Author of the Month: Leigh Anne Fortner

By Susan L. Peterson

“God showed me a unique way to use my creativity for good and I said yes.” That is how Leigh Anne Fortner explains why she became a children’s book author. To date, she has written and published three books resulting in a $4,500 profit, all of which she has donated to help others in need.

Growing up in Jonesboro, Fortner’s parents taught her the importance of church and community, and she often served as a volunteer. In 2012, she earned her master’s degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Central Arkansas. She then worked at Pediatrics Plus for six years prior to becoming a full-time mom to her two children, Harper Grace and Ira.

Harper Grace Fortner, Leigh Anne Fortner and Ira Fortner hold books that Leigh Anne has published. Photo by Mike Kemp.

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Fortner felt a lot of sadness and vulnerability, and she wanted to do something to help. One day, the words and ideas for a book just came to her during a rare quiet time. “The Light” is a story written in poetic form about love, grief and faith in a dark time and shows Christ’s goodness and light in the world.

Fortner asked Anastassiya Selezneva, a friend and fellow student from Kazakhstan, to do the illustrations. Initially, the two thought the book would be just for their own children and friends. How wrong they were.

Knowing nothing about publishing, Fortner went online and chose a hybrid publishing company, Tellwell Talent, to help her publish it. In January 2021, “The Light” went on sale, and people loved it.

Her second book inspiration came during a Bible study class about transformation. Once again, the words to “Mariposa: A Tiny Seed’s Big Transformation” came to her almost immediately. It is the story of a tiny seed that survives in a harsh desert climate, revealing that we all have a place and a purpose in the world.

In order to retain control over her work, Fortner decided to self-publish “Mariposa.” She even took an online class to learn about bar codes, ISBN numbers and the intricacies of design. She appropriately named her publishing company Spread the Light Books, and in July 2022 “Mariposa” went on sale.

“Ripples” is Fortner’s third book, self-published last August, and is inspired by the war in the Ukraine. The story demonstrates how ripples of love, peace and hope can result from one action. As with the first two books, Selezneva again illustrated them.

Fortner now dedicates the profits from each of the books’ sales to a different group. The net proceeds of “The Light” are donated to The CALL of Arkansas, which provides support for foster and adoptive parents in Arkansas. “Mariposa’s” profits are given to Our House in Little Rock, which helps homeless or near-homeless families and individuals. Because her latest book was published at the start of the Ukraine war, Fortner decided to donate its profits to The Liberty Ukraine Foundation to help children overcome war trauma.

Reviewers of Fortner’s book love how the books are written in rhyme from a Christian perspective. Many comment on the whimsical illustrations. Most of all, the positive, uplifting messages of each book communicate hope and light in what may otherwise be a dark time.

She likes to credit her husband, James Fortner. “If it weren’t for him, I would have never taken the steps to actually publish my books. Whenever I have an idea, he encourages me to pursue it, despite the possible outcomes. When I get discouraged, he always reminds me that success isn’t about selling huge amounts of books, but it’s about doing what you believe in and making a difference where you can.”

Fortner enjoys speaking to groups about her books and has made appearances at schools and libraries. The majority of book sales are now online, but she can sometimes be found at community events making direct sales herself. Her books can be found on Amazon and other online publishers. More information about Fortner and her work is available at

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