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.

Still SEAking, and Still Reflecting

Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

With gratitude,

Jill

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

Digesting the Goodness

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey!

With gratitude, 

Jill

 

Riding the Writing Wave of Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s real!

But I was.

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

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

But I was.

What if I, indeed, fly?

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

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

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