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Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 217

15 Minute Tweet TalesI mentioned last week that I was working on an entry for the James Patterson Co-writing Competition. Well, the deadline is today! *hyperventilates* A Tuesday on a 22nd seems like a random day for a deadline, but I think it’s because it’s JP’s birthday. Happy Birthday, James! Anyway, I’ve been grinding away at my entry all week, and I just submitted it a few minutes ago. 
I’m definitely nervous, but thanks to my awesome CPs and family members - who graciously read and offered amazing feedback on several revisions - I think my entry is as polished as I can make it. So fingers crossed!
Even better is that working on this submission has gotten me pumped about this story idea again. I wrote the VERY rough draft during NaNo back in 2008 (yikes!!), but I haven’t done anything with it since then. But I’m super excited about the new ideas I’ve had for the story, and I’m ready to get cracking on revising the rest of it (they only needed one chapter for the JP contest). I haven’t been this eager to write in quite a while, so I consider this a VERY good thing no matter the outcome of the contest.
And now for this week’s 15 Minute Tweet Tales word: 
brontide - a sound like that of distant thunder, some of which may have seismic origins.
3/22 - Brontide rumbles to the west. Dad thinks earthquake. Mom says a storm is coming. She's right. Soldiers march in and take no prisoners.
Play along and write a tweet tale for the above word. If you’re willing to share, post it on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add it below in the comments because I’d love to read your tales. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tale or #15tt word?

It Was Fun While It Lasted

Claiming that the news I received a few weeks ago sent me into a grief cycle is beyond melodramatic, so let’s just say I went through a modified version of the stages of grief. And now that I’ve worked my way through to the end, I’m ready to share. Come along with me on my journey:
On the evening of Sunday, January 17th, I sent my editor at MTV an email telling him my article about Winnie-the-Pooh was ready for him to post on Monday. I got an automatic reply stating January 14th was his last day at MTV News. Uhhhhh … WHAT?!?!
Since he hadn’t given me a heads up, I figured that meant it was sudden, which suggested he was fired. So again – WHAT?!? And not to be selfish, but what did this mean for me? With the editor who hired me gone, did that mean I was done, too? Surely they would just transfer me to another editor, right? But why hadn’t anyone contacted me to let me know I should report to someone new?
Besides my editor, I only had one other contact at MTV – the weekend editor who had posted some of my YALLFest articles for me. So I sent him an email asking 1. If he could post my Pooh article for me, and 2. What the heck was going on? He immediately responded and apologized for the confusion, and gave me the contact info of a senior editor to inquire about my freelance status. So I sent the senior editor an email asking for clarification. Unfortunately, there was no immediate response from this guy, so I just sat staring at my inbox, having a mini-heart attack each time my notification dinged. 
A few hours later, I got a message from my editor’s personal email account saying that MTV had essentially dismantled the entertainment team and let everyone go. Again I said WHAT?!?! but this time I added THE F*CK?!?!?!? to the end of it. In all the terrible scenarios I had come up with in my head, I never imagined the whole department had been decimated. 
Then denial kicked in. Well, the department had only ‘essentially’ been dismantled. The weekend editor and the senior editor were still there. The site was still posting articles. My editor did not specifically say I was one of the ones let go. And freelancers are much cheaper than full-time employees, so maybe I would still have a job. I’d just wait until I heard from the senior editor. So I waited and waited and waited for what I was totally sure was going to be good news.
By Tuesday evening, I still hadn’t heard a word from the senior editor. Since timesheets were due on Wednesday, and I needed an editor to approve mine, I sent the senior editor my timesheet, along with another inquiry about my status. I also mentioned how much I enjoyed writing for MTV. I told him I had an interview ready to publish with NYT Bestselling author Beth Revis and award-winning Cristin Terrill (read the fun interview here), and that I had an interview scheduled for Friday morning with Scarlett Johansson’s sister Vanessa about Vanessa directing Scarlett in an Alice in Wonderland audiobook. Basically, I was trying to convince him to keep me on, and I honestly considered telling him I would write for free just so I could continue having exposure on the MTV site. But I stopped myself before I completely threw away my pride. 
Then I waited. And waited. And waited. No response. So I ended up very embarrassedly cancelling the interview with Vanessa. I was super disappointed because 1. It would have been fun to find out more about the making of audiobooks, and 2. I would have been two degrees of separation from Scarlett freakin’ Johansson!! As my sister pointed out, that probably meant Scarlett would have read an article I’d written because it would be about both her and her sister. Gah!!!
And then I continued to wait for a response. I didn’t want to be a pain by emailing again, so I just stewed. Then payday came. 
And I didn’t get paid. 
Now I was furious. It was bad enough to ignore my requests for clarification about my status, and to blow off questions about what I should do with my interviews in progress, but to not pay me for the work I had already done?!?  Flames! Flames on the side of my face! I imagined doing lots of unwise things via email and social media, but I didn’t want to burn any bridges. So I did a lot of ranting at the air like a crazy person, and I took a lot of deep breaths. A whole heck of a lot of deep breaths. 
Then I emailed the very nice weekend editor and gave him a quick rundown of my situation, and he was super sweet and told me he’d take care of the timesheet issue right away. Fortunately, I did get paid on the next payday, so I didn’t have to pull out my big guns. Actually, I don’t have any big guns, so I’m super grateful to the weekend editor guy for taking care of the issue so quickly.
Even though I still haven’t gotten an official confirmation that my freelancing gig at MTV is over, I assume being ignored by a senior editor is a pretty good indication I no longer have a job there. So then the sadness kicked in. While I didn’t cry, I did take to my bed to sulk. I was really, really bummed. This was SUCH a perfect job for me. I got to write fun, fluffy articles about the things I love: books, movies, and TV. I got to pitch the ideas I wanted to write about. I got work on my own schedule (night owls for the win!). While it wasn’t much, I got paid for writing, which was a HUGE deal for me. I was making great contacts in the YA world. Yeah, I was definitely a sad, sad panda thinking I’d never again find a job as perfect as this one for me.
Acceptance and Hope
Finally, I got tired of wallowing in my dejection and started looking for the silver lining. As much as I enjoyed writing those silly articles, I had completely neglected my personal writing. I hadn’t written or revised a single word on any of my novels or screenplays since I started, so now I’d have time to write for me. And even though my stint at MTV was brief, it would look awesome on my resume. 
And since I’ve kind of been bitten by the freelancing bug, I’ve been looking at other outlets. I won’t pursue any of them until I make some progress on my current WIP novel, but it’s nice to know there are other options out there. 
I’m still not sure what went down at MTV, or why they decided to change things. And while I was bummed for myself, I feel really terrible for the full-time folks who were let go, especially my editor. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Books, TV, and Movies verticals, since those were the three I wrote for. For three weeks, they didn’t post a single article in the Books vertical, which gave me a perverse sense of satisfaction that my Pooh article was the last one posted. But then this week they did post a few, especially with the news of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child coming out. As for TV and Movies, they’ve still been posting there, but only a few per day, when it used to be several per hour. And most of the articles are of the newsy/gossipy type, so my guess is that they are fully embracing the ‘news’ aspect of the MTV News website and abandoning the other types of articles. But that’s pure speculation on my part.
If you want to catch up on any of my articles, this link lists all of them. 
Although the MTV ride was a short one, it certainly was a fun one – from those first giddy days of applying for and getting the job, to seeing my first article published on such a huge platform, to getting to meet one of my idols at YALLFest. I’m very grateful for the experience, and while I’m sad it’s over, I have learned so much, and I hope it leads to even bigger and better things. 

The Writer's Voice Contest Entry

I was lucky enough to be randomly selected as one of the entries for The Writer's Voice contest, so I’m interrupting my regular blogging schedule to add my entry. Thank you to Krista Van Dolzer, Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Elizabeth Briggs, and their assistants for hosting such a fun contest! Here’s my entry:
Dear Writer's Voice Judges,
When sixteen-year-old Brea stumbles upon a body in the woods, she can’t wait to tell the entire school – heck, the entire town – about her gruesome discovery. This time she has proof to back up one of her stories, so they can’t dismiss it as her overactive imagination. One problem: when she leads the police back to the body, it’s gone.
Now Brea’s reputation is completely destroyed, and the police refuse to believe there’s a killer on the loose. That’s okay, she’s watched a few CSI episodes, she'll just solve the murder herself. Decked out in yellow kitchen gloves, she searches the woods and finds evidence implicating Ryker, a classmate fresh out of juvie. The bad news? He now seems to be stalking her. Brea needs a way to investigate him with witnesses present, so she schemes to get him on her team for the annual video scavenger hunt.
Soon Brea, Ryker, and three other friends are performing cringeworthy tasks like modeling lingerie and juggling hemorrhoid cream. Despite her mission to expose a murderer, Brea starts to enjoy herself. After all, who would have guessed Ryker would look so adorable in a negligee? But when Brea and a teammate are almost killed, she realizes the murderer is using the hunt as a pretext to take out the entire team. With no idea who to trust, Brea must look past her embellished view of reality to uncover the truth that will save them all. 
THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF is a 77,000-word young adult mystery with series potential. The twists and turns pay homage to early Christopher Pike, while Brea's witty narration would make her fast friends with Veronica Mars.
THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF won the SCBWI 2013 Work-in-Progress Grant for Contemporary Novel for Young People. I am also one of the winners of the 2009 Highlights Fiction Contest and a 2008 South Carolina Fiction Project winner. Also, two of my screenplays won generous grants to produce them into award-winning short films. I’m also the Interview Coordinator for Adventures in YA Publishing, which has been a Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past three years.
Thank you for your time,
Jocelyn Rish
A white towel was a terrible outfit for trying to outrun a homicidal maniac. Although I had to admit, the woman racing through the dark forest made it look easy.
Until she tripped and crashed to the ground.
I leaned forward on the couch. “Get up! Get up!”
Instead of scrambling to her feet, she cowered in the leaves.
“Come on.” My fingers dug into the worn leather cushion. “At least grab a tree branch to defend yourself.”
But she only whimpered, “No, please, no,” while the killer stood over her adjusting his grip on the machete. Like begging was going to change his mind.
His blade whistled through the air. Thwack! Blood spurted. I grimaced and flopped back against my favorite seat in the house.
Something cold and wet touched my hand.
I yelped before my brain remembered the psycho couldn’t crawl through the TV screen to attack me. I glared at Maximus, my seventy-pound Frankenstein mutt taking up more than his fair share of the couch. “Holy crap, Max, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
He chuffed in a way that sounded suspiciously like a yes and nosed my hand again.
“Really? You have to go out just when the movie’s getting exciting?”
Max blinked like he’d never do something so obnoxious. Then he barked at me.
I sighed, but before I could push myself off the couch, Max’s giant German Shepherd ears swiveled toward a sound that sent my heart into Riverdance mode: footsteps on the stairs.

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 168

This was a weird week for my 15 Minute Tweet Tales. After I posted last week, I left for a writing retreat where there was no internet. So before I took off, I selected the #15tt words for the rest of the week and scheduled them to tweet each day; however, I didn’t actually write any advance tales because I ran out of time. So I ended up writing them all today, which was interesting. I got into a groove and definitely wrote them faster than usual, but I feel like they were pretty blah. Or maybe I just used up all my creative juices during the retreat.
Our Sisukas critique group met at my family’s lake house, and we had a delightful time. Here we are - Kami Kinard, Rebecca Petruck, me, and Kathleen Fox doing our best at snapping a selfie:
Sisukas at Lake
We spent time offering feedback on rough drafts, brainstorming new ideas, talking writing and publishing in general, eating, chatting, and occasionally actually writing. We also adopted one of the neighbor dogs for the day. Buster Brown was a big, goofy ball of love that kept us smiling.
Buster Brown
There was even a rainbow one afternoon, so that has to be good sign for our current projects, right?
Rainbow at Lake Retreat
And now here are my quickly cobbled-together tales:
4/8 – Everyone raves about his haute cuisine, but, suspicious, she digs through the trash and finds packaging for a microwave meal. Blackmail!
4/9 - Wanting to make sure everyone knows he's a busy man, the boss begins all pep talks in medias res. They just think he's a crappy boss.
4/10 - I smirk when she trips on stage. After the hell she inflicted on us during practices, it's karma that she's the one who ruins the show.
4/11 - The pain her ex caused is overwhelming, and she knows the only way to achieve lex talionis is to rip his heart out. With hedge clippers.
15 Minute Tweet Tales4/12 – With feathers in her hair and birds perched on her shoulders, people call her the raven maven - the crows speak their truth through her.
4/13 - The salesman grins when one of the nouveau riche walk in the dealership: just drop some names of old-money buyers and the sale is done.
4/14 - Her purse is an omnium-gatherum of items she thinks are essential. She never uses most, so their only function is weighing down shoulder.
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales or #15tt words?

YALLFest and Writing Friends

I can’t believe it’s already been a week since the start of my long Weekend of Writerly Wonderfulness – time really does fly when you’re having fun!
YALLFest was this past Saturday, and my critique group the Sisukas (Kathleen Fox, Rebecca Petruck, and Debra Rook) decided to turn the weekend into a writing retreat. We rented a house from Friday to Tuesday so we could cocoon in and concentrate on writing and giving feedback on our current projects.
Sisukas YALLFest Retreat 2013
The weekend kicked off on Friday night with a pre-YALLFest dinner with the Sisukas and other writer friends who were in town for YALLFest. It was an evening of great food and even better company, giving me the chance to catch up with old writer friends (Jillian Utley and Laura Moss) and to meet new ones (Jamie Hoffman and Jasmine Warga). It was so fun I hope to make it an annual pre-YALLFest tradition!
Bright and early Saturday morning was the actual big event. And when I say big, I mean BIG. First of all, check out the list of 50 kidlit authors on the panels, many of them New York Times Bestsellers – impressive. Then the turnout was huge this year – so big I wasn’t able to find writer friends in the crowd like I have done in the past. This is an awesome thing to see for Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston, and the YA writing/reading community. 
It’s both intimidating and inspiring to attend YALLFest. On the one hand, when I see the authors up on stage, they are so poised, clever, and funny that I don’t think I could ever be like them. But then they share stories of how they struggle with characters or setting or getting their butts in the chair, and I see that it’s hard work for them, too, which makes it all seem more attainable. I really appreciate all of them sharing their insight and wisdom.
A huge thanks to Jonathan Sanchez, Margaret Stohl, and all the others who worked so hard to put together this incredible festival that brings together so many readers and writers. Also, I did a guest post on Kami Kinard’s blog with some of the comments that resonated with me, so click here for more scoop from this year’s YALLFest
With my head and heart stuffed full of awesome YALLFest inspiration, it was time to get down to the working part of the weekend. We interspersed writing and critiquing, and I was super nervous waiting for my feedback. This was the first time that the rewrite I recently finished was getting comments from other writers, plus I really respect not only the writing talent of these ladies but also their knowledge of the business side of publishing and the YA audience, so my stomach was in knots when it was my turn.
Fortunately it went great! Not only great in that they really liked it and think it’s pretty close to query ready, but also in that they had great suggestions for some tweaks to strengthen it. I’m still waiting for feedback from a few other beta readers, plus I’m focusing on NaNo for the rest of November, but my plan is make changes in December to be ready to query in January. New Year’s Resolution indeed!
There was also a lot of writing accomplished during the retreat – all of us were hard at work on projects at various stages. Mine was my NaNo novel, which is off to a rocky start, but at least it’s now finally started!
Then to cap off everything, I had lunch with Martina Boone on Tuesday. I met Martina through her blog, and she was also in town for YALLFest and for some other book-related projects. Although slightly concerned about being murdered by a stranger I met on the internet (hooray for overactive imaginations!), I was delighted to discover that Martina is just as lovely in person as she is online. YALLFest is an awesome event in and of itself, but I think I love it most for giving me the chance to socialize in person with writing friends.
It really was a wonderful weekend of writing activities. Writing is hard work. Really hard work. But as we sat around at meals brainstorming, I watched people’s good ideas turn into great ones, and when I closed my eyes and listened to clicking keyboards as friends created worlds and characters as we wrote in front of the fireplace, well, in those moments it felt a little less like work and a lot more like magic.
Were you able to make it to YALLFest? What were your favorite parts? Do you find that writing retreats inspire you? Aren’t writing friends the best?!?
You can read about the first two YALLFests here and here.
Also check out the interviews I hosted with YALLFest authors:
Cinda Williams Chima                       Lauren Oliver
CJ Lyons                                          Sean Williams
Rainbow Rowell                                Ransom Riggs
Veronica Rossi                                  Kami Garcia
Melissa de la Cruz                             Shannon Hale
Lisi Harrison                                     Michelle Hodkin
Lisa McMann                                    Jocelyn Davies


For those of you who regularly read my blog, you know I’ve been struggling to finish a major rewrite of my novel for almost two years. It’s been a tough road for a lot of reasons, but they mostly boil down to a serious procrastination problem coupled with a major fear of failure. But after yet another all-nighter, I am relieved and giddy to share that as of 11:03am this morning, my rewrite is done! Done-ditty done done DONE!
But as excited as I am to have finally pushed through that last wall, I’m also very nervous. While I know it’s not perfect, I’m hoping this was the last major rewrite (at least until I land an agent and publishing deal!). I’ve sent it off to my critique partners with equal parts hope and dread, my fingers crossed that the issues they find only need minor tweaking to fix and not a complete rebuild like I did for this last go round.  
While I wait for their feedback, I’m going to reward myself by attacking my TBR pile, especially books by YALLFest authors. I’ll probably also dive into Netflix to watch some odd indie movies. And of course there will be wine and chocolate.
I saw this on Facebook the other day and loved it:
Editing Face
Because, yeah. My face has spent some major time in that expression over the last few months. I’m just grateful the expression ‘your face will freeze that way’ isn’t actually based in fact because that’s not a great look on me.
Anyway, thank you to everyone who has given me encouragement and cheered me on, whether here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or even face-to-face. It kept me going even when it seemed like this rewrite was some Sisyphean task that would never be done. Now I’m off for a quick happy dance before collapsing into a nap. 
How do you celebrate finishing a major rewrite? How do you keep occupied while waiting for feedback?

Flash Competition + Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 88

NYC MidnightThis weekend I participated in the NYC Madness Flash Fiction Challenge, where you have 48 hours to write a 1000 word short story for an assigned genre/location/object. My group got ghost story/a coffee shop/a light bulb. At first I was super excited because ghost story is right up my alley – the one time I was assigned the ‘open’ genre, I actually wrote a ghost story (which eventually became my short film High Heels & Hoodoo). 
But as soon as I started brainstorming ideas, my enthusiasm waned – everything felt so cliché or like it was going to be the same as everyone else’s story. I mean, that light bulb was going to be flickering in all of them, right? And it was either going to be a barista serving a customer who was actually a ghost or a customer being served by a barista who was actually a ghost. Eventually I came up with something I hoped at least started the story in a slightly original way and was also a fun kind of meta (the protagonist had to submit a short story for a competition’s midnight deadline, but her internet went down, so she was parked outside a coffee shop for wifi).
By the double halfway point (500 words in at 11:30pm Saturday night), I finally admitted I hated my story with the heat of a thousand suns. It was stupid and, worse, boring. I briefly attempted to fix it by rewriting it in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, but soon realized unless the judges got what I was doing, they were just going to think I was a terrible writer (so many adverbs, adjectives, and repeated words!). 
As I was pulling out my hair in writerly despair, a new idea revolving around format popped into my desperate brain. I was intrigued but wasn’t sure I could make it work. I spent the next hour thinking and pondering (it might have looked like I was napping, but I was working, I swear) until I had a plan, and then I was off! By 5:30am, I had a rough draft. I finally grabbed some zzz’s and then spent Sunday afternoon rewriting it several times. I managed to turn it in five minutes before the midnight deadline on Sunday night. Whew!
It’s not one of my finer efforts, but it’s not the shame-inducing mess of words that was my first attempt. The big format risk is that the entire thing is an online chat, with a few tweets thrown in at the end. So if the judges don’t spend time hanging out online, they might not understand what I was doing, and I’ll be completely screwed. Plus, since it all happens online, they might decide I didn’t meet the coffee shop location requirement. We’ll see, but regardless, it was fun to stretch myself with something new.
Here's my title and synopsis: A Spirited Chat - Kerri meets an exciting guy online, but he might be seeking more than she's willing to give.
15 Minute Tweet TalesAnd now for my awkward segue… NYC Midnight is the group that originally introduced me to twitter fiction, so here are my 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the week:
9/18 - She wants to play Dad's favorite song at his funeral. When the palinoia makes her fingers bleed, she's ready - she slips him the cyanide.
9/19 - At fist day roll call, she sighs at a name. Had his four hellion brothers, so it's ineluctable he'd be in her class. He hurls a spitball.
9/20 - Dr. More's wife had a jugal jut that caused people to call her exotic. Accurate, since he created her in a lab by splicing cat and human.
9/21 - Never one for birthdays, he celebrates his 38th with a perfervid energy that baffles his friends. Six months later cancer claims him.
9/22 - While the crepuscular lighting in the room is appropriately symbolic, Jane wants to feel the sun on her face when it's her turn to die.
9/23 - She recites his evil acts seriatim. Tied up, defiant, he says, "If you'd been this focused on housework, U wouldn't have needed discipline."
9/24 - Since his cube-mate has been hurt before, he plans a proreption to win her heart. But she thinks he's gay and starts dating Stan from HR.
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales or #15tt words?

#writemotivation Wrap-up


Well, I'm not sure how it happened, but August has now come and gone. My friends have all posted their kids' back-to-school pictures, the light outside has taken on that golden autumn hue, and my TV is bombarding me with commercials for the new fall shows. Since August is over, that means another #writemotivation month is now finished, and it also means my wrap-up is already five days late.
My only goal for the month was to FINALLY finish my WIP. Unfortunately, I didn't quite make it. When the month started, I thought it was mostly small-time stuff left: tweaking awkward phrasing, fixing logic issues, cleaning up sloppiness. Turns out I vastly underestimated the ripple effect of the major changes I made when I completely rewrote the first half. But even though I wasn't expecting it, it's not a bad thing. I've been layering in the deeper characterizations I established in the first half, and it's been pretty awesome watching the back half improve right before my eyes.
And while I didn't finish, with the push from #writemotivation, I rewrote more in August than I typically manage at my usual glacial pace. And if I can maintain the new pace, I should be completely done in two weeks. Whoo hoo! I didn’t officially sign up for #writemotivation for September, but I’ll be with everyone in spirit.
I will confess that I blew off the last three days of August. Instead of pushing toward my goal line, I left my computer at home for a family Labor Day weekend at the lake. The weather was perfect for swimming and we had lots of yummy food. And if nothing else, it was completely worth it for this picture:
Crazy Chloe
You know that in her head, Chloe thinks she looks like this:

It's All in the Timing

But to everyone else, she looks like this: 

great white breach

And for the next two weeks, I'm going to look like ferocious Chloe as I attack my goal and finally finish this rewrite!

Now I don’t want to end with everyone thinking Chloe is scary, so here’s a picture of her being her usual sweet self:

Chloe Kiss
Or maybe she’s just giving me a taste test before chomping off my face.
How did your goals go for August? What are your new goals for September? Chloe: graceful lady or scary beast? 
#writemotivation image courtesy of Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Water Chloe image courtesy of Joanna Rish
Hair flip image courtesy of Andy Beal
Shark image courtesy of Mike Davison
Kissing Chloe image courtesy of Joanna Rish

Jumping Back on the #writemotivation Train

#writemotivationI was around for the early days of #writemotivation and met so many wonderful people through it, but I eventually drifted away because of my own failings. Month after month I set the same goal: finish rewriting my WIP. And then month after month I spent more time making excuses about why I wasn’t getting it done than, you know, actually doing it. 
Here were all these kind and generous people cheering me on and instead of employing some self-discipline, I was constantly distracted by new and shiny things. It made me feel guilty that they were wasting their enthusiasm on me, so I slunk away like a coward so I wouldn’t have to ‘look them in the eyes’ and admit that procrastination was getting the better of me. 
But I’m back!!!!
In that time away, I’ve actually made some really solid progress on my WIP. It’s been super slow, but I’m really happy with the changes I’ve made to my novel. This week I passed the halfway point, and even though it’s taken me almost a year to reach it, I’m going to be super bold and make just one goal for this month:
Really and truly, no take backs this time, finally finish the rewrite of The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf.
Considering my progress up until now, that might seem a bit crazy, but I have two reasons I think I can really push myself this August.
1. The first half was the part that really needed help, as in ‘completely sliced and diced it and wrote a bunch of new chapters from scratch’ help. The second half only needs some tweaking and tightening, so the going should be much faster. 
2. If you didn’t see my announcement last week, I just won the SCBWI WIP grant for contemporary novel (Whoo hoo! And, yes, I will be looking for a way to fit that exciting news into all my posts for the rest of the year!). This is the type of honor that can open doors, but only if I’m ready to walk through them, and unfortunately I’m still standing on the sidewalk. So I have more drive than ever to finish the rewrite ASAP so I don’t miss any potential opportunities. 
It’s going to be a tough month for me as I force my nose to the grindstone even when the TV or video games or twitter or my doggies beckon me. But it feels different this time – I really believe I can do it. And I’m looking forward to cheering everyone on knowing we’re all on this crazy ride together.
Are you participating in #writemotivation this time? Have you participated in the past? What methods do you use to keep your butt in the chair when distractions call your name?
Also, I’m giving away a signed copy of Megan Shepherd’s gothic thriller The Madman’s Daughter, so make sure to enter here.
Image courtesy of Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Phone Calls Good, Emails Bad

During the first part of this year, I entered a bunch of contests covering the different types of storytelling I enjoy: film festivals, a script competition, short story contests, and various programs based on the first chapter of my novel. In some strange convergence of cosmic coincidence, all those contests notified their entrants this past week. Email after email landed in my inbox: We’re sorry to inform you, but . . . . It got to the point where I was doing a Pavlovian cringe each time my email dinged with a new message, dreading the next rejection.
But in the middle of all that, I got a phone call. An amazing phone call. The best phone call of my writing life to date. Possibly the best phone call of my life period (although some of those calls from boys in high school were pretty darn exciting).
It was SCBWI calling to tell me I’d won their Work-In-Progress Grant for Contemporary Novel for Young People.
Now that’s a mouthful to say, so let me break it down for you: SQUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!
Ahem, what I actually meant to say is that SCBWI stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and every year they award a number of grants to help writers and illustrators complete a specific project in order ‘to encourage continuing excellence in the creation of children’s literature.’ And based on the first chapter and synopsis of my WIP, they picked my novel!! It’s currently called The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf, although its previous title was The Hunt.
I couldn’t believe it. I think I asked versions of “Are you serious?” and “Are you kidding me?” at least four times before it finally sunk in. And then this happened:
Kristen Bell's reaction to a sloth
I turned into a ridiculously happy, sobbing mess. I’m not even sure what happened during the rest of the phone call. Immediately afterwards I tried to tell my parents, but I was crying so hard they thought someone had died.
Pretty quickly, though, the tears turned into this:
Kermit the Frog flailing
It’s been over a week since I found out, and I still have to restrain myself from running around the house flailing my arms when I think about it. I couldn’t share the news publically until the official announcement from SCBWI, but it’s now officially official: click here to see that I didn’t imagine it.
I’m actually relieved to see it in black and white – a part of me was worried it was a fever dream or a trick of my overactive imagination brought on by too many rejections. Another thing that made it feel amazingly real? The check arriving in the mail:
Jocelyn with check from SCBWI
I can’t thank SCBWI enough for organizing such fantastic grant program – huge cheers to everyone involved. And I’m so grateful to the judges who saw promise in my project and selected me. It’s been a wonderful boost to my writing confidence at a point when I really needed it. Also, I’m sending giant-crushing-thank-you hugs to everyone who has advised and supported me through the endless honing, revising, and tweaking of my first chapter – it made all the difference. Thank you!
And now I’m off to plan my Caribbean vacation. I’m kidding! Maybe.