Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Babies, Blogs, Books & Other Things with Wings

Hey Lovelies,

I can hardly believe we’re at the end of July already. But, I’m more than ready to move onto August. So many exciting things are happening that I can hardly contain myself!

August 16th marks 5 years since this website went live and I published my first ever official blog post! That’s a lot of years. And a lot of posts out in the virtual world.

August 17th marks 3 years since I signed with my agent! Hello Rebecca and Golden Wheat Literary! It took me 8 years to reach this milestone. 8 years! So please don’t let anyone tell you it’ll never happen for you. That’s not for anyone else to decide. Keep writing. Keep improving. Keep querying.

August 21st marks the day my second middle grade book publishes! Yay Flip the Silver Switch! I always knew that in order to tell my story, it would probably take two books. From draft to publication of both Spin the Golden Light Bulb and Flip the Silver Switch will be 6 and a half years. That’s a lot of time spent on the Crimson Five kids!

If that’s not reason to celebrate, I’m not sure what is!

So in honor of all that, I’ll be hosting a really awesome Swirl and Spark Giveaway!! Details will be announced on August 14th  but I will say that if you’re a fan of middle grade books, books of any kind, or are a writer, you will definitely want to enter!

Another major event is happening in August too. My youngest is heading off to college! I can hardly believe that fact either. He’s heading off to live on his own without me and if you think I’m a puddle just thinking about it, you are so right. I’m trying to look on the bright side though. His college is only 20 minutes away, so even though I won’t be stopping by unannounced, I will get to watch him run in many of his cross country and track meets, and meet him for a quick lunch to catch up once in awhile. He’s more than ready to test his wings and I couldn’t be happier to watch him chase his dreams in the process.

But… if I seem distracted or scattered or just all out emotional this month, you’ll know why! Not only is my youngest human baby testing out his wings, my youngest book baby, Flip the Silver Switch is too…and my blog is about to celebrate its 5th Birthday!

A lot has happened in the last five years since this blog went live. Back then, my son was entering his freshman year of high school and my daughter was entering her junior year. Now she will be a college junior and he’ll be a college freshman. Yikes, how the calendar days disappear!

Five years ago, I had been seriously writing for six years. I had two middle grade manuscripts under my belt and no writers platform at all. I was barely on Facebook and I think I had a Twitter account with maybe five followers. I started this blog because I knew I needed to create a social media platform (if I was ever lucky enough to become published) and really wanted to connect with kids who hoped to become published authors someday too.

So as a result, swirl and spark, the site for kids who like to write was born. But even blogs have to test their wings in the blog stratosphere and mine is no exception. It’s grown and evolved so much and now doubles as my author website, but at my blog’s core it’s still a site for kids who like to write. The kids I’m referring to may be grown ups who are kids at heart, but what’s the difference really? Writers love to write stories at any age!

I hope that you’ve gained a little something useful by stopping by to read my posts through the years—whether that’s been for advice, tips, or just a reminder that another writer is pulling for you—because I am and will continue to be as long as you need.

So as a reminder…f you’re a writer in a young stage of the publication journey, just know that all the learning and writing and growing you’re doing is necessary. Your story will test its wings one day when it’s ready to, even if some days it doesn’t feel like it now. I promise you it will fly on it’s own. It has to. It’s inevitable. It’s all part of the cycle. Blogs evolve. Babies grow up. And books find their place in the world.

And now I’m crying.

So…on a less melancholy note,  I’ll be posting the details of the giveaway in two weeks! I’m so thankful that you’ve stuck with my blogging, and not blogging, and blogging in spurts through the years. I could not have continued if no one was reading!

Between then and now though, I have more posts ready to go, so definitely stop back. Gearing up for release day is going to be pretty fun this time around and I want to share the happenings with all of you!

You guys know how much I loath self promo, but it’s all part of the deal, so…

Have you preordered Flip the Silver Switch yet or requested it at your library? It releases 3 weeks from today!! Here are the links in case you missed them in the ten other places I’ve posted on the site!

Flip the Silver Switch on Amazon

Flip the Silver Switch at Barnes and Noble

Flip the Silver Switch at Lift Bridge Books

Thanks for reading today, Lovelies. I hope you all have a fantastic day!

Think More. Work Hard. Dream Big.

❤ Jackie

Posted in Uncategorized

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!

Jackie

Posted in December Book Blast, Uncategorized

December Book Blast: Day 20

Hey there!

And now for my December Day 20 pick…

AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko!

December Book Blast Day 20

From the publisher:

Moose Flannagan moves with his family to Alcatraz so his dad can work as a prison guard and his sister, Natalie, can attend a special school. But Natalie has autism, and when she’s denied admittance to the school, the stark setting of Alcatraz begins to unravel the tenuous coping mechanisms Moose’s family has used for dealing with her disorder. When Moose meets Piper, the cute daughter of the Warden, he knows right off she’s trouble. But she’s also strangely irresistible. All Moose wants to do is protect Natalie, live up to his parents’ expectations, and stay out of trouble. But on Alcatraz, trouble is never very far away.

From me:

I had to highlight this book…It’s celebrating its 10th anniversary of winning the Newberry medal! And what a well deserved honor…I was ultra impressed by the voice and the original plot. Having toured Alcatraz in San Francisco, I thought I’d love this historical fiction story, but I actually loved it even more than I thought. So if you have a young reader on your list, don’t forget this one. Boys, girls, adults…everyone will adore this one!

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What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Hey all,

Wow has this been a whirlwind week! I guess I’m still floating and spinning and grinning over finally signing with my agent. Click back to read last week’s post if you haven’t already!

But seriously, my head is swirling. Like I have no clue what day it is. Or if I already made breakfast for my son. I did right, or was that yesterday? Over the weekend I couldn’t remember what day I signed the contract. Was it last Tuesday or the week before? The kids go back to school soon, I know that. But is it next Wednedsday or the week after? Yikes! How many more days of summer vacation are there? (For the record, there’s 7. ) I’m usually an on-top-of-things kind of girl, but this week has knocked me off my game. Even if it is in the best way possible!

I remember when my daughter was born and I was about to be discharged from the hospital. The midwife told me I couldn’t drive for two weeks. I felt fine and asked her why exactly. She said she had no medical answer to give me, but merely a practical one. She told me that new moms are in la-la land after giving birth. They have so many thoughts and worries and random images (especially of the baby) swirling in their heads that they can be easily distracted while driving.

Hmm. I remember that time, and she was right. And I haven’t felt that way again—until now.

I guess my book baby has sent me to la-la land this week too!

Feeling this way has made me ask myself over and over,”What have I gotten myself into?” Not in a bad way, but in a OMG, am I ready for all this, kind of way.

Embarking on this next stage in my writing journey is like teetering on the edge of a cliff ready to dive into the azure waters below. It’s scary and exciting facing the unknown, even though no one is pushing me off this cliff. I’m opting to jump into this crazy adventure on purpose!

But still. Will I be able to handle the deadlines? Will I be able to polish this story to shine, sparkly enough that it will sell? Will I be able to write any words again? Will my next book live up my agent’s expectations like this one did and become something that people want to read?

And then I think of how long I have been walking towards this cliff (I mean waiting for this next step!) and all I can think is “Of course, I can!” Besides, I get to work with agent of fabulous, Rebecca Angus. So bring it on!!

And I also think of all the comments and good wishes I’ve gotten in person and through Facebook and on Twitter…all this amazing support. And I definitely know I can do it.

The thing is, all this attention (even for a few days) on social medial IS a little overwhelming. I didn’t think it would make me feel uneasy. I didn’t think sharing the details of my journey so publicly would be a big deal. Like I said, it’s amazing to feel the love, and to know I’m inspiring even one writer to keep at it.

But then a well meaning friend shares my agent announcement on Facebook which is so sweet BTW. But in doing so she mentions that I am about to become a published author.

Wait. Whoa. Hold on! That’s not what I said. I have an agent. I’m hoping she can sell my book baby to a publisher. But let’s not get ahead of outselves. That hasn’t happened yet. Gulp. Getting an agent is a huge deal to me. But by announcing that, I didn’t mean for people to think I’m published yet.

*cue the head spinning and feeling like a fraud because I’m not actually published yet*

I forget sometimes that not everyone is fully engrossed in the writing world like I am. Like my writing friends are. They don’t know exaclty what it means to have an agent. They are just happy to hear my news. So instead of allowing my head to spin off my shoulders, I breathe deep breaths and thank them for being happy for me. Even if they think my book is about to magically appear on bookstore bookshelves tomorrow!

Maybe that’s why jumping off this cliff is so exciting. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen next. I don’t know how this next stage in my quest to get my book baby in the hands of young readers will play out. But that’s okay. It’s kind of like watching one word after another magically appear on the page when I’m drafting a new story. It’s a feeling like no other. One word. Then the next. And then somehow, I have a whole bunch of words dancing together. It will happen the way it’s going to happen- one day and one milestone at a time. And hopefully somewhere along the way, there WILL be dancing!

And besides, I won’t be jumping off the cliff alone. I have a very dear friend jumping into the azure blue waters with me…

I am so ecstatic to share that just yesterday, my fabulous CP signed with her dream agent too!!!

Congratulations, Melyssa Mercado. I am bonkers happy that this is happening for you and that we will be cliff jumping together!! (Hopefully the water will be warm. And we won’t crack our heads open on any rocks. Oh, and our bathing suits don’t fall off.

So guys, click to read Mel’s Agent Announcement. You’ll know just from reading her post why she is well on her way to getting her book baby out there. She’s funny, adorable, and has the Best. Voice. Ever!

Thanks for reading my rambles today. Now go out there and write something. You know you want to. And remember, I’ll be cheering for you every step of the way!! 🙂 And now I’m off. I have another story to write while I wait for my revision notes from Rebecca to come. Yay. I can’t wait! This jump off the cliff is going to be fun! 🙂

Living a Writer’s Life

Writers live the best life ever, and the worse life ever. Sometimes both in the same day.  Read on for my take on what it’s really like to be a writer.

Writing

A writer’s routine includes writing. Many don’t write daily, but they write consistently. If long periods of time go between their writing sessions, it takes them that much longer to get back into their story. Maybe they’ve forgotten how their characters were feeling when they last worked on a scene, or how to access their voice. So they re-read that scene and sometimes another before they can add new words. And for writers, that’s wasted writing time. That’s why they try to write every day.

Writers don’t actually want to write all the time. But…writers make writing a priority anyway. Even though they want to binge watch Netflix when they get home from work, or work out, or read a book, they force their butt into the chair and write the words because they know that even the greatest words will never be read  if they don’t write them down… along with many others.

Writer’s spend too much time procrastinating. They peruse their Twitter Feed and stalk their friends on Facebook…even though they’ve set aside sacred time for writing. Then they wonder why they’ve only written 200 words in two hours. True story.

Writers think their stories stink. They also think their stories are brilliant. They think these things every day and sometime both on the same day.

Writers think about their stories even when they’re not writing. They think about the world they’ve created while showering, while cooking, while grocery shopping and even sometimes while they’re talking to their mom on their phone. Sorry, Mom! Not that talking to Mom isn’t important, but characters feel like children to their creators and the worrying, the planning, the dreaming about them simply doesn’t end when a writer turns their computer off.

On each and every birthday, writers make a writing wish. While they blow out their birthday candles, they quickly sum up their greatest writing desire. They wish to finish writing their manuscript. They wish to sign with a literary agent. They wish for a big fat book deal. They wish someone will buy their book, or lots of people will buy their book. They wish for a book launch party. They wish everyone will love their book.

Writers drink warm drinks. A lot of them. They drink coffee. They drink tea. They drink lattes. They drink Red Bull. Oh  wait, that last one isn’t warm. Well, I guess it could be, so whatever. And these drinks seem to fuel their creative energy.

Writers sometimes write in their pajamas. Actually many writers write in their pajamas and don’t shower or brush their hair. It’s kind of a thing, I guess. However, some writers actually shower every morning, get dressed in real clothes, do their hair, AND put on make-up. That’s actually a thing too. I hope I don’t have to tell you which one refers to me.

Writers hate telling people what their story is about. They can write a 70,000 word novel but writing an elevator pitch is worse that running out of coffee. Writers didn’t always feel this way. When they first started writing, they loved telling their family and friends what their next best seller was about. But after seeing too many blank faces staring back at them, and wasting too many words trying to make their story sound as amazing as it is in their head, they realize it’s better to be vague about the whole thing.

Writers panic every time their words are read. They hand those precious pages filled with their blood, sweat, and tears over to their beloved critique partner or agent or editor for the first time and they resort back to the cafeteria as a middle school kid. Will they like my words? Will they love my characters? Will they hate them? Will they think my writing sounds amateur? They think these things if they written three books or even if they’ve written thirty.

For a writer, writing partners are pure gold. A critique partner is like a best friend and workout partner and sister rolled into one. They understand your dreams, they understand your goals, and they know how hard you’ve worked through the years to make a sparkly story. They also give tough love when it’s needed. They are a writer’s cheerleader in the best sense of the word.

Writers wonder each day why their families expect dinner every single night. They feel bad when they order out. But they soon get over it because by not spending an hour cooking a meal that’s devoured in five minutes flat, they’ll have time to write 500 more words. And there won’t be any clean up.

With that said, writers love their crock pots. Or at least they want to. They want the ingredients they throw in there to magically turn into a gourmet feast. Because, ya know writers are good at dreaming.

Writers work at other jobs to pay the bills. Unless they are JK Rolling, independently wealthy, or have another source of income in their family, they find other ways to make money. They do freelance work, they work another job, or they sell their stuff on Craigslist. How’s that for reality?

Writers experience serious self doubt about their chosen profession. But they write anyway because they love to write. And they are gluttons for punishment. They spend too much time staring at a blank screen wondering if their idea is any good. But then another idea sparks and they splash it up on that blank page. Then the doubt is gone and replaced by a great sense of accomplishment.

Writers spend and awful lot of time by themselves. Most writers love this. It’s not a death sentence. It’s glorious time spent with their laptop, coffee, and the imaginary world they’ve created from nothing. It exhilarates them. It’s better than sunning themselves on a beach. Well, maybe not quite but you get the idea.

Writers write the stories that must be written. Writers constantly have stories that live in their heads, begging to be told. They write them in the car while waiting for their child to finish practice. They write late at night when the house is finally quiet. While other people are sleeping in or getting up at 5am to workout, writers are writing. Because that story swirling in their head insists on it.

Writers find inspiration in anything. Music. People. Places. Situations. Experiences. Pets. That’s why they do more than sit at their desk or in a coffee shop. They go outside. They run. They walk.They talk to people. They travel. And they love people watching. Oh, and people listening. But then they turn into hermits again. Because well, they’re writers.

Writers read their horoscope. They read tarot cards. They look for angel signs…or any signs that will tell them their manuscript is good enough and will become a real book someday.

Writers love Staples and Office Depot. They love pens. They love paper. They love notebooks and pencils. They love sticky notes, index cards, and pretty journals. They do.

Writers love to talk to other writers about their stories. And they especially love meeting their writing friends for coffee. No one knows the challenges and successes a writer feels, like another writer.

Writers love belonging to this secret club of writing people. They know how hard it is to write a complete story from beginning to middle to end, full of amazing characters, world class goals, unthinkable obstacles, and emotion that runs off the charts. They know what it takes to write a stellar picture book, hysterically heartfelt middle grade story, or gut wrenching YA novel. They get it and they’ve done it, and that’s kind of exclusive.

Writers celebrate writing successes. Like when they finish their first draft, when they finish revising, when they get their first full manuscript request, when they sign with an agent, when they get a book deal. There’s often chocolate. Usually wine. Always hugs and screams and sharing on Twitter.

Writers are genuinely excited for other writers when they achieve success  too. And not only because they think if it can happen to another writer it can happen to them too. It’s because another baby story is about to be born at the hand of a fellow writer who has worked just as hard as they have, and maybe harder. They love seeing other people’s dreams come true.

A writer’s life is a great one, because writers get to write. They get to share their stories with other people. They get to be creative. But it takes a patient person to enjoy all that goes along with it, that’s for sure.

So writers keep writing. They keep creating. They keep the words coming. They keep buying pencils, and drinking coffee. They know one day there’ll be chocolate and lots of readers for their story. They know their book will save the day for a young boy or girl one day… and that’s why so many writers knowingly choose to live this crazy writing life.

For more posts on living life as a writer, click the links below:

4 Signs You May not Fit the Writer’s Stereotype

An Open Letter to my Future Reader

I Have an Agent Announcement

What Happens After you Sign with a Literary Agent

Things You Imagine While Out on Sub

I Have a Book Deal

Posted in The Crimson Five series

Dialogue: Did the Right Person Say It?

Dreaming is good. Doing is better. If you want to reach your dream of getting your book published, then it’s time to get back to work on your manuscript. Last week I talked about characters—making your reader care about them by making them relatable, and making their goals crystal clear with high stakes. But those are just a few things your can do to strengthen your manuscript. Another is checking your dialogue—especially when you have many characters who show up scene after scene.

When dealing with multiple characters, it’s easy to assign dialogue to the wrong one. Each person needs to be involved in the conversation in some way and that way can be spoken or with a gesture. During the drafting stage, you just want to get the conversation on the page. Mare says this. Jax replies that. Ander looks at Mare, but says nothing. But once you’re in the revision stage it’s important to be sure the right dialogue is assigned to your characters. You may wonder why it even matters. Just getting the point across is enough, right? Well, no.

In Spin the Golden Light Bulb, the story revolves around a team of five kids. When they all speak in the same scene, it can be tricky to get the point across and make it sound natural. But it’s even harder than that because there are certain things that Jax would never say. Other things that Mare would definitely say. And Ander, well, Ander is Ander. He would never just look away without saying anything. How do I know? Because I know my characters like they are my own kids. Ander loves to be a part of the conversation. It would be very unlikely that he would be tongue-tied!

One of the adorable illustrations by Gabrielle Esposito in
Spin the Golden Light Bulb!

During revisions, I did a separate read through for each of my five main characters. I also did a sixth read through for the secondary characters. During each one, I would highlight their dialogue only and ask myself, “Would Mare say that? Is that the best response she could give? Does her response shed a light on who she is? Does what she’s saying move the conversation forward? Does it sound like something a real person would say? But most of all, I’m deciding if Mare is the person who should say that line, rather than maybe Kia or Jillian.

The process may sound tedious, and it is. But it’s so important especially with multiple characters in a conversation. You want your reader to get to know each one and this will help it to happen. You want your reader to be able to tell who is speaking, just by the sentence that’s spoken. Ander calls Kia by a nickname. Always. So when a sentence contains the nickname, it’s easy to know he’s speaking. The other kids never call her that. So when I’m revising I make sure that’s what he refers to her as. Ander loves to be the center of attention. He makes bold statements. Jillian is dramatic. Very. Mare is blunt. Dry. Kia is intense. She’s a worrier. Jax is quiet. Introverted. These descriptions don’t sum up all the reader knows about the five kids, but they are examples. And these types of things help me decide who would say what, when they’re interacting.

So that’s my best tip for dialogue. Make sure the right person is saying each line. Your story (and characters) will make more sense that way. I hope this helps as your revise your own manuscript. It’s definitely helped me!

On an author-life note, I’ve been paired up with a lovely teacher and class of fourth graders from Ohio for the Kids Need Mentors Program run by Kristin Crouch, Kristen Picone, and Jerrott Lerner. I’m so excited to work with them this year! I had an amazing experience last year with a class of fifth graders. It’ll be fun to see what comes of this new auther/ educator collaboration! I’ve also hit the 5,000 word mark on my new middle grade WIP. Not bad for just a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll get a few thousand more words in this week and get to a point where it feels more like a story and not just a premise. Wish me luck!

I hope you’re making progress on your writing projects too. Keep at it. Don’t give up. Even a few words a day makes a big difference. I’ll be in my corner of the internet cheering for you…as I pour another cup of very creamy coffee and get back to work myself!

Thanks for checking in today. I’ll see you again next week!

Posted in Publishing, Writing Craft

Get to Work! Make me Care about your MC

Hey there!

Sorry for the aggressive title today but I think many of you can use that reminder. I actually need it myself sometimes too! On the blog last week, I said that publishing is just crazy sometimes. It’s slow. It’s fickle. It’s unpredictable. But really, what business isn’t? And we all need to remember that publishing is a business. It’s not a book group or a hobby convention. Publishers are trying to produce the best books for their intended audience. Literary agents are trying to choose books that publishers will buy. As a writer, neither of these things are in your control. Likewise, once you do have a book deal, you have no control over how many people read your book or what they think of it. And all of that can be so frustrating.

Remember that saying, you can’t please everyone? The same is true with books. Not every reader likes the same book. Not every agent will be wowed by the same book. Not every editor or publisher will see the same potential in a book.

So the truth is, the best way to ensure that a literary agent chooses your book, a publisher chooses your book, a parent, teacher, bookseller, librarian, or reader chooses your book is to write a good book.

And even still, there are no for sures in publishing.

I love the Caravel series by Stephanie Garber more than I like the Harry Potter books. Does that mean anything? Not really, just that books are subjective. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard before. But what I will say is that if you’re trying to get your manuscript published and eventully into the hands of readers, then get back to work. I know, I know. You’ve been working on it for two years–maybe three. Well, maybe you need to work on it more. Have you been querying it for six months with no interest from agents? Not even one? Then look at it again. Something probably isn’t working and it’s not the agent. It needs more polishing. It needs something.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing tips on revision. We all know we need to revise, but sometimes we forget where to start. Both new and seasoned writers need to look for the same things, and whether you’ve written half a manuscript or twenty, it’s easy to overlook the basics when a newly finished draft is staring back at you. One of the most basic tips I can offer is this:

Make me care about your main character.

What does your MC want the most? What will happen if they don’t succeed? Are the stakes clear? Are they dire enough? Is your MC likeable? Will the reader route for them? A reader will follow a character through almost any journey if they care about them. Is your MC trying to save the world or find a hidden carrot? Who cares as long as we feel for your character and want them to succeed. Bottom line: make the reader care!

There are so many points to look for when revising your manuscript, but creating a MC that your readers will want to read about is one of the most important. So this week, get back to work on your MC. Read your first several chapters with fresh eyes. Would someone else feel for them? Would they turn the page to find out why achieving their goal is important to them? If the answer is no, maybe you need to up the stakes. Maybe you haven’t dug deep enough and shown how it will impact their life. Or maybe your character just isn’t likable. If they come off as brash or unrelatable, your reader won’t cheer for them in their quest. But if they are, their quest will become your reader’s quest. They’ll read on to discover what happens to them.

In Spin the Golden Light Bulb, eleven-year old Kia Krumpet wants to win a Golden Light Bulb. It’s pretty simple. But unless the reader understands why (in her mind) her whole life will fall apart unless she wins one, my readers won’t keep reading. I mean, a Golden Light Bulb is a pretty shiny trophy and all that, but it’s what the trophy represents, what winning represents, that make readers want to (hopefully!) stay up past their bedtime to read Kia’s story.

That manuscript took me four years to write—four years to get right. It may not take you that long, but remember, there are no shortcuts to writing a good book. You have to put the work in. You have to do more than just dream of seeing your book on a bookstore bookshelf. And believe me, I spend quite of bit of time doing that too!

So make your readers care about your main character this week. It will pay off so much down the road, in making your publication dream come true! I did that very thing earlier this week. I received copyedits for Pop the Bronze Balloon from my editor. But as I read through the manuscript, I used the opportunity to look at Kia through fresh eyes. I asked myself, Is her goal clear? Are her stakes clear? My readers have followed her through two books already and now for this final installment, I had to be sure that they still care about her and her quest. Will she finally get what she wants? Hopefully my readers care enough about her to find out!

I should have news on the updated release date for Pop the Bronze Balloon soon, (yay!!!) so check back for that! I’ll be posting it on social media as soon as I know. BTW, if you aren’t following me on Twitter or Instagram, please do! I’d love to connect with you. And if this post was helpful, please leave a comment. Interacting with other writers makes this whole community feel closer so if you’re here, let me know!

Thanks for stopping by the blog. 🙂 Have a fantastic day, everyone. I’ll be back again next week!

Posted in The Crimson Five series

Refocus Your Writing

Hello there! I’ve missed you guys. I mean, I’ve really have! I hope this summer was all you hoped it would be—or at least some of what you hoped it would be. I hope you were able to read a little, write a little, or even travel a little. I hope you were able to enjoy the sunshine and spend time with your favorite people—or revel in some alone time too.

The last time I checked in with you, our family was in the process of moving. My husband and I sold our house of twenty six years (I know, right?!), packed it up, and moved with our two college kids about thirty minutes east to a brand new area—a brand new house. No small task when you’re dealing with so many years of memories and so many years of life. The move was some parts easy, some parts stressful, and a really long process. Some days I was an emotional mess, some days I was physically wrecked, some days I floated on cloud nine, some days I worked on auto pilot. My writing and blogging took a back seat, that’s for sure. But now that we’re in and mostly settled, I’m so glad we made the move. I love our new home and even though a few boxes are still sprinkled throughout every room and we have projects galore to tackle, I feel energized by this new space and refreshed. And definitely ready to get back to writing. How lucky am I that this is my new writing view?

I had a long conversation with my husband and son about goals recently. It was the night before my son moved back to college for his second cross country preseason. He was struggling with his running goals, trying to pin-point what he hoped to accomplish this season. He was worried that after running for so many years, he had lost his love for the sport—not a good feeling the night before his official training was to begin. My husband had some wise words for him…ones that got me thinking about my own goals for writing.

He asked him why he had joined the cross country team way back in seventh grade. Was it because he loved running? Or something else? He responded, “I joined because I wanted to be on a team with nice kids and I had a feeling I could be good at it… I wanted to run in college.”

We proceded to talk about goal setting and my son soon realized he had set a goal for himself way back in seventh grade. His whole high school life revolved around doing what it took to achieve his goal. And he did it! He was recruited to run for his first choice college and he did. He achieved his goal.  

But the funny thing about goals is that once you achieve them, what’s next?

I think sometimes there’s a bit of a letdown. It happened to my son and it happened to me.

I know exactly how it feels to flounder and lose focus after you achieve your goal. It feels awful.

As some of you know, I spent 8 years trying to get an agent. If you don’t know my story, you can read about it here. It was ten years before I got a book deal. You can read about that story here. My dream came true when my middle grade novel Spin the Golden Light Bulb debuted in January, 2018 and because my book deal was for two books, the second, Flip the Silver Switch released later that summer. It was a whirlwind for sure and I’m still trying to believe that I really do have two published books!

But for the last year, I’ve sort of worked on auto pilot when it comes to writing and all that comes along with being published. I signed a contract for a third book in the series, which I know is a very huge deal, and I’m so grateful. But writing that book was so much harder. I wrote it on proposal. I wrote it on a deadline. I wrote it while trying to help promote two books, do Skype classroom visits, in person classroom visits, a bunch of book signings, and mentor a fifth grade class. It may sound like a dream come true for some writers and believe me, in some ways it most definitely was! I still pinch myself that this is actually real!

But at the same time, it’s been a little overwhelming. My writing hobby quickly turned into a job and a crazy juggling act. And I’m a terrible juggler! I found myself saying yes to more than I can handle and no to things I love. I found myself reacting to my own life instead of choosing my own path. That’s why this chat about goals really resonated with me.

Where was my focus now that my publishing dream had finally come true? What was my goal anyway? To sign with a literary agent? Yes. To get my book published? Yes. But what then? Was my goal to do school visits? Book as many book signings as possible? What were the things about being published that I was hoping to achieve that I couldn’t as an unpublished author?

It took some serious thought, but I’ve realized a few things. One is that I just really love to write stories. I also love to blog here and interact with other writers. And I love talking to kids and writers about chasing their dreams—even when those dreams seem so far out of reach. My goal is to write things that resonate with readers and inspire them to chase their dreams—through my middle grade books and through my writing focused blog posts.

The book signings and in-person school visits are a bonus, but they take time to prepare for—time away from my family and from writing. Skype visits are more manageable and they still allow me time to interact with kids. That leaves me more time to blog to my heart’s content which will hopefully inspire more of you! It also leaves me more time to write middle grade books.

So this fall, I’m getting back to the basics. I’m re-focusing my writing. I’ll be writing more and blogging more.  Just saying this makes me feel more energized than I have in a very long time! So stay tuned because the swirl and spark blog  is about to sparkle once again! I’ll also be posting more on Instagram (because I love it!) so follow me there if you aren’t already. I love the positive, creative vibe there—so many great accounts to follow! You can find me by searching Jackie Yeager.

I hope reading this post helps you to realize that if you’re in a writing funk or just feel like you’re floundering a little in your every day life, maybe it means you need to find the joy in what you’re doing again. Or maybe you need to re-focus your goals. Fall is the perfect time to do both. We weren’t put on this earth just to flounder. We were put here to thrive. So use this first week in September to re-write your goals. Make a plan to chase your dreams. They’re yours for the taking!

I know you can do it. If I can write a whole book you can. If I can sign with a literary agent, you can. If I can get a book published by a fantastic publisher, illustated by a spectacular artist, you can. If kids all over the country can read my books, someday they can be reading yours too. I believe that and I hope you do too!

If you’ve been clicking around my website, you may have noticed that the release date for POP THE BRONZE BALLOON has been pushed back to 2020. Publishing is a crazy business sometimes and this is one of those times! But it’s all good. This book will be worth the wait , I promise! I’ll keep you posted on the actual release date when I have it. In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to read Spin the Golden Light Bulb or Flip the Silver Switch and you’d like to, they are now both out in paperback! I’m still pinching myself about that one too! Click on the links below for the details.  

Spin the Golden Light Bulb

Flip the Silver Switch

Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now I’m off to work on copy edits for Pop the Bronze Balloon and then my WIP, a new middle grade project that’s un-related to the Crimson Five books. I’m over the top excited for this one! Wish me luck and have a fantastic week, everyone… I’m wishing you luck on your projects today too!

Posted in Publishing, Spin the Golden Light Bulb

Spin the Golden Light Bulb turns 1!

Hey sweet friends,

I can hardly believe it. Today marks one year since Spin the Golden Light Bulb was published, and the official end of my debut year. It’s a little bittersweet. My book baby has grown up right before my very eyes!

One year ago, hardly anyone knew it even existed. Now many readers do. They know my characters, like Kia, Ander, Mare, Jax, and Jillian. They know all about the Piedmont Challenge, and they even know quotes from the book—ones that I scribbled in my notebook over seven years ago! It’s still strange to think that, but also wonderful too. The first phrase I ever wrote in my red notebook as I brainstormed the plot was this…

I know my chances stink. But somebody has to win—I pick me.

And now not only are these words actually found in the book (on page 5), but people have read them…and they’ve read the other words too. I sometimes still pinch myself over that! So just because, I thought I’d share a few other highlights from my debut novel’s first year out in the world too…

A few days before release day, my husband and I stopped by our local Barnes & Noble to see where my book would be shelved eventually, in case they ever decided to stock it. I literally (and audibly!) gasped to see it already displayed—on an actual bookstore shelf!

On release day, we had a launch party for Spin the Golden Light Bulb at the elementary school where I worked as a reading teacher. It’s the place where I wrote parts of my first manuscript—the one that happily stays hidden in my desk drawer now. Over 100 of my closest family and friends attended—and bought copies of my books! I didn’t even think I knew that many people!

Signing those books was surreal (there’s that word again!) and I’m grateful to each and every person that spent that magical night with me. I signed my very first copy for my daughter, and as I took out my golden pen and looked out at the crowd of people, I felt like I was living a dream.

I found it hard to keep it together when the real kids behind the Crimson Five kids (my World Finals Odyssey of the Mind team) gathered around me for a picture with the book. The kids on the team, which included my son, were just eleven years old when I first toyed with the idea of writing an Odyssey of the Mind inspired book. That night they stood next to me as 18 year-olds on the verge of graduating high school. They were the perfect inspiration for the characters and I was thrilled to finally be able to share their story (even if it was an over the top version!) with all of them! It was a night I’ll for sure, never forget.

I did my first book signings and school visits in the spring. It was all kinds of amazing to chat with kids about publishing and the making of Spin the Golden Light Bulb! When people say you will never forget your first few book signings, they aren’t kidding. Some were attended by almost a hundred people. Some were attended by two. But all of them were fun because well, I was doing a book signing. Something I had dreamed of doing for over ten years!

Spin the Golden Light Bulb welcomed her sibling book, Flip the Silver Switch into the world over the summer on August 21, 2018. I don’t think she minded sharing the spotlight though. We had a smaller scale launch for FTSS basically because I felt bad asking my friends and family to do the whole book launch thing again with me so soon! And because STGLB had only been out for six months, it actually felt like another launch for it too!

In the fall, I met my Kids Need Mentors teacher, Erin and her class of 5th graders. I read chapter one of Spin the Golden Light Bulb to them during their first week of school, and received letters from them a few weeks later. How cool is that?

Spin the Golden Light Bulb made it’s first appearance at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival in November. It’s my hometown book fest, the biggest of its kind in the area and I was honored and thrilled to finally participate as a published author! I was interviewed live by our local TV station and yikes that was scary! I guess in a year of firsts, that one was definitely memorable!

In a surprise ending to debut year, Spin the Golden Light Bulb was named by the Children’s Book Council and the National Science Teachers of America to their 2019 Best STEM Books K-12 List! I was and still am humbled and thrilled to receive such an honor.

There were so many other highlights from this year but to be honest, I can hardly wrap my head around them all. The whole year has truly been a blur! I feel so grateful and I want to thank everyone who made my first published book’s debut year truly wonderful. The team at Amberjack Publishing and my agent, Rebecca Angus made this dream come true. I am forever grateful for their belief that readers would love this story as much as I do. So many people have been my cheerleaders this year: The Electric 18s. The booksellers. The teachers. The librarians. The bloggers. The reviewers. The parents. The children. My family. My friends. You’ve all help spread the word about my book and showered me with kind words. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I never posted the acknowledgments pages because it honestly never occurred to me. But so many people play a role in bringing a book to life and so today I want to share my thoughts on that with you. For those of you interested, here they are!

Thanks sweet friends for following along on my journey. You have constantly made me feel like publishing my first book is a big deal, even when author imposter syndrome set in and I felt like I was just pretending…playing dress up as an author! Now that I have a year as an author under my belt, I finally feel like I am.

So with that, I’m off to celebrate. I’ll be toasting at 6:30pm with this lovely bottle of wine I received at my launch party one year ago tonight. I may even read a few chapters—of my very first published book!

Thanks for checking in, sweet friends and remember…if you ever wonder if dreams really do come true. I’m here to say they do. They really do!

Until next time~

Think More. Work Hard. Dream Big!

Jackie