Greetings, blog followers! Yes, it’s me. And, yes, I’m still alive.
As you’ve may (or may not) have noticed, I’ve been absent from the blog world the past few months (er, maybe longer). I made a New Year’s resolution to put all of my attention and free time into finishing my novel, which I almost have! By the end of summer/early fall, I should have my manuscript and query letter ready to go for literary agents (eeks!).
This past weekend, I decided to reward my good, focused behavior by participating in my 5th NYC Midnight (NYCM) Flash Fiction Challenge (FFC). To be honest, I signed up for this writing contest a couple of months ago hoping my novel would be in my betas’ hands when the challenge kicked off…Wrong! My betas returned their notes a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been revising ever since. So, it was really hard to shift gears on Friday night.
But, I did. And I had so much fun!
As a quick reminder, the NYCM FFC is a writing contest where writers from all over the world are given three prompts (genre, location, and object), and then 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story. It never fails to stress me out, but it’s always worth it.
Round one kicked off last Friday night at 10 p.m. (MST). I prayed and prayed the prompt gods would give me comedy. Why? Because 1) it’s the complete opposite of what I usually write, and 2) it’s one of the few NYCM genres I’ve never been assigned.
Well, guess what? The prompt gods finally answered my prayers! I was put in group 40, which had to write a comedy that took place in a bartending school and incorporated sandpaper.
I literally squealed when I saw comedy as my assigned genre. It’s taken five years and 17 rounds of NYC Midnight contests for me to get this genre (I don’t count rom-com or political satire, because those are very specific comedies that push you into a smaller realm of the comedy world). As for my other prompts…ugh. The location threw me. I’ve never been a bar-kinda girl, and I don’t drink much, so finding inspiration was tough. The sandpaper prompt didn’t faze me. I’ve had much, MUCH weirder objects to incorporate, so I pushed it to the back of my mind.
My process with these contests has become fairly streamlined: Friday night, brainstorm/plan general gist of story. Saturday, write. Sunday, edit/beta read.
So, as usual, I brainstormed on Friday night and went to bed with a solid idea. I planned to sleep in on Saturday because I had a really rough week at work and needed the rest, but my body refused to listen. It’s been hardwired for pre-dawn workouts in preparation for a half marathon I’m running in August, so I ended up waking up, bright and early, at 4 a.m. Which meant I only got about four hours of sleep. Which meant I was exhausted all. Day. Long.
Somehow I managed to find my groove and dig into my story by noon. As I wrote, my original concept changed quite a bit. I discovered comedy is different from other genres because you have to let the humor evolve organically. If you find something funny, then you have to keep going with it and play up the joke. My joke ended up revolving around millennials.
*cue millennial eye rolls across the world*
Sorry not sorry, millennials. But, hey, I’m partly millennial too, so I was the butt of my own jokes.
By 3 p.m., I had a rough first draft that was 500 words OVER the limit. Blerg! I decided to let it rest while I attended my brother’s 30th birthday bash (yes, I was a fantastic social butterfly at that event.) When I got home later that evening, I rolled up my sleeves and began revising–er, chopping. I successfully hacked about 200 words before crashing for the night.
The next morning, I had to get up early for my pre-dawn workout. Thankfully, I felt pretty calm about my story. Still, I was eager to get home and back to writing. I only had until 4 p.m. that day to finish and submit my story before I had to leave for yet another event. (Yeah, it wasn’t the best weekend to participate in a writing competition.)
As always, my wonderful, patient mother came over to my house and helped me edit. I was more nervous than usual to get her opinion on the story because it was so far out of my comfort zone. And because I had NO idea if it was actually funny. But, thank the Lord, she laughed a lot. So did the six other beta readers who helped me chop my comedy down from 1,200 to 996 words. Phew! I whipped together a synopsis and submitted my story eight hours ahead of the official deadline.
Yeah, despite the lack of tears and heart palpitations this round, I was exhausted. But, I genuinely like what I came up with, and I’m really proud of myself for tackling a genre so completely out of my comfort zone.
In the past, I shared my story publicly. However, I’ve begun sending my work to publishers, so I’m no longer posting them here for any and all to read. Sorry! If you are interested in reading it, please send me a message and I’ll provide you with the password. For now, here’s my title and synopsis:
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A millennial needs a job to handle life’s necessities, like yoga, Netflix, and Starbucks. He decides to try bartending (#thestruggleisreal).
Congrats to all those who participated and submitted a story for NYCM’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2017!
Photo Credits: giphy
Below you will find my 2nd round entry for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. You will also find a perfect example of trying and failing–ha! As I explained in a post earlier this week, I received the number one genre I DID NOT WANT: political satire.
To be honest, I wouldn’t even share this story with you because it’s not representative of who I am as a writer. However, I’ve decided the true failure for this story would come from stuffing it in a drawer and forgetting it ever happened. I might as well post it and learn from my mistakes. How else will I improve if I don’t open myself up to criticism, right?
So, with that all said, here you go! As a reminder, I had 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story based on these prompts:
*Since not all of us are political gurus, I wrote out a brief explanation about my chosen topic. If you’d like to read it before or after you check out my story–click here and scroll to the bottom 🙂
by Jenna Willett
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: It’s the 21st century and time for a new, inviting strategy for the Secret Service. But Director Peterson’s plan might be too Disney for special agent Prouty.
“My, oh my, what a wonderful day!” Director Judy Peterson clapped her chubby hands and hitched her bulldog-like face into a smile. “Remember, everyone: be friendly and inviting. Understand?”
The group of black clad Secret Service agents shifted uneasily. Agent Prouty glanced at his colleagues. They wore varying expressions of alarm, amusement, and indifference. Behind them, Air Force One glimmered in the setting sun of Scranton, Pennsylvania, the “happiest place on Earth”.
“Come, come. I wanna see smiles. Lots and lots of smiles!” Director Peterson nodded her approval at each agent. “Ah, yes, there you go. Very good. Yes, yes–No, no. Prouty!” she barked. “You’re not smiling!”
He clenched his jaw and twitched his thin lips into a smile.
Fuck, this was ridiculous.
Satisfied, Director Peterson motioned across the tarmac to the VIP passengers being herded out of the airport to the final security checkpoint. “Smith, check IDs. Phillips, run the metal detector. Halloway…” As she rattled off their individual assignments, Prouty studied the approaching passengers: congressmen, media clowns, a few invited guests.
“…yes, yes, Halloway. That’s a great smile. Just like Prince Charming.” Director Peterson’s praise drew Prouty’s attention back to her. The evening breeze hardly ruffled her stiff chocolate brown hair. “Prouty, you’ll oversee the baggage scanner.”
He nodded dutifully.
“And, don’t forget, everyone,” she trilled. “I want smiles and magic–“
“Director?” Prouty blurted. “Who’s on Air Force One with the First Family?” Hell, the last thing they needed was an armed lunatic running up the plane’s stairs, barging through the door, and mowing down the President of the United States.
She waved a dismissive hand. “Eh, they’ll be safe on board. The attendants can keep an eye on them.”
Oh, dear God.
Prouty bit back his angry retort and did as he’d been trained to do: follow orders without argument.
“Now, let’s hoppity-hop to it!” Director Peterson fluttered her fingers towards the security checkpoint.
Prouty and the rest of the team obediently took up their positions. From his perch behind the baggage scanner, he watched Director Peterson stroll behind the other agents, urging them to maintain their delightful facades while greeting passengers. “Welcome to Air Force One. Anything your heart desires will come to you. If you want a cognac, you got it.”
How the hell did she get her husky voice to sound like a chipmunk?
Prouty shook his head and focused on scanning the luggage contents. The shape of a gun appeared.
“Is there a bluebird on your shoulder today, agent?”
He jumped and glared behind him. Director Peterson leaned in close. Her cotton candy perfume gave him an instant toothache. “Director, we have a serious problem.” He pointed at the screen.
Her beady eyes narrowed. “Well, that’s obviously a hairdryer, silly.” She winked and tapped him on the nose. “But, good eyes. Keep them sharp.”
“Ooh, look! A Birkin bag.” She bounced over to a busty blonde hanging on the withered arm of an ancient congressman.
Oh for shit’s sake. Prouty swallowed his outrage and continued checking bags.
A few minutes later, a hefty man plodded past holding a map of Washington D.C.
“Sir?” Prouty stood and squinted at the map. The White House was circled in red.
“It is fine, da?” the man grunted in a thick Russian accent while puffing on a cigarette.
Prouty coughed and tapped his headset. “Director, I have an issue–“
“An issue?” She skipped over to him, her jowls wobbling with each heavy jolt. “Well, well, well. Who’s this handsome man?”
“Vlad Bukavitsky,” the Russian sneered. “And I not like dis treatment by your countryman. I good man. Loyal man. See?” He flashed the Russian flag pin on his lapel.
Prouty scowled. “Sir, I need you to hand over that map–“
“Agent Prouty!” Director Peterson gasped. “Don’t discriminate against our international friend.” She smiled apologetically at Bukavitsky. “I’m so sorry, sir. We’ll make sure you get a souvenir.” She tapped on her headset. “Halloway? Yeah, I need a coffee mug…”
Prouty’s jaw dropped. “But–“
Suddenly, a man wearing a yellow construction hardhat appeared. “Hiyah, folks.”
“Hello there!” Director Peterson chirped.
“Got a call about a broken TV on the plane. Mind if I hop on real quick to fix it?”
“Of course not. Go ahead.” She waved him past the security checkpoint. “And thank you. I know how much the President wants to watch those Steelers.”
“Best damn team ever,” the construction worker agreed. He tipped his hat, and whistling, strolled off to the jet. Prouty caught him snapping a selfie on his way up the steps.
Unable to contain himself any longer, he rounded on Director Peterson. “With all due respect, this is bullshit. None of this is protocol–“
“My dear agent,” she sighed, impatience lacing her sugary tone. “How many times must I tell you? This is the 21st century. It’s time for a new attitude and a new approach to our tactics. Lowering our guard might be the best thing to raise–“
Everyone screamed and ducked.
Prouty spun around, gun in hand, ready to fire.
“Someone get to the President and his family,” he shouted.
“How dare you, Prouty!” Director Peterson cried. “I’m in charge here. Stand down, team. I repeat, stand down.”
He gaped at her. “Director, someone shot–“
“Nobody shot anything! It was just the luggage trolley backfiring.”
“Obviously.” She clucked her tongue. “Haven’t you ever heard a car backfire?”
“But six times?”
“Hush, hush.” She patted him on the arm. “And for God’s sake, smile. You’re scaring our poor passengers with your unnecessary panic.”
“Unnecessary? Are you out of your–“
“The last passenger has been processed, Director.” Halloway ran up with his Prince Charming smile.
“Well, my, oh my.” She clapped her hands. “Great job, team. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Prouty glared from them, to the President’s plane. Slowly, he exhaled and muttered, “Ah, fuck. Let it go.”
To read more stories, visit the Jen’s Pen page.
Attention, everyone! Attention, attention: It’s Friday!
So, to be perfectly honest, I spent the majority of my week doing this:
Daydreaming. Pondering. Staring off into La-La Land…
I’m not quite sure if I’m so tired I couldn’t focus on anything, or if I’m so focused on everything, I couldn’t focus on anything. Wait, that didn’t make sense. Let’s go with the first thing I said…
Yeah, yeah. I know. I need a vacation. But that isn’t happening, so let’s move on, shall we?
On a positive note, my life was much calmer than last week, and I no longer feel like I’m on the verge of a royal meltdown.
I spent all last weekend hermit-ing it up to regain my footing and get back on track with my manuscript–which I did. Phew! Better yet, I sent my beta reader new chapters, and her feedback was positive. Her exact words were: “All I can say is WOW!!!!!!!!”
I’m hoping to send her one more chapter before tonight, when the 2nd round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge begins.
Dun, dun, dun…
Yes, yes. It’s time for another round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. Buckle your seat belts!
So, yesterday I received my results for round 1. I don’t want to bore you with the details of the competition’s point system, so I’ll just say my story, Inevitable, took 11th out of the 40+ writers in my heat. Yeah, not too shabby, though I’d kinda hoped to crack the top ten. But whatever. For me, it’s not really about winning. It’s about challenging myself, improving my writing, and connecting with other writers.
Plus, I have to admit, Inevitable isn’t one of my favorite pieces I’ve produced. I’m proud of it and everything, but I wish I’d dug deeper and pushed myself harder. Suspense is one of my favorite genres to write, so I’m disappointed I didn’t try to take things to the next level.
Oh well, oh well. Onwards and upwards!
Round 2 begins tonight. At midnight, I’ll receive a new assignment (genre, location, object) and have 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story. Since I received suspense in round one, I’m betting I’ll receive comedy, romance, or–God forbid–political satire as my next genre.
Seriously, if I get political satire, I’m doooomed.
Anyway, in honor of my…hmm…I don’t know how to categorize this week. Wonky? Ha! Yeah, let’s go with that. In honor of my wonky week, here are a few random Friday Funnies. Enjoy!
How was your week? Anyone have fun plans for the weekend? If I finish my writing contest early, I might crack out the Halloween decorations and gloom up my house a little. Of course, that means I’ll need to enter the dreaded Crawl Space of Spiders…Nope. Forget it. I’m not decorating this year 😉
Jen’s Weekly Roundup
In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!
Let’s face it. By the end of the week, most of us are done. Overdone. Charred. This week has definitely been on the charred side for me. It appears my body has finally surrendered to the exhaustion, germs and crazy weather patterns its been exposed to and has gotten itself a dandy cold. Yay!…Blerg. I’m literally limping into my Christmas vacation. Which, since I’m sick, has started a tad earlier than planned.
So, with that all said, I’ve decided to take a small holiday vaca from my blog. Rest assured, I’ll be back in January, posting regularly. But, for now, it’s time for me to kick back, recoup and celebrate with my family. I hope you all have a lovely, safe holiday. And I hope you all get tons and tons of books from Santa!
I’ve also decided to start dedicating Friday’s to lighter, comedic posts from now on. Because, come on, we all need a good laugh by the end of the week, right? Especially those charred weeks.
Today’s Friday Funny goes out to all you bookaholics. Enjoy!
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
“This National Book Award Finalist is now a major motion picture — one of the most buzzed-about films at Sundance 2013, starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller.
SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.
Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.”
Sorry, sorry. I couldn’t resist. But, really, The Spectacular Now was “fabuloso”. It lived up to all the hype of the recent media, and definitely lived up to my expectations. Author Tim Tharp infused a perfect blend of humor and drama, and created characters that were not only believable, but relatable. It’s one of those books that’s layered with hidden meanings and themes, and keeps you thinking about what those meanings and themes are the entire time. And, despite his downfalls and bad habits, you can’t help but want to experience the magic and wonder of the “Spectacular Now” with Sutter Keely, even if only for a moment.
My only complaint about this book would be the ending (don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it for you; I despise spoilers!). I won’t say I was disappointed, per se. More like, “Hmm…”. I just can’t grasp why Tim Tharp finished Sutter Keely’s tale the way he did. However, I know there is a profound reason that’s eluding me at the moment, and I know if I went back and re-read it or discussed it with others who’ve read it, I’d get it and appreciate it. So, don’t let this part of my review scare you off from reading what was otherwise a wonderful book.
Read more about The Spectacular Now here.
Seeing as it’s October and Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I’d pick a book this month that’s on the “scarier” side. But fear not all you anti-horror readers! This is a tale that’s just as funny as it is suspenseful and creepy.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
“The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.”
This is a thriller that will have you both scared and laughing throughout it. I thoroughly enjoyed the premise, the witty and, at times, absurd dialogue, and Maureen Johnson’s writing style. But, more than anything, I enjoyed the protagonist. Simply put, Rory Deveaux was one of the most amusing characters I’ve ever read. The things she’d say…I’d literally burst out laughing (and I’m not a “burst out laughing” type of reader). Sure, I’ll smile or chuckle softly, but I don’t LAUGH.
“And if we get caught, I will claim I made you go. At gunpoint. I am American. People will assume I’m armed.”
I also love how Rory uses over-the-top tales from her southern hometown to defend herself–whether that’s defending herself while flirting with a cute boy or battling a wicked ghost.
The Name of the Star‘s LOL humor was skillfully and pleasantly balanced with a creepy ghost story about Jack the Ripper that keeps you biting your nails and holding your breath the entire time. And there’s just enough romance in the story to give your heart a nice little flutter every now and then.
Read more about The Name of the Star on Goodreads!
Some other fun Halloween appropriate titles you might like to check out include:
The Monstrumologist by Ricky Yancey
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro
World War Z by Max Brooks
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
The Diviners by Libba Bray
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova