For many of us, 2016 was a punch in the gut. We remember those we lost with heavy hearts, including celebrities David Bowie, Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, and Carrie Fisher, as well as those involved in the Pulse nightclub shooting and the destruction of Syria. It was a rough year for divisive politics and violent incidences around the world, and most people were left gasping for breath when the clock struck midnight New Year’s Eve and it was finally over.
But I’ve challenged myself to remember all the good that happened to me last year. It was my senior year of University, a milestone not to be taken lightly. I read thirty books for my own enjoyment over the course of the year, and finished the first draft of my novel in a successful November of writing. In August, I embraced veganism and adopted a completely plant-based diet. I began INDEX this past year as a means of creative expression, and have seen it grow into a small part of myself. I hiked, wrote poetry, and travelled for the first time away from the East Coast. It was a year of firsts, and a year of returning to the simple things that make me happy.
Now it’s time to look ahead at the map of things I’m most looking forward to in the new year.
AWP Conference & Bookfair
The AWP Conference & Bookfair is an annual event I had the pleasure of attending last year in California. Through my University, I was able to attend four days of panels and readings full of insightful dialogue, networking, and tips for writers and publishers alike. It’s the biggest literary conference in North America, and opened my eyes to he vast world of contemporary literature. Frankly, being across the country for the first time—at a conference of over 12,000 attendees—was a shock to my system. It was so much to take in and learn from. I left the experience with my heart in my shoes and an overwhelming sense of foreboding. Even so, the conference influenced me to take my future more seriously. I wrote more this year than I ever have in the past because of it.
This year, the AWP Conference will take place a little closer to home—in Washington D.C.. In a just under a month I will be in a plane and on my way to my second biggest experience in the literary community. With this trip, I hope to accomplish more than I did last time. I want to attend more panels on things that interest me, such as the craft of the personal essay or specific genre writing. I’ve got a strong head on my shoulders this time around, and I’m planning on making the most of this opportunity.
With the new year comes a whole slew of new book releases, some which I’m highly anticipating. In the forefront lie two novels by one of my favorite authors, Victoria Schwab (or V.E. Schwab). After devouring A Darker Shade of Magic, and it’s sequel, A Gathering of Shadows, it’s only fitting that the release of the third book in the trilogy falls only a day before my birthday. A Conjuring of Light will be in my hands the second it hits bookshelves. (I may or may not have a secret countdown to its release date, February 22.)
The Shades of Magic series takes place
in the 18th century, between parallel Londons—four cities that share a name and geographic location, but are each in a very different planes of existence. Magical travel between the different Londons has been severely restricted except to two individuals who possess the ability to open doors. Kell is one of those last travelers. When he is not being an ambassador for the Maresh empire, he is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. The series follows Kell and a Grey Londoner and cutthroat named Delilah Bard as they struggle to stifle a dark magic that threatens to destroy everything in its wake. I am also highly anticipating the release of Our Dark Duet, the second in a series by Victoria Schwab. This book follows Kate Harker, a girl who hunts monsters, and will hit shelves in June.
Another release that has me excited for the upcoming months includes The Child by Fiona Barton. This stand-alone adult mystery is by the same author as The Widow—a novel I only recently read and reviewed.
With an incredibly rough first draft finally finished and filed away for safe keeping, I have an immense task ahead of me. Revision.
“The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.”
Many authors have said the second draft of a novel is when the story is actually written,that what came before is merely a slew of thoughts and ideas that don’t take shape until the red pen hits the page. Looking at my mess of a first draft, I can only hope this is true. Writing a novel in thirty days is not easy. It led to a lot of on-the-fly changes and gaping plot holes that threatened to consume my entire manuscript. Since printing my first draft and putting it down with a smack on top of my dresser, I haven’t touched it. The dreaded thought of outlining, re-writing, and revising my draft has haunted me since the day I validated my word count on the NaNoWriMo website.
This is probably the biggest thing that awaits me in the upcoming year. Yes, I wrote a novel. Yes, it’s something I’ve never been able to accomplish before. I’m proud of my work, but it’s time to follow through. I can’t say my novel is finished until it can stand alone without me cringing in the background. I’m reserving the bulk of my editing and re-writing for the summer, when I’ll spend three months finishing what I started.
My list wouldn’t be complete without a Netflix original. I jumped on the Stranger Things bandwagon late, and was immediately sucked in to the 80s nostalgia trip (even though that era was before my time). It reminded me of a Stephen King novel, honestly. All of the kids from season one, including Noah Schnapp (Will), Finn Wolfhard (Mike), and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) will be returning, along with new characters Billy and Max, played by Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink. I’m excited to see what this season brings, though I have a faint idea it will center around Will. A headline of a newspaper clipping shown in the season one finale read “The Boy Who Came Back To Life,” which is the name of upcoming second episode. Although there’s no exact date for the drop of the second season, speculation says it will more than likely be this summer.
It’s not a surprise my plans for the upcoming year revolve around reading and writing. 2017 will be a year of immersing myself in what I love most, as well as a year of pushing boundaries. An important goal of mine involves expanding my horizons and finding new ways to expose myself to the world abroad. If all goes well, I will be traveling to Scotland this summer for a travel writing program through my university. It’s an amazing opportunity I don’t want to miss, and something that could possibly push me towards a master’s program overseas. Edinburgh, Scotland is an amazing destination that I need to see for myself.
No matter what life throws at me, I’m hoping these goals will set the tone for a tremendous year and an even better future, even if it means getting out of my comfort zone or buckling down to get that second draft done. It’ll be a year of accomplishments and a chance to show myself there’s a lot worth writing about.