From Expert to Author: Jenny Hanlon on Writing her First Book

Jenny Hanlon on the (sometimes messy) process of writing her first book.

For local parenting consultant and author Jenny Hanlon, raising a child and writing a book have a common thread: Both are processes of discovery that require patience, openness and a solid set of guiding values for when the going gets tough.

A licensed child and family educator and longtime preschool teacher, Hanlon started Jenny Hanlon Consulting after she had her kids and noticed a lack of parenting resources between basic parent-child classes and mental health counseling. After years of blogging, public speaking and leading classes, Hanlon was inspired to write a book that would empower parents to define and live the values that guide their families.

“I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Hanlon says. “I was doing a book study with a fantastic parenting book, but kept hearing that people were feeling worse about their parenting, not better; I felt like there needs to be a book out there that isn’t going to leave people feeling that way.”

Even though she had a clear vision for the book’s message, the process of writing it was “quite daunting,” she says. “I felt too young, like I needed my kids to be older to have proof that it all works.”

Hanlon credits the support of her husband, Jason, and the patience of her kids Ian, 13, and Maya, 12, with her success as an author, but notes that the year it took “writing obsessively” to finish the book was “not my best parenting year, ironically.”

It was, however, a necessary crash-course in the art of writing: “I’d write a page and want to go back and edit, but I learned in the process to just write, don’t worry about editing.”

One of the biggest challenges Hanlon faced was accepting that she couldn’t control how her work would be interpreted by her readers. “When I’m speaking, I have a sense of the audience, but with the book I don’t, so I got bogged down by, ‘How are all of the different people potentially reading this going to interpret this section, this paragraph?’”

Hanlon found that the process of writing the book mirrored its premise: The journey isn’t always easy, but having a good compass makes it a lot easier to stay on track.

Published in 2012, Your Family Compass: a Parenting Guide for the Journey has sold about 850 copies, mainly through word-of-mouth. “I use it all the time in my practice,” Hanlon says. “I planned for it to be a book that will be relevant to parenting no matter when someone picks it up.”

Your Family Compass ($20) is available at Valley Booksellers in Stillwater and online at, and the author’s website here.