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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3 Problems to Address Before Blogging at Your School

29 Jul

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Molly:

I really enjoyed your article on students blogging. It seems like a great way to get them writing willingly since they love to be online. I was wondering, what are some of the problems you have run into and how did you solve them? What pitfalls can teachers watch out for long-term?

Three big–not necessarily ‘problems’ as much as issues to address:

Digital rights and responsibilities

You don’t want to roll out blogging in your classroom without a sturdy program educating students on digital citizenship–privacy, profiles, footprints, safety, fair use/copyrights. I have lots of information on those topics on my blog. Another good resource is Common Sense Media.

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22 Tips on How to Work Remotely

24 Jul

remote workI first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County 2014. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how I addressed issues of being away from my writing hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…”

I am finally back from three conferences and a busy visit from my son–all of which challenged me to take care of business on the road and on the fly.

Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I first thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher(math, I think) pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).

All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.

Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon at the Word Camp Orange County 2014 where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.

Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or am going to arrange:

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14 Action Items, 5 Take-aways and 3 Tidbits from the TpT Conference

21 Jul

tpt1.6 million teachers buy from Teachers Pay Teachers. Over 90,000,000 people visit the website monthly. If you’re a teacher, why wouldn’t you set up a free seller account (they take a percent of revenue, like Amazon does) and see if all those brainy ed ideas caroming through your brilliant brain will fund your weekly Starbucks bill (or in the case of Deanna Jumper and a growing group of teachers like her, bring in over $1 million dollars to pay a lot more than bills)?

I have a TpT store (Ask a Tech Teacher) so decided to attend the first-ever premium seller’s conference on how to TpT better, smarter, more effectively, while having more fun. I went with a girlfriend–a fellow teacher. Together we made the desert drive from Orange County, California to Las Vegas Nevada, prepared to learn how to make our online stores the best they could be. From beginning to end, every seminar I attended was packed:


Here are my action items and take-aways from this great conference:

How to improve sales

  1. Submit for Seller Spotlight in TpT newsletter
  2. Set up a custom category in tpt
  3. Before publishing, search to be sure the products is not already up there
  4. Use a title that can be found
  5. Link products to other products in my store.
  6. Sponsor resources on the newsletter. I can do this for $50(something like that) which is taken out of my earnings.tpt13
  7. Send a note to followers once a month. Cross post on Twitter and FB.
  8. Have blogging buddies–support each other
  9. Best practices for search optimization
    1. Keep titles simple
    2. Be descriptive not creative
    3. Most users search by subjects and themes
    4. Include key phrases at beginning of description
    5. Promote other products at the bottom of the description
    6. In title, mix subject grade month
    7. You can change title without messing up the links
    8. The message: tracking your sales equates to more sales
  10. Add a terms of use and a copyrights page to each doc
  11. Add a page with related products
  12. Add a page with 10% off on products
  13. Morning work is popular
  14. Add a page with Contact info, social media


  1. June is a slow month. As is July. Good to know since it has been for me. I’ll wait before giving up. August-December statistically have the biggest sales.
  2. They don’t recommend product covers as pins on Pinterest. I should have listened harder on that one
  3. Don’t self-promote! This is a common theme on anything to do with social media
  4. If you make less than $20,000, TpT doesn’t send a W9. Good to know
  5. Everyone there was happy, excited, exhilarated to be a teacher sharing knowledge. The overwhelming attitude: We can do this together

Interesting Tidbits

  1. Average to first sale is 161 days
  2. Education use isn’t necessarily fair use in the eyes of the copyright police You must be a nonprofit ed institution
  3. Ideas cannot be protected by copyrights
And–check out Monica’s review here and the Flutter Girls review (wonderful presentation by these two ladies).
More on tech ed conferences:

5 Must-have tools for Ed Conferences

18 Take-aways from ISTE–Observations, Tips and Great Digital Tools

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.

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Free Posters

17 Jun

Check out some posters I created from my latest workshop. These are great quotes writers can live by.

You may grab them–no worries–just be sure to give credit to WordDreams (my writing blog) or me here at


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D-Day — 1944

06 Jun

Today (6/6/14) marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day, June 6, 1944

Today in 1944 on D-Day, more than 2,700 ships and craft landed troops on Normandy beaches, the largest amphibious landing in history.

Here are some D-Day FAQ’s from the Navy:


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Jacqui Murray is the author of 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 tech columnist for TeachHUB and, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, and freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer.


Happy Memorial Day!

26 May

I’m out back, by the grilling, turning hamburgers, corn, and whatever else can be grilled. Can you smell it? Yum!

I’m taking the day to honor our soldiers. Without their sacrifice, where would we be? Read the rest of this entry »


Lone Survivor Quotes

12 May

Marcus LutrellLeading Petty Officer Marcus Lutrell and four teammates from SEAL Team Four went on a covert operation into the mountains of Afghanistan where they encountered two adult men and a teenage boy. Rather than kill them–and prevent any chance the villagers would betray their presence to the local Taliban–Lutrell opted to let them go.

An hour later, that turned out to be a deadly mistake. The Team was attacked by 150 Taliban. They killed one hundred, but at the cost of every SEAL save Lutrell. He was left injured and far from American rescuers.

Now retired from the SEALs, he is an in-demand motivational speaker. I came across an amazing video of one of his speeches to the National Rifle Association. Not sure you want to invest 13 minutes in the ramblings of an under-dressed ex-Special Forces redneck? Start with these quotes, taken directly from his presentation:

In my short ten year career, I’ve been shot, stabbed, blown up, helicopter crashed, drowned three times, had a stroke underwater, captured by the enemy, and buried 45 of my closest friends

You can’t negotiate with someone who is trying to cut your head off

I was paralyzed from the waist down (he and 3 SEALs had fought off 150 Taliban for hours—he was the Lone Survivor) and I thought, What am I going to do now?

We aren’t heroes out their in the military. We’re just Patriots.

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Posted in Writing


8 Things Writers Can Do No One Else Can

05 May

writerThere are a lot of difficult parts to writing. I mean, besides the whole write-edit-revise-rewrite thing. That cutting a vein and bleeding on the page can get touch-and-go at times. Channeling your muse at times gets someone you’d prefer to avoid. And it’s well documented that trying to make a living as an author is pretty near impossible unless your last name rhymes with ‘Fancy’ or ‘Brawling’.

Despite all that, it’s a profession people flock to, spend thousands training to be, and wouldn’t give up for anything. Widely-accepted studies show 80% of Americans have a book we want to share–despite that industry stats show it takes five years to hone and deliver an acceptable novel. It may–or may not–surprise you to know that pursuing a writing career has less to do with that magical feeling you get turning words into pictures and more to do with what writers get to do that no one else gets to. Here are eight things we can do that no one else gets to:

Create new words

We can–and are expected to–create words to fit a situation. Did you think only politicians, speechwriters, and Merriam Webster could do that? Writers are the original neologists. We get to turn nouns into verbs and the reverse (called ‘nounizing’ and ‘verbizing’). True, with our excellent command of vocabulary, we usually come up with the perfect word, but when we don’t, we create it. The Global Language Monitor reports that a new word is created every 98 minutes. No one will notice if you slip one in. Just the other day, I added the verb ‘Snowdened’ to the lexicon.

Stare at people with impunity

As a writer people watching is studying our craft. We need to know exactly how everyday individuals react to common occurrences, so we watch them eating, reprimanding their children, walking their dogs, talking to the postman, fighting with mates–everything. When doing this, hang a sign around your neck ‘Writer at work’ so everyone understands you aren’t staring, you’re developing your craft.

Be quirky and call it cute

Have you noticed writers often are quirky dressers? In fact, if you see someone dressed like they’re going to play golf, but they aren’t, they may be a writer. We wear hats, bright colors, hair that’s too long for our age, lipstick that’s too loud for our age. Men can hang out with roomful of women if they’re a writer and no one thinks it’s a pick-up line. With writers, quirky are cute.

Choose reading over anything else

The Huffington Post reported that 28% of Americans have not read a book all year. That’s amazing, considering as a writer, it’s part of our skill set. So why don’t people read? As an adult, reading is considered a leisure-time activity. Adults talk about reading as though it’s that finish line of a day they never get to. It’s something they strive for and rarely reach. My reward is to read. I’m going on vacation and planning to read.

Not writers. For us, reading is part of the job. We have to keep up with what others are doing, learn new words, recognize the consequences of flaws, research a topic we are writing about. While others are forced to drink, boy-watch, girl-watch, attend work-related events, we must read. If you love reading, this might be a reason you pick being a writer over, say, becoming a plumber or a politician.

Talk to people who are not there

We’re not talking to No One. We’re talking to our characters. They’re talking to us. We listen and respond. Sometimes, we fight with them, argue, cajole. Sometimes, we’re trying to find out why they did something or what-the-heck their plan is because we have no idea (it would be nice if they’d share it with their writer, but this is more complicated than it sounds).

Talking to individuals others can’t see is in the job description. Get used to it.

Be anyone we want to be

Not quite the same as ‘be all you can be’, but it’s a cousin to that. With a sweep of our pen, we create a whole new world, drop ourselves in as a brains-and-beauty heroine, save the world, or just save a puppy. Doesn’t matter. With words, we can be and do anything we want.

I love that.

Handle rejection

This we do better than anyone has a right to do because we get a lot of practice. Writers finish on average a novel a year (although Russell Blake seems to write one a month, but then, he doesn’t have many rejections to contend with). So every year, we submit to agents who reject us. My goal is one hundred query letters per novel before moving to Plan B. That’s one hundred times I hear No, F*** no, Are you crazy No, Don’t call until I’m dead No, What were you thinking No.There are dozens of ways to say No and I know most of them.

By the time we reach three novels (the suggested number required before new authors can find agents), we can quickly recognize, categorize, and move on with a minimal amount of tears.

I’m sure there are more great reasons to become a writer. What would you add to this list?

More humor about writing:

14 Things Writers Do Before 8am

How to Talk to a Writer

Labor Day Thoughts: Do You Really Want to Try to Earn a Living as a Writer?

Jacqui Murray is the author of 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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Book Review: Building a Midshipman

28 Apr

Building a Midshipman (Building a Midshipman: How to Crack the United States Naval Academy Application) Building a Midshipman

by Jacqui Murray

Available: Amazon

You don’t have to be a miracle-worker to the 10% of applicants accepted to a military academy, but you do need a plan. For the thousands of students who apply every year–and slog through the numbing concatenation of decisions preceding a nomination–there is no greater discouragement than the likely event that they will fail. This, though, is the Board’s peek into an applicant’s moral fiber and an important ingredient to the go/no go decision.

In the words of James Stockdale, USNA ’46 and Medal of Honor Winner: “The test of character is not ‘hanging in there’ when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming.”

This is the true story of Maggie Schmidt, an All-American kid who dreamt of attending the Naval Academy when her research into the typical Midshipman uncovered a profile alarmingly like herself. This book describes her background and academic interests, her focus, as well as her struggle to put together a winning admissions package. Along the way, you gain insight into the moral fiber that grounds everything she does and the decisions she must make that some consider impossible for an adolescent, but are achievable for thousands of like-minded teens. This workbook walks you through the long process, provides check lists of everything required, decision making matrices, goal-setting exercises to determine if USNA is a good fit for you, and a mix of motivation and academic advice to balance a decision that rightfully might be the biggest one most teens have ever made.

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Writing Process Blog Meme

21 Apr

writerMy dear friend (in the real world as well as the virtual), Shari Pratt, nominated me for this writing process blog meme.If you haven’t visited Shari’s blog, she is quite a verbal artist. The mental images she draws with her words are stunning. She doesn’t post a lot, but what she says is so worth listening to.

The rules of this meme require I answer four questions about how I write and nominate three others. I haven’t done one of these in a long time–I’m generally an award-free blog zone–so bear with me as I stumble along.

What am I working on at the moment?

Too much! Here’s a run-down:

  • my primary WIP is To Hunt a Sub. I’m editing it–final edit (yeah right), with a goal of publishing this summer
  • a series of non-fiction books on integrating technology into the classroom
  • summer workshops for teachers and students (two separate workshops)
  • several articles for ezines I write for

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write thrillers, but mine include a lot of tech and science as the plot engine. It’s challenging to simplify for everyone, but provides ample twists and turns I can adopt. I have a few typical characters (a struggling grad student, brilliant undercover cyberwarrior, and a retired SEAL) and an AI named Otto I just love. He’s trying to take over the story. I’ve got control of him pretty well in this book, but the sequel–he breaks out.

That’s my long way of answering your question–my work is different because of this AI character.

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Posted in Writing