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Jill Amber Menard

Jill Amber Menard grew up in a log cabin in the middle of Wisconsin. She has dreamed of being an author since she was 5-years-old. She loves creating characters and escaping into whimsical worlds. As a kid, Jill would often wander off by herself into the woods, acting out her stories to an audience of skittish squirrels. She went on to pursue a career in dance, starting her own non-profit professional dance company in New Zealand. Jill now teaches aerial dance for a living and performs in circus events in which she enthusiastically twirls around in the air, wearing neon colors and polka dot shorts. Jill has written three novels and is working diligently on making her inner 5-year-old’s dream come true. The Odd Duck is inspired by Jill’s own trials and tribulations as an awkward kid who didn’t fit in with her peers.

Story: The Odd Duck


Each week authors will be given a new question to answer which will lend additional insight into their story and writing process. Do you have a question you'd like to see the authors answer? Tweet it to @aNextAuthor!

What is the best writing advice you've ever heard?
“If you get stuck, try something different,” my dad told me. Because of this I have experimented with lots of creative writing projects, including self-publishing my own raw dessert cookbook!
When you start a new story do you prepare an outline in advance or do you just jump right in?
I have tried outlines and tried even harder to stick to them. But in the end my characters ALWAYS rebel. It's like they have a plan that is different than the one I have. I've learned to just flow with it.
How do you deal with writing criticism, apart from just ignoring it?
It's hard to not get defensive or hurt by criticism. Over the years I've learned to remain quiet and to really listen to what the person has to say about my work.
America's Next Author has been running for almost 8 weeks. If you could re-submit now, would you change anything about your story?
I loosely based the bad boy character on a boy I knew from my childhood. He really was from Brazil and I really was in love with him! If I could go back, I would probably just make him an ordinary boy from Wisconsin to avoid the racist comments.



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I really enjoyed your story Jill. It made me remember so many little parts of my younger years that I hadn't quite forgotten, but definitely weren't as crisp anymore. (Like all those times trying to gauge how to talk to people / make myself more visible. Awkward!) I'm remembering so much of these years now, and its fun to reflect on them now having happened SO many years ago! I love my stability now, but boy, were those first tingles from when my brother's friend happened to look at me exciting!! <3

Authentic, heart-felt and honest

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I really enjoyed this story and it kept me captivated the entire time. I feel like this is a seedling and there is a much bigger tree to develop from this - perhaps into a book or even a series. I would love to see how Ella evolves overtime and her relationship with her equations. I almost viewed the equations as a religion for Ella. Some kids pray, other kids ask their friends about the meaning of life, but Ella turned to simple formulas to try to explain the complexity of this world. I don't understand the review that said 6th graders don't know algebra. I have tutored many kids in math and some schools start introducing basic algebraic concepts as early as 5th grade. I do agree that there could've been more dialogue, but Ella is introverted and awkward so it almost works. Overall, this story moves at a really good pace and is incredibly authentic. I really look forward to reading more of Jill's work as I feel this is only a quick glimpse into all that she is capable of creating. WELL DONE!!!


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I wonder how something so trite as being human and coming of age can ever transcend the endless weight of our own and anecdotal telling of it. Somehow, there are those who can distill and punctuate it so it is still fresh and new, a balance of pathos and vigor, like seawater drying on one's greasy brow. Before the heart is a lonely hunter, it starts by turning up stones. Ellen is at the age where girls are binned, extruded into the cold and lonely classes that define our teens. In the lull created by her transition to homeschooling, she gives us a child's eye on love and the pain of fitting in.


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Despite being bad at math equations AND never having been a 6th grade girl, I enjoyed this; it was accessible, fluid, and fun. Nicely paced, and the conclusion wasn't forced. I can see certain age groups really enjoying this.


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I loved this story! It's well written and it will appeal to a range of audiences because the writing is accessible but the experiences will strike a chord with different age groups


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Really well written!


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Top notch!!

Frances Bell

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Nice writing although the ending left me feeling let down. I do like that she decided the power was within but the handling of the last couple of paragraphs smelt of gathering the loose ends and tying them up, one at a time. Yes, it's a familiar theme but I thought the handling of it quite good and the frame of equations worked well, to a point. I do believe the equations should have appeared in an earlier paragraph. So I suppose, a good edit and re-construction of the paras to tell the story more effectively would satisfy. This writer obviously has skill and an easy style but another edit would make this stand out more for me. (Surprised she's at No 1.)

Oz Duck

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Love it! You're writing is honest.


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Not very original.


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I don't agree with dumbledore. I think that your theme is amazing. I really like how you wrote about your childhood because it makes your story so much more relatable and I think that people really like that. I aspire to be as an amazing of a writer that you are one day! Thank you for writing this master piece and good luck! I'm sure you will win!

Tatum Schwartz

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I am about the same age as "the odd duck" and going through some of the same things! Great story!


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Great imagery and quite humorous, especially in the awkward moments of Ella's life. Could see this as a short film. Light-hearted and refreshing.

Red Rabbit

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The story of the ODD Duck is steeped in the pre-adolescent issues that are part of growing up. Popularity, boys, catty frenemies---the works. Jill Menard's treatment of the subject matter deftly re-visits that gut-wrenching trauma in most adolescent girls' lives. Her precocious heroine, Ella bravely navigates the social world of young girls, and though she does not end up with the prize guy, exhibits a resilience far surpassing her years. I feel that this read would be inspiring to teenage girls who want to evolve beyond the shallow world of the "popular girls." Menard's character has spunk and verve!


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The language is trite. The theme is basically a rendition of the ugly duckling in high school. The plot was unoriginal. I think you should try to expand your writing beyond the retelling of childhood memories.

Asian Girl

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awesome book!

Little Savage

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Thank you. I was a duckling. Good story.

Victoria Riley

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This is a Social writing contest and a lot of the Authors get moved up into single digit spots because of their popularity and how many tweets and votes they gather. Not everyone is a writer. At first I figured that you are at #3 because of your votes , but after reading your story, I think you deserve to be in the top ten. It is a good,tight story that kept my attention and I passed it along to my 15 yr old to read as well. Unfortunately, this truly happens in school and in life. Thank you for this read. Mine is "The Moccasins"-hope you enjoy it.

Summer Beth

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Terrific story a lot of people can relate to. It was well written with great detail. Not sure how I feel about all the equations, reading them kind of messes up the flow of the story in my opinion, but i get that they are important to the character. Overall, wonderful read. Great work!

Rose Burke

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This piece is so cute, and really captures that awkward phase of loneliness and insecurity. I also enjoyed the references to that oh-so-fun transitional age when you feel too old to play with Baries and too young to start dating boys. Overall a great read! If you get a chance check out my story This Girl and a Bartender, thanks!


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A very enjoyable story with great characters. Keep up the good work Jill!


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Great story! Well written

DoubleDown Impressed

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Wow!! At first I thought I totally was not going to like this story. But as they say, don't judge the book by it's cover. Jill is one of those writers that just has it. She is able to bring the characters to life, to allow me to feel right there in the moment. I am left wanting more from this writer. I know that in the future I will read anything that has this writers name on it. Thank you for sharing your talent with me.


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I can totally relate to this girl in the story. Jill allows for the readers to feel as if they are right there with the characters. They are drawn in with memories from their own childhood, as I was. The characters are real, they are the reader, the person next door, the children of now. This story is something everyone can relate too. Can't wait to see what this author has on the horizon!

Wisconsin Man

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I really enjoyed the story, as I too live in Wisconsin and can also relate to the girl in the story being the "odd duck". I think the writer has the ability to go on amusing her readers over and over with stories and should continue to pursue writing.
Week 5 Nominee
December 18th, 2012
The winner of America's Next Author 2012 has been announced! [...]
December 7th, 2012
Questions and answers about the Battle Round. [...]
America's Next Author

#ANA2012 | What Fans Have To Say


America's Next Author is the first social writing contest. Friends, family, fans and publishing industry experts will read authors' submissions and nominate their favorite to be America's next major author. Everyone can participate!