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About the Episode

JR Kopenski joins us today on the podcast to share about her experience writing, illustrating, and self-publishing a children’s book. We chat about her creative process, self-publishing adventures, and the pure fun of sharing stories with kids.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Self-publishing Children’s Books
  • Illustrating Children’s Books
  • DIYing all the pieces of the publishing journey
  • Pen Names
  • Different marketing techniques JRK has used

    GET JRK’S BOOK ✅CLICK HERE👉 https://amzn.to/3se87zS 

    About My Guest

    When she isn’t writing, you can find JR Kopenski making a homemade latte, traveling to new places, or kayaking on one of the lakes or rivers near her home. She’s a plant mom and loves all things cozy!

    Grab JRK’s books



    Click for Transcript

    JR: [00:00:00] It took me quite a few times I rewrote it and then I was like, could I draw this? And then, it just kept falling into place. And then I finally published .

    [Title Slide]

    Rachel: welcome back to the podcast. Today I have with me Becca Kopenski and Becca, just thank you so much for joining us and coming on to talk about your children’s book that you both wrote and illustrated, as well as your journal that you published too. We’ll get into the details of each of those.

    I think it’ll be really fun conversation. I haven’t yet interviewed anybody who has actually illustrated their children’s book as well as wrote it. So it’ll be a good conversation I think that we’re gonna have today. It’ll be an interesting one.

    So first, before we get into all of those questions about business decisions and marketing decisions, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself.

    JR: Awesome. Rachel, thanks so much for having me. I’m so excited. I, yeah, so I am [00:01:00] 28 years old. I have had a lot of different jobs in the last few years as I’m leading up now.

    I’ve just joined full-time ministry and so that’s, I am literally two weeks out from moving and starting my life completely over in a new state and all that stuff, and so I just kinda,

    Where are you headed?


    Rachel: Oh, fun. I did an internship right after college in Minnesota, so

    JR: Oh, cool.

    Rachel: Kinda got a little special spot in my heart for Minnesota.

    JR: I know. Same. I, was I’m joining their discipleship program as staff, but I was a student in it in Minnesota back in 2014. So I’m like, it’s like part of me is I’m going home like.

    Rachel: Full circle moment.

    JR: It really, it does it a lot of full circle moments, but Yeah. But I’ve been as far as writing and stuff, I’ve been writing ever since I was a really little girl.

    And it’s just morphed from a paragraph story to short stories to semi long short stories to now I’m a published author. So [00:02:00] it’s, been a really awesome journey over the last two decades of my life.

    Rachel: I love to hear that. I love to hear that. Like I can hear it in your voice, your love for writing and love for storytelling, and that’s always fun.

    I think it’s fun to have conversations with other people that are as much love with storytelling as I am, because I love a good story.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: I just think there’s something so powerful about communicating ideas and truths.

    Through the me, the medium of storytelling. And I think that it’s so neat that we have examples of Jesus doing that in the Bible with the parables.

    JR: Yeah

    Rachel: I just think it’s like a unique thing that we get to steward as writers and to be able to steward that creativity. So I just love talking to people.

    JR: Yeah. Same.

    Rachel: Who love storytelling.

    JR: Same.

    Rachel: So how did you decide to publish this cuz you self-published this children’s book and you both wrote and illustrated [00:03:00] it.

    And so what kind of led you to that moment where you made that decision to self-publish it?

    JR: Yeah. I, love the story of how Silly Jenny and the Great Jelly Bean Heist came to be. It’s some I love talking about it. So I wrote the short story of Silly Jenny it was like two paragraphs long at that point.

    It’s probably maybe like total three or four paragraphs now, but it was very short. It was a few years ago when I was working at an afterschool program through the Y W C A and I, one of the like programs that I would do with our elementary students was a writing group cause gotta do my passions with them.

    And so we would do like these, like writing prompts and stuff. And so the one writing prompt was, it was like, it was called Roll a story. So you would take a dice and there was like three like columns. So there was like the, like your main character, there’s a setting and then what happens? And so I rolled the dice three times and found on the chart and like my prompt [00:04:00] was a dragon and a jelly bean factory fights aliens.

    And I, I remember my initial thought was like, “What am I gonna write about?” I’m like, ask me to write a story about an FBI agent, or ask me a story about a prince rescuing the princess. Like I’m on it, I’ve got it, but I’m like a dragon and a jelly bean factory.

    Okay. And so like I wrote this short, really short story. And then put it away. And I didn’t look at it for a year or two until 2020 when Covid happened.

    Rachel: I feel like Covid caused a lot of damage.

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: But it also a prompted a lot of people to get in touch with their creative selves.

    JR: It did. Yeah, so the afterschool program that I was working at, like a lot of things changed that year. Like so much of our jobs changed.

    And I found that I had some extra free time at work. And so I was like I wanna be busy, so what am I gonna do? So I was typing up old stories so that like I could have them at least on my computer.[00:05:00]

    And I found silly Jenny’s story, and I was like this would be a really cute children’s story.

    Rachel: Yeah.

    JR: And the rest is history. It, took me like quite a few times I like rewrote it and then I was like, could I draw this?

    Like I used to draw all the time when I was a kid and then like I became an adult and I just stopped doing that.

    And so it I, tried drawing a dragon and it took me like, 6 different dragons to get to where I finally found one that was like, this doesn’t look scary or too goofy. This looks like what she should look like.

    Rachel: Yeah.

    JR: And then it just was like kept falling into place. And then I finally published and I was like

    Rachel: So you decided to self publish. Did you use Kindle Direct Publishing? Did you use KDP? Or did you go Ingram Spark, or what did you end up deciding to do?

    JR: Yep. I went through amazon, so KDP.

    Rachel: Okay.

    JR: Yeah, it just seemed like it was the easiest thing,

    Rachel: The simplest thing to do. Yeah. I know [00:06:00] sometimes I have heard different coaches and people who are a little bit more into the, they teach you how to do the self-publishing stuff.

    That’s not necessarily what we talk here in the space that I have. But the people who talk about it and like it’s their, thing, they’re, they suggest to start on K D P because it’s the simplest to navigate, like uploading and that whole backend side of things.

    But for those of you who are listening who don’t know what KDP is, KDP is Kindle Direct Publishing. It is the platform that Amazon uses for their print on demand publishing. So what happens is you do all the backend stuff, you write the story, in Becca’s case you illustrate the story, you design it, lay it out you get a cover, all that stuff, all those files get uploaded to KDP and then when somebody orders through Amazon, they print the book then once it’s ordered, so that way you don’t have to have inventory or [00:07:00] do fulfillment.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: So it is helpful in that regard. But

    JR: Yeah,

    Rachel: Just a little side note for people who might not know what self-publishing through KDP actually is. So you illustrated it and uploaded. So you had to do the layout then – did you hire anybody to help you with that or did you figure out how to make those files and everything?

    JR: Oh yeah. Lot of trial and error. I probably uploaded and re-uploaded it to KDP like 30 times because one little thing would be off.

    Rachel: What did you use to design it?

    JR: Oh, Microsoft Word.

    Rachel: Oh my word. You were like determined then, because that is not an easy thing to do layout in.

    JR: No, it was not.

    Rachel: I was expecting you to say something like Canva or or InDesign or something like that. But to, take something that’s heavily illustrated and put that into word that’s impressive that you were dedicated enough to make that happen.

    JR: And it did three times. Cause that’s what I used for all, [00:08:00] three of my things.

    Rachel: Oh wow.

    JR: I think the journal I used Google Docs.

    Rachel: Okay.

    JR: And I was able to figure that and that was a little easier than Microsoft.

    Rachel: Yeah, that makes sense. So in order to do all that, in order to make that self-publishing decision, you have to put on that entrepreneur hat.

    Is that a thing that comes easy to you or is that something that you’re like having to learn the ropes and put yourself outside your comfort zone?

    JR: A little bit of both. Like when it comes to like social media marketing, I feel like that’s been pretty easy for me and like I enjoy it and it’s fun and I can do that. But like real marketing stuff or like doing ads and like really putting my name out there, like it’s, that’s a lot harder. And trying to figure out all of it, it, it’s been, it’s been a learning curve.

    Rachel: So did you know that you were going to go the self-publishing route? Was that a decision you made right away, or did you try going the traditional [00:09:00] publishing route first?

    JR: No, it was a pretty easy decision to just go straight to self-publishing. At that point, I, it was more of like a fun project. Like it wasn’t something that I was like, oh yeah, I’m gonna be super famous immediately.

    And I was like, I just wanna get this out there and for fun, and if something happens with it, like that’s exciting, but, I feel like back in 2020, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my writing just cause I had rarely ever shared that with people. All of my short stories were mostly for myself.

    There was a handful of friends that I would share it with, but it just, that was such a foreign concept to me. But I was like, this is fun and let’s, give it a go. And I’m, certainly not against going the traditional publishing route, but it definitely takes a lot more like finances, which yeah, was not an option for me back in 2020.

    Rachel: Mm-hmm.

    JR: And so I was like, I’ll just, I’ll start with self-publishing and maybe someday, like with the right like story idea, like maybe I will try the [00:10:00] traditional publishing route.

    Rachel: I like that you identified that at the time when you decided to put it out there, it was a project for you. It was just something in your heart that you wanted to share with people. Where do you feel like it kinda shifted a little bit where you’re like, oh, this is there’s, marketing involved, there’s an online business side to this. Like where did that shift from just wanting to share a story to now oh, I might need to learn about these marketing things so that I can get it to more people.

    JR: Yeah. I think when I actually was like, starting to sell like substantial amount of copies, yeah, I was I, don’t know. I did not really expect to get to where I am today, and I feel like I’m, still like, nowhere on that spectrum. I still feel like a, no name author, but like it’s when I think I hit that like 100 mark, I was like, oh, like there’s something to this. Like people are interested and people are excited about this and people are buying it.

    And I’m like, maybe maybe there’s [00:11:00] more to like my books and like actually putting it out there. And so I think it was after that point, I really did start doing more social media posts and trying to put myself out there.

    Rachel: Yeah. So what kind of marketing did you decide to go with that?

    JR: I’ve mostly done like, social media, so like putting. Like I have an Instagram and a Facebook, and so just building my repertoire on there. I’ve done a few like ad campaigns on Facebook. I don’t know if they were ever very successful, but I gave it a try.

    Rachel: And I feel like that’s part of this whole thing.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Like we just have to try things and see if they help us out. If they feel authentic to us, if they feel like something we wanna continue. If we feel like it’s there’s any return on the investment into the thing, we just have to try. All the things available to us until we find our thing,

    JR: yeah.

    Rachel: I love the fact that you’re willing to try things. Now you just casually mentioned like you got past the hundred mark, but I know that you actually [00:12:00] have gotten past like the 200 mark and how long has the book been out?

    JR: So it’s been like two and a half years.

    Rachel: Okay. Two and a half years.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And you really haven’t put like a whole lot of marketing behind it. This has been like word of mouth.

    JR: Pretty much

    Rachel: Organic, just interest in the story.

    And I think that it’s important to note that, because it comes down to two things, like organic selling of our books comes down to two things.

    It comes down to a good premise being told and a good cover design.

    And your ability to just share about it to the right people.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And so I guess it comes down to three things. I said two, but it’s three. So tell me what that story is about. The silly, Jenny and the, and the jelly bean factory. Sum it up in a sentence or two for us.

    JR: Yeah, so silly jenny is a dragon that has a jelly bean factory and a sneaky alien tries to steal her jelly beans and he actually does succeed, but it’s her like very mini [00:13:00] battle of trying to defend her her factory.

    Rachel: But I wanna point out a couple things there. One, , you Know that this is a story for little kids. You know that the whole point of the story is just to be silly.

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: You know who it is that you’re targeting with this. You know what the story’s about. You know exactly what story you’re trying to tell and then what, to whom to tell it. And you designed a cover that reflects all that.

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: And so I just, I think that when we’re thinking about organic growth or organic sales of our books we have to take that all into consideration. Who is it that we’re trying to sell to? What kind of book is this? So it seems to me like you know exactly who you’re writing to. You designed a cover that reflects that. You can sum up the story pretty simply. Like your goal is to not tell this elaborate, like deep theological story or anything like that.

    JR: Right.

    Rachel: You’re just wanting to have some fun.

    And you want the kid who’s reading it to [00:14:00] just feel some fun and laughter.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And so you’re. Premise. Your cover and your story deliver on that promise of laughter.

    And I think that sometimes we overcomplicate marketing. And that’s really what marketing is, right? It’s just saying, this is what I’m gonna do, delivering on it. Right?

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: And so you’ve been able to do that to the social media following that you have.

    To the social networks that you have even in your own personal life, like offline.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And so because of that, you’re able to have sold 200 books at this point. And I have to say most people don’t know this, but when you’re self-publishing, getting past that first hundred is actually really important, like a really big deal because you can hit the first hundred with just like friends and family, right?

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: But once you get past that, you’re past that immediate circle of people who are just gonna support you just because they’re supporting you. And now you’re into the realm of people who are like, oh, I heard about this book and I think I’m gonna check it out. And for most [00:15:00] the majority, unfortunately, the majority of self-published novels, they don’t get past that first hundred, but you’ve gotten past it to 200 with very little marketing.

    And so it’s only, it can only keep going from here, right?

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Like the more you learn about marketing and the more you put into it. But I think it’s really cool about your book is like you didn’t just write the story, you didn’t just stop there. You actually had a little toy designed from the, dragon that you drew.

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: And I just think they’re absolutely adorable.

    JR: I love them so much. Their like my pride and joy.

    Rachel: Do you sell those to people?

    JR: No, not yet.

    Rachel: Okay.

    JR: I looked into it, but

    Rachel: Okay.

    JR: That is almost just about as expensive as like traditional publishing and I was like, I’m not there yet. Someday.

    Rachel: Yeah someday.

    JR: That’s that is like the goal was to like be able to get a bunch of,

    Rachel: I think they’re adorable. I think people would

    JR: So cute

    Rachel: Would snatch those [00:16:00] off the wall.

    JR: Oh yeah

    Rachel: For sure.

    JR: Oh I’ve had a few people ask me like, oh, can I buy one? And I was like, yeah, I don’t have any yet, but

    Rachel: You gotta get there. You’re getting there. You’re getting there.

    JR: Yeah. Getting there. Someday.

    Rachel: Another thing you do have for sale is a coloring book that coincides with the, with the story.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Which is fun. Especially since your audience is more of a younger audience.

    And so I just, I think that’s just so smart that you’re not just keeping yourself to one book. You’re figuring out ways to expand on that story and capture people in different ways. And so I think that’s really a neat thing.

    JR: Honestly, the the, reason why I like made that coloring book was because I’ve done a lot not a lot, like a handful of craft vendor shelves. And so like, I wanted something else to put on my table other than just just that, or Something a little a little cheaper than the book, I’d be like, hey, this is a stocking stuffer, or something like that.

    Like just something else.

    Rachel: That’s smart.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: It’s smart. You’re like, you’re diversifying your product [00:17:00] line and giving different things, different options for the customer to purchase. And that’s really wise. So you also then published this journal and what’s the title of the journal?

    JR: The 100 New Challenge Journal.

    Rachel: And so are there challenges in the journal or is it just a, like a record keeping journal?

    JR: It’s basically a record keeping journal. So all the pages are labeled, experience one through a hundred.

    Rachel: Okay.

    JR: And there’s like a handful of questions like, what did you do? Did you do it with anybody? What was the date like? Was it fun? Was, it funny? Was it like hard? What is that? And then there was like four stars at the bottom to or five stars at the bottom to rate this experience. And then the back page is just lined like lines for extra notes.

    Rachel: That is so cool. And did you design the cover for that? I saw it and I was like, that is a fun cover.

    JR: Yeah. I did design it and then I had an art artistic friend, make it do it on her computer so that it [00:18:00] looked way more official than, my, like drawing.

    Rachel: So you are resourceful. I, have found most writers, if they wanna tell their story and they wanna get it, like if they’re really driven to get something into hands of somebody, they will get resourceful and they will find out a way to do that. And I think that it’s important to note that, because sometimes it can be really easy, especially when we start doubting our storytelling abilities, to be like it’s just hard. It’s just really hard. And so I’m, it’s an, it’s a reason why I pull back and I don’t do the thing that I feel called to do. And it can be a way for us to avoid being obedient to God’s calling on our lives. And it can be an excuse that we give.

    But there’s really no excuse. Because if you really wanna figure out how to do this, there is some way for you to do it. And there is enough information out there to, learn from. Would you agree?

    JR: Oh, for sure. There’s even just in all of this like this adventure of like [00:19:00] self-publishing, there’s been like so much to learn. But like you have to make that decision to do it and then you gotta stick to it.

    It’s, hard, like even when I was drawing Jenny for the first time, like I, there were some scary dragons that I drew. I was like that, looks, that doesn’t look cute and fun. And I was like, I wanted to give up. Cause I was like, this is this isn’t worth it. I am, I’m not an like I’m not an artistic person. I wouldn’t even know who to like, reach out to or how to even do that about I’ll write it and somebody else illustrate it. And I was like, there’s plenty of opportunities I wanted to give up. But I was like, I just, I feel like the Lord knew no, this is something you need to like, push through and try it again. Try it again. Try it again. I was like, I feel like I’m the little engine that could. I can do this.

    Rachel: I love that little engine that could. Oh, that’s so fun. There’s just such a satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t give up too.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Like when we are in the thick of it and we wanna give up, it [00:20:00] can be so easy to just walk away from something. But then it’s like this thing that nags at us and it’s like the, like I put that down and I walked away from it and I have a regret over that.

    And I have this sense of like incompleteness, this sense of I have just left something undone that I was supposed to do. And it can eat away at you if you, if you don’t attend to it.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: When it’s something that you’re really, truly called to do.

    If you’re really called to do it. You cannot leave it undone for very long before it starts to eat at you. And so I think it’s just something that we have to acknowledge as writers, like in the middle of it, it is hard. But when you get on the other side of it and you hear that well done, good and faithful servant.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: There’s just such a sense of wow, I got to partner with God on something, and how cool is that?

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And I know your, book is not overtly Christian. It’s just a

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Just a fun kid story. But to you, I’m assuming, and correct [00:21:00] me if I’m wrong, that this feels just as much ministry as what you do on a day to day basis, right?

    JR: Oh, yeah. As I have been creating like this the journal and the children’s book and the coloring book I wanted to keep things like open for the masses.

    Not that like, children’s stories that are like allegorical to the Christian faith are bad. Like those have their place and they’re amazing and they’re beautiful. But that just wasn’t what like I was called to do, at least with these stories. Like I’m not saying never, I’ll never do that, but working with kids in like afterschool programs, I’ve seen how kids have such hard times like I grew up in a very like, sheltered home. Like, I never experienced half of what these kids go through and that was part of it. I just wanted something fun for them to distract kids from like the hardships of life.

    Like it doesn’t have to have a lesson, like you can just play and enjoy and have have a good time. And so that’s, that was the one of, one of the heart, like [00:22:00] things like behind the children’s book. But even like my journal, like the journal has a much more like spiritual like, undertone because of like how it came to be. But I still wanted it to be available to non-Christians. Like you don’t have to be a Christian to go try new adventures and try new things But there was a lot of like, my faith, started that and made it come to be. But I like didn’t wanna like force that upon people. You gotta be a Christian, or here’s I gotta force Jesus down your throat, just so you can understand why I created this journal.

    Rachel: So do you feel like, do you share, because I know you have two separate Instagrams and you use a pen name, which is actually. It’s just actually your name. You were telling me earlier.

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: It’s actually your first name. Or your initials.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: You go by your, a nickname of your second name.

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: Rebecca’s your nickname.

    JR: Yes.

    Rachel: So you go by that in your everyday life, but [00:23:00] for your author website, you chose to use your initials. Can you talk a little bit about that decision? Was it, like, kind where did that come from?

    JR: So when I was writing stories back in I don’t know, middle school or something I had always put them under a file called J R K narratives. That’s just something I’ve always done. Like I don’t really remember quite how I came up with it, but that’s where J R K narratives came from. And so that was like, that was like my obvious choice of like when I did become an author, I was like I gotta use J R K narratives and sometimes it still feels a little weird.

    I’m like, but I’m like, no, it’s my thing and I’m sticking to it. And it’s just been what I’m doing. But I wanted a little bit of separation between like my personal life and my author life. Not that like I care when people find out. I’m like, it’s not, I’m not trying to have this big secret. Even though a lot of my friends throughout my life would say that I was keeping a secret cuz they never knew my name, what my first name was. And then I’d be [00:24:00] like yeah, surprise Becca’s not my name. But yeah it was just mostly from that and wanting to have some separation for when I like, wanted it to. But I’m constantly like, like posting things on my personal, like Instagram and tagging myself on my like author stuff and like resharing all my author stuff. So it’s not like I’m even like, I’m like, “Hey, it’s me”.

    Rachel: Would you do it differently if you were to like restart? Would you have just one Instagram?

    JR: I’ve thought about that. Like I feel like it would be a lot less complicated than like posting and stuff. And maybe if I were to get famous or a little more like seen on social media, maybe I’d be like we’re just gonna do the one thing.

    Rachel: Yeah.

    JR: But then I that separation still of even for people even like friends and stuff that like, don’t care about my author stuff.

    Rachel: Yeah

    JR: Don’t have to see every single post, know?

    Rachel: Yeah. Makes sense.

    JR: Even though I still kinda post just as much, but

    Rachel: I know it’s, [00:25:00] really up to personal cuz I’ve had people ask me about that should I have two separate ones?

    Should I have just one? And like my rule of thumb is I keep things as simple as possible. So just have one is my personal opinion. But I also understand why people might want different ones. And I’ve contemplated it a couple of times over, like throughout the years. I’m like, should I?

    So I get it and it’s but it is, it’s a little bit more of a complication. But if it works for you,

    JR: Yeah

    Rachel: go for it. . So you go by JR Kapinsky on Instagram for your books. Like I said, I think it really has to do with personal preference on whether or not you use 2 Instagrams or not. Like, do you do anything else that has to do with your writing? Do you have a blog? Do you have a YouTube channel? A podcast? Anything like that?

    JR: I just have my website, so

    Rachel: Okay.

    JR: I’ll update that a little bit. But it’s, mostly all the information that’s been posted online now goes to my website.[00:26:00]

    Rachel: Okay. I wanted to ask you, you’ve now been through this process of self-publishing and you’re starting to get into the rhythm of being an author. You now have these three separate things to sell. Is there any particular tool that you are like, If you’re an indie author, you need to have this, or if you’re self-published, you need to use this. Or even just if you’re a writer in general, make sure you have this one tool. Do you have anything like that?

    JR: I think more, it’s more of a general, like just keep Googling stuff. Keep looking, like Pinterest has saved me so many times with giving me ideas for so many different things. And it’s like just keep like looking stuff up and keep like broadening your horizons of what you can be posting or how to post or when to post. I’m still learning how, like learning that, like when should I post my reels? Like when will they get seen the most? I’m like, I dunno. Just just keep looking. Cuz you never know what [00:27:00] you’re gonna find when you’re scrolling Pinterest over and over again or

    There’s there’s just so many resources out there that it’s just find what works for you

    Rachel: yeah. So other than social media have you done anything in addition, like in person, have you done any marketing stuff, like book tours or anything like that? Like

    JR: I’ve done a couple different little things.

    Rachel: Book launch?

    JR: Yeah. So I had, when I first published Silly Jenny my friends threw me like a little celebration of congratulations. So a bunch of friends came and I like read my book to my adult friends, except like two neighbor kids, like from the neighborhood, saw what we were doing and came over and were like, mmmm. And then like left and came back with money and bought some books and I was like, this is amazing. Like,

    Rachel: That’s so fun. I love it.

    JR: Yeah, I’ve also done some craft shows. Those are easy to get into and then having a little table display. [00:28:00] So I’ve done that. Recently, which is I think one of the best things I’ve ever done was a local library was doing a stuffed animal sleepover, and so I dropped Jenny off with them that night and then picked her up the next morning and they just did so many cute things with all the stuffed animals, which is like all these children’s stuffed animals. And I’m like,

    Oops, I’m an adult, but here’s my stuffed animal. So that’s been fun to kinda,

    Rachel: Have you been able to get your book into your library?

    JR: So I did. I gave them a copy of the book, so they, they were super excited and we had some good conversations. So, I still have to go to my local library, which I need to do before I move, but be like, Hey, here’s my book.

    Rachel: Yeah, for sure.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Okay I wanna ask you like, yeah, you have such a shiny personality and you have written such a joyful thing.

    What though – and maybe there hasn’t been, but I just wanna ask this – [00:29:00] what has been the hardest part of this writing journey and publishing journey?

    JR: I think when I published the journal this last fall, that’s been the most like vulnerable that I’ve been. Like, it’s easy to hide behind the mask of, I’m a children’s author and I’m happy all the time, and this is a fun story. And, but the journal came from a, much, not dark, but darker place of needing to share my heart with people.

    And even when I’m like posting like, reels or Instagram posts about my journal, It’s much more vulnerable because I’m sharing more of my deep heart of like the things that I’ve gone through. Which is mostly like, walking through grief In the last year and a half. I lost my grandma from COVID in 2021. And that was the first time it ever lost anybody I was super close to. And like I just, [00:30:00] it was super difficult.

    And but like once I started coming out of that and going through the grief process there was just like the reason why, so I, published this journal was because there was a moment in my grief journey where my nana loved cooking loved it. And we would always like cook together or I’d be like, go downstairs and she’d have like cooked this meal and ooh, don’t mind if I do. Thank you. And there was a moment, like a month or two after she had died that I was gonna try a new recipe and like part of me just was like, I don’t wanna do this. Nothing in me wants to make this because she’s not here to share it with me. And this is too difficult. And I was just like, I don’t want to. And I I had this moment where I was like, no, if I like choose to not do this, that’s not honoring her and her memory. And I don’t wanna let grief like stop me from living my life.

    Like it’s I’m like, I, because [00:31:00] I’m gonna let this will snowball. It’s not, it’s gonna turn into me not going out and having fun. Me not living my life just because I’m too sad because she’s not here. And so I made that conscious decision. I was like, I’m gonna do this recipe. And then it was like, you know what? I’m gonna do 70 new things in this new year. Cause this was in like December of 2021. So when I was looking at 2022, I was like, I’m gonna do 70 new things. I’m just gonna honor her by that, she would’ve turned 70 last year. And so it was my way to keep her close and go through the grief process and still live my life.

    And then I turned it into the journal like last fall when I was like, I feel like I wanna share this idea. Like this has been so helpful for me cuz like I, I hit the 70 items or like new experiences in October and I was like, I’m so glad I did this. Like this helped push me forward.

    It helped keep me like, living my life and not stopping and not just letting grief overtake me. [00:32:00] But like, sharing that has been the hardest cuz I I’m sure everybody knows being vulnerable with other people is really hard. Especially when you’re putting it on social media, you wanna put out like, everything’s fine. I’m fine, life is fine, everything’s perfect. And then it’s really, it’s Especially when you’re walking through grief, like nothing is fine. Nothing is perfect. Everything is falling apart. But like somehow I have to like still live my life. So what does this look like?

    Rachel: Thank you for sharing that with us.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And I think that it is important to make a note of those moments. A note of the things that are hard, harder because in the moments of celebration, the moments of celebrating, selling, 200 children’s books. Or a moment when it’s like, Hey, I launched another book into the world.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Even just that is a huge accomplishment. It’s easy to, like you said, just wear that mask of it’s fine, everything’s fine.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: When [00:33:00] a lot of I was just writing something down writing a story that I’m working on, and I wrote the sentence like, isn’t it how, isn’t that how life goes? Where we have both the exciting and fun and joyous moments. But then we also have the serious heartbreaking ones as well.

    And if we don’t have both, we can’t appreciate one or the other.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And so I, as you’re talking, I’m like your heart really is for people who are going through hard things to experience some joy in life. Like in your children’s book, that’s what you talked about. And even now with this journal, like at the heart of it, you want people to experience the goodness and like the beauty of life, even though they might be walking through some hard things.

    And so I just love your heart for your person you’re serving and the fact that it looks differently in the two things that you designed, but at the core of it, they’re both the same. Because I think it could be very easy for us to look at [00:34:00] and be like, Are you a children’s book author? Or do you make journals? Like

    It could be really easy I think sometimes for us, when we’re like in this whole marketing thing and they’re like pick a niche. Pick a niche. They’re like, we’re niche, or whatever you wanna call it.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And they’re like, you have to focus in. And I, I think when we’re crafting and creating stories even your journalist telling the story, it’s engaging your, your person that you’re making that journal for, you’re

    It’s like engaging them in the story. It’s inviting to them to continue to live a story.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Even in this hard time. Or maybe it might not be super hard for them, but

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Your goal is for them to live the story, right?

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: And I just think that’s a beautiful thing that you have identified and you’re not afraid to do. You’re like, I’m gonna, I’m just gonna serve these people that I have been called to serve in these unique ways. And not be afraid of how different they are from one another.

    JR: Oh, for sure. Yeah.

    Rachel: Yeah. So once again, thank you for sharing that cuz I, [00:35:00]

    JR: yeah.

    Rachel: I know that is personal and vulnerable and it’s always like we have to be vulnerable in order to be creative, but at the same time it’s absolutely terrifying.

    JR: Yep.

    Rachel: On that note, what piece of advice do you have for writers who are trying to do this whole writing thing. They’re engaging on this writing journey. They are getting to this publishing stage, and they’re navigating the whole business and marketing and all the things. What advice do you have for that person?

    JR: I feel like, it’s like twofold. One, don’t stop being a student, keep Google searching, like I was saying earlier, keep looking at Pinterest. Keep what are the mar, what’s marketing strategies? When do I post on TikTok? When do I do this? Keep looking at all of that because you never know when you’re gonna find what works.

    And just keep trying things and keep putting yourself out there. I was like thinking earlier of it’s like a fishing analogy of like when you’re going fishing and you’re like casting your bait, you might cast it 20 [00:36:00] times and you might only get three fish. But if you cast it zero times, you will get zero fish.

    Rachel: Yeah.

    JR: Like you never know and there’s been things I’ve reached out to different like places and either got rejected or got like, just ignored and which it’s fine. But then things have happened where it’s like even taking silly Jenny to the library, like that worked out and I was like, how fun was it? This is amazing. Like it worked. Or just. Kinda trying to develop that like thick skin of It’s okay if people say no. It’s okay if like they don’t like the book. Or it’s okay when kids grow out of it and then they donate it to the thrift store. And then your friend finds your book in the thrift store. And it’s I don’t know if I should have told you this, but your book’s here.

    And it was like, that’s…. I’m not upset, but that’s weird.

    Rachel: Yeah, I can imagine.

    JR: It’s just just keep trying. Even that’s that’s part of the heart of the, my journals. Try new things. And like this for me right now is trying something new. [00:37:00] I’ve never been an interviewee on a podcast. So I was like, like we always have to try new things. You never know what’s gonna come of it and that’s, the fun adventure of it.

    Rachel: Exactly. That’s the fun adventure of it. Thank you so much, Becca, for being on here with us today. Before we go, I want you to make sure to tell everybody how to find you. How can we support you?

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Are you working on anything new?

    JR: I’m always working on new things like. I’ve got ideas for pre sequels, for Silly Jenny, or even a prequel for Silly Jenny. And like I I have other children’s book stories that I’ve started. I’m I’m in a weird place with my life, but also like with my dreams. And I kind of wanna, I wanna take the next step and upgrade. Because, I don’t know if anyone like would know this, but I use Sharpies to draw a silly Jenny story, which worked, but

    I don’t [00:38:00] really wanna do that in the future. And so I’m looking, trying to be a learner. I’m looking into okay, what like tools do I need to upgrade my stuff? So I’m stalled in that regards. But I’m also working on a couple different novels. So there’s that. And I just have many hats of what kinda author I am. Cause I’m like, I don’t wanna just do one thing. And yeah. They’ll be in the coming years, there’ll be definitely more, stories which is exciting. But yeah, as far as social media people can find me at JRK Narratives. I have a website that’s jrknarratives.com. I’m on Facebook and Instagram as JRK narratives. And then my more personal or adventure like, Instagram is traveling Becca.

    Rachel: Okay.

    JR: Yeah.

    Rachel: Very good. Very cool. Thank you again for joining us on the podcast today. Thank you for sharing your writing journey. And thank you for just sharing your heart, for your [00:39:00] the things that you’ve created for people and the reasonings behind them.

    And thank you so much for just pulling back the curtain a little bit for us so we can just see the insights into what it is to be a writer, what it is to be a self-published writer, and the journey that we go on in this whole publishing thing that we are doing. So thank you so much for being on the show.

    JR: Of course. Thank you so much for having me. This has been so fun. It was so like, so glad to try this out.

    Rachel: And thank you for listening to today’s episode. Join us next week as we continue the conversation on the business of Christian Fiction. Bye.


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    Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!

    I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority. 

    You can learn more about how I’m in your corner here.

    And you can learn more about my personal journey here.

    One last thing, if you’re looking for a bit more rest in your life, be sure to check out the Rest & Reflect guided journal.

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