Jo Watson Hackl is the author of Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe, which won the Southern Book Prize and is a Publisher’s Weekly bestseller. A first-generation college graduate, Jo has shared with over 17,000 students the story of how writing helped her earn scholarships to attend both college and Yale Law School. Her goal is to use the book to equip students with practical tools to take their writing to the next level, to inspire students about the power of writing to transform their lives, and to help them increase skills that promote grit and resiliency. Jo also believes in the power of exposure to natural elements to support learning. She founded and offers free educator presentations about incorporating nature into the school day to schools she visits. In lieu of an honorarium for author presentations, Jo requests that children in need selected by the host organization receive free copies of the book and she autographs each book with a personal note of encouragement. Working with experienced educators, she and her team have developed the free resources below, available at

    • A “Building Grit Kit” to help students increase empathy and promote grit, resiliency, and social and emotional learning;
    • A Writing and Revision Toolkit;
    • An Educator’s Guide and additional lesson plans;
    • A book trailer for readers and a series of “Woods Time Adventures” to encourage engagement with the natural world, available on Jo’s YouTube channel:;
    • An Activity Guide with activities that can be performed in classroom, home, and community settings;
    • An interactive map with links to the real places that inspired parts of the book;
    • A “hidden objects” search featuring items from the clue trail in the book;
    • Book Club discussion questions & Book Club menu featuring book-inspired recipes;
    • A series of “Cricket Challenges” for readers to extend their reading experience into the real world;
    • Bookmarks with fun, free things to do outdoors and ways to make reading more fun; and
    • An interactive clue trail that readers can solve using things that they learned from the book;

Readers who solve the clue trail receive a printable clue solvers badge.

Jo is looking for motivated, responsible students who are passionate about education, skilled in social marketing, and interested in helping to support her mission.  Students selected for editorial positions will gain skills in writing, editing, marketing and communications.  Jo is currently accepting applications for student editors in the following areas:

Editorial Assistant:

  • Candidate requirements:
    • GPA of 3.0 or higher. Please supply major and course of study in application.
    • Interest and enthusiasm about writing; science background is a plus
    • Writing experience.
  • Candidate Expectations:
  • Assist in researching and editing a draft novel that combines outdoor adventure and a STEM-focused clue trail
  • Note: All ideas and editorial suggestions must be original content; candidate must agree to keep all manuscript details strictly confidential.

Educational Assistant Expectations:

  • Candidate requirements:
    • GPA of 3.0 or higher. Please supply major and course of study in application.
    • Interest and enthusiasm about education
    • Course study in an education-related field
    • Interest in creating resources for students
  • Candidate Expectations:
    • Work regularly (at least weekly) to develop additional free resources for students including:
      • Classroom activities and/or lesson plans using Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe as a springboard for educational content
      • Fun, creative ways to use Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe in the classroom
    • Help grow the audience for Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by reaching out to educational colleagues who can benefit from free resource.
    • Note: All material must be original content or written permission must be obtained from the content creator prior to use. Contributor must sign an agreement giving Ms. Hackl permission to publish the work.

Communications Assistant Expectations:

  • Candidate requirements:
    • GPA of 3.0 or higher. Please supply major and course of study in application
    • Interest and enthusiasm about supporting literacy and building the audience for Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe.
    • Successful completion of marketing and/or communications coursework
  • Proficiency in social media; Experience with WordPress a plus
    • Experience writing and editing (communications, marketing, public relations and photography experience a plus)
  • Candidate Expectations:
    • Help build subscriber list of educators, parents, families, individuals, and organizations for free resources
    • Brainstorm on content ideas, editing original articles and preparing original photographs for posting on website and social media
    • Brainstorm on ways to increase the reach and impact of Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe through media outlets and other institutions and send ideas to Ms. Hackl
    • Offer comments on web design and assist in maximizing its usefulness to readers
    • Help draft press releases and maintain list of media outlets and educational organizations who could benefit from free resources
    • Introduce Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe to audiences and educators who could benefit from its content
    • Note: All material must be original content or written permission must be obtained from the content creator prior to use by Ms. Hackl.
  • Students receive a byline for all contributed materials Ms. Hackl is an experienced reference writer and will be pleased to write a reference letter upon the successful completion of internship.

To apply, please send a cover letter and recent transcript to Jo Hackl at

Jo Watson Hackl is a writer and a corporate attorney with Wyche P.A., whose attorneys have worked to protect over 100,000 acres of land.

Ms. Hackl is a first-generation college graduate and received her B.A. from Millsaps College and a J.D. from Yale Law School. She is a Liberty Fellow, an Aspen Global Leadership Fellow, and a Riley Fellow. She is past President of the Greenville County SC Bar Association, the Greenville Professional Women’s Forum and the Emrys Foundation. She is Past Chair of the Greenville Area Development Corporation and the Community Foundation. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the South Carolina ETV Foundation, Camperdown Academy, South Carolina Research Authority, and the Greenville Center for Creative Arts. She is a Founding Mentor of the Greenville, SC NEXT MIT Venture Mentoring Service, which provides free mentoring for entrepreneurs. She also serves as a mentor for the PULSE Pace Setters Program for young professionals and for Yale Law School students. Her middle grade novel, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe, (Random House Children’s Books/Yearling Adventure) was awarded the Southern Book Prize and Ms. Hackl was named the “Children’s Literature 2020 Author of the Year” by the Mississippi Library Association. Her book takes readers on an adventure with 12-year-old Cricket through an overgrown half-wild and history-haunted ghost town in Electric City, Mississippi, to solve a thirty-year-old clue trail in search of a secret room that may or may not exist, all to try to win back Cricket’s run-away mother. Cricket must use her wits and just a smidgen of luck to live off the land in a Mississippi winter and work to solve an increasingly baffling clue trail left by an eccentric artist with a logic all his own. Maybe, just maybe, with the help of a poetry-loving dog, she can do it.

Ms. Hackl has presented to over 18,000 students, educators, and other professionals. She is a frequent conference presenter on how to use time in nature to reduce stress, recharge, and become more productive. She offers free presentations to schools she visits as an author on how to incorporate nature into the school day.

Ms. Hackl is also an experienced reference writer and has helped mentees get into graduate school, land new jobs and promotions, and obtain funding for their start-up ventures.

Written by trinah