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Thankful

I remember that day in early March when I swung over to Target after dropping my kids off at school and picked up a jigsaw puzzle and a bucket of sidewalk chalk.

All the way through the self-checkout line, I patted myself on the back for my foresight. With this pandemic coming, we might have to hunker down for a couple of weeks, but we’d be able to draw things on our driveway!

Our early-March selves were so cute, weren’t they?

Obviously, I don’t need to detail the many ways in which this year has been difficult and draining and disappointing and dumpster-fire-like and many other D-words. But, on a personal level, some wonderful things have happened, too.

2020 has been a pretty amazing year for me, writing-wise.

I wrote…a ton. According to my official spreadsheet, I wrote at least 20 short fiction pieces this year, ranging from 3,000-word short stories to 100-word micros.

And I got published! Seven times! Of course there are many rejections between those acceptances but I don’t even mind the rejections. So much of finding a home for a story is hitting the right editor on the right day with a story that strikes the right note with them.

One of my mirco-fiction pieces placed top-ten overall in a well-known international competition, out of an original field of thousands of writers. I was pretty pumped about that.

It wasn’t all roses. For a while there, writing was just…not happening. Unless you count writing on the driveway in sidewalk chalk, there was a stretch at the beginning of lockdown where I simply could not conjure words. In late March, there was a horrible weekend where I was signed up for, like, FOUR flash competitions. Which is probably a questionable plan even in the best of times, but I had been PUMPED FOR IT. Like, bring on the espresso, plop the kids in front of Netflix, and spend a whole weekend on an adrenaline-fueled story-making binge with my online writing crew.

For three of the comps, I whiffed. Wrote nothing. For the last one, I cobbled together some marginal story that scored me zero points and knocked me out of advancing to the next round. Woof.

And it was like that for a while. I just couldn’t. My critique partner and I have a standing weekly check-in and for a while it was like, hey, maybe write 500 words this week? No? How about 200? Something, anything?

I’m not sure when things changed. It might be when I gave up…and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I just mean I stopped waiting for normal. I stopped making daily schedules for my kids. (LOL, not like they ever followed them anyway.) I stopped caring that the cats had swatted a bunch of jigsaw pieces off the table. (And dropped them in their water dish. Cats are so weird.) Our kiddie pool sprung a leak and I shrugged and told everyone to deal with it or play with the hose instead because no way was I engaging in the warfare happening on the local mom buy/sell group where people were ready to stab one another over inflatable yard toys.

So, yeah. Sometime over the summer, writing became like that busted kiddie pool that kinda-sorta held water, not as well as it used to, but it was doing its half-assed best. We all were.

Somehow, I finished my novel. Finished it for real, I mean. Not like the other three times when I wrote The End then realized I needed to go back and rewrite the whole damn thing.

I finished it. Queried it. Signed with an amazing, incredibly-accomplished agent who is genuinely thrilled to about my manuscript. Some days, I’m still not sure all of this has actually happened. It is literally a dream come true, and while I know there’s still a tough road ahead on the path to publication, I’m thrilled to have made it this far.

And also, one my short stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My jaw hit the floor pretty hard when I got this news! Getting nominated for a Pushcart? That sounds like something that happens to Real Writers.

I guess that’s what I am now?

(The story isn’t available online, but you can buy the print anthology if you want to read it! The whole book is fantastic, actually, and all proceeds go to Association for Science Education.)

Writing-wise, it’s been the best year of my life, which is a strange feeling to sit with in a time that’s dark in so many ways. I know how fortunate and privileged I am to be contemplating and celebrating the launch of an actual writing career in a time when so many are struggling.

Above all, I am thankful that I am so very lucky. That my family is healthy. That I have a supportive spouse who, in spite of his own demanding career, doesn’t flinch when I hand him the household reins so I can vanish into my weirdo writing cave for a while. That my house is comfortably roomy and has a long driveway for making sidewalk-chalk masterpieces. That my community is generally compliant with mask wearing in public spaces.

And if you’re reading this, I’m thankful for you, too. Writers need readers. I hope you’ll stay on this journey with me.

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