Jacqui Murray

30 Mar

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-eighth grade, creator of a passel of technology training books for middle school and technology in education generally. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, and more. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

Jacqui won the Southern California Writers Conference Outstanding Fiction Award for her upcoming techno-thriller, To Hunt a Sub (excerpt available on Reviewers laud her novel as ‘strongly written’ with ‘interesting and unique plot hooks’. She’s currently working on a prehistoric character-driven novel, Born in a Treacherous Time (excerpt available on She was born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, a BA in Russian and an MBA, she worked for twenty years in a variety of industries while raising her two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. With her children now adults, one in the Navy and one in the Army, she lives in Laguna Hills CA with her husband and two beautiful Labradors.. She teaches computer science to grades K-8 while pursuing her writing.

You can find her columns, guest posts and thoughts at the following digital ezines, blogs and websites:

If you’re interested in having Jacqui guest post on your blog, website, or review a product/website/book for you, please contact her at

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Posted in Musings


Top Ten Marketing Tips

01 Oct

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group. Click the link for details on what #IWSG means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month is the one year anniversary of this group. Instead of an insecurity, we’re sharing tips on writing, publishing, and marketing. Here are my top ten tips on marketing:

  1. Spend a few minutes a day working on the cover bio – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to the work of writing. (credit: Roddy Doyle)
  2. When do you start marketing? When you run out of words to write in your book.
  3. Nothing says ‘marketing’ like spray-and-pray: Post to blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, FB, LinkedIn. Comment on other people’s blogs, tweets, FB stream, LinkedIn discussions. Do this a lot!
  4. Marketing is like Groundhog Day. Every morning, wake up and do everything under #3. And then repeat.
  5. The key to marketing: Get to the part quickly where readers give a s***. They don’t like to waste time.
  6. Marketing is baby steps. Doing something–(see #3 and #4)–anything–lessons the panic of wondering “What the f*** do I do now?”
  7. If speaking nicely about yourself feels like choking on a chicken bone, get over it. It’s like the Heimlich Maneuver–it must be done or your book will die.
  8. When trying a new marketing approach, be a tad on the wildly optimistic side.
  9. Who hasn’t found a room s/he can’t dominate? Pick that room. Share your good news.
  10. The shortest distance between two people is a good laugh. Remember that when you’re marketing.

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Posted in Writing


Book Review: Letters From the Field Part II

24 Sep

Letters from the Field, 1925-1975Letters from the Field, 1925-1975

by Margaret Mead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

If you didn’t read my last week’s post here, you may wonder why I am so excited about Margaret Mead’s decades-old book, Letters From the Field. Even if you read me last week, you may wonder–I think I wandered a bit. Here’s the synopsis: I’m writing a series on the life of earliest man–think 2 million years ago. There is little primary evidence, so I must do a lot of extrapolation based on facts. I’ve read scores of books that nibble around the edges, all resulting in a pretty good feel for what their lives might have been like.

One of those books is Margaret Mead’s Letters From the Field. She spent most of her life living with primitive tribes so she could understand their worlds. This primary research influenced every corner of her life. For example, she is widely quoted as saying:

It takes a village

This is her daughter’s discussion of that oft-quoted and rarely-attributed concept:

“One of the ideas my mother got from Samoa,” she says, when asked about the concepts that shaped her childhood, “was that the way people were connected to each other was primarily based on kinship. That meant that children had a place in many households and a lot of adults were involved in the life of every child. So in raising me, my mother very deliberately created an extended family. I spent time in many households and learned different attitudes toward the world, and the rules were different. Her approach is reflected in an African proverb which is often quoted in the United States: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ My mother created a village for me to grow up with, and it was the existence of that village that allowed her to pursue her career and come and go and feel that I was not abandoned.”

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Posted in Writing


Book Review: Letter from the Field–Part I

18 Sep

margaret meadMargaret Meade was born in 1901, a time when a woman’s place wasn’t doing field research in island jungles. That didn’t matter to her a wit when she went to Samoa at the age of twenty-three to study the life of the residents. Turned out, she had an excellent eye for decoding what she saw. Plus, she could write–not in the stodgy scientific way of most researchers, but with words people understood. She made them care about these far-away lives by relating their lives to emotions every person understands–love, hate, dreams, joy, child caring. Here are words you’ve heard, probably didn’t know they came from Margaret Mead:

It takes a village.

The primitive tribe who inspired these words likely no longer exists, but the power of the emotion rings true even today.

Her time in Samoa resulted in the first of forty immensely popular books on how human beings get along in groups–cultural anthropology. Her subjects were mostly preliterate, non-Western civilizations, and chock full of brilliance, empathy, common sense–traits ascribed usually to modern, civilized peoples, not those who wear loin clothes and live in huts.

I discovered Margaret Mead because I wanted to understand how mankind arrived at our current evolved state of culture (religious, art-lovers, decorating our bodies, problem-solvers able to ignore instinct in favor of cognitive decisions–traits that set us apart from every other living species). I’d emptied my local library of books by the obvious experts–Donald Johanson and the famous Lucy


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Posted in Writing


9/11… We Remember

11 Sep

America, we love you.


5 Top Ways to Integrate Technology into the New School Year

08 Sep

I was reading an article–Five Real Reasons Why Teachers Don’t Use Technology More–from eSchool News listing the reasons why teachers don’t use technology. Included were some that probably resonate with educators at your school–Portrait of Asian secretary sitting at desk

  • it keeps changing so how do you decide what to choose
  • too much to do, too little time
  • teachers are pulled in too many directions
  • unreliable technology
  • no respect for the teacher’s voice in this tech ed process

I was nodding, thinking of people the reasons fit perfectly–and then I noticed: The article was written in


That’s right–fifteen years ago and nothing’s changed.

Have you been giving the same reasons for fifteen years too, hoping the tech demons will just go away and leave you to teach in peace? Every June, do you say, I got through another year without this or that tech tool–and everything went well.

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A Day in the Life of a Tech Teacher

04 Sep

teacher-359311_640I love summer. I sit at home, reading, researching, chatting with friends. I make my own schedule, own my own time, start and finish a project without interruptions.

That is a massive high to me.

Why? I’m a tech teacher. That is like a teacher+. I teach–yes–but I’m also the first line of defense (sometimes offense) for colleagues as they struggle to use the digital devices populating their classrooms. From the moment I step foot on her home campus, life spins out of my control. Here’s a typical day I have–does it sound familiar:

6:45 arrive

6:47 a student arrives to use lab

6:48 I greet student with a friendly hi and begin work on a lesson plan

6:49 Student asks for help

7:00 Student finishes and leaves; I return to my lesson plan

7:02 Frantic teacher calls–her computer won’t boot up. She came in early to do some work and now what’s she supposed to do can I come right away

7:03 I arrive in teacher classroom to help

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Most Commented Posts

25 Aug

I’m alpeople icons dialog speech bubblesways surprised by which posts inspire readers to comment. Like most writers, I have a small group of devoted fans who I can always count on to remind me I’m not writing to a void. But beyond these wonderful efriends, each post garners a few more responses from people I don’t know. I always drop by their blogs to visit and see what motivates them to be bloggers and writers. Sometimes, they’re artists, poets, good Samaritans, and/or just plain ordinary people who have reached out.

I want to share some of my most commented blogs with you. This list is surprisingly different from ‘Most Visited’. I’ll show you the comparison:

Most Commented

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark ImaginationFace people   on Cement wall texture background
  2. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  3. 10 Tips for Picture Book Writers (a guest post from a wonderful efriend and artist)
  4. 8 Tips for Historic Fiction Writers
  5. 10 Tips for Steampunk Writers (this one surprised me. I wrote it based on research and found out what an amazing genre this is)
  6. 6 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Blogging
  7. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  8. #IWSG–Am I a Storyteller?
  9. 14 Tips for Young Adult Writers
  10. 13 Ways to Exorcise Wordiness

Most Visited

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination (tops both lists. That surprised me)
  2. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  3. 35 Weird Traits Your Characters May Have
  4. How to Describe a Landscape
  5. How to Describe Nature
  6. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  7. One-Word Characteristics to Spice Up Your Writing
  8. How to Describe a Person’s Clothing
  9. How To Describe Noses, Mouths, Legs, and more
  10. How to Describe Dogs

I’d love to hear what your most-commented blog post is.

Jacqui Murray is the author of dozens of books (on technology in education) as well as the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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Posted in Writing


My Summer with David Rosenfelt

11 Aug

love dogsI discovered David Rosenfelt, creator of defense attorney Andy Carpenter, love-of-his-life Laurie, supremely persuasive investigator Marcus Clarke, and best-dog-in-the-world Tara (though she’s actually the second-best dog in the world–Rosenfelt hasn’t met my dog) through my Amazon Vine reading. I’d just finished Robert Crais Suspect, about a military dog named Maggie with PTSD who’s handler is killed in Afghanistan. It’s a wrenching story of how this one-man dog, bred to defend her pack, survives her failure and creates a new life. At times, we see man’s world through Maggie’s loyal, unselfish, focused eyes. I wanted more of Maggie, but Crais hasn’t cooperated. When Tara’s story arrived in my email box, I grabbed it.

I read Hounded and bought the other ten. Carpenter is clever, humorous, smart, human (he’s afraid of everything so brings his ex-cop girlfriend for protection). His characters, while typical for a defense attorney story, are uniquely-constructed with traits that are appealing and fascinating (for example, Marcus barely talks, communicates what he must with ‘Yunh’ and ‘Nunh’. Don’t expect long-winded explanations from him).

The plots don’t always revolve around dogs, but they always include Andy’s life with Tara. She’s his confidant–he hashes out cases with her while they take walks. Long walks–an hour or more. He feels she’s a good listener which inspires him to unlock mysteries.

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Posted in Writing


11 Take-aways from Summer PD

07 Aug

summer pdSummer PD 2014 just ended. A couple dozen of us–teachers, library media specialists, tech integrationists, lab teachers–gathered virtually for three weeks to experiment with some of the hottest tech tools available for the classroom–Google Apps, differentiation tools, digital storytelling, visual learning, Twitter, blogs, backchannels, student as digital citizen, and more (30 topics in all). PD was run like a flipped classroom where attendees picked one of two daily topics, then they read. Tested. Experimented. Failed and tried again. Asked questions. They shared with colleagues on discussion boards, blogs, Tweets. Once a week we got together on a Google Hangout (well, two because GHO only allows 10 participants) to share ideas, answer questions, discuss nuances.

The class awarded a Certificate based on effort. Not end product. Here are my takeaways as moderator of this amazing group:

  • They are risk takers. Kept trying long beyond the recommended hour a day in some cases.
  • They were curious. They wanted to get it right, see how it worked.
  • They are life long learners. Some had been teaching for thirty years and still enthusiastically embraced everything from twitter to genius hour.
  • They were problem solvers. I often heard, ‘This will work with my students ‘if I tweak it here, I can solve this problem’.

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Subscribers: Here’s Your August Special

05 Aug

saleEvery month, subscribers to Ask a Tech Teacher get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching.

This month:

Companion Wikis

Free if you own the K-5 tech curriculum

Get 10% off if you want to purchase the membership (coupon code: AUGUSTSPECIAL)

Over 190 videos, spread throughout the school year, starting Week #1 and ending Week #32. One each for each K-5 lesson in the SL Tech Curriculum. Plus: Access to archives from prior years.

Delivery: video

Videos Start: Mid August, 2014 (order now–don’t miss any!)

How to Order: Publisher’s website only