I love writing. I’m guessing you know that.
But what you may not know is how influential my parents have been in my writing journey. They were my first coaches, inspirations, editors, and cheerleaders. And they (more than anyone or anything else) shaped me into the writer I am today.
The biggest thing they did was encourage me.
I’m not a parent, but I know parents are always trying to encourage their kids more and better, especially when it comes to their kids’ gifts and passions.
And I often get asked by parents of other young writers (or young writers themselves!) what my parents did to help and equip me.
So my friend Brett Harris and I decided to ask my parents some questions about how to encourage your kids in their writing (which also applies to all hobbies/gifts/passions).
This is for all the parents out there.
(NOTE: Parts of this interview were originally published in The Parent’s Guide To Encouraging Your Young Writer, but this is the only place the full version is published.)
1. Why did you encourage Jaquelle in her writing?
We believe that writing is an invaluable skill, so we’ve encouraged her to write well since she was small. When Jaquelle began to write seriously as a teenager, we saw that she could reach others and make a bigger impact with her writing. She could encourage others with her message, so we wanted her to be able to share that message as best she could.
2. How did you encourage Jaquelle in her writing?
We homeschooled Jaquelle from grade 5 through high school, so we were able to incorporate a lot of writing into her curriculum. We wanted her to explore different types of writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry) and always be growing.
She also loves to read (which is one of the best ways to become a better writer), so we made sure she always had books available through trips to the library or from second-hand book stores.
3. What has been the biggest challenge in raising a young author and how have you/are you overcoming it?
The biggest challenge has been helping Jaquelle discern what opportunities to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to. Since her audience has grown, she’s had several chances to write, do interviews, and speak at events. We realized quickly that we would need to set firm guidelines for how we would help her deal with requests and expectations.
Jaquelle’s reason for writing has always been to honor Christ, so, although some of the opportunities would have exposed her to a larger audience and platform, she turned them down due to her convictions. That said, there were also times that wisdom simply dictated that she pass up opportunities she would have otherwise liked to have taken.
4. How have you seen Jaquelle grow and mature as a result of her writing and the opportunities she’s had because of her writing?
Jaquelle has always wanted to learn, but writing has forced her to think more deeply and critically about many issues and topics that she probably wouldn’t have if she wasn’t writing. We’ve also seen her become more confident and compassionate as she interacts with people (both in person and online) and better equipped to handle the praise and the criticism well.
5. How did you ensure that Jaquelle maintained a healthy balance between writing and pursuing relationships and other activities and goals?
Jaquelle is a relatively well-balanced individual, so we haven’t had to step in too much when it concerns her schedule. She recognized early on that investing in relationships with her friends, family, and church -- as well as having new experiences -- would make her a better writer so she never hesitated to get away from writing and live life.
As a teenager, she had a part-time job in retail (which she wasn’t crazy about, but gave her a lot of life experience to write about) and was involved in a theatre group (which she loved and helped her immensely with public speaking). As for school, she was able to earn dual credit in Grades 11 & 12 which enabled her to earn her B.A. in Communications (through Lumerit / CollegePlus at the time) when she would have graduated high school.
For these reasons, balance has not been difficult to achieve, and she has needed little to no guidance from us in this area. That said, when she exhibited interests in the above ventures, or other things, we strongly supported her in pursuing them.
6. What is one piece of advice you could give to parents of other young writers?
To invest in their writing. Not just by providing resources and programs to help them as a writer (as important as these are), but to invest yourself. Ask them about their writing and then listen to them, ask them about what they are struggling with, let them bounce ideas around with you, be their editors, speak positively about them and their writing, and definitely pray for them.
7. Do you have a fun story or a memory to share about Jaquelle's writing success?
We have lots of fun memories of Jaquelle writing over the years. From when she was a toddler and telling us stories, to writing stories with her when she was in elementary school, to seeing her plug away at her blog, to getting involved with TheRebelution.com, to writing her book. Along the way we have done a lot of editing, had many brainstorming sessions, and even talked her down from those “I’m overwhelmed and discouraged” moments – and we are so glad we got to be a part of it all.
But, probably the best thing has been the messages of encouragement that Jaquelle has gotten from strangers. Seeing your child do something they love and make such a positive impact on other’s lives for the gospel is pretty amazing.
If you enjoyed this interview, you may be interested in a new project Brett Harris and I created: a free e-book for parents called, The Parent’s Guide to Encouraging Your Young Writer.
This PDF is a collection of 5 interviews with the parents of published young authors, like Josh Harris and Brett and Alex Harris, Sara Barratt, and Katherine Forster.