Part of me wonders at the use of writing this post midway through the first month of a new year (I have a little voice singing the line ‘The past is in the paaaaaast!’ from ‘Let it go’ as I type). But I’m going to ignore it because I believe in the merit and value of evaluation – especially if, as I’ve discovered, I’m forced to remember things I don’t want to or would permanently forget if I didn’t make the effort. So here goes.
Peacock (they call him ‘big boy’) at Montsalvat.
This is what I wrote at the start of 2018:
“So – what’s next? To be honest, I’m undecided.
A month ago, I would’ve sworn to you that I was going to take a break from nonfiction in 2018. I was done; I was sick of my ‘I’ voice. Instead, fiction (my novels in particular) would come to the fore. That is still true, but the goal is fuzzy. I delivered what I did in 2017 because the deliverables were very clear: two books. (As yet) 2018 has no ‘objective’. That doesn’t jive with the half of me that needs a plan, but the other half thinks it’s liberating!
Let’s pick a nice umbrella word for the year: CREATION.
New work, exploring, making, thinking.”
As it turns out… yeah, not having a plan wasn’t ideal.
I spent the first half of the year trying to decide. I felt a bit lost. I began looking into PhDs. Even had a meeting with a potential supervisor. The hurdle – and it’s a big one – is that I haven’t found the angle I want to pursue. Plus, I’ve been warned that my thesis will have to be remarked/reassessed according to current day standards and I worry what a B+ thesis in 2000 would equate to today. Ultimately I decided that rather than give me a sense of direction, this path (for now) isn’t for me.
Clarity came when received a confidence boost when I won the local section of the Literary Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award and I finally sorted out what I wanted to start next – my middle-grade historical novel – and I finished 6 months and 40,000 words later while I was a writer-in-residence at Montsalvat.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Can you see the peacock through the trees? I’d leave my door open so I could get those lovely, accidental views.
It was a wonderful three weeks of absolute concentration and immersion in my work. On top of getting a lot of writing done, it was also a period of reflection and setting goals. Now I understand why writers value residencies (or having their own studio space) so much. A shift happened. I’ve never before been able to separate my place of writing from my personal ‘home’. Being in that environment right up until the 31st December has set me on a better path for 2019.
Which brings me nicely to my plans for 2019. The first is to blog more – I do feel that my regularity has suffered somewhat this year and people have commented they’ve noticed as well. The second is to have work published elsewhere (apart from here). Journals? Books? We’ll just have to see. Above all, I will keep on producing. Keep on trying.
Personal and Travel
We visited Tasmania and, in retrospect, I wish we’d stayed longer. What we saw was lovely, but the trip felt rushed. It was cold and rainy and it was hard to get the kids to voluntarily leave the hotel to go sightseeing. We also brought the bad weather with us when up to Newcastle in October – day upon day of torrential rain. It was too heavy for us to even visit the beach. It cleared up a little bit on the day of my early 40th birthday party, so I am thankful for that.
Yes. 40. A big birthday. One that came and went without any real agony. No crisis. Just an ‘oh, okay’. A world apart from all the fretting my 30th triggered, and ironic considering this was my worst year of anxiety-related attacks since 2014. The reasons for which I’ve gone into some detail above in my ‘Work’ section and others will remain private. I will add that losing my wonderful grandmother in May was very hard and made me appreciate family and friends all the more.
It’s a tie between Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin and Staying: A Memoir by Jessie Cole.
Favourite short story?
I was transfixed at the Alan Marshall Short Story Award ceremony as they read out Julie Twohig’s winning story ‘Carnival Day’. So good. I also loved ‘The Ones With Love and the Ones With Hate’ by Allee Richards.
I saw Roma as soon as it dropped on Netflix and it is very special. I recommend reading Guillermo De Toro’s analysis of it. In a happy coincidence, my favourite non-new movie I watched last year was Children of Men, also directed by Cuaron.
Favourite TV show?
The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. Does that count as a show as opposed to a limited series? Well, I’m going to make it count because this wouldn’t be an inclusive list without it featuring somewhere.
Favourite place we visited?
Hourglass Bay, Tasmania.
The favourite scary thing I did?
Apply for jobs I knew I probably wouldn’t get but still gave it a shot. Or when I signed up to the Oxfam 100km trailwalker.
Favourite gift to myself?
Probably those occasions when I was busy with work but chose to say yes to invitations to coffee whenever a friend was in my ‘hood. (Hint hint!)
Celebrating my 40th birthday early in Newcastle surrounded by family. I also loved horse riding in the Yarra for Keira’s 14th birthday.
Probably failing to set up my microphone properly at the Williamstown Literary Festival when I was recording my interviews with Ailsa Piper and Emilie Zoey Baker. At the time it was mortifying, but I will never make that mistake again. Lesson learned.
It’s been a pleasure getting to know the music of Janelle Monáe.
Favourite Instagram photo
This list wouldn’t be complete without some mention of Kylo Ren – the kitten we adopted on Boxing Day in 2017 – close enough to 2018 that I’m going to include him here. I’ve only mentioned him twice on the blog, but he’s been heavily featured on the socials. He is a darling. Where were we without him? What even were our lives? I can’t remember.