Monday, January 27, 2014

Introducing Jocelyn Rish: SCBWI WIP Grant Winner!

Congratulations to Susan Light, a librarian at Christianburg High School in Virginia. She was randomly selected out of 20 participants (a record for my blog) and won the ARC of A Prisoner of Night and Fog. Thanks to all of you who tweeted and shared this giveaway and welcome to seven new followers.  More giveaways to come later this year!
When I read in the SCBWI Bulletin that a fellow Carolinas member had won the WIP Grant for a Contemporary Novel for Young People I shot her an email begging her to share her experiences. She happily obliged. Without out further ado, here is Jocelyn! 

Jocelyn's $2000 check bought her a spiffy new
computer that is making her writing life much easier. 
First, if anyone wants to read about my reaction when I found out I won, it’s hereI encourage everyone to apply for the grant. The application is relatively painless, so even if you don’t think you have a chance (and I really, really didn’t think I did) you should go for it. Unexpectedly wonderful things might happen for you, too!

Tell us about your WIP. Give me your pitch! How long have you been working on it, what inspired you to write it.

THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF was my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel and was inspired by my 18th birthday party. My three best friends and I had birthdays within days of each other, so we had a huge video scavenger hunt party, for which my dad made up crazy and embarrassing tasks for us to film. I wanted to capture that experience on the page but knew there needed to be higher stakes, so I framed a murder mystery around it. Then I put the novel in a drawer for several years while I worked on my short films, but I pulled it back out for major revisions about a year ago.

Here’s the latest pitch I’ve been toying around with: Sixteen-year-old Breanna loves horror movies and mysteries, but, unfortunately, her overactive imagination turns every situation into a big-screen thriller starring Brea. Since no one believes her when she discovers a body that disappears, it’s up to her to suit up CSI-style in yellow kitchen gloves and solve the murder herself.

Had you entered the SCBWI WIP grant contest before? If so, what did you do differently this time?
I’d entered with this same novel at least two times before, however, this time I really dug deep with understanding the feedback I’d received from readers and applying that insight into my rewrite. It mostly had to do with deepening the characterization of the MC and making her more sympathetic, as well as streamlining the pacing.

Who read your submission before you sent it? What advice did they offer? Do you think that helped you?
I didn’t ask anyone to read my application before I sent it, but over the years the first chapter has been read by many people: at conferences, workshops, critiques from authors via online contests, critique partners, family and friends. Really at this point it’s more like who hasn’t read the first chapter? I kept getting feedback that the inner monologue of my MC was really funny, but it was slowing down the pace. It took me a while before I really heard it and was able to kill so many of my darlings. I loved the humor, so it was hard to cut much of it to really focus on the pace and creepiness of the first chapter, but I’m sure finally getting to that point made all the difference.

What tips would you give this year's applicants? 
For writing in general: find knowledgeable critique partners and really think about and absorb their feedback. You don’t have to take all their advice, but burrow into the root of what they say isn’t working and figure out how to fix it while maintaining your vision and voice.

Specifically for the application: keep the Bio and Plans for Grant Money sections short and sweet. In my earlier applications, I wrote a lot feeling like I needed to sell myself and justify what I’d do with the money, but this last time I kept it snappy – just the facts with a little bit of humor. I don’t know if that affected the outcome or if it was just the changes to my first chapter, but I did want to mention that difference from my earlier applications compared to the successful one.

What did you learn in the process of creating your submission?
I’m not really sure, but I will say, having been rejected in the past, I was a lot less stressed when I put together my packet this year. I don’t want to imply I slapped it together because that’s not true, but I didn’t freak out over every.single.word like I’ve done in the past. So maybe being more relaxed allowed my best work to shine.

You mentioned querying as your next step - I assume your ms. is now complete?
Since winning the grant, my manuscript has been through a major tear-down-build-back-up revision, and then another minor revision based on feedback from several amazing CP's [critique partners]. So I finally took the plunge and started querying. It was a terrifying step but one we all have to take if we want to find the right home for our novels. All my fingers and toes are crossed tight hoping for a positive outcome.

Thanks Jocelyn, for your encouraging story! I have applied at least twice, but based on Jocelyn's advise I plan to give it another try. I have found that the process of applying for the grant strengthens my work. 

Note: If you live in the Carolinas, the deadline for the Carolinas Writing Contest is February 28, so get going! 

What's stopping you?


Martina Boone said...

I LOVE Jocelyn and this post about not only her success but the change in thinking that led to it. It makes it clear she is a thoughtful, seasoned writer who is truly ready for success, and I can't wait to find out what happens next for her. This is only the first in a long list of,accomplishments to come!

Brava, Jocelyn!!!!

And thanks for sharing the post, Carol!!!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Marina. Jocelyn promised a follow up post when she lands her agent and publishing deal!

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for Jocelyn! Thanks for sharing her story.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, Rebecca, I knew you would be! And I'm sure you're one of the fortunate few who has read this up and coming book!

Beth Hull said...

Congratulations, Jocelyn, and thank you both for the interview! Great information here about the WIP Grant, and revising in general.

Jocelyn Rish said...

Carol - thanks for having me on your blog!

Martina and Rebecca - Aww, you ladies make me blush. I'm so grateful for a community of awesome writer friends.

And to everyone thinking about applying for the grant - don't think, DO IT!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Beth and Jocelyn, for stopping by. Jocelyn--it was my pleasure to have you. I hope your story inspires others--including you, Beth!

Linda Phillips said...

I love the persistence that kept you going, Jocelyn, and it really paid off. What an inspiration to all of us. Good luck on your query process! Thanks for sharing Jocelyn's success, Carol.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Wow! Jocelyn. A NaNoWriMo story at 18 years old. I love this story about your story. Congrats on your WIP win! And all best with finding a publishing home.

Rosi said...

Congratulations to Jocelyn and thanks for sharing all that valuable information. I have applied twice and may try again this year. Maybe third time will be the charm for me as well.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends, for cheering Jocelyn on!

sheri levy said...

Love this exciting post.Perseverance does seem to pay off. Good for you Jocelyn, and congratulations. You didn't give up and haven't been afraid of revising, over and over. Can't wait to read the story!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. Isn't it cool to know the winner? Yeah Carolinas!

Sandra Warren said...

Very nice interview. I enjoyed learning about Jocelyn. What she said about not stressing over every word is important. Tell the story in the best way you know and then send it out.

Congratulations Jocelyn on receiving the grant. I look forward to reading your book when it's out.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sandra. It's such an encouragement when someone you know personally wins a grant like this!

Kim Van Sickler said...

Carol, thanks for persuading Jocelyn to share her story. I applied for the WIP grant last year for the first time and did exactly what Jocelyn said not to: wrote way too much detailed information about how the money was to be used. I've also totally restructured the story I submitted. Maybe it's worth another try...

Congrats on winning, Jocelyn!

Carol Baldwin said...

Definitely worth another try, Kim. ALthough that means you and I will be competing against each other--but go for it!

Linda A. said...

Congratulations, Jocelyn. What a great interview ladies. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jocelyn. Definitely worth a try for anyone who is ready to take this step. We all benefit from what you shared.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. I agree--we all can learn from each other!

Jocelyn Rish said...

Wow, thank you everyone for the kind words! I definitely encourage all of you to apply - not only is it about persistence, but also connecting with the right reader at the right time.

Best of luck to all of you!!!

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