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The Sparkle Experiment: A Novel

Photo of the manuscript for The Sparkle Experiment by Mary K. Hawley

Maggie Dixon has been feeling drab and invisible for some time. Is it because she's miserable working for a micro-managing, social-climbing boss at a Chicago foundation? Or because she's a divorced mom raising a moody teenager? Is her recent fiftieth birthday to blame? Whatever the reason, Maggie is ready for a change. On the first day of a summer vacation in Cambridge, England, she dares herself to "sparkle": to be more spontaneous, to have conversations with strangers, to push herself out into the world instead of hiding under a dull but comfortable rock.


Maggie's inner makeover empowers her to accept a secret mission for the foundation while she's in England: vetting two candidates for an arts fellowship. The catch: she can't let them know they're candidates, or that she works for the foundation. Her mission puts her in the path of Simon Wells, a British composer. Romance blooms between them, but the secretive nature of Maggie's task means that she has to fib a little ... actually a lot. When her lies unravel, Simon backs off in anger and confusion. The new, dazzling Maggie got herself into this mess—can she sparkle her way out of it?


I wrote the first draft of The Sparkle Experiment during regular visits to Cambridge, where my daughter was living. Writing the novel gave me the perfect excuse to wander around the city and surrounding countryside on foot, on bikes, on buses, and floating in punts, and—like Maggie Dixon, my protagonist—to strike up conversations with strangers.  


An earlier version of The Sparkle Experiment won the Wisconsin RWA 2015 Silver Quill Award in the category of women's fiction. I'm currently seeking representation for the novel.