Jennifer Coleman

Published Work: The Texas Nutcracker

Jennifer is a graduate of Institute for Children’s Literature. View Course Catalog >

Welcome to the Winner’s Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL students. Today we are celebrating published author Jennifer Coleman!

The-Texas-NutcrackerWhat is the name of your book/s or article/s? Who is the publisher?

The Texas Nutcracker

The Pelican Publishing Company

Tell us a bit about your path to publishing, from idea to submission to published book.

After driving home from a ballet that my dancer-daughter performed in, the same daughter said, “Mom, you should totally write a Texas version of the Nutcracker!” After toying with it for a year, the story was more Texas spoof than real Texas. Yet an impromptu summer vacation to West Texas provided unexpected inspiration when the Fort Davis Historical Site provided Jennifer with a lightning bolt of inspiration. The story re-wrote itself on the spot! The manuscript was retooled and polished. In 2015, Pelican Publishing bought the rights to the traditional story that Jennifer had crafted with the historical Texas twist. It released October 1, 2018.

How long have you been writing?

Since elementary school… but with serious intentions and purposeful focus since 2001.

What’s your favorite genre to write and why?

I’m enjoying experimenting with historical Fiction, much to my delight and surprise!  I like bringing the past to life.

What ICL courses have your taken?

The Intro Course [Writing for Children and Teens] in 2005-2006

How has taking our course helped your writing and/or career?

Over the years, I have reopened those old assignments to check on form for cover letters, and I’ve also refreshed myself with ideas I had 13 years ago!

Have any of your class assignments been published? If so, where and when?

No, but have come close a few times.

Do you have a favorite writing tip you’d like to share?

I’m a working mom with three active teenagers. I started writing when they were born. There is never a “perfect” time–they will always need me in some way, I just try to work the pockets of time. When I’m driving or working out, I try to pre-think so that when I actually do get to sit down and write, there is more of a plan.

If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of writing advice, how far back would you go, and what would you tell yourself?

I would head on back to elementary school and tell myself to jot down all of my writing ideas all along the way. I did start journaling as a teenager, but that was more life events rather than writing ideas. I wasn’t good about writing ideas down until my late 20s.

Please tell us the best or most valuable thing you learned from your experience with ICL.

One of the best things–continued support. It has been 13 years since my course, and I still get very juicy newsletters with writing tips and leads on hot markets.

How did publishing your first picture book change your process of writing?

I always considered the reader, but now that I’ve written historical fiction, I feel more of an urge to get right with the history side of things–to honor the topic I’m writing about–doing it justice. One of my main characters in my historical fiction story is modeled after a little girl who died young of diphtheria on the prairie. I like to think I’ve honored her brief memory by researching and writing with her in mind.



Author and elementary-school librarian Jennifer Coleman was born in Scotland before she and her family moved to Texas. Coleman is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She shares a love of ballet with her daughter, who suggested the Texas-style Nutcracker story. Coleman and her family live in Pflugerville, Texas when they are not visiting nearby national parks.

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