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

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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.

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

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.

Jersey Shore Magazine Spring 2018 Issue is online!

img_4755I’ve been a writer and editor for Jersey Shore Publications for four years and counting, and I absolutely love the gig. I wrote two Beachcomber articles in the Spring 2018 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine, which recently went live online.

My article in the Spring 2018 titled “A Solidarity Shaped by Surfing” tells the story of a Luthringer Longboard that hangs in the atrium of the One Ocean Boulevard condominium complex in Seaside Heights. I absolutely adored this assignment, and I think the article demonstrates my best work to date. I love surfing and surf culture, and finally having the opportunity to write about it was incredibly fulfilling.

A clam-digger since birth, the Jersey Shore culture and lifestyle runs through my veins and inhabits my soul, everything from salt water and surfing, to sea shells and boardwalks. Before 2014, I always loved picking up Jersey Shore Magazine, and as I’d page through the issue, I’d privately wish for the opportunity to be a writer for the publication. That wish came true when one of my oldest and dearest friends put in a good word for me with my now-boss who heads Jersey Shore Publications, and my first piece about the history of a building in downtown Point Pleasant Beach was published in the 2014 Spring issue.

Since then, I’ve been a regular contributor of Beachcomber articles, feature articles, and editorial content including calendar of events and local seasonal guides, to name a few. I’m forever indebted to my boss, George, for both the opportunity to write about topics close to my heart and for his professional feedback.

Jersey Shore Magazine can be found at retailers all along the Jersey Shore, as well as online. 

 

“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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A Manifesto for 2018

We are once again standing on the cusp of a new year.

It’s a time every year when my failures each ring their own bell and demand my attention. “Look at me,” they each scream. “Look at me! Don’t forget the detour I created! You suck and are teeming with regret at the sight of me!”

Frigging bastards.

When looking ahead to a new calendar, I’ve tended to play the victim and blame my failures and shortcomings on my self-perceived inadequacies, half of which are undoubtedly formed by unrealistic societal expectations.

I’ve also blamed time: there’s not enough, or there’s too much.

Either way, I’m continually thrown off the path that I believed would lead me to attaining my goals, yet while I paved it with good intentions, I also paved it with excuses chock full of my own bullshit.

The cycle of getting nowhere very quickly happens every year because I allow it to.

That stops now.

There’s no resolutions for me this year.

No, sir.

Instead, my goal from today forward is to live the hell out of every minute of this extraordinary life and truly cherish the miracle that is the present moment.

Whether I am writing, swimming, driving, exploring, laughing with family and friends, teaching…whatever I am doing, I will give myself fully to that miraculous moment.

The fact that I’m sitting here all snug and warm, with a cup of hot coffee to my left and quiet music playing as snowflakes delicately dance down from the clouds to the ground…there’s so tiny miracles right here in this present moment, miracles that I always took for granted or overlooked.

What matters, I mean what truly matters, is this moment.

I am alive.

And so are you.

This is a time of rebirth, a time to take those lessons from past failures and regret, be thankful for them, and apply their wisdom while moving forward.

No more bowing down to society’s expectations or to feeding the trolls of self-deprecation. I am not inadequate and I do matter, if only to myself.

It’s time to live the hell out of this one and precious life I’ve been given, because I am not promised a tomorrow. Wasting time is no longer an option, either.

I will live with those who are alongside me in real life and for those who are alongside me in spirit.

I will be a beacon of kindness and empathy as I look to stand alongside my fellow humans with understanding and compassion.

I will be grateful for everything I experience and for everyone I interact with.

Most importantly, I will embrace and celebrate the moments extraordinary that fill my days with joy and with purpose as I pursue my passions with conviction.

Let’s do this, 2018!

With gratitude and joy,

Jill

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