As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins…

It’s been a pretty busy week over here, a week filled with a range of emotions consistent with the human experience. The arrival of the autumn of summer has quite a different feeling this year, and that’s GOOD! It’s brimming with hope and promise as more than one chapter has simultaneously ended and started over the past seven days…

Of course, summer’s end is eminent as the calendar pages forward to September and Labor Day weekend. For fellow educators, parents, and children alike, our carefree summer days will soon transition to schedules and classes with pumpkin spice everything replacing lemonade-this and watermelon-that.

I’ve been squeezing every bit of life out of each summer day with special “Auntie Jill” niece and nephew days and having fun at local events such as the Wings of Freedom Tour (6 years strong now for my brother and I!). I’m savoring every minute I can spend with my husband before I return to reality.

But this year, I’m not dreading the return to the grind. Instead, I’m excited and ready to begin a new school year (my 19th year teaching). I hope to inspire my students and my colleagues by doing the best job I can without complaint and negativity. I’m looking forward to see how September’s white pages turn into June’s masterpieces by becoming filled with masterpieces created by my students in the Journalism program.

img_8029On a much larger scale, an 80-year-old chapter ended this week as our home, built in 1949, came crashing down in glorious demolition. Formerly known as “Pop Tittle’s House,” our garage apartment served us well for the twenty years we lived under its roof. We decided late last year build a new home with more living space and fewer stairs at our current location because it has a lot of history and we love our neighborhood. Other residents of “Pop Tittle’s House” (the first owner…now read that right, it’s “le” not “ie”!) included my parents when they first got married, my Uncle, and my mother’s parents, who rented the house from my father’s parents. It was cool to have both sets of grandparents living next door to each other for much of my childhood until they all passed away in the late 1990s, which is when I purchased the home. I freely admit that I shed a few tears as I watched the first drag of the excavator’s claw down the house’s front (my nephews called it “the ultimate claw game”). The tears are proof that the house was, indeed, a home.

Now the home is in pieces at the county dump and the lot is waiting patiently to support a brand-new forever home which should hopefully be completed around this time next year. It’s exciting to think about what it will be like to sit on a porch, and a deck, and be able to do laundry on one floor, and have enough room to actually have a birthday dinner in our very own home! In the meantime, we are staying at my dear Uncle’s home as we finalize his estate and carry out his final wishes. And for those who received the local Nixle message about wires down, our demo guys didn’t do it! Honest!

 

Another chapter that is now beginning anew is my novel, aptly titled Chapter One-A Novel. I’ve finished recrafting and will send to beta-readers and begin querying in early September after I finish my article and editorial assignments for the Fall/Holiday 2019 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to interview some very interesting and inspirational people for the issue, and I’m busy as ever making sure that four guides I am responsible for are accurate. Once my work is complete, and once I’ve made it through the first-week-of-school-hysteria, I’ll be casting Chapter One-A Novel out on a line, and I hope that an agent or a publisher bites!

One of my favorite moments from the past week was celebrating with my high school classmates at our thirtieth reunion, which I helped organize. I absolutely loved seeing everyone, and I think my classmates feel the same.  At least I hope they do. It was a pleasure to organize the night and simply wonderful to laugh along with my friends and classmates, some whom I haven’t seen since we graduated thirty years ago…time is truly the biggest thief of all.

A final moment of reflection as I think about change and chapters ending…we never know when our final chapter will end. Join me in making your remaining chapters filled with laughter and fun and meaningful memories. Not all endings are bad, and not all beginnings are good…and vice versa. What matters is persevering no matter what and being able to smile in the face of adversity. We’re all in this together, and I’ll always have your back, my friend!

If you’re local and looking for something to do this weekend, I’m doing my first-ever reading at Neptune Library, where I’ll join other contributors to the 2019 American Writer’s Review in reading our works aloud from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Saturday. I’d love to see you there!

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins” was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on August 29, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

My Whirlwind Week Of Triple Bs…

I am coming down from one of the most action-packed and fun-filled weeks I’ve ever experienced. I set personal records for daily steps and saw new places close and far while taking in each and every moment in its entirety.

img_6503The first leg of My Whirlwind Week of Triple Bs brought me to Baltimore for three days/two nights with treasured friends. Despite living a little over three hours away, I had never been to Baltimore before. Major fail on my part, because Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was lovely and filled with history. We toured the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, built in 1855 and moved to the Harbor as a museum exhibit in 1988. We spent hours strolling the Harbor, and wouldn’t you know it, we encountered my very good friend James Joyce at the James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant! He always finds a way to show up, most often when I least expect it, to validate that I’m on the right path.

I didn’t know whether or not to believe the exhibits and displays at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium (another place I had never been before…I’m surprised my dad never took us to a Ripley’s, because it was right up his alley!). I laughed when I picked up the ringing pay phone in the ladies room and learned bathroom trivia: Did you know the first bathroom stall is usually the cleanest because it’s rarely used?

img_6618I have a new appreciation for “The Star Spangled Banner” after visiting the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Forgive me for my ignorance of Baltimore’s role in The War of 1812, but hearing how Francis Scott Key penned the anthem after the United States won the Battle of Baltimore moved me. Should you be in the Baltimore area, I highly suggest a visit to Fort McHenry to experience firsthand the importance of the battle and the flag.

No trip to Baltimore would be complete without a visit to Camden Yards, and we got toimg_6674 see the Yankees win their first of three games in the best seats I’ve ever had for a professional baseball game. Camden Yards is an absolutely beautiful ballpark, and if I wasn’t a Yankees fan, I’d have no problem cheering for the Orioles. We ironically ran into two other people from the Home of the Hawks at Birdland and enjoyed some of the best barbeque I’ve ever had at Boog’s.

On the way home we stopped at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. I learned a lot about Ruth the legend and Ruth the person, and my visit made me appreciate his story even more, especially as a Yankees fan. Ruth was a regular person like you and I who had an extraordinary talent for hitting a ball with a wooden bat, but it wasn’t just his talent that made him a legend. He was a pretty neat guy who never forgot where he came from with his off-field exploits overshadowing his charitable work at times, and that’s what makes a legend.

The second leg of my 3B Whirlwind Week? Seeing Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at PNC Bank Arts Center with my husband. I had won two tickets from a local radio station when I was “called ten” back in February (sidenote: I’ve waited my whole life to be caller ten)! Jimmy didn’t disappoint in his long-awaited concert return to Holmdel, and it was just like I was 20 years old again as I danced along with other Parrottheads to his classics, my favorites being “One Particular Harbor,” “Holiday,” and “Son of a Sailor.” Jimmy put on a great show, and I’m so glad I went.

The third B in my 3B Whirlwind Week overwhelmed my emotions more than once. If you really know me, you are aware that I am a pretty big Star Wars fan. I’m not on the level of dressing up or going to conventions (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not for me), but the Star Wars thread has run through my life since I saw the first movie in the theater at six years old. It’s always been there, and I know that when I see Episode 9 in December, I’m going to be an emotional mess, but that story will be written later.

Anyway, when I received a text from a former student (now friend) who works at Walt Disney World in Orlando inviting me to be her guest for the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge cast member preview, I nearly died. Me? Getting a sneak preview of Batuu (the land of Galaxy’s Edge)? Yes, please! I flew down to Orlando Thursday morning and my friend picked me up. We hooked up with another friend (also a former student) and hit the Magic Kingdom first. I stood on line for the Jungle Cruise and was in awe…I’m in Disney! We next went on Space Mountain twice and Peter Pan’s Flight, then it was time to head over to Hollywood Studios for our preview.

img_7066I videotaped as I first walked into Batuu, but I had to stop. I free admit to you that my emotions got the best of me and I had to take a minute for myself. I just couldn’t believe it! I don’t want to give many spoilers away because I want you to experience that same feeling, so I’m not going to go into details about Batuu. What I can say is that, in my opinion, Disney did Batuu right, and except for a short glimpse at times of the Slinky Dog Coaster from Toy Story Land, Batuu’s visitors are completely immersed in the land. Everywhere I looked there were details and details, even in the corners and inside displays. The staff were clearly well-trained with their mannerisms and lingo (for example, you pay with CREDITS, not money). The size of Batuu surprised me because I didn’t think it would be that big. And the Millenium Falcon? PERFECT! It’s the REAL THING, inside and out! We rode the Falcon ride five img_7038times, and it is an amazing experience. Except for December’s opening of The Rise of the Rebellion ride, Batuu is open for business! We enjoyed our Blue Milk and had a blast in Oga’s Cantina. The worst part? Having to leave at 9:00 PM. You don’t have to have any Star Wars knowledge to visit Batuu, so if you have the chance but are hesitant because you aren’t a Star Wars aficionado like me, GO. You will enjoy yourself. I am still in awe about my Batuu opportunity and will be forever grateful to my friend for inviting me to accompany her.

I stayed at my friends, and on Friday, we went to Animal Kingdom to ride Avatar: Flight of Passage in Pandora. Again, no spoilers, but if you ask me, “Is it worth the three-hour wait to ride Pandora?” my answer is an emphatic: YES. It is. After you ride it, I believe you’ll agree with me. It’s not just a ride, it’s an undescribable exhilarating experience. Trust me when I say to add Avatar: Flight of Passage to your bucket list. After Avatar, it was time to head home then return to Orlando International Airport for my flight home.

For those who are into steps, here are my numbers: Baltimore Day 1: 14,172 steps/5.7 miles; Baltimore Day 2: 13,463 steps/5.4 miles; Baltimore Day 3/Buffett: 7,052 steps, 2.8 miles; Disney Day 1: 21,361 steps/8.6 miles; Disney Day 2: 8,737 steps/3.5 miles. Total steps Sun-Fri: 64,785; Total miles Sun-Fri: 26 miles (isn’t that a marathon?).

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My Whirlwind Week of Triple Bs Represented in Pins I Purchased for My Collection.

Believe me when I say my legs told me how much I walked with the radiating electricity-type pain at the end of each day. However, the pain and its hangover into this week are both worth it. My desire to live and to experience moments like these in their entirety is stronger than my pain. I said YES to life without hesitation or any reservations, and the pain validates that I am, indeed, alive.

When life presents you with similar opportunities, I hope that you say YES, too.

I’m forever grateful for the experiences, the memories, the laughs, and the company I enjoyed during my Whirlwind Week Of Triple Bs.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

img_4287With gratitude,

Jill

 

 

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“My Whirlwind Week with 3Bs…” was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on August 14, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

 

 

Status Update for “Chapter One-A Novel”

cropped-triskeleA few friends have asked me lately what’s going on with the novel I’ve been working on for four years now and counting.

My answer is: A LOT!

My keyboard has been working almost three hours every day as I re-craft Chapter One-A Novel‘s entire story with my fifth major revision/overhaul, which is, by far, the most complicated revision task to date.

I had a massive existential crisis teeming with frustration when my heart realized C1 needed and deserved both a completely different point-of-view and a much stronger voice.

Melt-down?

Yes.

Crying?

Absolutely.

Walking away?

Thought about it, but not a chance.

I’ve learned through the workshops and conferences I’ve attended that revising (sometimes five to ten times) is all part of the process. With the insight, suggestions, and encouragement from fellow writers and teachers, I can finally see the light, no pun intended, as I re-craft C1 with the reader as the focus.

And as sung by the immortal James, Brown, I feel good. I know that sounds hackneyed and trite, but I do.

I’m more confident and sure about my writing and can’t wait to see where it takes me. I never would have trusted my voice had it not been for the wonderful support I received from my Yale colleagues and know that the universe sent me there to learn from not only the best but from like-minded fellow storytellers. I’m also lucky to have close friends who provide me with honest feedback and the inspiration I need to keep moving forward.

The development and re-crafting of both Kelly Lynch’s story and her strong yet funny voice has taken even me by surprise, and I’m more in love with my main character now than ever, who is NOT me, by the way.

I expect to resume querying agents and publishers with a completed manuscript in early September, and will be looking for some beta readers once I am finished. Please let me know if you are interested!

img_6414In other news, I am pleased to announce that I will join other contributors to the 2019 American Writers Review and read my published poems on August 31 in Neptune, New Jersey. It’s the first time I will take part in a public reading of my published works, so I’m pretty excited about achieving this milestone.

We’re finally settled in our temporary home and I don’t have to box or unpack anything for a while. In between writing and moving, I attended both the summer Teacher Ambassador Workshop for ProjectWriteNow and a board meeting for the Garden State Scholastic Press Association last week. I’ve enjoyed becoming acclimated to my new neighborhood and to laughing and making memories with my nieces and nephews. I’ve got some side project going on too, including creating an updated writing portfolio with all of my published newspaper and magazine pieces from the mid-1990s which surfaced in the attic purge from my soon-to-be demolished former abode.

I intend to enjoy each August day, especially next week when I am traveling to Baltimore with a treasured friend, seeing Jimmy Buffett with tickets I won (I waited 48 years to be “Caller 10!”), and a super-secret, surreptitious 36-hour trip to the south…more to come about that soon!

I wish you an awesome August and a splendid rest of the summer. Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill OconeThis entry was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on August 1, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

The Treasures of Kid-hood

My husband and I are moving, and we’ve got two more days until we have to be out of our house. It’s hot, he’s sick, and my muscles are screaming as they sporadically stiffen and cramp up.

Those who have moved know just how much the process of boxing up your life SUCKS, and when you’ve got an attic like mine, it SUCKS times INFINITY.

My attic has been a catch-all for an almost half-century of life that wouldn’t fit within four ten-by-ten rooms over the last 20+ years. In fact, every classroom I’ve ever taught in has been bigger than the living space of my house, which is one of the many reasons a backhoe will work overtime later this summer to demolish the house as we begin a new chapter.

But, the attic…

Or should I say, the Post-Apocalypse of 2019….

What a nightmare.

I like to save things. I like little toys. I like scrapbooks. And I like to write.

As such, I knew there were four or five boxes and my old footlocker full of such relics I had to rescue from the attic’s abyss. I also knew those boxes and footlocker were buried deep from throwing things up there that we just didn’t have room for with such a small living space, or things we wanted to hold on to “just in case.” Year after year, I intended to attack the attack during my summer off, but the attic was so far gone and the task was too daunting because I didn’t know where to start.

So I didn’t start at all.

Smart move on my part.

Since the spring, I’ve made small progress with packing here and there, but with the timer ticking double-time towards the “have to be out” day, I now had no choice but to fire up the fan and ascend the stairs into hot, steamy hell to do battle.

Ascending into hell…shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Anyway, yesterday was the second full day of my onslaught as I fought my way through boxes of outdated kitchen tools and old college syllabi and bags of clothes labeled as “too small but I might fit in them again someday.” Who was I kidding, holding onto that pipe dream?

Anyway, I dug deep into the mountain formed by life, and a few hours later…pay dirt!

My memory boxes and footlocker.

I precariously carried each one down the rickety, pull-down stairs while a steady stream of sweat dripped from my forehead like a faucet.

I intended to put everything right into the “this goes to the storage unit” pile and continue my assault on hell upstairs.

However, if I was a cat, I’d be dead right now from curiosity.

The packing tape from one of the late 1980s Tops paper boxes had lost its stick, probably eons ago, and the corner of the box was open just enough for me to glimpse a small part of a red tote bag with a rainbow on it.

I remembered that rainbow bag. I got it in 4th grade from the local Hallmark store. And I also knew what was inside it.

img_5980I slowly opened the cardboard flaps, removed the rainbow bag, and took out five binders of stickers.

And I mean STICKERS!!!!

Hundreds of scratch-and-sniff that collectively lost their scents, Pac-Man stickers that lost their stick and flew out all over the place, prism and puffy stickers, Garbage Pail, Shirt Tales, and Lisa Frank stickers … you name it, even issues of the failed magazine aptly called Stickers.

My heart’s desire to see more overpowered my mind’s common sense to obey the ticking clock. I img_5981removed the scrapbook under the rainbow bag and slowly opened its now-cracked and partially disintegrated cover. Inside was my kid-dom: letters from pen-pals and cousins written during the late 1970s, invitations to classmates’ birthday parties (which I took pictures of and shared with them on social media), an old newspaper clipping of neighborhood friends playing with a hose on a warm, summer day in 1980, boarding passes from an Eastern Airlines flight to Tampa with two unused child Key tickets from Walt Disney World.

[Sidebar: It’s fitting that I’m listening to the Sirius-XM Yacht Rock channel as I write this, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan just segued to “Cool Change” by Little River Band.]

I carefully turned the aged page to reveal a momentous page from my life, pun intended: the concert tickets and program to my first concert EVER.

Hold on to your hat, friend…

The Date: August 18, 1979

The Venue: Garden State Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ (now known as PNC Bank Arts Center)

The Artist: SHAUN CASSIDY

img_5944This was a time when CHiPs and The Love Boat were my favorite television shows and stars like Shaun Cassidy, Scott Baio, and Leif Garrett graced the covers of Tiger Beat magazine.

And I loved Shaun Cassidy, I think because he used my name in his remake of “Da Doo Ron Ron” instead of Bill.

Before the concert, my mother took me out to dinner at the Old Mill Inn, my choice. After seeing an advertisement for the restaurant in the local newspaper (yes, I read the newspaper just about every day once I could read), my 8-year-old self thought the Old Mill Inn the perfect place for dinner before a swanky, grown-up concert.  At the concert itself, I listened to each song and politely clapped my hands after each one while sitting in my seat. Screaming teenage girls surrounded me, and my mom told me I could stand and scream too if I wanted.

I didn’t want to. Instead, I sat and applauded because the idea of standing and screaming made me uncomfortable.

Why?

I don’t know, but I probably would do the same thing today. I’m accepting input from armchair therapists on that one, so feel free to send along your diagnosis.

img_5983I took a quick look through the remaining boxes and my footlocker. My husband peeked in and laughed at the little toys, the stickers, the momentos, the ticket stubs and programs, the pictures, and the notebooks because these are things I still find joy in keeping, just like I did so long ago.

Nope, I haven’t changed that much at all.

With time NOT on my side, our looming “out date” forced me to abandon sorting the treasure trove of my kid-dom, my teenage-dom, my college-dom, and then some. The retro New Order, WHTG 106.3 FM, and local surf shop stickers slapped on my footlocker in the summer of 1989 alone are worth more than gold, and I can’t wait to see what else I find from the roadmap that made me who I am today.

What’s a trinket from your past you hold dear? I’d love to know in the comments.

Forgive me, but I must answer the loudly roaring battle call from the attic for round three, and time is a-ticking…

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone. This was posted on July 12, 2019. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

A Quarter-of-a-Century Ago, in a Society Far, Far Away…

5864ea4c7d90850fc3ce29efToday marks the 25th anniversary of Forrest Gump’s release.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s been 25 years since we were first introduced to Forrest Gump, Mama Gump, Lieutenant Dan Taylor, Benjamin Buford Blue, Jenny Curran Gump, and little Forrest.

There was another 25th anniversary recently, on June 17 to be precise. This one involved a well-known low-speed police chase of a white Ford Bronco containing two former NFL players along various Los Angeles freeways after arrest warrants of varying degrees were issued for both occupants.

If you were alive, chances are you can remember like I can where you were as the chase unfolded on that warm, early-summer evening. I also remember seeing Forrest Gump in the movie theater on its opening weekend. I was moved to tears several times that night as I became engrossed in the story of a simple man who lived a big life and did the best with, as his mother said, what God gave him

Both Forrest Gump and that Bronco chase became two of the biggest pop-culture moments of the mid-1990s, each event in its own right creating thousands of trivia questions, but let’s put it into perspective for a minute, shall we?

Twenty-five years is a quarter-of-a-century, and since 1994…

  • We’ve witnessed the advancement of cell phones go from having to carry a miniature suitcase in order to make a call to phones that fit in the palm of your hand that can also trade stocks, order food, book a trip, hail a ride, play games, and alert you about a traffic snarl while making a call.
  • We’ve witnessed the evolution of what we watch transform from VHS to DVD to digital format, and today, we can instantaneously binge-watch anything we want on demand.
  • We’ve witnessed almost 3,000 innocent people lost, thousands upon thousands of families devastated, and two iconic towers destroyed by evil and hatred, and the coming together of a nation in response.
  • We’ve witnessed, since, the further division of a nation split by opposition and discord with no room for compromise or coexistence as opinions become more and more finite, the concept of truth replaced by whatever those who scream the loudest are screaming.
  • We’ve witnessed shaming and judgment replace compassion and empathy, disrespect replace respect, and entitlement replace accountability.
  • We’ve witnessed texting replace conversation and social media posts replace framed photographs.
  • We’ve witnessed facts explained as falsehoods and falsehoods defended as facts.
  • We’ve become more connected to strangers while simultaneously becoming more disconnected to those closest to us.

I could go on…

To circle back to this post’s point, I recall with extreme clarity both where I was standing when I was glued to the television witnessing that white Ford Bronco weave along the California interstates, and how I felt the first time I viewed that white feather floating along the breeze as Forrest sat, hopeful and content, in a Savannah square.

It doesn’t seem like 25 years have gone by since either happened, and THIS is what scares the hell out of me:

If the last 25 years went by in the blink of an eye, there’s no doubt that the 25 years that lie in front of me will, too.

25 years from right now, I will be 73 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with turning 73…I know many people who wish they could have made it to 73, and I will be psyched if I make it to 73 and beyond.

My point is this: Time just moves so freaking fast. I’ve written about this before, I know, and my intention is not to belabor the point. However, this particular example of the 25-year anniversary theory punched me hard right in my gut and made the phenomenon of speeding time all the more real for me.

To quote my very good friend Forrest Gump, I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But, I, I think maybe it’s both.

Regardless if I have a destiny or if I’m floatin’ around like on a breeze, I cannot control what happens in society but I can take control of my future. There are a lot of miles to cover on the freeway that lies ahead of me and I look forward to many rest stops filled with meaningful, wonderful, and memorable moments.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Please note that I wrote this entry on July 6, 2019 but didn’t post until July 7, 2019.

Still SEAking, and Still Reflecting

Dear Friend,

In the months since I’ve been “retired” from posting at my personal blog titled SoulSEAker, my heart has felt its loss. It’s true that I found my voice and my purpose, which was the mission of SoulSEAker, but what I didn’t expect is the hole its absence would leave in my soul. I miss posting about life and what-not, although to quote Samantha Baker from Sixteen Candles, “Life is not what-not, and it’s none of your business.”

I have come out of retirement and will resume posting on SoulSEAker with (hopeful) regularity like I used to back when I established it, and I plan to cross-post here as well. Writing is therapeutic and nourishing for me, and I assume there are others who might feel the same as I do. Perhaps my words will nourish them. Perhaps my voice will provide them with some much-needed hope and therapy.

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I include a picture from my 2016 trip to Dublin to accompany today’s post. Demolition on the former Tara Towers Hotel was completed last month. The Tara Towers Hotel played a huge role in my mission from the universe which led me to find myself. Its demolition coincides with both completely re-crafting draft seven of my novel titled Chapter One – A Novel, and with re-launching SoulSEAKER. Just as the owners of the former Tara Towers Hotel set their sights on building a brand-new, state-of-the-art and architecturally savvy hotel on the site, I am focused on re-crafting both my novel and SoulSEAKER to make each as appealing to my readers as possible.

Tara Towers serves as a visual reminder that it’s okay to tear it down and rebuild because its lessons and its influence will always be a part of my foundation. I’m grateful for the role Tara Towers had in my journey, for I would not be who I am today without it. Might sound silly to be grateful for a building, but to me, it’s so much more than that. And because I can see it as more than a dated hotel that needed a facelift, that’s what makes me unabashedly me.

I’m glad to be back at SoulSEAKER, and I’m glad you are with me for the ride. Thanks, friend.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone. This post originally appeared on both the SoulSEAker blog (www.soulseaker.com) and the personal blog of Jill Ocone (www.jillocone.com) on July 3, 2019. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Maldron Hotels. All rights reserved.

Published in 2019 American Writers Review!

img_5527I am pleased to share that three of my poems appear in the 2019 American Writers Review, a multi-genre literary journal published by San Fedele Press and now available on Amazon in both book and Kindle format. 

The titles of my published poems are “The Sidewinder,” “Futility,” and “Cycle.”

It’s an honor for my poems to appear alongside the work of so many other wonderful writers from around the world.

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Digesting the Goodness

521c8921-b020-4a92-ae9c-89830ae4d8c2I sit here enjoying the silence, exhausted yet satisfied, after spending four intense days at the Yale Writers’ Workshop at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Had to insert a nod to one of my favorite songs from my own college experience, which did not end on a good note.

This experience, however, DID, on so many levels.

It’s true that everyone has their own shit going on, and most of us are orchestrated every day by a ridiculously rigid schedule, including me. My schedule from April leading up to the workshop was so slammed full, I couldn’t even fit a thin pencil line between events and responsibilities. Other writing events and conferences, editorial assignments, school-related tasks including yearbook distribution and end-of-year procedures, writing, family obligations, homework for my Yale workshop, and a never-ending list of chores related to moving and taking care of my uncle’s estate has stretched me thinner than a rubber band pulled back to its maximum length right before it breaks. I’m mystified that even though I came close to snapping a few times, I’m still in one piece like that rubber band.

As is true with my fellow sufferers of imposter syndrome, I did not think my writing was of the “Yale Writers’ Workshop” caliber. However, I literally had this quote appear in my social media feed right above an ad for the Yale Writers’ Workshop:

 

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

With Hanson’s words resonating in my mind, I took a chance and applied despite my feelings of inferiority, believing I’d fail.

However, I realized it was time for me to fly as I wept tears of joy when I read my acceptance email on April 2.

I then cried for a different reason as I faced the truth I’d have to venture out of my comfort zone by driving on roads that frightened me to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

I promised myself that when it was time to go to Yale, I’d focus solely on the workshop and put all other distractions out of the way, including my feeds, my calendar, and whatever was scribbled on my to-do lists, both real and perpetual.

And I did just that, minus a few Instagram posts…hell, when I see a USPS mailbox decorated like R2D2, I must share!

59c71cb2-50ce-4535-a10f-7f59866ab7fcI’m humbled to have sat in the presence of twelve other phenomenal writers in my workshop titled “The First Ten Pages,” including my teacher, “Marlena” author Julie Buntin. Everyone was kind, enthusiastic, and inspiring as we spent four intense days workshopping the first ten pages of each other’s manuscripts, as well as hearing from speakers Steve Almond, Betsy Lerner, and Chaya Bhuvaneswar. I gained new friends, new insight, and new ideas to re-craft Chapter One-A Novel to make it the best it can be for the reader. I see it, and my intuition knows it is right. My vision will become a reality. I’m looking forward to reading the revised drafts written by my fellow attendees.

And, good news! I successfully navigated the way to and from New Haven surprisingly without any fear! I can do it!

I’m also still absorbing the wonderful advice I acquired from presentations by Neil Gaiman, Amy Tan, and Colum McCann at the third annual Rutgers Writers’ Conference held the first weekend of June.

As I finish out the school year and digest the feedback about my novel, the first steps of Chapter One-A Novel’s re-crafting will begin tomorrow.

I plan to engage more with readers on my blog and to building a better platform over the summer while working on some other side projects.

I’m finally flying…man, my spirit guide would be so proud of me.

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey!

With gratitude, 

Jill

 

Riding the Writing Wave of Inspiration

It’s been quite a writing roller coaster over the past month, replete with inspiration and learning as much as I can from some wonderful authors.

Author Tim O’Brien speaks at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center at Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ

First up: I attended a local event featuring Tim O’Brien, award-winning author of “The Things They Carried” with a dear friend. His approximately 90-minute long presentation featured anecdotes from both his days as a soldier in Vietnam and from his more recent days as a father. He read a few passages from his forthcoming book titled “Dad’s Maybe Book” which is due to be released later this year. After his presentation, Mr. O’Brien graciously stayed for autographs. A few weeks ago, while surveying my late uncle’s bookshelf, I spotted a copy of “The Things They Carried” on his bookshelf. Now, my uncle was not a reader, but he did serve in Vietnam. My eyes welled up with tears when I saw the book, and that’s the copy I brought for Mr. O’Brien to sign. When I handed him the book, he looked at my Uncle’s picture taken in Vietnam and said, “Another one. Did he come home?” I told him yes, he did, but that he recently passed away. Mr. O’Brien gave me his condolences, and I will cherish my signed copy of his work because it belonged to my hero.

My uncle’s copy, forever a keepsake and an inspiration.
March 31, 2019

One of my favorite writing events of the year is the Writing on the River retreat that’s organized by ProjectWriteNow in Red Bank. I’m a teacher ambassador for PWN and the event is not just for the teacher in me, but also the writer in me. Jennifer, Colleen, and Lisa work very hard to make the day special for all attendees, including writing exercises and time to cultivate our own creativity. It’s refreshing and renewing to talk to other educators who either teach writing or write themselves like me, and I left the retreat with new friends and new writing ideas.

Author Paul Lisicky at the William Paterson Spring Writer’s Conference.

I also attended the Spring Writers Conference at William Paterson University last weekend, which gave me the opportunity to learn from writers Paul Lisicky, Nathan Alling Long, and David Burkowski. I left with great strategies for writing that I aim to put into practice, and with a new appreciation and interest in flash fiction. Lisicky is a master at using detail and flowing his words together in a way that makes it sound almost songlike. His work will inspire me to improve my use of detail.

And now, for the big news…As the result of being guided by the universe, I applied to the 2019 Yale Writers Workshop on a whim, which will be held in June. I had to supply a writing sample as a part of my application, so I chose the first two chapters of “Chapter One-A Novel.” It should come as no surprise that I freely admit that I suffer from “imposter syndrome,” so I never in a gazillion years expected to be accepted.

It’s real!

But I was.

After reading the congratulatory email, I was stunned and overjoyed, and yes, I’ll admit that I cried.

I’m going to YALE in June for a four-day long intensive workshop, and I am simply over the moon about it. I keep thinking of that phrase that goes something along the lines of “what if I fail? But darling, what if you fly?” or something like that. I applied thinking I was going to fail by not being accepted.

But I was.

What if I, indeed, fly?

I dream of someday being in a position where I will be able to sign my books for readers and fellow writers like O’Brien, Lisicky, and Alling Long signed for me over the past month.

I used to think it was a pipe dream, but maybe, just maybe, it might come true someday.

Spring Forward, Setback

Keep on, keeping on, that’s what I’m doing tonight as I suck it up after receiving a rejection today for a creative nonfiction piece I submitted for publication consideration last month. I am extremely proud of the piece and had such a good vibe about it being accepted, but I was dead wrong. While I have received many a rejection, this particular one hit me in my gut despite its positive message and encouraging sentiments.

Surfboard with "Surf On"

Such is the life of a writer, I know, but, man…I really thought the piece was going to be accepted.

I’m not giving up, and if this piece and/or my novel titled “Chapter One-A Novel” are meant to be published, I’m confident that the universe will lead me to the right opportunity for each.

And if not, no worries…I spring forward into researching and writing about the history of wave riders here at home in New Jersey and surf on over this setback.

Surf on!