2016: A Year to Treasure

I’ve never written an end of the year post. But this year was a bit different for me so I thought I’d give it a try.

As some of you might remember, I signed with Rebecca Angus, my literary agent, in August of 2015. By spring of 2016, we had been through the first round of submissions on my middle grade, THE CRIMSON FIVE: Spin the Golden Light Bulb, with a bit of interest from editors. It was a gut wrenching time though and to say my hopes were sky high during that period would be an understatement. The waiting was torment and I fluctuated everyday between being sure that I’d get an offer, and then positive my dreams would be crushed to the ground the next time I opened my email.

This ping pong of emotions went on for some time… back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Some days, I really felt like a basket case, pinning my hopes and dreams on the opinion of these editors. But instead of letting that emotion take over, I made a conscious decision to hope for the best and sit myself down at my computer. I had a new story to write and that wasn’t going to happen by refreshing my email! I worked myself ragged planning and drafting, and somehow during 2016, the sequel to THE CRIMSON FIVE slowly grew into a story of its own. I breathed life into THE CRIMSON FIVE characters once again, and as I did, I found myself less and less concerned with what was going on with my sub round, became more confident in my writing, and positive that one day an editor would love both THE CRIMSON FIVE books, not just one.

In fall of 2016, Rebecca sent the manuscript out to another round of editors, even though several editors from the previous round were still considering it. By then, I had learned that all good things take time, and when publishing is involved, good things take a really long time! So, I just kept drafting and revising because that’s what I’m good at and more importantly, that’s what I could control.

However, if they say that good things take time, really great things happen in the blink of an eye. And that’s exactly how the offer on THE CRIMSON FIVE: Spin the Golden Light Bulb and the sequel felt to me. Like a blink. A full on eye-twitching blink! One moment I didn’t have an offer, and the next moment I did.

I promised a post about how the Amberjack Publishing offer came on a random fall day in 2016, but I’m not quite ready to write that one yet. I guess I’m still floating ( and blinking) from the fact that as 2016 closes this week, I actually have my first book deal…a two book deal!

It’s funny though how sometimes it takes a dream come true to put all things into perspective.

This year, for me, was so much more that my book deal. It was the small family moments that happened each day, the ones that made my year. So in no particular order of importance, here are some of my memorable moments from 2016…

We celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday. Yikes!

My son and daughter competed for the first time ever on the same sports team…indoor track! To see my children compete as teammates, siblings, and friends—cheering and pushing each other to do more than they thought they could, meant more to me than I can say.

My husband (the marathon runner/ triathlete) suffered a broken nose and a concussion from a wayward golf ball at work—he’s a golf sales rep. Weeks later he suffered broken ribs too while coaching our son’s hockey practice…proving that none of us are invincible—even my superman husband. It was heartbreaking to watch though and I prayed for his speedy recovery so he would feel like himself again.

My son competed in DECA (a business competition) at the state level, showing me that all his Odyssey of the Mind hard work was totally worth it. Those spontaneous problems are like gold.

My daughter set a high school track and field record in pole vault ( by 12 inches!) at sectionals and was recruited to vault in college. Being witness to her hard work and dedication after many, many setbacks through the years in both gymnastics and pole vault was true a inspiration to me.

My son ran at the track and field sectionals for the 3,000m steeplechase…and started driving!

My daughter met the boy of her dreams and their whirlwind romance throughout this year has been something out of a fairytale. Yes, he’s a sweet boy and yes, he opens the door for her—every single time!

She graduated from high school, and I’m officially old.

We had a BIG dessert themed party for the occasion, complete with a messy chocolate fountain and EIGHT Pinterest worthy posters filled with her life in pictures. I remember about five minutes of the whole whirlwind evening, but I do remember every single family member and friend who was there and how much they have impacted her childhood in amazing ways.

I took my son on his first college visits, just him and I. The two of us. So fun!

I had a birthday over the summer…the last one before that BIG birthday. Yuck.

Our family took a quick vacation to Boston for my son’s sixteenth birthday and while we were there reconnected with tons of extended family for my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary aboard a yacht in Boston Harbour. Sure it was only for one night, but still. A yacht!

I tried paddle boarding for the first time in Cape Cod. Now I want  to live on the water—and buy a paddle board.

My daughter and I shopped along Newberry Street in Boston and discovered our new favorite shop…Jack Wills. So cute and so British! Do stop in if you’re in Boston sometime.

We dropped our daughter off at college. I didn’t think I had that many tears in me. But I do. Even when you know your child is following their dreams and is at the perfect college for them, it’s still difficult when you realize they aren’t going to be home everyday anymore. Drop off day is just plain hard. But we’ve all adjusted, and she stops home a lot. So yay!

My son ran cross country in the fall and had recruiters and coaches from his two top colleges watch him race. Watching his face as he realized they were there to watch him was priceless. Watching him get fit for an ankle boot and crutches weeks later was not so great—especially for him. But he’s all healed now, so there’s that. 🙂

My husband recovered from his injuries too and slowly but surely is getting back into race shape. That makes him happy so it makes me happy too.

We celebrated his milestone BIG birthday this year with a few small parties-one that even included a shocking surprise visit from my sister-in law and niece from Florida. That was so fun. So now he’s officially old, and I am not! My milestone birthday isn’t until next summer. But seriously,  instead of us being like whoa is me or bummed out now, we realize that our adventure is definitely just beginning.

I signed a contract with the amazing team at Amberjack Publishing for my middle grade book—and it’s sequel…and it will be published on January 2, 2018!

We celebrated my son’s 17th birthday. My baby is 17. OMG!

I took another quick trip to Boston with my husband for his work Christmas party. It made me realize that I miss spending time with just him. Him and I. The two of us. Just us. I’m so grateful we still love each other and LIKE each other after all this time.

We celebrated the holidays with both our parents, and extended families, and KNOW how lucky we are to have all of them in our lives.

We surprised our kids with a 2017 summer trip to Disney. And if you know our kids you know that they are still smiling about it and will be until this summer. It’s great to have something so amazing to look forward to. It’s been a long time since we took an elaborate family trip like that and we decided that life moves so quickly we need to take advantage of the time we have together now.

I hope all of you reading this post don’t walk away thinking my life is all roses and sparkles though because it’s not. There were tears and fights and frustrations sprinkled in with these memorable moments too. But like anyone else, I worked through them. Every day is a choice and every day I choose to look for the wonder. Because it’s there.

So what’s my takeaway from 2016? Well, if you blink…something wonderful just might happen.

Happy New Year everyone. May 2017 be all you wish it will be, and maybe even filled with a few amazing surprises. Thank you for being a wonderful part of my 2016. You’ve all helped to make it so very memorable in the best way, and I look forward to hearing about all of your memorable 2017 moments soon!




Meet Maura Jortner

Hi there, everyone! We have a lovely writer to catch up with today in our Writers Around the World Q & A series. Meet Maura Jortner…


Hello Maura! I’m so happy to “chat” with you. First of all, where are you from and where do you live now?

 I am originally from Salem, New Hampshire, but I now live in Waco, Texas.

So, how long have you been writing?

I began writing in 2012.

What age group and genre(s) do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one?

I started writing because I was telling my daughter stories at bedtime, and they were getting more and more complex. I finally had to start typing them out. She was around the age for Middle Grade at the time, so that’s where I began. I soon found my real love was YA, and I’ve been writing for that age group ever since.

We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?

The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns by John Green, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins… There’s a long list.

Those are some of my favorites too. With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?

I’m a big fan of… well, about anything well written. I loved The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Wreckage by Emily Bleeker, The Drowning Game by L.S. Hawker, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. …and that’s just off the top of my head.

Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!

Professionally I’m also a professor, so that’s what I’d want to be. J

Yes, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?

Drafting. Absolutely.

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

Before I start drafting, I have at least a beginning, two turning points, and the end in my head. Next, I write the query letter to see how it sounds. Once I have those aspects in place, then I’m ready to begin.

What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?

Friday because my official work load (being a professor) is light and I can sneak in extra writing time.

Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?

At my desk (in the office) or kitchen table (at home).

Are you a morning person or a late night owl? What time do usually write?

Morning, but I’ll make due with whatever time I have when push comes to shove. I write whenever I can sneak a few minutes… so I set my alarm for 4:45 to get a little less than an hour of writing in before my kids wake up. Then I write during the day if I have a bit of time. Later at night, I will write from 9:30-10:00, or, if I’m on a roll, I keep going.

What prompted you to write your story in the first place?

Oh, oops. I answered this question above!

What’s your favorite food(s)?

Shrimp. No, chocolate. No, shrimp.

Do you have any hobbies, besides writing?

Does driving my kids around town count as a hobby?

Do you have a job other than writing?

Ooops. Also mentioned this above. I teach writing and literature at Baylor University.

Tell us about your family…

I have a patient husband, two amazing daughters, and one unruly cat.

Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

My CPs (Critique Partners) that I found through Twitter.

What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

Getting my first YA published.

Yay!! Congratulations!! We know getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying, even now?

Sometimes I honestly don’t know. *bangs head for a while, finally snaps out of it* Oh, right. I do actually have a real answer. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. That’s what makes me happy. So I know I’ll keep going, and my writing keeps improving with every book, so I might as well keep trying to get published, right? 

What’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?

I have a new novel in my head right now… so I just need to make sure I have the kinks worked out in the plot and then I’ll start writing it.

Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?

Two things:

Just keep going. Be that tenacious bulldog that won’t give up, that won’t release the yummy bone it found no matter what its owner says. You’ll make it if you just keep going.

Fill your writing world with positive people, but also those who can help you get better. Look for CPs that are better writers than you are. They’re the ones who will push you. And they’re the ones who can help you make it through all the rejection.

What will you do when you reach your next writing goal? Who will you tell first?

I will tell my CPs, first, of course. Did I say that? I mean my husband. Definitely my husband David.

If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?

I’d go anywhere there are ruins. I love them. All of them. For instance, I’d love to visit the abandoned Incan citadel, Machu Picchu.

Thanks so much, Maura for taking the time to answer my questions and share a little bit about your writing world with all of us. Oh…and good luck to you on your soon-to-be-released debut YA novel!  (Available January 9, 2017 by Lakewater Press)

To get in touch with Maura or learn more about her book, here’s how you can reach her:

Twitter: @maura_jortner

Facebook: MauraJortnerBooks

Website: https://www.maurajortner.com/


I Have a Book Deal!

It’s true!

I’m thrilled and humbled to announce that my middle grade manuscript, THE CRIMSON FIVE: Spin the Golden Light Bulb, has been acquired by Dayna Anderson at Amberjack Publishing and is set to be released in 2018!

And even better, Amberjack has acquired the sequel also.

I’m in a state of shock… A Two-Book Deal!!

I’m so honored to be working with the amazing people at Amberjack and thankful to them for taking a chance on me, a debut author with a larger than life dream and an over-the-top middle grade story. All I’ve ever wanted was to see this story published, to inspire children—to show them that no dream is too big, no idea is too small, and all ideas are worth pursuing—they just need the courage to try!

THE CRIMSON FIVE: Spin the Golden Light Bulb is the story of five eleven year-olds on an adventure almost to good to be true… kind of like all this right now.

I read recently that it takes the average writer 10 years to traditionally publish their first book. 10 years! If I had known that statistic when I began writing my first middle grade manuscript, back in January 2007, it might have discouraged me. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that patience is a virtue and perseverance is everything. For me, 10 years have flown by in a flash—I guess time does fly when you’re busy writing and dreaming, and writing and hoping, and writing and wishing for your dream to come true. 🙂

I began writing this manuscript (my third) in 2012 and for three years after that  I revised to make it as strong, sparkly, and polished as possible. I’m so thankful to my agent, Rebecca Angus of Golden Wheat Literary for seeing potential in this story and for her endless work on my behalf over the last year. My book baby wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity to be born if it wasn’t for her. So thank you, Rebecca. You inspire me every day.

I know this is not the acknowledgment page of the book, but I can’t share my exciting news with all of you without giving a shoutout to my family. My husband, Jim has been by my side through my whole writing journey, supporting and believing in me like no one else. My son, Adam has read every single word of every single revised version of this manuscript over the last four years. This story is as much a part of him as it is of me. And every writer needs a cheerleader too. A believer. A wisher. For me, that person is my daughter, Danielle. No one wishes on my behalf like she does!

To my mom and dad, and to my mother-in-law and father-in-law: You all said I could do this. Thank you for believing that and making me believe it too.

I want to give a shout out also to my critique partners who made this book what it is so far. Beth Hautala, Mel Mercado, Glenn McCarty, and JD Burns…you are gems. Thank you for giving so much of yourselves to me and to this story.

And…to the 5 real life eleven year-olds (who are now 16 & 17 years old!) —Kara, Adam, Meg, Jake, and Julia (my young Odyssey of the Mind 2011 team), the force behind the plot… my Crimson Five Rock Stars: Your over the top ideas, creativity, and teamwork inspired me in ways I cannot express. I had no choice but to write this book!

So guys, thanks for reading about my news and for cheering me on through the years. You know I’m doing the same for all of you. If you keep at it, and keep improving your craft, this publishing thing can happen. You just have to want it bad enough.

In a future post I’ll talk about how the offer and deal came together. Well, as much as I can anyway. I’ve always been interested in that sort of thing and I’m guessing some of you are too. For now I will tell you that the offer came on a day that I least expected it, a simple message from Rebecca that spun my ordinary day, and the weeks that followed, into a frenzy!

Before I write that post though, I’m going to float around in this dreamland I’ve fallen into and keep smiling, grinning, and squealing. I can’t help it. I mean, what else do you do when your dream is about to come true and your fairy tale ending is just over a year away?

Oh right, you keep writing and you keep revising. So I guess that’s what else I’ll do. 🙂

Jackie ❤

Soon to be Published Author!!

They say that good things take time

But really great things happen in the blink of an eye.

                                                                            -Hannah Montana


Meet Rebecca Waddell

For our latest installment in the Writers Around the World series, I’d like to introduce you to writer, Rebecca Waddell!

Over the past few months, I’ve had the great opportunity to get to know Rebecca—mainly through Twitter, but now, through her participation in this series, I’ve gotten to know her even better. Pull up a chair and “listen in” as we chat all about her writing…and her writing life. 

Hi Rebecca, thanks so much for chatting with me and sharing a little bit about yourself. First of all, I’m curious to know where you’re from.  

Hi! I’m from California and still live here.

Well, you’re a lucky girl and I envy you already. Here in NY, the temperatures are dropping snow is beginning to fall. Enough said! So, how long have you’ve been writing?  

Good question. I started writing poetry in elementary school and telling stories. Really, I’ve always told stories and been that one kid who insisted when we played house that I was the pet lion.  In 2000, when I graduated from college, I started my first full-time job and my first novel.

What age group and genre(s) do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one?

Hmmm… Tricky question. Yes is the most accurate answer.  I started with Adult Sci-Fi, but that is also the manuscript I burned in a bonfire. I moved on to Contemporary Adult and wrote two books before trying my hand at Picture Books. I wrote a few of those and gathered rejections on all of those for a while before I changed gears and wrote my first Young Adult Contemporary novel. YA and MG have stolen my heart and that is where I write most of the time. I write a combination of Contemporary, fantasy, and Sci-Fi, whatever character screams the loudest at writing time. Oh, I write Chapter Books too sometimes.

We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you read in your genre and loved?

I think it depends a lot on the author what they need to read to get into the right frame. *shift-eyes looking for CPs who will tell on me* Okay, I’m terrible about this and it’s important. For Middle Grade, especially, reading to get the voice and word usage is important for me. My natural voice is a little older than acceptable to use in Middle Grade, so spending time with my almost twelve-year-old and stealing some of her books is very helpful. My nine-year-old sounds like one of my YA characters, so she’s not as helpful when it comes to nailing dialogue.

With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all. What’s a book out of your genre/age group you read and loved?

I just finished What Light by Jay Asher and love the Warrior’s Series and the Storm Siren trilogy.

Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!

When I was four, I wanted to be a fire truck. Things didn’t quite pan out there.  I also wanted to open a pet shop and be a teacher. If I could do anything, I’d go back to working with high schoolers. And hanging out with my kids, I’m rather fond of them.

Yes, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?

Currently, drafting, but revising is its own reward because I love working with someone else to shape my story. It means it’s not mine anymore and I can share it with someone else. I love the moment when one of my trusted CPs or my beloved agent gets something I had no idea was in the story and I get excited over the whole thing all over again.

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

Planning… Every time I try to plan out my story too far, I end up driving myself crazy and not writing. Outlines are the death of me. I do need to have an overall idea of what I’m doing in my head after a certain point, or know my characters enough to let them lead. So, I’m kinda somewhere between a planner and a pantser.

What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?

Uh, I’m not sure. Writing days. Because I get to write on writing days. Also, sleeping in days.

Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?

My main writing places are my new desk, my couch, and the gym. At least, that’s where I go with my laptop. My iPad is what I write on when I’m in bed. Otherwise, I write on my phone wherever I am when the words want to come out.

Are you a morning person or late night owl? What time do usually write?

NIGHT TIME!!!!! I’m not really awake until 9 am, even if I am up and about.

What made you write your story in the first place?

Uh, which one? Actually, the answer for most of them is that I wanted to know what happened next, so I kept writing until I found out. Some of the other stories happened because the character wouldn’t leave me alone or shut up long enough to hear anything else in my head.  One story, one very important story came because I couldn’t find the character after she whispered to me. I’m pretty sure my amazing, wonderful agent might have questioned my sanity (I’ve sure given her plenty of occasions to wonder about me *shrug* I’m a writer) when I sent her an email telling her how worried I was about this character and how I couldn’t find her. That book is different in the very best ways.

What’s your favorite food(s)?

Pizza, chocolate, ice cream, soda, turkey, mashed potatoes, candy, chocolate, salmon, asparagus, chocolate, steak, rice, broccoli, crab, oh, and did I mention chocolate? I like a few other foods too.

What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing?

Water or Mountain Dew.

Do you have any hobbies, besides writing?

Yes. I love four-wheeling and desperately miss riding a quad on the dunes. Beach bonfires are a favorite past time as is just walking around and thinking. I love to sing questionably in my car and dance by myself when no one but God can see me. I also love playing goofy games on my Ipad and I love camping! Hiking is awesome, except for how much I have to ice my knees after I go. And I love to cook, but don’t do it very often because I’m kind of busy most days.

Do you have a job separate from writing?

Yes, that full time job is still my day job, though I’m not in the same office I started at in 2000. I’m basically in charge of paperwork and filing, like many office jobs.

Tell us about your family…

I love my husband and two daughters. *shifty eyes* They may or may not influence some of my characters. My hubby is the support that picks me up when things are rough and makes me separate from my laptop when I don’t want to, which is a good thing. He’s the root of love that grounds every romantic relationship between characters, and the one that nourishes me and keeps me grounded he also drives me completely crazy in the very best way and I love him more for it. My kids, what can I say about the two daughters who for some reason question every single thing I tell them and inspire some of the strangest moments I capture in fiction. It is my distinct privilege to be their mom and all the craziness that ensues from that.

Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

When I first started, my mom was always my first reader. I’ve connected with an incredibly talented and amazing group of Critique Partners who are now my typical first readers. On a couple occasions, my amazing agent has been stuck with the edited only by me raw spewing from my mind.

What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

Boy, that’s a hard question. Everything in writing is so much of a process that it all feels big. One of my very favorite things is having the privilege and pure joy of being part of Golden Wheat Literary and having Jessica Schmeidler as my agent. There aren’t words to capture how much I love the writing family I have there.

Getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying?

Why would I quit just because it’s hard? The best things are worth all the work it takes to get them done. That willingness to push for the difficult only makes me a better writer and sharpens my story.

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?

Self confidence. Every book I wonder if I can write, if I’m good enough to make a story come out of the whisps of characters still forming in my head. I wonder if anyone will like anything I put down on paper or if I should give up on all of it. My other main struggle is with taking breaks. I don’t wanna. I’m stubborn and just want to keep writing, but I need breaks.

What’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?

I’m drafting something new at the moment. If you listen enough, I think you can hear my Critique Partners groan. I’m also currently wondering if it will turn into a whole book or what.

Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?

Keep going. Take breaks. Write more things. Try short stories. Keep learning. Write more. Take breaks. Keep going. If you really want to do this, nothing will stop you.

What will you do when you reach your writing goal? Who will you tell first?

I’ll set a new goal because I’m not doing this for one book or one story, I’m doing this for life because writing is part of who I am, not just something I do. It’s a lot less about goals now and more about which story comes next and in what stage.

If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?

I want to go to Scotland and Ireland, but also, Alaska. Who knows, I’ll just wait and see what God has planned. I’ll go where He sends me.

Rebecca, thank you so much for meeting up with me and sharing your thoughts with all of us. Good luck with your writing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s looking forward to reading your stories one day!


To connect with Rebecca, click on her websites and check her out on social media. She would love to hear from you!

Author Site: http://rebeccaw23.wixsite.com/glowolf143

Poetry Blog: www.ReflectionOfFaith.wordpress.com

Twitter: @GloWolf143

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rebecca-Waddell-252027238175633/