November Amber – An Update…

img_1228

Taken on November 6, 2017 at Parvin State Park in NJ

It’s my second-favorite time of year as nature’s autumn tapestries brighten before shedding their coats for the winter and every step outside resounds with a satisfying crunch under my feet. Eternal summer would be bliss, but November is like a comfy, cozy blanket after the hustle and the bustle of September and October.

For me, November also brings with its majesty both a time of annual reflection and a flare of symptoms thanks to the changing of the seasons. Please don’t take this as a complaint. I mention it as a matter of fact and I try my best to be stronger than the fatigue and the pain that arrive at this time every year. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and on the days when I lose, I finish those days with hope for a better tomorrow and I keep my priorities in check while acknowledging the frustration I experience.

That’s real. And that’s my life right now.

I’ve been querying my novel titled Chapter One-A Novel, but no bites yet. Emphasis on YET. I believe the universe will lead me to the right opportunity in time, and if that opportunity is no opportunity at all, I accept it and will gracefully move on.

Writing has provided me with much-needed therapy as of late. While most of what I’ve written is personal and won’t be seen by anyone else’s eyes, the act of writing has both calmed and energized me. It has led me to declare that I will no longer be a check mark in someone else’s list of priorities. It has empowered me to put myself first and announce my heart’s joy and my soul’s peace and happiness will be the most important boxes to check off in everything I do moving forward, and to hell with the consequences.

I am actively outlining two more books (one fiction/novel and one non-fiction about the history of surfing in New Jersey) and completing and submitting several unfinished poems and short stories. I’m also working out the logistics of a few ideas that have been swimming in my head for years to see if they are worth pursing or if I should put them to bed forever, the biggest limitations being money and time.

I’m swimming in words and loving every stroke forward I make as I tread through the changing tides around me.

I believe in myself as I look towards charting the course of what lies ahead for me. No matter the destination, I will show up and do my best while honoring my core values of authenticity and joy.

I am here, and I matter.

Truth be told, I wish it didn’t take me 48.5 years to learn that.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“November Amber-An Update” was posted on jillocone.com on November 6, 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.

 

“Happily Ever After” – A Poem by Jill Ocone

The little, pigtailed girl

In the pink gingham dress

With shiny black

Patent-leather

Mary Janes

Bordered by lace-cuffed

White socks

Twirls on the playground

And skips along the sidewalk

As she drags her jump rope

Behind her

In the slanted sunshine.

 

She believes in pure goodness

And yearns for acceptance

And collects little trinkets

And loves to write…

Oh, how she loves to write.

 

Once upon

A long time ago,

Yesterday and

Today and

Tomorrow,

She faded away.

 

Where are you,

Little girl?

 

Come out and play.

 

Bring your heart of gold

And your untarnished innocence

And your rainbow-filled dreams

And your pink flowered bicycle

With the handlebar streamers

And play.

 

Come out and play

Today

And live

Happily

Ever

After.

 

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I wrote this today and thought I’d share. Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Happily Ever After” by Jill Ocone, Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“Happily Ever After” was first posted on jillocone.com on November 4, 2019. All rights reserved. Please contact the writer for publication, licensing/reproduction/reposting rights by email at jillocone@gmail.com.

“We Exist” by Jill Ocone

snapseedI exist.

 

I am twenty years older

Than twenty-eight.

I am not

Invisible

Nor did I

Dissolve when

I turned forty.

I exist.

 

I am one

Of millions.

We are not

Invisible

Nor did we

Vanish when we

Turned forty.

We exist.

 

We’ve been

Kicked and ignored,

Shamed and judged,

Inconsequentially consequential,

Older than the media’s

Ideal demographic,

Yet we endure and

We exist.

 

We are broken,

Yet we are repaired.

We will crack again,

Maybe tonight,

Maybe tomorrow.

Whenever it happens,

We’ll pick up the pieces

And glue ourselves back together

And we will

Continue to

Exist.

 

We yearn.

We cry.

We hope.

We nurture.

 

We exist.

 

We are childless and

Child full,

Mother Earth and a

Mother of pearl.

 

Beneath our

Sophisticated silvers

And wrinkles of wisdom

A little girl gleefully glows.

She scampers

Through the dewy grass

And twirls around and around

With her arms open wide

And palms facing the sky

As her pigtails and ponytails

Stretch out straight from spinning.

She never disappeared

And she’s finally

Coming out to play again

Because it’s her time to shine.

 

We coexist while

Imbibing our

Four tea and fifth tea

And even our sixth tea

With compassion for

And unequivocal

Acceptance of

Each other.

 

I am enough.

We are enough.

We exist.

 

We are

Beautiful

Seasoned

Formidable

Genuine

Plentiful

Savvy

Replete with

Knowledge and

Worth.

 

We are

INVINCIBLE…

NOT

INVISIBLE.

 

WE

EXIST.

 

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cropped-img_0764I wrote this today and thought I’d share. Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“We Exist” by Jill Ocone, Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“We Exist” was posted on jillocone.com on October 13, 2019. All rights reserved. Please contact the writer for licensing and reproduction/reposting rights.

Finally…And For Real This Time

img_8916I assure, you, I am not “crying wolf.”

This is the real deal.

This is the culmination of five years of not giving up.

This is what I’ve been working so hard towards and waiting for …

With joy in my heart and pride in my work, I am pleased to announce that my manuscript, Chapter One-A Novel, is finished and complete.

Seriously this time, it is.

Famous writers were correct about it taking time. If you’ve been following my story over the years, you know it’s been a challenge. It took several complete rewrites, many drafts, and a few years to produce a version I am finally happy with, a version I am proud of and believe in.

Looking back, I realize I totally jumped the gun with previous drafts. When I thought I was “done,” I most certainly wasn’t Underneath, my heart knew the whole time but I couldn’t admit it. Call me a nube, call me naive, but in retrospect, I hate that I ended up wasting the time of those who received it and/or read it.

Not anymore.

My soul is at peace and my heart incredibly delighted with what I have created. Chapter One-A Novel is now worthy of reading and submitting to publishing professionals. Even if nobody is interested in representing or publishing it, I know what I created is good, honest, compelling, and written in a strong and unique voice. Hell, I just started querying again late last week and already received my first rejection, but I am keeping positive because I believe in my manuscript and know the universe will eventually lead me to the right opportunity, which in the end, might be no opportunity at all.

I also know that the main character, Kelly Lynch, is exactly that: the main character. She is not me. Her voice might sound similar to mine, but it is hers and hers alone. Kelly’s voice deserves to be heard, and I sure hope the world gets to hear it.

Whatever Chapter One-A Novel‘s future may hold, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity of writing it and for the experiences it provided me with. Just as the book itself changed several times over the past five years, so did I. I am not the same person I was when I penned its first words, which were, “Once you write chapter one, everything will fall into place.” I have grown as both a writer and as a person throughout the process of Chapter One‘s crafting and simultaneous recrafting, and I like myself so much better now.

The universe was right. Everything is falling into place, or at least it seems to be. Even if all I receive are rejections, I found myself through the process while strengthening my bond with some very special influences and people.

And, I wrote a freaking novel. Not everybody can say that, but I can.

“Welcome to Chapter One. There’s no looking back.”

cropped-img_0764To learn more about Chapter One-A Novel, please click here.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

PS: Should you be interested, a detailed outline, sample chapters, and/or the entire manuscript of Chapter One – A Novel are available for review as I seek representation and/or publication. Please request by email, jillocone@gmail.com. Thank you for your interest!

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“Finally...And For Real This Time” was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on October 6, 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.

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!

3 Poems: Accepted!

IMG_3614[327]I love to write poetry but I freely admit it’s a challenge for me to pen a poem I deem worthy of sharing, so I usually keep my poems to myself.

I also freely admit that I’ve crossed the threshold into a “braver” phase of life, so to speak, so I’ve been stepping outside of my comfort zone in many ways. One such way is by taking some chances and submitting some of my poems here and there to literary journals and publications.

And it paid off. I’m pleased to announce that three of my poems were accepted for publication in the 2019 edition of American Writers Review published by San Fedele Press. My poems titled “The Sidewinder,” “Futility,” and “Cycle” will appear in the publication, which is due to be released mid-spring.

It’s my first acceptance of what I hope are many more.

It took a long time for me to feel at home in my body and in my life, but I’ve finally stepped into “me.”

Welcome home!

I Won The Lottery!

Winner.JPGHere’s a neat little thing that happened last week…

I bought a ticket for the mid-week Powerball drawing. The ticket cost me $2.

My ticket had the winning Powerball number for that day’s drawing. The prize: $4.

I also bought a ticket for the last Mega Millions drawing of the week. The ticket cost me $2.

My ticket had the winning Mega Ball for that day’s drawing. The prize: $2.

Total amount I paid for both tickets: $4.

Total Prize Money: $6

Total Amount Won: $2.

All of my late night prayers were answered and my wishes came true.

I, indeed, won the lottery.

It’s all a matter of perspective, folks.

I am a lottery winner!

 

48 for 48

IMG_3258.JPGToday I turn 48 years old.

How is that even possible?

I’m sitting here contemplating where the hell the last 47 years went. A few years ago, I cursed the fact that my birth year was finally mentioned on those commercials for insurance that begin “If you were born in the years…” and now I’m two years away from the big 5-0.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that turning 48 isn’t all that bad.

I’m still here, still breathing, still learning, still laughing, and still living. What’s there to be bitter about?

There’s actually a lot to be thankful for as February 12 smiles back at me from my planner. As a gift to myself, I penned the following list of 48 reasons why it’s great to turn 48. I hope you can relate to and enjoy my observations and lessons.

  1. I remember when MTV played music videos and the names of all 5 original VeeJays without looking them up: Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, JJ Jackson, Nina Blackwood, and Mark Goodman. The first music videos I ever saw were “Our House” by Madness followed by “Come Dancing” by The Kinks…my dad taped them for me using our brand-new VCR but not from MTV. Since we didn’t yet get MTV on our cable system, he taped “Friday Night Videos” which aired on NBC.
  2. I can have ice cream for dinner and run with scissors if I want to.
  3. I appreciate real, classic comedies and the good actors who played some of my favorite characters in Cheers, Barney Miller, M*A*S*H, and Seinfeld, to name a few.
  4. I was alive during the US Space Shuttle Program from its first days to its last and witnessed the last Shuttle launch ever, Atlantis in July of 2011, at Kennedy Space Center with my own eyes.
  5. I know who shot J.R.
  6. I can complete one side of a Rubik’s Cube.
  7. I was a guest at Luke and Laura’s wedding.
  8. I saw every Star Wars episode in the theater even before they had episode titles or numbers.
  9. I still get excited when the first snowflakes of the season fall from the sky.
  10. There’s nobody who can slink around better to Beastie’s “Paul Revere” than me.
  11. I know every word to “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. I learned them by stopping my cassette tape after each line and writing the words down. And for the record, I can still get jiggy with it when I want to.
  12. I can outrun Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde.
  13. I learned its okay to say “No” to anything that doesn’t bring me joy.
  14. I have treasured friends who are honest and true. My memories with them go way back to the Barry Manilow age of Copacabana and to sharing a table in Kindergarten 1976.
  15. And Speaking of 1976, I remember events that celebrated the Bicentennial of the United States, especially the fire hydrants that were painted to look like historic figures.
  16. I feel a certain sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I am finished mowing my lawn.
  17. I love to listen to the birds, see the clouds, and feel the ocean and sand caress my feet.
  18. Much of my life is commemorated through my collection of pins, patches, stickers, and little trinkets.
  19. I don’t mind my wrinkles or my crow’s feet. Each line has its own story, and together, they form the roadmap of my journey to now. Sidebar: I really wish society and the media would stop telling me that there’s something wrong with my face and my skin and my weight and everything about the way I look. I’m okay with how I am, assclowns…sell your wares and your forced insecurities somewhere else!
  20. I remember the joy of making out my list for Santa using the newest Sears and JCPenney catalogs and crying over the polka-dotted elephant because he was too cute in my eyes to be a misfit.
  21. I have six true loves: my husband, my two nieces, and my three nephews. Oh, and maybe a seventh if you count Boba Fett.
  22. I’m never too old to play with toys or to get a Happy Meal.
  23. I believe in kindness, compassion, and doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
  24. There was nothing better than Saturday morning cartoons, especially the Smurfs and the Laffalympics, and I loved the Battle of the Network Stars. I can still hear Mutley’s laugh and Snagglepuss say, “Exit, Stage Right!”
  25. No whammy, no whammy, big money, stop! And Higher, lower, higher, freeze!
  26. I no longer have to refer to things as my “guilty” pleasures. They are my pleasures, plain and simple.
  27. I’ve stopped apologizing for being human. If I’m sad, I’m sad. If I’m angry, I’m angry. If I’m happy, I’m happy. No apologies.
  28. One of my favorite sounds is the ice cream truck on a warm afternoon, and I might be known to flag the truck down from time to time with my money in my hand just like I did when I was little.
  29. My past does not define me. It might have helped form this person, but who I was is not who I am.
  30. I still own a rotary phone and know how to use it. And yes, it still works and was the only functioning phone for days during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I also remember how awesome it felt to finally get my own phone number for my 14th
  31. I know exactly where I was standing the moment I found out the truth about Santa, and I mean the specific table and seat where I was sitting in my elementary school library. Talk about disillusionment!
  32. I can still picture the interior of the old Grand Union and Jamesway in town and the inside of the local roller rinks.
  33. I remember the gritty sweet taste of Harold’s Cherry Lemonade on the boardwalk and can picture the little fishing game near the Harold’s stand on the way into where the kiddie ride pavilion was…that’s where Castaway Cove golf is now. I can see that in my mind as clear as what I see right now in front of me.
  34. There’s nothing like a slice of Vesuvio’s with a can of Sioux City Sarsparilla.
  35. The smell of salt air mixed with cotton candy and grease will always be the smell of home.
  36. I’m grateful I grew up with friends to play with and a bicycle instead of social media and smart devices.
  37. Four words: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
  38. I know that no matter how bad things get or how awful a day might be, it could always be worse.
  39. I’ve never experienced another fear like that of the day when Skylab fell to Earth thinking it was going to crash right into my house.
  40. I understand the value of the present moment and truly believe that we are all, indeed, just walking each other home.
  41. Hardly anything of what I’ve worried about ever happened.
  42. Saying goodbye is hard, but not saying goodbye can be harder.
  43. I will always be excited when I go to New York City.
  44. The crack of the bat on a warm, spring day is one of the best sounds in the world.
  45. My soul is happy when I take the long way home.
  46. A piece of sea glass and a shell are the best treasures to find.
  47. I was raised on radio and still listen to it by choice.
  48. This is me. I ain’t a beauty, but hey, I’m alright.

Time sure does go by fast. Embrace the day, my friend. Embrace the day and celebrate all that makes you unabashedly you, every day.

With my love and gratitude…

Jill

And Now, We Move On…

That sounds a little crass, but I assure you it’s not.

The last five weeks have been filled with uncertainty and heartache.

The high was completing the revision of my novel titled Chapter One-A Novel, which I am now ready to resubmit to agents and publishers with confidence.

While improving the story line and removing almost 20,000 words in the process, I took my time with revising grammar/mechanics and with plot development. The resulting manuscript is now worthy of honoring my muse and of publication, at least in my opinion. I am proud of what I have written despite whether or not it gets picked up for representation or not.

img_2466The low of the last five weeks was the sudden illness then passing of my beloved Uncle and godfather. Life will never be the same as I cannot believe I will never hear his voice say “My Miss Jill” or his distinct laugh ever again. I’m working on writing about Uncle’s final journey over his last 37 days, but man, it’s tough to relive some worst emotions and difficult moments of my life. Uncle was the apple of my eye, and I did the best I could to ease his suffering which included spending a lot of time just sitting next to him and holding his hand. His short stay in Hospice has inspired me to look into the possibilities of becoming a Hospice volunteer. His last 37 days definitely taught me several lessons in priorities. While my heart is broken, it’s somewhat a relief that the game of unpredictability is over. Uncle is at peace, as he would want it and as he deserves, and now I move on, albeit with a piece of my heart missing.

I’ve decided that I will no longer publish on my personal blog called “Soulseaker” and will publish here instead. I am grateful for my “Soulseaker” followers, but the purpose of that blog was to find my soul and my passion.

I’ve done that, and now we move on.

One of the last things Uncle whispered to me was, “They weren’t kidding when they said life goes by too fast. It sure does.”

A truer statement has never been whispered by anyone.

And now I move on to fill my life with purpose and impact instead of idling and wasting time, and will do my best to emulate Uncle’s kindness, compassion, and love for all.

It’s time for this writer to write.

Let’s do this.