it was finally ready to go to press.

Just Plain Nora was published in January 2012. I couldn’t have been happier than the day the book proofs arrived on our front porch. Seeing my girl’s faces when they opened the boxes to find Nora in book form for the first time was worth all the time I spent writing and rewriting.


So, was it worth it?


Will I do it again?

For sure. I’m working on Molly’s book right now:)


My advice to those of you who want to be published would be to:


  1. Write daily- keep a journal, blog, write short stories or poetry…just write.
  2. Write what’s on your heart, not what you think others want to read.
  3. Learn about self-publishing- It’s a fast moving sector of the publishing industry. Do your research- some companies are better than others!
  4.  Keep up with technology. Self-publishing is no big deal for those who are techno savvy (quite unlike myself:)
  5.  Consider an e book rather than traditional print.
  6.  Read the kind of books that you want to write. If you are writing a homeschool how-to book, then read every homeschool how-to book that you can get your hands on.
  7.  Seek resources (books, blogs, articles…) that will help you become a better writer. Really. Even great writers need information, encouragement, and inspiration from others.
  8.  Start thinking of yourself as an author. Develop a platform and use social media to get word about your book out there.
  9.  Keep an idea notebook with you at all times. Ideas for stories can come at the most inopportune times. Be ready to jot down your story ideas somewhere before you forget them.
  10. Don't be afraid to get started!


Jenn is giving a copy of Just Plain Nora to one lucky reader.  To enter, simply leave a comment for Jenn here.  Please make sure you leave your website or email address so I can contact you when you win.   This giveaway will be open until Wednesday August 29 at midnight!


*Interested in previous  Homeschool Guest posts?   So much information has been shared over the summer, and you will want to see the wealth of information the guests have provided!