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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Interview with Jackie Yeager, middle grade debut author of SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHTBULB

Book summary:
An eleven year old and her four teammates (The Crimson Five) discover a world full of spinning bunk beds, floating playgrounds, and an invention task more complex than anything they'd prepared for at home.  These kids are on a competitive adventure in a world of magical realism where anything is possible.

Jackie, so glad you can join me today!  I can't wait to hear your answers to my questions. 

 First off, I love the behind-the-scenes information when it comes to how authors get their inspiration.  I have read that you based SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB off of an Odyssey of the Mind Competition in which you were involved.  I would love to know, what is the Odyssey of the Mind Competition?

Odyssey of the Mind is an international creative problem solving competition. Kids work in teams of 5-7 and are supported by one or more volunteer coaches—usually a parent. They work through the school year on a one of five long term complex problems. On competition day, the team presents their solution to a panel of judges in the form of a skit. That day, they also solve an on-the-spot type verbal, hands on, or verbal/hands on problem that they are not given until they walk into the judging room. The program helps to develop team work and creative problem solving skills and is available in many schools around the country. My kids were lucky that there was a strong Odyssey of the Mind program already in place in their school district.

So your own kids were in this competition and you were the coach?

When my daughter was in fourth grade I coached her team and continued to do so for several years after that. When my son was in fourth grade I began coaching his team as well. The kids had a lot of fun through the years and I did too. 

Sounds fun!  Can you tell us what happened with that team and how you used it as a springboard for the novel?

In 2011, the first year that my son’s team worked together, they placed first in the regional competition and earned a chance to compete at the New York state competition. It was an amazing experience and the kids were just thrilled to be competing there. In a shocking turn of events, the team placed second at the NY state competition earning them a chance to compete at the World Finals along with 850 other international teams and teams from around the US. It was an amazing experience for all of us—not just for the kids and me but for all of our families too, one I’m sure none of us will ever forget. It was like being at the Olympics of Imagination, with Opening and Closing Ceremonies, parades, and incredible performances by kids from all over the world! 

At the time, I had been querying another middle grade novel, without much luck. It was during and after our trip to the World Finals that I realized that this could be the bases for an incredible story. It took me a year after that to formulate an idea, not really an Odyssey of the Mind Story, but a story of five kids who compete in something on a larger than life scale. It eventually became the backdrop for THE CRIMSON FIVE books.   

That is fascinating.  I am also curious whether there is a scene in the novel that you are most proud of or that was most difficult to write?
There’s a heartbreaking scene between Kia Krumpet (the main character) and her Grandma Kitty that was particularly difficult to write. It’s a scene where I hope to show the moment in a child’s life when he or she realizes that a family member (like a parent or grandparent) is not perfect—that moment when that illusion is shattered. It happens to every child at some point in their life and can be a defining moment for them. 

Now you have my interest piqued!  I will enjoy reading how you handled that delicate scene.  

Is there a takeaway you hope your readers have after reading your book?

I’m all about positive thinking and dreaming big. One of my favorite quotes by Kia Krumpet is, “I know my chances stink, but somebody has to win. I pick me.” That quote is not meant to show that Kia is conceited but rather that her dreams are bigger than her present reality and she’s not afraid of them. I hope if there’s one thing my book will inspire readers to do, it’s to Dream Big!

That is beautiful!  The sky is the limit when we dream big!  Love it!  
When will SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB be available for pre-order?

The publication date is January 9, 2018 but it’s available for pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and also through any independent bookseller on the IndieBound website. Here are the links:

Finally, I've heard that there is a sequel!  Is that true?  If so, can you share the title of the sequel and its release date?
The sequel to Spin the Golden Light Bulb is Flip the Silver Switch and it’ll be released on July 10, 2018 almost exactly six months later.

Ooh--congrats on the sequel, as well!  2018 is going to be a special year for you.  I'm so happy for you!  Finally, I'm sure everyone is so curious to know...what happens when you spin the light bulb?

I definitely cannot give that one away. Kia and her teammates would be disqualified from the competition if I did! But…January 9th is coming fast, so at least you won’t have to wait too long to find out! 

Well, I tried :)  I can't wait to read the book and find out!     
Thanks for having me on your blog, Mindy. It was fun answering your questions!

You're welcome!  I'm hoping you'll join me again sometime soon!  I want to ask you about some writing tips...

Sure thing!

In the meantime, best wishes on this fabulous book and its sequel!

Author blog:  (Jackie has a BOOK NOOK where she recommends great middle grade fiction, and SCRIBBLE TIPS where she gives helpful writing advice, along with her fabulous blog entries)

Twitter:  @JackieYeager

What is Magical Realism? It is realistic fiction that includes an element or two that relies on the reader believing in magic or the possibility that it could happen in the future through science. Jackie's book is futuristic magical realism relying on the possibility of things being different in the future.

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About the author: 
Jackie has a Masters degree in Education, lives in Rochester, NY with her real life prince charming and two royally amazing teenagers, and would live in a castle if she could.  When she is not living in her own fairytale world, she spends time reading, practicing yoga, and cheering for the crew at marathons, triathlons, cross country meets, track meets, and hockey and baseball games.  She does a lot of cheering!  She is also a former coach of a middle school Odyssey of the Mind team who once upon a time competed at the World Finals.  They may or may not have been the inspiration behind the book, and even its sequel.

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