Unschool Writing, Essays, and a Few Panicky Moments!

Imogen loves writing. It’s part of who she is. 

“When did you start writing?” I ask.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing.”

My second daughter was writing stories long before she knew how to form letters into words. It was no surprise to me when she announced she wanted to study writing at a tertiary level. 19 year old Imogen is now in her third and final year of a Professional Writing and Publishing degree at university.

So how did she get there? Did she learn to write by doing a structured course? What about spelling and grammar? Surely she learnt all about essay writing before she started her university degree? Going back a few years, how did she write before she even knew about letters?

I asked Imogen if she would chat with me about unschool writing for this week’s podcast. We discussed the above questions plus a whole lot more, and I found myself laughing over the memory of a few panicky moments. (Does anyone else have those sort of moments?)

This podcast runs for a few minutes longer than usual. When two people, who are passionate about writing, get together, it’s hard to stop them talking. Of course, writing is our turkey!

“Imogen, I’m writing a post to go with my podcast. Do you mind if I use this photo? You’re wearing your pyjamas.”

“That’s fine. At least I’m wearing one of my good pairs!”


That photo tells a story. I took it on our recent holiday to Canberra. Imogen was sitting on the sofa in our holiday cabin, with her laptop on her knees. It was early in the morning and while she waited to get into the shower, she was editing some of her novel.

Before I post the podcast, I’ll add the program notes which will all make sense after you’ve listened to this week’s offering.

Program Notes

Recommended Writing Books

So You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland

Revision and Self Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel that Sells by James Scott Bell

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell (We haven’t read this one but it looks interesting!)

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty (Recommended if you’re about to write your first NaNoWriMo novel.)

Imogen’s writing blog: Gossiping with Dragons

Writing Groups and Challenges

NaNoWriMo, Young Writers Program

Go Teen Writers Facebook Group
Go Teen Writers Blog

Now onto the podcast. It’s about half an hour long so have you got some coffee, and maybe your knitting? Here we go…

Unschooling Writing, Essays and a Few Panicky Moments!

You can also find me on my ;Stories of an Unschooling Family Facebook page!

Have you seen my children’s novel, ‘The Angels of Abbey Creek’? It’s now available from LuluAmazon and Barnes and Noble

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    • Vicky
    • September 25, 2014

    Very inspiring! Sophie and Immy would both make such good motivational speakers! I enjoyed listening.

    Well, now I'm interested in looking up these books as we work on our novels together. We haven't got much further than the first chapter and plot ideas as we've spent a lot of time reading about novel writing. I guess we should take Immy's advice and just write.

    Thank you both for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    1. Reply


      Oh yes! Perhaps you could just start writing and see where it leads. Once you have a draft copy you can improve it using some of the ideas in the book you're reading.

      I enjoyed talking to Imogen. I am so glad you enjoyed listening. Lovely of you to take the time to share yet another of my podcasts. Thank you!

    • Hwee
    • September 25, 2014

    I so need to listen to this podcast! Writing is one of those things that I feel we haven't gotten a handle on yet. I shall have to sit with my mug of coffee tonight to listen carefully!

    1. Reply


      Thank you so much for your interest in our podcast. I hope you find it useful!

  1. Reply

    What wonsderful pictures of Imogen grasping a moment to work in her pyjamas. It sums up all the good things about home (un)schooling.

    1. Reply


      I often say I don't have enough time to do all I want. Watching Imogen I can see I don't take advantage of all those little bits of free time that occur in the day. She takes her laptop everywhere and can often be seen tapping away at odd moments. Imogen did a lot of writing in the car on the way to and from Canberra. Yes, we are fortunate being able to dive into our interests at the start of the day without first getting dressed!

    • Eva
    • September 25, 2014

    Thanks for the links. My oldest daughter just told me the other day that she might want to be a writer. I will look into those books.

    1. Reply


      I hope you find something interesting for your daughter among the books in my list. I need to go back and add the links for NaNoWriMo. Perhaps your daughter could take up this challenge and write a novel during November. It's a good way to have fun writing, together with many other people.

      • Eva
      • October 19, 2014

      I think she prefers poetry right now. She has won a prize for two of her poems last year. My son is working on writing a novel on knights, but I have not seen it.

    2. Reply


      I'd love to be able to write poetry. Congratulations to your daughter on her poetry prizes. That's a wonderful achievement!

      • Eva
      • February 23, 2015

      Thanks so much, Sue. Charlotte was happy about the prizes.

  2. Reply

    That was so helpful. My daughter who is 13 is isn't keen on writing, she says she knows what she would like to say, but can't get it down on paper. How can I help her with this ?

    1. Reply


      I wonder if your daughter doesn't enjoy the mechanics of writing or if there is another reason she can't get her thoughts down on paper.

      The mechanics can be made easier with a computer keyboard and spell checker. My girls and I don't actually do much writing on real paper. I like being able to delete and revise as I write. Handwriting gets too messy for me!

      Perhaps your daughter is just not happy with the way she is expressing herself? I sometimes have trouble saying exactly what I want to say. I can't find the right words or sentences or I approach the subject from the wrong angle. It's frustrating and sometimes I wonder why I like writing! Imogen says that sometimes we get discouraged when our words aren't perfect first go. But they can be improved once we have something to work with. Or we can just accept them. Sometimes we become perfectionists, never satisfied with our work and this discourages us.

      Of course writing isn't the only way of recording things. Your daughter could try saying her story etc out loud. She could record it using Audacity (even make a podcast!) or make a video. She could transcribe the words later if she wants.

      There are lots of structures we can use when we write. Years ago, I was asked to write for a homeschool newsletter. I protested saying I'd never written articles before. At that time, I enjoyed writing lively letters so I was told to write the article as if I was writing to a friend. It worked.

      Maybe starting small could help too. When I'm tired, I can't face the thought of writing a complicated blog post. I look for a short simple idea to write about. (Actually one idea per post seems to work the best.) And sometimes complicated ideas are better expressed in a podcast where I don't have to worry about being concise and very organised. Could your daughter work on one point at a time when she is writing?

      Knowing what she wants to say seems to me to be a very positive thing. If we have something we want to share we will eventually work out how to do it.

      These are just a few thoughts. If I've misinterpreted your question, please let me know. I can try again!

  3. Reply

    Dear Sue, this was very encouriging. Thanks to both of you. This will help in my "panicking moments". I love writing too. My 3rd daughter once started writing for joy too. She writes diaries. I think it is good to know, there is no need to push a child. My boy is in to maths now. Not so much in to writing (yet). So we will see how things will develop.

    1. Reply


      Oh you have panicky moments too! I am not alone!

      It must be so lovely for you to share writing with your daughter. I really enjoy writing with mine. It's a great thing to share.

      Sophie loves maths but none of my other children were ever passionate about it. How old is your son? Does he like puzzles and games? Is he always looking at the world with mathematical eyes? I'd love to hear more about his interest in maths.

      Thank you so much for listening to our podcast!

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