Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Year in Writing -- 2017!

I began writing an annual 'Year in Writing' roundup after I discovered a piece by the writer Alexander Chee from 2014 in which he cataloged the many career milestones he'd wracked up that year. A year in review, as it were, but for writing. It looked incredibly impressive (he was the guy who came up with the Amtrak Writer-in-Residence idea) and something I wanted to do, probably because he is an extremely accomplished novelist who also publishes some fantastic travel writing! (He is).

Nonetheless I took the plunge, even though I'd never before written a post summing up the year in anything, writing or otherwise. As I wrote last year at this time, "You manage what you measure, right?"

For a long time, as I said then, I wasn't in any way measuring how much I wasn't accomplishing in the world of writing. 

But I'd say Bennington pretty much changed that. Once I enrolled in the MFA program there, I began to see possibilities -- and to use the words of Charles Bock, an author and Bennington alum, I also began to see writing as my permanent side job.

I've now begun to set writing goals for myself each year -- concrete objectives, some of which are definitely within reach. 

(There are also 'non-concrete' goals, like collaborate with Bono on a project. Yes that Bono! And no, it's not a joke! For me, at least).

This year, I wanted to publish something in a national magazine and I also wanted to publish some travel writing.

And....I did both! Although I should I say I did both with ONE assignment, rather than two.

I wrote two long stories, including a destination piece on Atlanta, for Delta Sky Magazine (you know, the mag in your seat pocket when you fly on Delta). As a longtime Delta flyer, I was thrilled to land a piece in a magazine I've cheerfully read many times! Plus, it was truly travel writing! You can read those pieces, plus a short profile of Mayor Kasim Reed, here.

There was another bit of travel writing that inspired an equal measure of pride because it was for CNN Travel (whose stories I occasionally edit as a contract editor for CNN) and because it was an honest-to-God personal essay about Italy (you pretty much can't beat an assignment that allows you to wax poetic about your version of heaven). I'm also proud to say the piece, entitled "You Can Return to Italy," gave me a chance to lay out my personal traveling style -- what I call nostalgia tourism. Where you have a private list of stops that allow you to take the pulse of a place you know so well. You can read the piece here.

A few other milestones:

*On the literary translation front, I published my first translation (for Drunken Boat).

*I also reported on Italy's largest book fair -- and the positioning of Italian women authors -- for the bookworld website Literary Hub. It's called, "Where are all the great Italian women writers?"

*I said goodbye to Atlanta through a 3,000-word personal essay for the AJC's Personal Journeys rubric, which appears on Sundays. What an honor! As soon as I knew we'd be leaving Atlanta, I began writing the essay in my head. To have an editor actually want to print some of those thoughts, well, it's cool (Thanks, Suzanne!). You can read it here

I wouldn't want to paint too rosy a picture. I think you'd all know already if I were some super successful writer! I didn't publish anything in The New York Times this year, which, after the high of my essay and reported piece last year, was a grave disappointment. I was hoping The Gray Lady needed me! She does not. But you can still read the essay I wrote (about recording Leo's first sounds and words) here

There were many other writing milestones I did not reach, such as polishing a short story and moving forward on a longer project I've begun.

As I've said before, it wasn't an Alexander Chee year (he's so successful now, he doesn't write his year in review anymore!). But there's no question that as a writer, I'm not where I was a year ago or two years ago. A little more than 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 about those fiction projects I didn't get to: Shall I put them on the list for next year? I think I will.

Last but not least, where is YOUR 'Year in Writing'? You know who you are. Post it here in the comments or on Facebook. 



Lisa Romeo said...

I love this! We are sisters in the "recognizing your own success" department. I write up an *I Did It List* each year - same idea. Congrats on your accomplishments!

Ciambellina said...

Thank you! Yes -- sounds like we follow the same habit. I think it's a good one. Thanks again!