Year End Reflections

I like New Year’s Eve/Day, for the same reason I like Valentine’s Day. Yes, I suppose we should make goals and reflect on our lives and reach again for the things we want every day, not just at the beginning of the year. But we don’t. Sometimes it’s nice to have a marked occasion for it. (Just like, on Valentine’s, it’s nice to have a marked occasion to express the love we should express every day anyway but sometimes don’t.)

I might do a post tomorrow on goals for 2015, but for now, here’s 2014 in review: it was a heckuva year.

10 11 Highlights

Signed with my agent (and I got to meet said agent in NYC)

– And I couldn’t have picked a better one. Not only did this career step make me feel validated as a writer, but it felt like a good life choice, something I’d be grateful for not just this year, but all the years to come.

Graduated with my bachelors degree

Had something published with an international audience

Swam in the Atlantic ocean (and then dolphins swim just where I’d been swimming)

Whale-watching in Tadoussac

Fall 2014 Trip 021

My brother came home after serving two years in Washington D.C.

I got a pretty cool new sister-in-law (because that same brother got married)

deven

Finally went to New York City and saw four Broadway shows, on Broadway

– Four different mornings I got on the subway to Times Square, where I’d wait in line for an hour with my book and get the student rush ticket, then I’d romp about the city and come back to see the show that night (or afternoon, if I got the matinee); it was lovely.

Went airboating in the Everglades

IMG_2077Fall 2014 Trip 038

Making new friends/connecting with old ones

– I guess this is not technically specific to 2014, but they were still some of the best parts of this year.

Seeing my name printed in a book’s acknowledgements as an editor

– P.S. You should go buy that book (“Little Dead Riding Hood”); the illustrations are pretty snazzy too.

5 Disappointments

Submission is a nasty thing, and I hate it

– I had this goal to be published before I graduated. That way, I wouldn’t have to get a real grown-up job. (Ha ha ha.) I signed with my agent in March, and technically graduated in August, so I thought – well, I may not be published, but there’s a good chance I could get a book deal pretty close to graduation, so that counts. But getting a book ready for submission takes a long time, and even getting there does not mean your book will be published. This year, it wasn’t so much the “not knowing” that was hard, as it was me putting off finding an actual job on the hope that my writing could possibly support me. The disappointment wasn’t failing (that’s still pending), it was, I would say, accepting I might have an average climb to success instead of a Cinderella story. (Which I know sounds obvious. It’s my flaw and strength to dream big first and then be disappointed.)

That awful apartment that was only $100

– This was the year of making almost no money and chasing dreams. And there was one apartment I stayed in over the summer that was . . . well. It will make a great detail to my still-pending “success” story to know that I once lived in such squalor. The place was awful. But it was only $100 a month. Chasing dreams is nice, but being an educated adult with no money is a bummer.

Thinking ponderously about running for half a year, but not really doing it

– Ha ha ha. Nothing quite like unrealized good intentions to make you feel good about yourself.

My first C in an English class

– I have gotten a C before, just so you know. Not like this cracked my glittering 4.0, but I’ve never gotten a bad grade in an ENGLISH class. This happened just after I signed with my agent. Besides being a full-time student with a job, I put all my energy to furiously working on my novel revisions. (Screw Jane Austen! I’m going to BE Jane Austen!) My professor was a smart dude who typically wrote on my papers, “Nice voice, nice concept, but very undeveloped–needs a few more drafts.” I know why it happened, but still. That C was a slap.

Missing out on signing a book

I had another goal this year, namely, to find a book I could champion and publish. And wouldn’t you know, I did find it. I pitched it to our editorial team. Everyone liked it. My boss told me, “Since you discovered this one, you can take the helm, negotiating with her agent and signing the deal.” I loved the author, loved the story, was so excited to mark it as the very first title on my own list, and then . . . the deal didn’t go through. Such is publishing. Sometimes things don’t work out for reasons that have nothing to do with enthusiasm or talent. But it was still a little crushing and still made me wonder, “Was I the doomed factor?”

3 Good Pieces of Advice (or Things I Learned)

“You don’t need to know the future to enjoy today.”

– Picture an office, where I’m handed a warm plastic cup of Dr. Pepper. An old guy with a bow tie telling me sometimes we can feel out of whack when we’re going through something hard. And me saying, “But there’s nothing!” and him saying, “Well you’re graduating soon. Do you know what you want to do? The next step can be scary.” And then, after acknowledging said in inner-terror with a sense of wonderment, he said, “Put seven pennies in your left pocket. Move them all by the end of the day, and for each penny, tell yourself, ‘I don’t have to know the future to enjoy today.'”

“I think you need a plane ticket.”

– My dad is the sort of parent who has instincts about his children. If you’re in trouble, he’ll feel it in his gut, like an intuiting wizard. And one night, driving through the winding roads of a canyon as it snowed in early spring, he said, “I’ve been thinking about you, and I think you need a plane ticket.” “A plane ticket to where?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “Wherever you’re going.”

“Get out of that.”

– One of my creative writing professors was also the Utah poet laureate, and he graciously let me work on my own novels instead of specific class assignments. I was still ghost-writing then, and told him the specifics of that job. “I’ve never heard of anything like that,” he said. “You should get out of it.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but, I still need a job. Better this than scrubbing toilets.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But scrubbing toilets doesn’t drain you creatively. Sometimes we have to find a balance of what we love and what we need, and what we can do to give ourselves the ideal space and time to do what we love.” And shortly after, I quit.

5 Best Books I Read

(Not necessarily my favorite books, and not necessarily published in 2014, just the ones that impacted me the most this year)

Traveling Mercies – Anne Lamott

Essays on spirituality. Lamott is so funny and raw and real. I picked this up because BIRD BY BIRD is one of my favorite writing books, and it was worth it. Maybe it helped that I read it almost entirely on the bow of a sailboat.

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

– Beautiful illustrations. Haunting story. I may or may not have cried at a particular paragraph, which wasn’t even a sad part, but sometimes in a book, you read a line and think, “Yes, yes, that’s just how it is.”

Winner’s Trilogy and Grisha Trilogy

– I read so much YA this year, but these are two fantasy series I feel pretty confident recommending (they were fun and adventurous and not cursed with a love-triangle). 

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

– Technically a murder mystery, but it was so funny too. Charming and intriguing. The perfect “enjoyment” book

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear

– This is a children’s picture book, and I read it on the couch of a dear friend who showed it to me, and I was trying not to react too obviously, except to say, “Oh it’s lovely!” But it was more than lovely. It felt deeply personal and moving and pricked my dry, shriveled tear ducts.

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