Having posted my analysis of last year’s reading on New Year’s Eve, I’m back now with my audit of 2019’s writing and other authorial activities. What were the highlights? How wide was the gap between my aspirations and what I actually achieved? Where will I focus my time and energy in 2020? This time last year, I shared my fantasy goals to become a celebrity, write a series and win a major prize as well six more realistic targets where I haven’t done a whole lot better. Come and help rub my nose in the dirt!
Did I bring my short story publication count to 100 by the end of the year?
I successfully placed six new stories but am still eleven short of my century when – hopefully – I can stop counting. There was a parallel failure to reach 100 in my reading the world list, so at least there’s balance across my reading and writing, with both well above my age.
But I did try, both with magazine submissions, and a few highfalutin competitions (BBC, Sunday Times, Costa, Commonwealth, Bridport, Tom Gallon Trust), and thus achieved one of my few smarter (specific, realistic and under my control) goals:
to submit short stories to 5 prestigious competitions
A couple of months ago it struck me I could do more with my previously published stories that didn’t belong in my collection, Becoming Someone. Some of those have won prizes, albeit not as prestigious as those mentioned above. Hold that thought, while I digress to one of last year’s objectives:
to grow my author email newsletter list.
I’ve tried. I’ve handed out business cards and stuck colourful labels in the stock I sell directly. I’ve posted an invitation on the Annethology homepage for those who visit online (and one here, because I’ll use any opportunity). Sure, my list has grown, but at the rate of a bonsai when I’m after leylandii. I guess I should be thankful it’s not like the ice caps, melting away.
Self-publish an e-book of prize-winning short stories as a promotional giveaway on 02.02.2020
I’ve already made some progress: chosen my stories, reedited them and designed a cover. (Please tell me if you don’t think it’s good enough; I didn’t want to pay out for a designer but I don’t want to look cheap.) Although I’ve relished editing stories I thought were finished years ago – obsessively chasing repeated words, while knowing there’ll still be some left to embarrass me when I’ve pressed publish – I’m not enjoying the Amazon part. Is it me? Is it them? Is it first-time blues?
Regarding “proper” publications, I’ve met my objective regarding my next novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, about a brother and sister separated for fifty years against the backdrop of the longstay psychiatric hospital closures:
to develop a marketing / publicity plan for Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home.
As for Snowflake, about a teenager with a noise phobia in a dystopian society, I’m awaiting reader feedback on my first – but much revised – draft. I’d like to submit it this year, but can’t commit to that until I see how much work remains to be done. But, having navigated a tricky plot hump, I’m enjoying this novel again, so I’m confident I’ll be able to:
Revise Snowflake in the light of reader feedback
to reflect on the future direction of my fiction into the 2020s.
I’ve thought about shifting my focus and forming stronger alliances with inbetweenie authors to collectively publicise our books. Actually, 2019 was a good year for live events, with WHSmith opening up to signing sessions for ordinary authors and discovering a couple of new book fair opportunities with another local IQ author. But, as an introvert, I easily tire of smiling at people who aren’t interested in reading any book, never mind mine. On the other hand, I’ve met some lovely people who have generously taken a chance on an unknown author. I need to make the most of opportunities while safeguarding my mental health.
Although I get nervous before an audience, I probably prefer presenting to staffing a stall. My literary quiz was well received at a local conference, as were my readings alongside poets at a Christmas event. I’d been thinking for several months that I ought to present my flash fiction at an open mic event, but that spurred me to make it a concrete objective:
Perform at an open mic event
Conversations with Colleen
Anne Goodwin, How D’ya Do?
Smorgasbord Sunday interview
while my characters were interviewed twice on Lisa Burton radio: Steve from Underneath and Marmaduke the cat from Sugar and Snails. Despite this, I failed dismally
to publish a longer blog post about once a month.
Finally, I composed almost 50 99-word stories in response to the Carrot Ranch prompts, and now it’s time to post my first of 2020. Looking at the picture, I see a Welsh dresser, as will you if you’re from the UK. But in the US, this is called a hutch and, although my story passes through the kitchen, the main action features a rabbit cage:
Every Christmas, he gifted her a pretty notebook and a pen fit for an arthritic hand. Every year, he took the grandkids to the pantomime, left her at the kitchen table, to fill the first page. Every autumn, he looked for it amongst the litter of the rabbit hutch, a crumpled sheet of unmet targets and dashed hopes.
He never mentioned it. Simply smoothed out the wrinkles and filed her disappointment among his gardening magazines. His resolution spanned a decade but he swore he’d get there. One day he’d bring them out and show her how far she’d come.