June McCrary Jacobs spent twenty years as a primary grade educator after graduating from California State University, Hayward, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a multiple-subject teaching credential. Along with writing fiction, June is a freelance designer of sewing, quilting and crafting projects. A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom is June’s debut novel, though not her first published work. Since 2007 June’s original sewing, quilting and stitchery projects and articles have been published in national and international magazines including Stitch, Sew News, Sewing World, Simply Handmade, Sew Hip, Sewing Savvy, Crafts ‘n Things and Create & Decorate. Two of her sewing designs for children will appear in the upcoming 101 One-Yard Little Wonders book published by Storey Publishing. A Californian since age six, June currently resides in the San Joaquin Valley. Learn more about June’s writing endeavors and view some of her original sewing projects by visiting her website at www.junemccraryjacobs.com.
Savanna: Welcome to The Engrafted Word, June! It’s great to have you here and Congratulations on your debut novel, A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom. Can you tell us what first sparked the idea for this story?
June: Thank you, Savanna. I appreciate this opportunity to share with your readers.
I love Christmas, and I have always had this romantic notion about living where I could have a white Christmas. I was raised in Northern California, so I didn’t have a lot of personal, hands-on experience with snow. I had read and heard about snow angels from books and other people. I chose a place with a lot of snow as a setting—Vermont. Apple Blossom is a fictional small town I envisioned for this story.
I’ve always liked angel decorations for Christmas, and I enjoyed being an angel in our church’s pageant when I was young. I had an idea for a little first grade girl who loved snow angels, singing angels, angel decorations. This child is crazy about angels! This little girl developed into the character Mary Noel.
I wanted to write a Christmas story based on a community pulling together to help one of their own families. The skyrocketing cost of medical care in the United States is always in the news, and it’s a major cause of concern for literally millions of families. I decided I wanted the story to be built around a family’s financial need caused by a tragic accident. With those details settled, I wrote the first couple of chapters of this story, and then set it aside to work on other sewing and writing projects.
In November 2012 I saw Cedar Fort Inc.’s Call for Submissions for their 2013 Holiday Tale Contest. When I read this publisher’s mission statement I felt my story about little Mary Noel would be a good match for Cedar Fort’s wish list for fiction. I set aside everything else and worked diligently on the manuscript for ‘A Holiday Miracle’ for the next few weeks. I wrote, edited, rewrote, and edited the book some more until I was happy with it. I submitted it right before the contest’s deadline.
My goal was to write an inspirational story reinforcing the true message of Christmas—the gift of love. The community of Apple Blossom gave of themselves to help this family in need. The romance between the two main characters is not the focus of the plot. It’s just the icing on the cake as they say. For me, the true meaning of Christmas is love.
Savanna: Thanks for sharing. I always love to hear how new stories are born. Do you have a favorite character from the book? If so, can you tell us why?
June: The heroine in my book, Amber Kellen, holds a special place in my heart. I was a first grade teacher for many years, and I modeled Amber’s professional profile after myself and several young teachers I worked with later on in my career. As a first grade teacher, one is as involved in the personal development of her students as she is in their academic development. The students’ reactions to hearing the news of their classmate Mary Noel’s accident and hospitalization was taken from my experiences with several tragedies at the schools where I taught. Amber tries so hard to be all things to all the people in her life. Once she gets shaken out of her lethargy by Mary Noel’s accident, she discovers a lot about life and love.
The transformation of Amber throughout the story is inspiring to me. When the story begins, Amber is a lonely, somewhat isolated young woman with no friends in her new hometown. As she begins to reach out to others to help the Simmons family, Amber blossoms. Her true personality begins to shine. She gains confidence in her new leadership role as co-coordinator of the ‘Angels for Mary Noel’ festival. As her relationship with Paul Watkins grows, she gains confidence as a woman. I think it’s wonderful to see people expand their horizons and try new things which may be difficult for them. The courageous Amber we see at the end of the story is totally different than the timid Amber we see at the beginning of the story.
Savanna: Sounds like a very sweet, inspiring story. 😉
On your website it says you enjoy touring historic homes and museums. Do you have a particular favorite one to visit?
June: I’ll begin my answer with a brief story. A couple of years ago we visited a historic home we’d not toured previously. At the end of the tour I told the docent thank you and mentioned that I thought she’d done a fantastic job of sharing the home’s history with us. She asked me, “What was your favorite thing about the house?” Without hesitation I said, “I loved everything!” She and my husband chuckled. I went on to say that I couldn’t pick one thing because I enjoyed the entire house, its contents, and learning about its history.
I have loved history since grade school, and visiting these historic homes gives me a glimpse of what living in the past was like. I especially love looking at the quilts, textiles, artwork, china, glassware, and toys and dolls displayed in these homes.
I enjoy visiting these homes when they are decorated for Christmas. The smell of the fresh greenery and trees, the vignettes of toys and dolls and trains set up under a loaded tree, and the dining room table adorned with the family’s fine china and crystal and silver are fun to explore. Since I can’t choose just one historic home as my favorite, I’ll give you the short-list: The Hearst Castle in San Simeon is magnificent at any time of year but especially when they deck the halls for the holidays. The Patterson Home at Ardenwood Historic Farm and the Shinn House in Fremont are examples of a country-style family Christmas at its best. The Stanford Mansion in Sacramento is elegant and opulent. The Meux Home in Fresno once had a unique Christmas tour with each room decorated in period décor based on a particular President of the United States. (i.e., the Theodore Roosevelt room was filled with teddy bears, flags, etc.).
Likewise, it’s impossible for me to choose my favorite museum. Here’s a list of the ones I visit more than once a year, if possible, because they have excellent rotating and permanent exhibits: Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, Folsom History Museum in Folsom, Haggin Museum in Stockton, the Oakland Museum in Oakland, and the California Museum in Sacramento. I particularly enjoy art and craftsman furniture from the arts and crafts (craftsman) period in the early 1900’s. The Crocker and Oakland Museums both have nice permanent exhibits of these items. I always discover something new when I walk through these collections.
Savanna: They all sound so intriguing. I’m definitely adding those to my list. 😉 It’s also evident from your website that you love making crafts. What has been your favorite sewing project to date?
June: I’ve been sewing since I was eight years old, so it’s hard to narrow this down. One of the projects I’m most proud of is my Snail Face Suitcase published in Storey Publishing’s Little One-Yard Wonders book released earlier this year. It was fun to design and sew this accessory for children. I also like my Arrow Tab Tote published in Stitch in their Fall 2010 issue and selected for sale in the Interweave Pattern Shop. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from readers on these two projects, and I feel a lot of satisfaction when people choose to make the designs I’ve created.
I post a free sewing project on my blog the first Wednesday of each month and sometimes at other times. Your readers can access those projects and download the patterns and instructions here.
If readers Like my Author’s Facebook page, they will receive automatic updates on my blog postings and free projects. I enjoy hearing from readers about their sewing adventures and seeing their photos when they make one of my designs.
Savanna: With over 100 articles in print, can you share with us one of the writing lessons you’ve learned along the way?
June: When I think back to where I started on my non-fiction articles and fiction writings several years ago I see a lot of improvement. Two acquisitions editors in particular helped me with POV (point of view) issues in my fiction writing. This is something I still have to focus on when I’m writing and editing my work, but it’s getting easier the longer I practice good habits.
I learned from a world renowned sewing expert and technical editor I worked with for a few years to be clear and concise in my technical writing. Her motto was basically “Trim the fat.” I believe her coaching has benefited me greatly in my fiction writing also.
An important tip I’d like to pass along to new writers is:
Be true to yourself and your beliefs. Your writing is a reflection of who you are as a person, so don’t compromise your values or ethics to sell books. You will be criticized by someone, somewhere, that is for certain! Hold fast to your truth, and you’ll enjoy the journey greatly.
Savanna: Thank you so much for sharing with us, June. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any upcoming projects you can share with us?
Erica: I am polishing my first full-length manuscript. It’s a contemporary inspirational romance set in a fictional small town in the coastal mountains of California. I’m also dabbling with a contemporary romance set in Montana involving two main characters with very different personalities.
I’m always busy with my blog and my various social media platforms. So much of what authors do these days involves working on a computer. I sew for pleasure whenever possible, and I like to sew for charity when I can make the time.
I truly enjoy hearing from readers. Here’s a list of where people can connect with me online:
–My website and ‘Writing and Sewing’ blog can be found at www.junemccraryjacobs.com. I write about books, book reviews, textile shows, museum exhibits, and sewing tips there with a new post each Wednesday. As I mentioned above, the first Wednesday of each month (and sometimes additional times throughout the month) I post free patterns and instructions for one of my original-design sewing or crafting projects for readers’ use and enjoyment.
–My Author’s Facebook page – If you Like my Facebook page you’ll receive automatic notifications of new postings and the free projects, etc.
–My Email Address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Savanna: It’s been great having you here. I look forward to reading more of your stories soon. Blessings on your writing, June! And Merry Christmas!
June: Thank you, once again, for your hospitality and kindness, Savanna. Best wishes to you and your readers for a blessed holiday season filled with inspiration and love.
June has graciously offered one e-book version of A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom to one lucky reader! Enter below and it could be YOU! 😉
Thanks for entering! Contest is open only in the U.S. and ends December 10, 2014. The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody! 😉