I’m so excited to share this interview with an author friend of mine, Brooke Benoit.
Brooke is the former Editor of SISTERS Magazine, a U.K.-based magazine for whom I wrote a few articles over the years. She is also the founder of The Big Reconnect Sleepover which hosts annual Muslim-focused international retreats throughout the year. Additionally, she gathers stories and guides from some of the best homeschooling parents in homeschooling-focused Fitra Journal.
In this interview, Brooke shares what led her into her line of work and some lessons learned along her self-publishing journey.
The Unschooled Early Years
Brooke is from the Bay Area in California. She unschooled herself for high school and started college when she was 15.
“My relationship with formal education is…discontented,” Brooke shares. “While I mostly enjoyed my college years, as I think everyone should have the chance to, I resent feeling forced to get a degree. They are very expensive in the U.S. and come with a lot of unnecessary work and headache.”
However, Brooke still appreciates the opportunity to explore her many interests, including studying fine art at San Francisco Art Institute before finishing a degree in rhetoric at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Brooke’s interest in media making began in childhood. When elected the editor of her junior high newspaper, it turned out to be a great fit for her skills and passion (much to her surprise)!
Brooke’s Self-publishing Journey
Brooke’s interests always fluctuated between the written word and visual arts, so magazine making was especially enticing to her. While it was in print, Brooke was an editor and content director for SISTERS magazine for several years. She’s also published a few titles under her own imprint including: How to Survive Homeschooling – A Self-Care Guide For Moms Who Lovingly Do Way Too Much, and the series Fitra Journal, written by and for Muslim homeschoolers.
Find Brooke’s titles on Amazon:
When it comes to Brooke’s homeschooling book series, the was inspired to start sharing knowledge and stories from other old-timer homeschoolers, mostly because A) people kept asking her and B) as a media maker, she knew people would appreciate the support she could put together.
“I don’t know why we don’t hear from more seasoned homeschool parents, but I suspect that by the time our kids are in their teens or college we are just so over it and ready to move onto reclaiming our lives,” Brooke explains. “Similarly, we don’t hear much from adults who were homeschooled, maybe because they don’t see the value in sharing what to them was just their regular life.”
She decided to self-publish because she knew she would be able to put things together fairly quickly. Especially when compared to the alternative of pitching and then waiting indefinitely for an agent or publisher to appreciate her projects.
“I, like most people, do not enjoy the self-marketing,” Brooke admits. “It’s a lot of work, loads of new skills to learn, and initially comes with many rejections and dead ends. Meantime, I just wanna write the next fun thing!”
Brooke shared that one of the hardest things to learn throughout the book publishing process was who to listen to and when.
“Everyone has an opinion, but not all are helpful, Brooke explained. “This is why it’s good to network with others in your field and be careful about which resources you use.”
Brooke sought out a number of trainings and videos since she began her own publishing journey. “I enjoy writers’ books on writing,” she shares. “I [also] really like participating in groups: it can be an effective way to get up to date information and consumer reviews of various resources, such as which print on demand service to use.”
As an editor, Brooke aims to make the editing process for writers as painless as possible.
“I see loads of work come to me without any editing at all, just straight from the writer’s head onto the document,” Brooke explains. She aims to show writers what things are most important to do and what other things are more about developing a personal style and tone in their writing.
“I really enjoy helping writers develop their craft,” Brooke shares. “I love when I work with a writer over time and see them taking real ownership of their work, getting it developed to the point where less external editing is needed.
Being good at self-editing just takes practice.” Brooke adds, “It’s not magic.”
Her advice to everyone, and herself first, is to slow down. “Yeah, I’m totally on the slow is the new productive tip,” Brooke admits. “Whether it’s slowing down to do some showing in your writing (giving the reader some juicy bits to savor) or slowing down to be really selective about who you send your preview copies to – just slow down and focus on the work at hand, it will give you better results in the end.”
Brooke’s got a lot on her plate at the moment including finishing up a self-publishing marketing course with Muslim Writers and Publishers, starting up a book distribution company along with the fabulous author and publisher Hajera Memon, and working on the memoirs she’s long wanted to write.
She’ll also be hosting the upcoming annual Muslimahs writing retreat in Morocco for the entire month of February (2019) where writers can drop in for as many days or weeks as they want.
“I know a lot of writers, especially women, struggle to find their footing with writing. They feel so much guilt for taking the time away from their families and/or work to enjoy their craft of writing,” Brooke confides.
“The truth is that writing is a unique skill not gifted to everyone, it should never be taken for granted or felt guilty about for using. I am so thankful for all the words written over the years that have helped me in measureless ways,” Brooke shares. “Writers are very much needed, so just write already!”
Brooke Benoit can be reached through her website BrookeBenoit.com. For retreats: TheBigReconnectSleepover.com and for homeschooling: FitraJournal.com.