The Mistress of Pennington's Tour

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Welcome author, Jo Sparkes!!

Today, I am hosting an author of a non-fiction book rather than a romance novelist - Jo Sparkes' book 'Feedback: How to give it, how to get it' seems essential reading for writers, contest judges and critique partners alike. I am looking forward to learning more.

Over to you, Jo!

1)    What is your writing routine?

I'm an early morning writer.

I wake up around 5 am, roll out of bed and immediately get the coffee going. Then, with husband and dog snoring away, I sit down and write. Somehow in the pre-dawn quiet, before the rest of the day has intruded, my mind is clear and the words flow. Late morning is editing time, and the afternoon is for research .

 2)    Which author/s inspire you to write?

I was trying to write before I could read.

I admire so many authors. I loved Georgette Heyer, for her wonderful characters. I loved Shakespeare for his insights into humanity. Larry Niven with his ability to create entire universes. Frank Herbert's Dune.

A man named Robert Day, a great writer, taught at my college. He had a wonderful way of creating two different emotions in his openings. He wrote a multi-part piece for the Washington Post  that opened with (and this is horribly paraphrased) “My father died in April of 1997. We kept him in a jar above the washing machine.”

 3)    Which is your favorite romance sub genre to read? To write?

I love good historical romance. The regencies done with a good feel for the period are fun, but I love the more adventurous, older time periods as well. I'm not much into modern day of the genre.

And I'm sorry to say I've only written one romance, and it simply wasn't good enough. For me, it's easier if more things are going on. A murder mystery, a psychological thriller. Within those frameworks, the attraction between two people interferes with their lives – and I love watching them wrestle with that.

4)    How do you deal with criticism/rejection?

With criticism, I try to make sure I understand the reason. If you truly understand, the next question can be, “if I fix this one thing, would it be of more interest?”

Rejection is really just a part of life, and particularly of the arts. Think of it as finding the right place for the work. You could write the best interview article ever of Peyton Manning (NFL quarterback), and still get rejected over and over by Woman's Wear Daily.

The key is finding the best match. It's like putting Scarlett O'Hara with Ashley Wilkes – they're bad for each other and would die a slow boring death. But switch Ashley for Rhett Butler – and you've got a romance for the ages.

5)    What do you expect from an editor?

A good editor makes you better. A great editor makes you look like a genius.

To me, an editor does two things. The first is for the flow of the words. An editor combs out the snarls and tangles, so the reader sails over the written tale without getting jarred out of the story. That's when a strange phrasing makes you say, “Wait – what?” A strange phrasing forces a reader to reread, or even skip it. The reader has been rudely knocked out of the world the writer worked so hard to create.

The other thing the editor does is keep a smart eye on the subject itself – the story or the article. To be sure there are no errors in logic, that the characters are real and natural, and hopefully to keep it precise. For me, precision is telling the story, only the story, and nothing but the story.
6)    Tell me about your latest release

I wanted to help writers. Hopefully this book will.

I love writers. There's a courage they have, to so expose themselves. To bare their soul.

If you're in the sciences, there are measurements to tell you how you're doing, where to improve. But in the arts, we're told, everything is a matter of 'taste'. Someone may say simply that they don't like it, or that your character is bad. Somehow there's this belief that a good writer would never get criticized.

Not true, by the way.

If you write and have the courage to show it to others, sooner or later criticism will rear up on your path. This book is about vanquishing that criticism – slicing through it like a pro. And actually putting it to work for you.

8)    What are you working on right now?

I'm working on a TV pilot. Keep your fingers crossed.

9) Your biggest piece of advice to aspiring novelists?

Write! Improve your craft, read, take classes. Take chances, follow your heart.

But above all – write.

 10) Where can readers find you?

 Feedback: How To Give It, How To Get It
by Jo Sparkes



Feedback … a kinder word for criticism, is an organic component to life.

When a toddler learns to walk, he falls. He screams, cries – and persists. What would happen to the human race if he gave up after a few bumps?

Before we could read self-help books, before we could understand a language and sit in a classroom, we learned by trial and error. “Feedback” is the natural teaching process. It’s how the creator set it up. It’s how the world actually works.

Here, at last, is a simple process for getting the most from all the feedback the world offers us.


            For some reason it's easy to cling to criticism. To walk through the world telling yourself, “I can't act my way out of a paper bag,” or “my work is sloppy no matter what I do.”
            If you think about it, you probably can recall criticism you heard as a child. When I was eight-years-old, I overheard my father tell my mother I was lazy. To this day, if I'm not getting everything done as fast as I wish, if things are piling up on my desk, I can hear him saying, “she's lazy!”
            Clinging to criticism, to all the negative comments or snide remarks we've heard over the years, creates a very heavy burden. If you walk through the world so weighted down, you will inevitably slow and finally stop altogether from the sheer pressure.
            All you can humanly do is what we just did. Take in the information, analyze it, and decide what to do. There is nothing more to be done.
            It – the criticism – has served you. Now send it on its merry way.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

A well-known Century City Producer once said that Jo Sparkes "writes some of the best dialogue I’ve read." Not only are those words a compliment to Jo’s skills as a writer,but a true reflection of her commitment to her work.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Washington College, a small liberal arts college famous for its creative writing program. Years later, Jo renounced life in the corporate world to pursue her passion for writing.

Taking every class she could find, she had the good fortune to study with Robert Powell; a student of renowned writers and teachers Lew Hunter, and Richard Walter, head and heart of UCLA’s Screenwriting Program.

The culmination of those years was the short-film "The Image", which she wrote and produced single-handedly. And in so doing, she became fascinated with the dynamics of collaboration on a project.

Since then, Jo hasn’t looked back.  Her body of work includes scripts for Children’s live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video Children’s DVD, television commercials and corporate videos. She's been a feature writer on and a contributing writer for the Arizona Sports Fans Network; where she was called their most popular writer, known for her humorous articles, player interviews and game coverage. Jo was unofficially the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he arrived in Arizona to play for the Cardinals.

She has adjunct taught at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, has teamed with a Producer on a low budget thriller, and a Director on a New Dramady.” She went in front of the camera for a video, “Stepping Above Criticism”, capturing a popular talk with her students.

Her new book, FEEDBACK  HOW TO GIVE IT  HOW TO GET IT, shares her lessons learned with writers, and indeed everyone dealing with life's criticism.

When not diligently perfecting her craft, Jo can be found exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon, along with her husband Ian, and their dog Oscar.


“In her compact, wisdom-charged Feedback Jo Sparkes provides sharp, sharp, cogent, advice not only for writers but for all people who value creativity and seek to lead fulfilled, creative lives.

“This slender volume provides more bang for the buck than far longer, weightier tomes. It is a splendid resource to which writers will refer repeatedly.”

- Richard Walter  Chairman of Screenwriting, U.C.L.A.

“The lessons contained in “Feedback” are not for the writer who is merely looking for a compliment, but rather for those who are striving for accomplishment.”
-                Barton Green  Author, Screenwriter and long-time friend

Jo Sparks simplifies the feedback process in this concise easy to implement guide to giving and receiving feedback.  As an actress, I believe everyone can benefit from her experience, not just those in the industry.

-      Tonetta Weaver, Actress


Thanks for being here today, Jo and including my blog in your tour! Wishing you lots of success and sales :)

Jo will be giving away a $50 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:


  1. Thanks so much for having me today, Rachel :)

  2. I really loved the Georgette Heyer books. She was the reason i still love Regency novels. I love following your tour. I am really getting an education in criticism.

  3. I'll confess I have all of Heyer's books. Her humor based on character is my ideal :)

    MomJane - it's such a pleasure to have you on board!

  4. Working on a TV pilot sounds fun...although I guess there would be a lot of rejection potential there!

  5. I find I get a lot of work done early in the morning before the world wakes up. I enjoyed the interview thank you.


  6. Just popping in to say HI and sorry I missed visiting with you on party day! Enjoyed reading about your book.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  7. Thanks for the great interview and review. Gale