Friday, October 4, 2013

Food Stamps, Welfare, Seven Kids, Oh, MY!

Hello. I have a story to share, so bear with me while I get it out.  It will hurt, but it needs to be said, so it is time I said it:

June 2012-
I left my husband of nearly 17yrs. If that wasn't horrific enough, I was a single mom of seven.  I'd been a homemaker my whole marriage.  I got married at 18 (yes, I know, I know...) the kids came swiftly after that. I had my oldest at 19yrs old. Six different types of birth control brought me my seven miracles.
I stayed home and used to joke to people that wanted to hire me to work for them that they couldn't afford my daycare.  I directed theater in the summers and painted portraits to help make ends meet during the school year...

Oh, and I had a couple of books published, but hadn't seen a dime in royalties yet.

In other words, when I left I had NOTHING.  Nada.  Zilch.

And I was scared.  But there was no other choice.  None.

With seven kids and one trailer full of stuff, I moved home.  After 17 years of having my own home.  My own couches, pictures on the wall, my own Christmas tree... I'll admit it was a shock to move back into the bedroom I had when I was a kid.  But it was home.  And it was a safe place for the kids.  So we did it.

I went and applied for food stamps for the first time in my life.
Let me say that again.
I went and applied for food stamps for the first time in my life.
Yeah, it was that painful.  It was that epic.  It was that needed.

I sold my wedding ring to pay for the lawyer.  And then applied for my first credit card and went shopping/in debt with it for nice business clothes to do public events in.

My books were just starting to take off and as everyone knows--you have to look successful to be successful.  I was asked to speak at schools and do assemblies and then sign books afterward.

When the divorce was final, it was ruled I would be getting $1100 a month in child support. (I didn't take alimony or his retirement, though I was entitled to both.  So let's see?  Car payment, insurance, phone, credit card... kids.  Yeah, not enough.) I immediately applied that to my foodstamps, it lowered them, but it was still more money than I'd ever imagined I could get to feed my kids with.  It was heaven!  It was needed.

When my first royalty check came in October, I sold my gas-guzzling suburban and purchased a small Chevy Sonic (commuter car), so I could do the school visits without wasting the gas money.  The day I turned over the only vehicle big enough to fit me and my kids I nearly died.  Died.  I was officially trapped with just a tiny 5-seater car.  And seven kids.

Then I worked my butt off.
Have I mentioned how amazing my parents are, yet?  No? Well they are.  Without them I would've never survived.  And my kids wouldn't have survived.  They are AMAZING and I love them so much!

From Oct-Dec. I spoke at several schools in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and earned just enough money from sales to cover my expenses. And when England wanted me, I did a book signing and sold the EXACT amount I needed to cover the bare minimum plane and fare. It was a sign. I could go. (I stayed with good friends instead of hotel).  Then I worked my butt off again while I was there.  Jet-lagged and missing my kids so bad it hurt, I did it.  (My ex was in the military, i lived in England for 5 years... already been there, done that.  This was business)

I knew the more pockets of fans I could make scattered around the world--the more people I spoke with and got excited about my books--the bigger I would become. It was marketing. It was building a name for myself from the ground up.  It was Hard, Hard, HARD work!

And then all that traveling I did?  It allowed me to bawl.  Hard.  Yep. I drove and drove and drove... and sobbed.  I healed.  I needed to.  It was the break I could get from the kids where I remembered I existed. I was someone too.  That was a weird feeling--finding me.  But so needed.

Jan 2013-

I woke up.  I had kept so busy to keep the depression at bay, that by January I needed a serious kick in the butt.  That came through another publisher.  The publisher of my fairy tales. He promised to push my books through publication as soon as I got them to him.  I decided to write.  A lot.  A lot. A LOT!!

From Jan-June I wrote 7 fairy tale books.  Yeah, you read that right.  Seven.  It hurt. It was hard. My brain wanted to explode a lot. People were telling me to stop, saying I couldn't keep up that pace.  But you know what?  I wanted my own house.  I wanted a vehicle big enough that I could travel somewhere with all my kids again.  I wanted OFF FOOD STAMPS!! Those first two months I wrote 4 books alone.  But by the summer it paid off.  All of it.  I became a bestseller on amazon, my fan base grew and grew and grew, and I was finally catching up in sales.

(Oh, yeah. I lost 45 pounds too!)

By July I was able to trade in my Chevy Sonic and purchase an 8 passenger minivan. (Not outright, but I could afford double the payments!)  By Aug/Sept I was completely off food stamps.  Yes! I did it.

Let me say that again. '

Now, my next goal?  Afford a house big enough for me and the kids.  Ironically, I make enough now that if I only had a few kids we'd be fine.  However, having seven kids... does change things.  It means we have to wait a bit longer for our dream, but it's coming.  I know it is.

I haven't stopped writing. I've got at least three more books coming out this year alone!  And I haven't given up.  Instead, I feel like I've just begun. Like anything is truly possible.

And I know that if I didn't believe in myself and push myself, I'd still be where I was a year ago.
With nothing.

So, I say to all of those who don't believe you create your own destiny.  You do.  It hurts though, don't think that it doesn't--it so does.  But I promise you... Nothing--and I mean NOTHING--is more perfectly wonderful than when you see your wildest dreams coming true.

Now... as I begin to date again, and step into that new unknown world, I am beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to find true love too.  But, first!  I'm taking care me.
Because I'm worth it.
And so are those adorable kids of mine.

Jenni James
Best-selling author, mom of seven, and secretly awesome ninja!

PS thank you to all of my fans.  All those who have supported and believed in me.  To my parents who have helped in every possible way.  You gave me strength when I had none.  And I am eternally grateful for a God who has always watched out for me... even when I felt I didn't deserve it.  I am loved. I am blessed. God is good.  :)

Author of:

The Jane Austen Diaries (series of 9)
Pride & Popularity, Persuaded, Northanger Alibi, Emmalee (soon Mansfield Ranch)

Faerie Tale Collection (series of 25)
Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Frog Prince, Snow White (soon Twelve Dancing Princesses)

Prince Tennyson

Andy & Annie (series of 20)
(soon A Ghost Story)

Revitalizing Jane (series of 3)
(soon Part One)

The Eternal Realm Series (series of 3)
(soon Eternity)


  1. Aww, Jenni. Sweet story. Thank you for being such an inspiration. *hugs*

  2. And I am blessed and proud to call you my friend! You always were awesome! x x x

  3. You are my hero!! You are so incredibly strong, talented, smart, and can always find a reason to smile!! Thank you for being so amazing and for being such an inspiration! <3

  4. Jenni, that was truly inspiring and I'm so happy you shared that with us! you are an amazing person and I applaud you! Sending hugs to you!

  5. You are an amazing woman, Jenni! I knew that from the moment I met you. You will go far - VERY far!! And I'm happy to say I know you. :)

  6. You know how much I love your story.You give me strength as I walk my journey. I am signing the papers next week to take him off the mortgage of the house that we bought and that is so hard and so scary. And I work hard to not need him to support me, just as you did. But what people don't understand is how HARD it is. And how much crying I really do. And then I come home and read a post by you and realize that someday I will find me again and that maybe, just maybe there will be love in my life because if Jenny can do it with her seven children, I can do it with my seven children, two grandchildren and let the 28 years go slowly and heal.

    I love you Jenny.

  7. You go, girl! What a great story. Thank you for sharing it. Back in the day we called that True Grit.

  8. A little over a year ago you were here in Seattle staying with me for the NE Bookfest. Your life has gone skyward from that point Jenni and I am so proud of you. Your Northanger Albi was featured in Entertainment Weekly. That this freekin awesome and so are you! *hugs* LA

  9. being brave. sometimes it's the only choice we have. thanks for sharing

  10. Jenni, I hope you know how amazing and inspirational you are. You bless us with your gifts through the books you write and the wonderful way you approach life. Thank you so much for sharing both with us.

  11. Jenni, you are amazing! I've enjoyed talking with you every time I've been able to talk to you. I know you will achieve your dream of home ownership!

  12. You are truly awesome, Jenni! But then again, I've always thought that! - Nikki

  13. Oh, Jenni, this was touching and thought-provoking. I admire your persistence in making the best of life and forging ahead! You are right: you ARE worth it. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  14. Congrats on all your news and accomplishments, Jenni. That's awesome. :)

    I've enjoyed the "Austen" books I've read by you so far and am now eager to see all the new books and their cover arts you teased on Twitter. Keep up the great work. :)

  15. You are such an amazing person. I cried when I read your story. Wishing you the most wonderful life!

  16. Jenni, I've never read any of your books, but I've seen you around. We follow each other on Twitter and we're Facebook friends, but as I read this, you became more than just a face and a name to me. Your story is awe-inspiring to say the least. As I read through this post, my jaw dropped further and further. And then the tears started to come when I got to the part where you downsized your car. Your parents truly are amazing, but you are amazing as well!! What you did must have taken an incredible amount of courage! I know what you mean about the food stamps thing. I'm a poor struggling author as well, and I'm beyond ready to kick them to the curb. So I thank you. Your post has inspired me to work harder, write more, and to find the courage to put myself out there to do the events and book signings I know I need to do.