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.

Nitro’s Check Mark

I took my teenage niece, nephew, and their friend to Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday (August 10, 2018). My husband and I have given Niece and Nephew season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure for Christmas every year since 2015.

What I love most about our gift is that I also get a season pass, which allows me to spend time with them at the park several times a year. Each visit is special to me because it’s our thing, and it’s a great way to help provide a break for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. If I had a nickel for how many times we laughed together or for each memory we made or silly story we told, I’d be a millionaire by now.

Nephew knows more about Six Flags rides and parks than anyone I’ve ever met. He can tell you when a ride made its park debut, who built it, who designed it, and what park received the ride it might have replaced. He understands the physics and design elements that goes into building a ride and if you ask him what park in the United States had the first looping roller coaster, he will know the answer.

When it comes to actually going on the rides, Niece is fearless and she will go on anything.  Meanwhile, Nephew and I have a similar sense of moderate adventure and we tend to stick to the middle-of-the-road rides and coasters, then when we are ready, we’ll attempt riding a more extreme one.

Our favorite ride is Skull Mountain, which is a fun, little inside coaster that operates in the dark. Two summers ago, Nephew and I set a personal record for going on Skull Mountain 22 times in a row, which took a little over two hours. We only stayed on the ride when the ride queue was empty five times; the rest of the time we got out and walked around. It probably wasn’t my best decision, in hindsight, since I flew to Dublin the following day with a splitting headache.

Our last ride conquests were Superman: Ultimate Flight and Green Lantern at the end of last summer. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Superman experience, considering riders are face down to simulate Superman’s flight. We conquered Bizarro in April of 2017. Man, that one is fast! It’s like the Batman coaster after it had three energy drinks and a shot of super-charged espresso. Batman: The Ride has always been one of my favorites, and we conquered that one together in 2015 at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Holidays in the Park.

The coasters Nephew and I haven’t found the courage to ride yet are notoriously extreme, and we weren’t sure which coaster we’d be brave enough to conquer this year.

Enter Nitro.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

When Nitro opened in 2001, it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New Jersey (Kingda Ka stole those honors from Nitro a few years later). While Nitro does not have any inversions, it is 230 feet high at its peak (which takes almost 60 seconds to climb) and reaches speeds up to 80 miles per hour in its two minute, twenty second mile-long course.

I went on Nitro once while chaperoning a school trip in 2005, thinking it would be like either Rolling Thunder and Scream Machine, two classic, now long-gone, coasters I loved.

I was completely wrong.

Nitro nearly killed me.

Well, maybe not killed, but the experience scared me tremendously.

I ended up uncontrollably shaking and trembling when I walked off the ride, my legs like jelly and my arm muscles sore for several days later due to how much I strained them as I held onto the restraint as tight as I could.

I vowed I was forever done with the infernal contraption known as Nitro.

I shared my Nitro story with Nephew on several occasions, including yesterday when we safely sat and waited for Niece and Friend to return from Friend’s first time riding the steel beast.

Nephew is older now, and I could see the curiosity twinkling in his eye as he told me what he knew about Nitro while he watched a car roaring along its track. “It was designed by B and M,” he said, “and they have a great safety record.”

There was no doubt about it. He was ready to take the Nitro leap and I wasn’t about to let my fear hold him back.

Niece and Friend returned rather quickly since the wait time was a few minutes at best, and Friend absolutely loved the Nitro experience.

Nephew said that if Friend could do it, he could too.

All three looked at me with pleading eyes but I stubbornly shook my head. “You guys have a great time!” I said as I bid them farewell, then I walked over to where people on the ground could see Nitro’s ride cars leave the loading area. Nephew was safely seated between Niece and Friend as their car passed by, their arms flailing in enthusiastic waves.

“Bye!” they yelled in unison.

They returned 140 seconds later with Nephew wearing the widest smile I’ve ever seen on his face. He gave me a thumbs up from up on high as he jubilantly shrieked, “It was awesome!”

Dammit.

I knew what I had to do.

A minute later, they surrounded me as they jumped around in sheer excitement and joy. A chorus of “please?”s rose up.  Nephew looked me right in my eyes and said, “You can do it. I did it, and so can you.”

I remembered a story told by a colleague who was in a similar situation. Her grandson wanted her to go on a thrill ride with him, and her outlook was, “I can do anything for two minutes.”

Realizing that I could too, I sighed then nodded my head as I said, “Okay.”

A whoop emanated from all three as Niece took my hand to lead me to certain death.

“You’re lucky I love you,” I grumbled as we walked through the air gate to the seats in Row 4.

My pulse raced as I sat down between Niece and Nephew, with Friend to Nephew’s left. The yellow restraints locked and were subsequently checked by the ride attendants. It’s a good thing mine was secure because at the last second, I cried, “I don’t want to do this!” and I honestly would have ran if I could.

However, it was zero hour and flight was not an option.

After the “visual scan” and “all clear” over the loudspeaker by what I was sure was the Grim Reaper disguised as Nitro’s head supervisor, our car was set free.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

I closed my eyes and leaned my head as far back into my seat as possible. With each upward click, I squeezed Niece’s hand a little tighter. She, along with Nephew and Friend, found my reaction highly amusing. I think they were all laughing, but I can’t exactly remember because I was concentrating so hard on praying for redemption.

“Here we go, Aunt Jill!” Niece shouted as we reached Nitro’s summit.

This is it.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Within seconds, we were traveling down the 215-feet drop at the advertised eighty miles-per-hour.  I’m pretty sure my heart rate matched the number of expletives I let fly.

“I’m going to die! My eyes are closed! My eyes are open! No, they’re not! I’m going to die!”

Towards the end of the journey to my undeniable demise, Niece yelled, “Bunny hops!!”

I opened my eyes to see the blue and yellow hilly path we were on as we smoothly rode over each bump. It was surprisingly much smoother than the Runaway Mine Train bunny hops at the end of its path, that was for sure.

“Hold on!”

The car suddenly came to a halting stop.

And I was alive.

Sure, my legs were once again like jelly as we walked off the ride, and I felt a surge of electricity pulsing through my entire body.

But it was a good energy, and I did not die.

The sleek, wicked-fast roller coaster was one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever experienced, and the sensation of weightlessness was exhilarating.

I looked at Nephew, who threw his arms around me and exclaimed, “I’m so proud of you!” Niece and friend hugged me too. “You did it, Aunt Jill!”

Somewhere along the ride route, a remote camera snaps a photograph which is then displayed for about a minute or so on the monitors at the Nitro photo kiosk near the ride’s exit. The picture of our row featured three gleeful faces with arms up in the air and one red face screaming for mercy as she gripped onto the restraint for dear life.

We didn’t buy the photograph, but I’ll be able to picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life.

The unspoken question hovered in the air around us as we regrouped outside the ride.

It was answered by all four of us walking together once again through Nitro’s entrance.

Three minutes later, a photograph with four delighted smiles in our row flashed upon the photo kiosk’s screen.

2018 Roller Coaster: Nitro. Check mark achieved.

 

Nitro’s Check Mark“: Copyright 2018 – 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 August 11, 2018. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Six Flags Great Adventure, the Six Flags corporation, or their affiliates. All rights reserved.

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

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.

img_3320

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!

img_5332

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….

Published: “Best of Both Worlds”

img_4871-1I am pleased to announce that my article “Adviser Update Adviser Update Winter 2018 Best of Both Worlds” was published in the Winter 2018 issue of the Dow Jones News Fund magazine Adviser Update.

“Best of Both Worlds” focuses on the MTHS journalism program’s transition from print-only news to online news. While our program is still working out kinks, the addition of online news changed the face of our program for the better.

Sadly, the Winter 2018 issue was the last issue of Adviser Update. I will miss reading this valuable resource and hearing about meaningful activities other journalism teachers and advisers incorporate with their students and programs.

Special thanks to fellow adviser Katina Paron, CJE, who was guest editor for the issue. Katina’s assistance and advice was extremely beneficial not only in writing my piece but in fueling my passion for writing.