Friday, April 27, 2012

GFP: Interview & Giveaway - Feedback:How To Give It, How To Take It by Jo Sparkes

Welcome to BK Walker Books Etc. I'm so happy you could join me today at Blue Moon Coffee & Bakery, Lake Oswego, Oregon.

BK: Please tell us a little about yourself...

Hmmm. Now why is that always a difficult question for me?  

I'm a writer, a teacher, a wife, a friend, and a sister. And very much still learning on the job of life.

BK: Please tell us a little about your book....

The book is Feedback  How to Give It  How to Get It. 

For me, I thrived on any praise, no matter how faint. And I panicked at the first hint of criticism. 

But writing – writing commercials for directors, and articles for editors, videos for companies, all require actually addressing criticism. I had to find a way to not just deal with it – but to really shine, to come through with flying colors. This little book is sharing the process. 

Oddly enough, the same process changed everything else in my life.   

BK: What inspired you to pen this particular book?

I was teaching intro to digital media – how to make movies – in college. A student asked about handling criticism of his work, and I when found the best answer inside me, this book sort of hung in the air.

I thought, “I need to write that down.”

BK: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Up til the grand age of six, all I wanted to do was read. I would walk around the house, holding a book upside down, and yelling, “Read! Read! Read!” at the top of my lungs. My father thought it was cute; my mother had less enthusiastic words. Afterall, she had to hear me all day long.

As soon as I mastered Dick and Jane, my next thriving passion was to write. I wrote my first short story in fourth grade. Reader's Digest declined it, by the way. But I believed myself a writer before I could spell the word.

It took me forty years to get the nerve to call myself as a writer.

BK: Do you ever run into writer's block, and if so, what do you do to get past it?

Rarely. Robert McKee says the cure is more research. And for me, that always works.

BK: What is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks, or must-haves to write?

Sometimes I can really spin my wheels before I take off.

To avoid that, I try to get all the character details written down. The keys for me are their feelings – about what's happening, and particularly about the other characters. You can create a young woman who's father was abusive, who's tall but hunches like she's trying to hide. But to really know her, add the emotions that in this scene she's loved the boy since she first saw him, and her inability to speak up now has her watching her best friend flirting with him.

I think such characters drive the action. And I love watching how they respond to life's challenges.

BK: Where do you hope your books/writing will be in the future?

Better. Always better.

BK: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

In fiction, I always hope they feel something new. Discover something a little different, or see a thing in a new way.

In this book, I just want to spare people a few bumps in the road. 

BK: What is one piece of advice you received that you carry with you in your writing?

Writer's write. Whatever happens, keep writing. Grow, improve your craft. Write!

BK: What is one piece of advice you would give to new and aspiring writers?

For some reason, society seems to think that writers are born, not made.

We allow that a physicist can study and learn. A mathematician, a computer programmer, a psychiatrist all decide what they want to do and then learn how to do it. 

But writers – all artists, really – are supposed to spring forth from the womb already skilled. If your eighth grade teacher doesn't praise your story, you can't be a writer.

Writing is like any other skill. It takes study and practice to perfect. And just because someone criticizes your work doesn't mean the end of the world. You can't be a professional until you get criticized.

If your heart is in writing, don't let your head – or anything else – stop you.

BK: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can we expect from you in the future?

Always! I have several things in the computer files. One is a television/webisode series of pure fun.

BK: Where can readers find you? and

Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. It's been a pleasure having you and I wish you much success in the future.

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.

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.


That toddler learning to walk is a great example to us all.
The child has no fear of failure, no concern over how foolish he may look to others. He never pauses to consider if it's worth the effort. And he pays no attention to anyone pointing out that seventy percent of his peers can already walk.
He wants it. He keeps trying until he gets it.
Somewhere along the path of life, we come to perceive mistakes as 'bad'. We're told 'don't make them; avoid them.' You don't get called in to account for yourself if you don't make a mistake. Some people actually avoid mistakes by not doing anything at all.
That's the reality. The only way not to make a mistake is not to do anything. Which means no real achievement, no real success.
I spoke to a friend who had achieved a very great deal – he'd made a huge amount of money as an entrepreneur. He was the type of person most would call wildly successful.
Yet it turns out that before he made money, he had lost money. He'd lost enough that those same people labeling him wildly successful now would term him an abject failure. It cost him two businesses.
But he believes if he hadn't made that mistake, he would have never found the key to success.

Jo will be giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card during her tour. You can follow the tour HERE.

Goddess Fish Partner


Mary Preston said...

I now have this image in my head of a baby springing from the womb, pen in hand ready to write the next great novel of the times.

I must read this book.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Jo today.

MomJane said...

I have learned so much from following your tour. I would imagine a lot of potential writers have been inspired.

Jo said...

You guys are so kind! Thank you.

This beautiful site is inspiring, BK. Thanks for inviting me here today.

Catherine Lee said...

This is such an opportune time for me to be following your tour, Jo. It's employee evaluation time at work...and it's always an exercise to find a way to give meaningful, developmental feedback and how to effectively give correction when it is needed. I need this book!

Jo said...

Catherine, I know that feeling :)

When you buy it, (or anyone on BK's site), I'll pay for the shipping. Just drop me an email reminding me the day you buy it.

Karen H said...

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

Gale Nelson said...

Thanks for the great interview and review. Gale