Literary Ladies: A Picture Booklist

My daughter is my mini-me. She spends her days drawing and writing books. When I say she writes books, I means she truly is crafting books just like I did when I used to create slightly plagiarized versions of Beatrix Potter's stories. She folds and staples the pages together to make the cover and pages for the inside of her latest title. Maybe "Fitz Learns to Swim" or "The Lost Tea Cup," which have been two of her latest endeavors. You can imagine her excitement when I bought her these.

And so, I think it's important to encourage her imagination not just with quality art products and quality literature, but also the stories of women who've gone on before her. Women who were once girls and were equally enchanted by stories and scribbled away with ink and feathered pens.

So today, I'm rounding up some of my favorite picture books about literary ladies to share with you, just in case you have your own authoress in the making.


Agatha Christie (Little People Big Dreams series) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

The Little People, Big Dreams series is delightful and I was so pleased to find Agatha Christie's biography included. We discover how she became something of an expert at poisons (as a nurse during W.W. I) and how she came to develop her famous sleuths, Poirot and Miss Marple.


Lucy Maud Montgomery by Alexandra Wallner

When Montgomery rediscovers an old manuscript that she had tucked into a hatbox, little does she know it will be the making of her career. Anne of Green Gables is such a favorite book and TV series it's wonderful for kids to find out the "story behind the story" and where the idea came from, as well as more about Montgomery's life.


Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus

Harper Lee is somewhat of a literary mystery. She withdrew from any sort of publicity after To Kill A Mockingbird and kept to herself the rest of her life. I really enjoyed this picture book and the wonderful illustrations. I didn't realize how much the characters mirrored her own life. My favorite little tidbit the book shares is that Lee and Truman Capote, as children, took turns dictating stories to each other while the other typed them out.


Ordinary Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the queen of biographical picture books, so you will find more than one title by her on this list. This new book about the life of Jane Austen is made even more charming by the ink and watercolor illustrations of Qin Leng.


Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker

My boys loved all of Virginia Lee Burton's books when they were little. Anything that had big machines in it inspired interest. Also, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was one of the first books we bought them, because it was also one of the few picture book my husband remembers and loved. This a lovely whimsical story that shares how Burton's two boys inspired her interest in picture book writing. I had no idea she was already an accomplished artist and dancer too!

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of the Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson (Not pictured)

Before Beatrix was a famous children's book author she was just a girl who loved to draw animals. Charmingly told, this is the mostly true story of how she borrowed an guinea pig and it all went terribly wrong.

Blossom to Blossom Logo + Business Card


I had the pleasure of working with Cora, the owner of Blossom to Blossom, this spring to create her logo and business cards. Cora is a floral container gardener serving Baltimore and the surrounding area. You can often find her beautiful container gardens beautifying local business store fronts. Cora wanted to incorporate some of her favorite colors into the logo along with a feature flower, filler flowers, and a trailing vine.

You can find Blossom to Blossom on Facebook as well as on Instagram if you want to check out Cora's floral designs!

Note: Sensitive contact information was taken off the back of the card for privacy. If you are interested in Cora's work, private message her through her social media accounts.

Me Too

I've known Ashleigh for a long time. She was one of my first "blog friends" back when I got started in this thing called blogging, and we've been able to meet in person twice. She was my editor when I contributed regularly for her website, Ungrind and now she's just published her second book, Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard.

To go along with this new release (and it's so good--I'm still in the middle of reading it) Ashleigh is giving away a copy of her Ebook, Me Too: More Stories of Faith, Community, and Braving Sorrow Together to those who subscribe to her mailing list for weekly encouragement.

I was privileged to contribute my own story to this free download. In this companion publication to Ashleigh's new book, you'll discover the power of hope and community in the lives of those of us who've experienced divorce, infertility, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, and cancer, among other struggles and difficulties. 

If you or someone who know is experiencing sorrow in their life, I highly recommend Ashleigh's book and this companion Ebook.

As C. S. Lewis wrote, when "grief is great. Let us be good to one another."

Get your copy of Me Too here.

Gracelaced: A Review

Gracelaced Ruth Chou Simons

I was excited to receive an advanced copy of Ruth Chou Simons' book, Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart. I eagerly sat down to read the first chapter, "Dwell" and it hit me right where I needed encouragement.

The scripture was from Psalm 91:1-2: 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

In that chapter Ruth asks, "What are the false shelters in your life?"

I immediately knew the one I was struggling with the most.

Over this past summer two of our children were diagnosed with learning disabilities. My emotions have been a mix of grief, relief, disappointment, as well as seeing a new path forward.

But what was also revealed to my heart was that I have a false shelter of education. 

Don't get me wrong, education is important. And I already knew I struggled with this in my own life. I'm aware I have a driving desire for productivity and accomplishment. This propelled me to be on the Dean's List every semester in college, to graduate magna cum laude, to enjoy a job in an academic institution, and to continue my creative pursuits after having children. Nothing is wrong with any of that! But my default is to feel "less than" when I'm not being productive.

I didn't think I'd put this on my kids. But I had. Even if only in my own mind. And this summer definitely revealed that I'd made a false shelter out of academic accomplishment. And it's been a good journey to let that go.


I interviewed Ruth back in 2015 for my Women Who Create series. You can read that interview here. I have long been a fan of her writing and beautiful art work. So I was super excited to get ahold of an advanced copy to review. 

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from the book. I knew it would be beautiful, but what would the content hold? I more than pleased to discover it is an exquisite book with 32 short devotional readings arranged by season.

Ruth encourages readers to become deeply rooted in God's faithful promises by:

resting in who He is
rehearsing the truth He says about you
responding in faith to those truths
remembering His provision to sustain you, time and time again

It's definitely a book I'm going to come back to again and again. Because I know my journey in getting rid of false shelters isn't over yet.

Gracedlaced Ruth Chou Simons


Ruth's book releases September 1, 2017 (this Friday!).

If you are interested, pre-order today and you can register to receive some wonderful pre-order goodies right here.

You can get your copy by going to
Amazon book link
Barnes and Noble:

Ruth Chou Simons is an artist, writer, entrepreneur, and speaker. As creator of the popular GraceLaced online shoppe, blog and Instagram community, she shares scriptural truths daily through her hand painted artwork and words. Ruth and her husband, Troy, live in New Mexico and are grateful parents to six sons- their greatest adventure.


Mason-Dixon Trail Rebels

My husband, Josh, is a ultra runner and had been asking me for a long time to design a logo for his trail running group. Finally, I had a chance to start creating their logo! 

They are using the logo to promote their group to help build up a local community of trail runners. They will be using it on various social media platforms, as well as creating some products in the future, like hats and stickers!

I don't get to do logos that often anymore, so it was a really fun project.

Earning Enough Grace, Part 2

TheFellowship We are continuing our conversation about spiritual abuse with Sara Roberts Jones. Click here to read Part One.


What do you most want readers to come away with after finishing your book?

I wrote for two audiences:

  1. Those who went through an authoritarian Christian system. I wanted to validate what we went through, to show why we feel torn up and broken even though it’s hard for others to see it.
  2. Those who just see the shiny outside and don’t understand what it’s like to live in a highly restrictive, demanding system like this. They shake their heads when survivors are angry, reactive, and often leave the faith altogether. Outsiders shake their heads and say, “They shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Just take the good and leave the bad!” I hope my novel shows what is going on under the surface.

I did not write it for people still caught in the system. Even if they want to “get out,” my book will just put them on the defensive. The humor is too snarky and I focus heavily on women’s empowerment (which the patriarchal world considers a major threat to their system). While I tried to write each character sympathetically, I am not at all sympathetic to a Christian authoritarian/patriarchal worldview and didn’t pull my punches.

I love how you ended your novel with hope and recovery but it was not a tidy ending. All wrongs were not righted. Do you have any resources or suggestions for other people who may have experienced spiritual abuse themselves?

Find a good counselor—someone who understands spiritual abuse. My counselor was a Christian, but someone who understood not to say to me, “You should get into God’s Word and seek Him!” or “Follow these steps to recovery.” It was very healing to be able to talk to someone who was trained to listen, and who never took my words as evidence that I was sinning.

I share a list of books that have helped those struggling with spiritual abuse over on my blog. It can be found here.

What have you learned about God's love and grace that you didn't know when you were part of ATI?

Grace is not some “power to obey” that God hands out to people who are good enough. Grace is God himself—covering our sins, healing us, carrying us when we’re too tired to go on. It’s what kept me from walking away from him altogether. It’s a major theme of my novel: Grace means you don’t have to be good enough.

What are some of your favorite novels, or what are you reading currently?

I confess I haven’t read much at all during the three years it took me to write and publish this novel.

My husband recommended I read Wearing God by Lauren Winner. I’m going through it very, very slowly. She’s not my style at all, plus it’s basically a devotional book which I’m allergic to. But I gave myself permission to read it in small portions, and skim when I think she gets too wordy. It discusses less-noticed ways the Bible describes God—I’m reading about “God as clothing” right now. A refreshingly different approach to knowing God.

When I do read for fun, I’m a big Young Adult fan. I enjoy Diana Wynn Jones, Patricia Wrede, and Mary Hoffman (her “Stravaganza” series).

This blog post lists some of the books that directly influenced The Fellowship.

I’m always glad to pick up Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, Dave Barry, and Patrick McManus.

P8Where can we find you online?

I’ve got several articles on

I blog for Home School Legal Defense Association.

On Facebook, Sara Roberts Jones Author.

And you can purchase The Fellowship on Amazon.

Earning Enough Grace, Part 1

TheFellowshipI first met Sara Roberts Jones when we were housemates with three other girls for six months during an internship in the Northern Virginia area. She had a southern accent, loved sweet tea, and introduced me to the Sense and Sensibility soundtrack. We have been friends ever since. Sara loved to write even then, and was working on a fantasy novel when we lived together. So it was an honor to get to peer read her novel, The Fellowship, prior to publication! I must admit I was a little nervous. I knew she was a great writer, but when you're reading the work of a friend who has put a lot of time into their project, you really want to like it!

I didn't need to worry, because I quickly become engrossed in the plot and was soon reading it--not as a favor for a friend--but because I sincerely wanted to find out what happened to the main character, twenty-year-old Bekah.

It’s not easy for twenty-year-old Bekah to return to the Fellowship of True Christian Churches. Church authorities dictate what she wears, who her friends are, how she falls in love, and what she can do with her life.

But Bekah hopes to show the “Fellowship girls” a bigger future to live for, while staying safe within the boundaries of the church.

Then Bekah learns of a long-buried secret that left an abuser unpunished and free to prey on more victims.

She’s always been told that if they all remain faithful, the Fellowship will protect them from the world. But who will protect them from the Fellowship?

Sara's novel tackles a heavy topic: spiritual abuse. However, Sara is so witty and sarcastic both in person and in her writing that she balances this dark topic out with humor and grace. Excited to be able to welcome Sara to the blog today!

Can you introduce us to yourself and your family?

I’m 39, a Mississippi native now living in Virginia. I attended public school until I was 14, and then was homeschooled for high school using Bill Gothard’s ATI program.

Darren and I have been married for 15 years. We’ve got four children (two girls, two boys) ranging in age from 14 to 6. We homeschool all of them, and I do mean “we.” When I began writing my novel, Darren took over the school planning, about half the instruction… and all of the laundry.

This is your first published novel, but you’ve been writing for a long time. Can you share a bit of your writing background and how the idea for The Fellowship came about?

I wrote my first novel when I was 17. It was about a princess who had to go into hiding when rebels took over the country. The heroine was passive, the hero overly gallant, the villain annoying, and the plot… well, there wasn’t really a plot. It was a terrible novel. I adored it.

When I was 21, a former public school teacher got me a job at the local newspaper. I was completely out of my depth, writing about city council meetings, county supervisor meetings, doing interviews, typing up local news. But I learned as I went.

During the baby/toddler years, I kept a blog just to be able to write something. Then I got my nerve up and contacted the editor of a local parenting magazine with an idea for an article. She liked my article, liked my blog, and I freelanced for that magazine for five or six years.

So when life settled down enough that I could seriously look at starting a novel, I was already primed and ready to write.

You tackle a weighty issue—spiritual abuse—in an engaging and even exciting way. How do you think your novel might have a unique perspective on this topic?

Most novels that deal with spiritual abuse and cult-like societies are usually bleak and hopeless in tone. There’s a lot of angst, anger, and horror. Very little warmth or humor. The society is weird and harsh. It doesn’t look anything like our normal everyday life. The protagonist is almost always someone who lives in the system but wants to break free.

The books are good to read in the sense of understanding what some people have to endure—but the world they create is alien. It’s not one that your ordinary American Christian can relate to at all.

I told my story from a different angle.

First of all, like many “cults,” the Fellowship doesn’t really look like one at first. It’s a fairly boring, if slightly odd, church. Even its theology sounds pretty good on the surface. (It’s that “complete obedience” that’s the kicker. No matter what a group looks like on the outside, if there’s authority without accountability, you’ve probably got a cult.)

Secondly, life in the Fellowship isn’t all gray gloom and horror. The family and friendship ties are very strong. There’s also a warm sense of belonging. Humor helps people cope with the high demands of an abusive system, and there’s a lot of it—mockery and sarcasm being the most subversive.

And thirdly, I was intrigued with the challenge of showing why someone would go back into the system. That’s what my heroine, Bekah, does.

Of course, she goes in thinking she can fix some of the problems that she sees. She doesn’t realize that as soon as someone points out problems, that person becomes the problem. The Fellowship doesn’t change; it merely grinds down its opponents.

But my own story is one of recovery and hope, so that’s the story I told in my novel, too.

Can you share a bit of your own personal experience and how that played into how you developed your story?

When my parents decided to homeschool me at age 14, they chose Bill Gothard’s ATI program. It looked great and promised great results—Godly young people who obeyed their authorities and changed the world.

I learned quickly not to question anything, because questioning authority led directly to God’s punishment. The God I learned through ATI was angry and vengeful; the only way to avoid his “correction” was to make commitments to high standards. Obviously I never could keep all of these commitments perfectly, so I lived in constant fear of God’s wrath.

Even when I got married and walked away from it all, these ideas lived on in my head. Then I reconnected with other former ATI students on Facebook and found out that our stories all had the same elements in them. I desperately wanted to tell our stories of brokenness, legalism, and hope for recovery.

(And a small part of me really wanted to explain to my many longsuffering friends why I was so darn weird during those years.)


We are going to continue our conversation with Sara tomorrow. Hope you'll come back to join us!


P8Where can we find you online?

I’ve got several articles on

I blog for Home School Legal Defense Association.

On Facebook, Sara Roberts Jones Author.

And you can purchase The Fellowship on Amazon.

Inspire: Women Who Create | Sarah Mackenzie Interview

InspireLogo You're in for a treat today! I've mentioned many times that the Read-Aloud Revival is one of my very favorite podcasts.

Sarah Mackenzie is the founder and delightful host of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast and community, where the tagline is: Build your family culture around books. She is also the author of the newly released book, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace.

You can find Sarah on the web at her main website, Amongst Lovely Things, where you can find links to her blog and all forms of social media. You can also sign up for her e-magazine there. Or you can check out the Read-Aloud Revival site, which is full of past podcasts, printable show notes, and video workshops.

But for now, let's welcome Sarah here today!



Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?

Of course! I’m a homeschooling mama of six—my oldest is 13, my youngest are 2-year-old identical twin boys. My husband Andy and I (and the whole pack of kids, of course) live in the Pacific Northwest.

I do a lot of writing, a lot of coffee-drinking, a lot of talking (too much probably).

Your book, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace, was just published right when a new school year is getting ready to kick into high gear! It can be a time when homeschool moms can feel overwhelmed. Why did you write this book and why do you think it will benefit other homeschoolers?

The very unglamorous truth is that I wrote this book because I needed to read it. I was at a particularly stressful point in life—homeschooling my three older kids, taking care of a 1 year old, pregnant with twins—and I found myself hitting my knees hard that year in desperate prayer.

I had first been introduced to the idea of “teaching from a state of rest” by Andrew Kern from the CiRCE Institute, and I’ll honestly be grateful to him forever for it. The first time I heard him talk about it, I thought the idea was laughable, but maybe that’s because my soul recognized something I so deeply needed.

The next year I spent a considerable amount of time seeking out what “teaching from rest” might look like for an overwhelmed overspent homeschooling mama and processing it all the way I do best—by writing. That’s where the book came from--out of my own need to live it.

If my book encourages one other homeschooler to remember that her success is not tied to the results she gets—to how well her kids come out at the end, how many of them get fabulous SAT scores or even get into adulthood with a lifelong love of learning... If I can perhaps remind a homeschooling mama that her one true success comes from being faithful to her work each day, then the book will do what it’s meant to do.


I must admit the Read-Aloud Revival podcast is one of the most encouraging and inspiring resources for me as a literature-loving parent who wants to pass that love onto her children. How did the idea of starting a podcast come about?

Goodness, I don’t really know where my ideas come from- they kind of spring upon me uninvited and then I have to do something with them or they won’t leave me alone.

Since the time I heard my very first podcast, I’ve thought hosting a podcast would be incredibly delightful. There’s a big part of my extroverted personality that struggles as a homeschooling mama, at home with my kids all the time. I just knew I’d love podcasting as a way to reach outside of my walls.

At the time I was trying to decide what to do with a blog series I had been running on my site that was losing a bit of steam. It was called Read-Aloud Revival, and though there were several of us there chatting in the comments and encouraging each other, I had this vision for making it bigger and better, but I wasn’t sure how.

I followed an impulse and shot an email out to Andrew Pudewa at the Institute for Excellence in Writing to see if he’d be up to being on my (non-existent) show, and he said yes! So then I had to figure out how to podcast!

And then the Read-Aloud Revival podcast was born! The Read-Aloud Revivalers are my favorite people on the planet. I just love the community that has risen up out of the movement.

As a writer and podcaster you are constantly producing. How do you nurture the creative process?

If I’m not reading or living my real life, then the ideas literally dry up. The one thing I have to do when I’m feeling short on creativity is step away from my work and dive deep into my real life. I need lots of time for reading and for doing the ordinary things like washing dishes, weeding the yard, playing blocks with the babies…otherwise the more authentic part of my creative side just wilts and I can’t move forward.

I read a lot. I keep a commonplace book to collect quotes and thoughts and ideas that spin around in my head. And I set aside time every single day to write.

For other women who may be interested in writing, blogging, and podcasting, do you have any resources—either inspirational or practical—that have helped you?

I’ve been really inspired by the work of Todd Henry (, Jeni Elliot (, and then watching other people who are doing work that I admire, like Tsh Oxenreider ( I love watching what other inspiring people are doing and thinking about whether I could translate it and make it fly in my own world.

The big two things I would suggest to a woman who is interested in writing/blogging/podcasting is:

-Make the effort to find or create a mastermind group, a group of like-minded women who are about at the same stage of writing/blogging/podcasting you are, and support each other. I depend on my mastermind peeps so much- they have been a big encouragement to me. I make almost no decisions without consulting at least one of them. 

- Set aside time for your work, your art. When I try to be mama and writer at the same time, bad things happen. Bad parenting AND bad writing. It’s just a lose-lose. For a long while, I woke at the crack of dawn to get in some time before everyone woke up. Now I actually do a trade-off with my husband, but before that was possible, I relied on naptimes and bedtimes to get in some work. For me, a clear delineation is really necessary for me to feel like I’m doing my best work and like I’m a whole, sane person. 

I know you’re the first to say you don’t “do it all,” but with six kids, homeschooling, speaking, writing, and podcasting, your plate is full! So in order to get all these things done, why don’t you tell us some of the things you DON’T do.

  • Anything, absolutely anything, that you see on Pinterest. 
  • Hands on history projects or involved schoolish projects of any sort.
  • Homestead-ish kinds of things: gardening or canning or the like.
  • TV. Except Downton Abbey (of course).
  • DIY types of home decor or crafts or whatever—I just can’t get excited about those.

How are you feeding your soul these days?

Reading! I’ve got some good ones on my nightstand in my to-be-read-very-soon pile:

Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalie Sanmartin Fenollera

I have Bittersweet loaded onto my Kindle and The Awakening of Miss Prim is on my Amazon wishlist! Sounds like we enjoy the same sort of books. On that note, like you always ask your guests at the end of your podcast, if you were stranded on an island, what three books would you take with you?

Oh gosh, I hate answering this question—it’s so hard! It gives me so much sympathy for my podcast guests to be on the other side of this question.

It probably changes every day. Today it’s:


Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Sarah! Appreciate your work!

Thank YOU. It was fun to answer them! 


For other posts in the Inspire: Women Who Create series check out:

Christie Purifoy Interview | Author Ainsley Arment Interview | Founder of the Wild + Free homeschool community Ruth Simons Interview | Artist, Shoppe owner, Blogger Ashleigh Slater Guest Post | Author

Inspire: Women Who Create | Christie Purifoy Interview

InspireLogo I first discovered Christie Purifoy's writing when we were both contributors to Pick Your Portion. From there I discovered her blog and started following her Instagram feed. It was from Instagram I discovered that she actually lived a mere hour away from me.

One Friday night last autumn I drove to Christie's Victorian farmhouse for pizza and conversation. Kindred spirits from the start, there were no conversational lapses as we discussed gardening, writing, favorite books, and theology.

Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature at the University of Chicago before trading the classroom for an old farmhouse and a garden. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and four children and writes regularly at Her first book is forthcoming from Revell. Connect with her and discover more about life in a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst on Instagram, facebook, and twitter. It is with great pleasure I introduce Christie as inspirational "woman who creates" and interview her here on the blog today.


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?

I grew up in Texas, married my high-school sweetheart at 19, and moved to northern Virginia a year later. We lived in Chicago and Florida before moving to southeastern Pennsylvania almost three years ago.

Our road to parenthood was a little slow and bumpy, but, today, we have two sons and two daughters, ages 11 on down to 2. My firstborn and older daughter prayed for a sister for many years. Our youngest, Elsa Spring, was the answer to her sister’s prayers. She has brought the sweetness of spring into our family.

Can you share about your journey from a literature and composition professor to a blog writer?

I spent almost a decade earning my PhD in English Literature at the University of Chicago (along with birthing three babies!). My dream had always been to become a university professor, but the closer I came to realizing my dream the less suited I felt for it. However, I never, not once, imagined becoming a (non-academic) writer, let alone a writer of Christian spirituality. Now I know that the deepest desires of our hearts can sometimes remain hidden even from ourselves.

God set me on a new path through a painful process of pruning and purging. Old dreams died before I could quite glimpse new ones, but, today, I am living a dream-come-true. I only needed God to show me what my dream truly was.

You have a book coming out next February! Can you tell us a bit about how the book came about, its inspiration, and the process to becoming a signed author?

I began blogging four years ago. I had taken what I thought was a short break from teaching at the University of North Florida in order to write a memoir about meeting God through infertility. I was very hesitant about blogging but felt I had to do it if I were ever going to be published. The surprise was that blogging became a great blessing in my life even as my interest in publishing that first manuscript faded. Through blogging, I became a better writer, I gained the friendship of other writers and creatives, and, eventually, I wrote myself to a new book idea.

When the timing was right, the door to publication opened quite quickly. A friend introduced me and my book proposal to her literary agent, I chose a publisher and began writing in earnest last September, and the book will be released by Revell next winter.

Inspired by the first four seasons we spent in our Victorian farmhouse here in Pennsylvania, the book is for anyone who aches to feel at home in the place where they are. Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth, and this book is about seeking and finding that inheritance.

You’re a mom of four with a two-year-old still at home. What practical encouragement can you offer other inspiring writer mamas about juggling writing with young children? What has the writing process looked like in your family?

It’s hard. I won’t sugarcoat that. At the same time, God is faithful. If he calls us to a task, he will equip us to complete it. The key is to trust him for that, even when schedules and circumstances feel impossible. And when some quiet space for writing opens up – seize it.

More practically, I have always used babysitters. Also, my husband’s work schedule is flexible. If I have a looming deadline, he can often rearrange his day to give me more time alone in which to work.

I look forward to having all four of my children in school so that I can devote every morning to writing, but I also know that when that day comes I will miss my babies. Fiercely. Having such a large age gap between my oldest and my youngest has taught me what we all know is true: they grow up in a flash. I will have years for writing and while writing is a priority even now, it is not my only priority. For now, I am incredibly grateful that on some mornings I can leave writing behind in order to take my little girl somewhere fun.  

I know from reading your blog that you are an avid gardener and nature lover. How does nature inspire you personally, spiritually, and/or as a writer?

Growing up in Texas, I hated being outside. Too hot, too sticky, too many bugs. But I also longed for it. Mostly, I satisfied that longing through books. The Secret Garden was a favorite. One reason why I feel so at home here in Pennsylvania is because the climate is more hospitable. Perhaps not in January, but I do love long walks in the snow.

Nature – and a garden, especially – is restorative for me. Cutting flowers or listening to the wind in the branches of a tree is almost like a baptism. I feel the old, dead things being washed away (fear, worry, busyness, noise) and I am filled with quiet, with peace, with beauty.

Gardening is hard work, but it is a different kind of work. It seems to use all of me – body, mind, heart – and it feels more like worship. I think it comes closest to the way God always intended work to be. According to Genesis, our first job, after all, was to care for the garden God had made.

What do you enjoy when you have down time? Favorite family activities? Favorite authors?

When I’m not gardening, I’m reading. I read gardening books, but I also love classic literature, cozy mystery novels (Louise Penny’s books set in Quebec are favorites), nature writing (Orion journal is excellent), and Christian spirituality (I adore Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks journals). And I love sharing books with friends. You can find lots and lots of my book recommendations on my blog.

Anything else you want to share?

I always prefer poetry books to advice books, so, with tongue firmly in cheek, I would love to offer your readers this advice on growing the garden of your dreams (which is also everything I know about how our dreams come true):


Thank you for sharing with us today, Christie!

For other posts in the "Inspire: Women Who Create" series check out:

Ainsley Arment Interview Ruth Simons Interview Ashleigh Slater Guest Post

Inspire: Women Who Create | Ainsley Arment Interview

InspireLogo Last September I had the opportunity to go with good friends to the Wild + Free Conference. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. I wrote about my experience here. I met the founder of Wild + Free, Ainsley Arment while we were there and started following her on Instagram. It's been amazing to watch the Wild + Free community grow through Instagram. It is a community largely made up of homeschoolers, although that is not a necessity and not every participant homeschools. Ainsley came to mind when thinking about Women Who Create because she is cultivating a community through Instagram, conferences, and digital media that is quite inspiring to me. I hope you will find her inspiring too!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?

I was born on the campus of West Point in New York and graduated from college in Greensboro, NC followed by a few years outside of D.C. and Atlanta. Other than that, I’ve lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for all my life. I don’t feel like I’m home unless I’ve got sand between my toes and saltwater on my lips. I live here with my husband Ben, our four children Wyatt (10), Dylan (8), Cody (5) and Annie (2), along with a Pomeranian named Clementine we rescued from the highway. We’re expecting our fifth child, another little girl, this August.

What influenced you to begin your homeschooling journey?

I put my oldest two boys in the public school system when they were in kindergarten and first grade and they did great. But after having them gone for most of the day, I realized I was missing out on the most formative moments of their lives. I wanted to be a bigger part of it. Plus, I started seeing their dispositions change, and it wasn't always good. I didn't feel the need to protect them from other people per se. I wanted to preserve their sense of wonder, their innocence and their uninhibited view of themselves.

How did you become inspired to create a conference for homeschool moms? How does the Wild + Free Conference differ from most of the other conferences out there for homeschoolers?

Wild + Free has been an unexpected journey. I started posting my own homeschool photos on Instagram and quickly saw there was huge resonance among other mothers out there. The conference was our first attempt to gather this community, and it was a great time. I’ve never attended another homeschool conference, so I’m not sure how it differs. I suspect our community is more focused on what we call intentional parenting and raising free-range children. Plus, we just have some really great women in this community. =)


You’ve mentioned that Instagram was influential in igniting the idea of the Wild + Free conference; can you tell us some more about that?

Everything we do comes out of the community we’re building on Instagram. It’s a place where homeschool mothers from all over the world can connect and encourage each other. The conference is an important but very, very small part of what we’re all about.

How did the quote, “All good things are wild and free” become the quote to inspire the Wild + Free community?

I’ve always loved this quote from Henry David Thoreau. He said it many times in a lecture called “Walking,” which contends that our experience in the civilized world needs to be balanced with the wild. We believe this to be true of our children. So much is lost in their character and experience when they’re confined to sterile classroom environments.

What do you hope women who attend the conference walk away with when they leave?

We certainly want them to walk away with practical homeschool insights and favorite practices. But most of all, we went them to come away with deep friendships. Homeschooling is often a lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a flourishing community of women who are eager to support and encourage each other.

Putting together a conference seems like a big task! Did you have experience in organizing events prior to Wild + Free? What have been the biggest challenges and joys in putting together this conference?

No way! I’m just a mother of four, soon to be five, who is trying to figure it out as I go along. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert who gets worn out quickly by social interaction. But now that we’ve organized one conference, I know what NOT to do. =) I couldn’t pull this off without the help of so many wonderful friends and supporters, and that’s the best part of it – the friendships I’ve made. We’re not experts, but we’re in this together. The experiences are going to get better and better the more we do.


You also put out Wild + Free monthly bundles. I’ve bought two and they are beautifully photographed with great interviews, recipes, ideas for book clubs, and nature journal inspiration. Why did you decide to create bundles on top of putting together an annual conference?

I’m not good at a lot of things, but one thing I love to do is collect, research and curate things. The Content Bundles are a wonderful way for me to serve the homeschool community with my own gifts. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t write or photograph many of the pieces at all. I leave that to the women out there who are so gifted with words and images. But I love bringing it all together into a beautiful collection each month.

What hopes do you have for the future of the Wild + Free conference?

We’re taking this one step at a time. It’s all I can do to homeschool, curate the Content Bundles and care for my own family. But we do have some big plans for the conference. You’ll find out more on the Wild + Free Instagram feed soon.

When you’re not busy homeschooling or working on Wild + Free, what do you like to do in your free time? What inspires you personally right now?

I don’t have much time outside of homeschooling and Wild + Free, but when it comes to love languages, I’m a quality timer, so I love spending time with my husband and kids. We go to the beach a lot in the summertime and play lots of games by the fireplace in the winter. I’m a voracious reader, so I read novels every chance I get. But I also keep a garden in the backyard where I’m learning to grow our own food.

Thank you Ainsley for sharing with us today!

Ainsley would like to offer any of my readers your own FREE Wild + Free content bundle to check out! You can download it here.

For more information, you can follow Ainsley and discover more about the Wild + Free Community online in the following places:

Wild + Free Website Wild & Free Instagram Ainsley Arment's Instagram