I’m mostly a forward-looking person—possibly this is a function of having a lousy memory—but as 2017 comes to a close I am motivated to look back for a moment at what I’ve accomplished this year. Turns out it was a busier year than I realized.
- Book Contract Signed. A book I finished a few years ago found a home. I was thrilled to sign a contract with Braddock Avenue Books for the publication of my novel The Shaman of Turtle Valley. Publication date is still over a year away—March of 2019—but that means the coming year will see exciting developments like final edits, cover design, and marketing plans. Definitely the No. 1 news for this year.
- Health and Fitness. On August 2, I woke up, got on the scale, and saw a number that disgusted me. I decided that day that I would finally do something about it. That day, I went to my gym (where I’d been mostly absent for months), hired a personal trainer, and changed my diet radically. Since that day, I’ve made the exercise into a habit, mainstreamed my nutrition choices (no sugar!), and I’ve lost over 60 pounds. Now that I’m at a good weight, my blood pressure (which was at borderline hypertension levels) is back to normal. I feel great. I recently had a physical, complete with blood work, had my eyes checked and got new glasses, and had my regular teeth cleaning too. Keeping the weight off is my new challenge.
- Non-profit Boards. I’ve been a super-fan of the American Shakespeare Center for as long as I’ve lived in Staunton, VA. (The Blackfriars Playhouse opened the same year I moved year, 2001.) This year, I was invited to join the Board of Trustees, which I was excited and honored to do in November. (I’m also on the Board of Trustees of the Frontier Culture Museum, and between the two organizations I should be kept pretty busy on the volunteer front.)
- Politics. Although I’ve never stood for elective office, I’ve been involved in the local Democratic Party Committee for many years. I’ve finally stepped down as an officer of the committee—after several terms as Vice Chair—but because of my involvement there I was named to the county Electoral Board as one of two Democrats. This was my third year on that Board and it was a busy one because we purchased new voting equipment this year and had to administer two elections: a primary in June and the general election in November. It’s a lot of work, but it’s important and rewarding. I’ve agreed to serve a second three-year term. Now more than ever, ensuring the integrity of our elections needs to be a priority.
- Reading. I finished reading 80 books this year. I wrote about my year in reading here. A few clunkers, but I read some really wonderful stuff and exceeded my goal (I aimed pretty low) by 60%. I thought it would be harder this year because I was no longer judging the Library of Virginia Fiction Award (after a three-year stint on the judging panel), but as it turned out that just meant I had more say in what books I read so I did a lot of reading for fun.
- Writing. In addition to the book that is now under contract, I’ve got another finished novel for which I’m looking for a publisher. (I had an agent but now I don’t, which is a long story worthy of its own post.) But my new writing efforts this year have gone toward a draft of a new novel, one that is pretty ambitious. It still needs lots of work, but I made good progress this year, including a productive three-week research trip to Southeast Asia. Also, toward the end of the year, I realized had enough stories to form the bulk of a new collection, so I’ve spent some time writing some additional stories to fill that book out. And I had an idea for a series of essays that might be a book and I’ve made some tentative steps toward getting that started. Somehow I’ll have to manage my writing goals for the coming year if I’m going to finish anything.
- Editing. My publisher at Press 53 gave the green light this year for a Volume 3 of the Everywhere Stories anthology series. In October we opened submissions and I’ve been reading them over the last few weeks. By the end of March, I should have filled the book and will start getting the manuscript in shape for the publisher. Pub date sometime in the fall.
I think that’s it for the big stuff. I also went to AWP in March, moderated some panels at the Virginia Festival of the Book, was on a panel for a James River Writers event, gave a reading and was on a panel at a Queens University of Charlotte MFA Alumni event, continued to facilitate our local writers’ group open mic series as well as a book club that has become popular, etc.
And now it’s time to turn my attention toward the new year. Bring it, 2018!