Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms’ weekly Meet a Mom series, where we highlight and celebrate amazing mamas in our local communities. This week’s Meet a Mom feature is one of the nicest woman we’ve had the pleasure to get to know – Highland Park resident Janea Harris! When we learned that there was yet another local children’s book author to add to the growing list, we became so excited to tell you all about Janea’s very first book (complete with a “sup-HER” lesson): “All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice.” In this interview, Janea narrates her path from corporate life to writer to author, favorite local stomping grounds and solid advice for not just girls, but all woman-kind about taking charge of one’s voice! Welcome, Janea!
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town? What brought you to your current town?
I am originally from St. Louis, MO and I’ve lived in Highland Park for about four years. My husband and I traveled to Chicago and fell in love with the city. When a job opportunity opened up for him we decided to move to the North Shore!
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have two amazing kids, a 10 year old daughter and an 8 year old son.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom? Please share at least one mom “hack/tip” that makes your every day life a little easier.
I love watching my kids achieve their goals, both big and small. I celebrate all of their achievements, sometimes with gifts, but always with a note or words of encouragement. The great thing is that they now have started writing me special notes back and I love that!
We take our kids everywhere, including more formal restaurants. It has helped them learn how to behave in almost any environment and it has helped my husband and I have more opportunities to enjoy really good meals together.
As for a mom hack (parenting tip)… I set the clocks downstairs 5 minutes faster than upstairs so that they move swiftly in the morning out the door to school.
What is your favorite app right now?
Pandora, I love music and it is usually always in the background. If you see me singing in my car in the pick-up line at school, I am listening to Pandora.
What are you kids’ favorite apps right now?
I absolutely love Adventure Academy, yes I sound like the commercial, but it has been impactful in the lives of my kids. We started with ABC Mouse.com when my daughter was four and have since moved up to their newest program. It has virtual classrooms that the kids can navigate and explore the topics they are interested in, including a virtual library.
Oooo, that sounds like a super educational app! What is your least favorite mom job?
Bedtime, I am a very early riser, 5:00am most days, so by 8:00pm I’m ready for bed myself.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I speak a little French, I served as a French tutor in high school. I took intensive lessons several years back in anticipation of a move to Montreal, however we ended up in Cleveland, OH instead.
Favorite local places to spend with the family…
We love the Chicago Botanic Garden, my husband and I try to make time to walk it weekly. Redlands (formerly, J. Alexander’s) is our favorite family restaurant. Though it has an adult vibe, its perfect for lunch with the family on the weekends and has a secret kids menu that my kids love.
What was your most memorable family vacation and why?
I traveled to Atlanta, GA to visit my Aunt during the summers. We swam, visited Stone Mountain and had lots of family activities. I loved it so much I convinced my mom to move there and I continued to live there for several years after college.
You wrote your first children’s book! Please tell us more about how that came to be.
I have always had a passion for reading and writing and have written poetry, movie screenplays and stories that I have mostly kept to myself. I just wrote and published my very first children’s book, “All Girls have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice.” The book is based on a collection of daily notes that I have written to my daughter over the years. We relocated several times for my husband’s career and though some kids find it easy to adapt to this type of change, my daughter was having a hard time. I hoped my notes would remind her that she was not alone and that she would have to use her own voice to make friends. One day I came home and she had written me a note of appreciation, she had found her voice and it made my heart smile!
That is also amazing advice for any parent out there! Can you elaborate a bit more about the process of writing and publishing your book; from idea to print…
As I watched things happening in the world around me I knew that I had to make sure that my daughter was equipped to handle all types of situations. The idea behind, “All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice,” grew from the idea that embedding confidence in girls is a must and I am a believer in the power of words.
I am very blessed in that once I made the decision to publish, I had a group of of trusted friends that I could go to for advice. This group includes educators, published authors and finance professionals. I was fortunate that they were willing to share both their success and failures.
The best advice I received was to do my research to fully understand the publishing process. I spent months researching illustrators and publishers before making the decision to self-publish. I knew I wanted the story to be clear both verbally and visually and for this to happen, I needed creative control. I hired and collaborated with Kimiyo Nishio, an awesome illustrator, who connected with the words and was willing to collaborate through the entire development process.
I learned a lot throughout this process, most importantly that the words I had written were relevant in my own publishing process. I certainly will continue to use my voice to positively impact the world. My hope is that every girl who reads the book will find it just a little easier to speak up and make sure that they are heard.
Many moms leave a corporate career when parenthood knocks on the door. What is your career background?
My professional career has always involved teaching both kids and adults. I am a former teacher at both the secondary and post-secondary level. That evolved into working in corporate education as a software implementation manager. I worked with some of the largest school districts in the country conducting professional development for everyone in the district including administration, principals, teachers and students. I loved the job, but it kept me on the road a lot.
After my son was born I left the corporate world, and I spent time working and writing on projects that kept me closer to home. My husband saw how passionate I was and encouraged me to take that same energy and invest it in myself. With his support both personally and financially, I was able to start my professional writing career and maintain 100% creative ownership of all the details of “All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice.”
What are some of your proudest moments with your business where you said “wow, I did that”?
One of my 2nd grade son’s classmates came up to me with the biggest smile and she said, ‘Mrs. Janea, I read your book with my mom last night and I loved it.” I said, “Really what was your favorite part.” She said, “The ending and the Sup-HER part.” She gave me a high five and that alone made it all worth it!
Your book is about self-empowerment. What advice do you have for our young girls?
I would say use your own voice and truly be your own advocate in all situations. Although, “All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice” was written as a children’s book, the idea behind the text is applicable to girls and women of all ages. Speaking up and advocating for yourself and others is necessary whether you are 8 or 88.
How important is it for you to have a passion outside of being a mother?
Being a mom is fabulous! For the longest time I thought that putting all of my energy into my kids and family was fulfilling enough. However, I discovered my spending some time on my passion not only brings me personal joy, but it also makes me Sup-HER in the eyes of my kids. To see my family proud of me is the best!
When parenting gets hard, what’s something you tell yourself that gets you through?
I always tell myself that this is the only chance I get at this life with them.
What’s on the horizon for your business? Future aspirations, plans….
It is my plan to release the additional books in the “All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers” series. Though my son is proud of me, he used his voice to let me know that boys need encouragement too, so a book I wrote specifically for boys that is forthcoming.
Amazing news! We can’t wait to get our copy!
“All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice.” can be purchases on Amazon. We hope you enjoy reading this to your family!