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Sonrise Stable Writing Lessons - Fiction Writing Course Review by Heidi Mosher

Vicki Watson
Homeschool Spark / Sonrise Stable Books

Sonrise Stable Writing Lessons: Creative Writing Course is available on Homeschool Spark and enables students to learn to write fiction with Vicki Watson, author of the Sonrise Stable series of children's horse-themed books. Watson says, "I hope to encourage and inform aspiring fiction writers by passing on information and techniques I've learned since 2008 when I began writing and self-publishing my Sonrise Stable series of books."

Her product consists of 42 videos and 25 corresponding PDFs, plus a few extra helpful resources. No additional components (not even a love of horses) are required to complete or use this product. The course can be obtained through Homeschool Spark for $49. Users should expect an unbelievable look into the entire process of book writing from a teacher who has accomplished self-publishing an entire series.

The Sonrise Stable Writing Lessons are broken into ten sections:

  • Course Overview (9 lessons, including 2 PDFs) covers the "secrets" to great writing, acquiring good writing habits, resources for writing software, and project ideas.
  • Story Elements (20 lessons, including 10 PDFs) covers important topics such as character development and plot.
  • Nuts and Bolts (13 lessons, including 3 PDFs) delves into the "nitty, gritty details of the writing process."
  • The Bigger Picture (12 lessons, including 3 PDFs) covers advanced techniques for sharp writing skills.
  • Feedback, Revisions, and Editing (9 lessons, including 2 PDFs) shows how to polish and fine-tune writing.
  • Software Tools For Editing (7 lessons) with reviews of various editing software.
  • Christian Considerations (11 lessons, including three PDFs) compares and contrasts the difference between general fiction and Christian fiction.
  • A Few Thoughts on Writing for Children and Writing a Series (2 lessons)
  • Thoughts on Publishing (13 lessons) covers both traditional and self-publishing paths.
  • The Compost Heap (2 lessons)

The course also includes an invitation to send questions directly to the author and a section for critiques of student writing.

Sonrise Stable Writing Lessons offer a flexible option for junior high to adult. The author states online that "The course is best for students who enjoy writing and want to learn how to improve." Homeschoolers will be thrilled to learn that the author, Vicki Watson, was a homeschool mom herself for 17 years and a Christian.

I enjoyed using this curriculum in my homeschool with my 12-year-old daughter. She likes horses, and we both enjoy writing. The opportunity to review this program has offered a refreshing break from our regular writing curriculum. We typically watch one or two of the lessons per day, about three or four times per week. Since I enjoy learning about writing, I choose to watch most lessons with my daughter. Lessons are typically under ten minutes each. We sometimes watch two in one sitting. Occasionally my daughter asks to watch a lesson on her own if I am unavailable. The content is so good that I do my best to soak in most of the lessons with her.

I am typically not drawn to an online curriculum but listening to an author (especially a former homeschooling mom) explain how to write a book worked perfectly for this format. We have been using the product for about two months and are about halfway through the lessons. We will continue using this instead of the writing curriculum I had planned for this year simply because Vicki Watson's curriculum is so much richer.

During each lesson, we hear the author's voice while the screen displays a generous number of examples. Many examples are from the author's Sonrise Stable book series. Often an anecdote is displayed on the screen with an interesting or humorous afterthought to the lesson; the author will point out something she would have changed or clarify a point further. She is highly invested in these lessons. She scatters many examples of portions from familiar book titles such as Anne of Green Gables and A Christmas Carol as well. She also incorporates many quotes she has collected from familiar authors. These are the kind of quotes worth lingering over and copying to revisit again and again.  

As we are about halfway through the curriculum, we have not encountered many assignments. When there is an assignment, it is in the form of a PDF, which students can print or talk through with a parent. Some tasks include looking through books for examples, such as in Lesson 16 when we needed to investigate the first sentences of whatever we were reading or had on our bookshelves.

Anyone interested in the curriculum should not shy away because assignments are minimal; after all, the curriculum can culminate in the student writing an entire book, if desired. To me, the beauty of this curriculum is the opportunity to hear directly from an actual author. Watson is thorough and generous with her hard-earned knowledge.   

Sonrise Stable Writing Lessons are an absolute delight! I was surprised at the ease and flexibility of the program—it did not feel like work but more like an opportunity not to be missed. The course experience feels like a motivational talk from a good friend who wants to let you in on an awesome secret. In addition, Watson shows students the writing ropes, so the book-writing process is less daunting. 

What surprised me most about this program was how humble and down-to-earth the author is. Vicki Watson consistently speaks in a calm and relaxed tone and unhurried pace, which lends confidence to the listener. In addition, her conversational style delivers a huge dose of encouragement. She frequently suggests options, as if to say, "This is how I did it, but here are other ways it could be done." I also appreciate how Watson demonstrates her faith.

Writers will love this program as it inspires and propels them toward their goals. A bonus of the program is that readers will love it as well. Although this is technically a writing instruction program, it would also work well as a literature appreciation course since students learn about many aspects of literature as well as gain an understanding of the terms used to study and analyze literature. For example, there is an entire lesson on foreshadowing. I never realized how little I knew about writing books. Further, the course demonstrates how good grammar applies to writing. Student writers may have an "aha" moment when they see how important grammar is. 

These lessons are an absolute treasure! I highly recommend the Sonrise Stable Writing Lessons and thank Vicki Watson for providing a unique and valuable learning experience.

-Product review by Heidi Mosher, The Old Schoolhouse®, January 2023