The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Reading Highlights of 2013
I read forty-odd books in 2013 from a broad range of genres. I really pushed out this year, venturing into unfamiliar territory such as speculative fiction and dystopian literature. It was great fun. Here’s a quick list of the standouts in no real order:
- The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
- The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- In Falling Snow by Mary Rose MacColl
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
I was exposed to novel ideas, fresh approaches, and fabulous voices. The chances I took on my reading paid off. The same went with my writing.
Output & Opportunities
In the last third of the year, an unexpected opportunity came my way, thanks to my hard-working agent. It meant diverting resources and energy from my current projects, but the windfalls had wonderful potential. I spent the last months of the year plugging away at it. In the end, it didn’t lead to a contract, which was a huge disappointment, but it’s not the end of the story.
What I gained was an invaluable learning experience. I had to stretch myself in a big way, and it was so much fun. Sure–I would have loved a different outcome, but the feedback alone was worth its weight in gold. And yes, I’m talking about the negative comments too.
Epiphany #1: Criticism begets growth. Praise is warm and fuzzy and feel-good, but criticism is actually helpful. I can do something with it. It raises awareness, and it charts a course towards improvement. Growing as a writer is what it’s all about.
According to stats from my StoryTracker app, most of my effort was devoted to major fiction projects and blogging.
- I wrote umpteen articles for the Northsider magazine and the newsletter and website of the college where I work as a school counsellor,
- I had a handful of internet articles published (two on education and two on gap years).
- One fun short story, One Shandy Too Many, was shortlisted in the Australian Review of Literature .
- A couple of schools bought my eQuipped Cybersafety & Digital Citizenship Curriculum.
- Two schools expressed interest in my work-in-progress, Set for Life:Senior Secondary Life Skills Curriculum.
- Meanwhile, eQuipped, my cybersafety blog just surpassed 25,000 hits with over 19,000 in 2013 alone! My 40 posts helped people in 122 countries! Hardly “viral,” but proof that I am doing this writerly thing.
- Manuscripts of my works of fiction crossed the desks of editors around the world. Some of them passed, but a few of them had helpful and encouraging words for me. My agent continues to seek a home for Summer of the Silk Dragon. Here’s to success in 2014!
Nurturing Creativity in 2014
Rejection is part of the worn pavement to eventual success for most artists and writers. The problem is those disappointments can take their toll on the creative flame, so writers (like me!) who are putting their work out there need to build into their daily practice activity that nurtures creativity.
Epiphany #2: Achieving publication is a worthy and lofty goal, but it mustn’t be at the expense of injuring the creative spark. The happiness associated with publication is fleeting, but a creative life begets enduring joy.
My project for 2014 is to learn about the creative process from experts. I want to take risks that will fire the imagination, and I hope I can learn enough to share with others in the future. I’m thinking about expanding my counselling practice in the future to include coaching artists. What fun that would be!
I’m looking forward to more exciting opportunities to try new things. I am committed to achieving publication and becoming more creative and skilled as a writer.