Happy New Year! (Also, Have Some Turn-of-the-Year Ritual)

Happy New Year! Now that all the time zones are in, I think we can safely say ciao to 2018 and look eagerly forward to 2019.

As a creature of habit, I appreciate the measure of structure and stability that routine and ritual provide, and at this time of year, I enjoy indulging in a little bit of year-in-review. I also tend to make public my writing resolutions for the new year, as if publishing them will help hold me accountable. (I mean, sometimes that works.)

So here we go!

On Sappho’s Torque this past year, the most popular posts, hands-down, were the ones in which I shared either my or other people’s poetry. In April, to celebrate National Poetry Month here in the US, I curate a poem-a-day series. It has been going strong for several years now and remains one of the most popular features on my blog. Here are a few of the other top posts — ones which had nothing to do with poetry — this year:

My Little Free Library
What We Say, Or Don’t
The Pep Rally I Cannot Forget

Interestingly, that last one is from 2015, but it always makes a big splash again during high school football season.

A couple of years ago, I made a commitment to read more books just for fun, and doing so has improved my quality of life exponentially. I became a writer in part because reading has been one of my absolute favorite things to do since I was very young; I loved reading stories and felt compelled to create new ones. Teaching and parenting tend to drain away one’s free time, and so reading just for fun (like other things I did for self-care) fell by the wayside.

Disregarding one’s self-care generally doesn’t end well.

So I started carving out the time to read, even if only for ten minutes before bedtime each night. It reduced my stress and improved the quality of my sleep. I incorporated free choice reading into some of my classes; that helped, too, because I did it alongside my students. And then I began keeping a list of the books I was reading for fun each year. I try to read a wide variety of things, but I will also concede that I most enjoy reading books in the genres I write or want to write, and at least half a dozen of the books on this list were for research for my writing or teaching. So here is my list for 2018; you’ll find a preponderance of fantasy and magic realism and poetry, as well as some science fiction, realistic fiction, romance, and comics. These titles are not ranked in any way but listed alphabetically by author. I strongly recommend maybe a dozen of them (starred). (A few of these books were re-reads from many years ago; I’ve also not listed books which I began reading but did not finish, for one reason or another.)

Dawn (Octavia Butler) *
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
Close to the Edge (Zara Cox) *
Unleashed (Caitlin Crews) *
When a Scot Ties the Knot (Tessa Dare)
The Mistress of Spices (Chitra Divakaruni) *
Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel) *
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
Shadow of Night (Deborah Harkness) *
The Book of Life (Deborah Harkness) *
The Midnight Queen (Sylvia Izzo Hunter)
Justice League: Volume 1, Origin (Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams)
At the Bottom of the River (Jamaica Kincaid)
Hallow Point (Ari Marmell) *
His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik) *
Binti (Nnedi Okorafor) *
Wicked Like a Wildfire (Lana Popović) *
the magic my body becomes (Jess Rizkallah)
The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan) *
Mala of the Heart (various authors) *

This brings me to my writing resolutions for the new year. Most of my Writing Career Time has been consumed the last few months with finishing up my forthcoming book of poetry, The Sharp Edges of Water. We’re on track still for a January release date, which is awesome, but this process has really taken a long time (as it does). My goals for this year include finding some way to write at least 200 words a day (or a complete poem or blog post). What would be amazing is if I could finish the first draft of the new novel I’m working on, which has really taken a backseat to the book of poetry (as it had to).

But this week, I’ll be getting back to the WIP, and I’m super excited about that! I’m happiest when I’m writing a story I love.

I have a few other resolutions, too, such as hitting 100 rejections this year (which I came close to in 2018, I think, though I wasn’t honestly counting). The idea behind this is that if you’re submitting your work out often enough to hit 100 rejections in a year, you’re bound to get some acceptances. I’ve found this logic to be quite sound: the more I submit my work, the more publications I garner. The main obstacle for me is just making time to do it. (Don’t get me started on the millions of ways the publishing industry makes it a financial, emotional, and logistical challenge for writers to get individual pieces published. We’ll be here all day. I’m in the game and aware of it; that has to be enough for now.)

I’m also looking forward to participating again in the August Postcard Poetry Fest; last year was my first time to do it and it was awesome! And as if that weren’t enough, I have yet another collection of poems which will go into editing later this year. Watch for news on that when it manifests.

I won’t say it’s easy being both a fiction writer and a poet. I will say it’s fulfilling to do both, though, and for me, each type of writing informs the other.

So that’s all for now. I’ll write more later with some fun opportunities you might be interested in. Until then, enjoy the book you’re reading, and if you’re not reading one, find one. It will likely do you good.

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The Turn of the Year

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2016!

 

free image from http://minndirmzs.tk/new-year-free-pictures/
free image from http://minndirmzs.tk/new-year-free-pictures/

 

Like I typically do, I want to share a few interesting — well, interesting to me at least — statistics about this past year in the life of my blog, and to also let you know about what’s coming up for this next year in my writing life. Brief mention of a resolution or several might accidentally find its way into this post, but since those things are notoriously adept at self-sabotage, maybe I’ll just make some suggestions about where, in this moment, I’m eager to see my writing career meander. You know, all casual-like, because we’ve seen that Pronouncements are rarely flexible enough to work In Real Life.

So first, some nifty stats.

Sappho’s Torque had a good year, with nearly 7,000 hits. That might not sound like very much, but for my tiny little operation that doesn’t even get a new post every week (more on that later), it’s kind of lovely. Building a platform with social media and a blog is a long, slow process, but a worthwhile one, it appears, since new subscribers are jumping on board with pretty much every post. (And hey, thank you!) WordPress tells me my blog is being read in 99 countries, but I’m not sure how much of that number matters and how much of it is Wonky Computer Network Ephemera That Means Nothing In A Practical Sense. What is interesting — again, to me — is that, after the US, the blog’s biggest readership is in the UK (not a surprise) and Brazil (definitely a surprise). It appears that Brazil has edged out Canada and Australia, which were previously two of my biggest audiences. Yet I know I still have faithful readers in Canada and Australia, so… Go Brazil! Welcome!

Among the most popular posts on my blog this past year were ones from some of my periodic series, including April’s Poet-a-Day, Women Writers Wednesday, and the 12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo. But the most popular stand-alone post — and in fact it was one of the most popular posts of all this year — was The Pep Rally I Cannot Forget, an intense little memoir piece. These kinds of posts, ones that allow me to tell stories and comment on them, and sometimes come to terms with them, through the perspective of hindsight, are my favorite ones to write. One of my goals for 2016 is to write more of them. I’ve got a lot of material for this type of post, a long list of stories I want to tell, and my hope is that this coming year I’ll find the time to write a bunch of them and share them with you.

A recap of my writing accomplishments for 2015 includes the achievement of a few goals that I can’t quite tell you about just yet (though I will as soon as I can, depend on it), but also a few noteworthy things that I can now mention. For one, my newest collection of poems, PLAYING HOUSE, is almost ready for publication and should be available this year. Watch for exciting announcements in that vein in the coming months.

And for two, those of you who are fans of FINIS. — and oh, how I do so appreciate you and your emails and posts on my social media and your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads! — you will hopefully be pleased to note that the new, illustrated print version is now out and available! The print edition contains four beautiful drawings by Houston artist Lauren Taylor.

 

Elsa and Gerard, as imgined by Lauren Taylor
The fifth image for FINIS.: Elsa and Gerard, as imagined by Lauren Taylor.

 

You can click here to get FINIS. on Amazon in either ebook (unillustrated) or print (illustrated) form, but know that the ebook is still available pretty much everywhere ebooks are sold, and the print edition is coming very soon to other stores. (It may already be there by the time you read this post, but slow distribution times at the holidays being what they are, etc. etc. you know how it goes, etc.) I hope you love the illustrated print edition — early response to it so far has been very positive — and that you will continue leaving reviews of it on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews are the best way to expand the audience for a book. Thank you again to those who have done so!

Many people have asked, since FINIS. came out, if I plan to expand it into a larger novel or if I’m writing a sequel. The answer on both of those, at the moment, is no; however, I am writing more stories set in that world. One of them is in its final stage of editing right now and is called “Farce Macabre” — a title I hope it will get to keep. I have a third story set in this world which is still in process and a fourth which is in notes. It appears a collection is in the offing, though the timeline on when it will be done is nebulous at best. A few other short stories and novellas, primarily of the “literary” fiction variety, are in the works, too.

My hope is that 2016 will see me write another novel and also launch the vlog I’ve been planning with the exceptionally awesome Sarah Warburton. We keep saying we’re going to do it; now we just need to finish what we’ve started. Other goals I have for the near future include finishing setting up my study in the no-longer-quite-so-new-to-us house and continuing to strive for something like balance in my two careers (writing and teaching). I swear, if I do nothing else this year but achieve work-life balance, I will consider myself the most accomplished person alive. (I will also never experience stress again and probably be able to fly around the world in five minutes like Superman, so don’t hold your breath.)

You can expect to see more fun stuff on the blog this year like A-Poem-A-Day for April and more recipes and stories and maybe even a writing contest or two. We have some political conventions coming up later this year, and those are always good for a short-form poem contest like the one we had back in 2012. I’m actively soliciting more work for the Women Writers Wednesday series, too, so if you’d like to suggest a female-identifying author for it, please send me a message here or on Facebook or Twitter (@AngeliqueJamail).

I’m also curious: what else do you want to see here on the blog in 2016? Feel free to make suggestions; I’m always interested in what you want to read.

 

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Special thanks to Dharma Comics for permission to use this image. See their other work at www.dharmacomics.com or on Facebook here.