Two Year Blogiversary – Remembering How My Blog Saved Me

Last week marked Jen’s Pen Den’s 2nd blogiversary!

I know. I’m surprised my blog has lasted this long too.

But since it has–and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon–I’ve decided now’s a good time to remind myself why I created Jen’s Pen Den, and to think about how far I’ve come since its inception.

You see, for those of you who don’t know, my blog wasn’t born out of boredom, curiosity, or a desire to build my author platform. It was created in a moment of desperation, right when I was on the verge of giving up on my writing dreams.

In the summer of 2013, I hit a low, low point.

The option contract on my YA manuscript had expired after two years of hard work, and my attempts to find new representation had failed (again and again and again). All I kept hearing from agents, producers, and publishers was, “I like your story, but I don’t love it.” In other words, “It’s meh.” In other words, “You suck, your writing sucks, and you’ll never be good enough to succeed in this business.”

I was devastated.

My writing came to a halt, and I spent the better part of six months debating what to do.

I could shelve my YA manuscript and write a new book. But, ugh, why bother? I was a meh writer who wrote meh stories. Nobody would ever want my work. So, then what? Throw in the towel and pursue a new career? That sounded worse than wasting a billion hours on a novel that would inevitably get rejected. I could hide under my bed and wait for my problems to vanish on their own–ha! Or wish upon a star and pray for a superhero agent to emerge from the gloom and save me from my deep, dark despair–haha! Or I could just curl into a ball and cry. Which I did…a lot.

I was beyond lost. More lost than I’ve ever been in my life.

In a last ditch effort to save myself and my dreams, I decided to start a blog.

I had no idea what blogging was, or how to run one, or if starting one would help me climb out of the black pit I’d fallen into. But I had to do something–anything–that might get me back on track.

Turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

Within a few days of publishing my first post, I clawed my way out of that horrible, black pit. And within a few months, I rose up and struck back at all the vicious doubts that had taunted me since my option contract expired.

Soon enough, the negative voice within me changed from, “You’re not good enough, and you’ll never be good enough!” to “Get the hell out of my way, I’m coming through!”

I can’t explain how grateful I am I started this blog. Jen’s Pen Den has given me everything I’ve needed to ditch the past and focus on the future. It has gifted me with a supportive community, countless learning opportunities, and a therapeutic outlet to voice my hopes and fears.

It has also helped me pave the way to my dreams.

During the past two years, I’ve written a dozen short stories, made it to the finals of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge twice, and came to terms with who I am as a writer and began working on a new novel. I’ve even started an editing service.

Looking back now, it frightens me to think how much I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t started my blog: Newfound confidence and passion. Valuable writing lessons. New story ideas. A never-say-die attitude. Amazing, supportive, “I totally get it” friends.

Let’s face it. Without my blog, my life would be completely different. I wouldn’t have discovered what I’m capable of or met so many incredible people. And I definitely wouldn’t know, for a fact, that writing is what I love to do.

And I’ll never consider giving up on it again.

In honor of Jen’s Pen Den’s 2nd blogiversary, I wanted to share my top ten posts from the past year. Thank you to everyone who has made this blog what it is, and for allowing me to share my experiences, stories, and random ramblings with you. You guys rock!

Top Ten Posts

  1. The Ark – 1st Round Entry – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
  2. Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2015
  3. Inevitable – 1st Round Entry – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry
  4. La Jolla – 1st Round – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge
  5. Jen’s Editing Tips: The Power of White Space
  6. The Accidental Fall – 3rd Round – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
  7. Confession: Rejection Has Made Me Stronger
  8. Oh, The Horror – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
  9. Jen’s Editing Tips: Kiss Your As’s Goodbye
  10. Confession: When It’s Time To Move On
  11. It’s Official – I’m A Freelance Editor

Here’s to another year of blogging and writing!

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Thank You, Mom

As many of you know, my mom is very important to me. Not only has she provided me with a lifetime of love, guidance, and laughter, but she’s also been my biggest cheerleader as I pursue my writing dreams.

10675569_10101945416237253_5209288535149780450_nIf it wasn’t for my mom, I might still be writing behind a locked door, quiet as a mouse, cautiously saving my stories under names like “Comparative Politics Study Guide 2” (no joke) to make sure nobody ever read them. I was terrified I’d be judged–teased–mocked.

Thankfully, my mom put a kibosh on those fears a couple of years after I graduated college. As I complained to her about my job and explained how unhappy it made me, she asked, “Well, what do you want to do? What will make you happy?”

After a lot of hemming and hawing, I confessed, “I want to be a writer.”

“Then do it!”

Her enthusiastic response gave me the strength I needed to tiptoe out of the “writer’s closet” and embark upon a career I love.

So thank you, Mom, for helping me overcome my fears. And for convincing me my dreams weren’t stupid and I should go after them with all of my might.

10245309_10101552065949383_449044523913113086_nMy mom has done more than kickstart my writing journey. She’s also stuck by my side throughout it, holding on tight as I’ve hopped, skipped, and crashed down the industry’s rocky path.

In 2008, she celebrated my first completed manuscript…And then comforted me as I received rejection letter after rejection letter for it.

In 2009, she supported my decision to set aside my first novel and begin writing a new one…And then freaked out with me a year later when a Hollywood producer optioned it.

In 2011 and 2012, she helped me rewrite, revise, and edit my optioned work (again and again and again)…And then picked me up and dusted me off in 2013 when my contract expired and I was sent back to square one.

In 2014, she urged me to be brave and take on new challenges, learn and grow, and become a better writer…And then cheered for me when my hard work paid off.

Now, in 2015, she has convinced me it’s okay to let go of the past, embrace new ideas, and begin working on a new project.

So thank you, Mom, for sticking with me through the good, the bad, and the ugly. And for helping me realize nothing is ever over until I give up and quit.

10629715_10101749910292733_7705700716641345905_nSeriously, my mom is amazing! More than amazing. Special. It takes someone like her–calm, firm, and understanding–to deal with a writer like me–perfectionist, borderline manic, and neurotic.

I mean it. Most people would run out the door if they ever encountered me on a writing day. They wouldn’t know how to deal with my roller coaster temperament, detached demeanor, or crazy hair.

10982080_369275416598346_3868432891056136335_nAHHHHHH! Run for your lives!

But my mom has never run away. She has always been willing to brave the Writing Beast I become when I hit the zone, and deal with my wacky behavior: the short fuse, the lack of focus during real-life conversations, the self-deprecation, the fatigue, the obsession…

So thank you, Mom, for remaining patient, compassionate, and calm whenever I go into my crazy writing mode. And for also grounding me when I need it most.

1012127_10101036544767963_470107348_nEvery writer needs someone who can push them without breaking them. Someone who can read their work and give them 100% honest feedback. Someone who makes them a better writer.

For me, that’s my mom. I can rely on her to read my stories and tell me exactly what she thinks.

“You have a good start, but I think it needs (blank).”

“I like the premise, but I didn’t feel enough (blank).”  

“I loved (blank), but I didn’t love (blank).”

As you can see, my mom’s a master at the sandwich technique (good-bad-good). But what makes her advice so valuable is that I trust it. If she thinks a plot is dull, then I won’t use it. If she believes a character is cliche, then I’ll add depth or spin them in a different direction. If she wants more suspense–more drama–more horror–more more, then I’ll give more.

So thank you, Mom, for pushing me to be a better writer. And for always demanding I take my stories to the next level.

10653421_10101749910377563_8640838046765233212_nI might have a lot of people in my life who support me and my writing ambitions, but it’s my mom who’s there for me the most.

She’s the one who’s always willing to sit and listen to me brainstorm for hours about plots and characters. She’s the one who will read draft one, two, three, four, five, six, seven…She’s the one who will shake sense into me, dust me off, and push me to keep going. She’s the one who believes in me–completely.

And because of that–because of her–I know I’ll reach my dreams someday.

So thank you, Mom. For everything.

Love you!

10173680_10101505439873413_6929469929429599948_nHappy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

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Music Monday – Thank You – Alanis Morissette

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicBack in March, after I finished the second round of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, I began brainstorming possible ideas for the third and final round–just in case I miraculously advanced and had to write a story in 24-hours (*faints*).

I ended up listening to a lot of music in hopes something would trigger an idea. Finally, after many songs, one did: “Thank You” by Alanis Morissette.

Alanis_Morissette_-_Supposed_Former_Infatuation_JunkieTo be honest, I almost skipped over this song because I’ve never felt inspired by it. But then I stopped and really listened to it and–voila! An idea for round three came to me. And I ended up using that idea this past weekend when I did advance in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge–ahhhh!

The number one thing I love about “Thank You” is its lyrics. They’re so powerful! I can’t even point out my favorite line. Each moves me in its own way, and each helped me develop my plot, understand my protagonist, and draw out the kind of emotions I needed for my story–well, as good as I could draw them out in a 24-hour period.

I also took comfort in this song’s message of gratitude, forgiveness, and letting go. It helped me figure out the message of my story and what I wanted readers to take away from it.

hqdefaultSo, if you’re looking for a song with powerful lyrics and a moving message, then listen to Alanis Morissette’s “Thank You”.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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