The last day of 2014. Itâ€™s cold and crisp in the Bay Area, and very very clear. From our corner we can see a miniature San Francisco gleaming on the horizon and the Golden Gate Bridge, which looks like a paper cut-out against the sea and sky. I think we might go to the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park and see the Houghton Hall exhibit (grand English house stuff). But first, some reflection.
My big achievement this year, of course, was the publication of Dreamwood. And this meant I got to read at various places and write blog posts for other people and talk to kids and librarians and other authors. It was fantastic. Beyond what I ever hoped. Being an author is simply the best, and Iâ€™m so so grateful to everyone who helped get me here. Hugs, kisses, and chocolate to you.
But then, second achievement was coming up with something new. A year ago exactly, I was trying to think, â€œwhat next?â€ Even though I feel so impatient with my rate of progress, itâ€™s important to remind myself that a year ago I had no next novel. Just vague electricity at my fingertips.
How vague? I was taking long walks and trying to pry stories out of my brain. This is what I did. I started making lists of resonant images, and in my notebook I wrote this:
Small train yards, wind, a girl working in the diner from the story I wrote long ago, the aunt in curlers, yearning, vineyards at dusk, train crossings, old-fashioned houses â€“ white and alone, shielded by a clump of trees. Russia, monasteries, the abandoned house, peddlers, traveling performers, hippies, deadheads, they live on wind, theyâ€™re goblins, the loyal friend, sea otters, Kansas City, in cold blood, timber rattlers, midnight revels, looking through the window, weâ€™re in danger, weâ€™re all in danger. Keys, maps, kids on bicycles, the wind. Birds watching, geomancy. Green, moss-covered standing men. The town square emptying out, gulls, spindly women with the air of priestesses, dead flowers, mysterious illnesses, â€œa corpse will be transported by express.â€
(That last line is from Under the Volcano, one of my all-time favorite books.)
Some of this stuck together and some of it continues to float around, a bit like mental dust bunnies. But making lists was hugely helpful. And now I have THE SHADOW CLOCK under contract, but also significant forays into new stories, some of which dip into the mulchy list I have above. So I have something about those vineyards and all that wind and some terrifying priestesses to go in a novel somewhere, someday. Deliciousness!
Third achievement? Just being here and trying to make writing work with normal life. Continuing on at the day job, with the soccer practices and tournaments and school stuff, walking the dog, appreciating good friends and my amazing family. I am lucky to have you.
Now, my very limited list of cultural highlights of the year.
Here are a few of the 2014 releases I loved:
- Lydia Ainsworth â€“ Right from Real
- EMA â€“ The Futureâ€™s Void
- Pharmakon â€“ Bestial Burden
- Drake â€“ 0 to 100/The Catch Up
- G-Eazy â€“ These Things Happen
- D’Angelo â€“ Black Messiah
(This was also the year that I started almost every workday by listening to Tygaâ€™s â€œSwitch Lanes.â€ Does it look like I have an appointment with Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist in my future? Absolutely.)
The three books I absolutely LOVED this year:
- Euphoria, by Lily King
- Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith
- Iâ€™ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
(Not published this year, but readâ€”and hugely enjoyedâ€”this year: Wolf Hall, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Flamethrowers.)
I am consciously looking at the diversity of my reading list. Which, as you can see as represented above, is pretty monochromatic. So, Iâ€™ve given financial support to We Need Diverse Books, and bought more â€œdiverseâ€ titles (how I hate this terminology, btw) and am looking forward to seeing how my list changes next year.
Ugh â€“ I really saw very few movies in 2014. And most of them were not great. Kind of an underwhelming year, no? So thereâ€™s really only one on my list. I loved, loved, loved, really loved The Grand Budapest Hotel.
I’ve run out of time. We must go see the Downton Abbey-esque Houghton Hall show. Right this minute!
A happy 2015 to all!!