Where Are They Now? Jemma Swift, Author of Forever Riders

Nov 20, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Authoring a book is an intimidating prospect. And if it’s illustrated, that introduces even more challenges. For Jemma Swift—homeschooled student, first-time-author, and sister to co-illustrator Eliza Swift—”intimidating” was not in her vocabulary. Oh, and by the way, Jemma is just ten years old!

Jemma has a deep love for horses and for adventure stories. One day she decided to combine her two loves and write her own adventure story featuring horses. She honed her writing skills, utilizing what she has learned through her training with IEW, to write a book, Forever Riders.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Jemma, Eliza, and their mother, Maren, about Jemma’s newly published book.


Maren, when did you start using IEW in your homeschool?

I bought Teaching Writing: Structure and Style two years ago and watched it over and over in the summer before school started. My husband, who is a pastor in the Minneapolis area, also watched it, was amazed, and fell in love with the whole program. It helped him deliver his sermon messages more effectively. I talked to someone at a homeschool conference, and they said I could use a theme-based book to start teaching since I had watched the teacher course (TWSS). We used Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons our first year to coordinate with our study of ancient history. Last year, we used Medieval-Based Writing Lessons, and this year we will be using Geography-Based Writing Lessons* using the Hollings books.


Jemma, have you always liked to write?

I didn’t know I liked to write until I thought of writing a story on the computer. (It’s way easier than handwriting.) I wanted to do something during my ten minutes of computer time. Then I realized I really liked it! Mom said I could have more time if I wanted to write a book. I had written a lot of picture books when I was younger, and we put them all together.


How did you think of this story? Is it based on real-life events?

The first part about the horse show is based on a blank storybook I wrote when I was six. Then I changed it a lot. It had a lot of misspelled words, and the descriptions were pretty bad. I used the first part from that and then just kept writing. The story is about three girls and their horses. They have adventures, sometimes life-threatening, and always help each other get out of their problems.


What was the most exciting part about writing this story? What did you enjoy the most?

Making the characters the way they were was a lot of fun. The first two, Jesse and Ellie, are like Elise and me, ages 8 and 10, but they aren’t sisters in the book. Jesse Brook lives in the city of Blooming Prairie. We found out later that there really is a place named that! She likes to be up high on her horse, has blond hair, and usually wears a ponytail.

Eight-year-old Ellie lives on farm, is shy, has blond curls, and always remembers what her mom tells her to do in times of trouble. Jesse and Betsy are always panicking, but Ellie knows what to do.


Have you always loved horses? Do you ride?

Yes, we ride them. Our first pony ride was when we were really little and rode Shetland ponies­–-you know how they just ride around in a circle? The first time we had a trail ride on a real horse was at River Valley Stables. We had a birthday party there. We collect horse books and just love horses.


How did the idea of publishing a book come about?

(Maren) More and more as we did IEW, Jemma enjoyed the writing process and continued to write during her free time. She would send us links to her Google Docs of stories. We were commenting about her great use of style and were able to interact with her about her writing. I saw it was coming together really well and had the idea of pulling the stories together in a collection. They were all stringing together, and we thought it would be perfect as a children’s chapter book.


Do you plan to create a series around this story?

(Jemma) I’m not sure. Everyone wants me to write another book, but I haven’t started writing anything else yet. It’s been taking up our time to publish this book.


Maren, do you think IEW helped Jemma? If so, how?

Tremendously. It’s been a huge help in equipping her with tools she can use to take her thoughts and what’s in her heart and transfer them onto paper and communicate articulately. Before, the stories were charming and sweet, but very simple. IEW has given her the tools she needed to vary sentence structure, use stylistic techniques, etc.


The launch party for Forever Riders took place in Minnesota on September 30 with a book signing, an ice cream social, and a drawing for trail ride tickets and a box of Marguerite Henry books. You can bet there were some excited young writers in attendance, ready to try their hand at creating and publishing an adventure story. Although you may not live near enough to have attended, you can check out their website and blog. They would love for you to stop and check them out!



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