Tuesday, December 27, 2022

I Did It! 2022 Edition

For the past nine years, I've tracked my annual accomplishments via an annual I Did It! list, originally inspired by writer Lisa Romeo. Previous posts can be found here: 2021 (Apocalypse Year 2) 2020 (Apocalypse Year 1), 2019 (including decade-in-review), 201820172016201520142013. Let's jump right into 2022's I Did Its! Shall we?

Writing I Did Its!

My first book--Uphill Both Ways: Hiking toward Happiness on the Colorado Trail--was published, hurrah hurrah!

To all those people who say that publishing a book doesn't change your life, I say pppppbbbbttttsssttt! Almost nothing could be better, except maybe holding your newborn baby in your arms--I don't know, it's been a while since I did that ;-). Anyway, Oh, happy publication day and month and year!

Book Publicity Activities in 2022:

(See all past and future events here and read/watch/listen to interviews and recorded events here.)

I also did some more revision on Book Two, which I mention having completed drafting in last year's I Did It! post, and I decided to illustrate it (I was wavering for a bit) and began work on those illustrations, basically, teaching myself how to draw in pen. I'm still a bit wishy-washy on how I feel about the results so far, but I'm making progress. I also drafted a book proposal for Book Two, which I haven't sent out, due to working on getting enough illustrations done to my satisfaction first.

I began Book Three, meaning I outlined it and began the research, which is really just a LOT of reading. I've also drafted a very sketchy intro and part of Chapter 1. It's a book I've been dreaming of putting together for nearly two decades, so I'm excited to finally be making progress. 

I started the year with a plan to focus on writing short pieces (essays, stories, etc.), since I couldn't wrap my brain around the idea of a big book project while working on promotion of Uphill Both Ways, but obviously I overcame that block and ended up working on two book projects after all. My plan was to write one short piece a week, in addition to a flash piece on this blog ("Flash Friday"). That did not exactly come to pass, but in a file labeled "2022 Short Works," there are 15 documents, 11 of them complete pieces. In addition, I wrote 5 "Flash Friday" posts, for a total of 20 partial or complete short works, or just shy of two per month (and one of those "short" works is nearly 10,000 words).

This practice probably led to an improved submission and publication rate over last year:

  • Submissions: 16 (double last year's rate)
  • Acceptances: 3
  • Rejections: 8
  • Publications: 9 (so much better!). They are:

(As always, the submission/acceptance/rejection/publication numbers don't add up due to carry over from year to year, not everything published having gone through a normal submission process, etc.)

Other Writing I Did Its!
  • 11 Newsletters (so far)
  • 44 Blog Posts (including this one)
  • I continued working as Literary Reflections editor and senior editor at Literary Mama
  • The writing group I started in 2021 (Maine Writers and Knitters) got together in person about three times and once over zoom, including one fantastic field trip to a local historic author's residence/museum
  • I applied for two grants (and was rejected for both)
  • I completed just over half of a (self-paced) book coach training program
  • I gave a presentation and taught a workshop at my grad school alma mater
  • I taught a nature writing workshop to two different groups 
Travel and Adventure I Did Its!
  • I spent 10 days in Mexico (and didn't write about it much here on the blog; but I have an extraordinarily long essay about the trip that's in my rejections pile).
  • We went on our annual family camping trip 
  • C and I went on a 2-day backpacking trip, kid-free
  • C and I spent a weekend in Bar Harbor for alumni weekend, also kid-free
  • I took some small trips on kayak and on foot here and there
It took me a minute to remember that I went on a BIG trip at the beginning of the year, which tells me I'm either ungrateful or I need to go on big trips more frequently. I definitely need to work harder to make adventure a priority. And keep a list!

    Arts and Crafts I Did Its!

    My focus was on writing more than making, and my sewing machine spent most of the year tucked away on a side table under a dust cover. But I got some things done:
    • Finished knitting the gigantic poncho I started early in the pandemic
    • Made some tiny shoes and knitted a tiny sweater (and deciphered an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern!) for my niece, who was born in September
    • Knitted a runner hat for Z (and then the weather was warm through cross-country season, so he never had an occasion to wear it, officially, but he has worn it some since the weather has gotten cold)
    • Made a new duvet for C's and my bed
    • Made a fleece skirt, plus two more for gifts
    • Made a silly little (and totally impractical) bird feeder, just for fun

    Household I Did Its!
    • Deep-cleaned the kitchen in anticipation of Thanksgiving and houseguests
    • Cleaned and organized drawers and cabinets in the bathrooms--long overdue
    • Moved several boxes of books and bags of clothes to the used bookstore and consignment shop, respectively
    • Finally made inroads on cleaning the basement (the perennial to-do list item, which I claimed to have done last year--the inroads part--but this year I really made some progress)
    • Tried to be more systematic about menu planning and shopping so that figuring out what to have for dinner every night isn't such a chore; this doesn't make me excited about cooking dinner any more than I was before, but it makes it slightly less stressful
    • Worked on maintaining my houseplants in a healthier, less neglected state than usual (battling some pests like scale and spider mites), even moving a few from the sunroom to the living room to enjoy them more (and because they seemed to want warmer weather conditions)
    • Expanded my pollinator garden, fed it a few rounds of duck mulch, and largely stayed on top of the weeds
    Nature I Did Its!
    • Bird-Watching: 132 checklists and 114 species for the year (in eBird) as well as several new species sightings in Mexico (around 25)
    • Did a little butterfly and dragonfly wildflower watching
    • Taught a nature writing workshop to 3 different groups
    • Made 25 nature journal entries
    • Continued to serve on board of Maine Master Naturalist Program and helped organize their conference
    All-in-all a pretty good year (can't really complain when you've published a book)! It's occurred to me, for the first time after ten years of these posts, unbelievably, that in planning my goals from this year, I can think about what I want this post to look like next December and reverse engineer it so that I aim for what I'll have wanted to accomplish. For instance, I want to see more travel and adventure in my life, so I can set a goal of X number of hikes/kayaks per week or month and X of overnight trips and X real big expeditions. And then make it happen!

    Friday, December 16, 2022

    Book Stack ~ November 2022

    A monthly post about what I've been reading, with aspirations but no real hope of reading down a very tall stack of books. Previous posts from this year:

    May & June 2022 

    October 2022 

    Looks like November was a light month for reading. Part of the that was Thanksgiving and all of the preparations thereunto. Part of it was that I labored over books that I am not enjoying and did not finish (yet). I have a hard time admitting to defeat on a book and affirmatively quitting it (although I'm pretty good at letting it gather dust on my nightstand with a bookmark at the halfway point). Both are books I *really* wanted to love but do not, not even a little bit. And that bums me out. I also am slowly making my way through another longish book that is a little heavy going (in terms of subject matter), so I need to spread it out among a lot of light reading, which is what I've got here.

    Starting from the bottom of the pile, I read The Mammoth Book of Egyptian Whodunnits, edited by Mike Ashley, which I only picked up because Elizabeth Peters wrote the introduction and one of the stories. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Most of the stories take place in Ancient Egypt, and I'd liken them to fantasy in terms of building a world so dissimilar to our own. I didn't think I'd be able to suspend my disbelief in Sherlock-Holmes-types carrying out crime investigations in the time of the pharaohs, but I got swept right in from the beginning through 500-odd pages.

    My other reads for the month were also mysteries: Deborah Crombie's A Bitter Feast, which takes place at an English country house (one of the best settings for murder and mayhem), in contemporary times with a whole cast of Scotland Yard detectives who are supposed to be on holiday but instead find themselves swept up in the murder of a famous but down-on-his-luck chef. I found it very entertaining. The other was Murder is in the Air by Frances Brody, starring her private investigator from the between-the-wars years, Kate Shackleton. This one takes place in and around a brewery. I've ready one other Brody mystery, and I've enjoyed them both.

    For a project I'm working on I read Alice Arlen's biography of Louise Dickinson Rich, She Took to the Woods. [Full disclosure: I have not *quite* finished reading the excerpts of Rich's writing that appear at the back of the book, b/c I got so interested I purchased several of the (out-of-print) books themselves.] I'll write more about Rich and her writing in the future, but I'll say that this peek behind the scenes is fascinating. I was especially interested in how, in her diary she was forthright about how she and her family were nearly *starving* for much of the time in their early years at Forest Lodge, but her writing in We Took to the Woods turns that desperation into funny anecdotes about how to cook creatively to stretch meager supplies (blamed on the difficulties of getting food into their remote cabin in the spring and fall when the lake was neither frozen nor navigable by boat). 

    Friday, December 9, 2022

    Finish It Friday ~ Cookie Monster Skirt

    Although as an adult I identify most strongly with Oscar the Grouch, due to my penchant for a certain fuzzy lime green fleece vest, a period in college when I spent time digging through the trash (as part of a study of solid waste, mind you), and my general personality, when I was very small, I went through a Cookie Monster phase, wherein I had a stuffed Cookie Monster that rattled when you shook it and a pair of Cookie Monster footie pajamas that I loved because not only was there an image of the monster embroidered on the chest, but they were made of fabric with extra long, nappy blue fuzz. Also, of course, me like cookies.

    So when I was tidying up in the basement last week in an effort to access our holiday decorations and ran across a length of midnight blue fabric with a thick, fuzzy pile on one side and a soft fleece on the other, I knew I needed to revisit my Cookie Monster days, but with a cozy skirt instead of pajamas. I followed the same general method I used for these and these fleece skirts that I made a couple of years ago; that is, I started with a pattern and then went off on my own tangent.

    For this one, I made a yoga-style waistband, because the blue wasn't long enough for a skirt in and of itself, and because then I didn't have to mess with elastic. I was paranoid about making the waistband too tight and ended up leaving it too loose, which I think is the exact same mistake I made last time. I did not give it pockets, either, but I can add one later if I decide it needs one. I also flat-felled the side seems, which, together with the waistband, which appears the same on both sides, makes the skirt basically reversible, if I ever want the soft fleece on the outside and the pile on the inside, except that the hem will be rather obvious inside-out (but who cares?).

    I forgot what a fast, satisfying project these skirts are, so I think, in the interest of clearing out some more basement clutter, I'll zip out a few more.

    Thursday, December 1, 2022

    One Final Paddle


    Here in Maine, we've had a mild fall, and all through September and October, when we'd come to the end of a stellar day of sun and warm weather, I'd say, "We should have gone kayaking!" But somehow the thought would never come to me earlier in the day, when there was time to make it happen. Then on the first Monday of November, I worked outside on the picnic table, moving from sun to shade as the sun climbed higher and the day got warmer. I'd planned to go grocery shopping in the afternoon, after the boys got home from school with my car. But by lunchtime the thermometer topped 75 degrees!

    I knew there wouldn't be many more days like that, so I threw on capris and a t-shirt, tossed my kayak in the pickup truck, and headed to water. There's a pond that's close enough, and small enough, that a trip there is about an hour, door to door, including a lazy circumnavigation complete with bird watching. I could kayak the loop and still get home in plenty of time to do the far less interesting task of shopping.

    The water was a little lower than the last time I'd paddled, after a dry summer and fall, making the launch point next to the outlet a little steeper, but it was still doable solo, with no fear of tipping in. It was a different pond than it is in May, June, or July. The cattails and grasses on the shore were dry and blond, the laurel and willow shrubs branchy and leafless. No turtles slid off shoreside logs into the dark, tannic water. No bass splashed. The sphagnum bog at the far end was quiet, without the calls of red-winged blackbirds or song sparrows. But it was still a lovely pond, peaceful and wild when I turned my back to the road and the handful of houses on the roadside shore.

    I made my circuit and when I returned to the put-in point, I realized that the steeper bank would also make getting out of the boat a bit more challenging. Though the water was shallow, I really did not want to dump into the water, when I was there by myself (and with my phone in my pocket), so I hoisted myself out with extra more vigor. I made it to dry land with no problem, but the boat, pushed backward by the force of my exit, drifted off in the other direction, paddle across the coaming, bowline nonexistent. 

    The water was cold but not that cold, and the air was still in the low 70s. Still, I didn't feel like swimming. I steeled myself for that possibility, tossing binoculars and phone onto high, dry ground. Fortunately, the boat bounced into reeds across the outlet channel and came back in my direction, coming to rest in reeds only a few feet from shore, so I only had to wade up to my knees to fetch it. Not exactly a life-and-death situation, but it made for an exciting finish to the last kayak trip of the year.

    Now the boats are hung up for the winter, and the weather has turned to more normal November fare--frosty mornings, a winter chill in the air. And I am thankful for late season sun and a final trip on the water.

    A version of this post went out recently to subscribers of my newsletter, along with some bonus material. Subscribe here and receive a free PDF of my illustrated short essay "Eleven Ways to Raise a Wild Child."

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