The Writing Life: What I learned in high school . . . and why it’s still relevant today by Jina Bacarr

May 11, 2017 by in category Jina’s Book Chat tagged as , , , , , , , , , with 12 and 0
Home > Columns > Jina’s Book Chat > The Writing Life: What I learned in high school . . . and why it’s still relevant today by Jina Bacarr

*****2nd UPDATE***** Monday early a.m. May 22, 2017

I did it!! CRYSTAL GIRL is listed among the entries for the Kindle Storyteller UK 2017 contest!

After being sleepless in SoCal all weekend, I checked before I powered down tonight and there she is! Excited that I did it right and fulfilled all the requirements.

It wasn’t easy to enter – writing the book was only the beginning. Formatting it and also doing a print version, getting them linked, right keywords, did both covers myself. Crazy, but I’m just happy to have a chance.

Thanks for listening!


****UPDATED**** Saturday May 20, 2017

Thursday night . . . I felt like Cinderella waiting for the clock to chime at midnight . . .in England.

That was the deadline looming for the Kindle Storyteller UK 2017 contest (see below for the scoop). I was almost finished with editing, formatting, etc. CRYSTAL GIRL, a prom queen wannabe sells her soul to the devil to get thin, watching the clock. You have to upload a print book as well as an e-book. Formatting an e-book I can do.

The print book.

Well, let’s say I used up a pot of coffee stressing on that one. However, I’m pleased to say that Amazon has made it exceptionally doable for authors to turn their e-books into print. Kudos to them.  It takes some studying, a few trial runs, but I did it.

So . . . I uploaded everything before the deadline. I’m all set, right?

No. My entry isn’t there.

At least I can’t find it.

So I emailed Amazon support and they’re helping me figure out what’s happening. So, that’s my update. I did what I set out to do and that in itself is a win. But I’m hoping, really hoping, that my book will show up in the contest. It may take a few days to show up, but I know in my heart I’ve done everything I can.

Will I win if the book joins the entries? That’s in the hands of the angels . . .


PS — meet Kaylee Russell in Crystal Girl –– how far would you go to get thin? Read her story here.


I love to wish on the stars.

Big ones, little twinkling ones. I’ve always been the type to jump headfirst into a challenge and then wonder later how I’m going to do it. Like the time I was a freshman in high school and I was a newbie on the Speech and Debate Team. The team was entered in a big speech contest over the weekend where each contestant performed a piece in front of judges.

At the last minute, somebody dropped out. I raised my hand and said, “Yeah, I’ll go!” Eyebrows raised. Throats cleared. Obviously, I was not their first choice. Far from it. But I wanted it so bad, the teacher must have seen the stars in my eyes. I was so eager to get out into the world and try out my wings. They had no one else, so I went. This was a Thursday. I needed my speech ready by Saturday.

I was too young and naive to be scared.

Too green to know everybody thought I’d freeze up.

Hey, I was fourteen.

By Saturday, I had the speech down. Kinda. Not perfect. But okay, I couldn’t back out now. I’ll never forget the snickers, the whispers when I got up in front of the judges and jumped into my speech. It was a speech about life and its many roads and the choices you make. A bit too mature for me, but what the heck, I forged ahead like I was on a mission to Mars.

Then reality set in. I forgot a line . . . then two. I stopped, grinned like a puppet with its strings cut. Now what?

Thank God I have a bit of blarney in me. I filled in with personal anecdotes about roads my family took. Literally. I talked about our wild adventures living in different places from coast to coast. No one breathed. Or made nasty comments. They just listened.

When I was done, I left the room as fast as my ballet flats could take me. Went to the girls’ restroom and cried.

I messed up.

Or did I?

I don’t believe I did. Even now as I write this, I never forgot the feeling of taking that risk and getting through it even if I wasn’t successful. Just putting myself out there made me grow up.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s how I scored: 4 judges = 2 third places; 1 honorable mention; and 1 second place.

Not bad for a kid at her first speech contest.

So, why am I telling you this?

Because I’m wishing on the stars again. This time it’s the Amazon Kindle Storyteller contest. (Get all the info HERE). A writing contest and the deadline is fast approaching. I have to wrap up my YA Novel entry asap.

God help me, I’ve seen the sun come up the past few days. Did you know the birds start chirping outside my window at 4:30 a.m.?

I’ll fill you in more later about my story with updates here. Post the cover, etc. It’s called CRYSTAL GIRL and it’s the story of a prom queen wannabe who sells her soul to the devil to get thin.

So that’s it for now.

But you know what’s funny to me? I don’t feel any different than I did at fourteen when I jumped into the speech contest and did the best I could. I love the challenge and I trust the storyteller in me to accomplish my goal.

I hope I never lose that feeling.

And I hope I never run out of stars . . .


High school can be such a pain, remember? I do.

Here’s a very short story I wrote about that first kiss.

VIRGIN KISS is **FREE** May 11 and May 12 on Amazon Kindle.

You can find me on social media at:

Once upon a Story blog





Amazon Author Page:



  • taristhread
    on May 11, 2017

    Love this post Jina! I’ve jumped into a few things in my life when I wasn’t prepared. Some have turned out well, some…well, let’s just say they were learning experiences. Thank you for reminding me that we need to take risks every now and then to make our wishes come true. It was something I needed to hear right now. Good luck in the Amazon Kindle Storytellers contest!

    • Author
      on May 12, 2017

      So glad you enjoyed the post! Hey, believe me, I have a lot more stories . . . it’s part of who we are. The quilt that makes up our lives. The most interesting quilts are the ones with the intricate designs–like the quilter took her time to explore her craft. Like our lives, our writing.

      Scrambling to get my story finished–it’s written, but are we ever satisfied?

      • Geralyn Corcillo
        on May 17, 2017

        Are we ever satisfied? For me, the answer is pretty much no. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings filmmaker) once said, “You’re never done editing. You just run out of time.” And I so agree!!!!!!!!!! But it looks like even if you’re not totally satisfied, your readers sure are!

        • Author
          Jina Bacarr
          on May 20, 2017

          As you can see, I literally ran out of time!! Midnight deadline. Thank God I don’t write wearing glass slippers or I would have lost both of them running out of time . . . thanks for the kind words, too.

        • Author
          Jina Bacarr
          on May 20, 2017

          Geralyn, what a great experience! Brilliant idea to use Henry V as a jumping off point for your speech. You deserved to come in first. Congrats. Those memories are what make us writers.

          RE: contest — as you can see by my update, I’m waiting . . . Amazon has been super re: getting back to me. I’d really like to have a chance in the contest — this is such an important topic re: appearance for girls and women. I’ll keep updating!!

  • Marianne
    on May 11, 2017

    Loved your blog, Jina. I also love the premise of your YA. I’m sure you’ll do well –look at all you’ve accomplished.

    • Author
      on May 12, 2017

      Thank you, Marianne! I’m doing a different take on getting thin — high school and the pressure to fit in. It’s a dark fantasy . . . I’ll update as I finish and post the cover, etc.

  • Geralyn Corcillo
    on May 17, 2017

    Jina!!!!!! OMG I have a VERY similar story of my very first speech and debate competition that I went to when I joined my Cornell Team. Every prepared speech I was entered in did okay in my rookie tournament – nothing stellar. BUT, just like in your case, someone didn’t show and there was an opening at the last minute and I volunteered to fill in. Nobody on my team particularly cared because /cornell already had an entry for that event – and the entry was the captain of the team who had over 300 career speech and debate trophies. And this was my first tournamnent and I had to write a speech and deliver it in TWENTY MINUTES. The category was literary analysis and I gave a speech on how the movie Henry V didn’t change a word of the play but managed to make andanti-war movie out of a pro-war play. (I LOVED that movie and had just seen it 3 times!) My speech finalled, so I had a night to tweak it before I had to deliver it in front of the final judges. The Captain of the team also finalled. He came in third in the finals. And OMG I came in FIRST. I won, all because, like you, I took a chance!! You YA sounds FANTASTIC!!! Good luck in the contest!!!!

  • mariannehdonley
    on May 20, 2017

    Jina, the cover of Crystal Girl is stunning! I hope you’re in the contest!

    • Author
      Jina Bacarr
      on May 20, 2017

      Thank you, Marianne!! The story is about a high school senior who hooks up with a hottie guy who happens to be a devil. There’s a lot of razzle dazzle and magic, but the reality is that our heroine falls for him and what he gives her: pills to make her thin. There is a romance since our “devil” is a fallen angel who’d love to get out of the game, but he can’t. Some heart-wrenching scenes when Kaylee finds herself in a world she’s totally unprepared for.

      I wanted the cover to show that this new world is not reality and sometimes, the lights dazzle our way of thinking and we make wrong choices. Thanks again!

  • Linda McLaughlin
    on May 23, 2017

    Loved the post, too, Jina. It brought back high school memories, though my first attempt at giving a speech didn’t work out well at all. But I got the worst over, and did better after that, thank goodness!

    Congratulations on getting your story uploaded and in the contest!

    • Author
      Jina Bacarr
      on May 23, 2017

      Thank you, Linda! Yes, it was amazing. I was too naive to be really scared. I just went for it! I’m sure you did quite well after that. You’re good with an audience. I remember the videos we did!!

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