Everything Else: 2013 in Review

Top row: S & I in the mountains on vacation, our new dining room, gifts my teens at the library gave me. Bottom row: some of my best friends, my amazing writer friends, and S & I announcing the pregnancy.

I suppose it’s no surprise that, aside from getting a book deal, the biggest highlight of 2013 for me was learning S and I were going to be parents. I mean, you can’t top that, can you? I think not. So even with the mood swings and weight gain, the aches and pains, the cravings and exhaustion, I’m still celebrating the little human that’s growing (and kicking) inside me. A friend said that once you’re pregnant you instantly fall in love, despite not knowing anything about your child. Well, she was right.

Highlights:

S and I took a crazy road trip from Orlando; up to Pine Mountain, GA; over to Nashville, TN; through the Blue Ridge Mountains; around to Asheville, NC; down to Charleston, SC; and then back home. We learned to like country music, swooned over waterfalls and mountains, ate a ton, saw friends, and bought a lot of records. (Ok, S bought a lot of records. I bought a book. Surprise!)

I enjoyed my job at the library more and more with each experience. Sure there are moments when patrons make me want to throw things, but those scenarios are quickly trumped by memories of a girl giggling over her first library card, a boy telling me he likes the books I pick out, my regular kid visitors who made me a bracelet because they like me, the grandmas from my book club shrieking over the baby news. One of our high school volunteers designed her own program, and we successfully put it on (and let me tell you, I couldn’t have been more proud). Summer Reading Program was a HUGE success with some events having more than 120 very happy children. My teen club, the nerdfighters, celebrated its one year anniversary, and they surprised me with a party and scrapbook that brought tears to my eyes. If starting the club, and bringing all of them together, was the best thing I ever did as a librarian, I’d be set.

Also…we bought a house! Yeah, S and I are homeowners which feels so adult (oddly more adult than having a kid.) We fix things and paint things and own a rake. It’s awesome, though, having this little house of our own. It’s ours to do as we please with (like paint the kitchen teal, which I might have done) and ours to love. And now, ours to create a little nursery in.

I turned 30. Scary. But kind of great, too.

Other Favorites

Movies: I think I saw a grand total of four movies in the cinema this year. Maybe more. I don’t know. I love watching movies, but I also get restless. And I hate being disappointed. So I don’t really have favorites of the year. I did really love Catching Fire and Frozen though. (The soundtrack of the latter may be on repeat at our home. S definitely does not want to build a snowman anymore.)

TV: During my first trimester, when all I wanted to do was sleep, I decided to check out Awkward because I love teenage melodrama (surprise surprise). I might have finished the first season in a weekend. And then the second. And then the third (as the last few episodes aired). So, yeah, you could say I’m a fan now. S & I together finally jumped on the Friday Night Lights bandwagon and I’m so glad we did (see: teenage melodrama). We might have just purchased the box set. Riggins! As for old favorites, I’m still highly in love with Mad Men and Parks and Recreation.

Plays: We saw Book of Mormon this year, and it was awesome. I love the songs (as awkward and awful as some are), the story, the whole moral. (Yes, there’s a moral!) It’s just a supremely well-done show, and I’m so happy it finally came to…ORLANDO!

Music: Let’s be honest, I haven’t updated my iPod since college. Aside from radio hits, the only *new* CD I checked out (aside from the aforementioned Frozen soundtrack and other various Broadway musicals) was Rkives by Rilo Kiley. A compilation of previously unreleased b-sides from a band I loved…in college. So I guess my music taste hasn’t changed much. But, man, that CD was great.

And, I suppose, that is it. There were downs, too, but I’d prefer to reflect on the ups, on the ways the year will be remembered. 2013 was great, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

And to you all, thank you so much for reading my blog, and going through these journeys with me. Your comments and likes make me smile. If I could hug you all, I would.

And so, until next year. Thanks for reading!

xo, Lauren

Writing: 2013 in Review

In regards to writing, 2013 has been exciting, to say the least – most notably because TNWSY was sold, and I have an editor, and, YAY! But writing didn’t stop there. Oh no.

Actually, writing-wise, my year started out rather slow.

Project 1: I started work on a new concept early in the year, a topic very close to my heart. I learned quickly that it’s not always the easiest – or best idea – to write what you know. Every word felt forced. Writing wasn’t fun. I only accomplished about 9,000 very poorly written, really despised, words. (For comparison, TNWSY is a bit over 60,000 words.) So I put that project to sleep and immediately felt better. Will I ever go back to it? I’m not sure. I hope to one day, with a new perspective, but for now I’m happy letting go.

Project 2: I had a new, very fun idea that I was keen to work on…and work on it I did. Writing was fun again, but only for so long. At about 30,000 words I realized the story didn’t stand out at all, and it wasn’t something I wanted to tell. It wasn’t unique. It wasn’t going anywhere. I had an ending in sight, but no middle ground. I knew it wasn’t something I was proud of, and I had no ideas of ways to make it better. So, again, I gave up on it and felt better. I didn’t hate it, but I knew it wasn’t the right story for me. It just felt blah – I didn’t need to write it. Will I ever go back to it? Probably not. But it’s still saved, just in case.

Project 3: At this time, Burrow Press, a local Orlando publisher, came into the picture, Each year they put out a 15 Views of Orlando book (among other great books) where local writers contribute a different chapter. The entire book is one story, but each chapter is written by a different author, and they’re allowed to take the story in any way they want. Also, each chapter must take place at a different Orlando location. It’s really unique. Anyway, I was asked to write the final chapter, the epilogue, and jumped at the opportunity, The story was so far from anything I’d ever personally write, that the experience was wonderful. I wrote fast, and was happy with what I created. (I was also able to be in a book with my friend Jenny, which is just awesome) I loved contributing to the book, and cannot wait to see it in print. (Out in April 2014! The book is called FORGET YOU FOUND US; 15 Views of Orlando Vol. III. You can read the first chapter here.)

Project 4: Newly restored, I decided to dabble with a short story idea I had a while back, which never amounted to anything but one page. I started fresh and wrote it…in one day. Seriously. I was obsessed. It was a crazy experience; I only broke to Skype chat with a friend in the UK. So, I sent the 8,000 words to my agent, after editing it, and she liked it too (!!!), with the only suggestion to make it longer. So I did. Again, quickly, easily. Now at about 20,000 words, it’s my little novella that I love dearly. Where it goes next, we shall see…

Project 5: After that, I figured it was time to attempt another full-length manuscript. Again, I jumped on an idea that was floating around in my mind and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I never outlined it, I just kind of decided what happened as I went. And in a weird, way, it worked. I finished it! It was not very good at first – names were all mixed up, characters weren’t fully developed, the plot wasn’t fully developed, but it was finished and I was so relieved that I could do that again. So I spent a while fixing it up and making it shiny before sending it on. To my delight, agent liked it, too, so we’re editing it now and improving it in ways I never would have thought of without her. Yay!

Project 6: While waiting for agent’s reaction on Project 5, I had a dream that inspired an idea. It was small at first, a tiny flicker, but I started daydreaming about it, and started letting my fingers tap along. I wasn’t planning on writing anything, but it just happened. I’m about 20,000 words in now and still obsessed with it. It’s the first manuscript I’ve written that i’ve needed to do a bit of research for, which I am, and it’s fun. It’s very different than my other stories, but I like that about it. I don’t want to say much now, but I can feel it turning into something, and I’m so excited to see where it takes me.

Project 7: TNWSY, of course! In the midst of all of this, I’ve been editing my book (BOOK!) with my editor (EDITOR!). It’s such an exhilarating process, and I’m thrilled to continue it through the new year.

So where does that leave me now? Continuing my edits for TNWSY, figuring out Project 4, editing Project 5, writing Project 7, and perhaps starting a Project 8 after all of that is said and done. There’s an idea there…there’s always an idea. And though I’m realistic enough to know that some projects will decline and fail as they have for me in the past, I’m still thrilled to see what grows and flourishes in 2014. So, to another year of writing and inspiration and wonder.

Reading: 2013 In Review

I read some books this year. Check them out.

  1. Peter and the Starcatchers  – Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
  2. Forgotten – Catherine McKenzie
  3. Guitar Notes  – Mary Amato
  4. Just One Day – Gayle Forman
  5. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight  – Jennifer E Smith
  6. Splintered – A.G. Howard
  7. A Visit from the Goon Squad  – Jennifer Egan
  8. The Wrap-Up List  – Steven Arntson
  9. Drama – Raina Telgemeier
  10. Eleanor & Park  – Rainbow Rowell
  11. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
  12. Who Done It?  – ed. by Jon Scieszka
  13. Requiem – Lauren Oliver
  14. Anya’s Ghost – Vera Brosgol
  15. Friends with Boys – Faith Erin Hicks
  16. War at Ellsmere – Faith Erin Hicks
  17. Trickets – Kirsten Smith
  18. Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley
  19. The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate
  20. The Geography of Girlhood  – Kirsten Smith
  21. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  – Maria Semple
  22. This is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E Smith
  23. Winger – Andrew Smith
  24. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong – Faith Erin Hicks & Prudence Shen
  25. You Look Different in Real Life – Jennifer Castle
  26. Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia – Jenny Torres Sanchez
  27. All the Summer Girls – Meg Donohue
  28. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin – Liesl Shurtliff
  29. The Moon and More – Sarah Dessen
  30. Blankets – Craig Thompson
  31. The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler
  32. Doll Bones – Holly Black
  33. The Next Best Thing – Jennifer Weiner
  34. The Engagements – J. Courtney Sullivan
  35. Uses for Boys – Erica Scheidt
  36. Don’t Turn Around – Michelle Gagnon
  37. Starglass – Phoebe North
  38. In the Bag – Kate Klisse
  39. Wild Awake – Hilary T. Smith
  40. When You Were Here – Daisy Whitney
  41. The Longest Holiday – Paige Toon
  42. The Infinite Moment of Us – Lauren Myracle
  43. The Beginning of Everything – Robyn Schneider
  44. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
  45. The Vow – Jessica Martinez
  46. The History of You & Me – Amanda Grace
  47. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  48. Monster on the Hill – Rob Harrell
  49. Johnny’s GIrl – Paige Toon
  50. Horde – Ann Aguire
  51. Will & Whit – Laura Lee Gulledge
  52. Spring Awakening – Steven Sater
  53. Little Fish – Ramsey Beyer
  54. Year One – Ramsey Beyer
  55. Battling Boy – Paul Pope
  56. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  57. The Reece Malcolm List – Amy Spalding
  58. Going Vintage – Lindsey Leavitt
  59. Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth – Jenny McCarthy

Though not a published book, I’m also counting my friend Joe’s adult fiction manuscript because it was wonderful, and is currently in search of an agent. So, 60 books! Yay!

Some observations: 

If I like an author, I will immediately read everything else they’ve written (or illustrated, in regards to graphic novelists).

Speaking of, this was the year of graphic novels for me. And, not surprisingly, YA books. For the library, I’m on the summer reading booklist committee, so I have to read a bunch to see what might be a great fit for our list. Thus, quite a few listed. I might not have read them on my own, so I’m glad I was asked to check them out. And that led to my newfound love of coming-of-age graphic novels.

It’s really neat looking at my list and seeing friends on it (hi, Panera crew). And books my agent represents. And books my editor edited. So proud!

All said, my adult reading was very light this year. Whoops? I wondered what my ratio was, so I’ve decided to make a pie chart for my 2013 reads. Observe!

piechart

Fiction: 12, Non-fiction: 1, YA: 30, MG: 4, GN: 11, Play 1

I guess to make up for this, the two books i’m currently reading are both non-fiction.

I’m happy to say that i’ve enjoyed all books read this year. Some I absolutely adored and will remain top books in my heart for a while.

And now, I look forward to what 2014 will bring!

What were your reading habits for 2013? Read anything great that you think I should check out? Let me know – I love recommendations! 

2012

Shannon, me, Katie

Here are two of my friends and I celebrating New Years Eve. Three things are abundantly clear from this photo:

  1. I have amazing friends.
  2. We’re very sad you’re not partying with us.
  3. I have rather large eyes.

Among other resolutions I’ve made this year (learn to knit, do some sort of physical activity besides riding my bicycle to work, do everything in my power to get my book published, start second book), I’d like to write more in this blog. I like this blog. It’s a good blog.

What are some of your resolutions for the new year?

2011 in Review

2011 has been A Year. With every con came a pro; with every bit of sorrow came excitement. (I know it’s usually the other way around – with the good comes the bad – but I prefer looking at it the other way.)

My mom was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. It was the scariest, most painful thing I’ve ever gone through. Seeing my mom so vulnerable, it was horrible. But then came the good news – with surgery it could be removed. And then with a test, we could find out if there’s any chance of it coming back. There isn’t. She’s fine. She can start 2012 with a medically clean slate.

On the pro side, I received my master’s degree in library sciences, and realized how perfect I am for the profession. I’ve never been so involved and absorbed in my studies. I knew I was finally in the right field.

I lost my editing job at the magazine (due to a company-wide furlough), but within two weeks secured my first librarian position. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like it all happened for a reason. I love my job, and although I know it’s only temporary (it goes through February – eek!), I still feel ridiculously connected to my co-workers, to the library, to the position.

I fulfilled my #1 resolution that I kept putting off ever year – I wrote my first book. It may never see the light of day, aside from my friends reading it, but the fact that it’s complete makes me proud. Of course, I’ll do everything in my power to get it published, but that’s for next year, right? (It’s still being edited!)

Most importantly – I got married! I’m now a Mrs. and despite all fears, it’s really quite lovely. Our wedding was amazing and truly one of those moments I’ll always remember. We went to Italy and Greece and started our resolution to see the world. S and I are ringing in the New Year tonight with friends, and we couldn’t be more excited – or happy.

There’s more, of course, but when looking back on this year, those are the stories that will stand out, the ones that’ll forever represent 2011. I’m not sure anything can compare with getting married, but I do look forward to the next year, and all it will bring. It’s time to start from scratch and try something new. I know the bad will come, but I also know the good will be right behind it, waiting to shine.