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Oops, it’s been another year since my last blog post. And once again I’m revisiting my neglected blog to share super exciting news …

I've been waiting to write this post for a very long time. 

If you read my I Have An Agent post from last year, you know I wrote my first novel in 2006, so I’ve been working toward getting a book published for fourteen years. 
But also … we got the offer for the book in March, so I’ve actually been waiting to write this particular post for ten months! 
I’d always heard publishing was slow, but I had no idea! It’s been a real eye-opener for sure, but it takes to time to work out contracts and find the perfect illustrator.  
But I’m finally allowed to scream about it publically: BATTLE OF THE BUTTS will be published by Running Press Kids (an imprint of Hachette) in the fall of 2021!!! 
Publishers Weekly announcement for Battle of the Butts
Yep, you read that right – fall of 2021! I told you publishing was slow. But I’m sure it will be here before I know it, and I’ll be freaking out that I’m not ready and need more time. In the meantime, I’m so, so, so, excited!!!
If you want the nitty-gritty of how it happened, keep reading. It, uh, gets a little long because I’m so, so, so excited!!!
Last year on March 20th, I had two meetings, which meant I had to put on real pants and leave the house. So I found some pants that didn’t look like pajamas, applied my face, and decided to go all out and add some jewelry. 
Now the animal that first inspired BATTLE OF THE BUTTS is a manatee. The Christmas after I got my agent, my family got me a bunch of manatee items for good luck. I decided to put on my manatee earrings for the meetings. 
Silver manatee earrings
Then right after I put them on, I checked my email one last time before leaving ...
And there was the email I’ve been waiting to read for almost fifteen years! My awesome agent Tracy informed me we had an offer from one publisher and serious interest from several others. Eeeeeeee! Clearly the good luck manatees worked!
Then Tracy said that since we needed to figure out what to do, could I talk this afternoon? Uhhhhhh….
Since my brain had exploded upon reading the words “offer of publication,” I couldn’t think. I should have already walked out the door like five minutes before. And trying to do math to figure out a time to talk between the meetings was extremely tough with an exploded brain. But somehow I managed to type a reply to Tracy.
And then I had to run to the first meeting (like literally run across the parking lot like an Olympic sprinter). Those poor people in the meeting (all strangers but one) were probably wondering what the heck was wrong with me. I was dripping sweat and bouncing and fidgeting in my chair like I’d just downed a dump truck full of pixie stix. I have no recollection of a single word said at that meeting. I’m sure I was super helpful. 

When it was over, I hustled to my car, drove to the location of the next meeting, and sat in the parking lot holding my phone waiting for Tracy’s call. I was so wound up, I dropped it when it rang. Tracy talked me through the details, what they meant, and our various options. We agreed on a plan, and then she went off to do the magical negotiating things agents do to get you the best possible offer.

A week later, I got an email from Tracy with final offer terms for a pre-empt from Running Press Kids. For those of you not in publishing, a pre-empt meant we’d pull the book from consideration so no one else would have a chance to bid. 
I screamed YES!!!!

*Ahem* I mean, I calmly informed my agent that, yeah, that seemed cool, and sure, why not, might as well go ahead take it.

But you want to know what's really wild? About an hour before I got that email from Tracy, I tweeted this:
Say wha?!? Those manatees truly are magical!  
So then it was time to wait for the contract. Turns out a lot of waiting. I was pretty clueless about the contract part, so thank goodness I have Tracy to take care of the details I didn't even know you're supposed to care about. 
This is where the story gets bittersweet. I'd been eagerly checking my email daily, knowing the contact would eventually arrive but suuuper impatient for it to be official because...

Then one of my dogs, Chloe, got sick. She was almost fifteen, so it wasn’t shocking, but she went downhill pretty fast. On September 20th, I was snuggled up with her, waiting for the vet to come do the deed, when my phone dinged with an email. 

Yep, you guessed it, it was my contract. 
My tears turned to sobs.
Then I railed at the universe due to the horrible timing that would forever link my first book contract to the passing of one of my dogs. Although later my sister said it was Chloe's goodbye gift to me. And I really love that idea. Even as typing it makes me cry again. 
(My FB post about Chloe, the goodest girl ever: https://www.facebook.com/jocelyn.rish/posts/10220625075313960)
Moving on to happier things, it was time to sign the contract! The picture taking of the signing was slightly anti-climatic because everything was digital. All I did was push a button, but here it is for posterity.
Jocelyn signing book contract
Then it was time to get to work! While the search was on for the perfect illustrator, I worked with my fantastic editor Allison Cohen on revisions. It was such a fun process to collaborate to make the book stronger.
In November they sent me David Creighton-Pester’s portfolio as a possible illustrator. We all agreed his sense of humor would make him perfect for the project. Check out his work: https://wanderingbert.com/illustration. And then it was more waiting as his contract was finalized. 
In the meantime, David provided some rough sketches for potential covers, and they are awesome!!! I started cackling at one of them and almost fell out of my chair laughing at another. It will be a long while before I can do a cover reveal, butt (ha!) I’m soooo excited to see what he comes up with for the rest of the illustrations. 
And now it’s finally, finally official!!! Everyone is on board, all the contracts are signed, and it’s been announced in Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly.
Publishers Marketplace announcement
Thank you to everyone who has been with me on this journey! I appreciate your support as you’ve read drafts, cheered me on, or pretended to be interested as I talk about animal butts. Your support kept me going to finally reach this dream.
My book is going to be published!!!!!!


I haven’t posted in a long time. A really long time. Over 14 months – yikes!
But how wonderful that I’m revisiting my neglected blog and kicking off 2019 by writing the post I’ve been dying to write since before I even had a blog ...
… the I HAVE AN AGENT post!!!
Whoooo hooooooo!!!

There were times I thought it was never going to happen, but it finally has! And all I had to do was completely change my writing genre and category! 
I wrote my first novel for NaNoWriMo in 2006, and it was a YA horror. All of the stories I’ve written since then have been some combo of horror, thriller, and mystery. Most of them have been YA, although for my last novel I dipped my toes into MG. But of course it was also a scary mystery.
I started entering contests in 2009, and I actually got some agent requests, but it was clear my writing wasn't ready. And I was too scared to start officially querying anyway. Then I was picked as an alternate in Pitch Wars 2013, which gave me the confidence to wade into the querying waters. I ended up with a fair number of nibbles on both the YA and MG I queried, but I never managed to snag an agent.
Then this past year something weird started happening. I kept reading articles and bits of trivia that were science/nature related and made me think, “That would make an awesome kids book!” 
But I’m not a nonfiction writer. 
At all. 
In fact, my two previous attempts during a writing class were pretty painful, with the instructor saying in the nicest way possible that I was clearly a fiction writer. 
But it seemed like every time I had one of these nonfiction brainstorms, within a few hours, I’d get an email from the Highlights Foundation about The Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing workshop. It started to get eerie. Surely, it was a sign. 
So I applied for a scholarship. And I was incredibly lucky to receive a partial one – thanks Highlights! 
Now I needed to submit something for critique for the workshop, but I had no nonfiction to submit. So of course I procrastinated. Then with only two days before the submission deadline, I picked my favorite idea, did some frantic research, and dashed off the 8 pages we were allowed to submit, hoping I hadn’t embarrassed myself.
The second week of August, I headed to the magical place for writers known as the Highlights Foundation. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to go, GO! I met a wonderful group of people passionate about both writing and science, and I learned sooooo much (for example, I had no idea how to do proper research for a NF book). Despite my worries, both the instructors and participants were super supportive of my book idea, saying it had great kid appeal. Whew! 
When I got home, buoyed by the enthusiasm from the group and my newfound knowledge about writing NF, I got to work finishing the book. Even though it’s technically a picture book, it’s one of those long ones, plus research takes forever, but by the end of October, I felt I was ready to query.
But even querying ended up being a learning process because the agents who rep PB/NF are different from the ones I was used to querying for YA/MG, so there was even more research. 
But on October 30th, with a churning stomach and lots of deep, calming breaths, I started sending queries. 
By the end of November, I had an offer of representation. Eeeeeeeeee!!!!!
So then it was time for the best worst two weeks of a writer’s life – the offer of rep nudge. You send emails to agents you've queried letting them know you have an offer so they have two weeks to consider your submission. Mine was complicated by the fact that some of the agents had fulls of my YA or MG, so it was like, “Hi, I have an offer for this NF PB, so even though you’re looking at my YA Mystery, are you interested in representing me?” 
Then you become obsessed with your email and refresh it a lot. Like every 30 seconds. Just kidding! *whispers* no I'm not.
A nice thing about that two week window is that non-offer emails are no longer called rejections, they are called kind step asides. But let me tell ya, nine “kind step asides” in one day still SUUUUUCKS! 
But by the end of my two-week window, I had offers from three AMAZING agents. Seriously, I loved talking to all of them and could have seen myself working with any of the three. A huge teary-eyed, heart-swelled thank you to all three of them for believing in me and my books!!! 
For someone who hates making decisions, it was rough having to choose between three awesome options. (I know, poor baby having to choose between three great agents – boo hoo!). But after annoying my family, critique partners, and PW 14 Table of Trust with endless rounds of “Well, what about ...?”, I finally made a decision. On December 14th, I accepted the offer from …
Tracy Marchini at BookEnds Literary Agency!!!
More whoooo hooooos!!!
Tracy’s vision for my book matched mine exactly, and she totally got what I was trying to do with it. I’m so excited to kick off 2019 with Tracy and see what this year has in store for us.
Here's me signing my contract:
Here's a collage of me trying to figure out how to look cute before I start signing:
I guess the lesson from my path to getting an agent is to be brave and step outside your comfort zone. Try out genres and categories you’ve never considered writing before because wonderful things might happen! 
If you’re interested, here’s the pitch portion of my query: 
Did you know manatees swim using farts? Or that wombats can crush enemy skulls with their rumps? Or that some turtles breathe through their derrières? If butts make you giggle, then you’ll laugh out loud while learning about a variety of animals with fantastic fannies. 
BATTLE OF THE BUTTS is a 6,400-word nonfiction picture book for older kids in the vein of the funny and educational books by Rebecca L. Johnson and Jess Keating. It presents ten animals that have weird and wonderful posterior powers, explains what the power does to help the animal, and how each power works. While giggling and eww-ing their way through the pages, readers will learn about biology, chemistry, and physics – so it’s a win for kids and their parents and teachers. After reading about each animal (Fish that communicate through farts! Beetles that shoot burning chemicals out of their bums!), kids are asked to rate its posterior power. Then at the end of the book, they will decide on a winner and crown the ultimate King of Keisters.
And for those of you who like query stats:
YA Mystery – 5 years of on-and-off querying, 50 queries, 20 requests, 1 R&R, 0 offers
MG Mystery – 2 years of on-and-off querying, 77 queries, 27 requests, 0 offers
NF PB – 1.5 months of querying, 27 queries, 4 requests, 3 offers 
Thank you sooooo much to everyone who has encouraged and supported me over the years.
For example, my sister sent me a box of snacks when I got back from Highlights to sustain me through the writing of the book. And then she sent me two tins of delicious cookies to celebrate getting an agent. 
My brother sent me the Squatty Potty rainbow-pooping unicorn as a good luck charm when I started querying. 
And my longtime friend and critique partner Kathleen sent me unicorn cookies to celebrate signing with Tracy.
And there have been so many more of you who have been there for me - too many of you to name - but please know that your encouraging words, supportive feedback, and kind thoughts have kept me going when it would have been much easier to give up. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 262

It’s been a whirlwind week! 
On Wednesday, I was the director of CAMP. Say what? It’s fall, kids are in school not at camp! Well, I’m talking about Kathleen Fox’s fabulous Creative Arts of Mount Pleasant, which offers all kinds of classes for kids and adults. Kathleen needed the day off, so she asked me to take over and be CAMP director for the day. It was so much fun! I ran a writing critique circle for adults who write for adults and then another one for adults who write for kids. In between those, I was the “supervisor” for the Doodling group, which is a bunch of teens who come in and experiment with the art supplies Kathleen makes available. Since I have zero artistic ability, I was basically there to make sure they didn’t burn down the building. Everyone I met was lovely, and I’m so proud of Kathleen for this amazing place she’s created. If you live in the Charleston area, you should check out her upcoming classes
On Thursday, I drove to my brother’s so we could have lunch at the State fair.
Brian and Jocelyn at the fair
They do this cool weekday lunch deal where starting at noon you can pay the entry fee, but if you leave before 2, you get your money back. So basically you only have to pay the ridiculously high price for fair food. I tried a buffalo gyro, which is a regular gyro but the meat is mixed with buffalo sauce before being placed on the pita. I wouldn’t have thought of mixing those two flavors, but it was really tasty. Then we gorged on battered, fried sweets by splitting a “sampler” platter - Oreo, red velvet Oreo, cookie dough, cake pop, Reece’s peanut butter cup, and cinnamon butter. So yummy. So bad for you. 
We also checked out the animals, so here’s me with a cow. 
Jocelyn with Cow
On Friday, I headed further north to crash with my sister for a few days. We watched a bunch of movies, she introduced me to the addiction that is Live PD, and then she tried to murder me via sugar. Instead of regular ol’ fried Oreos, she covered the Oreos in baking chocolate then dipped them in funfetti cake batter and then fried them. Whoa! Delish, but I could feel my arteries clogging as I ate them. Not sure how I ended up eating fried Oreos twice in one week, but no complaints here! 
Jo frying Oreos
Frying Oreos
Saturday was the main reason I headed up to Greenville - the Readup Festival, which is like a more intimate YALLFest. There were lots of amazing authors, and the crowds were still small enough that you almost felt like you were hanging out with them. Libba Bray was the opening keynote, and Kwame Alexander was the closing keynote, and they both inspired me in different ways. And of course I had to get my pic taken with a Newbery winner while he signed my book. 
Jocelyn Rish and Kwame Alexander
I also want to share another cover reveal. My friend and critique partner Rebecca Petruck has a new book coming out May 8, 2018, called BOY BITES BUG. Yesterday was World Edible Insect Day, which made it the perfect day to release the cover. It’s been so fun watching this story evolve through various drafts, and the cover for it is so perfect. 
Will didn’t plan to eat a stinkbug. But when his friend Darryl called new kid Eloy Herrera a racial slur, Will did it as a diversion. Now Will is Bug Boy, and everyone is cracking up inventing insect meals for him, like French flies and maggot-aroni and fleas.
Turns out eating bugs for food is a real thing, called entomophagy. Deciding that means he can use a class project to feed everyone grasshoppers, Will bargains for Eloy’s help in exchange for helping him with wrestling, but their growing friendship only ticks off Darryl more.
Will may have bitten off more than he can chew as crickets, earthworm jerky—even a scorpion—end up on his plate, but insects are the least of his problems. When things with Darryl and Eloy heat up, Will wrestles with questions of loyalty, honor—and that maybe not all friendships are worth fighting for.
Boy Bites Bug cover
Isn’t the cover beautiful and eye-catching? I’m thrilled for Rebecca, even if she did make me eat bugs as part of her research. Click here to pre-order
And now it’s time for today’s 15 Minute Tweet Tales
rowel - a small, revolving wheel with sharp projecting points, forming the end of a spur.
10/24 - He dug his rowels into her side. Again. The mare veered sharply left. Toward the cliff. She braked right at the edge. He kept flying.
Play along and write tweet tales for the above word. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tale or #15tt word?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 261

15 Minute Tweet TalesLast week, I talked about the project for the grant my brother won, so this week it’s time to talk about mine! The grant I applied for is called the Artists Ventures Initiative, and its purpose is to help artists in South Carolina turn their art into a business. Over the years, I’ve absorbed a lot of knowledge about writing in a variety of formats, so I applied for the grant to start a business of online writing courses. I was thrilled when I won because the grant will be a huge help with initial startup costs and marketing to get the word out once the classes are available. 
I’ve already started putting together the first class, and it’s called Writing Like a Hollywood Movie Crew. If you read last week’s post, you might remember that was what I presented at the SCBWI-Carolinas conference. It was a distilled version of the eventual online class. At the conference, I talked about five positions on a Hollywood movie crew and how they can help your writing, whereas the online class will have twenty-one. People in the audience seemed enthusiastic, and several people contacted me later to say my examples really helped them, so I have high hopes for the full online course. 
It has taken longer than I expected to put the lessons together, partly because I’ve been learning about the video editing software as I go. My brother helped me film all the “on camera” sections, which were painful because I HATE being on camera. The lessons will be a mix of me on camera, PowerPoint slides, animation, and then my narration. Which is another stumbling block, since I also hate hearing my recorded voice. I’m in complete denial of how awful my voice is, so to be confronted with it again and again and again is … not fun. 
Plus, you know that saying, “Perfect is the enemy of good”? Yeah, I’ve always been a perfectionist, and I’m really struggling. As I record sections, if my voice bobbles at all, or I stumble over a word, I feel like I have to record everything all over again. I need to be able to let things go as “good enough” or I will never actually complete the lessons and release the course. But despite some of the parts I don’t like, I really enjoy the actual creating the lessons part. Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a teacher.
Of course the biggest challenge in creating this new company was coming up with a name. I didn’t want it to focus soley on writing because my brother was interested in creating some courses about social media and YouTube, plus I wanted it to be a place my artistic friends could also create courses if they wanted. Therefore the name needed to cover a bigger range than just writing. I also wanted to incorporate dogs somewhere in the name because I plan to use the Rish family dogs as part of the marketing. 
After much brainstorming and overuse of a thesaurus, I decided on Transmedia Mutts. Transmedia storytelling tells a narrative across multiple media platforms, so I thought it fit the fact that multiple ways of telling stories would be covered. And then of course Mutts for our pampered pooches. 
The next step was designing a logo, but since I have no artistic skills at all, I called in the big guns – Will Bryan, who designed the amazing posters for my short films Saying Goodbye and High Heels & Hoodoo. He came up with a logo that’s fun, eye-catching, and memorable. Thanks, Will!!!
Transmedia Mutts logo
The logo is now front and center in the Transmedia Mutts’s social media accounts. Check them out … in fact, give them a follow. Pretty please!!! They will be a source of writing tips, social media advice, and best of all – cute doggie pics! 
If you want a sneak peek at what the lessons will look like, I have an intro lesson up on the website. And right now, I also have the PowerPoint presentation from the SCBWI conference up there, too, so you can learn even more! Due to the hosting software, you will have to create an account to access it, but I think it’s totally worth it. ☺
And now for this week’s Fifteen Minute Tweet Tales:
rasceta - the creases on the inside of the wrist.
10/17 - He holds her hand, sliding his thumb back and forth over her rasceta. She swallows a moan, then tries to smile as he introduces his folks. 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above word. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tale or #15tt word?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 260

Oh dear. It’s now been TWO MONTHS since my last post. That’s … not great. But in my defense, it’s been a packed two months. I’ve been out of town for large chunks of it, and I’ve been working on two big projects.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the happenings. 
The most exciting thing was the eclipse. I was lucky, since I live in Charleston, my brother in Columbia, and my sister in Greenville - all three in the path of totality - I figured I had a place to watch no matter what the weather. 
It was obvious from the first 10-day forecast that Charleston was going to be a no-go, so I knew I was going to have to travel. On the day before, Greenville was predicted to be clearer than Columbia, so my brother and I headed up there. My sister planned eclipse-themed food and drinks, and we had a blast. The weather was gorgeous, and the eclipse was truly a mind-blowing event. Mother Nature is freakin’ cool. It was so surreal that even now it kind of seems like something I watched on TV rather than something that really happened. 
Siblings watching the eclipse
Diamond ring right before eclipse totality
Eclipse totality
Diamond ring after eclipse totality
Then the next weekend, I was a presenter at the SCBWI Carolinas conference in Charlotte.  My presentation was called Write Like a Hollywood Movie Crew, and I spent tons of time working on my presentation because I felt like such an imposter. When the big morning arrived, I was super nervous, but I think it went well. At first there were projector issues, so I almost simultaneously had a heart attack, fainted, and barfed because my presentation was extremely reliant on visuals. But only a few minutes after my session was supposed to start, the IT guy got it working. People laughed when I hoped and were very engaged. And I got a lot of compliments afterwards, although that could have been because I bribed them with cups of popcorn at the start.
Jocelyn Presenting
I had a great time at the conference and met lots of fun writers and publishing folks. Plus I absorbed the surge in creative energy I always get at these events.
Then the next week was a retreat with my writing group, the Sisukas, in Beaufort. Unfortunately, that was also the week that Hurricane Irma was bearing down on South Carolina, so we were mostly stressed and nervous about potentially having to evacuate. After two nights, we decided to cut the trip short so everyone could get home to make hurricane plans. Fortunately, Irma shifted enough that I didn’t have to evacuate, but she sure made a mess. 
And then the week after that, I had another writing retreat with a different group of writers in Nebo, NC. I know, I’m a lucky gal! It was five days of writing while taking in the gorgeous view and enjoying the company of accomplished and hilarious women. 
Lake at Nebo
Writers at Nebo
In between all the travel, I’ve been hard at work on two big projects. Earlier this year, I mentioned I was working on grant applications. Well, I won my grant! Whoo hooo! And my brother won his grant! Double whoo hooo! And we’ve been focused on getting both projects up and running. I’ll talk about my grant project next week, but this week, I’m introducing his. 
His grant project is to create an anthology of short horror films via a contest. At the last minute, we decided to do a contest for a winning screenplay as well. So I’m pleased to present Grave Intentions!
Grave Intentions
We’re now accepting submissions here: https://filmfreeway.com/festival/GraveIntentionsAnthology
You can check out our website here: http://www.graveintentionsanthology.com/
We also don’t have many followers on our social media, so if you want to give us a pity follow we’d REALLY appreciate it!
If anyone you know makes or writes short films that would broadly fit into the horror genre, please (pretty please!!!) let them know about our contest. 
Whew! Okay, I think that’s the big things. If I were a good #15tt tweeter, I would make up for the last eight weeks of 15 Minute Tweet Tales that I missed, but I’m just going to pretend like that didn’t happen and only do one for this week. Sorry, not sorry!
purlicue - the space between one's forefinger and thumb when extended.
10/10 – He stares at the purlicue of his right hand. The cat’s neck will fit perfectly & the yowling will finally stop when his fingers clench.
Play along and write tweet tales for the above word. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tale or #15tt word?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 217

15 Minute Tweet TalesI mentioned last week that I was working on an entry for the James Patterson Co-writing Competition. Well, the deadline is today! *hyperventilates* A Tuesday on a 22nd seems like a random day for a deadline, but I think it’s because it’s JP’s birthday. Happy Birthday, James! Anyway, I’ve been grinding away at my entry all week, and I just submitted it a few minutes ago. 
I’m definitely nervous, but thanks to my awesome CPs and family members - who graciously read and offered amazing feedback on several revisions - I think my entry is as polished as I can make it. So fingers crossed!
Even better is that working on this submission has gotten me pumped about this story idea again. I wrote the VERY rough draft during NaNo back in 2008 (yikes!!), but I haven’t done anything with it since then. But I’m super excited about the new ideas I’ve had for the story, and I’m ready to get cracking on revising the rest of it (they only needed one chapter for the JP contest). I haven’t been this eager to write in quite a while, so I consider this a VERY good thing no matter the outcome of the contest.
And now for this week’s 15 Minute Tweet Tales word: 
brontide - a sound like that of distant thunder, some of which may have seismic origins.
3/22 - Brontide rumbles to the west. Dad thinks earthquake. Mom says a storm is coming. She's right. Soldiers march in and take no prisoners.
Play along and write a tweet tale for the above word. If you’re willing to share, post it on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add it below in the comments because I’d love to read your tales. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tale or #15tt word?

It Was Fun While It Lasted

Claiming that the news I received a few weeks ago sent me into a grief cycle is beyond melodramatic, so let’s just say I went through a modified version of the stages of grief. And now that I’ve worked my way through to the end, I’m ready to share. Come along with me on my journey:
On the evening of Sunday, January 17th, I sent my editor at MTV an email telling him my article about Winnie-the-Pooh was ready for him to post on Monday. I got an automatic reply stating January 14th was his last day at MTV News. Uhhhhh … WHAT?!?!
Since he hadn’t given me a heads up, I figured that meant it was sudden, which suggested he was fired. So again – WHAT?!? And not to be selfish, but what did this mean for me? With the editor who hired me gone, did that mean I was done, too? Surely they would just transfer me to another editor, right? But why hadn’t anyone contacted me to let me know I should report to someone new?
Besides my editor, I only had one other contact at MTV – the weekend editor who had posted some of my YALLFest articles for me. So I sent him an email asking 1. If he could post my Pooh article for me, and 2. What the heck was going on? He immediately responded and apologized for the confusion, and gave me the contact info of a senior editor to inquire about my freelance status. So I sent the senior editor an email asking for clarification. Unfortunately, there was no immediate response from this guy, so I just sat staring at my inbox, having a mini-heart attack each time my notification dinged. 
A few hours later, I got a message from my editor’s personal email account saying that MTV had essentially dismantled the entertainment team and let everyone go. Again I said WHAT?!?! but this time I added THE F*CK?!?!?!? to the end of it. In all the terrible scenarios I had come up with in my head, I never imagined the whole department had been decimated. 
Then denial kicked in. Well, the department had only ‘essentially’ been dismantled. The weekend editor and the senior editor were still there. The site was still posting articles. My editor did not specifically say I was one of the ones let go. And freelancers are much cheaper than full-time employees, so maybe I would still have a job. I’d just wait until I heard from the senior editor. So I waited and waited and waited for what I was totally sure was going to be good news.
By Tuesday evening, I still hadn’t heard a word from the senior editor. Since timesheets were due on Wednesday, and I needed an editor to approve mine, I sent the senior editor my timesheet, along with another inquiry about my status. I also mentioned how much I enjoyed writing for MTV. I told him I had an interview ready to publish with NYT Bestselling author Beth Revis and award-winning Cristin Terrill (read the fun interview here), and that I had an interview scheduled for Friday morning with Scarlett Johansson’s sister Vanessa about Vanessa directing Scarlett in an Alice in Wonderland audiobook. Basically, I was trying to convince him to keep me on, and I honestly considered telling him I would write for free just so I could continue having exposure on the MTV site. But I stopped myself before I completely threw away my pride. 
Then I waited. And waited. And waited. No response. So I ended up very embarrassedly cancelling the interview with Vanessa. I was super disappointed because 1. It would have been fun to find out more about the making of audiobooks, and 2. I would have been two degrees of separation from Scarlett freakin’ Johansson!! As my sister pointed out, that probably meant Scarlett would have read an article I’d written because it would be about both her and her sister. Gah!!!
And then I continued to wait for a response. I didn’t want to be a pain by emailing again, so I just stewed. Then payday came. 
And I didn’t get paid. 
Now I was furious. It was bad enough to ignore my requests for clarification about my status, and to blow off questions about what I should do with my interviews in progress, but to not pay me for the work I had already done?!?  Flames! Flames on the side of my face! I imagined doing lots of unwise things via email and social media, but I didn’t want to burn any bridges. So I did a lot of ranting at the air like a crazy person, and I took a lot of deep breaths. A whole heck of a lot of deep breaths. 
Then I emailed the very nice weekend editor and gave him a quick rundown of my situation, and he was super sweet and told me he’d take care of the timesheet issue right away. Fortunately, I did get paid on the next payday, so I didn’t have to pull out my big guns. Actually, I don’t have any big guns, so I’m super grateful to the weekend editor guy for taking care of the issue so quickly.
Even though I still haven’t gotten an official confirmation that my freelancing gig at MTV is over, I assume being ignored by a senior editor is a pretty good indication I no longer have a job there. So then the sadness kicked in. While I didn’t cry, I did take to my bed to sulk. I was really, really bummed. This was SUCH a perfect job for me. I got to write fun, fluffy articles about the things I love: books, movies, and TV. I got to pitch the ideas I wanted to write about. I got work on my own schedule (night owls for the win!). While it wasn’t much, I got paid for writing, which was a HUGE deal for me. I was making great contacts in the YA world. Yeah, I was definitely a sad, sad panda thinking I’d never again find a job as perfect as this one for me.
Acceptance and Hope
Finally, I got tired of wallowing in my dejection and started looking for the silver lining. As much as I enjoyed writing those silly articles, I had completely neglected my personal writing. I hadn’t written or revised a single word on any of my novels or screenplays since I started, so now I’d have time to write for me. And even though my stint at MTV was brief, it would look awesome on my resume. 
And since I’ve kind of been bitten by the freelancing bug, I’ve been looking at other outlets. I won’t pursue any of them until I make some progress on my current WIP novel, but it’s nice to know there are other options out there. 
I’m still not sure what went down at MTV, or why they decided to change things. And while I was bummed for myself, I feel really terrible for the full-time folks who were let go, especially my editor. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Books, TV, and Movies verticals, since those were the three I wrote for. For three weeks, they didn’t post a single article in the Books vertical, which gave me a perverse sense of satisfaction that my Pooh article was the last one posted. But then this week they did post a few, especially with the news of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child coming out. As for TV and Movies, they’ve still been posting there, but only a few per day, when it used to be several per hour. And most of the articles are of the newsy/gossipy type, so my guess is that they are fully embracing the ‘news’ aspect of the MTV News website and abandoning the other types of articles. But that’s pure speculation on my part.
If you want to catch up on any of my articles, this link lists all of them. 
Although the MTV ride was a short one, it certainly was a fun one – from those first giddy days of applying for and getting the job, to seeing my first article published on such a huge platform, to getting to meet one of my idols at YALLFest. I’m very grateful for the experience, and while I’m sad it’s over, I have learned so much, and I hope it leads to even bigger and better things. 

The Writer's Voice Contest Entry

I was lucky enough to be randomly selected as one of the entries for The Writer's Voice contest, so I’m interrupting my regular blogging schedule to add my entry. Thank you to Krista Van Dolzer, Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Elizabeth Briggs, and their assistants for hosting such a fun contest! Here’s my entry:
Dear Writer's Voice Judges,
When sixteen-year-old Brea stumbles upon a body in the woods, she can’t wait to tell the entire school – heck, the entire town – about her gruesome discovery. This time she has proof to back up one of her stories, so they can’t dismiss it as her overactive imagination. One problem: when she leads the police back to the body, it’s gone.
Now Brea’s reputation is completely destroyed, and the police refuse to believe there’s a killer on the loose. That’s okay, she’s watched a few CSI episodes, she'll just solve the murder herself. Decked out in yellow kitchen gloves, she searches the woods and finds evidence implicating Ryker, a classmate fresh out of juvie. The bad news? He now seems to be stalking her. Brea needs a way to investigate him with witnesses present, so she schemes to get him on her team for the annual video scavenger hunt.
Soon Brea, Ryker, and three other friends are performing cringeworthy tasks like modeling lingerie and juggling hemorrhoid cream. Despite her mission to expose a murderer, Brea starts to enjoy herself. After all, who would have guessed Ryker would look so adorable in a negligee? But when Brea and a teammate are almost killed, she realizes the murderer is using the hunt as a pretext to take out the entire team. With no idea who to trust, Brea must look past her embellished view of reality to uncover the truth that will save them all. 
THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF is a 77,000-word young adult mystery with series potential. The twists and turns pay homage to early Christopher Pike, while Brea's witty narration would make her fast friends with Veronica Mars.
THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF won the SCBWI 2013 Work-in-Progress Grant for Contemporary Novel for Young People. I am also one of the winners of the 2009 Highlights Fiction Contest and a 2008 South Carolina Fiction Project winner. Also, two of my screenplays won generous grants to produce them into award-winning short films. I’m also the Interview Coordinator for Adventures in YA Publishing, which has been a Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past three years.
Thank you for your time,
Jocelyn Rish
A white towel was a terrible outfit for trying to outrun a homicidal maniac. Although I had to admit, the woman racing through the dark forest made it look easy.
Until she tripped and crashed to the ground.
I leaned forward on the couch. “Get up! Get up!”
Instead of scrambling to her feet, she cowered in the leaves.
“Come on.” My fingers dug into the worn leather cushion. “At least grab a tree branch to defend yourself.”
But she only whimpered, “No, please, no,” while the killer stood over her adjusting his grip on the machete. Like begging was going to change his mind.
His blade whistled through the air. Thwack! Blood spurted. I grimaced and flopped back against my favorite seat in the house.
Something cold and wet touched my hand.
I yelped before my brain remembered the psycho couldn’t crawl through the TV screen to attack me. I glared at Maximus, my seventy-pound Frankenstein mutt taking up more than his fair share of the couch. “Holy crap, Max, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
He chuffed in a way that sounded suspiciously like a yes and nosed my hand again.
“Really? You have to go out just when the movie’s getting exciting?”
Max blinked like he’d never do something so obnoxious. Then he barked at me.
I sighed, but before I could push myself off the couch, Max’s giant German Shepherd ears swiveled toward a sound that sent my heart into Riverdance mode: footsteps on the stairs.

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 168

This was a weird week for my 15 Minute Tweet Tales. After I posted last week, I left for a writing retreat where there was no internet. So before I took off, I selected the #15tt words for the rest of the week and scheduled them to tweet each day; however, I didn’t actually write any advance tales because I ran out of time. So I ended up writing them all today, which was interesting. I got into a groove and definitely wrote them faster than usual, but I feel like they were pretty blah. Or maybe I just used up all my creative juices during the retreat.
Our Sisukas critique group met at my family’s lake house, and we had a delightful time. Here we are - Kami Kinard, Rebecca Petruck, me, and Kathleen Fox doing our best at snapping a selfie:
Sisukas at Lake
We spent time offering feedback on rough drafts, brainstorming new ideas, talking writing and publishing in general, eating, chatting, and occasionally actually writing. We also adopted one of the neighbor dogs for the day. Buster Brown was a big, goofy ball of love that kept us smiling.
Buster Brown
There was even a rainbow one afternoon, so that has to be good sign for our current projects, right?
Rainbow at Lake Retreat
And now here are my quickly cobbled-together tales:
4/8 – Everyone raves about his haute cuisine, but, suspicious, she digs through the trash and finds packaging for a microwave meal. Blackmail!
4/9 - Wanting to make sure everyone knows he's a busy man, the boss begins all pep talks in medias res. They just think he's a crappy boss.
4/10 - I smirk when she trips on stage. After the hell she inflicted on us during practices, it's karma that she's the one who ruins the show.
4/11 - The pain her ex caused is overwhelming, and she knows the only way to achieve lex talionis is to rip his heart out. With hedge clippers.
15 Minute Tweet Tales4/12 – With feathers in her hair and birds perched on her shoulders, people call her the raven maven - the crows speak their truth through her.
4/13 - The salesman grins when one of the nouveau riche walk in the dealership: just drop some names of old-money buyers and the sale is done.
4/14 - Her purse is an omnium-gatherum of items she thinks are essential. She never uses most, so their only function is weighing down shoulder.
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales or #15tt words?

YALLFest and Writing Friends

I can’t believe it’s already been a week since the start of my long Weekend of Writerly Wonderfulness – time really does fly when you’re having fun!
YALLFest was this past Saturday, and my critique group the Sisukas (Kathleen Fox, Rebecca Petruck, and Debra Rook) decided to turn the weekend into a writing retreat. We rented a house from Friday to Tuesday so we could cocoon in and concentrate on writing and giving feedback on our current projects.
Sisukas YALLFest Retreat 2013
The weekend kicked off on Friday night with a pre-YALLFest dinner with the Sisukas and other writer friends who were in town for YALLFest. It was an evening of great food and even better company, giving me the chance to catch up with old writer friends (Jillian Utley and Laura Moss) and to meet new ones (Jamie Hoffman and Jasmine Warga). It was so fun I hope to make it an annual pre-YALLFest tradition!
Bright and early Saturday morning was the actual big event. And when I say big, I mean BIG. First of all, check out the list of 50 kidlit authors on the panels, many of them New York Times Bestsellers – impressive. Then the turnout was huge this year – so big I wasn’t able to find writer friends in the crowd like I have done in the past. This is an awesome thing to see for Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston, and the YA writing/reading community. 
It’s both intimidating and inspiring to attend YALLFest. On the one hand, when I see the authors up on stage, they are so poised, clever, and funny that I don’t think I could ever be like them. But then they share stories of how they struggle with characters or setting or getting their butts in the chair, and I see that it’s hard work for them, too, which makes it all seem more attainable. I really appreciate all of them sharing their insight and wisdom.
A huge thanks to Jonathan Sanchez, Margaret Stohl, and all the others who worked so hard to put together this incredible festival that brings together so many readers and writers. Also, I did a guest post on Kami Kinard’s blog with some of the comments that resonated with me, so click here for more scoop from this year’s YALLFest
With my head and heart stuffed full of awesome YALLFest inspiration, it was time to get down to the working part of the weekend. We interspersed writing and critiquing, and I was super nervous waiting for my feedback. This was the first time that the rewrite I recently finished was getting comments from other writers, plus I really respect not only the writing talent of these ladies but also their knowledge of the business side of publishing and the YA audience, so my stomach was in knots when it was my turn.
Fortunately it went great! Not only great in that they really liked it and think it’s pretty close to query ready, but also in that they had great suggestions for some tweaks to strengthen it. I’m still waiting for feedback from a few other beta readers, plus I’m focusing on NaNo for the rest of November, but my plan is make changes in December to be ready to query in January. New Year’s Resolution indeed!
There was also a lot of writing accomplished during the retreat – all of us were hard at work on projects at various stages. Mine was my NaNo novel, which is off to a rocky start, but at least it’s now finally started!
Then to cap off everything, I had lunch with Martina Boone on Tuesday. I met Martina through her blog, and she was also in town for YALLFest and for some other book-related projects. Although slightly concerned about being murdered by a stranger I met on the internet (hooray for overactive imaginations!), I was delighted to discover that Martina is just as lovely in person as she is online. YALLFest is an awesome event in and of itself, but I think I love it most for giving me the chance to socialize in person with writing friends.
It really was a wonderful weekend of writing activities. Writing is hard work. Really hard work. But as we sat around at meals brainstorming, I watched people’s good ideas turn into great ones, and when I closed my eyes and listened to clicking keyboards as friends created worlds and characters as we wrote in front of the fireplace, well, in those moments it felt a little less like work and a lot more like magic.
Were you able to make it to YALLFest? What were your favorite parts? Do you find that writing retreats inspire you? Aren’t writing friends the best?!?
You can read about the first two YALLFests here and here.
Also check out the interviews I hosted with YALLFest authors:
Cinda Williams Chima                       Lauren Oliver
CJ Lyons                                          Sean Williams
Rainbow Rowell                                Ransom Riggs
Veronica Rossi                                  Kami Garcia
Melissa de la Cruz                             Shannon Hale
Lisi Harrison                                     Michelle Hodkin
Lisa McMann                                    Jocelyn Davies