Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer


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Happy Spring 2017

I started with the best of intentions about blogging regularly in 2017…

It’s been a rollercoaster few months. There’s obviously the daily WTF moments every time I look at the news. And in my personal life, I’ve been worrying about a sick loved one, among a few other stressful things.

In good news, after nearly three months of fighting and threatening legal action, my husband and I FINALLY got our security deposit back! What made the situation even more irritating is that our former landlord is a lawyer. He either didn’t care he was breaking local/state laws or he thought we were too dumb to realize. Whatever the case, I’m glad to finally close that chapter of my life.

Random cat photo, just because:

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There’s a story behind that toy. It belongs to my parent’s cat who inexplicably became terrified of it. I tested it out with my boys and they are clearly fine with it. I thought when I returned it to the rightful owner she’d at least sniff it out of curiosity because it had new scents, but nope, she’s not having it. 

In writing news, I’ve been working a lot on EMMA and I love the story she’s shaping up to be. To sum it up in three words: family/loyalty/addiction

In reading, I finished The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and WOW. I adored Starr and her family and their close-knit but complicated relationship.   

This book is about so many important topics: race, class, power, identity, community, loyalty, grief, guilt, anger, the difference between a real apology and saying, “I’m sorry you’re upset [by the effed up things I said].”

My ramblings can’t do this book justice, so just go read it.

It’s spring now and I’m looking forward to more outdoor time. Hope everyone is well!

 

 


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Word of the Year, Confessions and Resolutions

2017 Word of the Year:

AWAKE

Let me rewind to explain. 2015 was horrible. Several things happened, within a short time period, and after the initial, all-consuming wave of rage/sadness/shock had passed, I was left with low-grade grief. That seems the most appropriate term for it. I functioned and went through the motions, but there was always this underlying anxiety that more terrible things were going to happen.

And more inevitably did. 2016 included the scramble to find a new place to live before our apartment was declared unsafe by the building inspector. The home-buying process was stressful, the move overwhelming. I didn’t write or read anything in November/December.

Confession: During the last two months of 2016, all I managed to do most evenings after work was curl up on the couch and binge-watch “Murder She Wrote.” There was something comforting about Jessica Fletcher always catching the culprit. I ignored the fact this character was involved with 12 seasons of murder and somehow wasn’t emotionally scarred.

Then, a few days ago I was setting a newly repotted plant on the dining room table and the sun was shining brightly through the glass patio doors and I felt something I hadn’t in a long time:

Peace. Hope. Happiness.

Or some combination. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. It was the same feeling I used to have, years ago, when my husband and I lived in an apartment in an old house (ironically, it was just as moldy as the last place) and we had a tiny balcony off our bedroom where the sun would shine on our bed in the afternoons and I would curl up like a contented cat to read.

That one moment the other day made me realize how much I’ve been shambling through life the past few years, always steeled for the next crisis and never fully engaged with anything. Now it’s like I’m slowly waking up. 

A-ha! I finally get to the point.

I don’t expect myself to suddenly be a different person. I’ve always been a worrier, a homebody, the one that’s there to take care of the little details in an emergency. Sometimes these traits have felt like burdens, but ultimately I like knowing that my family can count on me. It’s the way I show love because, although my words/emotions flow freely on paper, I’m not demonstrative in real life.

My reticence, compounded with my low-grade grief, means I’ve missed out on a lot of adventures the past few years. I’m not talking about skydiving or snorkeling, I mean little things, like taking spontaneous drives through the wilds of West Virginia or going to a baseball game.

In 2017, I want to be AWAKE. I want to:

  • Go on an adventure every month
  • Read a book a week
  • Finish a draft of EMMA
  • Get back into working out
  • Make my house feel like a home
  • Feel like a contented cat again

I’m posting these resolutions publically because I feel accountable that way. Maybe it’ll also encourage me to blog more because I’ve been a bit (a lot) lacking in that department.

Here’s to waking up in 2017!

P.S. I finally gave my blog a facelift after years of the same drab background. There’s an updated “About” page and I added a tab about my books (with brief excerpts).

P.P.S. Next week is my seven year blogiversary and I’m planning a giveaway. Check back in a few days for details.


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Farewell 2016! And why I’ve been MIA

2016 has been a crapshoot for a number of reasons, but in the midst of all the crap, something good happened to me and my husband:

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!

This was not something we planned, but back in June, I tweeted about this happening in the apartment upstairs from ours:

 

Our neighbor was suddenly homeless and had to move in with family. And the apartment beside that one was also deemed unsafe by the building inspector and our other neighbor had to shove all his belongings into a truck and move to another place (unfortunately owned by the same slumlord).

The cause of the ceiling collapse was a roof full of holes. Every time it rained, the blown in insulation sucked up the water like a sponge (so no water marks as warning) and when it finally became too heavy for the drywall, the entire ceiling came down, all at once. Like I said in my tweet, it’s amazing no one was seriously injured. The noise and the way the building shook when it happened was unbelievable.

Fast-forward two months and nothing had been done about the roof and water was leaking in every which way (evident by fungus growing in the hall) and we were completely fed up, but we have cats so the only way we were moving to another rental was:

  • paying a kajillion dollars a month in pet deposits
  • seeing what other garbage place the owner had available
  • getting rid of our animals

All of these options sucked so we talked to a realtor. Buying a house was something we’d planned to do in a few years, once we saved up a down payment, but we no longer had that time.

The process started rolling and after weeks of searching and 2+ months of submitting documentation about every aspect of our lives, we signed away the next 30 years. And not a moment too soon – a few days after we moved, I met with the building inspector and he told me an entire exterior wall of our old apartment had to be torn down and replaced because of water damage.

I’m not surprised by this news, but it still makes me scream: WTF?!

It’s been a frustrating and uncertain last six months, but I’m glad we took the leap so I can put the memory of that fungus-filled shithole behind me. I’m also glad my first neighbor found another rental (from someone else) and my second neighbor will be doing his own house-hunting in a few months.

Plus happy cats because they have trees to look at now instead of a parking lot!

marty-at-window


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So Long, SummySeries 2016 + Hello September!

I planned to post another set of mini reviews for August, but time got away from me. I will say, though, that A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is not for me. Not in a million years.

So summer is (almost) gone and that means:

It’s YA Bootcamp time again!!! I’ll soon be back in the query trenches with JULES after a revision based on amazing agent feedback and I also plan to assemble EMMA into something coherent.

PLUS:

Fall! Fall! Fall!

I can’t wait to stop sweating and to wear long sleeves and to go for West Virginia drives.


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SummySeries 2016!

It’s going to be about 90 degrees in my corner of Virginia today + this weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, which means:

SUMMYSERIES TIME!!!

For those of you who don’t know, SummySeries is a thing I do every summer where I read a bunch of books to avoid going outside into the miserable humidity. It began in 2010 when I hid inside with Harry Potter. In 2011, it was Anne Shirley. Other years, I caught up on half-read series or picked up whatever caught my eye in the library.

Summer Lost and FoundThis year I’m aiming for a little bit of everything and I’ve started SummySeries off in awesome fashion with SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND by Rebecca Behrens. I am loving this MG mystery so far.

Next up is probably JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen. Last summer I had a random side goal to read all her books and I kinda fell off that, so this summer I’m continuing my quest in a more realistic manner by reading only one or two instead of ALL RIGHT NOW.

I plan on writing monthly wrap-ups with mini reviews. In the meantime, let’s get this SummySeries started!


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Currently – the 1990s edition

This week, I’m joining Katy Upperman and some other awesome people and posting CURRENTLY.

LOVING

Sharing the 1990s with my teenage brother. I dug out a few VHS tapes of ‘outtakes’ from my sophomore year, when I wrote, directed and starred in my first and only movie: DEAR DIARY.

Sadly (or thankfully), the movie is warped beyond watching, so we settled on ‘behind-the-scenes’ that mostly consisted of me and my friends flubbing lines and laughing hysterically.

My bro was most impressed by the fashion of the day, from a girl wearing JNCO jeans to my layers of clothing.

My morning routine was pretty much:

  • Start with a long-sleeved shirt at least a size too large
  • Add a t-shirt, a size larger
  • Cover up further with a flannel or other button-up, but don’t button it because that would be lame
  • Finalize with Dad’s 1970’s cardigan, made for a 6-foot tall, burly man, worn with pride by a 100-lb girl
  • Then high-waist jeans and steel-toed combat boots and voila, 1990’s stylish!

I wonder how I, and many others, didn’t collapse from either heat stroke or the weight of two tons of fabric.

READING

SUMMER OF SLOANE by Erin L. Schneider. I’ve been waiting for this book for forever, so I’m reading slowly and vicariously soaking up the Hawaiian sun and sand.

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It’s not a pic without a cat in it!

WATCHING

Hubby and I are about halfway through the second season of DAREDEVIL. We are the slowest binge-watchers ever because we usually only get to an episode a week.

We watch a few other shows together, too, including GAME OF THRONES. You’d think after five seasons, I could remember names, but nope, I’m all, “Where did dragon lady go? Why doesn’t the king kid do something? When is that sociopath* going to get what’s coming to him/her?”

That could refer to many different people so it usually involves me pointing at the screen.

LISTENING TO

Whatever pops up on Spotify. I have a spring playlist, full of happy, sparkly jams (no vampires allowed), but the weather has been drizzly and unseasonably cool in Virginia and it makes me gravitate more to folksy stuff.

THINKING ABOUT

YA Buccaneers Spring Bootcamp!

I have lofty goals of finishing EMMA revisions by the end of June and I’m glad for accountability.

ANTICIPATING

So much. I’ve got a couple of daytrips tentatively planned with my younger bro over the next few months and also:

INDEPENDENCE DAY 2! Holy crap, THIS MOVIE IS ALMOST HERE and if you know me, you know I’ve been waiting for this for approximately 20 years.


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Spring is in the air! (Sort-of)

If you don’t count the nightly freeze warnings and the snow flurries last weekend, spring is totally in the air. And what does that mean?

MUSICALS!

Yes, it’s that time of year I geek out over middle and high school plays because tweens/teens are ultra talented and they pour their hearts and souls (not to mention time) into these productions.

So far I’ve watched Hairspray JR and Cinderella. The latter had the coolest costumes. Cinderella’s dress was made to transition from plain to ball-worthy right on stage. The reaction from the kids in the audience  to this “magic” was priceless.

There’s a video of the magic on Facebook, it’s a public page, so hopefully you can see it. It’s short, only about 10 seconds.

Spring also means:

BASEBALL!

The Orioles have won seven games and only lost one. Sings: “We are the champions!!!”

Okay, okay…

I know it’s still VERY early in the season, but allow me this celebration. My Birds once started their season with 21 straight losses.

In other news:

DUCK TAPE!

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My husband and I found this at our local Big Lots. Do you have one of these stores near you? Their stock is so random (and always changing). Sometimes we go in there and lose an hour of time, poking around and stumbling across fun things.

My nickname growing up was a take on my last name (Pickrell became Pickel), so this tape is perfection.

CAT ACNE!

One of my cats had acne on his chin. Cat acne – catne? cacne?

I didn’t even realize this was a thing until the vet told us. I think it was brought on by stress – he and another cat went through a rough patch of growling/chasing which made our sweet boy anxiously (compulsively) rub his face on every surface in the apartment. The vet gave him an antibiotic shot which, thankfully, cleared it up.

Poor fella, look how easygoing he normally is – he’s a friend to all, even toy mice!

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LIFE!

April is National Donate Life Month so please, PLEASE consider donating blood, becoming an organ donor or giving money to your local transplant clinic. If you’ve ever had a loved one in need of blood or waiting for a transplant, you already know how important it is to take a few minutes out of your day to help.

On that note, much love to everyone ❤