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The Start of a Wild Ride

In July of 2012, I traveled clear across the country from Virginia to Anaheim, California to attend the RWA® national conference. I had never traveled like that by myself before—much less clear across the entire country—and I knew no one. I am an extreme introvert. Couple that with severe shyness and what do you get? A recipe for disaster.

Except my experience was anything but that. There is one word to describe how I felt at the end of that conference.


I put myself out there, introducing myself to people and reconnecting with someone I had met back in 2009 when the conference was in my backyard of Washington D.C. She was a Golden Heart® finalist at the time, and she introduced me to a slew of women, one of whom was also a Golden Heart finalist. I didn’t attend the Golden Heart award ceremony in 2009, but in 2012, I sat with a new friend and cheered on my two new finalist friends.

I went back to my room by myself that night with a feeling of empowerment and a newfound determination. I could do it. I would do it.

And guess what? I did do it! I am happy to share that my new adult manuscript LETTING GO is a Golden Heart finalist in the young adult category. Even as I type this, I can’t help but have a big goofy grin on my face. It is so surreal, made only sweeter by the fact that a dear friend of mine also finaled in my category.

The Golden Heart is aptly named. I am less than a week into my experience, and I feel golden, not just for the opportunities that come with being a finalist, but for the amazing friendships I’ve already begun to form with my fellow 2014 Golden Heart finalist sisters.

I’ve heard many finalists call the experience a wild ride, and I never really understood it. I get it now. You know the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you sit in a roller coaster car slowly chugging its way up that first big hill? The mix of excitement, anticipation, exhilaration, and yes, a little bit of fear?

I can’t wait to enjoy the ride.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. I love the new website! It looks awesome!!

    Congrats congrats to you!! 🙂 Okay, to both of us.

    This is an amazing trip. You’re right; just like a roller coaster. Nerves and exhilaration. What a rush.

    Can’t wait to see you again in San Antonio!!

    1. Yes, Marnee, my first comment! I’m so glad you’ll be going this summer. It would have been such a bummer to go to the conference without my Twerk Twin!

  2. Jessica,
    I smiled all the way through your post. I love how you felt so empowered by your experience. How you were determined that it would be YOU. And it is! Yay, you! It is a wonderful ride, but more than that, it keeps on going. The friendships you’ll form as a byproduct of this contest ends up meaning more than the final itself. I’ve made such fantastic friends with my fellow GH finalists–especially the YA group–and that’s the real prize. For me.
    Good luck with your submission process and getting strapped in for the ride. 🙂
    Can’t wait to officially meet you!

    1. Right back at you, Kim! Someone on our loop mentioned that at this point they don’t even care if they win. I’m in the same boat. I’m just so excited to be here and experience this with so many like-minded people.

  3. Congratulations on your Golden success, Jessica!!!! I love that you worked so hard toward this goal. Next stop, publication!

    I agree with Kim — the friendships formed during this roller coaster ride are worth so much more than you can imagine.

    Love your website, by the way. Can’t wait to meet you in person in San Antonio!

  4. Yay Jessica! Congratulations to you on this amazing achievement. I can really relate to your first conference experience–I had no idea what I was doing when I got there last year and came away looking at things a whole new way. It WILL be a wild ride. Enjoy every minute!

  5. Congratulations, Jessica! Can’t wait to meet you in person. You’re website looks a-mazing. Hope you have a great and productive week. You’re a high school teacher. Right? I teach eighth grade. We’re on spring break this week. Couldn’t have come at a better time. Whoo hoo. What about you?

    1. Yes, I teach high school seniors. I started out in middle school, though. Sometimes I miss that age group. They can be a lot of fun! My spring break is in two weeks, but it’s going to be pretty busy. I already made a lot of plans before I knew about the GH final. Hopefully I’ll still be able to get some writing related stuff done!

  6. Congrats again, Jessica! I can’t wait to meet you. And I totally get the shy, introverted thing–it can be difficult to put yourself out there (especially in a big venue like RWA), but it’s worth it when you get to meet so many amazing people! It *is* a wild ride.

    1. In Atlanta, someone said something about the conference being full of introverts who are pretending to be extroverts. It is so true! It helps to know that a lot of people are just like me.

  7. Whoohooooooooo!!!! You need to carve out time soon so I can take you out to celebrate. I’m so proud of you!!! I KNEW you could do it. And I am SO excited to have a front row seat to watch you go through this amazing experience.

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