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Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I have debut author Jess Redman here to share about her MG contemporary/fantasy THE MIRACULOUS. It sounds like a heart-warming story about loss, hope, and friendship. With my own issues of loss, I’m really looking forward to reading it.


This week's news is not about a book but about a podcast by long-time follower Robert Kent. Here's a little blurb about it: 
Rob Kent has expanded his popular site, Middle Grade Ninja, to include an excellent podcast featuring 1-2 hour interviews with authors and publishing professionals, including various literary agents, editors, and more. The Middle Grade Ninja Podcast is available for free on YouTube, SoundcloudStitcherSpotifyitunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.


Before we get to Jess' interview, I have my IWSG post 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are:  I'm excited to be a co-host with  Erika Beebe,  Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

I'm going to skip the question this month and just share about my progress. I've been consistently writing at least on the weekends for awhile now and have five new solid chapters done. I'm about 1/3 of the way done with my manuscript. Still a lot to go, but it feels good to be making progress. And I'm enjoying the process. I also started reading a book on the craft of writing and went to my SCBWI monthly shop talk.

What about you? How's your writing going?

Jess Redman's Interview

Here’s a blurb of THE MIRACULOUS from Goodreads:

In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman's stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world.

Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis collects miracles. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can't exist. So 
Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing.

Then he meets Faye―a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and a mysterious old woman who just might be a witch. The old woman asks them for their help. She asks them to believe. And they go on a journey that leads to friendship, to adventure, to healing―and to miracles.

The Miraculous is Jess Redman's sparkling debut novel about facing grief, trusting the unknown, and finding brightness in the darkest moments.

Hi Jess! Thanks so much for joining us.
Hi, Natalie! Thank you so much for having me on Literary Rambles. I’m a long-time reader!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I am a lifelong book nerd. I’m also a licensed mental health counselor and mother to two young children. I’ve worked with kids in the foster care system, in community mental health centers, and in private practice with girls and young women.

As far as my writing journey, I always knew that I would become a writer someday. When I was a kid, I wrote and read constantly. I had dozens of journals filled with character backstories and outlines and stories, and I dreamed of getting a Newbery Award by the end of middle school (spoiler alert: I did not).

But in college, I didn’t take a single creative writing class.

I’d become much more critical of my writing, to the point that there were long periods where I didn’t write anything, and the idea of sharing my work with a class (or anyone) was terrifying. In spite of this, I still thought I’d become a writer someday.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child that I started to feel that someday was now, and that I needed to take some chances and push myself. I finished my first middle-grade manuscript during that pregnancy and then starting doing what I had been avoiding for all those years—sharing my work and getting feedback.

2. I didn't even know I wanted to be a writer when I was younger. So I never took a writing course in college either. Where did you get the idea for THE MIRACULOUS?

The idea for THE MIRACULOUS came to me while I was pregnant with my second child. It was a pregnancy that was difficult at times, with medical complications for both of us. I was thinking a lot about fear and loss and asking myself those Big Questions that often come up when life gets dark and uncertain.

I remember when I first started asking those questions as a child, after several smaller life losses. This story blossomed out of my answers to myself, then and now, answers rooted in my belief in the powers of love and memory and imagination and community.

3. It sounds like Wunder and the other characters in your story really tug at the reader’s heart and appear like they’re real people. What is your process of developing your characters so that they are so memorable? What tips do you have for the rest of us?

Truthfully, I am not an organized writer. I don’t do much of pre-writing, I don’t have a method. But I
do spend A LOT of time thinking about my stories and my characters. I think about them while I get ready in the morning, while I drive, as I’m falling asleep. I talk with them. I narrate my activities in their voices. Whenever I’m bored and I feel the urge to fiddle around on my phone, I think about my story.

This is partially because there’s plenty of time where I can be thinking, but not much time to write. When I get that time, I need to be writing the actual story! But it’s also the way that seems to work best for me. I depend a lot on my characters to lead the action, so I have to get to know them pretty well.

I think being a therapist has also helped me in developing my characters. I’ve had the privilege of being a part of many clients’ stories at a heart level, and I’ve learned so much from that.

4. You just made me feel so much less guilty that I don't pre-write either, but think about my characters and book during everyday life. Your book tackles the issue of dealing with grief in a realistic but non-preachy fashion. It sounds like it’s really weaved naturally into your story. Did you struggle with this at all or did it come naturally to you?

I do think being a therapist, a profession steeped in the losses and pains of others, has helped me understand and relay the emotions of the characters. I mean…hopefully! However, I did write and re-write and re-re-write many sections of the story to find that balance, to send the messages I wanted to send, and to try to make sure that I wasn’t unintentionally sending messages that I didn’t want to send.

5. What was one of the bigger challenges you had in writing THE MIRACULOUS? How did you overcome it?

THE MIRACULOUS is a story that truly comes from my heart, and I think when you write from your heart, you always end up doing some emotional work of you own. Writing about the death of Wunder’s sister and the Ellis family’s grief was very difficult at times, but this is the story that came to me and the story that I wanted to tell.

6.  It would be hard to do the emotional work involved in writing a story about grief for me too, especially since I've had so much of it in my life already. From your bio, I learned that besides being a writer, you are a therapist and adjunct professor. You also are married with two children. How do you find time to write and stay productive? What advice do you have for other writers who work and are trying to balance their writing with their other career and family obligations?

This has been a real challenge for me. It often feels like I don’t have enough time and energy to do everything well. After I sold THE MIRACULOUS, I did begin to step down from several work obligations, and I was lucky enough to be in a career that allows me that flexibility.

Something I do that seems to work is scheduling my writing time and getting right to work when that time comes. I can usually get one full workday a week and then nights after my kids are asleep. It means that during this chapter of my life, I have little to no “free time”—but it’s worth it!

7. Your agent is Sara Crowe. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Here is a secret that I will tell here on Literary Rambles because I scoured this website endlessly while I was on my agent search:

Sara Crowe was actually the first agent to ever reject me.

It’s true! She was at the top of my agent list when I started querying. I sent out a batch of 20 queries and an hour later, I had my first ever rejection. I don’t remember if I cried, but odds are good that I did.

But here is the thing about writing: there is no time limit on becoming a writer. There are really very few limits at all, except time and ideas. You can keep writing and writing and writing and querying and querying and querying indefinitely.

When I signed with Sara, it was for a story that I had fully re-written and queried three times. That third revision brought me multiple offers of representation.

And then you know what happened? That story that so many agents had wanted did not sell (although it came close, and I have high hopes for it in the future).

While that manuscript was struggling through submission, I wrote THE MIRACULOUS, a story from my heart that has made my dreams come true.

This, I think, is how writing goes. Sometimes the story you have is for Now. Sometimes it’s for Tomorrow. You just have to keep writing and rallying and trusting yourself and trying.

8. That's so great that you didn't give up on Sara after her first rejection. How are you planning to market your book?

Figuring out marketing/promotion has taken a tremendous amount of time, but luckily, a lot of it has been great fun!

Recently, I launched a pre-order campaign, which readers can find out about at www.jessredman.com/preorder. Every pre-order or library request gets a sticker, bookmark, and exclusive art card, and there are lots of additional prizes to win.

I developed an extensive Teaching Guide with writing prompts, research prompts, and hands-on actitivites, which can be downloaded here: https://images.macmillan.com/folio-assets/teachers-guides/9780374309749TG.pdf

I also created a book trailer, which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ktj6_jC_Ew

I’m fairly active on Twitter, where I do giveaways, support fellow authors, and participate in chats, and I’ll be attending some conferences, like the Decatur Book Festival, doing school visits and library events around Florida, and having a book launch event at The Book Cellar on August 3, 2019 at 4 pm.

 9. Sounds like you have a balanced plan that is actually manageable. Share a piece of advice to debut authors who just signed their book contract about creating their social platform and getting ready for their book’s release.

Start small on a site you enjoy (or at least won’t hate!). I opened a Twitter account shortly after signing my contract and that’s been where I’ve focused the majority of my social media attention. I’ve been amazed at the passionate, inspiring, welcoming kidlit community that exists online. I’ve gotten to know librarians, teachers, bloggers, and, of course, other authors. I now have Instagram and a Facebook page, but I am less active on these.

10. That's great to know that you can start small and focus on one platform if that's what you're comfortable with. What are you working on now?

I am DELIGHTED to share that my second middle-grade book, QUINTESSENCE, will be coming out on July 28, 2020. QUINTESSENCE is about astronomy, alchemy, and anxiety, and I love everything about it! Here’s the synopsis:

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. And every day she feels less and less like herself. 

Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town's junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message:
Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling.
That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls down from the sky and into her backyard. She knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home. And if a star really is stranded in Four Points, Alma knows she has to get it back up to the sky. With the help of some unlikely new friends from Astronomy Club and the mysterious ShopKeeper, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self. 
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jess. You can find Jess at www.jessredman.com where she’s posted book trailers, a teaching guide, information on the pre-order campaign and more! She’s also on Twitter and Instagram at @Jess__Red.

Pre-Order: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374309749
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/40864855
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jess__Red
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jess.Redman.Writes/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jess__red/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3he1B_ldE3JKb1Qvzx7wQg/
Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/jessredman

Jess has generously offered an ARC of THE MIRACULOUS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and  Canada.

 Here's what's coming up (FYI I'm starting my summer slow down to spend time planning next year's schedule):

Monday, July 8 I have an interview with author June McCrary Jacobs and a giveaway of her MG historical RES-Q TYLER STOP

Wednesday, July 10 I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Connor Eck

Sunday, July 14 I'm participating in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 29 I have an interview with debut author Margaret Owen and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE MERCIFUL CROW

Wednesday, August 7th I have an interview with debut author Gabrielle Kirouac Byrn and a giveaway of her MG fantasy RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Hope to see you on Monday!


Erika Beebe said...

Wow! Congratulations on your writing progress! It feels good when you get in a grove. I'm hoping to get started tomorrow with some edits to my third draft. I'm enjoying learning the editing process. Miraculous has such a fun cover! The subject is a tough one and I wish Jess much success. Happy IWSG Day, Natalie :)

Lisa said...

Great that you've made such good writing progress! Yay! Good interview and Miraculous sounds like a good story. Thanks for hosting Jess! Happy 4th of July!

Lisa said...

And... thanks for co-hosting this month!

Lynn La Vita said...

Congratulations on making note worthy progress on your manuscript. Jess Redman's Interview was an excellent read. Thanks for co-hosting this months IWSG blog hop. You are a busy gal!
Cheers to a Happy July 4.
Lynn La Vita @ Writers Supporting Writers

Jennifer Lane said...

Hey, fellow co-host! That's great you have 5 chapters done. How many words do you tend to write for each chapter? I'm finishing 4 chapters with my WIP, about 2500 words each, so I have a long way to go to hit 80K words-ish.

A shout-out to Jess from a fellow mental health professional! How sad for your character to lose his baby sister.

Crystal @ Lost in Storyland said...

Congrats on your writing progress, Natalie!

I enjoyed reading the interview with Jess Redman. I love how Miraculous is a story that comes from her heart. It was also interesting to hear about the process to becoming published; it's cool how she eventually signed with her first-choice agent :)

Patsy said...

You're making good progress, Natalie – keep at it.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Woohoo, Natalie! I'm so excited that you're getting into the writing groove again. I hope it's satisfying for you.

Cathrina Constantine said...

It sounds as if you're writing journey is progressing. It doesn't have to be a race like so many writer's seem to think. 500 words here and there adds up, and bit by bit I've made it to 10k, chapter 6. A long long way to go, but progress is good.

Congrats to Jess Redman, her book sounds amazing.

Thank you for co-hosting, Natalie.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's great progress! Here's to both of us finishing our work in the next couple months.
Thanks for co-hosting today.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Congrats on all of your writing progress! And thank you for co-hosting. :)

cleemckenzie said...

Congratulation, Natalie. That is such good news about your writing. Glad you mentioned Kent. I enjoy his newsletters. Thanks for doing such a great post and co-hosting this month.

The Cynical Sailor said...

Natalie - congrats on your writing progress!

Jess - Miraculous sounds like a wonderful and uplifting book. I love the cover!

Angela Wooldridge said...

Wow, what a great blog - you have so much on here!
Thanks for hosting and congrats on your progress :)

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

The new podcast sounds exciting! Congrats with keeping on track with your writing. And thanks for co-hosting today :-)

Sadira Stone said...

Thanks for co-hosting this month. Fascinating interview. Happy 4th!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the writing progress. One third is a huge chunk. My own writing is in high gear this summer. I've been amazingly (and suspiciously) productive.

Great interview with Jess. Her book sounds wonderful. Thanks for co-hosting today.

Chrys Fey said...

Congratulations on your 5 new chapters! That is wonderful progress!

Tonja Drecker said...

Congratulations on getting those chapters done! It's worth a small celebration. Definitely!

Computer Tutor said...

I'm jealous of your progress this month. I'm slogging through edits but not sure how much I'm accomplishing.

Nice interview. I'm going to check her books out.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Way to go with your progress this month, Natalie!!!
The interview had some parts in it that I really needed to read this month. I've had a slough of rejections for my novel queries and I am getting ready to send out another batch. It was really good to read the part about the query journey Jess had - thank you, Jess, for sharing!

Juneta key said...

Impressive progress. Great interview. Loved the book cover. The story sounds like a fun read. I put it in my want to read on Goodreads.

Jemi Fraser said...

The Miraculous sounds amazing! collecting miracles is a brilliant idea!

Congrats on the progress Natalie - that's fabulous. Getting in the grove feels great :)

Lidy said...

Congrats on the five new chapters. I’d be lucky if I can wrench out five sentences or paragraphs lately. Even getting stuck while writing in my head. But hey, at least some progress, no matter how almost non existent, is better than nothing.

Thanks for co-hosting today!

F. Stone said...

I'm a bit envious of your progress. Perhaps I should follow your example and schedule a day and time weekly, if not daily, LOL. Thank you for co-hosting, Jess.

Liza said...

This book sounds lovely, clever and unique. Congratulations, Jess and Natalie, thank you for the spotlight interview.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Congrats on all your writing success. Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month.
Mary at Play off the Page

Brenda said...

Congrats on the awesome number of chapters you wrote this month!! Lovely interview too, Miraculous sounds wonderful.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congratulations on the five chapters you have written, Natalie. Very happy for you that you are making progress with your book.

Arlee Bird said...

Good for you on your progress in writing! Summer always offers plenty of distractions to keep me from writing, but then I'm almost always distracted.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Pat Garcia said...

I am very happy to hear that you are making tremendous progress with your manuscript. Keep up writing.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Debra Renée Byrd said...

Thanks for co-hosting, and congrats on the progress!

Loni Townsend said...

Woot for your progress. That's so awesome and exciting!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Congrats on the writing progress. The Miraculous sounds really, really good.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Great progress, Natalie.

Jess, I bet being a therapist is a huge help in developing characters.

kimlajevardi.com said...

Congrats on the progress! Thanks for co-hosting!

emaginette said...

Congrats on all the chapters. I see your mojo is going strong. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Diane Burton said...

Natalie, you are going strong! Keep it up! Thanks for co-hosting this month.

Jess, congrats on your new release. Your books sounds like something kids need. Like you, I don't pre-write but think about my character(s) a lot--mostly before sleep. Then, it's easier to write.

Olga Godim said...

Children are the hardest audience for a writer. I could never write for children, so I admire the writers who can. Congrats, Jess.
Thanks for co-hosting today, Natalie.

Suzanne Furness said...

Congrats on nailing those chapters and moving forward with your story. I am so happy you are enjoying the process too, after all that should be our main motivation. Thank you for your encouraging words on my blog today and for co-hosting this month. Best wishes.

Fundy Blue said...

Congrats for making progress with your writing, Natalie! And thanks for co-hosting today! I really enjoy your wonderful author interviews!

M.J. Fifield said...

Congrats on making progress on your manuscript! I find it's always such a great feeling to be making progress.

Thank you for co-hosting this month!

And congrats to Jess! Wishing you all the best!

Dihiwi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Great interview, and best of luck to Jess with the new book!

Thanks for being a host, Natalie!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Natalie!

CONGRATS on your progress! That is an excellent start. Keep up the good work.

Congrats Jess on you book! All the best!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

So happy to hear that you're writing, Natalie. Proud of you.
And your book, Jess, sounds wonderful. I'm adding it to my list.

Pat Hatt said...

Great that your writing away.

Yeah, finding time can be tough, especially with lots of responsibilities, but can work it in indeed.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Congrats on your writing progress!

I absolutely LOVE the cover for THE MIRACULOUS. So beautiful! Best wishes, Jess

Shannon Lawrence said...

The cover for The Miraculous is gorgeous! Sounds like you're making great progress with your writing.

Adrienne Reiter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adrienne Reiter said...

You get so much in and done. Rockin and rollin. Great post! Thank you for co-hosting!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview and chance to win a copy of a book high on my TBR. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/186048330787/jess-redman-interview-and-the-miraculous-giveaway

Mattea Orr said...

What an encouraging and inspiring interview! I can't wait to read The Miraculous :)

Greg Pattridge said...

Such an inspirational interview. I too often think my way through a story rather than map it out ahead of time. Looking forward to writing a review of Miraculous. Happy 4th!

Julie Flanders said...

Congratulations on your writing progress! That's wonderful. Good luck with the rest of the manuscript. :)

Sandra said...

Looks like a lot going on, Natalie:)
Love the cover of Miraculous. Wishing you much success, Jess.

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie: well done on moving forward on your writing! I just started a new book as well. Beginnings are always exciting.

Jess: Congrats on your new release and not giving up on your agent!

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Both the Miraculous and the Middle Grade Ninja sound wonderful! Thanks for being them to our attention!

Chemist Ken said...

Making it through a third of your story is no small achievement. Consistent writing is the key. Keep it up and soon you'll be typing "The End."

Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG blog post!

Melanie B said...

Following already! Congrats on your release, thanks for the chance!
Email is: melanie_brac@yahoo.com

Patricia JL said...

Congrats on your progress and congrats to Jess on her release.

Rosi said...

Terrific interview. I have to get my hands on a copy of The Miraculous! Thanks for telling me about it.

Anonymous said...

Right now, writing is going very slow and hard for me--it's my first book since I had a health crisis and developed a bunch of chronic illnesses, so it's a real challenge. Thank you for the giveaway!

Denise Covey said...

Natalie, as usual, so much to read here. I've been writing each chance i get. Trying to get my Paris novel ready to send to Avon books. Trouble is, it's too long. I'm doing a read through and cutting it a little. Slow process.
Great to hear of your writing progress! You'll certainly have lots of contacts when you're done!!

Renee Scattergood said...

Congrats with your writing progress! Five chapters is a big deal! :-D

Nicki Elson said...

Good job on completing 1/3 of the first draft! I'm a weekend warrior, too, and instead of getting frustrated by making slow progress, I choose to celebrate moving forward, no matter the pace.

Congrats to Jess on Miraculous. Funny story about the agent - and an excellent one to emphasize how important it is to just keep writing because you never know which book will be your hit.

Rob Baddorf said...

Sounds like an amazing book!

Samantha Bryant said...

I'm on summer schedule, which is usually a productive time for me because my schedule is more in my control. I'm feeling pretty good about my progress so far this summer. @mirymom1 from
Balancing Act

Linda Herold said...

Your book sounds good! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

Natasha said...

Sounds like a great read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Ilona Bray said...

Wonderful interview, which really made me want to read the book!

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Absolutely a great interview, Jess. I've followed you online. Your book sounds truly intriguing. All the best with this new release. vmleeswriter@gmail.com

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you both for sharing some of a writer's journey. Writers are my heroes and I am so grateful to be invited in to part of their world.

Angie Quantrell said...

Jess, wonderful interview! I love both books already, just from reading this post. Congratulations! Natalie, my writing has been at a standstill (or barely creeping along) due to my recent losses, stress, and dealing with all that must be done after parents pass on. But I am feeling the urge to write again, so healing is going on. Yay!

DMS said...

This cover is just gorgeous. I loved reading more about the book and hearing from Jess. I especially found the part about her agent being the first one to reject her. You really never know what will happen. Her writing advice is great and just what I needed to hear today. Wishing her all the best.

Nancy P said...

Looks like a great book. Follow on GFC.

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