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Virtuous Daughters: An Interview with Tiffany Schlichter

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By Jean Hall

Where do I start? That may well be the most frequently asked question in any writing project. Let us begin by introducing a writer. Tiffany is a fifteen-year-old homeschooler, the oldest of five children, living in a rural area of Texas. When she was eleven she started with an idea that grew over the following months, from handwritten pages to typewritten sheets to published book.

I was thinking of all the books for the moms and dads, but there were none for the kids. And since I had a love for writing anyway, I thought maybe I should encourage other home school students in their walk by the tid-bits I had learned.

She worked steadily at her writing in her free time--during the “school year” she works on academics from early morning until lunchtime, and then has assigned chores--and finished the book at age thirteen. Eighteen months later, her book was published just about the time she completed eighth grade.

The book that resulted is titled Encouragement to the Home School Student. When asked to describe the book, Tiffany said,

I tried to encourage young homeschoolers to press on in their work, be grateful to and honor their parents, to love and make best friends of their siblings, to be diligent in all they do, and to grow in the Lord through prayer, Bible reading, and trusting in Jesus. Each chapter is packed with Scriptures to back up everything that I have said. In the back of the book, there is a homeschooler’s journal, and “Press On!” section (where the kids can look up a topic and find Bible verses on it). This book is geared to students ages 5-12.

How did the book grow from idea to published product?

The book began simply, jotted in a spiral notebook, but Tiffany soon found herself frustrated, “because I thought faster than I wrote.” She moved to the family computer, where, she said, “I was able to type about as fast as I could think.” (Mental note to self: Time to dust off “Mavis Beacon”.)

In her own words,

I had a little bit of experience in writing to others because I had been writing a “Virtuous Daughters” newsletter to some girls my age, and they had always really enjoyed it. So I knew what kind of material home school students liked to read.

I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about the actual writing process; it seemed so easy as I look back—I just thought of topics, pulled out my Bible and typed, thought, back-spaced, and typed and thought some more! After I wrote the actual book, I printed it up for my mother to read and she was the overall editor. She proofread the entire book, and marked the things that needed correction. I then made the corrections and mailed a copy to two friends who read the book and told me how they liked it. I was able to get their personal opinions and see what it would be like for another student to read it. The book was then put on hold until we could find a way to publish it.

I asked her about the help she had received in working on this project, besides her mother’s proofreading. She answered,

Had it not been for the help I received, I would never have written, never mind published this book. First of all, there was Christ who was constantly giving me words to write. I only wanted to write things that would glorify and honor Him, and He gave me the right words at the right times. Also, there were my dear, loving parents.

My father was the one who encouraged me by listening to me, believing in me, and giving me suggestions. If I had questions, even questions that were kind of too soon to be asking—like “How will I publish it?” (when I was still working on the first page), he would answer each one in a thoughtful and encouraging manner. He was always telling me to keep going, keep trying. Never give up.

And then there was my dear, gracious mother who lovingly gave up her time to work with me on the book. Whether it was fixing mistakes, or trying to change the format so we could actually publish it, she was there. Preparing the manuscript happened to turn into a mess, and I was exhausted, but my sweet mother kept on working, all hours through the night. “Come on, Tiffany! We’ve got to get it done—you’ve come this far.” She kept me going when I might have given up in hopeless despair.

As you see, Tiffany had her priorities straight and her focus on the Lord, and she did the bulk of the work. Her parents provided encouragement, support, and guidance along the way. After the book was finished, what was the next step?

A postcard in the mail was the catalyst, bringing the idea of self-publishing to Tiffany’s attention. She sent off for more information, from which she learned how to format her book and prepare the manuscript for publication.

Formatting the book took some time and patience, but at last it was ready. They found a self-publishing company on the Internet, uploaded the book, and chose a cover and typeset. Tiffany was able to preview the finished product before finalizing the order.

According to Tiffany,

Self-publishing involves a lot of work on the person who writes the book as they do everything—from typing it themselves, to choosing fonts and clip art, to designing the copyright page—all the publishing company does is copy the author’s work, and bind the book.

Then came distribution, for once you have a published book, what do you do with it? Tiffany advertised the book through her monthly homeschool daughters’ newsletter and through ads in support group newsletters as well as by word of mouth. She was also able to place her book in local bookstores.

What has Tiffany learned in the process of writing and publishing a book?

I learned the values of dedication (stick to a project once you start it), thoroughness, reasons to do it right the first time (I realized that when we were having to readjust a number of things to prepare it for publication), I learned how to type faster and more accurately, and I learned some general computer skills as well. I also learned how important it is to use the right words—how to use a thesaurus—and what a handy tool it can be!

It took me one year to write the book, and it was two years after that the published product was sent to our home. It was a wonderful experience for me, and I am working on my second book, which I hope to publish in either 2005 or 2006. The money that I earned from my last book has been saved in a bank account and it is my plan to use it to publish my next book.

What sort of girl writes a book, and publishes it?

Tiffany’s favorite colors are blue, pink, and green... but that’s not what you were wondering about, is it? Her mother says that exhortation and love of writing are among Tiffany’s gifts, as is quite evident in her enthusiasm and articulate expression of her thoughts. In addition, it is clear that the Lord has a prominent place in her life.

When asked how God is at work in her life, Tiffany responded, “It seems that God is always working in my life, teaching me something new. But lately He has been reminding me to do all in His name, for His glory, and with a good attitude.”

The thing that has always sustained her is at all times trusting in and loving Jesus. Her advice to other young homeschoolers: “Make Him your ALL. And, trust in, love, and respect your parents. Make them your very best friends. They have much knowledge and wisdom to share that we don’t even know of.” She concluded by saying that in honouring our parents we will be blessed beyond measure.

I was curious about what she’d chose to “do over” in her life, if it were possible, and what she would keep the same. Her main regret? Not taking some of her schoolwork seriously enough in the past, so that she finds it more of a struggle than she thinks it should be. In addition, she expressed a thought I’ve heard from people two and three times her age: “I would have studied for me, not just for the tests.” As far as something she wouldn’t change, she said, “I’m quite grateful that I have been educated at home from the beginning. I am also glad that I have made my siblings my best friends.”

What hopes or plans does Tiffany have for the future? Though she admitted she found the question overwhelming (How many at age fifteen know what they want to do with their lives?), she continued with the confidence of one brought up “in the fear and admonition of the Lord”, “I know I will continue my training to be a keeper at home (Titus 2).” But that’s not all. She has an idea for using the gifts God has given her. “In addition to this, however, I would like to “be” a free-lance writer. This means that I write and publish at my pace and from my home. Furthermore, I would like to self-publish the books I write.”

Not surprisingly, Tiffany’s favorite subjects are grammar and composition, reading, and history. Her least favorite are algebra, science, and geography. In her spare time she likes to sew, read, write letters to pen pals, or work on the current book she is writing.

I love to sit at my desk in my bedroom, listening to the wind chime right outside, and look out the window as I write. My projects are usually a current book, a letter for a friend or relative, or my newsletter “Virtuous Daughters”. Each month I write and publish this newsletter for young ladies and girls, so I spend plenty of time working on it.

This is a local newsletter, started about three years ago as a ministry to other girls. At the beginning it had a circulation of half-a-dozen subscribers but has grown since by word-of-mouth. Subscribers supply stamps, Tiffany puts the newsletter together, and her family take it to the copy shop once a month and mails it out. In addition to her own writing, Tiffany invites mothers and grandmothers to contribute Godly advice and encouragement for girls and young ladies, and issues have also welcomed contributions from readers, and have included an essay contest and a poetry contest.

“But,” you say, “that sounds so simple! My child could put together a newsletter like that, and send it out to friends...” Exactly. There is an old proverb that says a long journey begins with a single step. Encourage your student to use the gifts provided by the Lord! You may find yourself caught up in the foundation of a publishing house, if one of those gifts is writing...

For more information about the “Virtuous Daughters” newsletter, please send an email to
LindaBemis@cebridge.net.

Jean Hall, a Christian home educator with three daughters, enjoys writing stories and music. Her family's interests include reading together, art, gardening, volkswalking and pets: two chinchillas, a rabbit, a fish and fond memories of a German Shepherd

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