Monday, November 23, 2015

You Heard it Here First: Jo Hackl's Path to Publication - Part II

My apologies if you received an email on Saturday evening with a link to an old blog post--blogger error! Rory's Promise was given away 5 months ago. I'm sorry for the confusion.

Last week Jo Hackl, long-time member of SCBWI-Carolinas, shared the pitch and background of her debut novel, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe. This week you'll hear more about working with her agent, Tracey Adams of Adams Literary; finding a publisher; and what she wished she knew before she started her writing journey.
 Carol: Did Tracey suggest editorial revisions either before or after she acquired the manuscript? 

Jo: Tracey suggested editorial revisions before taking me on as a client.  I’m very fortunate to have the benefit of her keen perspective and insight and every one of her comments has made the manuscript stronger.

Carol: How long did it take before SMACK DAB found a home? Did Shana Corey suggest many changes? Was the title yours or something you came up with together?

Jo: It took years for SMACK DAB to find the perfect home with Shana Corey at Random House Children’s Books.  It was absolutely worth the wait.  During that time, I believe I’ve continued to grow as a writer.  I’ve taken more classes and workshops. I started a website,, devoted to providing inspiration and information about the outdoors, and I wrote articles on that site about outdoor experiences. I wrote a young adult novel and am almost through the first draft of a middle grade manuscript.  I also continued thinking about SMACK DAB, revising it, and brainstorming on ways to make it stronger.   

I greatly admire Shana Corey’s work and was enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with her.  Shana suggested changes that I believe will make the story stronger and I’m looking forward to digging into the revision process. 

For the title, Tracey, Shana and I brainstormed from a list of around one hundred possibilities. Brainstorming titles is the fun part!

Carol: I’ve often wondered how you balanced being a lawyer, mother, and writer. Any hints on how you have made this juggling act work?

Jo: I think it helps to have a sense of humor, to be curious, not to expect perfection, and to surround yourself with creative, positive people.   My family is incredibly supportive.  My husband has done more than his share of car-pool duty while I was away at conferences, critique group meetings or on a writing retreat.  Our children offer ideas for things my characters might do next.  My family in Mississippi helps me keep track of what is in season and edible in the woods so I can verify my research.  

My law firm, Wyche, PA, has a strong tradition of attorneys who serve the community and pursue personal interests in addition to the practice of law.  My extremely smart colleagues have kept me on my toes during the 25- plus years that I’ve been with the firm and continue to inspire me by their own examples.  Among our attorneys are photographers, writers, singers, and musicians and virtually every attorney serves on a community board. I believe this environment encourages creativity.  
Jo with some of her creative colleagues from the Wyche law firm.
Creating time to write has forced me to be very strategic about how I spend my free time and has probably kept me away from a lot of bad television. To create time to start work on this novel, I carved out time at night, between the time our children were in bed and my chef-husband came home from work. Now that our children are older and more independent, I have much more flexibility in creating time to write. 
Jo on a family vacation in
 Japan, 2014
Although I need quiet, mostly uninterrupted time to draft, I’ve discovered that I can edit in small chunks.  I’ve done a lot of editing through the years sitting in the carpool line.   I’ve also found that I can learn something from almost everyone I meet. I keep an idea journal with me at all times and transpose the notes onto a computer file to which I often turn for ideas. I love to listen for rhythm in different regional accents. I’m amazed at the great dialog and character details I’ve been able to pick up at legal conferences, community boards, from neighbors, and in airports. 

Jo and family in Costa Rica, 2009
Carol: How would you encourage others in their search for an agent?

Jo: From the first time I met Tracey Adams, I knew that I wanted to work with her.  I was enormously impressed by her experience, talent, warmth, sense of humor, and commitment to excellence in children’s literature.  I worked hard on this manuscript and waited until I thought it was ready before I sent it to her.  I also had several other shorter pieces and ideas for other projects to demonstrate that I was serious about putting in the work required to be a writer.  I would encourage others to first work on writing the best piece they can, let it sit, revise and polish it and make it as strong as it can be, then research potential agents.  I would also encourage writers to seek not only a technical match with an agent in terms of experience and genre interest, but someone with whom they believe they will enjoy working over the long term.

Carol: You’ve been very active in SCBWI Carolinas. What role did SCBWI have in your path to publication?

Jo: SCBWI has had a pivotal role in my development as a writer.  The workshops and conferences have provided training to help develop technical skills and the wonderfully supportive SCBWI community has been a consistent source of inspiration and encouragement.  I’ve made great friends through SCBWI and we cheer each other on in our writing.  You’re a great example of that, Carol.

Carol: What advice do you wish someone had given you before you started your novel?

Jo: I think the most important thing I wish someone had advised me before I started working on my first novel is this:  “Dig deep and be brave.  As you write about your character’s experiences and reactions, recall a time in your life when you felt a similar emotion and try to put into words how it felt to be inside your body at exactly that moment, no matter how awkward or weird.  Write the scenes you’re most afraid to write and don’t hold back one bit.”
Hiking Paris Mountain, South Carolina
Jo Hackl is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.  Jo is also a corporate lawyer with Wyche, P.A. in Greenville, SC, where she is Past President of the Greenville County Bar Association and the recipient of the Richard Riley Award for her pro bono service.  She is a past president of Emrys and the founder of, which provides a free source of information and inspiration about the outdoors to individuals, families and educators. She lives with her family on the side of a mountain where she writes every day and tries to spend as much time outside as possible.
Jo has agreed to share some of her research for SMACK DAB including her experiences in an outdoor survival class. But first, I have several book giveaways coming up, another "You Heard it Here First" two part interview (with the winner of the Grateful American Book Prize!), as well as some answers to FAQs about blogging/Facebook/and Twitter from the Carolinas very own Joan Edwards. Stay tuned!


Jo Hackl said...

Many thanks, Carol, for a wonderful interview. And thanks for ALL you do to build up the writing community and inspire fellow writers by generously sharing your own experiences and that of others on this outstanding blog.

sheri levy said...

A wonderful interview and a nice way for others to get to know Jo Hackl. She has been an inspiration to me for years and I'm thrilled for her success. It is well deserved.

Vijaya said...

Love the advice about digging deep and being brave. Thanks for a great interview and the beautiful photos. I'm in awe of all Jo is accomplishing!

Carol Baldwin said...

Jo, this blog is a healthy addictin for me. I truly enjoy it! Thanks Sheri and Vijaya. Glad you have enjoyed these posts. I'm in awe too!

Jo Hackl said...

And awe right back at you all! So glad to be part of this wonderful community.

miriam said...

Congratulations, Jo, and thanks for sharing your journey to publication! I missed the first blog interview and just went back to catch up. I love hearing about how amazing people like you can juggle all of it and still land a publishing contract. Sounds like a great book and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
Thanks for sharing more of Jo Hackl's path to publication. I'm looking forward to being a guest on your blog.

Jo, thanks for telling us to be brave and dig deep to remember how we might have felt in that same kind of situation as a character in our manuscript. Great advice. I admire you because you treat everyone with acceptance and respect.



Genetta said...

Great interview! I'm so happy for Jo and can't wait to read that book!

Linda Phillips said...

So looking forward to reading this, Jo, and thanks for sharing your amazing journey!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks LInda, Joan, Genetta, and Miriam, for your comments. JOan you said it so well--Jo does show so much respect and acceptance of others. That's one of the things that makes her so special!

Rosi said...

This is great -- really useful and inspiring. Thanks for this series.

Linda A. said...

Carol and Jo,
Thanks so much for a terrific interview and a glimpse into an interesting writing journey. I don't know how you do so much, Jo. I admire you and your approach to life. Great tips shared too. Thank you both. I especially look forward to more to come.

Carol Baldwin said...

Rosi and Linda- Glad you have found Jo's journey as inspiring as I have!

Melodye said...

Thanks for this second part of your interview. I especially enjoyed the parts about Jo's perseverance, and her suggestion to dig deep enough to find the awkward physical truths of a difficult scene.

Jo Hackl said...

Many thanks Carol, Sheri, Vijaya, Miriam, Joan, Genetta, Linda, Rosi and Melodye! I look forward to reading more about your writing journeys too. In the meantime, I'm sending warm wishes for a terrific Thanksgiving holiday.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

I always love reading about an author's journey! Thanks, Carol, for sharing Jo's. This line popped out at me: "I can learn something from almost everyone I meet." That statement is so true and important for us to remember. Also, "Dig deep and be Brave."

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Clara. I think that "dig deep" has resonated with many folks. It is an encouragement for all of us to see that writing a book doesn't just "happen." It takes years of work and persistence.

Young Authors Program said...

Congratulations, Jo! So excited to hear about your debut novel. By the way, I love the title!

Carol Baldwin said...

I know, Dorothy, it is a great title. Looking forward to sharing about your book in this series!

SO MUCH MORE TO HELEN! The Passion and Pursuits of Helen Keller: A Picture Book Biography and Giveaway

  What do you know about Helen Keller? Many of us have grown up knowing the story of how Annie Sullivan taught Helen to sign her first word...