Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday the thirteenth

I am superstitious. I live with a black cat.

Before Blackberry -- b.B.b. -- I had written many novels. None were published.

B.B.b. -- I had also written half of a memoir about my experience with breast cancer. I didn't finish it. I really didn't want to spend another year of my life describing that year of chemotherapy and radiation.

B.B.b. -- My husband and I were trying to write a musical together. We fought more about characters than we ever did about our finances or taking out the trash.

B.B.b. -- Our daughter was smart and talented, but a little more socially awkward than most.

So, b.B.b., life wasn't always so good.

In 2004, we adopted a little black kitten. Our daughter named her Blackberry.

A.B.b. -- My husband and I stopped writing that musical.

A.B.b. -- Our daughter found an amazing group of friends at her new middle school. She kept those friends, and every year has added more.

A.B.b. -- I have continued to be cancer free.

A.B.b. -- In the summer of 2005, I started writing a humorous adventure story called Nature Girl. It wasn't published until 2010, but I knew I had found what I was meant to do.

My husband jokes that Blackberry changed our luck. I'm pretty rational about correlations and coincidences, but I have to wonder if he's right.

And so in this Thanksgiving month, I want to acknowledge how grateful I am for all the good things in my life. I know that I am lucky to have opportunities to share my stories, the blessings of friends, and especially our good health.

It's nice to know our black cat has our backs.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Happily Ever After

It's the end of summer!

So the writers at Smack Dab In The Middle are blogging about endings.

Here's my post.  I hope you'll take the time to read it!

And I hope you all had a great summer.

Here's how mine is finishing up....

Rewriting an ending!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


It's that time of year.

Many years have passed since I had to worry about who my teachers would be, and if any of my friends would be in my classes. But the days grow shorter. There's urgency in the air. The newspaper is filled with ads for notebooks and pencils. It's time for a fresh start.

My latest novel, THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS, takes place at that time of transition. One of my characters Lanora remarks -- "How many times do we get the chance to begin again?"

She proceeds to make terrible choices. (Something must go wrong in a book before things can go well.) But she's right about one thing. How many times do we get the chance? How many times do we seize that chance? We are made of our memories and our past connections. Can we ever really begin again?

Yes, I say. Yes we can.

Whenever I rewrite a manuscript, I'm always tempted to paste in long sections from previous drafts. I resist the effort of starting fresh, even when I know that's exactly what I need to do!

But it's time to go back to school. Time to sharpen the pencils. Time for a clean page. Time for cool breezes to clear the air. Time to begin the final rewrite for a novel I've been working on for longer than I care to admit.

So here we go!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Answering questions about THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS

I'm honored to be posting on Kirby Larson's FRIEND FRIDAY


DARLENE BECK-JACOBSON's blog "Gold From The Dust"

Darlene is also hosting a give away for the novel.

Follow this link for more information about  THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS. 

Please visit both sites to find out some back story for the novel -- and also to be introduced to two wonderful novelists, Kirby and Darlene.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mau and The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

Dear Two-legged One,

You're welcome. I have successfully inspired you to create a cat who is a cat, and not a fluffy fashion accessory. Because of my insights, Mau will take her place among literature's other masterful cats, such as The Cheshire Cat, Crookshanks, and Mr. Mistoffelees.

Mau's book will be in stores on July 14. Then everyone can admire her wisdom and her grace. There are some human characters in the book too, for those who like reading about "middle-school cruelty, the heartache of abandonment, and the supple bonds of friendship."  (from Publishers Weekly) Of course, my favorite parts were when Mau was hunting for rats near the Obelisk in Central Park.

I believe that you will be giving a reading at 7 pm on July 16th at  Community Bookstore in Brooklyn. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend. But I know that there is a cat in residence there, so all should go well.

I have arranged for 5 copies of Mau's book to be given away from Goodreads. LINK to the GOODREADS Giveaway  If you haven't joined that group of readers, you should. It's free and fun.

And so, dear Two-legged One, my work here is done. 



The Cat

Monday, June 8, 2015


This month, the middle-grade authors at Smack Dab in the Middle are blogging about what we did during the summer when we were kids.

Click this link to read my blog about Jabberbox.

And while you're there, check out the other authors.

This photograph is of the woods near the house where I grew up in Wisconsin.

Not too far from where Jabberbox was first discovered.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

That yucky voice again?????

The other day I came across a picture that my daughter drew ten years ago. She was just beginning to fall in love with the theater. I was so enchanted with her depiction of herself taking over the stage.

Until I looked closer. In the middle of the cheering crowd, there was one critic, shall we say, who chose to point a finger at the performer.

My heart sank. Here was proof that, despite how many opportunities and awards Sofia had received, despite how happy she was to be performing, she still heard a yucky voice. In fact, she heard it so clearly that she made it part of her picture.

In my first novel, NATURE GIRL, the main character has a continuing struggle with her yucky voice. As Megan hikes the Appalachian Trail, her confidence grows. The voice gradually fades, until Megan realizes with delight that the voice is gone.

I have to confess that that isn't really accurate. Those who have yucky voices, and I am one of them, know that permanently silencing that voice is very very difficult. The past few months, I've been struggling with an impossible novel. My yucky voice has been positively gleeful to have so many opportunities to make me feel bad. But I haven't let it completely take over my life.  I haven't quit. Instead I keep reminding myself of the positive comments I've received. It feels a little vain to reread kind emails and notes. That goes against my Midwestern upbringing. But why should we dwell on the negative? Why let that one voice be louder than the positive?

And so, in that spirit, I made a few alterations to my daughter's drawing. I decided to include what I know the rest of the audience was thinking. I hope she understands.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Asking Permission

Happy May!

This month the middle grade authors at Smack Dab in the Middle are posting about moms and asking permission.

Stop by the Smack Dab in the Middle site to see my latest post.

Did I have the right to tell about this woman's years with the Seneca tribe?

Mary Jemison

Please make a comment while you're there -- I'd love to know what you think too!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Special School Visit

Whenever I visit a school, I get so inspired. I love the questions I get asked. I love hearing about what the students are writing. I love how much they love reading.

The other day, I had a special treat. I have a friend who works at a school. After she noticed that some students were reading my book, The Girl Behind The Glass, she said, "Jane's my friend!" The teacher eagerly invited me to visit with the class.

I was happy to talk to a group of kids who had already read my book---especially that one, which has so many secrets. I didn't have to worry about spoiling anything for anyone. We could discuss the mystery of the narrator, and what had happened in that closet. I was especially glad to hear how pleased they were with the book's ending. My editor Shana Corey and I had worked hard to find just the right image for the end.

As I said good-bye to the students, three girls showed me this amazing poster that they had made. It's a cross section of that house on Hemlock Road. The girls included so many wonderful details. I was so impressed by how much thought they had put into their drawing.

By Erin, Esmee, and Eve

Thank you, Erin, Esmee, and Eve, for making this drawing. Thanks to everyone in the class for sharing your thoughts and your enthusiasm. 

It's such a joy to be able to share my books with you---and all my readers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Growing a character -- with sweat and tears

Stop by the Smack Dab in the Middle Blog to read my latest post -- and all the other wonderful middle-grade authors who are blogging about growing a character this month.

Sweat and Tears

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Conversation with author Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler is the author of four traditionally published books. Her work has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers' Weekly, and has been featured on Booklist's Best First Novels for Youth and School Library Journal's What's Hot in YA. Fifth Avenue Fidos, her first independently published book, is out tomorrow. I invited her to answer some questions about it.

But first -- a brief synopsis of this New Adult Rom-Com with "Bite."

Mable Barker, a hilarious good-natured sweetheart who is always the pal but never the girlfriend, endures nine horrendous months of unrequited love while bouncing between lackluster NYC jobs. When she meets Innis, an ill-tempered Upper East Side Pekingese, Mabel assumes her dog-walking days are numbered and she'll have to head back home with her tail tucked between her legs. Innis belongs to a veterinarian, Jason Mead, whose awkward ways around women have him dreaming about breeding Westminster champions instead of finding love for himself. When Mable and Jason meet, romance is officially unleashed. Mable could very well have what it takes to be a professional handler. As Jason and Mable get closer to putting a new twist on the term "dog lovers," outside forces threaten to come between them. Will they let their burgeoning love roll over and play dead? Or will they rally to make sure Innis emerges as the leader of the pack?

Brimming with humor and endearing characters, Fifth Avenue Fidos offers a sweet romance and modern-day fairy tale in which dogs, not dragons, rule the land...a story about the loves that help us realize our dreams.  To order the book, click here.

JK: Welcome, Holly! On your website, you say that you like to write for different age groups. Do you start with the idea and then figure out which age is most appropriate? Do you ever switch an idea to a different age group?

HS: Actually the generation of the idea usually coincides with what age group it's most appropriate for. My main character is, of course, the strongest factor in determining the age group.  But that doesn't mean my original idea always sees the light of day. Both of the books I released in 2014 were originally drafted in other age categories. Initially, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky (my MG about a young folk artist) was a picture book. I thought illustrations depicting the wild sculptures Auggie makes from found items would be wonderful! But editors thought the concept of folk art was too advanced for picture book readers, so I turned it into an MG novel. Feral began as an MG mystery. The descriptions got so dark that I knew I needed to bump it into YA. But that meant I had to ditch my original main character. She was SO thirteen. (I still love that character, though. I keep brainstorming ideas for books to put her in.)

JK: New Adult is a comparatively new category. How do you define it?

HS: I think of New Adult as the old "Friends" TV show. Young people trying to figure their way out in the adult world.

JK: What have you enjoyed most about writing for this age group?

HS: Actually I drafted this book before New Adult was a category. When it was first submitted, editors said that the book was well done. One said, "This needs to be published." But they didn't know what to do with it. It wasn't YA, it wasn't adult. Even after New Adult became a well-read age category, Fifth Avenue Fidos was continuing to break the mold. This is a sweet comedy--not overtly sexy, no graphic erotica, not about college life. Editors were hanging onto it, trying to find a place for it, and were unsuccessful.

But that's what makes Fidos perfect for the indie platform. There are books that just don't fit the traditional publishing agenda. Certain works are better suited for the independent world. Fifth Avenue Fidos is one of those books.

JK: "A Rom Com -- with bite" is such a clever description! I love using animals as characters too. Is there a difference between creating a human and an animal character?

HS: I've had animals my entire life––only spent three of my thirty-eight years without one. I have a Peke myself named Jake. He was the original inspiration for Fidos. Innis is really based on him. I drafted the book shortly after Jake came into my life eleven years ago! This is obviously a book I've long wanted to get into the world.

JK: I'm so impressed that you have published this as an indie. Do you have any advice for those who want to go this route?

HS:There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to both the traditional and independent platforms. I've just gotten my toes wet in the indie world myself, and feel as though I'm only beginning to explore what's possible. One of the earliest lessons I learned is that the independent author community is incredible. Welcoming and forthcoming about what they've tried, what their process was, what worked, what didn't. They're also quick to offer technical guidance. I'd suggest finding an online forum--through Facebook, etc.-- and jumping into the conversation.

As far as the technical aspects are concerned, I used Scrivener, which allowed me to format both .mobi and .epub files. I'm pretty in love with Scrivener--can't wait to draft my first book from start to end on it. I also recommend Ed Ditto's book on using Scrivener to format your e-book. How to Format Your Novel ... In One Afternoon

Most of all, if you're curious about the indie world, just dive in! Have fun--that's why we all came to writing in the first place, right? Because it brought us incredible joy.

JK: What's next?

HS: I'm currently writing Play It Again, the NA sequel to my YA romance, Playing Hurt. I'm delighted that I get a chance to spend more time with Chelsea and Clint! The official release date will be announced on my newsletter. To get the announcement,sign up here.

JK: Thanks, Holly! I can't wait to read these books!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Writing pitfalls -- beware the ides!

For the month of March, the middle-grade authors at  Smack Dab in the Middle are posting about writing pitfalls.

Clink on the link to see what frightens me!

Sunday, March 1, 2015


February's expedition was to the Lehman College art gallery in the Bronx.

I wanted to see a showing of some of the quilts made by the women of Gee's Bend. I had heard of the wild beauty of these quilts. They have been celebrated as modern art. I was also interested in their connection to that place and its history.

Gee's Bend is a scrap of land, five miles long and eight miles wide, isolated from the rest of southwest Alabama by a bend in the Alabama River. The land had been Gee's plantation. The descendants of his slaves stayed to work the land as poor sharecroppers. There is no bridge. There wasn't even a ferry from 1962 until 2006. Many people believe that service was discontinued to keep the residents from voting. This link will let you read more about Gee's Bend.

The poverty and the isolation were terrible for the people. Out of necessity, they made quilts to keep their children warm. Each quilt did more than fulfill that purpose; it showed its own bold vision.

"Flow Plans" Loretta Bennett 2012
Quilts are made from scraps. In this way, some use could be gotten out of the bits of a shirt or a dress that hadn't completely worn out. I have no doubt that the quilters could tell you whose clothes those used to be.

Those small pieces were transformed by the juxtaposition of color and pattern. This quilt actually vibrated when I looked at it.

"Star of Bethlehem with Satellite Stars" by Leola Pettway 1991

Another room of the Lehman exhibit contains Linda Day Clark's photographs of Gee's Bend. One shows a quilter assembling her pieces. The wall in front of her had a montage of family pictures. They looked like a different kind of quilt. I thought about how our lives are bits and pieces of memories.

Aren't we all collecting scraps? And aren't we all trying to make them into something useful and beautiful?

The quilters of Gee's Bend have certainly done that.

My husband Lee and I left the warmth of the gallery and took the subway to the western edge of Manhattan.

 The cold weeks of February had transformed the Hudson River into a different kind of quilt!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Smack Dab in the Middle

Today I joined a great group of other middle grade authors who blog on this site.

If you click on the link below, you'll find my post THE FORBIDDEN PROJECT

Each month we blog about a new topic. 

For February, it's about our paths to publication. 

I hope you check out the site.

You can find lots of great writers sharing their thoughts. 

I'll always be there on the 8th!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Step Away From That Computer!

I thought my new year's resolution was very manageable. Each month I would go to a place in New York City that I had never been. (I can't believe I almost broke my vow--it was already the last day of January!) 

After a week of polishing a manuscript, I was ready to get outside of my head and my apartment.

The weather was crisp and cold. The wind was so fierce, I almost changed my mind about going to Owl's Head park on the eastern edge of Brooklyn. But I'm glad I didn't.

At the top of the hill, I could see white caps
 on the water of New York harbor. 

Without their leaves, the trees are so exposed. 
As if they aren't trees at all, but some other kind of life form.

How long has this fellow being been standing on this spot? 
And how did he get to be so twisted?

Of course whenever I go anywhere, 
I'm always looking for a way into a new world.

Or into a new story.

I think I might have found one.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blackberry has a few questions for Jane Kelley


JK:  Yes! It's the advanced review copy. The real book will be available on July 14, 2015. Six months from today!


JK:  Her name is Mau.


JK:  Val and Lanore have been friends forever. Val expects thir relationship to stay the same. But after they start middle school, Lanora decides to reinvent herself. Her parents have split up, and she wants to rise above that. Unfortunately Lanora's choices lead her into trouble. Val hates watching her friend lose her way. She wants to rescue Lanora, but how? Val doesn't know what to do until a stray cat . . .


JK:  I beg your pardon. A SELF-RELIANT cat leads Lanora to a strange boy who lives in an even stranger bookshop. Together they embark on a quest. Will they be able to save a lost friend? Will they get lost themselves? Or will they find a way to help each other become who they want to be?


JK:  I guess you'll have to keep reading the book to find out.