Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Ghastly and Gratitude in the Year Twenty Seventeen

2017 has been a year of stark contradictions.

Politically, it's been difficult. The Trump regime has been frightening to watch unfold on their many awful levels. Brexit and European shifts back toward white supremacy have been sickening. War in Syria and natural disaster in Puerto Rico (exacerbated by White House indifference) were heartbreaking. The New Zealand elections were a difficult and rewarding time for women - we lost an incredible mana wahine from the political system to racism and ignorance, and gained a woman Prime Minister. Remaining active in activism locally and worldwide has been intense and draining, but the small wins have been warm sunlight across a grey landscape.

Personally, my writing life was another level again, shifting above and around other years. As the year comes to a close, I can now paint my writing experience in 2017 with hindsight, bringing together a variety of successes and failures into what feels like good progress.

Stories Completed: I wrote to submission completion eight stories, two of which I trunked. Five are still on submission, one was a solicitation and was accepted.

Rejections: I received positive and uplifting rejection feedback from every major magazine I have my sights set on, with some excellent near misses from my top five venues. Thanks very much to those editors who took to the time to give my work a close read and keep me motivated. SOON.

Acceptances: I had five story acceptances this year, four of which are still pending publication in 2018.

Publications: I had three stories published this year. I make no judgment on comparisons from previous years, because they were all in venues I was stoked to be in. You can check out my stories for this year in Kaleidotrope (January), PodCastle (April), and "Pacific Monsters" (November).

What do all these dry stats mean? On the surface, taking only eight stories to completion seems a relatively small number, but I've been kinder on myself because the political atmosphere has added extra stress. That stress has also helped me create some stories about resistance and being punk I'm very proud of. I'd prefer to do without the stress and have people the world over be safe, but you do what you can do within your environment - never stop making art, never stop dreaming, because that's what the assholes want you to do. So, nah. I might be slower than usual, but I ain't stopping.

What the heck? Paul Mannering, myself, and
a gold and green SJV thingie
Early to mid year was a bit slow on it, but acceptance and feedback wise picked up in the second half of the year. I can't tell whether that was my stories hitting the right spot or being on the good side of chaos, but I'll take it. Means I'll have a flurry of publications in the first part of 2018, which will be nice.

My writing life this year wasn't just about production and rolling around in the slush pile. I had some great experiences, wins, and created new support framework too.

The New Zealand natcon Lexicon at Queen's Birthday Weekend went fantastic. I had a great time catching up with a lot of friends, made some new friends, met a wicked colourful witch who imparted wonderful wisdom, and worked hard on the security team.  Lexicon was also the venue for this year's Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and "Splintr" from "At The Edge" took home the award for Best Short Story. Cliche cliche, but the light in that moment felt brighter, the world a bit bigger, and I don't think it was the wine. Thank you so much for everyone who voted for my story.

Hanging out at Worldcon75 with (L-R clockwise) Nino Cipri, Marian Womack,
Jeff VanderMeer, myself, Ann VanderMeer, Haralambi Markov, Leena Likitalo

And then there was Worldcon. My first time at an international convention and I went large. So interesting, so exhausting. I managed to be on my game and screw up at the same time (nervous tongue getting the best of me). Go me. I saw some of my Clarion class for the first time in three years, and it was awesooooooome. I roomed with Nino, and stayed with Leena. I caught up with the VanderMeers (miss you two!). I met some wonderful people (Hi Rivqa and Keffy and Alex and Fred and Sarah G!). Chickened out on approaching people I respect. Shook hands and dined with editors (Hi Margret!). Hung out with other Clarion peeps and hugged people I'd only known in Pixel Land. Voted in and attended the Hugo Awards. Danced to Daveed Diggs. Saw the awesomeness that is Helsinki. Very hard to encapsulate five days in one paragraph, but suffice to say it was an uplifting and rewarding trip on many personal and work related levels.

Another small win from this year: I delivered a presentation on LGBTQ speculative fiction to a convention of High School Librarians from the South Island. I was very pleased with the work I put into my research, and the librarians were very keen for my reading lists and advice on how to look after these kids (in a literature sense). I don't have kids, work with or write for them, but I do know what's in my heart, and that's the best I can offer - give them what we didn't have (book wise) with a healthy dollop of love and respect, and keep them safe.

Regarding my framework and systems, in the latter half of the year I joined a critique group which has helped me push through a soft patch. They've helped me stay focused, create new systems, goal frameworks, and generally kick my ass in the kindest of ways. Thanks Meryl, Andi, Octavia, Jacinda, and Susannah. Big pats.

So, 2017 was a very strange year. The strangeness on the world stage isn't about to end soon, and I have to be ready for anything, but there have been many people who have kept me motivated, focused, resolved, and picked me up, even if they don't know it, writers, editors, creators, politicos, activists, and friends alike. I still haven't figured out why I want to write, but it certainly helps me make sense of the world. We lost Carrie Fisher late last year, and her words have pushed me through: "Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What's important is the action. You don't have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow."

Miss you, Space Mom.

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