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From Hunger Games Fangirl to YA Author - A Tribute's Journey To Recovery + Win a Signed Copy of Her Book!

My name is Jolene Buchheit, and I'm the author of Best Foot Forward, a book about a Hunger Games fangirl. The HUNGER GAMES series helped me through one of the most difficult experiences of my life. This is the story of why I wrote my book.

I was addicted to drugs.

To be clear, they were prescriptions drugs for narcolepsy, but they were the dreaded Benzodiazepines, and they were ruining my life. I was in bed exhausted or sleeping more hours per day than I was out of it. I also had short-term memory problems so bad that I couldn't remember the end of my sentence once I'd started speaking the beginning of it. By the time I decided to stop taking the addictive medications and suffer through the withdrawal symptoms, it was one week before HUNGER GAMES was due to release in theaters. I have a rule about reading books before I watch the adaptations, and I had not read the book yet. One of my teenage friends had begged me to read the book, and I promised I would before I took her to see the movie on opening day. Time was running short, but I couldn't read anything the way my memory was malfunctioning.

By Tuesday, the effects of withdrawal were taking over. Since I stopped taking the medications that my body was dependent on to help me sleep, I wasn't able to sleep at all. I was exhausted, but my mind was healing. I could say what was on my mind, and most importantly I could READ!! My goal was to finish reading the HUNGER GAMES before Friday. What happened was I finished it before the sun rose on Wednesday morning. I never one-click purchased a book so fast as I did CATCHING FIRE.

By Wednesday night, it had been several days since I had slept for more than an hour or so at a time, and then only when my body would shut down from weariness. I couldn't stop shaking, but I also couldn't stop reading. I was deep into CATCHING FIRE by 7:00 pm when I started hearing our piano playing even though the lid was closed. My husband decided I needed to seek help for the withdrawal symptoms before things got even crazier. I was reading about Morphlings and Peeta's fog-induced body control issues as I struggled with hallucinations and muscle spasms of my own. I read the last page in the hospital emergency room and broke my own one-click speed record for MOCKINGJAY.

The doctor prescribed a small dose medication to help me get past the worst of the effects wracking my body. It stopped the shakes but didn't help me sleep. I read most of the night. In the morning, I had an appointment with my family doctor. While in his office, I started uncontrollably crying. I couldn't say what was causing the tears, both because of the sobs stealing my voice and because I did not know. He suggested that I consider voluntarily admitting myself into the psychiatric ward of the hospital to get assistance with what I was going through. I went home and finished reading MOCKINGJAY.

I recognized that what Katniss did to hold onto her sanity is what I had been doing to hang on to mine, restating the tiny truths about my life. Reading about the process of recovering mental wellness and overcoming fears while I was reclaiming mine and facing my demons was cathartic. Moments before my husband returned from work, I finished reading the book. When I saw my husband's concerned face, who could tell I had not slept, it made me appreciate how much of a Dandelion in the Spring he was for me. With his guidance, I admitted myself into the hospital. I wanted him to have a restful night, knowing I was being cared for.

I spent four days in there focusing on my health. When I checked out, I started training my body to be healthy, even though my brain could not recover from narcolepsy. I started with running; I completed the couch to 5k program in nine weeks. Then I returned to my love of the water and swam some laps. My sister loaned me a bike and encouraged me to sign up for a triathlon. I had unfinished business to take care of first, I went to see The Hunger Games movie in a second-run theater and then went home and reread the books again. I wanted to know if it was my mental health that had made me cling to the books. It wasn't. Those books spoke life and hope into me.

In September, I competed in my first triathlon. I was the second to last person to complete the entire event, but I guarantee I was one of the proudest. While I was training and competing in the event, a story idea came to me about a HUNGER GAMES fangirl who participated in triathlons.

During NaNoWriMo, I began writing that story. It became a full-length, optimistic, young adult book that was published three years after my hospital stay. Though I wrote it for personal healing reasons, I truly hope others will enjoy all of the fangirl and fanboy references. Peeta and Katniss helped me through the most challenging experience of my life (and just keep in mind, I have given birth twice) and I try to thank them every day by keeping my eyes bright, chin up, smile on, and by putting my Best Foot Forward.

Be sure to check out Jolene's Facebook page and say hello! You can also find her on twitter @BeeJolene.

US Tributes can purchase Best Foot Forward on Amazon HERE

Canadian tributes HERE

Australian tributes HERE

UK tributes HERE.

You can also find her book at Barnes and Noble and SmashWords.

You can win a signed copy of Jolene’s wonderful book Best Foot Forward by entering through the widget below by Friday at 8pm. Here is a synopsis of the story:

After one bad experience, Iowa high school senior, triathlete, and fangirl Lucia “Luc” Guzman swore off relationships. Well, that was until Connor Kohlton and his southern accent moved to town. With the help of her childhood best friend, Jax Weber, she discovers her “college only” dating rule may be causing her to miss out on a great guy. Luc's parents have always taught her and her sister to put safety first and she applies that rule in all areas of her life; her training, her work, and her heart. However, she must throw caution to the wind when she decides she can’t fight her feelings anymore… But what will it cost her? When things start to fall apart, it’s hard to tell who’s to blame, because everyone is putting their Best Foot Forward.

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