Monday, June 6, 2016

Bittersweetness and Big News

Olivia on the jumbotron
My daughter graduated from high school last weekend. HAPPY! In less than a month she'll go to college seven hours away.  sad. Chris and I are excited for her future. HAPPY! We will miss her terribly.  sad.
A family of cardinals who visits our birdfeeder seem to be going through something similar. Not long ago we watched from the kitchen window as the bright red daddy cardinal fed his brown baby girl one seed at a time, fussing at her as she wobbled on matchstick legs. Today I notice she's already on her own. She's swoops in and makes a smooth landing on the feeder, her bright orange beak flashing as she takes a seed. In the blink of an eye she's gone again, leaving me thinking of my Olivia and wondering how to live with this bittersweetness.
Friend and fellow writer Diane Skelton's excellent advice was to focus on the sweet, not the bitter, the excitement of this stage in life, not the heartache. With that in mind, I'm grateful to have my soon-to-be-published book to keep me busy. The manuscript has made it though content editing and is now in the queue for cover design and line editing. And I have big news! It's been decided that my title will remain The Existence of Pity. I remember the shiver of recognition that came over me when I thought of it five and a half years ago. I knew that title would be right and I still feel the same. Not everything has to change!
I look to our backyard in time to see the daddy cardinal land on the fence. He watches his baby, who is snacking at the feeder again. After a while she hops over to perch beside him, and they sit together. Then, in the blink of an eye, she spreads her beautiful wings, lifts off, and flies away.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

So You Want to Publish That Novel!

Like most writers, I don't want to write, I must write. I feel compelled. Often I'm uneasy in my skin until I've had a chance to put my thoughts on paper. Writing gives me relief, clarity, and new ideas for more to write about. And when I do set my journal aside, or call it quits on my computer, I come away feeling lighter, happier. Like the awesome Gloria Steinem, "Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."
But why publish? That's simple. After putting so much time into my novel, I had to try! And boy did I try. At first I queried agents. Fellow author Shawn Keenan has an agent, and he writes a very insightful blog about what that's like. 
Many people suggested I self-publish, and friends Diane Skelton and Rebecca Pappas followed that path. Diane's beautiful memoir is The Gumbo Diaries: Mississippi and Beyond.  Rebecca's fun cozy mystery is Homicide at Harmony Bed & Breakfast. Check them out on Amazon!
I'm happy for my friends and what they've done. I'm also glad Red Adept Publishing and I found each other. I will get into "print" as part of a small publishing team, a remarkably organized team, with fifty or so fellow writers from all over the country who support each other and have fun along the way.
It doesn't really matter how people get their work published. It all ends the same way. When the fun's been had, we all go back to our desks and write some more, because there's really nothing we'd rather be doing.
Visit for some great books by some wonderful authors!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...
The content edit for my book has begun! An editor at Red Adept Publishing is going over the arc of my story to make sure it's the best it can be. She will dismantle it and together we will reassemble it. I'm steeling myself -- and clearing my calendar -- for the work that lies ahead. But don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled! It's an honor to have her professional help.
It's a little nerve-wracking, though, so to keep myself entertained I've been thinking about the one page in my book that won't be edited: the Acknowledgements Page. There are so many people to thank! There are the critique group members who helped me strengthen my writing, and the friends who watched my kids so I could go to the critique groups. There's my dear family, who put up with a ridiculous amount of talk about a bunch of non-existent characters, and there's the wonderful Red Adept Publishing who took a chance on me. There's the content editor shining up my little story, and then there's you, dear reader. I can't wait to thank you all.
The link for "The 25 Best Author Acknowledgements Ever Written" is here:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jeannie Zokan Signs With Red Adept Publishing!

Image courtesy of Tumblr, sydneyjoto
Well it finally happened. After querying approximately thirty-five agents and publishing houses, The Existence of Pity will be published!On Friday the 13th of November, Red Adept Publishing sent an email saying, "Congratulations. Your book has advanced to the second stage of our acquisitions process." The next morning, Lynn McNamee, owner of RAP, called and asked if I would consider switching genres from Young Adult to Women's Fiction. Of course! She also wanted to know why I had the book professionally edited. "I didn't," I told her. "The book just went through a few years of critique groups." Thank you thank you thank you West Florida Literary Federation!Chris and the girls were headed off to school on the following Monday morning when Lynn called again. This time she told me her team had read my manuscript, "and it was unanimous...(loooong pause for dramatic effect)... we want to publish your book."
Squealing? Cavorting? Sheer gleefilled laughter? Lynn told me I just might be the most enthusiastic author she's ever signed!
So my picture has been taken, my bio written, and my website is up and running.  Visit it and sign up for my newsletter! Here's the link:
I suppose I'm most excited about being in a "stable" of authors. Check it out here:!/Browse-by-Author/c/12029045/offset=0&sort=normal
And now we wait. The content editor will edit my book in February and we will go from there. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I've completed seven Nanowrimo novels; one every year since 2008. And although I've said this on the last day of every November, this time I mean it. It's time to take a break from the contest.
I've become addicted to the fun of writing 1,667 words every day without my inner editor breathing down my neck, and this year's novel was the easiest of them all. I finally just wrote it for myself. Did I want my characters to go horseback riding? Off they went! Should they discuss Findhorn in Scotland? Absolutely! There was romance and adventure, but there were lots of girlfriends chatting over coffee -- or beers -- and one character who loved to solve her problems by reading the I Ching.
I guess it took me seven years to figure out this writing thing: write what you want to read. Now it's time to edit what I want to read and see if anyone else want to read it, too!
Thank you, Chris Baty, for coming up with the awesome idea of Nanowrimo. I've loved the last seven Novembers immensely. Thank you, my dear family, for putting up with finding me at my computer when I should've been cooking or cleaning or lots of other things moms are supposed to do. And thanks to all the characters in my head who will be there when I'm ready to do it again.
Oh, and to my brother Dan who hasn't heard from me on his birthday for seven years because it falls on November 30, Happy birthday, bro! Love to all,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Flying Home

It's 6:40 a.m., and I am at the airport, looking at the Andes mountains. The sun has come up behind them. Earlier, for a few precious moments, their greens and browns were visible. Now I only see an outline in the sky -- a high, jagged dark purple pencil drawing against light blue and puffy white. The mountains are what I love most about Cali, and this sendoff feels like a gift. Thank you.
I buy a cup of coffee and wander through the little shops of colorful art and find bracelets my girls will love, thinking of how I didn't give Mom a goodbye hug. I thought we would see each other in the morning, but it was just too early to wake her. Even with the rush of getting out the door it hurt to leave the house without that closure, and now I am even more intent on visiting again.
Dan and I sit in the airport at the foot of those mountains and talk about the trip. How do we feel about Dad and Mom living in Colombia? We repeat the litany. They are in good hands. It's the best for Mom. The caretakers are kind and the home is paradise.
Our conversation turns to the more mundane. Were the beds comfortable? Not really. Did we like being served all the time, not getting to choose our meals? Absolutely. I loved what they had to offer: the juices, the meat, the mashed potatoes, the breads, the very simple salads tossed with oil and vinegar.
The breakfast coffee was perfect, too, I say, but Dan disagrees. He likes his scalding hot. I tell him I will miss the busyness of the place. Having so many people coming and going made me want to get moving, too.
It's time to board our flight, and we fly to Miami and then to Atlanta, where Dan will drive home. Just like that, our time together is over, and it feels like it's ending too soon. I will miss my brother. We have shared a rare and memorable journey.
On my flight from Atlanta to Pensacola, winding rivers reflect the sun and shine back up to me on this airplane as it hurtles through the sky.
It occurs to me that I look forward to bringing my family to Cali, not only to have them see my homeland, but also to introduce them to my parents' new community. I feel like a better person with Chris and the girls. It will be good to be home, and begin to plan the next adventure.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Colombia 9: Goodbye

My last day in Cali. I spend the morning with Mom, Maria, and Lycett while Dan and Dad go to church. I give Mom's helpers little gifts: lotions, scarves, and chocolates I brought from the States. It's apparent the tokens are woefully inadequate, and when they are accepted with kind gratitude, I cry. How am I to live like this, with my parents so very far away?
Sara, a schoolmate from Bolivar, takes me to meet others from our class for lunch. It's a welcome distraction, and we have a wonderful time. The food is delicious, the memories are alive, the jokes are light and fun. I had worried it would be uncomfortable -- too much time has passed -- but the connection I feel is enlivening. I've never been to a class reunion, and this must be what  I've missed: a shared feeling that a piece of our history is not gone, but lives on in a new way.
Another visit, to family friends who have known me since I was two is filled with laughter and catching up. "Aunt" Loraine is from a small town in Alabama and she married a Colombian, "Uncle" Simeon. They've lived in Cali for decades, through good times and bad. They both are contending with health issues now, but they are as energetic and entertaining as always. It's amazing to see them thriving, discussing chemotherapy like it's an unruly pet.
Dan and I go to a popular Panini hangout to swap soccer stickers and mix with Caleños. I like helping others get the stickers they need and sharing their enthusiasm about a soccer player from Cameroon, but I'm antsy to go home. I'm well aware that my time with Mom is slipping away as I stand out here studying a man people say survived the plane crash of 1995.
Finally home, Mom, Dad, Dan, and I spend the evening together watching Spanish television. Dan and I have a few presents for Mom, and then it's time for bed. As much as I don't want tonight to end, we all need sleep. 5 am is departure time. I give Mom a hug but don't say goodbye. I'll save that for tomorrow.