Tag Archives: reflection

2021: The Year of Dramatic, Unfinished Change

20 Dec

Every year, I take time to reflect on where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. Last year was deemed The Strangest Writing Year (Hopefully?), and this year, I’ve decided to call it The Year of Dramatic, Unfinished Change. (Though, that may be too dramatic in itself.) Onto why that is (and also unfinished)… 

At the beginning of this year, my agent was taking my young-adult-turned-adult sci-fi novel out on submission. I was rewriting a different adult science fiction novel and halfway through writing an adult fantasy novel. At work, I had just been chosen to attend the Doniphan Leadership Institute at William Jewell College, and in my personal life, my fiance and I were considering buying a house. 

I end the year in a very different place. For one, I’m no longer agented. My agent decided to leave agenting back in the fall, so I’m now free to query. That said, I haven’t yet begun. Mostly because I’ve had a lot of other things going on. 

  1. I attended and graduated from the Doniphan Leadership Institute at William Jewell. 
  2. I was chosen to mentor in Pitch Wars with my longtime critique partner and friend, Sandra Proudman. We’re now mentoring D.S. Allen, a middle grade writer, on her horror until the agent showcase next year!
  3. SCBWI KS/MO also hired me to teach at the Middle of the Map conference in November. I taught How to Write a Series, and it was so much fun! I offered critiques to writers, and I will be mentoring a young adult writer in 2022. Announcements go up in January. 

Did I mention my personal life?

In 2021, I got married, and we bought our first home together. We’ve been renovating, too. And traveling a bit more. (My favorite trip was when we went ziplining through the Ozarks.) I also turned the big 3-0. 

It truly has been a joyous year. 

Writing-wise, I finished rewriting that adult science fiction book…only to shelve it. I also added 30,000 words to that adult fantasy book…only to put it on pause at 77k. I switched gears to re-read one of my old adult fantasies, made a plan to revise, and then…put it down. Between all that, I worked on a dozen other ideas and outlined a few of them in full, which is exciting. But mostly, it was the year of the unfinished piece. Not that I can’t finish something. I totally can. What happened was that so many life changes made me redirect my path that I ended up half-traveling down a few opportunities to try to make the best decision about which one to commit to. 

Overall, I estimate that I wrote over 100,000 brand-new words, rewrote 50,000, and outlined 30,000. (And that’s not including this blog or other platforms.) Now, at the end of 2021, I can safely say that I’ve made a decision. 

I am focusing on a middle grade verse novel that is super close to my heart, and I hope to query it in 2022 once I finish revising. (Please send me ALL the good luck and well wishes.) 

Maybe I’ll find the perfect agent to champion my work. Maybe I won’t. But I’ll never know if I don’t try! 

There are so many dreams I am already chasing going into 2022. Hence why I’m calling this year unfinished. I still have so much to do. 

Other than what is to come, my trusted almost-eight-year-old laptop died in November, so I had to say goodbye to it. After all the projects I’d completed on that computer, it was hard! But now, it’s the era of Rosie, my new laptop. I also finished uploading Took Me Yesterday to Wattpad and guest spoke at Kearney High School’s creative writing class and at the Lake Waukomis Women’s Club. I created a Teachers & Book Clubs page for readers to use, and it’s been utilized a handful of times. One of my favorite moments this year was when I was interviewed by Austin Gragg for Space and Time Magazine. It is so incredibly neat to hold a printed interview in my hands—and in such an incredible magazine. 

I was also lucky enough to teach Starting a Writing Project for Mid-Continent Public Library (twice)! For those of you who are interested, I’m teaching it again on January 12, 2022. You can learn more here. It’s virtual, open to anyone in the world, and free.

2021 was not what I expected. But then again, neither are any of my past years. 

Publishing is an unpredictable game. Maybe that’s why I like to roll the dice. I never know what’s going to happen, but I know something will as long as I keep trying. 

Here’s to all the surprises to come in 2022. 

~SAT

Want to see what’s happened throughout my years of blogging?

Writing Tips: Mother’s Day & Childhood Inspiration

12 May

Now, I have to admit that I’m unsure if this qualifies as “writing tips” or not, but I can’t seem to think of another way to explain it other than to explain recent events in my life and how I got to this decision to post about this.

On Friday night, I was driving home when I was hit by a drunk driver. Everyone was physically fine, but these moments often make you take a step back and wonder “what if?” or simply reflect on life. It’s also Mother’s Day, and, as many of you know, my mother passed away in 2003, so there’s been a lot of personal reflection happening for me over the past few days, and I wanted to share my thoughts on how reflecting can help your passionate spark if you feel as if it’s about to die.

Happy Mother's Day. This is Halloween, 1992, with my mother, my brother, and I. I was a ghost :] Probably perfect considering my paleness.

Happy Mother’s Day. This is Halloween, 1992, with my mother, my brother, and I. I was a ghost :] Probably perfect considering my paleness.

But, first, If you want something short and sweet, I posted this on my Twitter, and many followers found it comforting. “Do you sometimes feel like chasing your artistic dream is hard? This will cheer you up: click here.” 

Now–the bigger reflection: I’ve had more experiences in this sort of stuff than I’d like to admit to myself, but they always cause me to look back, and my childhood is often where I end up. I cannot say why this is other than it’s caused by a “flashback” sort of a thing. I begin thinking about what I’m grateful for, who I love, what I love, and everything that moves me from one day to another. But I’m going to concentrate on writing, because I want to stay in the “writing tips” as much as I possibly can.

So what in my childhood moved me forward into writing? (And many of you already know about my mother’s death being the biggest moment when I was pushed forward into taking it seriously, so, again, I’m going to talk about something else, although that is essential.)

Favorite Books:

I think this can be very important to remember, but, even more so, to return to every piece once in a while and read. Include first books, middle school reads, and beyond. On days where you’re feeling down, especially about writing, returning to these texts can spark your passion again, easily and without any strenuous effort. All you have to do is read, and you might be amazed at how quickly you’ll return to your timeless love for language, even if the original texts are simple and/or wouldn’t spark interest today if you hadn’t read it before.

Mine, as an example, includes childhood novels about Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo, young-adult series by Meg Cabot or Lynne Ewing (specifically Daughters of the Moon), and adult novels, generally memoirs like Mop Men, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or A Long Way Gone. I can even return to literature I loved in school, my favorite being The Stranger.

As a comedic picture: this is me, shocked by novels, at 3 years old, and my great-grandmother quite thrown off by my craziness.

As a comedic picture: this is me, shocked by novels, at 3 years old, and my great-grandmother quite thrown off by my craziness.

Favorite Writing Experiences: 

These moments can bring back the original moments that brought you the utmost happiness before other moments brought you down. You can return yourself, especially to childhood, when you first started writing and you didn’t have the stresses of publication or critiques. These memories, although little, are very powerful.

My personal example? In second grade, my short story about my two dogs, Milo and Max, won the class writing competition, and I got to read it to the class. I still have it, and the drawings and wording often makes me giggle, but it also lightens my writing soul. I go right back to that podium, when I was fearless, and I feel it transition to today’s time.

Others who inspired:

Think beyond the top five people who inspire you today. Try to recall the first few who you may not remember on a regular basis but know that they linger somewhere in your artistic past (meaning they’re also in your artistic self today.) Most of the time, you might remember one, but then you’ll remember more and more, and you’ll soon have a list of small instances that led to your wonderful path you’re on today.

My personal example here is my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Metcalf. She was the first teacher to pull me aside and encourage my writing. When I was first writing back then, I was started my stories off with “Hi. I’m Henry, and this is my story…” and she taught me to start in the middle of action. I wrote her a story for Thanksgiving Break, and it started with a turkey running wild through a grocery store. Looking back on it, it was cheesy and poorly written, but she returned, having read the entire twenty pages, and encouraged me more and more, teaching me what else I could do in order to enhance my words. I was nine at the time, yet her teaching lingers today, and I’m grateful to have had such a wonderful teacher in my life at such a young age.

My hope is that you may take a moment today (or any day) to reflect on the moments that have brought you here today and remember never to give up on your dreams! It may seem cheesy, but it is, ultimately, very true, and I’m sure many of you know this, but many also have fleeting moments of doubt, and we can prevent these by reminding ourselves of what matters: life, love, and passionate dreams.

I always tell myself to write with passion; succeed with self-discipline. 

This is my personal philosophy, but I’d love to hear yours as well. Share below and spread the dream to others who may be struggling at this very moment in time (whether they read this today or two years from now.) Words are timeless. Let’s use that to embrace the love of art.

Have a great and meaningful day 😀

~SAT

P.S. Goodreads Quote of the day:

I leaned against the desk, ran my hand over my father’s paperwork, and picked up a pen. Turning around, I shoved it into my father’s hand.
“What’s this?” he asked, raising a brow.
“You’ll need it to sign my death certificate,” I said, pain vibrating my veins against my muscles and bones. “Are we done now?”

Eric, Minutes Before Sunset

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