Small Change, Big Deal

You may have noticed a slight change to the site. Or maybe you didn’t. Like I said it’s kind of small, just a change of phrase, a change to the tag line of the site. But though it may be small to everyone else in the universe, it’s a major huge big deal change to me.  Go ahead look up. You’ll see it. 🙂

Swirl and Spark is now my author site!!

I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a brand new separate author site, or even one that links back to this one. But…I just couldn’t do it. This is my website. This is the one I’ve put my heart and soul into for almost four years. This is the one that has allowed me to connect with so many great writers and I am just not ready to let that go. Not yet. Maybe one day I’ll branch out, but for today creating a whole new author site feels almost like a betrayal, like I’ll have to abandon all the hopes and plans I’ve had for the site through the years.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of having an author site. I’ve been working to be able to do that for much longer than I’ve even had this site. I love the idea of having a home base for my books. But Swirl and Spark is a part of me and so for now I want this to be the home base for my books and my author doings as well as a place for the writing community to gather. I know this site is not perfected yet. I have a lot of work to do to get it where I want it to be. Some of the tabs here are in dire need of updating (Hello Book Nook and Scribble Tips!) But just because I have a book coming out next year, doesn’t mean I won’t still strive to bring something to the writing community through Swirl and Spark. I want my author site to be more than a place where people can learn about my books and author events. Sure I’ll be adding that stuff at some point. But I want it to be more than that too. Who knows what it will look like down the road but that will always be my goal.

Does anyone remember Critique Corner? Back when I started this site (in 2013!) it was a periodic critique round where brand new writers (even kids!) could submit their work and get feedback from other writers. It was great fun and I loved hosting that series. But at the time there were other places writers could go for that, and over time it lost it’s popularity. So I phased it out in favor of other things. Some worked, some did not. Today, that spot is occupied by the Writers Around the World series. Although it’s only been up for a few months, the page views tell me that you like reading the interviews—and so do I! So I have every intention of increasing the frequency of those posts and seeing just how many fantastic writers (and people!) we can connect with.

I’ll continue to post about living the life of a writer too because that’s what I do. It’s fun for me to post about what it’s really like and hopefully something I say may inspire you along the way because I still believe that if this publishing thing can happen for me…it can definitely happen for you—if you are persistent enough. 🙂

So onward and upward! It’s time to get back to work. Time to draft, time to revise. Time to stay strong when any of it gets tough. If you get stuck for an idea or on a plot point, go for a walk. Fold the laundry. Take out that work from your day job. Watch Once Upon a Time on Netflix. Think about something else. The solution  will probably come to you eventually. But if it doesn’t, write something. Anything. Usually it takes nothing more than fingers tapping on the keyboard it get the ideas swirling.

Have an amazing day, everyone! But before you leave, check out the Q& A’s at Writers Around the World. There’s great stuff in those interviews, and some lovely writers to connect with.

I’m off to make some coffee and see how much of this next chapter I can write. Wish me luck!



Meet Michelle Barry

Hey everyone,

It’s time once again for a Writers Around the World post…This time, I’d like to introduce you to the lovely, Michelle Barry!


Michelle was sweet enough to answer my questions and here’s what she had to say…

Hi Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by the site. First things first. What name do you like to go by, and do you use a pen name for writing? 

Michelle Barry  – and no pen name at the moment!

Where are you from and where do you live now? 

I grew up in Western Massachusetts, went to school in Newport, Rhode Island and now I live in Connecticut. So I guess that makes me a New Englander through-and-through! 

It definitely does! So, how long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember. My mom recently dug up an old box full of stapled-together books I wrote as a kid. I first started writing professionally after I graduated college and took a job as a reporter for a local newspaper (which was a really, really fun job). I started writing fiction (again) about five years ago.

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 bounce between Middle Grade and Young Adult in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.

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?

There are so many! The Harry Potter series will always be a favorite. I recently read Soman Chainani’s The School For Good & Evil series, which I loved. I’ve read The Hunger Games series more times than I can count… I could go on for a long time so I’ll cut it there. 

Oh my gosh, the Hunger Games series is in my favorite 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 thought Gone Girl was fantastic and that’s about as far outside my age group and genre as you can get! Like many, I am also impatiently awaiting the next book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

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!

I’m very interested in politics and I think being a speech writer would be a really cool job… but I suppose that still counts as writing so… as a kid I always wanted to be an astronaut, which actually ties in nicely with my love of science fiction so I’ll go with that!

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

I like to say whichever one I am NOT currently doing is what I prefer, but if I had to pick, I’d say revising. 

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

I usually see the beginning and end of the story initially and fill in the middle as I go. I try to outline but that doesn’t always happen, especially if I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I’m short on time (which is often!). In that case I’ll just wing it and fix it up later.

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

Friday because it’s… well… Friday!

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

Either very early in the morning in my living room or in a coffee shop on my lunch break. 

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

Definitely morning! My writing alarm goes off at 4:30AM because it’s the only quiet time I can reasonably count on with two little kiddos that are prone to be up early! Plus, what better way to start the day than writing?

What made you write your story in the first place?

When I first got back into writing stories I was working in the Marketing department of a manufacturing company. It was very dry and tedious work and I really needed some sort of creative outlet. An idea fell into my head and I just started writing – mostly on my lunch breaks, which was a great way to break up the day. That book is currently buried at an undisclosed location, never to be seen again, but it was a good learning experience and gave me back the writing bug. 

What’s your favorite food(s)?

That list could also go on forever so I’ll just pick one… pizza.  

What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing?

Definitely coffee!

Do you have any hobbies, besides writing? 

I was a dancer from preschool through college but since have retired my dancing shoes and am now a proud Dance Mom (with an occasional zumba class here and there).

Do you have a job other than writing? Being a stay at home parent counts in case my question isn’t clear!

I handle the communications for a small insurance company, which I honestly love. I enjoy the work and my coworkers are all great people – can’t ask for much better than that!

Tell us about your family

My husband and I recently had our five-year wedding anniversary and we have two bubbly, funny, wonderful kiddos. My daughter is four (and a half – which is a critical distinction to her) and my son is two (and a half – because fairness is also crucial).

That is so cute!! Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

My wonderful, amazing and talented CP’s, who I am grateful for every day.

I agree. There’s nothing like great critique partners! What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

Signing with my seriously awesome agent (Pete Knapp of Park Literary).  

Congratulations! Signing with a literary agent is a HUGE accomplishment!! Speaking of which…getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying? 

I guess because I have to. Not writing isn’t really an option. It’s what I do. And as writers, I think we’re all committed to that dream of seeing our novel in a bookstore someday. It’s not something I could ever imagine walking away from. 

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

Breaking away from my original vision. Sometimes the original arc I imagine isn’t the best path for the story to follow, and I need a nudge to try and see the potential for a different direction – which is why having talented CP’s (and an editorially-eagle-eyed agent) that you trust is so important.

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

I’m currently revising an old project, and revising a new project, and I have a half-written WIP that I’d like to finish one of these days… plenty to keep me busy!

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

Just keep going and be open to the fact that it may be your next book, or the book three books after your next book, that’s going to hit. My first offer of representation was on my fourth novel, but I would never have been able to write it without the things I learned from the first three. Also, don’t get stuck staring at a blinking cursor. Even if you know the words aren’t quite right, just keep going. Keep putting one word in front of the other. Sometimes you don’t know what the beginning should look like until you write the end.

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

Definitely my CP’s. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a good circle of writer friends around you. Not only will you learn from their feedback, and from reading their work, but the friendships of people who understand what you’re going through, who “get” the whole querying/submission thing, is beyond vital.

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

I would LOVE to go to Egypt to see the pyramids. 

Thank you so much, Michelle, for sharing a bit about your writing life and so many words of wisdom. We wish you the best in your journey towards publication and look forward to reading your books someday soon!

To connect with Michelle, you can follow her on Twitter at @MichelleABarry.

Have a great day, everyone! Hopefully it’s filled with words, coffee, and well more words!

Jackie ❤