Jennifer Cox… Author?
As my childhood friends will attest, I’ve been writing “books” since I was a kid. My parents will also confirm this, spending hours patiently listening to me read my latest novel as I stood in our living room in Florida and made the household stop everything to listen. My teachers would even confirm this… I had more math and history teachers take away my journals with my latest work of fiction scribbled between the covers than I can count, and I had more English teachers who would push blank pieces of paper in front of me and sharpen my pencils.
I’ve written books about everything… two whales falling in love, a teenage couple who live next door to each other and fall in love by talking through the fence (and then he discovers she’s in a wheelchair but he loves her nonetheless), murder mysteries, love stories, and teen angst. I would fill an entire spiral-bound notebook with the beginnings of a detailed story and need to continue in a second and even third notebook, tying the metal curlycue bindings together with string from the garage.
The covers always said something like “Another title from the award-winning author everyone loves, Jennifer Cox!” (with an exclamation point). In my earlier “works” I did my own illustrations, big bauble-headed characters with girls that always had cleavage and high heels. Later I wrote longer tales that were divided by chapters. I typed and typed and typed but I rarely ever finished one of the books. I’d think of a new idea and abandon the old one, even if I was 30,000 words in. I have a box full of half-written stories that I’ve brought with me from house to house, country to country.
Before I got pregnant with my son I started writing a teen fiction book. It was more as a creative outlet since I’d abandoned a lot of my creative writing because writing for work seemed more appropriate (I had bills to pay!). The words just poured from my fingertips. It was about my mom as a teen in 1967. When I finished it I couldn’t believe – 35,000 words, 170 pages, with a complete beginning, middle, and end. My mom and best friend read and loved it, but, lets face it… they’re biased. I had an editor I admire very much read it and she even offered to edit it. She liked it too. And then I just let it sit there.
This past May I went to New York City with some girlfriends and we made a stop at Scholastic Publishing house. I stood in their bookstore surrounded by the over-sized characters that their authors have become known for: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Captain Underpants, The Babysitter’s Club, and it struck me: what was I waiting for?!
So I got home and wrote to a few contacts. I sent out a few emails. And lo and behold, an agent from the West Coast phoned me one afternoon while I was waist-high in my son’s miniature pool in the backyard. I hadn’t included my phone number in the email and he said he’d called two other Jennifer Cox’s before he’d found the right one. When I told him I expected an email and not a call, apologizing for not including my number, he said, “Not to worry. I had to meet the person behind this endearing email that I got…” And off it went.
I sent him my book. A month later I got another call saying that they loved it. They said they weren’t taking on any more teen fiction writers… till now.
This week, I finalized my agent agreement. I signed it, and two days ago, I got their signed copy. Now they’re shopping me around to publishing houses.
It’s just so exciting. I don’t know that I’ll get a book deal with this title but having an agent is a great first step. It would be a dream come true to see my string-tangled notebooks become an book with binding. I just gotta keep believing…
And I do…
Why your company isn’t getting press coverage
As a freelance journalist who is one of the few people who clicks “Yes, send me a newsletter” or “Yes, add me to your mailing list,” I get inundated with marketing material and media releases from slews of companies. Food and drink, fashion, beauty, home decor, and even entertainment news (talent and otherwise) pours into my inbox on a daily basis. And it simply amazes me how unprofessional and incomplete these efforts often are.
Here are a few reasons your company isn’t getting press coverage:
- Spelling mistakes. Did anyone edit your press release or marketing materials? I don’t think so. And it’s left a sour taste in my mouth. These words are a reflection of your business. And when they’re misspelled or surrounded by basic incorrect punctuation, it makes a journalist think that this is the type of company you are: you’ll give sloppy quotes, you’ll make it difficult for me to make deadline, and in general, I just don’t want to work with you.
- No supporting marketing material. A press release touting a new innovative product is one half of the equation, but the other half is, I want to see your product. I want to look at it and hold it and try it out. I’m always so surprised when I find out about a cool new gadget or item but there are no samples and, worse yet, no photography. I can’t pitch your product or service to a publication without visuals to go along with it. You’d be better to hold off on sending your press release until you have a more cohesive marketing package.
- Vague details. A company should be able to tell me where their product or service is sold, how much it costs, etc. It’s crazy to me that so many companies will have a fantastic idea on their hands and yet hire a PR agency who knows very little about the actual product. Have a list of points of sale that can be sent out, or provide a link to a page where it can be purchased. Establish a solid SRP.
- Filter your recipients. It’s very clear, by asking me directly (which I often am) or going to my website or social media platforms, that I don’t write about cars, or politics, or money matters. But a PR agency will send me releases on ALL of their clients, whether they pertain to me or not, and after awhile, it’s frustrating and I unsubscribe. Zero in on your target media outlets (industry magazines, niche-specific websites and blogs) and stop inundating others with what we consider “junk.”
I find so many incredible ideas on Pinterest (it’s actually quite overwhelming and often sends me into nervous sweats), and lately I’m on a home projects’ kick. I’ve been a tad pin-crazy. But how cool are these?!…
This is my kitchen project. Since we moved in we haven’t had anything on the wall over our kitchen table (except for birthday banners and seasonal stuff). I think these are super cute.
We have loads of wall space in our living room over our large L-shaped sectional, and this would be perfect over one side of it.
There are a few T-shirts that my son has had that I just love, either because of the memories they hold or just because he looked so darn cute in them. I love the idea of stretching them across a canvas and hanging them up. I’ve already started my canvas T-shirt collection.
This will be a mommy-and-son art project for mommy’s office. It just makes me happy.
When I was younger…
When you become an adult, and even more so when you become a parent, you realize that there are certain childhood things that perhaps you didn’t take advantage of. Or, you’ve become extremely cautious in your grown-up years and can no longer throw that caution to the wind.
I wish I’d gone on more roller-coasters. Now a little dip in the road turns my tummy upside-down. I couldn’t fathom enduring the fear of that first climb roller-coasters are known for… I think I’d go straight into a panic attack.
When I was younger I wish I’d learned to speak French. They say you’re like a sponge when you’re younger and it comes to learning other languages. I’ve now lived 16 years in a bilingual province and I don’t think I have kindergarten-level French.
I wish I had tried out for a high school sports team. My insecurities definitely kept me from trying out for any organized sports. I was on the girls volleyball team in middle school but high school sports were the “big leagues.” But I think it would have been a lot of fun. I’ll definitely encourage my son to be on teams throughout childhood and teenager-hood.
I wish I had gone on the school trip to Washington, DC. If you read my blog on getting homesick, you know why I opted out of the 5th grade trip to the nation’s capital for safety patrols. I remember how excited I was to be chosen to be a safety patrol in 5th grade because it meant I could go on the trip. But when it came time to hand in the permission forms, my anxiety took over and I decided not to attempt it. I shoulda. When I was younger I also wish I’d gone to sleepaway camp. That seems like a lot of fun to me now.
I wish I’d done an inward dive. I took all sorts of classes when I was young: tap, jazz, piano, gymnastics, and diving. When it came time to do an inward dive, no matter how many times I tried, I’d leap backward off of that board, picture myself smashing my forehead into the end of the board, and would chicken out and flop feet/belly first into the water. Each time I scrambled to the end of the plank I swore that this would be the time I would actually do it. And each time, I jumped, panicked, and bailed. I’m way too scared to try it now. I shoulda just done it then.
I guess there are a few things I could still try and do on this list. I wonder if my husband would let me go to sleepaway camp for the summer…
“Someday everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.”
Wanting To Do More To Help…
A classmate of mine from childhood and teenage-hood has a 4-year-old daughter, Keira, with an inoperable brain tumour. Keira is taking part in a clinical trial that is hundreds of miles away from their home, meaning she and her husband have to miss a lot of work and take on a lot of travel expenses. After her daughter’s first round of treatments the tumour had shrunk, so she is now beginning the second round. This is very promising but they still need help. They’re trying very hard to raise money for the medical and travel expenses.
My heart breaks for this family… now that I’m a mom the idea of enduring such a huge scary thing like cancer and a child is beyond words. I want to help in any way that I can. Like so many new families with a house and expenses, I could only donate so much, but I will continue to make those modest donations as often as I can. I shared the link on Facebook but I worry that it gets lots in the shuffle of insignificant posts. I’ve now reached out to a number of classmates to see if we can get the word out more.
And maybe a blog post wouldn’t hurt.
If you have a healthy child that you’re grateful for, make a donation to Keira. If someone you know has been affected by cancer (and I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t been), give something, anything, toward this cause. Here is the link. Please please please spread the word!
Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been plagued my whole life with homesickness. It started in grade school when I’d go to sleepovers and slumber parties, and each time I was excited and thought I’d make it the whole night, but by 10pm I was in tears calling my mom and dad to come and pick me up.
I did it on trips. I flew from Florida to Atlanta for an incredible three-week trip to see family friends. They’d planned the whole three weeks with everything a kid could possibly want to do… and the first night I was begging my parents to put me on the first flight back home (which they did… for a pretty penny). It’s continued till adulthood… I tough it out now and stay put, but when I travel solo, my poor husband gets at least one panicked call per trip where I’m feeling anxious and lonely and overwhelmed.
Homesickness is the worst feeling ever. It’s like having an actual heartache… and being nauseous. It can be such a scary sensation, and unfortunately it’s clouded a lot of really nice trips.
I’ve always wondered why I get homesick. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been beneficial to go to sleep away camp as a kid. Maybe I need to drink more when I travel alone (lol).
But the one thing I do know: I keep doing it over and over again.
Even though I do get homesick almost every single time I go away by myself, I keep making solo travel plans. I accept the press trips because I know I’ll never have the opportunity to experience a destination the way you do on a pampered best-of-the-best press trip (and I love writing about travel and having my photos published). I book trips down to Florida to visit my old stomping grounds because it’s so important to me to try and keep in touch with the amazing friends I had growing up.
And I want to show my 1 1/2 year old son that you can’t let your fears rule your life. Yes, I get homesick and have yet to figure out how to fend it off completely, but I don’t let it hold me back from experiencing travel.
Have you ever experienced homesickness? How did you get past it?
One day I’ll get around to these projects and recipes. But in the meantime, let’s just drool a little… (and then go to Pinterest to follow me… I’m a chronic evening Pinner while I sit and chronically watch “Orange Is the New Black”…
I’m obsessed with square stone pavers this summer.
I had gazpacho recently on a press trip and I’m determined to master a cold soup recipe.
Clever and simple and a must-do for my bathroom drawer.
So fun for a backyard party.
I’ve been on a major Popsicle kick this season, and we often have these three fruits in the our house, so I’ve gotta try these.
Can you learn to be a good writer?
The short answer is, no.
I mean, sure, you can teach the mechanics of writing (punctuation, spelling, grammar), but does a mistake-free text make it good?
I’ve always felt that we’re born with inherent gifts. Some of us have a real creative eye and are good at the arts, while others have a technical way of thinking so they’re able to build and fix things. I know people with an ear for music and eye for good taste. And then there’s those athletically-inclined folks who pick up any piece of sporting equipment and just rock it from the get go.
You can learn how to play guitar but you might not be a great musician. A coach can give you the rules and teach you the object of a game, but you won’t necessarily be a natural athlete.
These talents are something you’re born with… you then learn the rules of your trade to hone your skills. But you need a skill set to start with. And you’ve either got it, or you don’t.
What do you think? Do you think someone can learn to be an artist? A singer? An all-star football player?
Activities for 1-year-olds
I am always on a quest to keep my little one busy. At first I thought he definitely had a touch of ADD because he’d play with something for 30 seconds, toss it aside, and move on. Then my friends (mockingly) reassured me that he did not have ADD… he was 1. A 1-year-old will not necessarily sit for any length of time with any given object.
I researched and I combed through the cobwebs in my mind to bring back my teenage days of babysitting twins and toddlers and keeping them happy and content. I found that there were a number of things that my bean would sit and do for a little bit, buying me time to prep dinner or vacuum, that were simple enough to find or make. Pinterest was a big help too (you all know how I love my Pinterest!). So if you’re looking for some great activities for 1-year-olds, maybe these will help.
- Sidewalk chalk. Sidewalk chalk outside in clothes that you don’t care about (because, despite the vibrant colours of Crayola washable sidewalk chalk, it is not washable). My little guy loved it and started with our long walkway and the driveway, and then we moved on to the dark brown fence around our backyard, a few trees, and finally the wood porch steps. It washes off with a spray of the hose or a quick rainshower. And sidewalk chalk pieces are thick and stumpy so it’s easy for his little hands to grasp them.
- Musical instruments. We have an awesome set that includes a tambourine, maracas, and bells that fits into a plastic drum, but I also made my son a few makeshift instruments out of tight-fitting Tupperware containers and different fillers, including dried lentils, chickpeas, and coins. He loves trying them all out (but you’ve gotta be able to stand a lot of noise).
- A box. Yep, we bought the bean a new carseat and it came in this massive box, which he proceeded to play in for weeks. His 8-year-old cousin even decked it to look like a house. My husband cut out a window, and in and out he would go, each and every day, until I basically got sick of the unsightly dented box with scabs of dried food taking over my living room.
- Bubbles. You can get all kinds of wands and blowers, and even different types of bubbles (ever see the coloured or unbreakable ones?!). My busy 1-year-old was walking everywhere and loved the challenge of chasing the bubbles. We also worked on blowing the bubbles (which kept him busy but did periodically end up in his mouth).
- Stickers. They’re a pain because they will end up stuck to everything, and you’ll definitely have to supervise to ensure stickers are not eaten, but they’re great for motor skills (holding them, putting them on things, figuring out how to get that one darn Mickey Mouse to unstick from your thumb) and can also be a fun learning game if they’re themed stickers (animals, nature, etc.)
- A dress-up doll. My exploratory son was obsessed with buttons and zippers – he loved trying to figure them out on other people’s clothes. So I started by dressing his teddy in his clothes – I used overalls with suspenders, a shirt with buttons, a hoodie with a zipper, socks and little shoes. Then Nana found him this great little pirate who has a zillion things on his outfit to play and learn from.