PAL Author interview of the month - November 2017
Welcome to Nicki Jacobsmeyer, our PAL Author of the Month. When she was in elementary school, Nicki entertained her imagination by writing stories. As she got older she continued writing, inspiring and encouraging others through her writing. A few years ago, she realized that writing was her true passion. Nicki writes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults.
Nicki’s stories have been published in Saturday Writers anthologies (Missouri Writer’s Guild), and her book, CHESTERFIELD was published by Arcadia Publishing. Her first children’s book, SURVIVING THE IDITAROD: An Interactive Extreme Sports Adventure, was released by Capstone Press in August. Congratulations, Nicki!
What was the inspiration for your book?
I have family that live in Alaska and have always found the Iditarod to be fascinating. I’m a history nerd and a couple of years ago I came across the account of the first Iditarod called The Great Race of Mercy. In 1925, a fatal diphtheria outbreak ran rampant in Nome, Alaska. Twenty dog sled teams traveled to Anchorage and back to retrieve the antitoxin serum. I couldn’t stop thinking about these brave sled dogs and their mushers. I decided to write a short story about this race and entered it into a contest for Saturday Writers, a chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. When I found out it received second place and would be published in an anthology, I was tickled. One of my friends in my SCBWI critique group read my story and encouraged me to turn this into a children’s book. I stored that idea away for safe keeping.
A year later, in spring 2016, I pulled that idea out and wrote a book proposal for the YOU CHOOSE series with Capstone Press. With all the many adventures and challenges that occur on the Iditarod, I knew it would be a perfect topic for a choose-your-own-adventure book. Thankfully, the publisher agreed and offered me a contract.
I had kept all my research for the short story I had written, but I needed more. Many of my sources were children’s books, and my editor wanted adult titles for my bibliography. I read every book about the Iditarod I could, including memoirs and autobiographies of mushers. The Iditarod website had a wealth of information, archived blogs, and race statistics. I researched about Iditarod mushers and their unexpected challenges they encountered on the trail. There are several videos on the Iditarod that I played over and over to get a feel for the tone, mood, sounds, expressions, and dialogue of the mushers and their teams.
I traveled to Alaska this past summer and visited a few dog kennels and met several Iditarod Champions. Although the book had already gone to press, the pictures, videos, and conversations have enriched my book events and experience with readers.
What were the challenges in bringing your book to life?
The most significant challenge I encountered had to deal with story and plot structure. Since this was a choose-your-adventure book, there were three plots, instead of one. The reader had 43 choices to make with 19 different endings. Each of these decisions had consequences that had to be authentic and reach a satisfying conclusion.
I made a flow chart to keep all the plots, choices, consequences and endings straight. Once I finally felt comfortable with the pacing, I would receive revisions from my editor. If a choice or ending didn’t work, I headed back to re-create my flow chart. My editor pushed me to write the most compelling possibilities as possible, and I grew as a writer because of it.
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from daily life, reading, listening and engaging in conversations. Our daily lives are bursting with story ideas; it’s a matter of identifying them. I try to look at situations and experiences through a child’s perspective. Then I ask myself all of those inquiring questions that children know so well, “Why? How? What if?” Then I research what’s already on the market and see if there is an undiscovered angle that children would enjoy.
I’m never without a book, even if I’m taking a quick trip to the store. The only time I was without, I got stuck in a ditch and stared out the window for over three hours waiting for the tow truck. A mistake I will never repeat. Or when I’m driving, exercising, or cleaning I might listen to a podcast and hear a topic that interests me. People love to talk, and when they do, I pay attention. You never know when their story might spark an idea.
I’m a history nerd and love learning new things. Whenever I get the chance to visit a museum or festival, I’m there. I’m drawn to the stories that are untold and the people who make a difference but go unnoticed. My journal is always nearby to jot down ideas.
Do you ever experience writer's block?
I’ve learned something about myself and writer’s block in the past year or two. When I hit “the wall,” I decide how I will respond. “The wall” doesn’t decide for me. When I think about writer’s block, it is essentially the absence of inspiration. Staring at the blinking cursor, or for some of us the blank pad of paper, and hoping the muse will come. The moment we stall is when the hard work comes in when we force ourselves as writers to start somewhere, and eventually, that will get us to where we want to go. There are those days we would rather hear fingernails on a chalkboard then write the next chapter or figure out a plot point.
There are those priceless moments though when we get an idea, and we rush to write it on a napkin or reach for our journal on the nightstand in the middle of the night. Those moments are the ones to consider. The moment of inspiration. Writing, like many other crafts, is said to be 99% hard work, 1% inspiration. Do I disagree with that statement? No. Writing is put-your-seat-in-the-chair hard work. However, I believe the 1% inspiration has the power to ignite the passion for fueling the hard work. I write stories for children in hope to inspire. I want them to discover who they are, who they want to be and see the world around them through a different perspective.
Thank you so much for sharing with us here, Nicki. Your words are sure to inspire other children’s writers.
Nicki lives with her husband and two sons in Troy, Missouri. You can find out more about Nicki and her books on her website at https://www.nickijacobsmeyer.com/about.
Follow her online at:
Facebook at www.facebook.com/authornickijacobsmeyer
Twitter at @BeInspiredNJ.
Contact Nicki at email@example.com.
SURVIVING THE IDITAROD: An Interactive Extreme Sports Adventure,
Capstone Press 2017
Paperback: ISBN-10: 1474743706; ISBN-13: 978-1474743709
Hardback/Library Binding: ISBN-10: 1515771709; ISBN-13: 978-1515771708
FORMER Authors of the Month
Vicki Berger Erwin has worked as a children’s book buyer and a sales rep for Scholastic, and she and her husband owned the independent bookstore, Main Street Books, in St. Charles, MO for seven years. She is the author of many books for children, including SCOOBY DOO AND YOU, as well as some single Scooby Doo titles. She was also a ghostwriter for several popular girls’ book series. DIFFERENT DAYS, is historical fiction for middle grade readers, and was released this month by SkyPony Press. You can find out more about Vicki and her books on her website at www.vickibergererwin.com
Laura S. Schmidt writes contemporary fiction and mysteries for young adults. Her first novel, SWEETER THAN LIFE, was published in 2015. Laura has worked as a community education coordinator, and has spent several years as a staff counselor at an agency that supports children and adults with developmental disabilities. You can find out more about Laura and her books on her website at www.laurastewartschmidt.com
Jessica Shaw writes for children from the picture book age through young adult, including poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in several magazines for children as well as doing work-for-hire projects. She received a Letter of Merit from the SCBWI 2016 Magazine Merit Award committee for her poem My Favorite Sounds, published in Ladybug, May 2015. You can find out more about Jessica and her books on her website at www.authorjessicashaw.com
Patricia A. Miller writes picture books, including nonfiction, historical fiction, and fiction, and she has written several board book manuscripts as well. She has had two nonfiction magazine articles published in Highlights for Children magazine. Her latest article is “A Century of Blossoms,” which appears in the April 2017 issue of Highlights. You can find out more about Patricia and her writing on her website at www.patriciamillerbooks.com.
Clare Vanderpool writes adventure and historical fiction for middle grade readers. Her book Moon Over Manifest won the 2011 Newbery Award, and her newest book, Navigating Early, was a 2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Visit her website to find out more about Clare and her books at www.clarevanderpool.com
Claire M. Caterer has been a freelance writer and editor for more than a dozen years. Her short fiction for adults has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Woman’s World. She lives in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Find more about Claire and her books on her website at http://www.clairecaterer.com/
Sue Lowell Gallion writes picture books, early readers and chapter books for children from her home in Leawood, Kansas. She is the former Regional Advisor for Kansas SCBWI, and is currently Co-Regional Advisor with Kim Piddington for Kansas/Missouri SCBWI. Sue has been published in children’s magazines and educational publishing. PUG MEETS PIG, released in September 2016 from Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), is her first picture book. You can find out more about Sue on her website at www.suegallion.com
Lisa Wade McCormick has written eighteen non-fiction books for children, and her stories have appeared in several children's magazines. Besides being a children's book author, Lisa is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than 20 years experience as a newspaper reporter and television producer. She is currently the investigative producer at WDAF-TV in Kansas City. You can find out more about Lisa and her books on her website at www.lisawademccormick.com
Rita Arens is the author of the contemporary realistic young adult novel, THE OBVIOUS GAME (InkSpell Publishing, 2013), a 2016 Library Journal Self-e Selection. Rita is also the editor of a parenting anthology, SLEEP IS FOR THE WEEK (Chicago Review Press), winner of a 2009 gold National Parenting Publications award (NAPPA) and winner of an honorable mention in the 2012 New York Book Festival. You can find our more about Rita and her books at www.ritaarens.com
Patricia J. Norton is the author of phonics-based beginning readers and narrative non-fiction for children. In 2006, she started a new publishing house, Short Vowel Phonics, to provide phonics-controlled short stories for beginning and struggling readers. You can find our more about Patricia and her books at http://shortvowelphonics.com/phonics/
Amy Houts, Maryville, MO, is a freelance writer and former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction books on assignment for educational publishers, as well as working on her own projects. She is the author of over 60 books, many for young children ages 3 to 7. You can find out more about Amy and her books on her website, www.amyhouts.com, or follow her blog at http://www.houtsandhome.com/amys-blog.
PEGGY ARCHER, O'Fallon, MO, loves to talk to students and adults about writing and her books. Readers can learn more about her author presentations on her website at www.peggyarcher.com. They can also check out her author blog, Peggy’s Pages, at http://www.peggyarcher.com/blog.htm. NAME THAT DOG! ( Dial Books for Young Readers, ISBN# 978-0-8037-3322-0) is also available through Scholastic Book Club and Scholastic Book Fairs.
JANIE CHEANEY is the author of novels for middle-grade readers. Her book, THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, was named a 2008 Kansas Notable Book by the Kansas State Library. Janie is also a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and co-publisher of RedeemedReader.com.
HOLLY SCHINDLER's first two published works, A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt, were both YA novels. Her debut MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, released with Dial / Penguin on February 6, 2014, and her next YA, Feral, is forthcoming from HarperCollins. Find out more at hollyschindler.com
BRIDGET HEOS is the author of Mustache Baby (Houghton Mifflin, May 2013, ISBN-13: 978-0547773575) She lives in Kansas City with her husband and four children. Check out her Facebook page, Author Bridget Heos, or website www.authorbridgetheos.com for updates!
BONNIE HINMAN writes non-fiction books for children. She lives with her husband in Joplin, MO, close to their children and grandchildren. You can find out more about Bonnie and her books at http://www.bonniehinman.com.
SHANNON MOORE is the former Assistant Regional Advisor for Missouri SCBWI. You can find out more about Shannon on her blog, Great Books for Children, where she reviews children’s books. http://greatbooksforchildren.com/index.php/about/.
JODY FELDMAN lives in St. Louis where she writes middle-grade contemporary novels for young readers. The first book in her series, The Gollywhopper Games, was an ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults nominee, and received the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Award Honor Book for Children’s Literature. The second book in the series, The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion, recently made the St. Louis Post Dispatch Best Sellers list for kids' books. http://jodyfeldman.com
NANCY POLETTE of O’Fallon, MO is the author of picture books, fiction and non-fiction for middle grade readers, and has four easy readers coming out this year. Nancy is a former teacher of students in K through 8th grades, and is currently a professor of education at Lindenwood University where she teaches Children’s Literature.
ANN INGALLS was born in Cleveland, grew up in Detroit, and now lives with her husband and three children in Kansas City. You can find out more about her and her books, including J is for Jazz, on her website at: http://anningallswrites.com/ann-ingalls/
CYNTHIA COLLINS, from Jefferson City, enjoys writing for the teen and young adult audience. Her debut novel for teens, THE UNICORN TREE, was released by Mockingbird Lane Press in 2012. Two of her short stories published in the quarterly writers’ journal, The Storyteller, received a People’s Choice Award for 1st Place in Fiction. You can find out more about Cynthia and her writing on her website at www.cynthia-collins.com, and you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
KRISTIN BAIRD RATTINI, Foristell, Missouri, is a freelance writer who has written for children’s magazines for 17 years, Kristin has enjoyed the challenge of introducing young readers to a wide range of topics and the thrill of hooking their attention with writing that’s both educational and entertaining. You can find out more about Kristin and her books at: Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kristin-rattini/5/900/33a and MediaBistro: http://www.mediabistro.com/fm/PD.asp?user_id=6628
MARGO L. DILL, of St. Louis, Missouri, is the SCBWI Missouri webmaster and a children's and YA author. She currently has three books out: Maggie Mae, Detective Extrordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies (picture book), Finding My Place (middle grade), and Caught Between Two Curses (young adult). She is also a freelance editor and writing teacher. Find out more at http://www.margodill.com
SUE BRADFORD EDWARDS writes from her home in Florissant, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and son. You can find out more about Sue and her work on her website at www.suebradfordedwards.com, and on her blog, https://suebe.wordpress.com/
VEDA BOYD JONES is the author of 47 books and over 500 articles and short stories. She writes children’s picture books and middle grade novels, fiction and non-fiction, and has been published in children’s magazines. She also writes romance novels for adults. Find out more about Veda and her books on her website at www.vedaboydjones.com
CYNTHIA REEG writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her writing includes fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. Her books have been published by Guardian Angel Publishing, and her work has been published in anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Her newest book, BUNNY BUSINESS, was released from Guardian Angel Publishing in September 2014. http://www.cynthiareeg.com/index.html
STEPHANIE BEARCE is the author of non-fiction for children and she also writes middle grade fiction. She is a past SCBWI Regional Advisor and is a full member of the Missouri Writers Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers. Find out more at www.stephaniebearce.com
BARBARA STUBER, from Kansas City, brings visual art and writing together as she weaves artwork into her stories for young adults. Her latest book, Girl in Reverse, was an NPR (National Public Radio) pick for the Best Books of 2014 in five categories. Her earlier book, Crossing the Tracks, was an ALA Wm. C. Morris Award Finalist in 2010. Find out more at http://www.barbarastuber.com
JEANIE FRANZ RANSOM, from O’Fallon, Missouri, sold her first story to Seventeen magazine when she was a teen, and has been writing ever since. She is an award-winning author of children’s picture books, and her books have received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly. She is also a former elementary school counselor. Find out more at www.jeanieransom.com
JODY JENSEN SHAFFER is the author of 26 fiction and nonfiction books, which include titles like NINJA WARRIORS, INSIDE MY MUSCLES, BLACK-FOOTED FERRETS, and FREDERICK DOUGLASS. Her debut picture book, ROCKY, releases in 2017 from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Find out more at: http://jodyjensenshaffer.blogspot.com/
ANOLA PICKET is a former teacher and school librarian and writes historical novels for middle grade readers. She is also the author of an I-Can-Read book for younger readers, and co-author of a book for teachers and parents, Multiple Intelligences and Positive Life Habits. Anola lives in Kansas City but loves to travel and finds ideas and inspiration in her travels. You can find out more about Anola and her books at www.anolapickett.com, or meet her on Twitter at anolamarie.
AMY SKLANSKY, University City, is a former editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Amy writes picture books and board books, and is the author of children’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her books have received many awards including the Bankstreet College of Education Best Books of the Year, Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council, and have appeared on the St. Louis Independent Bestsellers list. You can read more about Amy at: www.amysklansky.com.
CATHY GILMORE, St. Louis, is a picture book author, and freelance editor. Her goal is to help children discover the joy of God’s love through her books. A Certified Catechist of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, she creates stories that bring the gospel to life for children. Her newest book, LITTLE LAMB FINDS CHRISTMAS, won the 2015 USA Best Books Award in the Children’s Religious books category. Read more about Cathy and her books on her website at www.catherinecgilmore.com.