I have seen multiple posts lately, talking about what people have done in the last year. Since I have accomplished more this year than in most years before, at least in the microcosm of writing and attempts at publication, I thought it might be a good time to recount the year, and place a mile marker, so I can measure my progress from here on out.
So here is my sticky note of things that came to mind:
From November 29, 2022 through the end of the year 2023, I submitted 16 times to different publishers.
In order to submit, I had to learn how to use websites like Submittable and more recently Duotrope, as well as follow up on various opportunities on social media. I had to package my writing in appropriate files, with or without attribution as directed, and pay attention to other guidelines, and craft author bios on the fly.
I also had to pay the occasional reader fee. I’m ok with that, since we should not expect people to read for free, anymore than any of us writers want to write for free. I realize these fees can be a burden, but I found “no fee” opportunities were the exception, not the rule. Most fees I paid were under $5 except at a few contests I entered, which were $20 (Tampa Review Danahy Prize) $13.00 (Driftwood Press Chapbook Competition) and $20 (The Master’s Review 2023 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers) $25 (JaxbyJax Literary Festival). These fees seem to be the ante—the kitty—the money you put in, for each round of the literary poker game. It is a gamble, but I hope it is one that will eventually pay off.
Naturally, staying within wordcounts required writing many drafts in succession, which I hope has improved my editing skills, and enhanced my ability to write more concise first drafts.
I managed to get four pieces published in collections during the year 2023:
The poem “Narrow” about a river town and its secrets, in the Florida Writer’s Association’s 2023 collection “Secrets” where it received the honor of fourth place.
The poem “Choice” about citizen refugees in Ukraine, at the beginning of the war in Border Beats Collection
The poem ”Us Maids,” describing the status of women in Jane Austen’s time, in the Jane Austen Collection by Wingless Dreamer called Regency Reflections.
I applied to read at JaxbyJax Literary Festival. The Festival took place in December 2023. I submitted my story “Becoming the Story” about an aging hippy who rediscovers his passion for rebellion, and it was selected by the juried panel!
As part of the author’s perks for JaxbyJax, I got to go to a writers party on the river and read aloud two of my poems, “His Beard” and “The Passive Void.” It was great practice for the event, although I also spent many hours, editing and reading and rereading and reading aloud my story. My public speaking muscles are a little flabby these days, and fitting my story into the time slot was a lot like putting on an old pair of jeans that I don’t quite fit into anymore.
I got to read the story aloud on December 2,2023 at the Festival, in a lineup of sixty very good writers and poets, whose work all somehow connected to Jacksonville. I met so many wonderful people that day! My husband and daughter came to watch (but not heckle, although I’m sure the urge was strong.)
I also had a chance to sign a book for the first time at the Florida Writer’s Association Convention. It was thrilling to scribble my name, even though I was only responsible for one page out of the collection!
In the fall, I went to a more informal poet’s gathering at a local bar and got to read my poem “Haint Blue,” a ballad which is about a ghostly couple who gather on the narrator’s porch to swing and dance. That was an interesting experience, since the crowd was much younger and hipper than I, and my writing sometimes seems antiquated to even the most conservative audience. It was a lot of fun. I would not mind going back.
I also learned a lot about the writing and publishing business from going to the Florida Writer’s Association Conference in Orlando, FL in October. It was very interesting and I got to speak to writers at all levels of their careers. The JaxbyJax Festival also had some learning sessions on Sunday, and I learned a bit about scifi and about getting on stage and telling stories, improv style.
I cannot omit the lovely trip I was able to take with my husband to England in late April, and early May, and what a source of inspiration it was, as well as a welcome break from the everyday hohum of life. I felt obliged to chronicle my trip and I managed in the past six months or so to write a description of each place we went to, and to illustrate the posts with my own photos. I would call neither the photos nor the posts a work of art, but now it is there for me and posterity to remember it by. Those travelogues (all twelve of them!) are up on my website.
In submitting to the Poetry Chapbook Competition, I managed to manipulate several of my poems into some logical order. It was a good exercise in “herding” poems. Websites are fine, but they tend to stretch on endlessly, with no beginning and no end. Is it any wonder so many of us prefer a firm, solid book in our hands?
As for my website, I did not utterly neglect it, though my newsletters came out at less frequent intervals. At the end of the year I had
a whopping 536 posts total (since inception in 2015)
over 4,000 comments (most from my early days in 2018 and 2019, participating in Friday Fictioneers, a weekly 100 word flash fiction circle)
115 comments and 40 new posts this year alone.
Instead of posting nearly exclusively poems, this year I had a lot of prose. I wrote 23 poems, 5 essays and 12 travelogues.
Some of my most successful, that is popular, posts were writing-related, such as
A Literary Citizen (about things to do, to support authors you know and love)
A Writerly Weekend (about the FWA Conference in October)
A Weekend Worth Writing About (About the JaxbyJax Literary Festival here in Jax)
On the newsletter front, I sent out 25 newsletter editions this year, at a rate of about one every two weeks. I am up to number 97, but when I reach 100 that will be something! My first ever newsletter was published in April 2021. That’s only 32 months between then and now, so three a month. For that long a period of time, I consider that rate pretty good. You can sign up for my newsletter below this post and every post.
I also went to at least ten FWA meetings locally, between the Ponte Vedra branch and the Southside Jacksonville Branch. These events were very informative and I got to know several writers and learned many different aspects of the craft. I also attended the Open Mic for the Southside groupin December and got to read my oldie but goodie, “The Next Best Thing to Snow,” a Florida winter story. JaxbyJax also put on several workshops during the year, two of which I went to: A Fiction workshop with Sohrab Fracis and a Character workshop with Jennifer Chase. A great value since they were free, having been funded by a generous grant.
And in addition to all this, I have been slowly crafting a novel. I managed to reach 25,000 words on the page, so I’m a quarter of the way to where I want to be!
Well, enough boring you with my writing activity. It has been a fun year and I hope yours was fun and productive in all the ways you like to be productive, and slothful and indolent in all other ways. It’s amazing how the exercise of listing your accomplishments, such as they are, goes a long way toward making you feel like you spent your time wisely. Although, at least in my case, a professional housekeeper might beg to differ.
Have a wonderful New Year!