Well, 2017 is almost over. I can say with confidence that I will have no publications this year. I will not be eligible for any awards in 2018, and I missed my chance at The Campbell Award. But this is not awful. This is not sad news. Because 2017 was a personally grueling year for me: it was a growth year. Not only in my writing, but in personal growth as well.
I talked a lot about personal growth in an earlier blog post, but I haven’t talked about how much 2017 meant to my writing. In how much it meant to me as a writer. Yes, yes, 2017 has been very hard to all of us marginalized people—it was harder for many, many more people than it was for me, that’s just fact.
It’s hard to come to terms with 2017. That in a year that was so hard for so many people politically, and so hard for me politically, that personally and professionally I am coming to the close much much improved.
It’s true: this year was hard, it was difficult. But November is the month in that we give thanks in the United States, and I have a lot of things to be thankful for. And a lot of people to thank. This year did not happen on my own. I did not do this well on my own. No. I had a lot of help.
So here goes:
When I became disabled in 2014, I decided to start writing this novel that I had rattling around in my head. I worked on that WIP for three years. When I was done with the third draft of that novel, I enlisted the amazing help of the wonderful editor Anna Geonese. Anna’s help was not only instrumental in greatly improving the novel from third to fourth draft; their help was greatly instrumental in improving my writing overall.
But Anna isn’t delusional. They also helped me realize that this WIP—the one they edited and talked me through—was not the one I should be working on right now. In an amazing two hour call, Anna and I decided that I would put that WIP aside, and work on a new one. Not only did Anna help me solidify the new WIP concept, they encouraged it, they cheer-leaded it, and they believe in it.
I don’t think I would have come so far without Anna’s help. They are a great support, and a great friend. But while Anna is great, they only look over completed drafts. I needed writer boot camp.
In June of this year, I contacted Lucy A. Snyder with a question. I had just returned from the SFWA Nebula Conference where I met some great people who’d all completed a low-residency MFA for Popular Fiction. I asked Lucy’s honest opinion on whether she thought I needed an MFA, as she is an MFA instructor. I knew I could trust Lucy because she’d always been up-front and honest with people in panels. I’d also just finished her writing advice book, Shooting Yourself In The Head For Fun and Profit, and knew she would be a great resource.
Lucy was frank with me. She told me not to pursue the MFA and offered to be my writing coach for this WIP (I’ve also used her help on short stories). It’s gone extremely well. She’s been with me the whole way, and now I’m the book is four chapters from The End. With her help, I’ve dodged plot problems, learned how to write a novel (tip: it’s not a really really long short story), and am writing some of the best work of my career.
I’ve internalized Lucy’s editorial notes and guidance, every single one that she’s given me since July. In October, I wrote a new short story—a fairy tale. This short story came quickly; all the pieces fell into place easily, and I thought that because it came so quickly and easily that there must be something wrong with it. I thought it was horrible. I was wrong. I showed it to my writing group later in October and they looooved it. They offered a few suggestions to improve it, and now it’s sitting on submission to my favorite magazine.
I couldn’t have written that story without Lucy’s help. Or without Anna’s help. Or without my writing group’s help. I’ve been internalizing their comments and their assistance for almost two years, and it adds up—not only the critique they give me, but the critique given to other people. Listen and learn. Advice is advice.
I also can’t ignore the help of EJ Levy and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. While it’s a literary fiction workshop, seeds of it bleed over into fantasy and science fiction writing. With EJ’s help and the group’s help, I learned better how to weave the second story into my main narratives. I was able to finally refine my voice into something that is uniquely mine (and refine it further and further so that it sits firmly in my WIP and the story I finished in October). And I learned how to better foreshadow and walk into the trouble; the Yes, But, No, And… that Writing Excuses is always talking about.
Also thanks to EJ Levy, I came up with the Suri serial that I is featured on my website (part three coming soon). But it’s not all EJ’s work. The group helped me learn what works in my writing. Or as EJ would say, “What sings.”
Other things I learned were things that important to me that have nothing to do with writing craft. I learned that encouraging other writers and talking about their work is something that I love to do. I love reading stories and talking about them on Twitter; so I try to do it regularly. One of my favorite things at World Fantasy Con was hearing writers talk about their WIPs, and now I have a number of projects that I’m really looking forward to.
In a lot of respects, while it’s exciting to know that I have a story coming out next spring, it’s equally exciting to know that all of these projects are coming out or will be coming out next year as well. Being a supporter of other writers and being a supporter of projects is equally important to me as having my own work out there.
Hold up. That’s not disingenuous. It’s true.
I was a social worker for ten years. I will never stop being a social worker. Supporting others and being there for others is part of who I am, and will never stop being a part of who I am. I really enjoy being a part of the writing community, and how I engage in the community is by sharing work I’m excited about, and listening to people talk about work they’re excited about.
From all the people I talked to at WFC, I now have a list of books so long, I’m going to give my library an aneurysm. It was so great to be excited for other people, because they were so excited about their work.
It was great learning that about myself at WFC because it’s going to make ConFusion and next year’s Nebula Conference so much easier. That’s another thing I learned about myself: that I can do Cons all alone. And I can have fun.
So while I didn’t have a single publication, so while I’ll never be eligible for the Campbell, I had a great year as far as writing goes. I seriously leveled up. I made some great connections. I made new friends. I visited some great places. I learned new things about myself and how I engage my peers. Also my Twitter follower count exploded for some weird reason, and I feel bad for all the selfies I post now. Not really. Sorry/not sorry.
So thanks again to Anna Geonese, Lucy A. Snyder, Columbus Writeshop, my wonderful husband (James Kurella), EJ Levy, Buckeye Service Dogs, the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and Sarah Hans. All of you have helped me keep my cool and be a better person this year. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Here’s to a great finish to 2017, and an even better 2018.