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Jessie Powell has been writing since she was ten years old, when she typed an antique Remington Rand to death. She moved next to a Selectric, but it didn't last the year, and the word processor that followed barely endured a month. She ultimately bought her first computer at a yard sale for fifty dollars. Even though she had to hold it about a foot above the table and drop it to get it started each morning, she still found it an improvement. These days, when the machinery won't cooperate, she is more likely to go after it with a screwdriver. But the net result is the same. She's death to the hardware.

Story: Flori and the Tourist


Each week authors will be given a new question to answer which will lend additional insight into their story and writing process. Do you have a question you'd like to see the authors answer? Tweet it to @aNextAuthor!

What is the best writing advice you've ever heard?
Butt in chair. I revere Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and every word of that book is true. And the most important thing a writer can do is write. Inspiration is not necessary. Words, however, are greatly needed.
When you start a new story do you prepare an outline in advance or do you just jump right in?
If I'm writing a novel, I first write, then I pull back and outline. But I have enough room in my head to hold a short story's shape while I'm crafting it. You'll also find character sketches mixed in with the fiction at
How do you deal with writing criticism, apart from just ignoring it?
I look for common threads. When I see several people saying the same thing, I know I need to change something.
America's Next Author has been running for almost 8 weeks. If you could re-submit now, would you change anything about your story?
No. This is the story I meant to submit, and the critique I've received is stuff I can apply to a larger version of it, but not stuff that applies to this version.


Margaret Alice

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This was an entertaining read. I really enjoyed the characterization of Flori. She seemed really fun and I wanted to delve deeper into this world you created. Could you check out my story, "The Fate Continuum?" Good Luck!

David Wiley

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This is a story that draws the reader in almost immediately. Although there are some questions that are left unanswered, such as why everyone can use magic, those are easy to forgive. I would gladly own and read a book of Flori's adventures.


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Flori is a wonderful character. I love the way Jessie balances her magical abilities with her reluctance to amplify them in an artificial way. While the story is engaging as is, I would love to see it extended in order to see how Flori would balance her ideas about the "morals" of magic usage with the advantages of the amplifiers at her disposal.

Darlene Elizabeth Williams

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A well written story, but one that lacks a sense of tension. There's great potential to play up the chase by the tourist/trucker and heighten the conflict, but the author focussed on magic. It felt like magic was the center of the story, rather than the conflict, and, unfortunately, the magic wasn't enough excitement in itself.


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This was a great read! I enjoy being drawn into a book and it takes over (until someone screams 'mom' or 'honey'!). I am already wondering what you have written about before and are there hard copies (love to hold a book). Great work, Jessie!


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Love the story! I want to know more of this world of magick.Just who is that mystery tourist trucker?? What has made Flori who she is and what will she become?? Definitely a teaser.

Lori Paris

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Well....the first paragraph is brilliant. Unfortunately I was unimpressed with the rest of it. However, Science Fiction isn't my genre. I found it confusing going back and forth between the "magic" world and then the toilet...a regular, human item was injected into the story. When one does this it can be confusing for the writer. "popped" into the toilet....I had to read that three times to understand that she entered the bathroom. I thought she was making magic and shapeshifting or something. I also had to read the part several times about the tourist get stuck by the "enchanted"...much more accurate word than my opinion. This one was a struggle for me with a very convenient ending that didn't lead the reader anywhere. This seems to be an excerpt from a longer work.


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This charming tale is an unusual mix of fantasy and adventure. One normally does not root for the thief, but something in Flori’s story makes one hope that she makes it out okay. The ending makes one want to read on and on, hoping that chapter two will be here too. Like any good introduction, this chapter leaves a lot of questions left unanswered, including what brought Flori to this place and why she cares so much for other people’s possessions even while being a thief and a break in artist. The fantasy elements are intertwined well, as one does not question them, but just charges ahead with the story, wondering what happens next.

Susan Gale Wickes

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This story is a prime example of where fantasy can take you when imagination is allowed to run free. A little more detail would have been helpful, but it was an enjoyable read.


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Love the way we're plunged into this odd world.


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This is beautifully written, and despite knowing very little about Flori, the reader feels sympathy for her and finds her likeable, even though she has stolen and turned a family's home upside-down. It is edited, well-paced, and well-constructed. The trouble is that it reads like an excerpt, and we have no context for anything that happens, and this leaves the reader with many questions. Why is she a pickpocket? Why does she become a bird, and not a cat? Why is everyone able to do magic? There is a hint of restricted social structure, but no explanation for it. We don't know what brought Flori to live the way she does or anything else about how her world functions, other than that everyone appears to be able to cast spells. The world is very vividly imagined, but it is completely missing any framework, which is a big disappointment. No doubt the full book is very good, as this is clearly from a longer piece of writing, but this is a short story contest, and we didn't get a story. We got an event in a story. Beautifully written, but underdeveloped.


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Such a great story. Jessie does a great job of creating a fantasy world through the details, letting us know just enough about how things work to intrigue without lecturing. Flori herself is so immediate and full of life that I'd happily read a dozen more stories to find out what happens to her.


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I couldn't stop reading. I've read quite of few of the contestants stories, but I have to say..... I love Jessie's writing the best. Best of luck!


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Usually the magical, fantasy world is not my thing. Shady characters, on the other hand, are. You've combined both in a nice balance. Well done


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The Jester Queen is a fantastic author! I've been reading her writing for years now, and the Flori stories are my absolute favorites. The bit where Flori puts the child's chair back together is priceless; it shows her touching, sensitive, all-too-human side. Never a dull moment in this story! Fabulous.


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A lot of fun to read, I've come to really like your characters in a very short time and the story progresses as just the right speed, well done!

Not amazing

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I like the more creative way, the less "straight."


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What an adventure! Fast paced from the first sentence to the last, this story was also surprisingly whimsical. I loved it!


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I like how you introduce the character in a seemingly human debacle. Then the magic is brought in. Once it is, you feel like you are racing around with her. Also, the idea of her trying to learn to master her magic is a brilliant piece. It adds to the excitement of the chase in the story. The little mistakes she makes like walking forward out of the cafe and not back, really add to the excitement. And the ending is perfect. She needs to learn to make her magic work for her so that when she transforms again, she isn't laughed out of the sky by her peers. Incredible writing.


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I can see why this story is #1 at the moment! I wish the drop-down list let us choose "funky." The fantasy world really came alive even though the word count is limiting to an author. I've read a lot of fantasy. So much that I often skim over that section in the bookstore because so much of it is the same. But THIS story was very original, and more importantly, entertaining all the way through.

Lisa Rose

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Good story! If you get time, could you read my entry, 'Drift Away' and let me know if you liked it, by leaving a review?

Frances Bell

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An interesting story which came together in the last third when the fantasy and science fiction aspects were declared. For the first two-thirds, it seemed confusing although the 'action' moved at a good pace, talking to the furniture etc just seemed inexplicable. However, I can tell this writer is talented and perhaps if I had read the book and was familar with the characters and their particular talents, I would have found this chapter more enjoyable.

Gina F

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I have read Jessie's other book which I loved and this story is different but equally amazing. Jessie's creativity delights me always and the detail...incredible! Go, Jessie!


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Jessie Powell deserves to be America's next author!!


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As an avid fan of the science fiction/fantasy genre I can attest that Jessie's story reads like a published work. Her words are as carefully crafted as her characters and the world she has created for them. The story is engaging, fun and leaves you wanting more. What else could you ask for? Two thumbs up!

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Not a great read
December 18th, 2012
The winner of America's Next Author 2012 has been announced! [...]
December 7th, 2012
Questions and answers about the Battle Round. [...]
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