Skin Cancer Awareness Month—My Melanoma Story

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s now personal for me. I’d like to share my experience in an effort to help raise awareness around this issue.

Earlier this month, I was diagnosed with melanoma.

CANCER. It’s true what they say—this word rattles you. I’m fortunate in the sense that melanoma has a high cure rate when caught early. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still CANCER. Cancer cells have been circulating in my body, entirely unbeknownst to me. If undetected, melanoma can spread and metastasize rapidly. It’s the most aggressive and deadly skin cancer. It’s frightening.

In my case, I’d had a small dark mole on the back of my arm for years. As long as I can remember actually. Maybe my whole life. I’d had dermatologists look at it in the past and no one seemed concerned. It didn’t look like a typical melanoma. Just a flat dark mole, about the color of black coffee. It stood out to me because most of my other freckles and moles are a tan color.

I was outside playing with my son in April and just happened to look at the back of my arm. Does this look different? I wondered to myself. I thought it might’ve looked slightly darker, with maybe a tinge of red around the edges, and I thought I saw a speck of white in the center. It was such a subtle change that I thought I might just be paranoid.

But I called the dermatologist and scheduled an appointment, just to be safe. The dermatologist herself wasn’t even entirely convinced that we should do a biopsy, but we did anyway, just to be safe.

I got a call a few days later, letting me know that the pathology had come back and I had melanoma. I was shocked. Unfortunately, the biopsy didn’t remove the entire melanoma, so about 2.5 weeks later, a surgeon performed a procedure called a wide excision on my arm. My stats:

  • Small 3mm mole removed for biopsy
  • Even smaller 0.7mm melanoma Dx
  • The result was a huge 10cm wide excision (an inch deep) in order to remove the entire melanoma and all surrounding tissue.

I’m thankful that my pathology after surgery showed clear margins. I can handle a large scar, if it means I’m cancer free.

But skin cancer is serious, friends. I’m sharing openly about my experience in an effort to raise awareness. Please be vigilant. Wear sunscreen. Do self-exams. See your dermatologist.

This experience has messed with my mind more than anything. It has caused me a lot of anxiety and fear. Fear about recurrences in the future. Fear about being more susceptible to other cancers down the road. Fear about leaving my toddler without a mother.

But, my trust is in a loving God who invites us to cast our cares on Him.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”-1 Peter 5:7

Isn’t it a comforting thought that none of this surprised or rattled God? He intended for me to walk this journey for some reason. And feeling such fear and panic leaves me no choice but to surrender my entire life to His control.

“Who of you by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?”-Matthew 6:27

He is holding me in the palm of His hand. And I’m so very thankful for that.

I’m Feeling…

Spring Fling FOMO

Fear Of Missing Out. 😬

Do you ever feel like this?

As a member of the writing community, I sure do from time to time. I want to do it ALL and be involved in ALL the things. All the organizations, all the conferences, all the webinars, all the pitch events, all the contests. Think Veruca from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. “I want the whole world! Give it to me now!” 😉

But the reality is, it’s just not possible. Many of us are parents and/or work other jobs, have households to maintain, groceries to shop for, appointments to keep, and the list goes on. And ya know, we occasionally need to sleep or think about things unrelated to our writing.

There’s just not time for everything.

Cost is another factor. If you really wanted to, you could go broke pursuing this dream of being published. It costs (sometimes lots of) money to maintain membership in all the organizations, take courses, etc.

There are many legitimate reasons why someone can’t realistically do it all. I say this to console myself as much as anyone else, because I’m feeling FOMO at the moment. While I entered the last 4 writing contests (Fall Writing Frenzy, Holiday Helpers, Valentiny, and 50 Precious Words), I am reluctantly choosing not to enter the Spring Fling contest that starts tomorrow.

After 4 contests and lots of manuscript drafts over the last 8 months or so, my brain is tired, I’m preparing for Easter, and I just couldn’t think of a story idea for Spring Fling. Simple as that.

Instead, I’ll be cheering on my critique partners from the sidelines this time around! 🎉

I feel FOMO, but guess what? It’s OKAY and it’s NORMAL to go through slumps or periods of time when you’re feeling uninspired.

I love this writing life so much that I could work on it from the time I open my eyes in the morning until the time I lay my head on my pillow at night. But I’m a mama and I have other responsibilities to consider. And we all need breaks from time to time to avoid burnout.

So what do we do to feel inspired again? 🤔

Take time off. Let your manuscripts sit for awhile and do something else you enjoy. Read. Bake. Play outside in the sun. Anything that brings you joy. Don’t put yourself on an arbitrary timeline. Your stories will still be here when you’re ready to get back to them. Contests and pitch events will roll around again. And I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of webinars, courses, or organizations to join.

Inevitably, you will feel inspired again at some point. When that happens, roll with it! Write what you LOVE, cast your net widely when you query (yes, this is a game of chance in many ways, but you control how many times you roll the dice), and enjoy the process. And when you need a break again or you’re stressing over a contest because you’re just flat out of ideas, give yourself grace.

Your worth isn’t determined by your success. Live, laugh, love…and if that includes writing or other ventures, great! If not, that’s okay. You are enough. And I am too.

STOP! by Lindsey Hobson

The little stop sign is proud to do his job. But, as years pass and he sees how lonely his stretch of the road is, he can’t help but wish he was doing something more important. When a duckling’s life is in danger, the little stop sign sees that he is right where he was meant to be.

My critique partner, Lindsey Hobson, just published her second picture book! Woo Hoo!! How adorable are those little ducklings?!

Find STOP! on Amazon HERE.

Lindsey has a knack for story-telling. She has recently delved into narrative non-fiction and informational fiction, and I’m so excited to see where her newest stories take her! I love everything she writes and I’m so proud of what she has accomplished. Lindsey is a talented writer, an insightful critique partner, and has become a close and trusted friend. I feel so fortunate to have her in my life! Find Lindsey on Twitter @LindseyBHobson or on her website.

Check out her first picture book too! Who doesn’t love a friendly dragon?! What a perfect spring story to add to a kid’s Easter basket! There’s still time!

Find Blossom’s Wish on Amazon HERE.

Blossom is a flower-loving dragon who just wants a friend. Will her wish come true?

50 Precious Words

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

It’s an exciting time to be a picture book writer! There are so many fun events and contests throughout the year. This week is the #50PreciousWords contest, run by author Vivian Kirkfield.

As you may have guessed, stories entered in this contest cannot exceed 50 words. It’s more challenging than it sounds to write a story with a true story arc in such a limited word count. But picture book writers know to make every word count, so this contest is great practice at cutting out all the unnecessary fluff.

Read more about the #50PreciousWords contest here.

My story is a simple mono-rhyme, inspired by my son’s love of kites. You can read my entry below:

Goodnight, Kite

By Jessica Hinrichs

(50 words)

Colors bright,

Noon sunlight,

Wind just right,

Let’s fly, kite!

Holding tight,

Bumpy flight,

Losing height,

Down comes kite!

Hard fought fight,

Try despite

One failed flight.

Bounce back, kite!

Up goes kite!

Soaring height,

Pure delight,

Great flight, kite!

Fading light

Turns to night.

Tucked in tight,

Goodnight, kite.

THE END

4th Place Valentiny Winner!

I’m blown away and so excited to say that I won 4th place (out of 252 entries) in this year’s Valentiny Writing Contest! ❤️

Two of my lovely and talented critique partners won Honorable Mentions too, which just makes this win even sweeter! 💗

You can find the list of all of the winners here.

Speaking of my critique partners, I’m constantly amazed by their creativity and writing skills. They come up with ideas and stories much faster than I do! In fact, their stories were complete and ready to go before I even had any clue what to write for Valentiny! I considered not even entering this contest because I had so much trouble coming up with an idea. And then, one day, the idea just hit me…and I ran with it! I’m so glad I did!

See my previous post to read my story.

Valentiny Contest

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It’s contest time again! The first writing contest for 2021. Author and blogger extraordinaire Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 6th annual Valentiny Writing Contest, and I’m so excited to be entering for the first time this year! Read more about the contest here: https://susannahill.com/2021/02/12/be-brave-my-heart-the-6th-annual-valentiny-contest-is-here/

Basically, this contest has 3 rules:

  1. Your story must be about Valentine’s Day.
  2. Your story must include someone being brave in some way.
  3. Your story must be 214 words or less (because 2/14…get it?).

I hope you enjoy my short and sweet story! My entry is below:

Valentine’s Gotcha Day

By Jessica Hinrichs

(213 words)

Valentine sat in her kennel, nervously thumping her tail against the floor.

Was today the day? She’d gotten her hopes up before, but everyone always said her fur was too scruffy, her nose was a funny shape, and her size was just too much to love.

Day after day, she remained at the shelter, watching families adopt her friends and hoping one day it would be her turn too.

Just then, Valentine’s ears perked up. She heard a girl’s voice. Her heart beat faster as the girl approached.

“Look, Mommy!” The little girl squealed. “Her fur is red! Her nose is shaped like a heart! And there’s a lot of her to love! She’s perfect.”

The little girl knelt down and smiled—the prettiest smile Valentine had ever seen. 

Valentine’s eyes pleaded with her. Could this be my Gotcha Day? I’m too scared to even hope. Be brave! She trembled, but she held the little girl’s gaze.

As if the little girl understood, she reached out her hand and gently whispered, “Sweet Valentine, will you be mine?”

Will I ever! Valentine’s fears faded in a split-second and she lunged into the little girl’s arms, peppering her face with wet kisses.

The little girl giggled. “You’re the best Valentine ever!”

No, thought Valentine, you are.

THE END

Rate Your Story

I joined Rate Your Story (rateyourstory.org) as a 2021 member.

Rate Your Story is a panel of agented, published authors who act as Judges. Members can submit manuscripts and queries and the Judges will award a rating from 1-10, showing how ready they feel your work is to submit to agents or publishers.

At the start of the year, I submitted a manuscript and my query letter that goes along with it. I’ve been anxiously waiting to hear back.

Last night, I finally did.

Y’all…I was blown away to see that I had received a rating of 1 on both my query and my manuscript! 🤩🙏🏻💃🙌🏻

1 is the highest rating!!!

That means, they feel that I should start querying this manuscript!!!

I was literally jumping for joy in my kitchen last night when I saw the email! 🥰

To be clear, I’m still unagented and unpublished. But this feels like a big step in the right direction.

Let the 2021 querying begin!!

Critique Giveaway!

If there is one thing I know about the #KidLit writing community, it’s that everyone is super supportive and loves to give back! And my critique group wants to get in on the fun! 🎉

I love these ladies and count myself so fortunate to be a part of this group. ❤️Each person brings something special to the table and each person is supportive, kind, honest, and constructive in their criticism. Follow these language-loving word-wizards on Twitter!

Lindsey “Pitch Perfector” Hobson @LindseyBHobson

Gennie “Comp Queen” Gorback @GennieGorback

Molly “Pun Princess” Ippolito @MollyIppolito

Now for the fun stuff! 🙌🏻 Could you use an extra set of eyes on your work-in-progress? What about FOUR extra sets of eyes? 👀 What about FOUR extra sets of eyes for FREE?!?

That’s right! 🤩 Our group is giving away a🌟FREE🌟picture book manuscript critique! Must be non-rhyming, can be up to 1000 words. All FOUR of us will read and critique your manuscript! All you have to do to enter is follow each of us on Twitter and retweet my pinned tweet.

The contest is open through Tuesday 1/19 at midnight ET.

And who knows? Depending on the response we get, maybe we’ll do it again soon!! 😉

Stay tuned! 🌸

The Easiest Potato Soup You’ll Ever Make

Happy New Year! 🎉

Did you breathe a sigh of relief, or even shed a tear, when the ball dropped on NYE? I did. I know 2020 was such a tough year for so many people, and I’m glad it’s behind us. I have so much hope for 2021!

Which isn’t really the point of this blog….

But, it’s January now, the dead of winter for much of the country. Who could use a quick, simple meal idea for a cold winter’s night? 🙋🏼‍♀️

Here in Florida, it definitely doesn’t feel like winter (I’m fine with that!!), but we have had several fall-like days.

And I’ve figured out how to make the easiest potato soup you’ll ever make—the perfect dinner for a cold day!

What?! Yes, I did. I used microwave mashed potatoes. No peeling, chopping, or boiling potatoes for this soup!

I did chop some carrots and celery, and I sautéed that in some butter while I microwaved the potatoes. Then I added bone broth, the hot mashed potatoes, milk, salt, and pepper. I heated through until the soup was smooth. That’s it. Super easy, super yummy!

Let me know if you try it! 😋

My Writing Year in Review: 2020

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Though I’ve been writing as a hobby for quite some time, 2020 was the year I really started to get serious about it. I’ve often heard that it takes years and many, many rejections to break into the publishing world, and my journey is proving this theory correct.

In 2020, I’ve received:

  • 13 Picture Book manuscript rejections
  • 1 magazine submission rejection
  • 0 offers for agent representation

But…I feel like I’m further along than I ever have been! Here are all of the cool, amazing things that DID happen in 2020!

  • I met my dream critique group! The four of us clicked immediately and everyone is so supportive and encouraging, while always offering insightful, helpful critiques so that we each improve our writing. Follow these language-loving word-wizards on Twitter! @KindlingEducat1, @LindseyBHobson, @MollyIppolito
  • Speaking of Twitter – in 2020, I managed to grow from a nearly inactive Twitter account with under 20 followers to approaching 1000 followers. The #writingcommunity is huge on Twitter and I feel fortunate to have connected with so many wonderful peers.
  • I participated in 6 Twitter Pitch Parties (PitMad x2, PBPitch x2, FaithPitch, and WMPitch)
  • I won 3 Thursday Read-Through Giveaways, hosted by @MarynaDoughty and @SarahJWMeade. It’s a little surreal to hear your manuscripts read aloud. It really makes your stories seem like real books! And it’s been helpful to hear where revisions may still be needed. Follow these ladies on Twitter too and enter to win their weekly giveaway!
  • I won 3 picture book giveaways! Support these authors by giving them a follow on Twitter.
    • LET’S DANCE by Valerie Bolling (@valerie_bolling)
    • GOD BLESSES ME by Della Ross Ferreri (@DellaRF)
    • REX THE WE DON’T KNOW by Heather Macht (@AuthorHMacht)
  • I won a picture book critique of my work by author Lauren Kerstein (@LaurenKerstein).
  • I entered 2 writing contests
    • Fall Writing Frenzy Contest, hosted by Kaitlyn Sanchez (@KaitlynLeann17) and Lydia Lukidis (@LydiaLukidis)
    • 2020 Holiday Contest for Children’s Writers, hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill (@SusannaLHill)
  • To my surprise, I received an Honorable Mention for my story in the Holiday contest! I earned a $10 Amazon gift card (my first “money” made writing!😄) and some very positive and helpful feedback from the contest host.
  • I’ve written many stories this year, both for the general market and the Christian market. Some may never see the light of day, but everything I write is strengthening my writing muscle and improving my writing overall.
  • I queried 3 picture book manuscripts and I submitted 5 short stories to children’s magazines.
  • I started this blog!
  • I learned to navigate MSWL and Query Tracker.
  • I joined SCBWI, Rate Your Story (@Literally_Lynne), and will be registering for 12×12 in January (@JulieFHedlund).
  • I’ve watched SCBWI webinars, PB Palooza panels, and various literary YouTube videos.
  • And I’ve participated in/signed up for a few freebies like PB Train (@MindyAlyseWeiss), Story Storm (@taralazar), and 12 Days of Christmas (@JulieFHedlund).
  • Somehow I’ve also found time to read a few books just for me. Because, as they say, you can’t be a writer without also being a reader.

Wow! Even though I haven’t “made it” yet, writing this all out really helps to see how far I’ve come this year. And let’s face it, I’ve always loved a good list! 😀 I encourage you to write out your accomplishments from the year too! It might just help salvage what has otherwise felt like a pretty tough year.

Now, Adios 2020! So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu.

Merry Christmas!🎄 Happy Holidays!❄️

See y’all in 2021. I can’t wait! ❤️