INTRODUCING New Friday Muse--Jodi Kendall

Hi, Folks! Do I have a special treat for you. Taking the helm of Friday for the New Muses is a wonderful lady named Jodi Kendall. And let me tell you this: You're going to LOVE her. 

Here's what she looks like: 
I met Jodi at my first national SCBWI conference. We both were at the same round table critique circle after lunch and in the nervous chit-chat of pre-critique, I immediately took a liking to her sweet nature, inquisitiveness, and thoughtfulness. I was a newby in the truest sense of the word and Jodi, a New Yorker, made me feel so welcome to the Big Apple and KidLit.

Since then, we've kept in contact, closely tracking our journeys through writing...and life. We've queried around the same time, had requests from the same agents...and gotten rejected concurrently too. Our first borns -- little boys -- are almost the same age. We both have a love for dogs and she even featured one of my pups for the NatGeo Channel blog (one of her day jobs...believe me, my jealousy almost got in the way of our friendship). Sometimes our parallel paths got spooky close. For example, I took a week long trip to Belize to see whale sharks (an odd lifelong dream, don't judge) and after hours on rocky boats and diving in deep blue nothing, I saw...squat. The next week, Jodi goes to coastal Mexico (for her job) and sees like a billion whale sharks. BTW--that was the test of our friendship I referred to earlier. 

So without further delay, put your paws together for the wonderful, inspiring, and downright awesome Jodi!

P.S. I think she sent me this pic to rub in the whole whale shark thing again.
I'm going to go ahead and admit it. I'm a little terrified to be a New Muse.

I mean, this is *THE* YA Muses after all, a talented group of dedicated writers whom I've long admired, and now I'm honored to call myself one of them. But the nerves are there. I rewrote this blog post at least three times over-analyzing what you, dear reader, would think when you read it (thanks for putting up with me, Bret!).

 In some compartments of my life, facing fears is commonplace. As a freelance writer, my work can take me around the globe, and I've experienced terrifying and thrilling expeditions that have stretched my body, soul and mind. I once tracked a wild elephant herd through a rainforest during a summer storm and surveyed the largest whale shark aggregation in the world from the sky and sea. I flew in a two-person, open-top airplane to photograph manta rays and motored through a crocodile breeding ground on a nighttime river safari. A monitor lizard once tried to strike me with its tail. I've plucked blood-sucking leeches off my neck. I witnessed a tiger mark its territory by spraying urine across the face of an acquaintance (true story!). I faced my fear of sharks by swimming with seven species in an aquarium tank and attempted one of the most nerve-wracking physical challenges of my life – the flying trapeze – on more than one occasion.

While I experienced a jolt of fear on those adventures, none of them have compared to my writing journey. Because for as much as I write, and for as long as I've been doing it, writing is still awesomely scary for me, and every time I sit down to work, I'm both afraid and exhilarated. Sure, I have a few print and digital media publications under my belt and I'm incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I've had, but here's a bit of truth. I'm rejected all the time in my profession, and I've unsuccessfully pursued publication in the children's book industry for over half my life. I received my first rejection letter from a publishing house at age sixteen (I may still have it filed somewhere?) and, in the last decade, I queried three different kidlit manuscripts and never once received an offer of agent representation. I devoted time to earning an MFA degree and have spent a lot of money to attend writing conferences and networking opportunities. There've been countless personal sacrifices – like precious time with my family – to work on my manuscripts. So if you've ever felt afraid of being sub-par to your creative peers, that your ideas will never be original enough, your characters are cardboard, everyone thinks you're a failure, and that despite all your bleary-eyed all-nighters, industry knowledge and genuine attempts to grow in your craft, you are talentless and don't have what it takes to become a published children's book author, I'm here to offer a virtual hug and say that I've been to that dark place, and sometimes fear swallows me back in.

I recently talked about the writer's life in an article for Bare Essentials Magazine, sharing that deadlines loom, competition is fierce, editors edit, rejection is inevitable, there's never enough time, and the reading public will judge. But still, I write, because I don't know life another way. I've put pen to page and woven narratives for as long as I can remember. I was born to do this. Ultimately, my dream is to become a children's book writer, but whether or not I land an agent with this new manuscript, score a publishing deal, see my book in print, or win a slew of awards, the process of writing is enough for me. It has to be. It must blossom from a place of love. Writing well is too hard and too personal for it to only be about an end game. And our ultimate responsibility is to the young people who may read and learn from our stories one day. So until they do, my mission is to work my tail off, every day, and that means even on the days when I'm feeling afraid.

When Laurie Halse Anderson spoke at the SCBWI-LA Conference in early August, she said, "Write fiercely... Be brave today." I scribbled her every wisdom down in my Moleskine, fought back a tear, and then drew squiggly lines all around the phrase, repeating it over and over in my head. Be brave today. I can do this. At least, I think I can do this.

So, here I am, incredibly honored, grateful and excited to be a part of the YA Muses, and channeling some bravery to share my thoughts in such an open forum. I hope you'll join me for the journey. Can we be brave in writing together? Let's commit to at least fifteen minutes of creative work each day, strive to read books in and out of our genre on a regular basis, support authors and local bookstores, and establish a network of committed creators. Let's be brave enough to tirelessly progress our craft, and be open to learning and vulnerability. Let's work to shine our natural writing strengths and nurture our areas of opportunity, and not compare our writing journey to those of others. Matt de la Peña recently said, "It's all about how hard you work when no one's watching you." So let's not give up on getting better, and let's put in the time that's needed to nourish growth. And last but not least, let's remind ourselves – amidst the piles of rejection, bouts of self-doubt, and all-consuming, paralyzing fear, fear, fear – that we write because we love it. And we're brave enough to pursue it as a career.


Welcome Jodi! Let's be brave together.

I'm in, Jodi! I will follow you to the ends of the earth. xo Kim

Jodi, it's GREAT having you on the Muses, and thanks for an awesome post. I'm resolving to BE BRAVE today, too. Welcome, welcome!

"It's all about how hard you work when no one's watching you."


Yes, yes and yes. I needed this post today, Jodi and I'll need it again next week. Thank you for joining us and thank you for the inspiration!

Loved your post, Jodi. And I have to say, the flying trapeze has nothing on the query roller coaster :). But I'm going to be brave right along with you!
Ready! HUP! Let's do this!

YAY! So glad you're on this journey. I want to know all about whale sharks, too!

Thank you for the inspiration, Jodi, and for leaping on the query trapeze with the rest of us!

thanks Talia! It was *so* great meeting you in LA. Thanks for being brave with me :)

Thanks so much V! Loved chatting with you in LA & THANK YOU for inspiring me. Happy to be here :)

Right? That Matt de la Peña. Genius.

Thank you so much Katherine! Let's be brave together! We've got this :)

Appreciate your kind words! Let's do this.

This is a great first post. I'm so inspired! (And actually, I'm quoting you on my blog today.) Looking forward to following your posts here. :)

I can talk about whale sharks all day long!! Maybe more on that in a future open post :) Happy to be on board with you too.

thank you Beth! excited we're on this crazy ride together :)

Aw, loved your comment, Ghenet. Thank you so much for your encouragement... I expect great things from you!

Best luck, Jodi. Good first post. You will do great!

Jodi, you're going to get there, and we'll all cheer for you when you do. Hell, girl, you swam in shark-infested waters! You've got stories to tell, and we want to hear them. So happy you're our new Friday Muse!

Lia! So happy to be on board with you :) Thanks for the support. Cheers!

Wise words from one of my favorite writers on the planet. Love ya, and maybe also green with envy about all your amazing travels!! xox GC

You're quite the traveler yourself, Ms GC!! And I don't know what I'd do without you & Alex... Best critique group ever! Thanks for all the support. xo

Congrats on being a muse, Jodi! And thanks for this inspiring post--lately I've been needing some writing bravery. This was exactly what I needed to read. :)

thank you so much Rebecca! so happy you enjoyed the post. I'm *so* excited for your book to enter the world! dying to read it :)

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