QUERY 10, VOICE 0: Jocosa Wade Guest Blog Post

Jocosa Wade has long been known to my bloggowers as Jocosa of the Earrings my crazy, er, awesomely creative writer friend who took a vow not to cut her hair until she was published. That was almost two years ago! We've been following the growth of her hair and her growth as a writer as she tirelessly re-writes. Last time we heard from Jocosa she was stuffing her pie hole with vegan zucchini muffins, wrapped in a blanket watching bad TV, and recovering from rejection #33

Since then she started her own blog, jumped out of a plane, wrote a poem about her vagina and plans to quit her job (okay the poem was about the experience of jumping out of a plane). And. She. Still. Hasn't. Cut. Her. Hair! Way to commit to a vow Jocosa!

Here's how she looks now.  

Here's Jocosa of the Earrings with Query 10, Voice 0:

I attended The Backspace Conference in May. If you’re a writer who hasn’t heard about Backspace—check it out. 

One of the highlights of the conference was the Author/Agent Seminar. Participating writers were divided into their genres. Each genre group met with two agents in the morning and two different agents in the afternoon. The morning included the Query Letter Workshops. Writers read their query letters out loud to their group, then the agents provided feedback. My query was solid. And although both agents said the darkness of the story might narrow my submission opportunities, they found nothing amiss in the material. Relief.

The Opening Pages Workshop took place in the afternoon. Again we read our material aloud, and the agents gave us feedback on when and why they would stop reading if the material came across their desk. The agents told me, I hadn’t started the story in the right place—they were bored, and I had no voice.

“Thank you,” I said. Is there still time to get to the top of the Empire State Building and jump off?

No writer wants to hear they have no voice. But I wasn’t surprised for two reasons.

Ever since I chose to abandon acting for my first love and write for life, my worst fear had nothing to do with getting published. My fear was that I didn’t have a voice. Is it possible that I manifested my fear? Yes. 

I also wasn’t surprised because this road is not new to me.

In my first year of graduate school everything I knew to be true about performing was upended. After addressing my inability to act, my advisors slammed me with the following.

“The depth of your emotional truth blows the audience away, but we can’t stand to listen to you.”

I was an actress without a voice. Oops. The chair of the University of New Orleans theatre department gave me the name of the vocal coach at Tulane. 

I’ve always been a willing student, but somewhere in the back of my mind I believed certain people had strong voices while others didn’t—in the same way some people have operatic voices while others sing rock and roll. Or some people are ballet dancers while others were born for jazz—like Fosse. I was wrong.

The pixy like vocal coach asked me to lie on the floor. With gentle hands-on guidance she cooed directions. When I opened my mouth to release the requested sounds, my body provided an accompaniment of vibrations.  I was an instrument of sound and could’ve been played like Yo-Yo Ma’s cello.

I was not myself, and yet, all of myself. My vocal coach, who also happened to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique, guided me to a place where I was the most self I’d ever been—and I had a voice. Over time, I discovered how to get out of my own way so the voice of my characters could sing. 

So, you can see why I wasn’t surprised to hear the agents felt I didn’t have a voice. I’ve always been a little late to the party.

Hearing I had no voice seared my windpipe. Speechless? You bet. Did I think about quitting? I’m ashamed to admit it, but I thought about leaving the conference, packaging up my dream and stamping it unfulfilled. Did I?

Did you bump your head? I’m an artist, not a quitter. I take full responsibility for not serving my story to the best of my ability.

How do I know those agents were spot on and their comments weren’t a matter of personal taste? I have 34 rejections hanging in my office to prove it. Interesting how our habits are our habits no matter what craft we’re engaged in. What will I do?

Figure out how to get out of my own way. How will I start? With the notes gathered in Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workshop, where he pushed us to shove our protagonists to the edge of the cliff and let them fall. His workshop ran all day. I was on the verge of tears for half of it because I knew what I needed to do. I need to throw everything out and start fresh. That means 6 ½ drafts in the trash. And I thought Loglines were hell. Silly girl.

But I accept the challenge because that’s what life as an artist is about—venturing out beyond our comfort zones to unleash the ugly truth that must be examined.

I’ve got nothing to lose.

The important thing is to keep on. As artists we must continue to chisel away at whatever element is holding us back.

How about you? What element of craft do you need to concur in order to allow your story or character to resonate in the hearts of your audience?

Thanks for reading and being the presence I need to discover what I must to write on.

Abi - Jocosa's sweetheart of a possum/rabbit killing dog!


JennaQuentin said…
I love reading Jocosa of the Earrings updates! I have to admit that not having a voice is a big fear for me. It feels like a personal affront - like saying I don't have a personality. Am I writing "nice" things with no soul? The darkness of facing a rewrite, followed by the morning light of knowing "this is better"...
Thanks so much for sharing!!!
Jan Markley said…
It's been great of Jocosa to share her story and her insights as she travels the road toward publication.
Anonymous said…
Wow...outstanding post. Gave me goosebumps. Now, off to check out your blog!
Jan Markley said…
Glad you enjoyed it Deb! Here blog is full of good stuff!

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