The Gift of Writing: Taking Dreamweaver Road on the Road This Spring

For those of you here for the Books to Go Now Spring Fling Blog Hop from March 7th to 11th, please leave a comment below just this post with your name, email address, and comment (I’d love ideas for more ways for writers to give back to their communities, if you have them). By commenting, you will be entered into a chance to win one of three free signed copies of my novel, Dreamweaver Road, as well as BTGN’s two grand prizes.

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Dreamweaver Road, Book 1 of The Zaniyah Trilogy, is out on Amazon here. The rest of the trilogy, a total of three young adult fantasy novelettes, are forthcoming. 

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A few weeks before I officially became an author, I spent one glorious afternoon in a local elementary school talking to fifth graders about writing. When planning the talk, I’d had no idea where to start, so I launched with my own beginnings: little Kelly Ann Jacobson, sitting at her kindergarten desk, crayoning her first sentences over the dotted lines to match the picture she had drawn above. That moment had been the connection for me: I could describe what I had drawn, and both the drawing and the writing could give the reader the same image. It’s no wonder I became a poet too. So I shared that moment with the fifth graders, encouraging them to help me draw a character with both words and me physically drawing her on the white board, letting them add whatever came into their imaginations with the help of some prompts.

I wish I had a photo of that witch, who looked like a cross between a gingerbread man and a robot. I felt pretty bad about her, actually, until the kids asked me later on why I couldn’t become an illustrator as well, and then asked me again, and then asked me again until I was no longer self-conscious that my fish looked like a pair of scissors. That is why I love children.

After that we moved to plot, to the meat of the story, and built our own plot for our new witch character. I had to steer the conversation away from Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber a few times, but eventually we found our way to a vaguely romantic ending involving death. Then I read from my (at the time) forthcoming novel, Dreamweaver Road, for which the students were dead silent and then screamed “Yeah, more!” when I asked if I should go on. I may never have a better audience.

At the end, I did a Q&A session that lasted about thirty minutes and probably could have gone on another thirty. They had so many questions for me, and I answered all of them the best I could: Have you read Hunger Games? Do you write comics? Are they going to make a movie about your books? Will you tell people we’re friends? Will you sign my hand? How much money do you make? Do you have a YouTube channel? If you want to know what steps you should be taking as a YA author, trust me, just listen to children for an hour and you’ll have all the answers you need.

Toward the end, I asked the students how many of them wanted to be authors, and half of them raised their hand. “They do not want to be authors,” the teacher confided in me, or at least they hadn’t until I had come to speak to them. Despite the fifth grade teachers’ heroic attempts to prompt students in preparation for state testing, the kids had found prewriting laborious until they experienced it as something fun, a treat, let by someone who had learned how to apply it practically. As I said, kids are smart. But I had shown them a way to take all of that writing they were doing every morning and make books out of it, make silly stories with witches and flying pigs, and so in almost all of the thank you letters one of the teachers handed me before I left the school, the kids had written “I liked the prewriting the best.” Well, that and “Please tell people you know me, my name is _____.”

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Dreamweaver Road

 

On Blurbs, to My Future Self

Once I signed my book contracts for Dreamweaver Road and Cairo in White this fall, I remember thinking to myself, “Now the rejection part of the process is over!” Dreamweaver Road had been picked up almost immediately after I wrote it, but Cairo in White had been a labor of love for almost five years before the complete overhaul this summer that led to its acceptance (perhaps my next post will involve the dreaded re-write).  I’d had more agent rejections over the years than I could keep track of, to the point where I had a whole folder of them; another form rejection was like a crushed up, dirty soda can in a landfill. And, of course, that’s not counting the rejections from poems and stories along the way, which have built up in my Submittable “Declined” folder like the ledger of a failing business. Thank goodness for all of the wonderful literary magazines that did publish my work along the way, or like many writers in the early stages of their careers, I might have given up.

So you can imagine my surprise when, after my first round of asks for blurbs for my two novels, I experienced much the same result. Many writers were too busy with their own writing to spend time on mine; some writers, even professors who were friends with my professors, just never answered. I got several who claimed they couldn’t blurb it because it wasn’t quite the same genre or age or  style of what they wrote, advising me to ask my friends at Hopkins (Note: These are friends who are in thesis with me, at work on novels that are obviously not published yet). 

What was it Blanche said in A Streetcar Named Desire? “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I have learned over the past few months that writers I’ve met or known for years may not be kinder with their time than someone a friend has advised me to Facebook message. Someone I expected would be too busy writing beautiful poems in fields may actually be eager to read the work of a budding fiction writer. There is no shortcut to figuring out which connections fall into which categories; unfortunately, like the writing itself, you just have to get rejected. 

I am lucky to be blessed with several friends and mentors who, as opposed to those mentioned above, give and give and give. So a note to my future self: be generous with your time. Guide new writers, even if it takes up an hour you would have normally spent staring into that white screen. If you absolutely can’t blurb someone’s book, take the time to give the writer guidance about a better fit. After all, hopefully by then you will have a larger network of amazing friends and colleagues who will consider a recommendation from you important, and will take a chance on someone unknown. 

Sincerely, 

Kelly in October of 2013 

Dreamweaver Road, A Young Adult Novel

I am excited to announce that I just signed a publishing contract for my new young adult novel “Dreamweaver Road.”  The novella should be available to order in time for the holidays.  The story is a fiction story about a sixteen year girl named Zoey with magical powers.  She does not know the extend of her abilities or how she got them.  Her best friend is kidnapped by a wizard named Danger and she starts a quest to find him. On the way she meets Angela, a witch who can see the future through dream.  The story includes Zoey’s sidekick,  a cat named Mother Shipton; Will, a man who claims to be immortal; and Red, a dragon with a grudge.  Zoey’s friends help her discover the rest of her powers, as well as the forgotten past that earned her such a dangerous enemy.

While I have had many poems and short stories published, this is the first of my novels to be published.  You can check my website to see updates for Dreamweaver Road.