Windsor author Jennifer Lynn Alvarez spoke with students at St. John the Baptist school in Healdsburg about her journey to becoming a published author, and the importance of hard work and perseverance, on Jan. 29.

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez shares thoughts on writing, dreaming at St. John’s assembly

Her imagination created an enchanted world of winged horses, but a few weeks ago, author Jennifer Lynn Alvarez shared a story set a little closer to home.

As a gift to students during Catholic Schools Week, Healdsburg’s St. John the Baptist School invited Alvarez to speak to students about her journey to becoming a published author, and the adventures and challenges she encountered along the way.

Alvarez, who lives with her family in Windsor, recently published “The Guardian Herd: Starfire,” the first in a four-part series for tween readers about winged horses.

The sequel, called “The Guardian Herd: Stormbound,” is set to debut on April 21.

Colleen Bruckmann, who is the principal at St. John’s, said the assembly arranged as part of a student appreciation day during Catholic Schools Week. “We wanted to do something school-wide to just honor and appreciate our students,” she said.

“I think that I probably have the best job on the earth,” Alvarez said as she introduced herself to the assembled students.

“Today I’m going to talk to you guys about how you could also end up with the best job on earth. But for you, it might not be being an author – it might be something else.”

Alvarez said her fondness for writing stretches back to when she kept a journal as a child. Eventually, she began to write short stories and poems. “I write about animals because I love animals,” she said to the students. “But for those of you who love sports, guess what – you can make up a story about sports.”

Though Alvarez wrote her first full-length book when she was 19, it was rejected by publishers. “I still had to practice,” she said. Alvarez did not publish her first book until she was in her forties.

“One thing that is dangerous is to think, ‘Well, I’ll be happy when my dreams come true,’” she said. “But I don’t recommend waiting. I recommend living your life and enjoying your life while you’re practicing, while you’re going to school.”

Though she faced rejection for her first book and later efforts, Alvarez persevered and kept practicing, determined to realize her dream to become an author.

“It’s very important to persevere, because if you quit you’re definitely not going to make it,” she said.

In 2011, Alvarez self-published a novel called “The Pet Washer.” Then, in an attempt to get her foot in the door of the publishing world, she tried to write a novel that would capitalize on the young adult vampire craze, though it fell flat. Yet, it was a wild daydream that ultimately inspired “The Guardian Herd” series.

“I was driving home on [Hwy.] 101,” Alvarez explained, “And I imagined a herd of horses flying through the sky. I imagined thousands and thousands of horses.”

As part of a four-book preemptive offer, HarperCollins acquired “The Guardian Herd: Starfire.” Now, Alvarez will travel to locations around the United States this spring to promote the upcoming second installment of the series.

In all, Alvarez said the goal of her presentation was to encourage students to follow their dreams. “Making your dreams come true is hard work,” she said. “It’s helpful to get an education to pair with your dream and to not give up and to enjoy your life also along the way. I do like to inspire kids – because not all kids want to be an author – but they want to be something.”

According to Bruckmann, the presentation also helps expose students to works of fiction and promote reading.

“One of our objectives here at St. John’s is to, of course, provide enriching learning opportunities for our students, but also really to foster that love of reading,” she said.

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