Back to the Drawing Board

cropped-triskeleJuly 5, 2018

Dear friends,

After a long period of soul-searching and reflection filled with tears and apprehension, I have decided that Chapter One-A Novel needs a major overhaul. As such, my manuscript is currently in revision and will not be available. Should you have received a copy, please delete/destroy it as all versions that existed prior to July 5, 2018 will no longer be correct. I am also withdrawing all queries and submissions effective today.

I had to make a choice: either give up and walk away, or to coin a phrase from my childhood, I needed a “do over.”

I chose a “do over” because I am not a quitter. I will not give in to the rejection-dejection demons who have been chattering in my brain as I’ve invested too much to walk away. Kelly’s story deserves to be told, and I accept the challenge of making it more dimensional and interesting while simultaneously making it less personal.

I will announce when the new and improved Chapter One-A Novel is available to peruse.

My eternal gratitude for your understanding and continued support.

Thank you,

Jill Ocone

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It’s Bloomsday!

img_6305It’s June 16, and that can only mean one thing: It’s BLOOMSDAY!

Over the course of my journey as a writer, Bloomsday has become a poignant anniversary of sorts for me. It’s a special day to joyfully embrace the writer I am and the path I’ve traveled to get here, both literally and figuratively.

I lost a very special friend and colleague named Tara in December of 2013, which was followed by the unexpected passing of both my father and my father-in-law in 2014. Suffice it to say that it was an extremely dark time for me, a time when I could not see the light no matter how hard I tried to find it.

What I did see in the crowd on Grafton Street in Dublin in August of 2014 for a fleeting second, though, was a quick glimpse of shining red hair the same hue as Tara’s framing a face that was her twin.

I caught a glimpse of that hair and that face’s profile twice more in the Dublin crowd that day, and my neck was nearly wrenched from double-takes and fast glimpses.

The proverbial seed which changed my life for the better, was planted.

Tara was of Irish descent and with James Joyce as her favorite author, she wanted to travel to Dublin. I’ll never forget when she told me she someday hoped to see the sights he wrote about when we were standing in her classroom with the sun shining through the windows behind her.

It made complete sense to me that I observed her likeness in Dublin’s crowd on that fateful day. The fact I was still able to connect with her was calmly reassuring.

Fast forward to about a year later when Tara’s spirit made it clear that she still had work to do here on Earth.

I began to notice a lot of serendipitous signs after having an extremely vivid dream which provided a very weak blueprint of a story idea.  Tara was undoubtedly at the helm of the universe scattering those bread crumbs and everything was coming up Dublin.

I mean a whole over TEN PAGES of signs in my log.

So I went to Dublin.

Again.

I didn’t know why I was there or what I was supposed to do or see or feel. I planned my Dublin itinerary around James Joyce locations and worked in a trip to the Hill of Tara for obvious reasons. I looked through Tara’s eyes and walked in the footsteps she so wanted to walk in but never had the chance.

Suffice it to say my heart and my soul knew that, for the first time in my life, I was on the right path. I believed in the journey placed before me even though I didn’t know where it was leading me.

I found myself in Dublin again a year later. This trip was marked by a second visit to the James Joyce Tower in Sandycove. Forgive me for the lack of details, but my encounter at the top of the tower needs to stay between me, Tara, and the universe. That visit, though, ultimately changed my life for the better.

It’s now 2018, and I finished writing a book earlier this year.

Seriously.

I freaking wrote a book! Its backbone is very loosely based upon this extraordinary journey, but as I wrote, the characters and story took on its own plot, themes, symbols, and impact. It’s called Chapter One-A Novel, but I’m pretty sure you already know that.

Tara is obviously a huge inspiration, but what I didn’t expect is for James Joyce to also play such an inspirational role. Every time I looked upon a Joycean artifact or walked in his or his characters Leopold Bloom’s and Stephen Dedalus’ footsteps, I tried to do so while looking through Tara’s eyes, never expecting to be so deeply inspired. I found beauty in the mundane details of life and learned that the present moment is, indeed, everything.

Those lessons didn’t stay in Dublin. They are with me every day, no matter where my feet might be touching ground.

Joyce wrote in chaos. Joyce wrote stories that his soul needed to tell. I’ll admit that it was quite difficult to comprehend everything going on in his books, especially Ulysses, and that I had to reread his works a lot to fully grasp them.

Joyce’s examples and creations taught me, most importantly, who I am.

Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses takes place on one day: June 16, 1904. He specifically chose that day for Leopold Bloom to wander around Dublin because he met his future bride, Nora Barnacle, in Dublin on June 16, 1904, outside of Finn’s Hotel (which still stands).

Bloomsday is celebrated by Joycean fans every year on June 16. Someday, I hope to be in Dublin to take part in its true reverie by celebrating with other Joycean revelers.

For now, I celebrate BLOOMSDAY here at the Jersey Shore because if it wasn’t for Tara leading me to James Joyce, I would not be penning this post.

I would not have written my first novel.

I would not be a writer.

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The James Joyce Statue on Earl Street by The Spire (and she’ll toast him too I’m sure!)

That’s why I celebrate BLOOMSDAY.

Today I’ll toast Tara with gratitude for our friendship that transcends the boundaries of our individual worlds.

Today I’ll toast James Joyce and his tremendously unexpected inspiration.

Today I’ll toast them both for leading me to ME.

I trust the journey, I shut my eyes and see, and here I am.

Happy Bloomsday, friends!

I’m Energized and Inspired

img_6101That’s exactly how I feel, energized and inspired. I attended the second annual Rutgers Writers’ Conference on June 2-3, 2018, and its euphoric aura still surrounds me.

The conference began with keynote speaker Alice Hoffman. Both her keynote speech and her session about creating a book of linked short stories were inspirational and motivating. She was real. She was down to earth and shared a lot of information and advice for both novice and experienced writers alike. Some of my favorite takeaways from Alice Hoffman:

  • “I write stories for people, especially women, who cannot tell their own stories.”
  • “Sometimes you’ve got to write a book on pure instinct.”
  • No one can write the way you do. You have a single voice influenced by your experience, especially from reading as a child.
  • Your voice is your voice just like your fingerprint is your fingerprint.
  • The fear of the blank page is huge.
  • If you set a deadline for yourself you can do it. We can make ourselves write by setting our own deadlines, even when life gets in the way.
  • When you write a story, you are weaving or knitting the tale together: it’s the PROCESS of making the sweater, not the sweater. “I’m trying to weave straw into gold.”

I was so excited to learn from Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, aka The Book Doctors, again. I attended their two sessions titled Perfecting Your Pitch and How to Get Published Today and came away with a wealth of wonderful information. During lunch, they held Pitchapalooza, and I was actually one of the twenty people selected! After I delivered my pitch (which I revised with suggestions they both made after my May Pitchapalooza pitch), I was overwhelmed by their positive reactions. Both remembered me and said my pitch this time around had immensely improved. While I wasn’t the winner, I am proud that I was confident while I delivered the best pitch possible. Both David and Arielle are role models and I hope to one day emulate their success and their ease at speaking to large groups.

Another writer I learned a lot from was Sunday’s keynote speaker, Chris Bohjalian. I don’t want to go into detail yet, but the two sessions he led were sprinkled with many breadcrumbs and serendipitous signs, one of which has developed into a book idea whose seeds were planted along my journey two years ago. Chris mentioned the right terms and, more importantly, I realized he mentioned those words. His influence goes beyond his message, and I am quite excited about the possibility of this book idea actually becoming a reality now that Chapter One-A Novel is complete.

Fate led me to sit at the right table and I made new friends with other writers who I have much in common with. I enjoyed the time I spent talking with and supporting these fellow writers because it’s not that often I find people who are a part of my tribe.

img_6085The Rutgers Writers’ Conference was a fabulous event. When I filled out my feedback form, I couldn’t list one way the conference could improve next year because, in my eyes, it was absolutely perfect. I look forward to attending the conference next year. Save the date if you’d like to join me! June 1-2, 2019.

I Loved Pitchapalooza!

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That’s me! I’m pitching Chapter One-A Novel in public for the first time.

I reached a milestone yesterday, and that was pitching Chapter One-A Novel in person for the very first time. Booktowne, a wonderful, independent bookstore in Manasquan, sponsored Pitchapalooza. The panel featured The Book Doctors Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry and local author Patricia Perry Donovan, a previous Pitchapalooza winner.

Pitchapalooza is like an American Idol for writers. In order to qualify, authors had to purchase The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Eckstut and Sterry from Booktowne. All of the eligible author names were put into a basket. When an author’s name was randomly pulled, he/she had a minute to pitch their book. And yes, authors are cut off at the minute mark whether they are finished or not. Arielle, David, and Patricia would then critique the pitch, noting strengths while suggesting ways the author could improve. At the end of the evening, one author was selected as the winner, who would be introduced to an agent or publisher who is appropriate for his/her book.

I worked hard on my pitch for Chapter One-A Novel...it’s quite difficult to sum up over 90,000 words in about 150, which is roughly a minute. When I picked up my copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, I immediately read the section on “Perfecting Your Pitch.” On the day of Pitchapalooza, I got my pitch down to 58.5 seconds and practiced it several times.

When my name was called, I didn’t run or freak out at all. I confidently read my pitch for Chapter One-A Novel, which was over before I knew it. Patricia, Arielle, and David gave me excellent suggestions to improve my pitch, and I left feeling inspired and reassured about my writing.

It was very interesting to see the range of topics and genres that fellow authors proudly pitched to the panel, which included memoir, young adult, fantasy, children’s books, teaching memoir, and fictional novels like my Chapter One.

The winner was Gerry Gribbon. His pitch for a book that focuses on communication skills for graduates was outstanding. As an educator, I can say with first-hand knowledge that Gribbon’s book is much needed. Congratulations, Gerry! Your pitch set the bar and gave me an excellent example to strive for with my future pitches.

img_5333I am excited that both Arielle and David will be at the Rutgers Writing Conference in June. I am looking forward to revising my pitch and to hopefully having another chance to pitch Chapter One-A Novel to them at the conference. My goal is to memorize my pitch so I can flawlessly recite it without looking at it for the next go-around.

Thank you to Booktowne, the Book Doctors Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, and to Patricia Perry Donovan for their valuable advice and for taking the time to encourage, inspire, and support new writers.

PS: Fellow author Mandi Bean attended Pitchapalooza with me, and she did a damn fine job pitching her latest novel Moody Blue! It’s not every day that a former student can STILL inspire her teacher, 12 years later and counting….

“Chapter One” is finished!

The idea first hit me in August of 2014 while in Dublin…it pulled my heartstrings and magnified my grief in losing a friend to the point of almost a lost obsession…

Then the universe began sprinkling clues like breadcrumbs, and once I started paying attention to them, I accumulated over ten pages of signs…

I journeyed twice more to Dublin without knowing why or what the hell I was doing there…

but now I do.

And Dublin trip number four is booked for July 2018, my celebratory victory tour, so to speak.

Over the course of the past three years, I devoted countless hours and days to crafting the story of Kelly Lynch and her friend, Shannon Moran. I ultimately surprising even myself as my initial story idea took off on its own, unique course, and held its own through fruition.

All of a sudden, I wrote the last word without even realizing it at the time that it was THE LAST WORD.

I burst into tears as I realize that the draft was technically done.

An intense round of editing followed over the course of the past few weeks, and now?

I AM DONE.

And I cried tears of joy again.

CHAPTER ONE, a novel by Jill Ocone, is finished. Complete.

How does it feel?

I truly feel like a different person now that Chapter One is finished. I feel…..well, astonished that I did it, in disbelief that I did it, in awe that I did it, and…..

It’s very hard for me to describe how I feel, other than it’s an awesomely overwhelmingly satisfied sense of accomplishment.

I set out to do something, and I accomplished my goal. I mean, I REALLY DID IT.

As I crafted a story that the universe brought to me, a story that needed to be told, I learned a lot about myself in the process. I accepted who I am, just like how my main character, Kelly Lynch, learned to accept herself.

I also know that there are many more words to be strung together and stories to tell.

Above all else, I learned that I am, indeed, a writer, just like Kelly Lynch learns in Chapter One.

Life imitating art that imitates life?

It’s pretty freaking awesome.

There’s a litany of thank-yous to come, but I must thank my spirit guides, Tara (Hey, You!) and Nick (You, Too!).

Chapter One is for you both. Thanks for guiding me along this spectacular journey.

I have begun reaching out to literary agents and publishers with confidence that the universe will lead me to the right opportunity to take Chapter One to the next level.

And if nothing ever comes of it, no worries. I fulfilled my destiny as dictated by the universe and will trust the journey, no matter the outcome.

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‘CHAPTER ONE’ Update for 8/13/2017

Dublin is calling again, and I must go…

I’ve been plugging along over here this week making CHAPTER ONE come alive. I typed like a madman as Kelly Lynch’s life really took a turn into darkness. I accomplished my goal of completing Chapter 7, which wraps up Part 2 of CHAPTER ONE (aptly titled Death, or The Present). I shared the format of CHAPTER ONE last week, so if you’d like to take a look at that click here.

Part 3 of CHAPTER ONE is titled Rebirth, or The Future, and Chapters 8 and 9 will be set in Dublin, Ireland.

I’m now taking a break from novel writing and from reading anything related to James Joyce until I return home. I want to experience Dublin with an open mind as I look through Kelly’s eyes, as Dublin will change Kelly’s life as it did mine. A few of the Dublin locations Kelly needs to visit are the James Joyce Tower in Sandymount, Bewley’s Oriental Cafe on Grafton (crossing my fingers that renovations are complete), and wandering around Dun Laoghaire and the Temple Bar and Trinity College/Grafton locations. Other than that, I’m looking forward to going wherever the universe intends to send me.

I’ve grown to have a very personal relationship with Dublin over the past three years without intending to. With the help of my spirit guide’s direction, Dublin has helped me find ME. Even though I’m less than 1% Irish (hey, at least it showed up in my DNA test!), Dublin has come to be a part of my identity, my journey, and my purpose. I’m extremely fortunate to have a wonderful friend who is up for anything accompanying me (again! Thanks NOD!). Dublin or bust!

As I am about to embark on the second leg of my “mission from the universe,” I urge you to look for the signs and callings in your own life. If you are quiet enough, you’ll eventually see them. Take a step forward today and begin your own journey of self-discovery. It’s truly amazing.

Thank you for following my journey! Stay turned for tales from Dublin, hitting your browser later this month!

Jill

Novel Update for 8/5/17…

Wow. I just figured out that since my last post on July 17, there were only four days that I didn’t write. On the days when I did write, I worked for two hours or more as I continue creating the story of Kelly Lynch and the impact her friend, Shannon O’Shea, had on her life.

The novel’s title is now official. It is called CHAPTER ONE.

The format of CHAPTER ONE is as follows:

  • Chapter One: Prologue

  • Part 1: Chapters 2-4

  • Part 2: Chapters 5-7

  • Part 3: Chapters 8-10

  • Epilogue

I am very pleased to announce that I am now finished through Chapter 6. My goal is to finish writing Chapter 7 next week, then leave writing Part 3 for after I return from Dublin (Chapters 8 and 9 are set in Dublin).

One year ago, Kelly was only a nameless idea. Now that she’s her own entity with her own voice, I’ll be looking at Dublin locations through her eyes, not mine, when I venture there in ten days.

CHAPTER ONE has a few recurring themes, one of them being the idea of escaping versus living. This completely unintentional theme developed on its own through Kelly’s reaction to events that shaped her life. She’s still not aware of the importance of this lesson, however, but she will be by novel’s end.

At times, Kelly’s story has gone in completely different directions than what I initially envisioned, developing its own timeline and themes instead of keeping to its original script in my head. And that’s been exciting. Even today, when I finished Chapter 6, I had to go back and revise Chapter 1 because of a turn the story made on its own.

The plot board I created that I wrote about in my last post sits there, initially useful in guiding the story, yet  now a relic of the past. As Kelly’s story moves forward, the plot board will remain a treasured souvenir of my writing process and of this summer.

I’m falling in love with Kelly Lynch. When CHAPTER ONE is finished, I hope that someday you’ll have the chance to fall in love with her, too.

Thank you for following my journey!

Jill

Novel Update for 7/17/17…

I love today’s date: Seven One Seven One Seven. It’s the perfect date to begin updating my progress towards completing my first novel, tentatively titled Chapter One.

I’m pleased to announce that I finished Part One today without meaning to! I had no intentions of ending Part 1 where I did, but when it works and when my spirit guide says so, I listen.

There will be three parts to the novel, along with a prologue and an epilogue. I don’t want to give away any details just yet, but I will share that the main character’s name is Kelly Lynch, and her friend is named Shannon. Suffice it to say that Dublin plays a major role in Part Three. When I return to Dublin in less than a month, I’ll be able to look upon key sights through Kelly’s eyes.

Plot Board for Parts One and Two (blurry on purpose)

I created a plot board for all three parts. Having everything right in front of me on one board versus on several pages in a notebook has been an immense help. One of my goals, in addition to making solid progress on the novel, is to transform my so-called “Room of Doom” into a writing area, where I’d be able to display the boards all the time.

This whole journey has been a labor of love. If you are interested, head over to my personal blog SoulSEAker and check out my posts from August 2016 and September 2016, and you’ll get a glimpse as to the roles my spirit guide, the universe, and the city of Dublin have played in my journey so far.

I’ll be reserving this blog to post updates about my writing life, including the novel, my freelance magazine work, and my poetry. My goal is to blog about my progress once to twice a week. For more personal posts, please visit SoulSEAker anytime.

So glad you have chosen to read this update! I hope you continue to follow both my journey and the story of Kelly Lynch as it unfolds…

Jill