Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Team’ Category

It’s 2020… 20 years of Brave Writer!

20 Years of Brave Writer

Confetti! Bubbly drinks (I’ll take sparkling cider, thank you)!

January marks the 20th anniversary of my little-idea-that-could—when you value a child’s writing voice and collaborate with their abundance of good ideas and quirky linguistic wonderfulness, you see writing growth and pleasure in writing as surely as your sweethearts learned to speak fluent English with you as their chief partner.

Let’s honor the new year with a Top 20 countdown (not in chronological order) of my favorite Brave Writer moments. I’ll share a podcast of the story of Brave Writer soon.

Top 20 Countdown

20. The day I received my first check for $25.00 from a homeschool mother, I took a photograph of it. I thought: “She believes I can help her! I have to help her now.” The little online writing class was conducted by email and sold out—25 families, 40+ kids! Thus was born our online class program that has now served tens of thousands of families.

19. I self-published The Writer’s Jungle in March of 2000. My husband at the time taught himself Pagemaker, just to do our layout (no push-button publishing back then). Cindy Clark (who is my right and left hand team member) and her best friend Paula Horton came to my house to help assemble those books in my dining room for my first convention appearance in June 2000. We sold 45 books and I knew right then that we had something to offer.

18. I discovered that Susan Wise Bauer had listed Brave Writer as a top writing resource for her community in 2002 on her website and nearly fell out of my chair. Just a few years later, Susan and I became friends and colleagues and her support of my work has been filled with integrity and kindness.

17. I read my first “real review” of The Writer’s Jungle on the blog of a favorite children’s author: Melissa Wiley. She wrote that she wished she had written it herself and I thought, “A real author likes my book!” Our ensuing friendship has been deep and one of the most rewarding in my professional life.

16. Classes sell out! For the first several years of our online class program, I didn’t have enough seats for all the interest. I remember selling out our entire set of classes in under 5 minutes for several years. You used to have to be on a waiting list from a previous semester to get a chance to enroll in the next one! Today we offer 80+ writing class sessions per semester and have over 40 types of class offerings.

15. We issued a call for teachers in 2013. How surprised was I to see one of our earliest students among the applicants? Samantha Burtner had already proven her writing skills in class, was included in our program Help for High School as a model of good writing, and now she had returned as an adult to teach for us. Today, she’s one of our most popular high school coaches.

14. The Arrow. What a gem! This product was innovation at its finest. I realized that I didn’t like curriculum that was year-long, in thick textbooks. What would happen if we gave monthly curriculum support focused on a single book at a time, like a magazine subscription? Apparently you agreed because it has been our best-selling product for all 18 years of its existence. And now, monthly subscriptions are commonplace in homeschooling.

13. Conferences. It was a joy and privilege to be the keynote speaker at a Muslim homeschool conference, a secular conference, a Christian conference, and an LDS Conference all in the same year. Brave Writer has managed to transcend the usual sectarian divides and offers quality writing instruction to all types of worldviews.

12. I loved starting my podcast with my son Noah. We’ve now had over 1 million downloads of the podcast and have completed 5 seasons of material.

11. Two of my family members teach for Brave Writer: my daughter Johannah and my mother, Karen O’Connor. It is incredible to me that they are able to share in the work Ido and give such rich, varied feedback to our customers. Caitrin, my other daughter, has accompanied me to conferences, including New Zealand which was pure fun! I hope you meet her some day. She’s a hoot!

10. The day Cindy Clark said “yes” to my full time employment offer is a highlight of 2013. I was nervous—Would we have enough work to fill forty hours? Um, yes… and then some.

9. Periscope in 2016 launched Brave Writer into an entirely new stratosphere—so much fun to interact with you every day about stuff that matters. The replays on YouTube have led to over 9000 subscribers and hundreds of thousands of views.

8. The thrill of speaking at Wild + Free events is in my top twenty experiences. My trip to Frisco Texas and taking the stage dancing to “High Hopes” is one of those lifetime memories—what joy in that shared experience with many of you!

7. Our first staff retreat was monumental in 2016. It’s the weekend I realized that I was running a company and what a privilege to do it with this group of talented team members.

6. I was stunned to be awarded Xavier’s highest honor for its MA recipients—The Madges Award for Outstanding Contribution to Society for Brave Writer in 2017.

5. The day my book deal came through for THE BRAVE LEARNER is a day I won’t soon forget. My kids sometimes joke that I built a business so I could write a book. The truth is: there isn’t one without the other. I am grateful for the chance to live out that dream with this team.

4. I still remember how the name Brave Writer came to me. I was speaking at my first convention, saying “We want free writers; we want brave writers!” and I suddenly knew that the company should be called Brave Writer. That was June 2000.

3. I met Dr. Peter Elbow—in person—my mentor in all things writing. He affirmed my work, he invited me to his event and home, and has become a friend. Think: meeting Bono or Bon Jovi, and you’ll know just how mind-blown I am that I count him among the people I can rely on in my life today.

2. I love our Homeschool Alliance—the membership community where our members take life-transforming steps as parents, educators, and awesome adults. It’s the best place on the Internet, in my mind, and I hope it outlives me by 100 years. I’m especially proud of it.

1. The best memory of my 20 years comes from our day-long Cincinnati Brave Learner Conference in July 2019. It felt like a true celebration of everything I believe in, our entire gorgeous community, and a valuing of home learning unlike any I have experienced before. We are the ones we have been waiting for—you are the brave learners!

What a 20 years! Here’s to the next two decades!

2019 Brave Writer Staff Retreat

Brave Writer 2019 Staff Retreat

by Jen Holman

“Oh my gosh!” Julie rounded the corner with a platter of cookies in hand, looking stunned. “It sounds like a sorority in here! I could hear you laughing from the entrance!”

To which of course, we laughed.

We were sitting in the dining room of the empty retreat center in Cincinnati, the night before the Brave Writer Staff retreat. Yep, we were loud. And only 5 of us had arrived. 

The next day our delightful coaches and staff —you know them, those funny, smart, engaged women who interact with you and your kids every day—would begin to trickle in. Some drove with families in tow. Others took a solo journey for the first time since their kids were born. Some coaches traveled together, relishing in the chance to catch up and chat on the way. 

Laughter multiplied. Hugs exponentialized. Joy overflowed. We all have a really cool internet friend we wish we could meet in real life—this was like that, except thirty times over! Coaches and staff greeted each other like old friends, despite being the first time they were meeting in person. 

But you should know, our coaches and staff didn’t just come for a good time. These women came ready to dig deep! They’d done their homework (literally). They were ready to share and learn and grow. 

Since we only had a few days together, we started that very night. We shared our work experiences and the strengths we bring to teaching. We talked about our Brave Families and what they need. (That’s you! We talked about you, the whole time. <3 )

That first night I could already feel the STRETCHING taking place in the room. New connections, new perspectives, new approaches were being shared. 

Session Speakers: Kirsten, Jen, Julie, Jeanne, Farzana, Johannah, and Dawn

Believe it or not, Saturday took us even deeper. Kirsten Merryman navigated us through practical coaching strategies and how to keep growing in our teaching. We got “on the ground” feedback from coaches about what they see happening in our classrooms (oh, how you and your kids amaze us!). We discussed how to represent ourselves and our values at work in a way that makes our feedback richer, more impactful and helpful. We renewed our dogged determination to bring writing relief to families. 

We got to learn from our fearless leader, Julie, as she walked us through Brave Writer history, its evolution to now and through to the future of what she sees ahead. Along this path she showed us again and again how nurturing actually does lead to a college-ready education in writing. We nodded along in mutual commitment to take fledgling writers from uncertainty, resistance, intimidation to pride, power, and proficiency. Our mandate.

There was some down time. There was Graeter’s ice cream. We laughed, we cried. In true Brave Writer fashion, there was freewriting, as well as Poetry Teatime. And sometimes dancing.

Our last morning focused on self-care (do your stretches, ladies!) and how to use our retreat experiences to inspire growth in our “real lives” back home. Reluctant farewells came too soon, as one after another we left for our cars, Julie’s backyard, or the flight rescheduling desk at CVG.

I’m already nostalgic over the whole experience! It’s quite something to have been in the company of a pride of lions, even for a little while. Or maybe we’re more of a bevy of swans, as one coach said. It’s impossible to come up with the proper metaphor here because I have to tell you: these women are ALL that. Strong and fierce. Graceful, eloquent, and kind. Committed and brave. We’re so proud that they work for Brave Writer. And that they spend their days working for YOU.

Writing Coach Interview: Caitlin Rose Myers

Brave Writer Coach Caitlin Rose Myers

Continuing our series of interviews with our marvelous writing instructors, here’s the latest installment: an interview with Caitlin Rose Myers!

Caitlin Myers is 32 and lives in Ellicott City, MD which is near the outskirts of Baltimore. She was homeschooled by her mother, then chose to apply to and attend a magnet high school in Literary Arts where her poetry took off. She earned two BAs from Oberlin College in Creative Writing and English as well as an MA in Literature from The University of Arizona. She loves Romantic and Gothic literature but will never stop reading YA fantasy novels in between her classics. While she started out teaching composition to college freshmen, Brave Writer is definitely more her speed. 🙂


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


What kind of a writer were you in high school?
I was a poet, primarily! I had a journal that I carried everywhere and that I filled up with snippets from songs that I loved or new adjectives that I discovered. Then I would weave them together into short descriptive poems in first person.

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
I would love to be the “moonstone” crayon. Those are my favorite precious stones. I love how they somehow can look white at one moment and then reflect rainbows the next.

What is one of your favorite classroom moments?
My first poetry teacher had us journal for fifteen minutes at the beginning of every class with soft music playing in the background. I try to recreate those moments regularly.

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The Writer’s Jungle Online: Meet Our Veteran Coach!

The Writer's Jungle Online: Meet Our Veteran Coach!

Ever find the ghost of public school past lurking on your left shoulder? It whispers to you, “Hey the local schooled kids are writing academic essays in third grade. What are you doing?”

Many of us are haunted by papers with red ink scrawling across hard-won sentences and paragraphs, circling mistakes and crossing out awkward phrases. We don’t want to treat our kids’ writing the same way, but we don’t know any other approach!

Here at Brave Writer, we’re ready to help you navigate an entirely new approach to giving support and feedback to your child’s writing.

Our writing coaches bring their personalities and positivity to the classroom while they form their own rapport with each child—and with you! Our instructors are professional writers who teach your kids by coming alongside your children and talking to them like fellow writers.

Best part: We’ll show you how to do that too! No red pens needed!

One of our most popular writing coaches is Deb Bell. She’s a veteran here at Brave Writer. Her training in theatre arts, multi-sensory learning, and learning challenges (like dyslexia and ADD) give her a versatility that wins her students over. We hear over and over again that those reluctant writers are racing to the computer to see what Deb has to say in response to their work.

You can see why.

She talks to our kids about their obsessions, connecting with them and modeling vivid and dynamic language. Her feedback here about Minecraft does a lot to establish her credibility as a writing partner:

When we bring a story to life, our readers get to experience it as if it is their experience. Through the writers in this class I’ve built a shelter, but failed to get the door “on” before mobs attacked, I’ve helped battle an Ender dragon for his egg, found diamonds, built a custom home of lapis lazuli, and I’ve ridden a roller coaster mine cart on a rickety track!

Concrete writing instruction is woven into reassuring responses, to help the writing grow while honoring your child’s voice. Even simple details are noted and drawn out:

Student: The last time we had steak as a whole family Robert still had his old grill and we still had our old white plates. Andrew and Celia still lived at home.

Lovely. You are showing us that it’s been a while; we assume that now you have new plates, and that Robert has a new grill. As well, my mental image of the family around the table is now populated with white plates. Every detail adds to the three-dimensionality of the scene for me. Good.

Can you imagine the RELIEF in having a partner like this to help you work on your child’s writing? It can happen right now.

Join Deb for an injection of joy and progress in writing with your kids!

Register Here for Deb’s Classes

Learn more about Deb Bell

The Writer's Jungle Online

Writing Coach Interview: Susanne Barrett

Brave Writer Coach: Susanne Barrett

Continuing our series of interviews with our marvelous writing instructors, here’s the latest installment: an interview with Susanne Barrett!

In the wee small hours, Susanne scribbles away, writing blog posts, poems, journal entries, story ideas, to-do lists, academic studies, etc. A former bookseller, she delights in collecting quirky quotations, dip pens and ink bottles, empty journals to fill, antiquarian books, and just about anything related to Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and jolly ol’ England. The most intriguing classes she taught at university include World Lit I (Epic of Gilgamesh through Canterbury Tales) and guest lectures on Medieval Women Writers and Shakespeare’s Henry V. In her 21st and final year of home educating her four “kids” from K-12, Susanne hopes to have more time for writing by candlelight and for reading many, many books.


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


What kind of a writer were you in high school?
In high school, I mostly wrote poetry. I discovered the joys of reading and writing poetry due to my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Sebastian. My favorite poems remain the ones he recited from memory for us: “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” by Poe, “Birches” by Frost, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot (and yes, he recited the whole thing!), “in Just—“ by e. e. cummings, and too many Emily Dickinson poems to count. Mr. Sebastian also taught an elective class in creative writing, and there I learned to write poetry—mostly free verse heavily influenced by Dickinson—no surprise there! In fact, many of the poetry forms I teach in the Playing with Poetry Workshop I first learned in Mr. Sebastian’s class.

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