Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reading and Writing Recap 2013

Whew. I feel like the start of 2014 rolled over me like a speeding freight train. But one that you don’t see coming, like some sort of sneaky ninja freight train. 
Okay, I am going to write the rest of this post later after coffee or the similes will only get worse. 

Writing performance was… decidedly mediocre. I never came to a screeching halt, so I’m glad I still got writing done every month, but I was definitely dragging myself along. I only subbed 9 short stories when I was aiming for 20, and none were accepted (yet, anyway). I did win NaNoWriMo, but I somehow still feel utterly lost with that monstrous mess-uscript.

My journaling plan went much better. Committing myself to only writing a few sentences a day worked really well, and I made it smoothly through the year. I rarely fell behind, and when I did it was a snap to catch up. I don't think I've ever consistently journaled for a year, so yay!

For 2014, I’m combining the two goals and keeping a writing journal inspired by Susan Dennard. I already keep a notebook with random ideas for the novel, but now I want to use one to also document more of my process and keep myself accountable. The rule is, I must write in it every day, even if it’s just “I didn’t write today because work was long and puppy was distracting and the latest episode of Project Runway was about to expire from my Hulu queue. I hereby deprive myself of leftover Christmas chocolate in penance.” Good old fashioned guilt motivation. 

My overall writing goal for the year is a simple one. Finish the *&%$ novel. Please oh please.

I’m also totally using the calendar method again. I got off to a good start and wrote 1000 words yesterday, but sadly my calendar hasn’t arrived in the mail yet. I WANT MY STICKER, DANG IT! Ahem.
2013 was a great reading year. I completed my 50 Off the Shelf Challenge, though it went down to the wire: I had to read 18 books in December to catch up (thank you work-cancelling snow storms, winter vacation, and long airplane flights!), and I *might* have even snuck off from our New Year’s Eve festivities for half an hour in order to finish the final book on my list before midnight. (Why yes, I *am* always the life of the party.) I ended up reading 112 books total for the year, exceeding my goal of 100. An absurd number of them were excellent, so picking my Top Ten was nearly impossible... and in the end I had to cheat a bit and group some by author:

1. Laini Taylor: Days of Blood and Starlight; Lips Touch Three Times
I named my dog Karou after reading the first book in the series, so obviously I had ridiculously high hopes for Days. It exceeded them. And knowing how picky and curmudgeonly I get about romantic stories, the fact that I admit to loving a book of kissing stories called Lips Touch is nothing short of a miracle.

2. Maggie Stiefvater: The Scorpio Races; The Raven Boys
I listened to The Scorpio Races on audiobook and it was stunning, literally: there were scenes that made me stop walking my dog and just stand there, overwhelmed. The Raven Boys showed the same talent with character development and unique fantastical elements... It's going to be a great series.

3. Holly Black: Doll Bones; Black Heart
Doll Bones is the kind of creepy-charming middle grade book that I would love to write. And man am I going to miss the Curse Workers series like crazy.

4. Kristin Cashore: Graceling; Fire; Bitterblue
This is the epic, expansive, unique, unapologetic fantasy series I’ve been waiting for. All three books are exquisite both on their own and as a collection.

5. John Gardner: Grendel
A little literary fiction gem. The prose is so incredibly stunning. I just wanted to savor every sentence, then go reread Beowulf, then reread this again...  

6. Bill Bryson: In a Sunburned Country
Bill Bryson in Australia and at his best. I always learn from and laugh embarrassingly loudly at his writing, but I think this might be my favorite of all of them. 

7. Derek Landy: Skulduggery Pleasant
All of my students seemed to be recommending this one, and they were right. It is absolute hilarious genius, especially when narrated by Rupert Degas. I am currently halfway through the second book of the series and loving it just as much. 

8. Allie Brosh: Hyperbole and a Half
I have loved Allie Brosh's crazy brilliant work for so long, and it's fantastic to have it in book form. Her honesty and humor are like nothing else.

9. John Elder Robison: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s
Such an entertaining and moving memoir that gives great insight into Asperger's but goes well beyond it. Robison has a fascinating life history and heaps of talent.

10. Christopher McDougall: Born to Run
I found this book interesting on all fronts: as a travel narrative, a memoir, a history, a suspense story, sports journalism, an evolutionary hypothesis, a running text, a revolution in athletics and lifestyle. You definitely don’t need any ultramarathon aspirations to learn something fascinating from this one.
And the Pleasant Surprise of the Year Award goes to…

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
This was that last book that I snuck off to finish. I actually planned to read it much earlier in the year since my mom had recommended it, but I just couldn’t get into it then. I almost swapped it out of my list altogether, figuring I'd have to drag myself through it, but thank goodness I gave it another shot. It was incredible, moving and charming with characters that you never want to leave. I mostly read the paperback version, but I also listened to a bit of the audiobook from the library website, and it was excellent as well. I break out into a smile whenever I think about this book. Good call, Mom :-).

In 2014, I again want to read at least 100 books total, 50 of those off of my shelves - the list will be under my Reading tab soon. (Isn't it embarassing that after doing three years of OTS, I again have enough unread books on my shelves to take part again? Yes, yes I think it is.)

How did your writing, reading, and living go in 2013, and what are your goals for this new year?

1 comment:

  1. I loved GUERNSEY and I'm glad you enjoyed it! I read the first DAUGHTER book by Laini Taylor a long time ago and I want to re-read it before moving on to the others so it's all fresh. :) Oh, and I've got LIPS TOUCH on my TBR list.

    And what can I say about HYPERBOLE other than... CLEAN ALL THE THINGS! :)