Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Two years ago today, on Cinco de Mayo 2021, I was diagnosed with melanoma. Coincidentally (maybe ironically), May is also Skin Cancer Awareness Month. So here’s my annual awareness blog.

Thankfully, melanoma has a high cure rate when caught in time. But, it can spread and metastasize quickly if it’s not caught. While there are actually several different forms of skin cancer, melanoma is the most aggressive. And let me tell you, it’s scary.

I’ll never forget that day my dermatologist called with the results of my biopsy. Time stood still. And I was gripped by panic and fear when she said the words, “It’s cancer.”

Two weeks later, I was lying on an operating table while a surgeon performed a wide excision procedure on the back of my arm, to remove my melanoma and all surrounding tissue. I’m incredibly thankful that when the pathology came back, it showed clear margins.

Now, I slather myself in SPF 70, I wear long sleeves on days when it’s entirely too hot for long sleeves, and I’m a frequent flyer at my dermatologist’s office. I haven’t had any reoccurences in these last two years, and I’m so grateful.

What I’m left with though, is a large physical scar on my arm from where the surgeon had to cut about an inch deep, along with an emotional scar from the trauma and the fear (yes, even 2 years later) that it could happen again.

My scar

I recently heard someone say, “Don’t waste your pain.” So, here’s the takeaway:

It happened to me, and it could happen to anyone. Take the sun seriously.

The ABCDEs of melanoma

Wear sunscreen (with a high SPF), sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing. Get regular skin checks at your dermatologist’s office. If you see anything unusual or suspicious, get it checked out…don’t wait! And for the LOVE, please don’t use tanning beds.

Stay safe out there, friends! ☀️😎

Writing Year in Review, 2022

Happy New Year, friends! 🎉 This past year has felt like a sparse writing year for me, so I almost chose not to write a Year in Review blog. But in looking back over the year, I realized there’s actually a lot to celebrate.

Here’s what happened in 2022:

  • I had a story accepted and published in Chicken Soup for the Soul.
  • I had a haiku accepted and published in The Poetry Pea anthology and podcast.
  • In March, I was selected as a PB Party Finalist for my manuscript TOUCAN TANGO.
  • I received an Honorable Mention in the #50PreciousWords contest.
  • I initiated and ran #SaturdayStrides on Twitter for the whole year.
  • I received a request from an editor at Skyhorse Publishing for my manuscript THE MERRY MELODY FARM.
  • I received 6 hearts ♥️ from agents in various pitch contests.
  • I won several book giveaways and one critique giveaway.
  • My wonderful critique partners and I created and hosted the first annual #KidLitVibes writing contest. We had a stellar group of published authors come on board to donate prizes (critiques, books, etc), and we had a great turnout of writers enter the contest (135!!). It was a huge success, we had a ton of fun, and we only expect #KidLitVibes to continue to grow from here.
  • But, the most exciting thing to happen in 2022, was that I got to meet two of my critique partners in person. I met Lindsey in March, and I met Molly in August. And seriously, these were two of the biggest highlights of my year. 💕💕

And, because I always say you can’t be a writer without also being a reader, here are some of my favorite reads from the year, along with lots of library books we read too.

Looking forward to a great 2023! 😍

Fall Writing Frenzy 2022

It’s contest time again!

I haven’t written much this year, but if there’s one contest that’s going to dig in its claws and drag me back from a writing slump kicking and screaming, it’s Fall Writing Frenzy. 😄 🍁 👻 🎃

This contest is special. Two years ago, in 2020, it was this contest that brought my critique group together and we’re still going strong today. One year ago, in 2021, I was selected as one of the winners in this contest.

I’ll be honest—I didn’t think I would enter this year. It took awhile for any inspiration to strike. But I had a tiny seed of an idea and I couldn’t completely abandon it. Of course, I had to make things difficult and write my entry in limerick (I wrote last year’s entry in haiku)…why do I do this to myself? 😅 It was a challenge, but I kept opening my laptop and tinkering little by little until, lo and behold, I had a finished story.

So, for this year’s contest, we had to choose one of 14 images provided and write a story about it in 200 words or less. Read more about Fall Writing Frenzy and see the complete rules here.

Here is the image I chose, and my story is below. I hope you enjoy it. 🦴 (One caveat—this story is a nod to the struggling writer, so if you’re not a writer, you may not appreciate it as much. 😉)


By Jessica Hinrichs
198 words
Here lies old Mister Jones,
a mysterious sight of unknowns.
But how did he get here?
A corpse on the frontier,
reduced to a bathtub of bones.

I asked all his friends ‘bout his story,
expecting to learn something gory.
Instead, what I found
knocked my boots off the ground.
He’d been destined for fortune and glory!

It turns out that Jones liked to write.
His future had looked rather bright.
But he didn’t know
getting published is slooow
or that waiting would be such a plight.

His debut had been long awaited.
At first, he was feeling elated.
But all of the waiting
was highly frustrating
and left him depressed and deflated.

So he set up his tub in a nook,
intending to read a good book.
He’d just settled in,
was about to begin,
and then death slithered in like a crook.

In his youth, he was dignified.
Now he’s haggard and hollow-eyed.
He’d been waiting so long,
(and this part feels wrong)
he just keeled over, dried up, and died.

The publishing rigamarole
had swooped in and stolen his soul.
And now he’s deceased.
Mister Jones, rest in peace.
Writing had been a worthy goal.


Chicken Soup day!

This year has turned out to be a sparse writing year for me. Other things have demanded my attention and, while I have written a few things here and there, my motivation and ideas have been lacking as of late.

Somehow though, some good things have still happened!

Most of you already know that I had a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the book is available in bookstores TODAY!!

I’ve been reading Chicken Soup since I was a teenager, so I’m honored and proud to have my words in one of their books. This story is extra special to me too because it’s the miraculous story of my son’s birth—how God surprised us and granted the desires of our hearts for a child after 11 years of marriage and infertility, and sustained and protected Samuel in my womb throughout incredible pregnancy complications. Our story sounds nearly impossible, but nothing is impossible with God!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the other big news from the past month, which is…I got to meet my critique partner Molly in person!!!

Molly and her family traveled to Disney on vacation, so my family took a few days to head down to Orlando to see them! There was no way I could have my CP this close and not make every effort to go meet her!!

This is the second critique partner I’ve met in person this year!! (I met Lindsey in March!) One of the perks to living in Florida is that people love to come here on vacation…which works out great for me! 😄

These ladies are so special to me. Our critique group has been together since 2020, and we literally chat daily, not only about writing but about every aspect of our lives. They’ve become some of my very best friends. So, to have met TWO of them this year has been two big highlights of my year! 💖💖

I’m a Survivor!

Trigger warnings: cancer, scar pics

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. And it just so happens, it’s also when I was diagnosed with melanoma myself, one year ago today.

Which means, I’m officially a ONE YEAR SURVIVOR!!

I know, you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? It’s just skin cancer; it’s not REAL cancer. And it’s true that I did not have to endure chemo, radiation, or many of the other horrible side effects that so many cancer patients face. For that, I’m thankful. But, let me assure you, when you hear a doctor tell you that you have cancer (no matter what kind), the fear and distress are real. Even with skin cancer.

My diagnosis affected my mental health more than anything. Am I going to die? I can’t leave my son without a mother. Did we catch this soon enough? What if it has already spread? Why is my body turning against me? Does this mean I’ll be more susceptible to other cancers down the road too?

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. If it’s not detected and treated early, things can go south quickly. A year ago, I spent many restless nights worrying whether I would even be here today.

But fortunately, my skin cancer was able to be treated. A surgeon performed a wide excision procedure on the back of my left arm to remove the entire melanoma and all surrounding tissue. My pathology afterward showed clear margins. And one year later, here I am.

My scar is huge. (My melanoma was relatively small, by the way. You can read the full story here.) But I’ll gladly take a large scar, if it means I’m cancer free.

My incision, one day after surgery. May 2021
My scar, one year later. May 2022

I’ve learned a couple things from this experience. Things that I already knew, but they’ve hit home more deeply after going through this.

1. Take the sun seriously. Wear sunscreen. Wear protective clothing. Find shady spots outside. Use hats, umbrellas, tents, etc. And for the love, stay away from tanning beds. While you’re at it, check your skin and see your dermatologist on the regular.

The ABCDEs of melanoma

2. Trust God. That doesn’t mean everything will be easy. God didn’t promise a problem-free life. But He will carry us through the tough times. I said it last year and it’s still true today—when I was faced with such fear and panic, I was left with no choice but to surrender my entire life to 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

There’s freedom in that surrender, friends. There’s peace in accepting that God is holding me in the palm of His hand. I can choose to live my life in fear, or I can choose to breathe easy and put my trust in God. “Who of you by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?” -Matthew 6:27

One year post diagnosis, the fear has subsided some, but it still creeps up more than I’d like. I’m a work in progress. But I’m trying to rest in the knowledge that God created my inmost being, He ordained all my days before one of them came to be, and He’s not finished with me yet.

Thanks for the love, prayers, and support, friends. Love y’all! ❤️

PB Party, 50 Precious Words, & a CP Meetup…OH MY!

What a whirlwind week it’s been!

A few weeks ago, I entered a manuscript into the annual PB Party contest. This is a highly anticipated and very competitive contest among the kidlit writing community. It only happens once a year and there is stiff competition. This year, nearly 1000 talented authors and/or illustrators entered.

A panel of judges combed through every entry and narrowed the list down to just 50 finalists.

I knew it was a long shot. But I went for it anyway. And, lo and behold—last Thursday evening, I found out that I was a finalist!!

This was my second year entering PB Party. I was not chosen as a finalist last year (although my critique partner Lindsey was!), but I’m so glad I didn’t give up and I tried again this year.

So, this week, I am currently in an agent/editor showcase with the other finalists. Over 60 literary agents and editors signed up to take part and they’ve been reviewing the entries all week. So far, one agent has requested my work. And I’m hopeful there may still be more requests before the week is done. There are no guarantees, of course. But, even if nothing comes of this, I feel honored that my work was recognized and chosen out of such a large pool of incredibly talented creators.

Meanwhile, as I was still basking in the excitement of my PB Party finalist status, winners were announced for the 50 Precious Words contest that I had also entered earlier this month. I found out that I was chosen as an Honorable Mention in that contest! There were nearly 750 amazing entries in that contest, so to get any recognition at all feels wonderful!

To top it all off, my friend and critique partner Lindsey just happens to have come to my area on vacation this week! So we finally got to meet in person for the first time (even though I feel like I’ve known her forever!). 😍😍😍 We enjoyed an oceanfront lunch and an afternoon on the beach together. And it topped my other wins this week by a mile! Seriously, it was absolutely the highlight of my week to meet my dear friend. ❤️

It’s easy to get down trying to make it in this business. There is a lot of rejection and ups and downs. Not to mention, I’ve been in a writing slump lately. So to have this much excitement lately despite it all has been an unexpected blessing. It’s been a great month!

50 Precious Words Contest 2022

Photo by Pixabay on

It’s March (how is it March already?!) and that means it’s time for this year’s #50PreciousWords contest, run by author Vivian Kirkfield. I’m super excited to enter this contest for the second year in a row.

You probably guessed that stories entered in this contest cannot exceed 50 words. It sounds easy, right? Well…it can actually be quite a challenge to write a full 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.

I hope you enjoy my entry below:


By Jessica Hinrichs
45 words
“Mom, where does milk come from?”

“Some milk comes from cows,
and some milk comes from goats,
coconuts or soy,
or sometimes even oats.

Some milk comes from nuts,
like almonds or cashews.
All milk is delish!
Which milk would you choose?”

“That’s easy…


Kids’ Choice Contest 2022

Happy New Year!

I’m excited to kick off 2022 with what else, but another kidlit writing contest. This contest is super special because KIDS get to choose the winners. And they’re the ones who matter the most anyway, right?! Read all about the first annual Kids’ Choice Kidlit Writing Contest on Kailei Pew’s blog here. Kailei has put together a panel of around 100 kid judges, and it’s going to be so fun to find out which stories they choose!

Now, admittedly, I didn’t write an entirely new story for this contest. My entry is a (shorter version of a) story I originally wrote for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 2020 Holiday Contest, where it won an Honorable Mention. That story was 250 words, but I shortened this one a bit to fit the word count parameters for this contest. I hope you like it!


By Jessica Hinrichs

Genre: PB (199 words)

It was a peaceful Christmas Eve on the farm. The animals were snoring softly when suddenly . . .


“What on earth?!” Duck cried.

The barn door creaked open and in stepped . . .


“HO, HO, HELLO! I’m in a bit of a pickle, friends. Could you lend a helping hand?”

“Would you settle for a helping hoof?” asked Pig.

Santa chuckled. “Ohhh, yes!”

“How can we help, Santa?” Horse asked.

Santa explained, “My sleigh flew into stormy weather and crashed. But music will restore its power so it can fly again. I need the most magical, merry melodies you can muster!”

“We love to sing!” Cow replied.

The animals gathered around Santa’s sleigh.

Cow crooned, “Have yourself a MOOEY little Christmas.”

Horse hummed, “A-NEIGH in a manger.”

Sheep shrilled, “Jingle BAA, Jingle BAA.”

The sleigh sputtered. “It’s working!” Santa shouted. “Keep singing!”

Pig squealed, “OINK to the world.”

Duck bebopped, “QUACKin’ around the Christmas tree.”

A choir of cats harmonized, “We wish you a MEOWY Christmas.”

It was the sweetest serenade Santa had ever heard!

The sleigh REVVED . . . it ROARED . . . it ROCKED . . . 

then it lifted off the ground!!

The animals cheered!

“Thank you, friends!” Santa waved. “You’ve saved Christmas!”

Year in Review 2021

One of my happy places—my backyard. ☀️

Children’s author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year’s resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity – what DIDN’T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here are my lists of successes and surprises from 2021.



  • I won 4 picture book giveaways this year:
  • I won 5 Thursday Read-Through giveaways by Sarah Meade.
  • I won a picture book critique from author AJ Irving in the #OverBearUnderWhere contest, hosted by CK Malone and in support of Julie Hedlund.
  • I received a total of 4 agent hearts ♥️ during various pitch events this year (which is 4 more than I received in 2020!).
  • I set a goal this year to double my Twitter following from 1K to 2K. Amazingly, through engagement and relationship building, I surpassed that goal and grew to over 2500 followers.
It’s so fun winning free books! 📚

My Thoughts

I’m still not published or agented, which feels disappointing. I love writing, and I wish I had something to show for it. But, writing out these lists of positive things that DID happen in 2021, really helps keep things in perspective. I grew and made progress toward my goals this year, even if that progress feels slow.

I also want to recognize that this has been a tough year in a lot of ways. Some of you may remember that I was diagnosed with melanoma in May, which set me back for awhile, as I dealt with the physical and emotional aspects of that.

I also turned 40 this year, I potty-trained my toddler, and transitioned him into preschool for the first time ever. My family traveled out of state twice to visit family, we hosted out-of-town guests four times, and we made four trips to Disney (we are Florida residents with annual passes, so that’s not as extravagant as it sounds, but it made for a lot of overall travel).

When I think back on this year, I’m actually amazed I got anything accomplished at all. We read a LOT of picture books from our own collection, as well as from the library. And I even made time to read a few books for myself, because as I’ve said before, you can’t be a writer without also being a reader.

A few of my favorite books I read for myself this year.
Our newest picture books. Already instant faves in our house!

And I can’t end this blog without giving a shout-out to my wonderful critique partners—Molly, Lindsey, and Gennie. We’ve been together over a year now, and we’ve all said we might’ve given up by now if it wasn’t for the support and camaraderie that we’ve found in each other. I am so proud of everything they are accomplishing in their own journeys, and I’m so glad to call these lovely ladies friends. ♥️

We call our critique group “The Frenzy Friends” or the “Frenzies” because we formed our group during the 2020 Fall Writing Frenzy.

So, that’s a wrap on 2021, folks. See y’all in 2022! Happy New Year!! 🎉

Birthday! Birthday! Honorable Mention 🎉

I was excited to find out today that my story won an Honorable Mention in the Birthday! Birthday! contest from last month.

Thanks to Gennie and Amy for hosting such a fun contest!

Check out the other winners and honorable mentions too!

And, if you missed my silly/dark contest entry, you can read it here.

Have a great rest of your week!