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A Love Letter to Odyssey of the Mind


I spent seven years as a middle school Odyssey of the Mind Coach. For those not familiar with the program—the amazing competition, click here. But now as I write this, it has been four years since I relinquished my title. In some ways it feels like forever ago, like a piece of my history (and my heart) that’s long in the past. But in some ways, I still feel very much a part of its world and I wonder if I always will.

I owe so much to OotM and some might find that strange because I never participated in it as a student—even though the program was around when I was a student. My school didn’t offer it, and looking back now, I realize how much I would have loved it. I would have loved writing the scripts and creating the costumes, and I would have loved performing for the judges along side my friends. I’m very much a peacemaker and so if there were any squabbles between the bunch of us, I’m certain I would have tried to smooth things over. I would have love the adrenaline rush of being on stage and I would have loved winning, if we ever did! But more than anything, I would have loved being part of a team—a creative team. Maybe that’s why I loved coaching so much.

I sort of fell into coaching actually. When my daughter was in fourth grade, she and her friends wanted to form a team and try it. And so being the super involved parent that I was, I teamed up with another mom and we coached together. I have to admit, we floundered at first. We pretty much had no idea what we were doing and being a hands-off facilitator (like the rules require) to a group of seven strong-willed girls was no easy task. But it was wonderful to watch them learn to work together towards a common goal and create something out of nothing—to solve a complex task. There were definitely squabbles, there were oh so many tears, and there were tons and tons of laughs. But most of all, there was creativity and teamwork and problem solving…and it was amazing.

Those early years of coaching taught me that winning ribbons and trophies wasn’t the most important thing. If the girls were smiling, having fun, and creating things they were proud of, then it was worth every second. I eventually found my footing as a coach by the time my son and his friends formed a team of both boys and girls—and at that point, I coached the team on my own. For several years, the same core group of kids were together and for the first time, I really understood my role as a coach. Sure it was my job to provide snacks and a place to meet, and to help foster a creative environment-one that encourages kids to question. And it was also my job to NOT offer outside assistant when it came to solving the problem. But my real role as a coach was to bring out the best in the kids so that they could flourish individually and as a part of the team.

I never anticipated the success my fifth grade team from Rogers Middle School would have in 2011. It all came as a shock—without any warning. I never had one of those moments where I thought, my team is going to win it all. That’s not the way Odyssey of the Mind works. It’s a competition that rewards following the program guide and creatively solving a problem as a team. It also rewards solving spontaneous problems—again in the most creative ways. Those outcomes are not something that can be predicted.

I’ve written before about what an incredible experience competing at the NY State competition was through the years and also how absolutely thrilling it was to be competing against teams from all around the world at the World Finals. So I won’t go on an on about that again!

But you may not know that THE CRIMSON FIVE books were inspired by our experience with Odyssey of the Mind—that I started planning the book that would become Spin the Golden Light Bulb shortly after our trip to the World Finals. I continued to write that book all while I continued to coach that team—for the next three years. As the years went on though, and my team continued to win competitions, it wasn’t their medals or trophies that impressed me. It was their ability to work as a team, to play to each other’s strengths, and work through obstacles.

But personally, those were really intense years. Both my son and daughter were involved in sports and being an Odyssey of the Mind coach (or team member!) takes up a lot of time…from August until March—and even longer if you move on in the competition like we did. I found it really hard to work on my writing and to develop the story of the Crimson Five, even though it was constantly on my mind itching to make its way onto the page. There were only so many hours in the day!

When the team ultimately decided to walk away from OotM, that they were ready to try other things in high school, I knew it was the right decision for them and for me. But it was such a bittersweet feeling because even though I knew in my heart that my team was ready to move on—that I was ready to move on, it still wasn’t easy. I loved the program, loved the friendships and connections I had made because of it, and loved all that my kids and the kids I had coached had become—because of it.

For years after, I worked on my story, but I never went back to any of our local competitions. I never signed up to become a judge—even though I would love to do that some day. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t go back. I knew I would just be sad. But every year on the first weekend of March, I would think about it, think about the kids, coaches, parents, and organizers who were creating their own memories there. And it made me happy. It wasn’t until last year, that my son and I did go back to watch the regional competition in our area. And I have to tell you that it was weird for both of us. It was amazing. It was…bittersweet. I missed being there with my team—any of my teams, any of the kids that put their hearts into creating something out of nothing. But I was also happy and grateful that I had experienced what I did and for memories that will always be a part of me.

And that brings me to this weekend—the weekend of our regional competition. I wish all the teams good luck—especially those in the West Irondequoit School District. No matter what the outcome is, no matter how many lines you forget, or sets that malfunction, or costumes that get put on backwards…keep going and keep smiling because those are moments that will stay with you always…even more than the ribbons or trophies. And one day (like me!) you’ll look back at the experience and won’t be sad it’s over, you’ll be thrilled that you were part of it and so very grateful!

Spin the Golden Light Bulb is a published book now because I walked away when I did. I never would have had the time to write it if I didn’t. And now this book is for the thousands of kids who’ve loved Odyssey as much as mine did and those who may never have the chance. Maybe that’s why this review on Goodreads and Amazon means so much to me… besides the fact that former Omers are discovering the story! I guess in a way this book is a love letter to OotM and all the good it has meant for kids around the world. It was such a joy to write it, and I hope those reading it will feel a bit of that same joy too!

“Okay, raise your hand if you did Odyssey of the Mind as a kid. Yes? Then this joy-filled middle-grade novel is most definitely for you. Main character Kia is plucky and quirky and hilarious, but also gets frustrated when faced with something that seems insurmountable, much like a very real sixth-grader. Middle-grade readers will love the futuristic world and tightly-paced plot, but this book is ultimately a love letter to creativity and collaboration. It dives deep into the mind of an endearing, smarty-pants girl bursting with ideas that she needs to put out into the world. It also has some very poignant things to say about family and the tension between wanting kids to dream big, and also wanting them to be okay if those dreams don’t come true. Can’t wait for the sequel!”                                 …Erin (E.C)

STGLB-trophy pic

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Playing Favorites with your Characters

Creating characters can be tricky.

They need to feel real to the reader or the reader will roll their eyes or shake their heads…and stop reading. I always tell writers to make a list of fifty facts about their characters to get started. This way they’ll have a list of facts to work with as they draft. They’ll also see pattern begin to form and their personalities develop—just like a real person. But sometimes instead of hitting the magic number of 50 or whatever number you’re trying to get to, it’s easier to just let your mind wander as you brainstorm character traits.

Not sure what I mean? I’ll begin creating a character profile on myself, starting with my likes and dislikes. Then I’ll let you decide for yourself, how you would turn me into an actual character.

Things I Like:
Smoothies, raviolis, enchiladas, and pizza
Caramel iced coffee, chai tea, flavored coffee with sweet cream creamer, and Diet Coke
Snickerdoodle cookies, cinnamon coffee cake, and vanilla cake with buttercream frosting
Chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, and black raspberry ice cream
Heath Bars and Werthers
(Notice, I like treats!)
Disney World, Cape Cod, Hilton Head, and Bermuda
Cute coffee shops, wood fired pizza places, and bookstores
Coffee dates, lunch dates, and dinner dates
Castles, motivational anything, and Christmas
Being home, decorating, Marshalls, Home Goods, and Wegmans.
Yoga, hikes, kayaking, and lying out by the pool.
Chatting with my kids and chatting with their friends
Chatting about books
Clothes, shoes, and purses
Stranger Things, Friends, This is Us, How to Get Away with Murder, Colony, and The Young and the Restless
Cheering for my husband and kids
Editing College Essays
Imagination and writing about kids with imagination
Little kids, babies, and puppies
Gymnastics, tennis, and cheerleading
The Olympics, the Red Sox, and riding in carriages
Weddings, fancy hotels, and dressing up.
Positive people
Desk accessories
Family time and fairy tales

Thinks I Don’t Like:

Driving in snow
Not being organized
A messy house and being late
Running out of creamer
When my kids are sad
Not living in a warm climate, or a castle
Not being a princess
Snakes, mice, and bugs
Cleaning the house
Speaking in front of large groups
The fact that I haven’t invented anything
Not having enough time
The fact that I haven’t invented a way to stretch time.

So that’s that. There’s probably more—actually there is more, but as least you get the idea. If this was your character’s list of favorite things and not so favorite things, from there you would be able to create a profile.

What makes her tick? What types of things make her happy? What motivates her? What terrifies her? What does she dream of? If these answers are not on the list, you’ll know where you need to fill in the blanks. You’ll know what parts of her personality you need to develop. You’ll also have some fun things to use as filler throughout the story, like her favorite foods, favorites places to visit—or least favorite school subjects.

As you create the profile, you can get even more in depth by asking questions like, what was her most embarrassing moment or what was her most traumatic experience? The deeper you go, the better you’ll know your character—and that’s the goal. If your character feels like a real person to you, she’ll certainly feel like a real person to your reader too!

What about you? What tricks do you use for creating characters? Do you use a list similar to this or just wing it as you write your draft?

Speaking of drafting, it feels like forever since I’ve worked on something new. I think I’m going to have to change that.

Laptop with castle

Castles anyone?

If you read through my list, you may have noticed I have a thing for them! Who knows? Maybe my next book will be a fairy tale:)

Have a great Monday, my lovelies. I hope you enjoyed reading my lists! See you next week!

Jackie ❤


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Books That Make your Mind Wander

Happy Monday!

I have to admit I struggled this week with what to blog about. I’ve spent so much time over the last several months posting about my book that I was really starting to feel like a used car salesman or something. Nothing against car salesmen. We all need a used car at some point in our lives, after all!

My mind started wandering every time I thought about topics. Usually to things like, what should I post next on Instagram? How can I update my living room this winter without spending a fortune? When is the sequel to Caravel coming out?

This site is my happy place—a place where I can let you guys in on my life, the things that make me happy and inspired. And so I stopped trying to figure out what to write about and realized that I should just think about whatever I want…let my mind wander. And so I did. I continued to think about Caravel, the YA novel by Stephanie Garber—the book I’ve been enamored with since I read it late last year.

If there ever was a book I wish I had written, that would be it.

But being able to read it is almost just as good. It’s magical and enchanting and mesmerizing. And yes all of those things mean basically the same thing but I feel like one adjective isn’t enough in this case. The story is so original that I often wonder how Stephanie Garber came up with such a great idea. I love the characters too (so much!) but I realized immediately after I read the last page and closed the book, that it’s the world of Caravel I was going to miss the most. And I was right. In the months since I’ve read it, I have found myself thinking about it and anxiously awaiting the sequel—which is  releasing in May!

The funny thing is, I don’t even own the book. I bought it for my niece, thinking she would love it, and after she read it, I shamelessly begged her to borrow it. But then after I read it, that awful moment came when I had to return it to her. Because it was a gift—to her. Not to myself! And now the sequel, Legendary is coming and I obviously have to buy both books because I want to put them on my shelf to read again and again.

I’m not the type of reader who inhales books. I don’t read a book, finish it in two days, and move on to the next. I don’t take on reading challenges or commit to reading 50 books a year. I’m a pretty slow reader. I tend to lose myself in the story if I love the book, or labor through it if I don’t. Maybe that’s why I think about them long after I read them. I space them apart pretty well because I feel like if I finish one book and move right on to the next, I’ll forget something wonderful about it. Maybe not details or facts about the story, but the way the story made me feel.

Caravel is one of those books for me—a story I was easily lost in, easily transported to. And so this weekend when I should have been thinking about what to blog about, I was clicking around Stephanie Garber’s website and learning that not only is Caravel’s sequel coming soon, the movie rights have been sold too!! So how in the world was I supposed to blog about anything else when my mind kept wandering back to the sights and sounds of one of my favorite books?

But I’m hoping you’re okay with that because now you have a YA book recommendation instead! It’s funny how often our minds wander to scenes from our favorite movies or books, isn’t it?

What about you? What’s that book for you, a book that takes your thoughts away from the present and makes you think about it long after you’ve read the last page? Please let me know in the comments because maybe I’ve never heard of it or maybe I just need a nudge it that direction. With so many incredible books out there, there’s bound to me another that will make my mind wander– and probably someone else’s too!

Speaking of book recs and books that make your mind wander, I have a great list to share with all of you…

The Best STEAM Chapter Books for Kids! The list was complied by which is run by Melissa Taylor, a book blogger, educator, and literacy trainer. I’m so thrilled to say that she included Spin the Golden Light Bulb on that list! I mean there are amazing books on it, many that I’ve read, and to be listed with them is wonderful. Take a look if you’re looking for books related to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The list is broken down into two groups: beginning chapter books for kids ages 6-8 and middle grade chapter books for kids ages 8-12. Click here to read it and many other great lists of books too!

Oh and before I forget, you may have noticed a new header image on my site. I’m working on a more permanent one but until then, I really wanted an update. There’s no big reason for it, I just liked this one for now!

I hope you have a fantastic week full something that inspires you to be creative—whether it’s a song or a book or a walk in the crunchy snow. Monday is the day of endless possibilities and I plan on making the most of it. I hope you will too!

STGLB Quote 1

Jackie ❤


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Just Put One Word in Front of the Other

Hey Guys,

I hope you had a great weekend!

As you know, I live a very glamorous life and so my weekend was filled with organizing paper type stuff.  Now I may be a writer and love paper and pens and such, but organizing mail and bills, etc., is not what I would call fun. Like at all. But now that it’s done I feel so much better—less stressed and more ready to tackle far more interesting projects.

I did manage to have some fun too though, watching my son play hockey and watching the Olympics so that means the weekend was a win. There’s something inspiring about watching athletes battle it out after years of practice, practice, and more practice that makes me want to tackle something big too and give it all I’ve got!

The Olympics have special meaning for me this time around. Just like the athletes, it feels all sorts of amazing to realize that something I’ve worked towards for so long was totally worth it. And that very thought got me thinking. I want you guys to have that same realization. Whatever your goal, whatever your wish…I want you to get to the point where you realize it was all worth it.

I know most of you reading this blog are writers or people interested in some aspects of the publishing world and books—like writing them, reading them, blogging about them, teaching with them, selling them, recommending them, or reading them to your kids. So your goal may be to get a book published, but it may not be.

Maybe your goal is to start a blog or you tube channel—to reach thousands of kids by recommending books. Maybe your goal is to open an ETSY shop of book related stuff. Maybe your goal is to become an editor because your world is made happier when you’re reading stories and making them sparkle. Or maybe it’s something else.

But you’re too afraid to take that first step. You don’t know where to start. You don’t think anyone would watch your channel. You don’t have any connections in the publishing industry. You don’t want to fail. You don’t want to waste your time if nothing’s going to come of it.

So I guess all those are valid fears, but I hope you won’t give in to them. Someone is out there who would love to read the book you wrote or the book you edited, or buy your word art, or watch your Youtube videos. I guarantee it. And if there’s one person, there’s probably more.

That’s what kept me going when I struggled through the days of finishing my draft, revising, finding an agent, signing a book contract, and what keeps me going now while I wonder if people actually like my book. Because as long as there is one…if my book made an impact on one reader, then I can’t help but smile—and shriek because ohmygodohmygod someone read my book and liked it!

There’s nothing like that feeling and I want that for all of you too.

This week I received a review on Goodreads from a reader named Elysa whom I’ve never met before. (Thanks, Elysa!) It really stood out to me and not just because she mentioned Spin the Golden Light Bulb in the same breath as Harry Potter! But really, can you even??

Her words resonated with me because of her comments about big dreams.

I absolutely adored this book. It’s fun and nostalgic and reminded me of what it’s like to be a kid with big dreams. I can’t remember what my big dreams were when I was Kia Krumpet’s age, but I remember that they changed often and seemed to get bigger and bigger. As I grew up, my dreams became smaller and more realistic, as happens with adulthood. But this book is incredibly inspirational. It teaches you that your dreams are within reach, you just have to work harder and get a team to support you.

This would have easily been one of my favorite books if I read this as a kid and would have deserved a spot on my bookshelf next to Harry Potter and Charlie Bone. As an adult, I still consider it a new favorite and have added it to my favorite’s shelves on Goodreads. I may be about 12 years older than when this would have been most impactful to me, but it’s better late than never, right? Besides, I still have room on my shelf next to Harry Potter and Charlie Bone where it will stay until my young family members grow old enough to read it.

I hope that you’ll think of her words as you go about your day. Just because you’re an adult, you don’t have to let go of your dreams and larger than life pursuits. Maybe, just maybe you’ll have a greater chance of achieving them because you’re ready to accept the challenge.

And I hope you are!

It’s Monday, my friends and there’s no better day to put one word in front of the other. That one word can lead to bigger things than you’ve ever imagined—or maybe the exact thing that you’ve always dreamed of!

STGLB- typewriter

Happy Monday!

Jackie <3


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Going for the Gold…Virtual Book Signing!

The Winter Olympics officially begin tonight! Gold is up for grabs all over the world…but not just gold medals. Today marks one month since Spin the Golden Light Bulb’s release and THE CRIMSON FIVE kids are competing for their own gold…Golden Light Bulbs! In honor of these golden days, I’ve teamed up with my local indie bookseller for a Virtual Book Signing!

Here’s how it works:

Order a copy of Spin the Golden Light Bulb from Lift Bridge Books in Rochester, NY anytime from February 9th through February 25th and you’ll receive a signed hardcover copy mailed to your door along with a cool bookmark.

It’s my way of supporting small bookshops who are doing their best to compete with the power house booksellers, while at the same time reaching those of you who can’t easily get to author events.

Here’s the link to Lift Bridge Books.

Lift Bridge is the sponsoring bookseller for the Rochester Children’s Book Festival and amazing people to work with—pure gold!  I hope you’ll consider participating:)

And…many of you saw that Cover Reveal Day for Flip the Silver Switch was yesterday. Thank you so much for your kind words about it. Obviously I had little (I mean nothing!) to do with the design, but it still makes me happy that you like it so much…I still haven’t stopped staring at it!

So now I’m off to sign some books, work on my school presentation for an upcoming author visit, and then settle in to watch the Opening Ceremony. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics and always feel so inspired after watching the incredible performances and hearing the athletes’ inspiring stories. Will you be watching? What’s your favorite event? Mine are figure skating, freestyle skiing, speed skating, and ski jumping. But really I love watching all of them. Let the games begin!

STGLB- trophy pic

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! See you Monday with a new post:)

Think More. Work Hard. Dream Big!

Jackie ❤

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COVER REVEAL: Flip the Silver Switch

While my first ever published middle grade book has been taking center stage, my second soon-to-be published book has been slowly coming to life-waiting in the wings. It’s been lurking in the shadows—happy to give Spin the Golden Light Bulb its time in the sun. And while I’m not planning to throw shade over my first book baby any time soon, I am ready (and finally able!) to share with you the spectacular moonlit cover of STGLB’s sequel, Flip the Silver Switch…and give it some well-deserved time among the stars! 

And so here it is…the amazing cover!!

 Flip the Silver Switch Final Cover

I’m over the moon in love with this cover!! Gabrielle Esposito, illustrator extraordinaire, has once again captured the essence of the story and this time, the essence of THE CRIMSON FIVE characters too. If you’ve read the first book, you’ll be able to identify each one easily! They are so adorable and their personalities shine through the shadows. The background, the colors…I just can’t stop staring at it! I’m so grateful to Gabrielle for her spectacular design and to Amberjack Publishing for selecting her to illustrate my second book too. I think the cover is breathtaking and I hope you all love it as much as I do!

As a mom of two children, I already know what it feels like to love both children equally. This sentiment is certainly the case with Spin the Golden Light Bulb and Flip the Silver Switch too! So much of the books are similar—being part of the same world and same series, yet each are different too…sparkly, imaginative, and unique in their own ways!

The publication date is July 10, 2018 (that’s so soon!) but Flip the Silver Switch is available for pre-order already. Here are the links where you’ll find the blurb of the book too!


Barnes & Noble


And as a special incentive, my incredible agent, Rebecca Angus from Golden Wheat Literary is hosting a giveaway. She’s offering a chance to win one of FIVE QUERY CRITIQUES to the first five people who pre-order and email her proof with their receipt. You could be one of those winners! Click here for details.

Thanks for checking out my cover reveal, and if you feel like boosting this post, I would love it.  Besides, it’s such a pretty cover and I bet there’s a lot of people who could use a free query critique!

Have a wonderful weekend, but before you go, please leave me a comment about the cover. I’d love to know what you think of it! And if you haven’t already, click on the Follow button. That way you’ll be notified of my new posts… I’ll be back with a new one on Monday, so see you then:)


Jackie ❤

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The Publishing Train

We’ve all experienced how slow the publishing industry moves sometimes. It seems like it chugs along. It takes forever to hear back from literary agents. It takes forever to hear back from publishers. It takes forever to get your contract, your edits, and your book cover. And it really feels like forever until you hold your book in your hands for the first time and hear that someone out there is reading it! And even if it isn’t actually taking that long for all of this to happen, it sure does feel like it, doesn’t it?

Publishing feels like a slow moving train, that’s for sure!

But suddenly, when all the stars align, or fate steps in or whatever, the train picks up speed, you hang on for dear life, and hope you don’t fly out one of the car doors!

Maybe you sign with a literary agent and suddenly your mind is swirling at the possibilities! You work frantically with your new agent to polish up your manuscript and make it submission ready.

Or you get word of an offer and then your mind really swirls. You sign the contract  and though the train may slow for a bit, it inevitably picks up speed again as you head into the editing cave where you experience deadlines and decisions.

And then there’s that point where ARCs are out and bloggers and reviewers and booksellers and librarians are reading and it feels like the train has stopped. There’s not much you can do about the fact that people are reading except, keep writing, keep working, and keep making connections.

There are so many speed ups and slow downs to publishing that it would take forever to list them all here. But I really believe that the best way to handle it all is to be flexible and know that the train is moving—even if it doesn’t feel like it. It will speed up for you when you least expect it, at a time that it’s meant to.

Some might say my train didn’t start moving until I signed with a literary agent. But now that I look back, I know that isn’t true. My train started moving when I opened up a clean notebook and jotted down ideas for my first book, Megan in Middle School over ten years ago and it kept moving with every step forward I took. Like when I wrote actual words in that notebook and somehow turned them into story. Like when I enrolled in my first local SCBWI writers conference and it’s local chapter RACWI. Like when I joined my first critique group, and then my second. When I started this blog. When I wrote a second manuscript and made it better than the first. When I queried and queried some more. When I wrote my third manuscript and made it better than my second. When I met my future critique partners.  When I listed to feedback and knew my writing was getting better but it wasn’t quite there yet. Like when I spent hours upon hours revising anywhere and everywhere as much as I could.

My train sure felt slow then. It felt like getting a book published would never happen for me, yet I still believed that if I worked hard enough I would figure out how to write a better story. And so now looking back I know that during all of those times when my train felt stalled, it wasn’t stalled at all. All the necessary things were happening. It was moving—even if the speed was not as fast as I would have liked.

If this feels like you, let me be the one to tell you. Keep going. Do whatever it takes to move forward. And if it feels like you’re stalled on your own journey to publication, you probably aren’t. You may need to take a step off the train for a week or so to get some fresh air, but you definitely need to get back on. That’s  the only way your train will ever pick up speed.

Some days now I feel like my train is at maximum speed. There are so many things I need to be doing to help Spin the Golden Light Bulb have a successful go at it. There are blog tours to participate in and  bookstores and libraries to visit—just to help spread the word about its very existence! Social media is a big deal now, of course, and that in itself is a crazy train too. I’ll be spreading the word about author visits soon and seriously the list goes on and on. But I’m not saying these things to discourage you. It’s a wild and crazy ride for sure… but when I step of the train just for a few minutes to read messages from people who have read my book, I can’t help but get choked up a little—and to smile bigger than I should probably because this is what I’ve dreamed of for so long.

Spin the Golden Light Bulb- Dream Big
How cute is this notebook that practically matches my book’s main quote?

And just when I think I’m managing all that being published entails, I’m riding this speeding train just fine, I remember that Spin the Golden Light Bulb is not the only book I have making its way into the world this year! My publishing train is accelerating at warped speed now and whether I’m ready or not (because really, who ever is?!) big stuff is happening and it’s not stopping any time soon! It’s hard not to feel grateful, even when I feel overwhelmed.

So on that note, I hope you’ll stop back again this week. I have fun stuff to share with all of you!!

Thanks for stopping in today. You guys are the best. I’d love to hear where you are when it comes to your own publishing train. Comment below. It always helps to know other writers are riding along with you too! And don’t forget to click on the link to follow my blog. That way you’ll be notified when I post again. 🙂


Jackie ❤


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World Read Aloud Day!

Hey Guys!

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

I love this day, a day where we encourage people of all ages to sit down with a great book and share it with someone else by reading it aloud. There are so many benefits kids and adults receive from to reading aloud like improved listening skills, improved vocabulary, improved writing skills, improved speaking skills, and a love of books. But it also creates a bond between people and that’s always a good thing!

Many authors are doing Skype read aloud visits today in classrooms around the world and that’s so amazing! Since my release day was just a few weeks ago and I’m just getting over the flu, I didn’t get my act together in time to set that up. So here’s the next best thing…I recorded a video of me reading a bit of the first chapter of Spin the Golden Light Bulb!

I do look a little sick in the videos, so hopefully you’ll look past that! I’m normally a bit peppier but I didn’t have the energy to do multiple takes today!

So here it is…the link is below. Play it for your kids. It’ll be just like I’m reading to them, but I won’t be spreading any of my lingering flu germs! And when you’re done, find one of your favorite books and read it aloud together too. It’ll be fun, I promise!

* I’ve since deleted the read-aloud video…sorry guys! I’m creating a new video (details to come!) that won’t be so specific to Read Aloud Day. I’ll share it with you as soon as I can!

Jackie ❤








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Just Breathe on Launch Day

One day, you’ll be writing about your own launch day, or maybe you already have. If you haven’t though, I do have a takeaway to share—one thing I hope you’ll remember to do when it’s your turn.

Just breathe.

Because honestly, if your launch day is anything like mine was, that’s all you can do. And if you do that, I promise you it will all be okay!

I decided to have my launch party at our local elementary school instead of at a bookstore for several reasons. First, I knew that as a debut author, Barnes and Noble wouldn’t be interested in hosting the event for me, and my local independent bookstore is just too far away. Besides, I had worked at the school for several years as a reading teacher and my kids attended the school also, so I knew the venue well. Plus, I wanted to include themed snacks and kids activities, so for me it was the perfect choice. The local indie bookstore was on board too and willing to come to the event, supply the books, and handle the sales. So it was going to be perfect—I knew it.

After reserving the gym at the school and scheduling the event with the bookstore, I worked all summer and fall planning the rest…the food, the activities, the decorations—everything. And I was cautiously optimistic that everything would go as planned. But if you’ve ever planned a wedding, a grad party, a birthday party, or any other type of event, you probably know that nothing really ever goes as planned.

I had wanted to tell you guys every single detail that went wrong leading up to the party, but I think an overview of mishaps will be enough…

Let’s see, seven days before the party, the owner of the bookstore told me they mixed my launch party up with another author’s and they had not ordered the books. I sat in silence for a milasecond, frozen. But he assured me he could make it right, and an hour later he told me the order was now placed and he would be receiving the books in three days—which he thankfully did.

Less than 24 hours before the party, the event was this close to being relocated to another building in the school district with less than easy access. I panicked a little (okay, a lot) since I had no idea how I would get the word out about a venue change. But I took a breath, and worked my magic with the administration to keep it where it was. Phew!

But I then found out the round tables I had ordered were not available, but small kid sized round tables were. Like, what?? All I could do was picture adults playing tea party with their stuffed animals at my launch party. I was ready to cry! But, as I hyperventilated on the phone spouting gibberish of all kinds, the head of maintenance took pity on me and offered as many square tables as I wanted. Square, not round, but still something I could work with. So, at eight o’clock that night (the night before the big day), I raced to the store to return all the round tablecloths and purchase rectangular ones. We would just push the tables together. It would be fine.

And it was. By the time I went to bed, I was breathing normally again. Everything was ready…the food, the decorations, the kids’ activities—and I was too tired to be nervous or excited.

I woke up on launch day not believing any of this was real. Maybe because I had so much on my mind. Many authors talk about going to the spa on launch day to celebrate and maybe dinner with their families. Why in the world had I planned my launch party on launch day?? I was feeling more than overwhelmed.

The outpouring on social media from friends and complete strangers was wonderful but a little overwhelming too. It was hard to keep up! I did my best to reply to everyone though and breathe…to enjoy the fact that it was official. My book was out in the world. And so that’s what I did. I felt myself finally enjoying the morning as it unfolded…and staring at my book a lot!

Around noon, I received a phone call from the school district saying they needed proof of insurance from me or the bookstore or I would not be allowed to hold the event. Who knows why this detail was overlooked until the day of the event  and all I could do was shake my head and think, this party is so not happening tonight. What else could possibly go wrong? I raced around the house making phone call after phone call. After the debacle with the location and tables the night before, my kids were beginning to think I was losing my mind. I think they were afraid to even ask me how they could help. But the bookstore was wonderful. They reassured me they were on it and I went about the day just hoping it would all get resolved in time. And after hours of phone calls, in true dramatic fashion, the bookstore came through. A half hour before we were scheduled  to set up at the school, we got word. Everything was all set.

Even though my nerves were shot, I realized I had to hope for the best—that it would all be okay. But as I headed out the door, I received another phone call, this one from my mom. She told me she was sick—like really sick and her doctor told her she couldn’t venture out, she couldn’t come to my party. I heard her words but I couldn’t respond. My own mom wasn’t coming. I don’t have to tell you guys what that did to me. Suddenly I didn’t care anymore what shape the tables were or even if we had books to sell. I just wanted my mom to be there with me to have cake, and maybe eat a golden light bulb cookie to celebrate with me. I just wanted her to be there—to see it all.

The doctor apparently had advised her against coming, but he also told her she could come for five minutes—if she absolutely had to. Hearing her tell me that she was coming no matter what meant the world to me. It was probably selfish of me to want her there, but I did. Some moments in life are just too big to not have the most important people there with you. So I started to breath again. If she was well enough, and wanted to be there, those five minutes would mean everything to me.

My family and I and a few close friends spent the next few hours setting up at school. It’s funny how a place you spend so much of your time at can look so different when you go back. It was much smaller than I remember! The teachers and secretary whom I hadn’t seen in years were there and it was fun catching up with them. But still, I was a pile of nervous energy and when they wished me luck and left, I looked around the room. Everything looked perfect but all I wanted to do was throw up.

I guess my nerves were getting the best of me and I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could go back home, change into my launch party outfit, drive back to school and pretend I was an author—pretend I was worthy of this launch party. Who did I think I was to be throwing a launch party for myself? JK Rowling? Stephanie Meyer? Lindsey Leavett? Those are authors who throw launch parties for their adoring fans. They serve themed snacks and sign books. But I’m just me. What am I even doing? This party was going to be so awkward. The author imposter syndrome had taken ahold of me and I wasn’t sure I would ever break free.

Somehow I went home with my family and I changed into my launch party outfit and that helped a lot. We drove back together and walked back into the room, where the balloons and snacks and welcome to the launch party sign were waiting.  And the place looked amazing—even magical, just like I always imagined it would. I felt a calmness wash over me and we took pictures…so many pictures. The owner of the bookstore set up the books (my books!) and as I looked around the room and glanced at the chair behind the signing table, my nerves suddenly melted away. I know it doesn’t make sense. I think at that moment, about five minutes before the party was scheduled to start, I should have been more nervous than ever. But instead I took a deep breath and took it all in. I couldn’t believe it was happening.

My daughter told me to sit at the table and wait right there. She raced away, and from across the room I watched her buy a book so that I could sign it—at my very first signing table! I think that’s when I no longer felt like an author imposter. Yeah maybe I still felt like I was playing dress up or something and maybe I still thought that people would only buy my book to be nice to me, but at least I felt like celebrating. I felt like smiling. And so that’s what I did for the next two hours. I smiled as I saw friends and family from so many different parts of my life walk into the gym and up to the signing table with my book in their hands. That was definitely my fairy tale moment.

The night is a blur mostly, but there are a few other moments that stand out to me.

Like, the moment my mom and dad walked in and headed straight toward my table. Yes, my mom looked like she was under the weather, but she was there and her smile was unmistakable. And the night wouldn’t have been anything at all if she and my dad hadn’t been there. They even took pictures with me and took golden light Bulb cookies home with them.

At one point, my husband brought me a bottle of water probably because I hadn’t been able to leave the table all night. I’m not even sure I drank it, but just knowing he was there looking out for me was everything.

I had pictures taken with my twin nieces. You may know the girls I’m talking about. They were two of my first participants in Critique Corner here on the blog and so young when I first started writing. Now they are writers too (among other great things) and two of my biggest supporters. I will never forget the smiles on their faces. I had vowed to show them that this publishing dream is not impossible to achieve. And ten years later, I finally did.

My college friends made their grand entrance. If you knew them and all their fabulousness, you’d know what I mean! Just seeing their faces made me laugh and having them there made me feel like I had finally accomplished something worthy—worthy of toasting at our next dinner together.

Several writers from my local critique and writing groups came, people who have been with me from the beginning. I signed a book for Vivian VandeVeld, author of over thirty children’s books. If that’s not a memorable moment, I don’t know what is!

I held it together pretty well during the night as I signed books for some of my closest family members and friends who have supported me through this journey. I watched in amazement at the number of people eating Scrambled Apples and Crimson Five Cookies, drinking Piedmont Punch, and filling up Kia Krumpet’s Someday Box with their own invention ideas. I was stunned at the turnout and filled with so much love.

But I had a hard time keeping it together when my Odyssey of the Mind kids arrived. They each walked up to the table at different times with their families, and it was incredible signing the book for them…these kids who started it all. But at some point during the night they gathered together, surrounding me for a picture. We stood together smiling as their parents came out of nowhere to take the picture. But in that moment, I had to turn away. These kids were the springboard for this story. I can’t express what it meant to me to have them there to support me and celebrate the fact that my seemingly impossible dream had finally come true.

But instead of watching me cry like a baby, in true team form, in front of a gym full of people, my team…my son, Adam, Kara, Meg, Jake, and Julia huddled around me and gave me the very same corny pep talk I used to give them before each and every competition. And so instead of crying, I laughed. And then I breathed. And then I laughed again and all was okay–again.

So much about my launch day was overwhelming.  And now you know why. But so much of that day was incredible, like I imagined. Maybe I didn’t get to really enjoy my launch day, because I was frantically preparing things for the launch party, but I really did get to enjoy launch night…more than I can spit into words.

To the many people who came out for the event and also to the many people who couldn’t, but have supported me in so many other ways, thank you so much. Thank you to anyone who has chosen to buy the book, request it from the library, read it, spread the news of its existence, or share it with someone else…thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has meant absolutely everything and helped to make the launch of Spin the Golden Light Bulb, my first ever published book, a dream come true.

Jackie ❤

Launch Party- Welcome SignLaunch Party- Books

Launch Party- Guest Book     Launch Party -Coloring Pages  Launch Party- Cake

Launch Party- Signing for Danielle



Launch Party- Signing my first book



Launch Party- With Jim   Launch Party- crowd

Launch Party- Mom and Dad (2)  Launch Party- Zoe and Raylan

Launch Party- Poster  Launch Party- Quinn and Portia   Launch Party- Favors (2)

Launch Party- Book Trailer  Launch Party- Team

Launch Party- Tables 2  Launch Party- Posters 2

Launch Party- with Adam  Launch Party- Me with my book


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The Missing Author Copies

I’ve imagined writing this post for over four years—ever since I started this blog. At that time, I was revising my third middle grade manuscript, the one that would someday be called Spin the Golden Light Bulb. I was almost exactly two years away from signing with a literary agent, three years and four months away from signing a publishing contract, and four and a half years away from holding my first published book in my hands. You would think that in all that time I would have prepared for this—that I would know how to write this post, how to say what it feels like to see my story in hardcover form for the first time—on an actual bookstore book shelf.

But I wasn’t prepared at all. Sure I imagined it. But I can assure you that imagining it and experiencing it are not the same thing at all. And now as I  write this, trying to describe the time leading up to the moment I first held my first published book in my hands, all I can do is ramble. So if this post ends up being one big rambling series of events, I hope that’s okay.   

I had expected to receive my hardcover author copies from my publisher a few weeks before release day. That’s the norm I had heard, based on what my publicist, my fellow debut authors, and other authors from my publishing house had told me. So, for oh so long, I imagined seeing my book in hardcover form for the first time when I unpacked the cardboard box and pulled back the package flap. I imagined staring at the beautiful cover as I carefully lifted my precious book baby out of the box and clutched it to my chest—like so many authors before me have done. I mean, that’s what I had seen all over social media, so of course I imagined that’s how it would happen for me as well. But I guess even when you live in a fairy tale world—like I do, when imagining an outcome that may or may not come true, reality sometimes steps in. Your outcome may be better than you ever imagined—or it may be crushed like a broken glass slipper right before your very eyes.  

It was mid-December—about a month before Spin the Golden Light’s Bulb’s release day and likely the craziest shipping month of the year. My package of precious books was sent to me by my publisher and I watched for the mail truck every day. But little did I know, as I raced to the door every half hour like a little kid waiting for their new baby brother or sister to come home from the hospital, that my package was not coming. I had no idea that the package was lost in the same black hole that takes individual socks from the dryer. Only this black hole was the holiday mail rush—and I had no idea it was happening.  

I was patient. I knew my author copies would arrive soon. Besides, I was so busy with the holiday rush, like everyone else on the planet, that I didn’t really agonize over the delay. Until I received a text from my sister—a text with a picture of my niece clutching my book to her chest. She was beaming. And my sister was gushing about how proud she was of me, that she knew I could do it and the hardcover copy of my book was absolutely beautiful.

My stomach dropped to my feet. Why…how did she have my book? Before me? I didn’t have the heart to tell her I hadn’t seen the finished copy yet. And so I didn’t.

A few days later my mother-in-law called, thrilled to tell me she was headed to the bookstore across town, to pick up her pre-ordered books. They were in and ready for pick up! What? Already? How? Why? But it was soon clear to me that the major bookseller was shipping their pre-orders out weeks early…and I was ready to throw up. How could this be happening? What good was a book launch or release date if people were getting their books early—before I had even seen them? I was just so frustrated.

Realizing I hadn’t received my copies yet, my mother-in-law decided not to pick hers up until I had mine, which was so sweet of her. So for the next few days, she waited, and so did I.  

And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a friend tagged me in a post, sharing a picture of my book. She had also received her pre-ordered copy early too. Friends were commenting on a post that I didn’t get to share first. I guess I was a little heartbroken.

You may wonder at this point why I didn’t order a copy for myself right then. Well, I did consider that. But I just couldn’t. That wasn’t how this was supposed to happen. It wasn’t the way I imagined it. Besides, I knew my copies were coming any second, so I just pretended that no one had my book yet. Finally though, I told my sister what had happened and she offered every single day to bring her copy over to my house so I could see it. But I wouldn’t let her. I just couldn’t for some reason. Maybe it’s because that was her book—not mine. Maybe it’s because I wanted to see my book inside it’s cardboard box for the first time. I’m not really sure. I just know I didn’t want it to happen that way.

Over the next few weeks, I watched as more friends texted me about how beautiful my book was. Of course they had no idea I hadn’t received my copies yet. It wasn’t their fault that the retailer they pre-ordered it from, shipped their orders weeks before release day. And so I felt really, really guilty for being upset. I felt really, really guilty for not being happy that people had my book. The truth is, I was thrilled that people were getting my book. It was thrilling and it was exciting and I was so very grateful. But they had it before me and I won’t lie. I was disappointed. I had waited ten years for this moment and it felt like it was happening all wrong.

The holidays came and went and I was sure my package was on its way. Release day wasn’t until January ninth, the same day as my launch party. It wasn’t like I needed the books for the event since my local indie bookstore was handling book sales, but seriously, it was getting ridiculous. Where were my author copies? I had no idea! My publisher was doing all they could to track the package down and finally they had gotten a guarantee from the post office that I would receive it by January 6th, three days before the release date. I was thrilled they were finally on the way especially since I had planned to use one of the copies at my launch party—as a guest book. I really didn’t want to have to use my sister’s copy for that!

It was now January 6th, and it had been snowing in our city for four days straight. We had gotten 12 inches just the night before. My mother-in-law was worried about the weather and really wanted to pick up her copies before the driving conditions got bad again. How could I tell her no? I couldn’t, and so she set off to pick up her copies. I knew right then and there that if my copies didn’t come that day, I would see my book for the first time when she stood in my front door holding her copy out to me.

And later that day, as you might have guessed, the package did not come.

Beyond disappointed, I headed out with my husband on that snowy one degree winter night to watch my son’s track meet. I think my husband was as disappointed as I was and knowing my local indie was too far away, urged me to call the Barnes and Noble in the next town. Maybe, just maybe they had gotten the book in stock already and would sell us one early. The sales clerk took pity on me, told us they had ordered some for their stock, and told us to come right in. So, as the snow fell—again, we took a detour from the track meet, headed to the bookstore in the town where I grew up, and got in line—to purchase my own book.

 You would think that this bothered me—having to do this, but it didn’t. After thinking that someone  (even someone close to me!) was going to knock on my door to show me their copy of my book, I realized I wanted to see it on my terms, and this was the way I decided it would be.

So as I stood at the counter of Barnes and Noble, while my husband bought his copy of my first published book, the sales clerk handed my book baby to me. I stared at the cover, all sparkly and beautiful, and squeezed it tight. I stared at it for a long minute before handing it back to her so she could place it in the bag. It happened so fast that I don’t think it really hit me, that my story was now a real live book.

Before we left the bookstore, my husband asked me to show him again where the book would be shelved on release day. And so we marched over to the children’s section. Neither of us expected to see it of course, but as I approached the end of the alphabet in the Young Readers 7-12 section, I pointed and told him, “Eventually, it will be right over—gasp*!

STGLB on the shelf

STGLB on the shelf 2

And right there—sitting on the shelf, there it was—my book—facing out!  My husband gasped too (I think at the same time!) and I couldn’t believe my eyes. For all the imaging I had done over the last several years, months, and weeks, nothing could have prepared me for that sight. I saw my book baby for the first time, in a bookstore in the same town where I grew up, with the person who has been by my side through this entire fairy tale journey. And that moment, even though different, was better than any moment I ever imagined—any moment spent simply staring at a cardboard box.

And so, I clutched my book baby to my chest and it was a feeling I can’t quite put into words.


My publishing team felt horrible through this whole mystery. But in my mind they have nothing to feel horrible about. They turned my story into a beautiful book and made my dreams of publication come true. And in case you’re wondering, my author copies did eventually arrive. And the package was simply perfect.

STGLB Author Copies


And it doesn’t bother me anymore who saw my book before I did, because every single person who did, has meant so much to me and to my journey in their own way, and I’ll always remember their messages and posts for what they were…heartfelt and full of love and support for me and to my first published book.

Thanks for reading this long rambling post, and for the love and support you’ve shown me these last few weeks. It has meant absolutely everything to me. Next time I’ll be posting about release day, and like any good story is, it was filled with quite a bit of drama too! I can’t wait to share that one with you as well. 🙂

Have a great week, my friends and like it says in Spin the Golden Light Bulb...

Think More. Work Hard. Dream Big.

Jackie ❤