Back Porch Book Chat: Megan Saben (Book Reviewer, Author, Homeschool Mom)

Back Porch Book Chat: A casual, virtual conversation about books. Join us as we chat with book lovers like ourselves about a topic we all love! Our guest today is our very own Megan Saben from Virginia. She chats with us about reading with her family, her new book, and more! Interview conducted by Betsy.

Back Porch Book Chat Megan

Getting to Know Megan

Megan, thankfully we’ve been able to share a cozy beverage in real life many times, but today we’re going to have to make do with a virtual shared cup. Before we begin, tell us what cozy beverage you’d like as we sit in our virtual rocking chairs on our virtual porch: Coffee? Hot chocolate? Tea? Chai?

Hmmm, it depends on whether I’m steeping a cup at home in the morning, in which case it would be Yorkshire Gold tea with a touch of milk and sugar, or whether I picked up a hot 16 oz. breve latte with an extra shot of espresso and two pumps of brown sugar syrup on the way to your house.

megan saben

Oh, that would be so fun if you really WERE headed to my house! (Readers, if you didn’t already know, as of this writing, Megan and I live on opposite sides of the U.S. of A. So, despite having known one another more than 25 years!, we don’t see one another in person very often.)

Some of our readers may not know much of your background: can you tell us a bit more about who you are, what your family looks like right now, and what drew you to children’s literature?

I grew up with seven siblings in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa where my dad owned a moving company and I worked many summers for him as a household goods packer. My grandmother was a retired librarian and my mother followed the advice in Honey for a Child’s Heart and The Read-Aloud Handbook. We frequented the library and book sales, and she modeled the pleasure of reading aloud. One wall of my bedroom was built-in bookshelves, and I filled my days with reading fiction, especially fairy tales. 

When I was at Covenant College, I took a children’s literature class, and I’m sure I was sitting beside you, Betsy, the day that our professor, Mr. Pettit, explained how Story could communicate Truth so powerfully. That changed my life. 

Ooh, you probably were sitting next to me!

Something else that changed my life was marrying the most wonderful engineer in the world. We live in Virginia with our five sons, surrounded by books and enjoying our mountain views. He’s a wonderful man who very graciously indulges my writing passion and biblioholism.

About ten years ago a lovely word popped into my head: “Literaritea” (rhymes with “rarity”). It’s a combination of “literary” and “tea,” and although no one likes to figure out how to pronounce it, it was the inspiration for a blog you and I shared where we could muse on Truth, Story, and children’s literature. That’s where Emily Whitten found us and invited us to join the Redeemed Reader team.

I still remember when you and I first began that first blog. We both had babies, but we longed to keep reading and thinking about the books we’d someday read with our children when they were older.

Reading in the Midst of Real Life

Megan, I know that books permeate your life like they do mine. Of course, that’s true for any Redeemed Reader team member! Tell us what reading looks like in your home right now and how you use books and stories as part of your family culture. 

Well, let me see. There are currently random picture books on the dining room table along with the remains of tea. None of my boys have outgrown good picture books and they all love to be read to. 

cover of The Hobbit

My 15yo still has fond memories of the first books I read to him: Pinocchio and The Hobbit. I should read Pinocchio aloud again to the rest of the boys, but it’s so hard to decide between reading new discoveries and old favorites. 

My two youngest are becoming readers naturally, the same way their older brothers did, by studying comic books and graphic novels until they figure out the story. I tried teaching my first and my fourth sons how to read because they didn’t seem to “get it,” but finally realized that they would read when they found something worth reading.

Remember that baby I read Pinocchio to? He didn’t want to waste his time on beginning readers; he wanted something better, worth listening to. Take heart, parents of active children! 

What particular books have you and/or your family enjoyed recently?

Right now I am listening to With Christ in the School of Prayer (Murray) and I have Anne’s House of Dreams on top of the stack on my nightstand, Fire Bringer by Clement-Davies in the bathroom, School Education (Mason), Summa Domestica (Lawler), Feminization of American Culture (Douglas), and 30 Poems to Memorize… (Kern) in my personal reading rotation. I’m working through Little Pilgrim’s Progress and The Rumpelstiltskin Problem with the boys, and my husband is reading the Little House series aloud again when we can in the evenings. My boys read and re-read lots of graphic novels, comic books, compendia of random information, and all manner of fiction. My husband reads Jonathan Edwards and books that explain complex math equations, but he will often pick up something the boys are reading and talking about so he can join the conversation.

Your reading habits (and those of your family) sound as wide-ranging as mine!

Reading Ahead for Redeemed Reader

What are your favorite books to read for Redeemed Reader when you’re “reading ahead” for our readers? How do you decide which books to read/review and which to leave on library shelves?

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

I usually cover picture books, but I realize how many of my personal favorites I still need to review! When I go to the library and browse the display, I first look for illustrations with expression, attention to detail (even if the style is simple), and actions that imply a story. Illustration quality is one of the biggest factors in my decision whether or not to review a book. I also have books that have been sent to me by authors or publishers. A few I have in my stack to review right now are Room for EveryoneMy Big Book of Outdoors, How to Apologize, and Memories of Survival.

Some retro favorites that I want to review include Bartholomew and the OobleckAll-of-a-Kind FamilyHenry Huggins,and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. There are many titles I consider requesting from the publisher, but I have to be realistic about adding to my stack before I fulfill my current commitments.  

Something Better Coming: From Idea to Book!

Megan, last year (2021), you independently published your first picture book: Something Better Coming. Can you tell our readers the back story to that book? How did you first have the idea?

Something Better Coming

When we came on board with Redeemed Reader about nine years ago, one of my first assignments was a round-up of picture books for Easter. I searched online, browsed bookstores, and found a few titles. The common themes were primarily either “chicks, bunnies, and spring,” symbolically tied to new life, or a retelling of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection from the perspective of an onlooker. 

As Christians, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the MUCH bigger Story we are living in. We aren’t looking back at Christ’s resurrection just to remember what He did in the past, we are looking FORWARD to His promise that we have so much to look forward to! The story doesn’t end with the empty tomb. Jesus Christ showed His power over death during His ministry, which foreshadowed His own resurrection, which guarantees our future hope. (I’m getting excited again while I type.) See why this matters so much?! 

I have to ask: did the refrain “something better coming” just pop into your head one day? Or did you have to labor over that refrain? I quote it to myself and others ALL the time; it’s just perfect.

The greatest reward in publishing this book is how many people share that phrase in conversation to encourage themselves and fellow saints. Thanks be to God, you aren’t the only one! I’m so grateful that elderly saints who anticipate glory have responded as enthusiastically as little ones. 

“There’s something better coming” just popped into my head while I was writing. I can’t take credit for developing the theme—this book has been the Lord’s from the beginning. I quote it to myself too, and am grateful that people remind me when I get discouraged.

I wasn’t trying to write in any particular meter, but eventually I recognized that the stanzas are iambic heptameter, which is used in a number of my favorite hymns, including “Amazing Grace” “Father, I Know That All My Life,” and “How Sweet And Awful Is the Place” (or “awesome,” depending on when your hymnal was published). While the lines in the book can’t quite be sung through to the end, due to the narrative flow and the stanza, I am thrilled that the Lord deepened those rhythms in my heart from childhood.

Independently Publishing: The Process

We know there are aspiring authors in our audience, and we want to know: How did you approach your writing and publishing process? Do a lot of research on the process first, or simply dive right in? How did you find your illustrator, and what was it like working with him?

I have dreamed of being a published author ever since I had a wall full of bookshelves, and Mom signed me up for all the writers’ workshops that were available. I remember interviewing Evelyn Witter, a local author, when I was in my early teens. She advised me never to pay for publishing, because if your writing was good enough, a publisher would pay for it.

I kept writing and researching the traditional publishing process. When I became a children’s librarian, I read hundreds of picture books to get a better sense of what “works” for children and those who read to them. At Hollins University I took more writing workshops and had my manuscripts critiqued by other writers. I polished query and cover letters and kept submitting to publishers and agents. 

In God’s providence, the original version of Something Better Coming (then titled Resurrection) was picked up almost immediately by an enthusiastic agent who loved the Lord. For the next several years she kept me updated on her endeavors…and then there was nothing. I couldn’t get in touch with her. She worked independently, so I couldn’t ask anyone else at the agency what happened. As far as I know, the Lord took her home.

What could I do? I had no idea which editors she had talked to already. Of all my manuscripts, Something Better Coming matters the most to me for the sake of the glory of Christ and the encouragement of His people. My husband agreed and gave his blessing to self-publishing.

In God’s providence, a family who is dear to our church was planning to return home from the mission field. Ryan Flanders is a talented fine artist who is gifted in creating scenes out of scriptural concepts, and he agreed to collaborate with me on the book. Neither of us had any experience in publishing, but the Lord went before us. It was a pleasure to receive the illustrations one by one and see where he draws the readers eye with particular detail: Jairus wringing his hands, Martha’s tears, the centurion’s face. And the lily symbolism was all his idea, from title page to the glorious final spread.

Also in the Lord’s providence, a pandemic was underway and I had extra time at home. God provided connections such as Jill Morgan from Purple House Press, who provided the name of an excellent printer, and the ladies from Bandersnatch Books who were starting their own publishing company just ahead of me, so I could observe their Kickstarter campaign. God also provided Amanda Cleary-Eastep, who connected me with Danielle Hitchen, a successful author who had started with a Kickstarter campaign and offered great insight.

As the project unfolded, I found that the options and recommendations for someone who is trying to publish and market a book are overwhelming. One Saturday, during a coffee-and-country-roads date with my husband, I suddenly realized, “I don’t have to do it that way!”

What a relief.

Becoming a self-published author and businesswoman

Somehow I managed to set up a business (thankfully my husband manages the finances!), figure out a website (with tears), run a Kickstarter campaign (once was enough for a lifetime), work with a printer based in South Korea, and package hundreds of books for shipping. I hired an editor and she made sure my rhyme and meter were consistent throughout. My eldest son was a tough editor, pointing out things in the narrative that didn’t work as well as I thought they did, and after grumbling a bit, I played with words again and the story is better as a result. Normally I would be skeptical about relying on a family member to edit, but he gave constructive criticism instead of just loving support.

The Lord provided everything. Praise him! Encouragement from beginning to end, and grace to accept the limitations of independent publishing. He is glorified, His people are encouraged, and I cannot ask for more. Something Better Coming has been embraced by children and adults from 5-98 years old. The Lord has surprised me many times, showing me that yes, this matters.

I still have manuscripts I would like to see published, and I have no wish to do it all myself. On a whim I submitted a story to Familius, and they offered me a traditional contract! Thirty years after I started sending out stories, the Lord keeps opening the right doors. New House, New Home is expected in Winter 2024.

Last Words from Megan

Any last words of advice or practical tips for busy parents hoping to make reading a part of their personal lives AND their family’s culture? Especially for fellow boy moms or baseball moms or busy homeschooling moms…. 

Do what you can. Reading is a delight that is best shared, not forced. If your children aren’t asking for another chapter or if YOU aren’t enjoying a book, find something else to read aloud.

Pray for opportunities that draw your children to come and listen to a chapter, a poem, or an audiobook. It might be over tea, it might be after morning devotions, it might be on the way to piano lessons, it might be surrounding them with books they want to read independently, it might be gathering together after dinner. My boys wax eloquent about the graphic novels I don’t really feel like reading, and books are scattered, strewn, and piled all over the house. They can’t not put words into their heads, and together we are developing discernment as readers.

These are all things that are working for us right now, but not all of them in one day. I fall far short of what I want to do, but it took me thirty years to get through books I was interested in as a teenager (Les Miserables, because of the musical, the Anne of Green Gables series because of the TV show, and the Harry Potter series, which I didn’t finish until fifteen years after the last book was published). Guess what? I love them now because I have more maturity to appreciate them. My boys aren’t interested in all the books I offer, because they are unique individuals, and that’s okay. 

If the Lord gives us hearts to love His Word above all others, that is more important than an impressive literary resume.

That’s definitely our philosophy here at Redeemed Reader! We don’t want to force books onto children, but we do want to expose them to lots of stories, especially the best stories!

Readers, you can read the rest of our Back Porch Book Chats here (our guests have been authors and homeschool moms like Megan, bookstore owners, teachers, and more.)

Megan is a servant of Christ by grace, the wife of the most wonderful engineer in Virginia, and mother of five boys who haven’t outgrown snuggling. She homeschools, drinks lattes, reads, writes, knits, bakes bread, waltzes with her husband, and believes that her identity is based on the nouns that define her, not the verbs that describe her activities. Her author website is

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. Cara Martinez on May 19, 2022 at 8:04 am

    Megan, I bought 5 copies of your book “something better coming,” just before Easter this year. You signed each of them, what a treat! Originally, I intended to give a copy to each of my kids, nephews and friends kids, but when my sister read your book, she had to have one, too. She’s a chaplain for hospice and she reads it to her patients. They LOVE it. So, your book is making the rounds in Boise, ID. I also can’t read it without crying. It’s a beautiful and emotional book!

    • Megan Saben on May 19, 2022 at 2:14 pm

      Oh Cara, thank you! You brought tears to MY eyes with your encouragement. I’m thrilled that the Lord is using my book with both young and old. Praise the Lord!

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