Thursday, January 30, 2014

Interview: Maggie Hogan, Bright Ideas Press

Today's post is a LONG one!  This article was first published in the ABC Books Newsletter, Vol. 1 Iss. 1, in March 2005.  It is reprinted here with permission.  I will be reprinting articles from this newsletter from time to time until they're all online.  Thanks for reading!  Please feel free to share with your book-loving, collecting, and reading friends!
This week's interview is with an incredibly busy homeschool, book-loving mom who is also an author, business owner, and speaker. I got a chance to meet Maggie Hogan several years ago at a homeschool conference that she did with Teri Camp in Waco, Texas. I think it was the most fun I'd ever had with a bunch of moms I'd never met before. Let me just say, the chocolate was flying!

Ann: Maggie, tell us about yourself and your family.

Maggie: Oh sure, that’s easy! Let’s see where to start...I was born on a dark and stormy night . . . no wait, that’s probably more than you want to know. Try this:  Bob and I have been married almost 25 years. We met in Florida at the swimming pool where I was a lifeguard. I had just recently accepted the Lord as my Savior. Bob was a very devout Catholic who had strongly considered going into the priest- hood. (Whew!) We married and were both baptized. After moving a number of times with his job God brought us here to Dover, DE.

We began homeschooling in 1991. JB, 22, has graduated and Tyler, 17, is a freshman in college. JB enlisted in the Army where he serves in the 3rd Infantry Division. He is currently on his second deployment to Iraq. In his free time he reads and writes. His first book, “From Basic to Baghdad: A Soldier Writes Home” will be published this spring. One very cool side-note is that JB really began to discover his writing abilities during our nine years of “Writer’s Workshop Co-ops” that I ran with the help of friends. I love it when homeschool brings out the best in your children!

Tyler is a writer, musician & mime. He uses his talent for the glory of God performing in a wide-variety of venues. He plans to go into theatre ministry and is loving life at Belhaven Collage in Jackson MS! (  This spring he will be going on a three week drama/mission trip to Italy and Switzerland. If only I could fit in his suitcases! Tyler is the organized son – takes after dad – not mom! I really miss having him around the house both because he is very funny and because he always helped me from losing . . . whatever!

Bob works full-time both for the government and for our own business, is very involved at our church, is the secretary for our state Christian homeschool board, and dreams of having time for his hobbies! I work on the publishing end of our business, write for many homeschool publications, serve on our state homeschool board, speak around the country, and dream of having time to read! Our favorite date is to go out to dinner and hit the bookstores.

Ann: When did you start collecting books? 

Maggie: From the time I can remember. 

Ann: Did you read much as a child?

Maggie: Constantly. Except when I was out playing kick-the-can with all the boys in the neighborhood.

Ann: Did your parents read to you?

Maggie: My mom did when I was very young, but not much after that. She isn’t a big book person. My dad loved books and gave them as gifts but he never read aloud to us.

Ann: Does your husband love books as much as you?

Maggie: Absolutely! Which can be very dangerous . . . .

Ann: What where some of the first books you collected?

Maggie: Horse books & Nancy Drew mys- teries. I loved reading Childhood of Fa- mous Americans from the school library. I also loved the Golden Guide books, espe- cially the ones on rocks and minerals! I had no money of my own to buy books and there wasn’t a bookstore in the little town I lived in until I was 10 and we moved to Florida. But any book I was given, I kept!

Ann: Do you collect any specific author or series now?

Maggie: Modern Fiction — I love A Story Like the Wind and A Far-Off Place by Laurens Van der Post. These two books are two of the best written stories I have ever read!  I think Jan Karon of the Mitford series is a wonderful writer because her characters are so believable.  And lastly, I have greatly enjoyed all the books by Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and others in that series, as well as a new series that takes place in Scotland.
Children’s – I have started a new collection of books for the grandchildren I hope to have some day!
Classics — I have been trying to read at least two classics per year that I have never read. (And I re-read old favorites like Jane Eyre often.) I’ve recently enjoyed Lorna Doone, The Three Musketeers and I recently suffered my way through Tess of the D’Urbervilles!!
Non-Fiction — You will find much more non-fiction in my house than fiction!

Ann: Has your collection changed over the years?

Maggie: Yes, a huge change! I was mainly reading fiction in my teens (I was a huge Michener and Steinbeck fan back then) but now I am much more likely to pick up a non-fiction book. My collection reflects this.

Ann: How many books are in your collec- tion and how do you organize them?

Maggie: How many? No idea!!!! Do people count their books?  Organized . . .um, let’s see. By color? Shape? No, seriously I have only in the last few years made an effort to organize my books. I have them organized topically: Christian Bible studies for example or un- der science I would have Nature Journals and that sort of thing all together, then earth science, etc. Then there is the Diet Book collection . . . on the very bottom shelves where one would have to BEND OVER to reach them LOL!

Ann: How do you keep from buying doubles of books you already own?

Maggie: LOL! Is there a way to keep this from happening? I don’t worry about it. I often buy more than one copy of favorites because:
a. I am always loaning books out and
b. I now have great-nieces to buy for: have to get those collections started early, you know!

Ann: Do you have any suggestions for someone who's just starting a book collection?

Maggie: Well, if I were starting out and if I were organized (two very big “ifs”!) I would buy What Shall We Then Read and try to keep a 3-ring binder or (if I were computer literate) a spreadsheet. I would also recom- mend reading Among the Gently Mad.

Ann: Where do you buy most of your books?

Maggie: Independent bookstore here in Dover. Not large but has lots of remain- ders. We don’t have any of the big book- stores here . . . good thing. I have a wholesale account for my business so sometimes use it for personal purchases. E-bay. Amazon. Sometimes the library sales – which always seem to happen when I am away at a conference.

Ann: Tell us how you use your books in your home school.

Maggie: Back in the old days when I homeschooled (i.e. last year!) we ATE them! LOL!

Ann: What is the last book(s) you purchased?

Maggie: "Women who Love Books too Much” and “The Quotable Book Lover”

Ann: What was the first book you wrote/ published?

Maggie: The Unofficial Guide to Homeschooling in Delaware with my dear friend Janice Baker. Talk about your niche market!

Ann: How many have you written now?

Maggie: Unofficial Guide to Homeschool- ing in Delaware; Hands-On Geography; The Ultimate Geography & Timeline Guide with Cindy Wiggers; Gifted Children at Home with Janice Baker & Kathleen Julicher.  Plus two booklets: Writer’s Co-op and Homeschooling High School.

Ann: Tell us about how you started writing for magazines, also.

Maggie: My first sale to a magazine was when JB was just a baby.It was to a Baptist magazine, I think, and it had to do with teaching young children to swim. As a pool manager, life guard, and private instructor for many years I was writing about something I knew well. I think the second sale had to do with taking your family camping. After that I was busy with other things and didn’t try my hand at magazines again until I was in the homeschool community. Now I have a wonderful relationship with the great folks at The Old Schoolhouse,, many state newsletters, and I hope to have some articles in Homeschooling Today Magazine. (If you haven’t seen it in a year or so, it is better than ever!)

Ann: How long have you had your website? 

Maggie: About 4 or 5 years.

Ann: Do you run your business out of your home?

Maggie: Well, yes and no! It began in our home and it is still primarily in our home but we have a huge Amish- built barn that has served as warehouse and packing room. Now it is in the final stages of being turned into an office. We just obtained warehouse space in town and will move our wholesale operations there. It is amazing to look back and see how God has blessed our business. W e have several part-time employees and two very important office cats.

Ann: Does your family help you?

Maggie: LOL! There would be NO Bright Ideas Press without my husband, Bob! He is the organized one, the money guy, tax guy, and all around level-headed, legal-eye guy! And until Tyler left for college he, too, was very involved. He went to shows with us, helped in the warehouse, computer- problem-solved, and generally did everything we asked him too. The exciting thing about having a home business is that the “boys” have had many opportunities to learn job responsibilities, earn money, be mentored by their father, and learn new skills. For example, we bought Tyler an expensive map-making program a number of years ago and he has used it since then to create maps for many of our books that we publish, including The Mystery of History series and Hands-On Geography. He appreciates the royalties he earns on these books as it helps to pay for his room and board at college and it provides him with adequate income for travel, personal expenses, and mission trips.

And if I could pick what kind of business I would want to own – it would have to do with books, of course! I wanted to own a bookshop when I was younger . . .you know, the kind that served tea and had “readings” and a lovely children’s play place LOL! I am so blessed to have found just exactly the right business for me! 

Ann: I saw the note about the cruise on your website. I'd love to hear about that!

Maggie: Daphne and Rich Schreiber are a homeschooling couple who have been on a number of cruises with their kids and decided to share the fun. They now organize cruises and get homeschoolers a great rate! I had a blast on the cruise meeting and talking with lots of home- school families as well as spending time with Cathy Duffy and Dinah Zike. What awesome women they are! Bob and I hope to go again sometime. Although I will say we were disappointed in the “entertainment” put on by Carnival – not family friendly at all. However, we had so much to do it didn’t matter. I noticed their newest cruise adventure is on a different line. 

Ann: Any new books/ideas (or anything else) you'd like to share with our readers?

Maggie: New books! Oh yes! Bright Ideas Press has four new books coming out this year!  All-American History Volume 1 by Celeste Rakes (a dear friend of mine and our pastor’s wife.) This is for grades 5 – 8 but is adaptable. This will be the first time we are publishing a curriculum comprised of three parts: the Student Reader, Student Activity Book, and Teacher Manual. Although it is structured, it is still filled with creative ideas and a great booklist.

Christian Kids Explore Chemistry by Bob and Liz Ridlon. These College professors spent much time writing a useable chem- istry program that is suitable for upper elementary and even junior high school. It is set up to be used twice weekly: one day for reading and one day for hands-on or research. People have responded well to the first book in this series and although this one is a more complex curriculum we think folks will love it!

Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space by Stephanie Redmond, author of the first book in this series: Explore Biology. Suit- able for all elementary school and filled with great activities, as well as weekly lessons, reviews, quizzes, etc. All the books in this series also have wonderful book lists. The one in Biology is 45 pages long!

From Basic to Baghdad – A Soldier Writes Home by JB Hogan. This is not specifically a homeschool book. It fits under the cate- gory of gift book or memoir. It is a some- times serious, usually funny, often scathingly satiric account of JB’s last four years in the military. Highly recommended for teens on up! (Please keep JB in your prayers as he is back in Iraq for another long tour of duty.)

Aren’t you glad you asked? LOL! We have so many other projects that we are working on that I can’t begin to get into all of it. Just say that the Lord has given us many opportunities to minister to homeschoolers and others!

Two final thoughts:  I just want to say to each of the families reading this that from the perspective of a mom who has finished her homeschooling days – it’s not about the curriculum! It’s about spending time with your kids, loving them, praying with them, training them, and loving them some more.

Secondly, don’t obsess over what spelling program to use. Instead, pick up a great book and read together. I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes: “One could get a first-class education from a shelf of books five feet long.” Charles W. Eliot while President of Harvard University. (Presumably said along time ago when the quality of books is better than much of what is being published today!)
We have some great yahoo groups I’d like to share with you:

Ann: Maggie, thanks a lot for doing this! I'm looking forward to reading the interview myself! 

Maggie: This was fun and a great way to do an interview! 
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