Well a very belated hello New Year, how’s it going? What are we going to get up to, you and I? When I think about the possibilities, I can’t help but draw upon 2018 for reference, and that’s a little scary. It’s not that 2018 was personally bad or anything. In fact, looking back at the highlights reel, 2018 was filled with several personal achievements, family milestones, and travel. Maybe there was a little too much of all these things. What I do know, is that I got to the end of last year and felt exhausted, like I was crawling across the line.
I was explaining my feelings to one of my longtime friends, and she sent me a motivational newspaper article (don’t let the title mislead you, it’s actually pretty inspiring):
One of the quotes (from comedian, Emily Winter), really struck me:. She said, “I’m so tired, and that’s how I know I did it right … If I weren’t exhausted, it would mean I’d just spent the last year asking for things without putting in the work to earn them.”
I don’t know what it is, but something about that quote fills me with optimism: like all the hard work of 2018 is working toward something. It may not be here yet, but watch this space …
In the meantime, here are my 2019 Goals:
Just keep on writing! That’s pretty much it. Aside from my big project of 2018, I have one new (kind of old but given new life) project I’m working on, plus a few exciting spin-off stories (I’m not quite ready to leave my 2018 characters just yet).
Attend lots of writerly events (I really love the Waterstones Piccadilly YA nights, and this year I’m looking forward to the Northern YA Literary Festival, the Oxford Lit Fest, YALC, and hopefully a few surprise events …)
Music – lots of it. My Spotify 2018 wrap-up says I listened to 21,985 minutes last year, and most of those were songs I’d put together as playlists either to inspire or keep me company. I can’t wait to make more discoveries in 2019. Here are a few of my favourite songs from 2018:
True Lovers – Holy Holy
Bad Habit – Jay Newton
2019 so far …
Item One: It snowed! We live near a gigantic hill, so whenever we get a decent snowfall, the entire family rugs up, grabs sledges and goes sliding for the day. If we’re really lucky (we were this year), the snow will be so heavy, the traffic in the village pretty much dwindles to nothing. We have a tradition of going to the local pub for dinner. It’s so beautiful, the only sounds as we walk to the pub are the crunch of our boots in the snow.
Item/s Two: I seem to have had an inordinate amount of hot liquids poured onto me this year (and it’s only February!). This is almost exclusively due to one of my three children leaping into my lap and not looking before they leap (one night it was blood — I kid you not. Fortunately, neither my children or I are vampires or axe-murderers. The blood was from the roast beef my husband had just cooked and as he was passing me the plate, my son angled it so all the juice poured straight into my lap). I don’t eat a huge amount of meat, I’m almost a vegetarian in-waiting, but that little episode took me a step closer!
Currently reading (and loving them all for different reasons):
All The Lonely People – David Owen
Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde
Currently Listening to:
Never Say Die – CHVRCHES
Nothing Else – Angus and Julia Stone
Striking the balance between writing and reading last year was a tough one. Fortunately, I spent a lot of time on trains, so this is mostly how I got my fix. My favourite form of reading is curled up in bed, with a book I can hold in my hands. But last year, most of the books I read were via e-reader. Oddly enough, the ones I remember most, are the ones I read in print. I’m not sure whether it’s down to the location and medium or that it’s just a coincidence.
There wasn’t a lot of fantasy / sci-fi on this year’s TBR. I think this is because I was writing contemporary and that’s where my head’s been. The exception was the richly-drawn Spare and Found Parts. I’m determined to break the fantasy drought this year, despite the TBR currently being very contemp-heavy). Here’s a rundown of the TBR past and present:
Take Three Girls – Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, Fiona Wood
I’m about halfway in, and enjoying this story about three girls who form an unlikely friendship when they’re thrown together as part of a mindfulness project.
Boy Swallows Universe – Trent Dalton
I’m so excited to read this one. It’s a coming of age story about a boy growing up in Brisbane in 1983, and his extended drug-dealing family, including one previously convicted murderer / philosopher, who teaches him the critical lessons for life.
All the Lonely People – David Owen
This is for the #SundayYA Book of the Month chat on Twitter. This one is all about the impact of alt-right actions upon a girl whose internet identity is her identity, and what happens to her when that life is threatened.
Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde
Snapshot of Last Year’s Reads:
Both of these authors write beautifully, and have a knack for taking the reader on a journey, even if it’s just to the corner shop to buy a packet of crisps.
I was Born for This – Alice Oseman
Girl Defective – Simmone Howell
Spare and Found Parts – Sarah Maria Griffin
A post-apocalyptic Frankenstein modernisation. I loved the concept and Sarah’s writing is lush. My favourite part was how the author slipped bits of technology and pop-culture into her post-apocalyptic world and showed it to us through the lens of her characters. It was so interesting to see a generation growing up without these things, trying to decipher the purpose of a smart phone, and listening to electro-pop for the first time. See my Goodreads review here.
Girl Man’s Up – M. E. Girard
I really enjoyed the honesty of this book. Pen doesn’t want to be a guy, but she wants to look like one, and also wants to be the ‘boyfriend’ of Blake, the pretty lead singer of a local band. This book was educational for me. It sounds obvious, but it really spelled out the difference between wanting to be like a guy versus needing to (biologically) be a guy. In the book, a lot of the characters assumed the protagonist, Pen, was transgender, but she was absolutely clear that that wasn’t where her head was at. I also loved the diversity and family dynamics in this book. Pen’s big brother, despite his own issues, always has her back. Her parents are older and from a traditional Portuguese background. Although it’s heartbreaking to read, Pen’s parents’ inability to wrap their heads around who she is, is so well drawn. I also liked how Pen’s relationship with her guy-friends were handled. Her best friend was a jerk (to her and other women), and for part of the book, she enabled his behaviour. Pen was definitely in the wrong in allowing this to go on, but the title of the book gets to the heart of this. Part of her journey is to make this realisation and say ‘enough is enough’. It’s a quiet book, but quietly perfect.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han
I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the Netflix movie with my kids. Even my husband watched it once or twice (mainly because we were watching it AGAIN, but I could tell he secretly likes it). The movie is magical – pure feel-good escapism – the kind that’s usually reserved for timeless Christmas movies.
So that left me worried to read the book – just in case I didn’t love it as much. It was already on my TBR list – mainly because I’d heard the dynamic between the three Song / Covey sisters was so delightful, one of the best sister-books of all time (a big call!). I’m a sucker for brilliantly-woven families, especially in YA*. In the end, I decided to just go for it. I’m so glad I did.
Jenny Han deserves all the praise and accolades she’s received for this book. Her style of writing is gorgeous, and she has a real talent for making everyday domesticity and relationship interactions compelling. When I really love a turn of phrase or a body language description, I’ll stick a post-it note into the book, so it reminds me of what good writing looks like. This book is filled with post-its!
All in all, I loved this book so much. It’s more real-life than the movie, but still wraps around you like a big, warm comfort blanket. I’ve now completed all three books in the series.
* conversely, I usually take issue with YA where the protagonist traipses throughout the story with barely a mention of their wider family members, and the most you get is a “what you gonna do with your life?” talk in the kitchen from the parents.