Monday, December 12, 2016

The (Writing) Year in Review!

Last year, I discovered a piece by the writer Alexander Chee from 2014 in which he summed up his year in writing. A year in review, as it were, and I thought, oh I want to do that!

I'd never before written a post summing up the year. You manage what you measure, right? Well, for a long time, I didn’t want to know what I wasn’t achieving. 

Now I do.

So I took a look at the year Chee had written up -- it was quite a year; you can read about it here (he was an Amtrak writer-in-residence -- after he thought up the idea himself! -- and finished a novel, etc) -- and for some crazy idea, I wasn't discouraged. As I said last year, this ain't no Alexander Chee year (this year or last year). But there's no question that as a writer, I'm not where I was a year ago or two years ago. A mere five years ago, I wasn't even writing every day outside my job as a journalist.

And besides, taking stock of the year that's about to end isn't an exercise in comparing yourself with someone else. That won't work. And it isn't the point, is it?

So here are a few things that happened in my work life this year:

I had an essay published by, wait for it, The New York Times! Yes, the paper I read every morning religiously and which serves more or less as a personal bible (oddly enough, given my family's solid Catholic pedigree, it's the document even my parents quote the most often). Best of all, it was about Leo's words! You can read the essay about recording Leo for The New York Times here.

(I also published a news story about models with Down syndrome -- my first bylined news article in The New York Times, the paper I grew up reading -- ooh tingles).

The essay "happened" in my work life. But the cool thing is: it's also about my personal life. My little person is growing up and becoming quite the conversationalist. In my estimation, that's a pretty cool thing to be. We will, after all, spend the rest of our days talking.

I also wrote an essay that was published in an anthology -- as in, an actual book! I wrote about work-life balance (after becoming a mother) for "So Glad They Told Me," published by the HerStories Project (You can go here to take a look at the essay collection So Glad They Told Me)
And I wrote quite a bit about Italian literature, including an essay for the Web site Literary Hub on ten Italian novels I'd love to see translated into English, which you can read here.

Still on the work front: I began editing regularly for CNN, which fulfills one of my main goals for 2016 (find a regular editing gig). It's pretty cool to be shaping stories for the home page that millions of people around the world read!

What's interesting is that as I gathered my thoughts about the year, I was focused on what I had published. And I wound up -- temporarily -- forgetting something. Not just anything but...




I got my MFA degree this year! I submitted this here thesis (see photo below) and I finished grad school. I've visited the land of Higher Education and lived to tell about it! (And write about it.) I am now officially a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Meaning: once you begin setting goals, you never stop. And you may cross off the big ones, but you've already set your sights on something bigger and you wind up forgetting how much you've actually achieved.

Once again, a lot of things didn't go my way. For example, I once again didn't win a grant I'd applied for. And not only that -- I left my name on the application, which from what the judges said, amounted to disqualification. That sucks! Because of course I put lots of hours into the application.

I also didn't:

*Publish a work of fiction somewhere (Ha ha!!! As if!)
*Establish a regular exercise routine (not so much)
*Get a byline in a major national magazine (Still working on that one)

At the risk of sounding repetitive, it's no Alexander Chee year. But it's something I'm proud of.

If you've read this far, you may wonder why I've bothered writing this braggy little post -- pure vanity? Lack of self-esteem? Could be...or how about: I never imagined five years ago that I would do any of these things. And yet here we are. So....

Do other people write a Year in Review? (Other people like -- you. Yeah you!) I'd love to read other examples.

Because honestly, I'd like to celebrate with anyone who plans to wake up on Jan. 1, 2017 thinking about what they want to accomplish in the new year.

To the new year!

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