Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pursuing a Big Dream

Ever since I can remember, I've loved to write and tell stories.

My parents would give me giant stacks of computer paper when I was little, and I'd pen (technically pencil) the romantic and harrowing tales of Princess Lisa and Prince Jimmy.

Lisa was my babysitter's name. Jimmy was the cute, shy boy who hung out in the art corner of my kindergarten classroom. He looked like a young Josh Hartnett and was my first crush following a summer spent swooning over Ben the Lifeguard at Shady Lane Swim Club.
This is me, right around age five, looking a little crazed.

I wrote my first full-length novel in high school. My heroine was the president's daughter (Remember when that was a big thing? I mean, there were two movies in the late 1990s and early 2000s with this very same heroine!) who fell in love with a boy "from the wrong side of the tracks."

As if I had any idea of what that meant.

"I noticed you had several sentences where you ended with a preposition. I'm not sure if that is an error or whether you did that on purpose to show that Maverick did not always use good grammar. I'm looking forward to the next book. You are very good at developing a story line."
—Email from my grandma, 08/22/06

"It really felt like it was coming from the point of view of a teenager (which it is) and in a novel such as this, one with a teenage main character, it is essential that the portrayal of the teenage experience is believable and realistic and I think you did a great job of this because, well, you are a teenager."
—Email from my friend Brandon, 11/11/06

As you can see, it received RAVE reviews!

Anyways. I circulated that book around friends and family and had a really fun time receiving feedback. I wish I could provide you with a few excerpts, but the novel was lost in its entirety the day my laptop was stolen from my Chicago dorm room.

So if you ever see any books out there about the president's daughter spending her summer in Cincinnati, Ohio? CALL ME!

The second novel I wrote took me the longest.

When I started it, I was one sad gal. My high school sweetheart had broken up with me for...wait for it...his fraternity brother.

He was gay. I was confused and devastated.

I turned to writing for comfort, beginning a chick lit book starring a heroine dealing with a very similar heartbreak to my own.

During the course of writing this novel, though, I changed quite a bit. My ex-boyfriend became my best friend. I met and dated new people. I didn't work on the novel very consistently, and thus, the writing process ended up dragging out over nearly five years!

Wowza! Five years!

By the time I wrapped it all up, I was a completely different person.

I self-published the book on Amazon (You can buy it here!) in December 2014. I'm proud of how it turned out, and I think it's a very fun read with a lot of heart, but I also learned a lot of writing lessons along the way.

Most important, I learned that while writing will always be therapeutic for me, I don't want to create another heroine that's so similar to myself. It's limiting for your writing process and really confuses things when you the writer are changing as you're penning the book. I mean, if you follow all of your own exact feelings and moods, your protagonist might look a bit schizophrenic.

Second, I learned that it's basically impossible to find an agent or publisher for a book you've already put out there on Amazon.

Amateur mistakes, but very valuable lessons learned.

All of this brings me to today, the present.

I finished my second novel at the end of July. This one only took me about seven months to write, and I am really, really proud of how it turned out.
Adam and I celebrated the night I finished with pink champagne and Moscow Mules
Many mornings, I would wake up at 5am and write for a few hours before work. I stayed in weekend nights and stayed awake much later than I should on work nights.

I feel like this latest novel is finally the point where talent and dedication came together, which is one spectacular combination.

My novel has...
  • quirky pop culture references
  • a great love story
  • wonderful friendships and family relationships
  • witty dialogue
  • A whole lot of heart
Can you tell I think it's totally lovely?

I am about six weeks into the querying process (the tip of the iceberg, really), and it's an experience that can be discouraging for the most optimistic and determined of writers. I have been reading other authors' publishing stories, and while each is different, I have a good perspective of how grueling this process can be.
I split my querying time between this book and the Literary Market Place
Everyone's taste is different; just because an agent passes on your book doesn't mean it isn't up to snuff.

Finding an agent can take years and years.

After you do find an agent, it can take a long time to find a publisher.

And then! Even if the stars align and all of this does happen...maybe your book won't sell well. 

I try to be realistic about what it takes to become a published author. But sometimes, I feel a little overwhelmed by the whole ordeal rather than staying positive and thinking of this all as a fun adventure.

I mean, I'm chasing my biggest dream! How awesome is that?

And I have enjoyed reaching out to agents. Even when passing on my work, many agents have sent along an encouraging note and positive feedback. And I'm definitely learning new things about the querying process and the publishing industry daily.

So today, I needed to write this all down and put it out there, out into the universe. I needed to remind myself of how far I've come and how determined I am to become a published author.

I love telling stories. I love making people laugh. I love the overly dramatic.

Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, and Emily Giffin (among many, many other authors) have been sources of happiness, comfort, humor, and calm for me over the years. I want to publish these same sort of tales that help people escape the anxieties of everyday life for a bit.

If you've made it to the end of this post, you are #suchagoodblogfriend, and thank you for following along.

Any positive thoughts or vibes you'd like to send my way are much appreciated!


  1. Congratulations on completing your second novel - that is such an incredible feat; and if you're following in the footsteps of Cabot and Kinsella, I'm sure that it's a hilarious, romantic romp!


  2. So so so proud of you Jenna!! I remember reading your president's daughter story way back when and enjoying it. :) Love hearing that you are still writing and look forward to reading your books! Keep chasing your dream girl!!
    Beth Phillips

  3. I loved your last book Jenna, so I have my fingers crossed for you with this one :)

  4. I loved your last book Jenna, so I have my fingers crossed for you with this one :)