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Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Camiccia!

It’s hard to believe, but the Golden Heart Awards Ceremony will be taking place at RWA Nationals just TWO WEEKS from today!!! And the Ruby blog has just three more Golden Heart Finalists guests before they all fly off to conference! Yay, Rebelles!

Today we’re welcoming 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Camiccia, whose manuscript BIRDY’S SONG is nominated for Best Young Adult Romance!

Jennifer has lived in the wilds of Los Angeles where she wrote her first book at the tender age of five, Iran where she developed a fear of camels and a fondness for pistachios, Hawaii with its balmy breezes and memories of learning to swim, and the San Francisco Bay area where she now lives with her four children and husband. She loves to ask: what if…? This question has resulted in her writing short stories and novels where the characters experience heartbreak, find love, and discover the intricacies of life along the way.

In addition to the Golden Heart nomination, her young adult debut BIRDY’S SONG was featured in the Pitch Wars showcase. Two of her other books placed in the Golden Rose contest and Cleveland Rocks contest. She is a member of SCBWI, YARWA, and RWA.

When she’s not writing, running her kids around, volunteering, or working you can find her on twitter at @jencamiccia busily snooping and gathering ideas for future stories.

Here’s a blurb for BIRDY’S SONG:

When seventeen-year-old Emmaline Frazier’s unstable stepfather drives the family car into the ocean with Emmaline and her half-sister, Birdy, still in the backseat, the crash leaves Birdy in a coma, her stepfather dead, and Emmaline with debilitating anxiety. Their flighty mother abandons them to Birdy’s grandmother’s care, and for the first time Emmaline is offered the stability she craves but is afraid to trust.

A singing competition presents Emmaline a chance to win enough to pay for Birdy’s care, and a recording contract to help achieve her own dreams. Except her plan won’t work if she can’t learn to control the heart-wrenching panic attacks she gets every time she sings. Added to that is the sweet anguish of first love. For Emmaline, giving into her feelings for Asher and accepting his love is nearly as scary as singing in front of thousands. Only by trusting she’s worthy of love will Emmaline be able to find her voice and sing for Birdy…and herself.

Okay, Jennifer, that description seriously just gave me chills!! I’d love to read that book!! I know it would appeal to the John Green crowd. Good luck!!

Folks, Jennifer’s here today to talk about how she overcame some of her own fears, and learned to believe in her own voice.

Take it away, Jennifer!

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NEVER GIVE UP

First of all, thank you for having me. This is my first blog post ever. I’m an introvert of the first order, and for a long time I was content to write in a bubble. I was convinced this would be enough for me. It had to be – because the thought of pitching to an agent or joining a critique group was terrifying.

Two years ago, something changed. My youngest son asked me when I was going to sell my book. He’d seen me typing away his whole life, and to him I was a writer. He told all his teachers I was a writer (which always made for many an awkward pause when I told them that I hadn’t, in fact, published anything). He even offered to be my agent. It hit me that I was always encouraging my children to follow their dreams but I wasn’t practicing what I preached.

I wasn’t going to improve or get where I needed to be if I allowed my shyness to stop me. So…I took the plunge and entered a twitter contest. I had zero social media presence (except for Instagram and Snap Chat to spy on my kids), and the whole thing terrified me. I joined RWA and entered a couple of chapter contests. I finaled in both, and this kept me plugging along. I must not suck too bad, right?

I started BIRDY’S SONG (formerly LISTEN) a year ago, but never finished it. I loved the MC and I wanted to do her story justice. I needed the perfect ending to tie together this book I’d struggled with for so many months. One night my middle son insisted I watch America’s Got Talent with him, and they showed the backstory of this young girl and all she’d gone through to get to sing on this show. By the time she belted her song out, tears were streaming down my cheeks and I was seconds away from sobbing. I knew this was how I wanted my MC’s story to end. With an emotional punch to the gut, and her dreams coming true.

I wrote like the wind, like the wind I tell you (I couldn’t feel my pinky for two weeks), and when I finally finished, my CP suggested I try out for PitchWars. This is a contest where, if you’re picked, a mentor helps you polish your manuscript and get it ready for an agent round. And, much to my surprise, I was picked! All my writing dreams were about to come true, right? Wrong.

I watched while a lot of other Pitch Wars people immediately got fabulous agents, and even publishing deals with movies deals attached. I won’t lie, I was a tad discouraged, but I kept doing what I’d been doing all along – writing. While I wrote a new book, I entered the Golden Heart, never thinking in a million years that I’d final.

It was finaling in the GH contest that brought me to the attention of my fabulous agent. My query letter would have languished in her mailbox for all eternity if I hadn’t updated her about this amazing contest.

Now I’m on submission. There’s a good chance this book won’t go anywhere. I’ve been told quiet YA contemporaries with romance aren’t selling right now. But if it doesn’t sell, I’ll keep writing. I’m no longer doing this alone in my quiet, introverted cave. I’m surrounded by like-minded writers who inspire me to continue – even if it takes years to reach my goal. I’m not giving up.

My question to you is this: Have you ever been tempted to give up on your writing dream? If so, what inspired you to continue?

31 responses to “Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Camiccia!”

  1. C.R. Grissom says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I love your story, and I know it will publish. You’ve had such interesting experiences and have lived in so many places.

    I have to confess, I did quit. I let myself walk away instead of digging in. I won’t decide to do that again because you should never walk away from what’s meaningful in your life—people, your dreams, goals, etc.

    My inspiration to start writing again came from my CP, Seana Kelly. I lived vicariously through her for a few years before sitting at my laptop to rediscover my core values about writing.

    I’m thrilled we’ll meet in two weeks!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Hi C.R.! I’m so glad you returned to writing! You’re seriously talented, and a lovely person all around. I can’t wait to meet you in two weeks as well 🙂

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  2. Hi, Jennifer. Great story.

    I’ve never walked away, but that is not saying I thought about. To me, the thought of not writing is like not breathing. I feel the more effort I put into dream is teaching my children and grandchildren to not ever give up on their dreams. I don’t intend to look back and say what if I had…

    Congrats on your final and good luck in Florida.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      “not writing is like not breathing”: yes, Autumn, I think that’s true for so many of us!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Hi, Autumn! I feel that way about writing too! It’s a part of me, and who I am. It’s the best therapist around. I love that you want to set the example for your children and grandchildren. I agree – it’s our responsibility to show them.

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  3. jbrayweber says:

    What an inspirational story, Jennifer. Sometimes the obstacles and disappointments can really weigh us down like an anchor. Sometimes we just get tired and wonder what it’s all for? But we gotta just keep swimming. Keep swimming. Yeah…those are the wise words of Dory and I’m not ashamed to steal them. 🙂 Good things will come from never giving up.

    Good luck in Orlando. Birdy’s Song sounds wonderful!

    Jenn!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thanks!! Wise words indeed. I love Dory! Disney has some of the most inspirational stories out there. Keep swimming 🙂

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  4. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Jennifer!!

    How awesome that you went from a total introvert to doing something as public as Pitch Wars!! That’s really the secret: learning to put yourself forward, and keep putting yourself forward, until the right thing finally clicks. Nobody ever got published by just typing away in a closet. I have no doubt you’ll make the right connection soon!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thank you, Elisa! If I could type away in a closet, I would – lol! Seriously though, putting myself out there has resulted in meeting so many awesome people.

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  5. Nicole Hohmann says:

    Great post, Jennifer! I’m glad you embraced your dreams! I hear you with the “must not suck too bad” feeling. That’s me all the way! Can’t wait to meet you in person. Your story is so heart wrenching, it will be a hit!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thank you, Nicole! You know how much I love your book – I’ll be cheering for you and the other Fab 4 in our YA group 🙂

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  6. Kudos to you, Jennifer, on getting out there and doing it! And congratulations on the final – your book sounds incredibly powerful.

    I’ve never actually been tempted to give up writing – there have been times when I worried that I was fooling myself to even think that I could succeed as an author and times when I felt like I was horrible and it was just a matter of time before I was mocked in the streets for my horrid writing and the damage I was doing society by even daring to put my words out – but even in the middle of the malaise the idea of giving up writing just felt wrong. It’s who I am – not sure whether that’s good, bad or other, but it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. 🙂

    Congratulations on your daring and good luck in Orlando!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thanks, Vivi! Writing is such a part of me as well. The more I hear from other writers, the more I understand that self-doubt is common for us. It’s pushing past self-doubt and writing anyway that makes things happen. Even if the only result is the sense of accomplishing something.

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  7. Darynda Jones says:

    Welcome, Jennifer, and OMG your book sounds amazing! Wow!

    I gotta say, boy do I remember that awkward pause when someone asks what you’ve published. No worries. Once you get the call, that awkward pause just drifts away.

    Super big congrats and thanks for joining us!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thanks, Darynda! I can’t wait for the day I get the call! In the meantime, I’m trying to be more confident when I say I’m a writer 🙂

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  8. suzanne says:

    Congrats on the GH, Jennifer. I love how open you are about being an introvert. Have you read the book Quiet? We’re not a culture that celebrates introverts, but we need them!

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  9. What a lovely story, Jennifer, and kudos to you for raising such a thoughtful and supportive son. As with you, my children are a huge inspiration. I want them to see me fighting for, failing, and fulfilling my dreams. Good luck on your GH journey and much Ruby love!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thanks so much, Shelley! Yes, my children are my biggest inspiration. And thank you for the Ruby love – you’ve all been so kind!!

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  10. Jo Anne Banker says:

    Hey, Jennifer – what a lovely story! I know you’re on your way, and hopefully that first sale is just a wink away!

    Have I ever been tempted to give up my writing dream? Oh, I’d say about a hundred times. I quit for a year because of my insecurities at the lack of feedback and horrible scores from my first RWA contest. I stopped due to time constraints while serving on the Board of a not-for-profit organization for AIDS victims in the nineties. I stopped for a couple of years to care for my aging mom before she died. Slowed again to volunteer on a chapter level with all three of my local RWA chapters. When my bookkeeping service overwhelmed. When my own health hiccupped. So basically – when life happened.

    But each time, I was drawn back by the love of story. By the dream of touching someone else’s life with romance and inspiration from one of my novels. I was drawn back by the sheer need for creativity in my life. Writing is a challenge and a blessing and a curse. But most importantly, it adds passion to my life. And at my age – passion for life is a gift. So I’ll keep writing, and I’ll keep dreaming.

    Proud and happy to be a Rebelle sister with you. We’ll meet soon in Orlando!!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Love this, JoAnne! Yes, life has a way of derailing us at times. I agree that creativity in our lives is so important. I think about my Aunt, who is an amazing artist. She’s done some of her best work in her sixties. She’s my inspiration! Proud to be a Rebelle sister with you!! Can’t wait to meet you in person.

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  11. Pamela Ferguson says:

    From one introvert to another, I can’t wait to read your book. Good luck!

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  12. Your story sounds great! I really hope it gets picked up!

    I’ve quit so many times. Every time I throw in the towel my CP throws it make in my face! She is the reason I still write and still pursue publishing. We all need someone who has our back no matter what!

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thanks, Patricia! Yay for your CP! I agree – we really do need someone who has our back.

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  13. Melonie says:

    Hi Jennifer!
    I love that your son offered to be your agent – you are so right, we tell our children to chase their dreams, but it’s so much better when we can show them.
    I’m more of an extrovert, but I keep my writing life “very close to the vest” and don’t like to talk about it much to friends and family – and yeah, I totally get that feeling of not being a real writer when you don’t have a book on a shelf or website to point people to when they ask.
    Your GH story sounds truly fabulous, and I can’t wait to see it out there on a shelf! For now, I’ll settle for seeing you in Orlando 🙂

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thanks, Melonie! Can’t wait to see you in Orlando! It’s getting close…

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  14. Tracy Brody says:

    I’m glad your son and your crit partners revived your dream. Congratulations on being a Golden Heart finalists!

    While I’ve gotten discouraged, I’ve never given up on my writing. I think a lot of people think it will be easy, then give up when they find how much work it really is to learn the craft. I knew I had a gift for storytelling when people would listen to my entire plot, but I had a lot of craft to learn so I dug in for the long haul. But my overactive imagination will not let me quit.

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    • Jennifer Camiccia says:

      Thank you, Tracy! Yes – learning craft is something I’m still working on. I, also, have an overactive imagination. I’m a day dreamer of the first order (as I imagine most writers are) so it seemed natural to put my daydreams down on paper.

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