Get to know Argyle Fox author Marta Obiols Llistar, author of 18: An Unschooling Experience.
Marta Obiols Llistar is a Catalan immigrant, former public school teacher, and current unschooling mother. With a dual degree in elementary and special education from Blanquerna Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, she’s spent the past nine years homeschooling and then unschooling her children. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and their three children.
Tell readers about yourself.
I’ve never been a writer. Writing has always been very difficult for me. In school I was good at math and physics, but I despised writing. Once I became a parent and had a lot of early-childhood experience from nannying and daycare, I wanted to write articles for parenting magazines, but I couldn’t put all my thoughts, opinions, and knowledge into an article. I was incapable.
Years passed, and when my firstborn was close to turning eighteen, a bunch of emotions stirred inside of me, creating a book in my head. Once I got to work, it was therapeutic to write the book. It helped me heal some wounds and gave me closure.
I wrote for two months non-stop. I quit reading books. I quit Netflix. I quit exercising. All I did was write all day long. When I woke up in the morning, I would grab my laptop and start writing in bed until I got hungry or one of my kids needed lunch. Then I would continue writing until one of my kids would tell me it was time to drive them to their activities. I wrote in the car in the parking lot, as I waited for my kids. I was unrecognizable, writing everywhere I could with my laptop or my phone.
Who is your target audience for 18, and what is the book about?
18: An Unschooling Experience is for parents who are unhappy with the school system, parents who are already homeschooling but lack confidence, parents who are curious about unschooling but are skeptical, and parents who have never heard of homeschooling and unschooling.
The book is about my transition from being a regular working mom to a stay-at-home mom, from being a teacher to learning about and practicing deschooling.
It all starts with enrolling the kids in our local school like everybody else, not knowing that there are other options. It then takes readers through the ups and downs I experienced with a variety of schools until I desperately remove the kids from the school system to educate them myself. In the process, I learned that kids don’t need to be taught. Give them the opportunity, and they can learn on their own just by living everyday life.
What inspired you to write the book?
My older son reaching the age of adulthood. I witnessed him turn into a wonderful adult, and I feel I did a good job raising him. Acknowledging that the difficult and challenging situations I went through were worth it inspired me to write this memoir.
Who are your favorite authors and what do you enjoy about their writing?
I love Jen Hatmaker, Kristen Howerton, and Glennon Doyle. They tell you the truths as a good friend does. I love their honesty and their writing feels like they’re talking to you.
But to read for fun, I absolutely adore all books from Collen Hoover. I cannot tell you which love story is best. She always surprises me with some twist I wasn’t expecting.
Where did you get the idea for 18?
It literally came in my head all of a sudden. I blame it on the emotions of my first baby turning eighteen and remembering all the struggles I went through.
Walk us through the process 18 went through prior to reaching Argyle Fox Publishing. When I was done writing the manuscript, I read articles and did online workshops to learn about the publishing world I knew nothing about. I learned about query letters and trying to find the right literary agent that would match my book. It was exhausting.
Only one literary agent responded to me. She liked my book but suggested I start writing articles about education to build my curriculum and my audience. I understood what the literary agent was trying to accomplish, but she didn’t know I’d tried that in the past and failed.
However, I tried again. I wrote a few articles and submitted them, but none of the magazines contacted me.
I finally decided to go the self-publishing route.
Did you always think you had something special with 18 or were there moments of doubt?
I knew somebody out there needed to read this book. I knew some mom somewhere would feel validated and encouraged, that’s she would regain hope after reading my book. I know readers are enjoying this book, some even love it, but this book was written for someone special out there. I hope my book and this person find each other.
I did doubt twice. Both times I doubted, a friend texted me and told me she loved my book. Those texts gave me confidence.
What are your hopes for 18? How will you measure whether or not it’s successful?
My hope for 18 is that it helps that parent who needs encouragement. I was terrified when I first started homeschooling and two strangers—two veteran moms—gave me courage, hope, and a few tips. I hope to be the stranger who encourages and inspires a scared parent.
But I also want this book to start making noise in Spain, where homeschooling is not allowed. Some parents are homeschooling in hiding, and I want to help them change the laws.
I think 18 is already a success in the US. The fact that a few people have told me they loved it and it reached their hearts is the best feeling. It makes me cry every time.
But I am ambitious! This book will be a success if a Spanish publisher agrees to publish it in Spanish and if it creates noise and debate in my country where homeschooling is still not allowed.
How did you find Argyle Fox Publishing, and what made you think we would be a good fit for your book?
I created an Instagram account for my book to gain followers and future readers. Trying to be social one day, the Argyle fox Publishing ad appeared on my feed saying they were looking for inspirational stories or stories with hope. I thought I was a good match and sent them my information.
What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process before getting started?
I’ve learned a lot about the publishing process while writing the manuscript. But I wish I had known how important it is to be active on social media before getting started. For years I was quiet on social media.
For my own well-being I chose to be away from it. But people with a big number of followers have a better chance to get published than a person with no social media presence. A lot of publishers will work with you if you show them your long list of followers.
You wound up with some impressive endorsements for 18 prior to publication. This type of thing seems impossible for a lot of authors. How did you make it happen?
I was very determined to get an endorsement. Once I get a goal in my head, I can’t stop. I learned the process of asking for an endorsement. The trick is to study the person you would like to ask, try to find a connection, and contact them.
I wrote to a variety of important people—authors of unschooling and homeschooling books, university professors who write articles about unschooling, and psychologists I connected with on social media. I received silence from some. From others, I received answers saying they were happy for me and wished my book luck, but they were too busy with their own work. Others, I received answers saying they would love to read my book but I still haven’t heard back from them.
One day my book’s Instagram got a new follower. I looked at her Instagram and saw three things: she was a homeschool mom, a Latina, and a first-time author. It was easy to connect with her. She read my book in less than a week, loved it, endorsed it, reviewed it, and helped me promote it. We became author friends, and she sent me a copy of her own book, autographed and dedicated to me.
My second endorsement was unbelievable. Days before the book release, I was active on social media. A homeschool influencer on Instagram mentioned Dr. Gina Riley. I Googled Dr. Riley, found her email, and went for it. This email was different from the others I wrote in the past. Once you receive so much rejection, your emails start to change. I started by letting her know her name was mentioned on Instagram. Then I introduced myself and persuaded her to read my book by letting her know other readers were liking it. On top of that, I told her it was a short read. Unlike the other emails, I didn’t mention the endorsement. I just asked for her opinion.
The same day, she answered me with a very enthusiastic email full of exclamation points. She was thrilled to meet me. That night she emailed me saying beautiful things about my book. I asked if I could put her words on the cover of my book and she happily said yes, because she really enjoyed reading it.
After spending weeks chasing professionals for an endorsement with no luck, I emailed a doctor who was mentioned on Instagram and got her endorsement in one day. You never know.
Do you have another book in the works? If yes, tell us about it!
Yes! I have two books in the works that I had to put on hold because I’m busy marketing, promoting, and translating 18. I want 18 to be available in Spanish.
I can’t wait to start putting the books I have in my head onto paper. One will be titled 22: An Immigrant’s Experience. Next summer will be twenty-two years that I’ve been in America, and I left my country when I was twenty-two years old. I have a lot to say about my immigration story.
My third book will be titled A Down Syndrome Experience, and the number on the cover will be my sister’s age at that time. (Right now she’s thirty-four.) A lot of people have asked me questions about having a Down syndrome sister, and a lot of parents need to hear that we, the siblings, are okay. In fact, we’re better than okay, because our special needs sibling makes us better.
Where can people find you online to keep up with your life and/or writing?
My book has its own Instagram: @unschoolingstory18. Interested people can also find me on Facebook , Twitter, and martaobiolsllistar.com.