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!

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!


Publishing, The Crimson Five series

Podcast Interview with My Messy Muse

Hey sweet friends,

Happy New Year! I hope 2019 has gotten off to a good start for you. I absolutely love the first week in January. Maybe it’s the daydreamer and planner in me, but I always have such high hopes for the year and putting some of my plans into action is just plain fun!

First of all, I’ve joined the 30 day Yoga With Adriene program called DEDICATE and I’m loving it so far. I’ve done several of her other yoga videos in the past, but re-committing to the whole yoga thing this way is just what I need (and want!) right now, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Besides Adriene’s videos are so encouraging and motivational. Check them out if you’re into that sort of thing.

I began drafting my WIP again this week also after taking a few weeks off over the holidays. The story is coming together and I love it so much! It’s nowhere near great yet, but I can see glimmers of greatness here and there, so there’s that. I plan to keep writing every day for the next several weeks. Butt in chair. Laptop on lap. That’s me for the foreseeable future.

In my effort to check in with you more regularly this year, I thought I’d kick off 2019 by sharing my very first pocast interview. It seems everyone (but me!) has climbed aboard the podcast train—so when the lovely Michele McAvoy, children’s author and the host of My Messy Muse pocast series asked me to chat with her, I happily agreed. I mean, I love to talk with other authors so I thought, how hard can it be?

I have to admit though, as the days approached leading up to our phone call, I did feel a little panicked. I haven’t done many “live” interviews and phone interviews are especially hard. There are no visual cues to tell you when the other person is done speaking, if you’re being too long-winded, or if they’re bored out of their minds listening to you! But Michele made it easy. She’s super friendly, and very easy to talk to. My only regret is that we didn’t have more time to talk about her books, her writing tips, and life in general. I actually think we could’ve talked all day!

So if you’re interested in listening, here’s the link: Hopefully something you hear will inspire you to keep working on your own writing goals. And if you have a chance, check out Michele’s other interviews… and her website too. Her books are as adorable as she is!

Enjoy the chat, my sweet friends and best of luck this month with your endeavors—writing and every other kind too. I know you have what it takes to get them done. Dedication, perserverence, and a “never give up” attitude can go a long way. I’ll focus if you will. Hopefully together we’ll get where we want to go. Thanks for checking in with me!

Until next time~

Think More. Work Hard. Dream Big!

❤ Jackie


2018: A Year of (Mostly!) Sparkles and Sunshine

Hey everyone,

I hope you’re doing well! I thought I’d check in with you one more time before we officially say farewell to 2018. What a wild year it has been, don’t you think?

I hope yours was mostly on the happy side. I say mostly because I think it’s unrealistic to think that a person can have a year that’s 100% wonderful. Even the best year ever needs some bland or stormy days to make us appreciate the sparkles and sunshine.

And if your year wasn’t mostly wonderful, then okay…good riddance! Because that’s what’s so fabulous about life. We constantly get do-overs. We’re constantly given opportunities to make our lives what we want them to be! Every day. Every month. Every Year.

Personally, my year was more than mostly fabulous. My family is happy and healthy, my two book babies published in 2018, and I met some incredible people (of all ages!) through my writing journey this year. I’m so grateful for 2018. I will forever think of it as the year my book dreams came true. I still pinch myself nearly every day when I realize that I can now call myself an author and that real human people are reading books that I’ve written. It’s all so surreal and without a doubt, surreal has become my most over-used word of 2018!

With that said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have struggles in 2018. I struggled with author impostor syndrome constantly. I mean, why would anyone want to come to my book launch party or read my books? Surely the ones who do are really just being nice! Thoughts like this took over my brain more often than I can count.  But, I think I’ve jumped that hurdle and landed on my feet. I realze now that people are busy. They arent going to read a book just to be nice. Unless we’re in school, we read things we want to read.

I have many author friends who have published books. I truly want to read all of them, and not because I want to be nice. It’s because I want to read what they wrote! It’s that simple. So I’ve learned to accept that when someone says they liked my books, they might actually mean it! For those of you who chose my books to read this year, even if only out of curiosity, I thank you from the every corner of my heart.  xoxo

I also struggled this year with balance, like many of you. There are only so many hours in the day for family, friends, work, housework, life obligations, fun, and self care…and I constantly felt like I was disappointing someone. But I’ve learned to cut myself some slack and do the best I can. That’s all any of us can ask of ourselves anyway!

I’m still figuring out what it means to live my life as an author, with all of the obligations that come along with that role and about how it fits into my life as a person—as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, neice, and friend. What I do know, after experiencing this more than mostly fabulous year, is that none of any of it matters without the people you care about most. So if there’s one thing that I will continue to prioritize, it’s family and friends. But at the same time, if I don’t take care of myself, no one else will—no one else can. And that means proiritizing the happiness I find in writing. It’s not just my career, it’s my joy. I love writing stories for kids and I love talking about writing stories for kids. I look forward to doing more of both in the new year!

So as 2019 approaches, I’m hopeful for another mostly fabulous year. I do anticipate there’ll be more than a few bland or stormy days, but hopefully the sparkly and sunny days will be right around the corner too as we ring in the New Year!

That’s what I wish for you as well. I hope your 2019 is filled with mostly sparkly and sunny days. I hope each morning your cup is full of your favorite coffee or smoothie, and with it you start each day with positivity, confidence, and peace. I hope you’ll find the courage to make time for yourself—to chase your dreams. You have what it takes to make yours come true—I know you do.

Leave me a comment below with one word or phrase (or more if you like!) that sums up your dream for 2019. I’d love to cheer for you every step of the way! Mine is BRONZE and it sums up more than one dream I have for the coming year. What’s yours?

Until we chat again~

Think More. Work Hard. Dream Big!

❤ Jackie

Publishing, Spin the Golden Light Bulb, The Crimson Five series, Uncategorized

The Author-Impostor Visit

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at an elementary school in my city…my first unofficial author visit. And it was so much fun! I spoke with two fourth grade classes about books and writing and inventions. Amazing! But I wasn’t sure it would be that way…

The Rochester Children’s Book Festival is a huge deal where I live. Rochester is not a big city, like Boston, New York, or Chicago, but we sure do know how to put on a children’s book fest! Now in its 21st year, the annual RCBF is host to 45 authors and illustrators, both local and not at all local and this year it takes place on Saturday, November 4th.

Over the years, I’ve spent many amazing Saturdays in November perusing the books, fan-girling the authors, and volunteering at this festival. As the main sponsor, the Rochester Area Children’s Writers and Illustrators group (a group I belong to) plays a major role and I’ve had the honor of volunteering in many ways like managing the flow of traffic in the busy main author area, being an author assistant, and announcing presentations by the authors. To say that being a part of the event is a writer’s dream of a way to spend a day (with books and the people who create them) would be an understatement!

As part of the book fest, published and non-published members of RACWI are invited to volunteer as visiting authors at the RCBF’s outreach program with the Rochester City School District. In my early years of writing I always passed up this opportunity. Even though I’ve always been very comfortable in a classroom setting—having spent years as a substitute teacher and also a reading teacher, I kind of felt like the kids would rather hear from a real author—a published author, not an wanna-be author like me. But the focus of the outreach program is to get inner city school kids excited about reading and writing, especially since many of them may not attend the book fest. Volunteers can present in any way they like from reading another author’s books, to talking about their own stories and their dreams of one day seeing them in book form. But still, for many years, I felt like there were writers many authors more qualified than me to speak to the kids about books.

But last year, while Spin the Golden Light Bulb was still out on submission to publishing houses, I took a deep breath and volunteered—hoping the children would not view me as an author-impostor. With my binder encased middle grade manuscript and a self created children’s story planner in hand, I dressed up, headed off the one of the city schools, and conducted my presentation to two third grade classes. I spoke to kids about creating memorable characters, reading excerpts from Spin the Golden Light Bulb; I spoke to them about my own ups and downs of getting publishing; I listened to their ideas for their own stories; and ultimately, I left them with their own story planners to use. I had a fabulous time chatting with them and I don’t even think they saw me as an author-impostor at all! In fact, before I left, they gave me all sorts of encouragement. Convinced that my story would be published one day, they made me promised to tell them if it ever is! Little did I know that one week later, my publication offer would come and my binder bound manuscript would soon be turned into a real book.

Almost exactly one year later, just last week, I volunteered again—this time with my ARC, my advanced reader’s copy of Spin the Golden Light Bulb in hand and presented to two amazing fourth grade classes at another city school. This time though, with a bit more confidence than the year before, I spoke to kids about all things books, writing, and publishing… I gave them a presentation on how writing futuristic books can help create our own future and I read a sneak peek preview of my first soon-to-be published book. It was an incredible day, meeting the children and hearing their enthusiastic ideas for their own inventions and stories. It was amazing meeting the librarian, and the teachers, and the volunteers from Altrusa who make the event happen each year. And it was especially wonderful to see how eager the kids were to talk about books.

The biggest lesson I learned in meeting the children and presenting to them was to get over myself. All those years I could have been volunteering for this program, I stayed away—worried I wasn’t author-ly enough to have something to offer these kids. When really, most kids simply want to be connected with…and books are one of the greatest connectors there are.

For privacy reasons, I wasn’t able to take pictures of the kids, but I was able to snap a picture of a few of them with my ARC. This photo will always remind me of the kids who listened to the first chapter so intently, the kids who became wide-eyed when I told them that no other kids had read this story yet…the kids who got a sneak peek at my first published book.

RCBF To Go ARC photo

I plan to continue my author visits through this program, each year, as long as they’ll have me. I also plan on doing as many school visits as I can. I would have loved if an author came to my school growing up. I never knew that becoming a person who wrote the books I loved was even a tiny possibility. If I can inspire kids to write and to read—to open their world up to the millions of books that could make an impact on them—like so many other amazing authors do, then I will be so happy. Books are meant to be shared—and talked about. Author visits are a great way to do that.

So if any of you ever have the chance to share your love of books and writing with kids in any capacity, I say just do it. Your presentation doesn’t have to be award-winning. It just has to be genuine. If your love of books is there, it will most certainly shine through.

If you happen to be in the Rochester area this weekend, definitely stop by the Book Fest. I won’t be signing my book there this year, since it doesn’t release until January, but a little birdie told me that I may be signing both my books there next year. *squee!*  Here’s the link so you can read all about the festival fabulous-ness!  Rochester Children’s Book Festival.

Remember, Spin the Golden Light Bulb is available for pre-order now and pre-orders help so much—especially for authors of indie publishers, like Amberjack Publishing. So if you have any interest in reading it, or know a child who would, consider pre-ordering it. I would appreciate it so much!


Barnes & Noble


And don’t forget to stop back on November 9th… two months out from launch day. Big things are happening. Big!

The debut of the Spin the Golden Light Bulb BOOK TRAILER will be happening right here on my site!!!! Plus, there will be a giveaway attached to it’s debut also. So…lots of fun things happening next week and I’m so excited…in case you couldn’t tell!

Have a fantastic week, friends! Thanks for stopping by:)

Jackie <3


Holidays, Publishing, Spin the Golden Light Bulb, Swirl and Spark Weekly, The Crimson Five series

Swirl and Spark Weekly

Hey all! What’s new?

Not much here…just sitting around on a cloudy summer day figuring out how to keep this website fresh… and I thought of something! Hence the name of this blog post. Back in the day (like three years ago), I religiously blogged once each week, without fail, on Wednesdays. But as time has gone on, it has become harder to think up things to blog about and to find the time to do it. And as life has gotten in the way, my post have become more erratic.

But I hate that. I like connecting with all of you. So here I am, creating a weekly column called Swirl and Spark Weekly.

You may wonder why I think it will be easier to keep it up to date, now that I’ve given it a fancy title. And that would be a fair question. I mean I haven’t thought of any more earth shattering topics to write about, and life hasn’t slowed down at all. It’s is still… well life. But my mom taught me a long time ago that if you stay in touch with someone by talking to them on the phone every day, you know more about their every day life, not just the big moments. You’re more likely to pick up the phone because your conversations can be brief, you don’t have to have an hour long conversation each and every time. The task doesn’t seem so daunting. Sometimes it can be a brief check-in, just to say hello and let the other person know how you’re doing. And even though that’s just my mom ensuring that I call her every day, (Hi Mom!) she does have a point. 🙂 And yes, I do call my mom every day–mostly!

I’ve noticed that often times when I sit down to blog lately, I’m making it harder than it has to be. I’m trying to write something fabulous, something you know…worthwhile. But that’s wayyy too much pressure. So for now, until I get back into the routine, my weekly updates may be as thrilling as “Hey Guys, I went for a run/ slash walk today, spent too much time on Twitter, and struggled with what to make for dinner. Oh and I revised my WIP. How about you?” Or…it may be something amazing like, “Here’s the link to my new book trailer. Check it out!”

Many exciting things right now are happening for me as a writer, for the first time ever, and I want to share it with you all. You’ve been great at cheering me on through the struggles as I’ve worked toward publication, and now that it’s happening I want to bring you along with me to experience the fun stuff too! Because you will all be there soon enough too, if you aren’t already, and maybe my crazy ride will make yours just a little bit less crazy- if I share my stories with you!

So that’s that. I’m working on some other updates to the site too. The Book Nook will be getting a new look sometime soon. I’ve been more active on Good Reads lately so eventually I’ll be sharing my reviews over there. I’ll add a link when it’s updated so you’ll be able to see what I’m reading, what I want to read, and any reviews I’ve done.

I’ll also be adding back to the site some activities for kids pertaining to summer reading and writing. So keep checking back for those. I recently added my College Essay Assist information too. It’s that time of year again, so if your college- bound child needs my help, just click on the tab for info.

Do you guys have any fun holiday plans for the weekend? I’ll be doing a little packing (vacation is coming soon!), a little reading (I’m reading two books right now that are sooo good and critiquing my CPs WIP!), a little picnic-ing with the fam (always good to have family time), and taking a stroll through my town’s 4th of July exhibits at the Town Hall (lots of food, crafts, people watching…fun!).

The ARCs of SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB (Book 1 of the Crimson Five series) should be arriving soon and I am literally shaking just thinking about it. Ten years is a LONG time to dream about holding your own book in your hands. I’m not sure if I will scream, faint, cry ugly tears, happy dance, or pee. Maybe all of the above!! I am sure that there will be pictures though. Lots of pictures and I will post them for all of you to see!

As far as writing goes, I’m on a writing break right now and it feels so weird! Like I have no projects hanging over my head. I submitted Book 2 of The Crimson Five series to my editor. We’ll start revising next month some time and I can’t wait! You know how much I love revising…polishing words is a sick sort of fun for me!! I’ll reveal the title and the release date in the coming weeks too.

So yeah, like I said, lots of fun stuff is happening around here and something really fun is happening next week in regards to the release of SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB. It’s top secret though so you’ll have to check in next week to know what I’ve been up to!

Well my friends, I’m off to my exciting life of laundry, picking up after teenagers, and checking out Instagram! I may even buy the ingredients to make another flag cake this year. Doesn’t that sound fun?!

If you aren’t already following me on Instagram, come find me! I’m jackieyeager18. Or like my Facebook page: Jackie Yeager Author. I’d love to connect with you too!

Happy 4th to my friends in the USA! Cheers to independence and freedom…and a shout out to those around the world too, because everyone deserves a reason to celebrate!

Until next week…

Dream big and big things will happen!

Jackie ❤

Publishing, Uncategorized

The Crazy Journey of the Author Platform

Hey everybody!

I hope this post will give you something to think about as you go about your week. Maybe it will strike a chord or help somehow, because I know this topic is something that all writers think about, even worry about—maybe actually stress about.

I certainly do.

We’ve been told by other writers, agents, and editors that authors need to build a platform—a stage so to speak on which you will put your best face forward. But why? Why does the world need to see us? Isn’t our manuscript enough? Can’t we just stay hidden in the shadows, in our own comfortable world where our book is the main focus?

Well, no. Your manuscript isn’t enough. Sure, it is the most important thing. It’s definitely the most important thing. However, no one will know you have a book to share if you don’t have an author’s platform. Many will argue that you don’t need a platform until after you have a book deal, until your book is contracted to be published. It’s more important to focus your energy on your writing. I’m not a publishing professional so I won’t even attempt to tell you what the right answer is.

I will tell you though, what my experience has been in trying to build my own author’s platform…my own crazy experience. And I have to say it’s been a roller coaster of sorts with it’s ups and downs, twist and turns. Sometimes my decisions have been carefully calculated. Sometimes they’ve been totally impulsive and probably stupid at times. But over the last three years, I’ve worked to create something that resembles an author’s platform, even though I haven’t had a reason to have one. Not yet anyway.

Three years ago, when I was in the process of revising my manuscript (the one currently out on submission) I formulated a plan for creating a website/ blog. I had read everywhere about the mysterious author platform and I knew that I wanted to get started. I was a little naïve back then and thought the whole getting published thing would be a quick sure thing.

As if!

I wondered what I could include on my site that would be of any value and more so what in the world I would ever blog about. It was a really terrifying thought actually. Who would care what I had to say? What did I actually have to say anyway that hadn’t been said so many times before by more experienced writers than myself?

Back then I followed many writing blogs religiously. One of my all time favorites was (and still is) I loved the critique rounds for writers. They were supremely helpful to me as I honed my writing craft, but I never planned to create a website for my writing peers. Again, there were plenty of those out there. I did have the idea to create a writing site for young writers though. Having a background in education, I thought it would be awesome if kids who love to write had a resource like adults do.

That became the beginning of my author’s platform. I figured if I could draw the attention of kids, not only could I help them in their quest to write stories, I would also have a landing spot in which to showcase my books someday. I spent months developing the content for the original version of swirl and spark and it was honestly so much fun! I added tabs like Critique Corner, the Book Nook, and Scribble Tips right away. The website/ blog went live the following August and I was excited when I saw any traffic at all. I realized pretty quick though that the curious people (family and friends) will stop by to see what you’ve created, but then they will forget you even have a website and/ or blog within a few weeks!

Hence the roller coaster!

I ran the first Critique Corner for kids the next month and even a few more after that. It was amazing to interact with the kids and to read the great stories they had come up with. The only trouble is, I found it extremely difficult to attract more kids to the site. Why did I not think this would be hard?? The kids who often stopped by or sent their stories in were mostly kids I knew. Friends of my own kids, younger siblings of my kids’ friends, my nieces and nephews…you get the idea.

I was beginning to think the idea for swirl and spark was a bad one. How do I help young writers when they don’t even know about the site? Most kids don’t check out websites or blogs—even the ones who are often online playing games or perusing Instagram.  But just when I was beginning to get discouraged, I met other writers through the site. Other writers apparently enjoyed reading my posts and clicking around the site! Who knew?

The next year, swirl and spark (the site for kids who love to write) evolved into the site for kids and kids at heart who liked to write. Critique Corner became a critique round for beginning writers of any age and each round was successful. In fact, the busiest months (traffic wise) always happened during one of these rounds. I even added a YA Book Nook to appeal to all the writers that stopped by. But what about my author platform? Did it still make sense, now that mostly non-kid writers were hanging out at the site? I had no idea! But I figured as long as people were interested in the content here, it didn’t matter to me. I was learning so much about the writing community and making great friends at the same time so how could that be a bad thing? Besides, it was fun to have a place to talk about writing and books on a weekly basis!

As the year went on, I learned more and more about the point of having an author platform. I learned that the point is not only to bring you exposure, but exposure to your potential readers. Hmm. Well I tried that, and my readers (kids ages 8-12) don’t read blogs. So I thought long and hard about that. Maybe kids don’t read blogs, but their parents and teachers and librarians might. This was an important distinction because in almost all case, kids in the middle grade age group don’t buy their own books. Their parents and teachers and librarians do—or at least guide them in the right direction.

Hmm. That’s when swirl and spark evolved again. I began catering the Critique Corner rounds to writers of middle grade books. I eliminated the YA Book Nook and focused only on middle grade. I even added Spotlight: Tweens and some tools for tweens over at For Tweens Only. Why? Because I realized if I could attract parents and teachers and kids now, maybe they will be interested in buying my book someday when it’s published.

But a funny thing has happened as I’ve been waiting for that elusive book contract—the one that would be the reason to have an author platform in the first place. I realized how much love running this website. Now that it has a real focus (on the tween age group and people who have an interest in tweens), I feel like I’m reaching more people. In fact, now that I’ve started creating hands on activities for tweens, I can’t stop! I have four new activities almost ready to go up on the site. Almost. Stay tuned!

Now the blog is a different story. Blogs are for writing and I’m a writer. I think its important to write about whatever topic you want to write about and that’s what I’ll continue to do. The writers who stop by are my lifeline, the thing that keeps me connected and happy and sane! We all know how crazy this stuff can be. It’s great to connect with other people who can relate!

So here’s the thing. An author’s platform is important. Agents, editors, and publishers want to know that you’re serious about getting the word out about your book. Parents and librarians may want to read about your book and know where they can buy it. So for that reason it is important to have some sort of on-line presence.

But what about Twitter or Facebook? Well, the same is true for those. They can help feed into your platform too. If you develop a strong following there, it can eventually lead people to your website or blog as well.

I’ve learned a few valuable lessons in the two and a half years since swirl and spark was born. First, content is important. Readers will come back if they like what they read. That’s especially important with blogging. If what you say resonates with even one person, then it’s worth it. If you try to sound important, like you know all there is to know on a subject in an attempt to reach a million people, then readers will be turned off…because know one knows all there is to know, especially about writing and publishing!

Second, I’ve learned that if the content you’re putting up on your site doesn’t interest you, you’ll get sick of talking about it real quick. I love talking about tweens. I love talking about great middle grade books. I also like talking about imagination and how it can encourage kids to create and problem solve. I guess the educator in me comes out sometimes. That’s why it’s important for me to keep updating this site with anything I can dream up that will encourage tweens to be the best versions of themselves. And I’m just getting started where that’s concerned.

So is this an author platform that works? Who knows? I’ll let you know when I actually become a published author. But if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s this. Most of building a strong platform of any kind is trial and error. If you have an idea, try it. If it doesn’t work out, try something else. Do any of you remember Manuscript Mondays? That lasted for almost 30 weeks. In addition to my regular posts, I blogged on Mondays about the status of my new manuscript. The result…well, lets just say that it bored me to tears to write every Monday about the previous week’s drafting progress and from the number of views on the site during that time, I think most readers were bored too! So that was one idea that didn’t work out. I impulsively started blogging one Monday and soon it became a thing. However, sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and try something new.

I hope this information helps at least one of you to understand the rationale behind developing your own author’s platform and also what it really is like to get one started and what it’s like to keep it going. It’s crazy and confusing and amazing! But if you create it with the idea that it can be a fun way to connect with other people, you’re way ahead of the game. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. There’s only your way, and that’s the way that counts!

Have a great week, everyone. I hope to chat with you again soon!


Creativity, Publishing

4 Signs You May Not Fit the Writer Stereotype

We all have questions and doubts when it comes to our writing life. Am I a good enough writer? Is my story any good at all? How do I know if I’m cut out to be a writer anyway?  The list of doubts goes on.

We all have moments of reflection too… moments when we wonder if we should continue on our quest to become a published writer, ponder if we have what it takes to stay in it for the long hall. And in doing so, we think about the successful writers—authors like JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins who have become household names. But we may also think about our writing friends who’ve gotten published already, the ones who are not quite yet a household name but have made this writing thing a job. Some we may know personally, some we may know merely through Twitter or some other form of social media. The more we engage with these other writers, the ones who have made careers of putting pen to paper and spinning words into gold, we can’t help but hear or read about the ways they do things—the way they work, the way they write, the schedule they keep, etc.

And we are fascinated by it.

Mostly I think because we believe that any time we read something about a real writer, we’ll learn something, anything that will pull back the curtain on all that is the mystery of getting published. If we know their routines, we may be able to imitate them and perhaps that will lead to publication for us too.

But what happens when we learn something about a published writer and realize (without a doubt) that what they do is something we may never do. Not because it’s wrong, but because it’s just not us?

In thinking about this topic for quite sometime now, I’ve come to realize that writers, like those in any other profession, have a certain stereotypical look or some stereotypical behaviors. The problem for me is this.

I don’t fit the writer stereotype.

Like, at all.

First, I don’t wear pajamas (or even sweatpants) all day when I write. My hair is not thrown up in a messy bun. And I don’t wear glasses. I don’t skip showering before writing either. Like ever.

In fact, every day of my life (without fail) I get up and shower before I do anything else. Then I get dressed, put on my contacts, do my hair, and do my make up before I start writing, even if I have no plans to leave the house or see another human being all day. Call me crazy, and maybe it’s because of my background in teaching and in sales, but I feel more productive and ready to take on the world when I look the part.

Second, I don’t drink endless cups of coffee while I write. I drink a cup of tea most every morning and a chai latte in the afternoon. But I do that whether I’m writing or not. Sometimes I’ll sit down with one or the other (or even with a cup of highly sugared iced coffee) as a coincidence, but I don’t drink it for hours to make the time spent with my manuscript more productive.

Third, I’m not a book worm. I don’t love reading above all else. I didn’t grow up with my nose buried in a book. I almost feel ashamed for admitting this. Sure, I like reading. I love reading books in the age group that I write in, I like reading YA books when I find a fabulous one. I like reading motivational books and an occasional grown up book too. But I don’t think about books all day long. (Except the one I’m writing). I enjoy reading and it is part of my daily routine, but it’s not the first thing I would do on a day off. Books are important to me, but being creative is even more important. I’d rather spend an entire day daydreaming about my next project or invention. I think that’s one of the reason’s why I write. Ideas are constantly spinning in my mind (to a point of frustration) and I will never act on most of them. But my characters can! I may not invent the next big thing, but the next big thing may just pop up in one of my books!

Fourth, I’m not an introvert. Well not all the time. I definitely like my alone time. That’s when I’m at my most creative.  And I don’t really love hanging out with giant groups of people. But once I’ve had enough alone time, I do love being with people and interacting with them.  In fact, I’ll probably talk your ear off if we ever meet in person! A night out with friends (old or new) or a lunch date with my college roommate or a dinner with my husband or whole extended family is definitely my thing. Many writers I know would prefer to exist in their own world and don’t love interacting much with people. They let their words do the talking, and that’s okay too.

It used to scare me quite honestly. I used to panic thinking, well obviously I will never become real writer because I hate hanging out all day in my pajamas. But then I snapped out of my making excuses trance and realized it doesn’t matter at all.

Stereotypes in most case are ridiculous anyway, right? So if you’re doubting your abilities to do this writing thing just because you haven’t read all the classic literature ever published, if you only read the Cliff Notes to the Scarlett Letter in high school and really didn’t love Jane Eyre (I know, I’m sorry!!) just don’t. Don’t doubt yourself at all. Writers come in all shapes and sizes—coffee drinker or not. How else would we get all these amazing stories? If we were all the same, our stories would all be the same and how awful would that be? No thanks!

I’ll take my tea with extra sweet cream. I’ll dress up when I write if for only my own benefit. I’ll go running instead of reading if the sun is shining. I’ll spend time I should be writing thinking up inventions that make no sense. I may even re-read Jane Eyre one day to see what all the fuss is about. Because that’s me. But rest assured, on the nights I stay up late to add a new invention to my latest middle grade scene, I may even throw my hair up in a messy bun. Hey, at ten o’clock at night even the most neurotic girl needs to change into comfy clothes and get down to business! How else will those words get spun into gold?

What about you? Do you fit into the writer stereotypes? Do you think they exist at all? Maybe they only exist in my mind. Stranger things have happened there, ya know? What do you think? Throw me a comment. You know how much I love notes!

Have a great week, Guys! Now go get dressed…and brush your hair or something. Maybe you’ll be more productive. 🙂


Literary Agents, Publishing, Uncategorized

The Literary Agent Puzzle

Hey Guys,

How are you all? I hope if you were one of the many people hit with major snow this week, you’re now beginning to dig yourself out. Me? I’m so very happy to say that my little corner of Upstate, NY was not hit. Like at all. It’s so weird, because we always get hit. But I won’t complain. I’m definitely happy to share the white fluffy stuff for a change!

So my post today may seem a bit out of order. Many of you may have read my post a few weeks ago What Happens After you Sign with a Literary Agent. Well, early this week I had a conversation with a client that prompted me to write this post today. It probably would have been helpful to read sooner, but ideas for posts come when they come. 🙂

Earlier this week, I was speaking with one of my business clients, whom I’ll call Mr. X. After we finished touching base on the status of the project, he asked me, “How do you know if a literary agent is good?”

Before I talk about how I answered, I’ll give you a little background…Mr. X is aware that I recently signed with a literary agent. We’ve often spoke of how difficult it is to get a book published traditionally. In fact, during his career, he has had several business type books self published, and the book I’m ghostwriting for him will also be sold directly on amazon once I’m finished. So upon hearing his question, I figured he was just asking to make conversation.

I came to find out however, that he has also hired a ghostwriter to write a memoir for one of his close friends, and this book, (he feels) may be able to get traditionally published. So he asked me how to find a good literary agent—and if I knew any good ones who represented adult memoirs.

Wow. That’s such a loaded question…and it brought me back several years—seven to be exact.

When I first started writing and thinking about getting my manuscript published, I asked myself the same question. Although I had been writing for a little while, I had no idea what was involved in seeing my manuscript in print. So I set out to learn everything I could about making it happen.

And it wasn’t easy.

In fact, it took me FOREVER to figure it out. Many days I felt like the publishing business was a big puzzle—with hundreds of pieces, not all of which were even in the puzzle box.  I had to search high and low to find them, and then once I did I had to figure out where they fit into the big puzzle picture.


I read as many books as I could on the business of publishing. I searched the internet for articles on getting a book published. I read author websites, looking for any piece of helpful information. I read writing blogs—endlessly and religiously. I was kind of obsessive about it actually, almost like a sponge soaking up anything I could.

This became my life.

When I wasn’t writing or reading (or doing the mom/ wife thing) I was trying to make sense of the whole publishing thing. And what I learned early on was that if I was going to have any chance of being traditionally published, I needed to get myself a literary agent.  (Easier said than done!) But once my attention was turned to literary agents, I had to learn WHICH literary agents to target.

So over the next few years, I followed and read all I could about any agent who represented middle grade fiction. Then as I became ready to query them, I put together a list. And because the years flew by and I eventually queried three different manuscripts, some literary agents on my list came and went. Others became ultra successful and were becoming more selective. Not that they weren’t looking for the best books early on in their careers, but as the years went on, they only had room on their lists to sign one or two new clients each year. New agents came on the scene and I had to learn all I could about them as well.

So the thing is, it became a never ending search for agents that would be a good fit for my manuscript. It wasn’t something I could find after one day of browsing the internet. And that’s exactly what I told Mr. X. If he wanted to find an agent that might be interested in his memoir, he would need to do some research. A lot of research.

And that’s what I would tell any knew writer looking to get traditionally published. Information on literary agents is out there, but just like writing the manuscript itself, no one can do the work for you. You have to do it yourself.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help. In fact, if Mr. X had been trying to find an agent to represent a children’s book I would have had more information to share. But in the world of memoirs, I am as clueless as any new writer!

But for the rest of you who are on Twitter and writing sites, gathering all the information you can on agents that rep your age group and genre, you’re doing the right thing. I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave…matching you up with your perfect agent or at least help you find those missing puzzle pieces—but I can’t. It’s all up to you. But, if you keep at it long enough, have a polished manuscript, and are willing to learn, you won’t need anyone’s magic wand.

You will be enough.

Good luck my friends, I hope you find a good bunch of agents for your query list. One of them may just be a key piece to your puzzle…and the one person who can best champion your work!

Ta ta for now… I hope we’ll chat soon!






Book Nook, December Book Blast, Publishing

Old Gems & New

Hey Everyone,

Happy Limbo Week… you know what I mean, the week between Christmas and New Years that makes you feel, well in limbo. The party is over, yet the next one is just days away. It’s hard to focus on anything new because you’re wrapping up all the old. It’s the best week ever, but also the worst!

So during limbo week I thought I’d focus on some of the old gems that made this site sparkle in 2015 and also some of the new ones that are planned for 2016…

This website and blog saw some changes this year. We shifted focus (especially in the Book Nook) from both middle grade books and YA, to simply middle grade. I thought the change was necessary because quite honestly, there aren’t enough hours in my day for me to read all the YA books that are amazing. I mean, sure I read YA, but it seems that by the time I read all those fabulous YA titles, the entire world has already read them first. So really then, why do readers need my YA recommendations anyway?

I have a better handle on middle grade books anyway (since middle grade is my life!) so that was the reason for the big shift. I’d like readers to be able to click on the tab and find some great titles they can check out and since I read middle grade all the time, turning the Book Nook into simple middle grade titles was a no brainer! I’ll admit sometimes I’m a little slow to update it though. I can see right now there are some titles that are listed as TBR that I read months ago! But, I’m working on it…

I also added some tools for tween writers—stuff that I think any young writer would love to use while writing their own creative gems.  Right now they’re in PDF format as a free download. Maybe one day I’ll turn them into something more concrete—like an actual print book or more possibly a downloadable app. Hmm…so many ideas so little time!

So what did you all think of the December Book Blast of middle grade books?? That was a first on the blog and I have to say it was, in fact, a blast! It was great for me to channel the books I love every day for 23 days, and encouraged me to seek out titles that I thought would appeal to the masses. But I did learn two things. There are WAY more than 23 books that are worth highlighting AND blogging every day (with mentions on both Twitter and Facebook) is way more work than I can handle. Have any of you ever tried blogging every day? If you have, I’m ultra impressed. It takes a lot of time! I hope you enjoyed the book related countdown to Christmas though. It was great fun for me. 🙂 To go back and read through the titles, click on the December Book Blast tab at the right, or click here.

Critique Corner saw some action at the beginning of 2015 and it was a big success—largely due to the bonus critiques from the lovely Mel Mercado, my writing crit partner and treasured friend. But interest has shifted, I think. Writers seem more reluctant to submit their beginning paragraphs for critique. I think that must mean that more and more of you are finding crit partners and groups and that is fantastic. I always say that finding the right people to critique your work is more valuable than all the rubies in the world! So I’ll keep you posted on the future of our in house critiques. I’m always open to hosting them if there is interest, so please keep the comments and emails coming. I love hearing your thoughts!

Speaking of hearing your thoughts, you may have noticed a new tab on the site that has a little something to do with my writing services. I’ll be posting separately about them but I will say this: The idea to offer them came directly as a result of your emails. I appreciate your questions about my work as a ghostwriter and requests for critiques.  I thought it was time I listened!  (More on that to come)

You may remember, I signed with my amazing literary agent, Rebecca Angus at the end of the summer. I consider that to be one of the most outstanding gems of my entire year! If you missed my agent announcement you can read it here. So now that I’m inching toward the 6 month mark of agent-dom, I thought you guys might be interested in hearing about what happens AFTER a writer signs with an agent and what it’s like to be out on submission. I know many writers have posted about this topic already, but each of our stories are different and I’d love to share mine. Hopefully I can help shed some light on the whole process.

Swirl and Spark saw a record number of views this year with a record number of readers. Seeing the readership grow means the world to me and is very humbling. That means that you think I have something worthwhile to offer here on the site. I’ll do my very best to keep doing it—and to do it even better in 2016!