Smoph's musings

Just my thoughts on the world

2014: A Writing Year

Now that it is officially 2015 here in the northern hemisphere, I feel like I can finally take a look back on this year and see where I’m starting from this year, particularly in terms of my writing. It’s been a big year for me both as a writer and an editor.

IMG_2742-1.JPG2014 had a lot to offer me, and I have to be grateful for its magnanimity. It was the year that I began submitting my work to magazines and anthologies, and there has been a success or two. The year started strongly with my early acceptance into the Subtropical Suspense anthology from Black Beacon Books. I am incredibly proud to have been part of this project; Queensland was my home for a long time and there is much to recommend it. Cameron Trost is also a wonderful editor, and tireless in his endeavours to get these stories out to a wider audience. It’s also been lovely to have so many of my family and friends tell me how much they liked my story, with especially heartwarming praise from my grandfather comparing it stories published in a highly regarded suspense magazine that he enjoyed. This anthology will always hold a special place in my heart as my first publication.

twistyxmas3The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, from Phantom Feather Press out of New Zealand, were my second success. This children’s publishing press is a powerhouse, and the collective powers of Alicia Ponder, Eileen Mueller and Peter Friend are immense. They marketed for all it was worth, were very inclusive of the authors as well as allowing us all to help, and ran a great crowdfunding campaign, which resulted in a sell out launch and sales doing very well up to Christmas. I heard about this anthology through a new friend, Dan Rabarts (great Kiwi writer to keep an eye out for), and had a couple of ideas, one of which was my Manuka Mischief story. I will review the collection soon, here on the blog, but the team at Phantom Feather Press collected some great writers here, so it is well worth checking out (details here). After I had been accepted, I also discovered Eileen is a cousin of our dear Kiwi friend here in Vancouver, Jacqui. Small world!

So, in 2014 I submitted thirteen times, and was accepted twice, for an acceptance rate of 15%. 36% of those submissions received personalised feedback from the editor, and several of them positive (enjoyed but of the ‘not quite the fit for this collection’ variety). Of those submissions, there are several stories submitted a number of times. My favourite, a short science fiction called Sleepers, has been hit back from some big markets, but I am aiming high. It’s my best work to date, it feels true to me and to my characters, and it’s polished and ready for the right home. I have more places to try to place it in the new year. I have eight completed shorts that are polished to a degree; some that I need to review in my new year.

Sadly, my novel project is a bit like pulling teeth. I’m proud of the largest narrative I’ve ever written, and by Jim, I will finish it, because I need that victory, so that I know I can. It will need lots of work when I finish it, but hey, what novel doesn’t need that. The original title I had in mind doesn’t really work with the novel as it is shaping up, so it will also need to be renamed.

So overall, writing wise, I’m very pleased with what I’ve done. There’s been oodles of words and lots of hard work from me here.

This year was also a reasonable editing year for me. I’ve continued as the Editor in Chief at the SQ Mag ezine. I have however been very grateful to receive the help of some great slush readers in the latter part of the year. It’s been great working with Paula Boer, Gareth Edwards and Louise Zedda-Sampson. It’s also been wonderful to review alongside author Mysti Parker and Damien Smith. Gerry Huntman has, as always, been a great boss and the behind the scenes guru. It’s been another great year working together, Gerry!

I’ve also completed the Brumbies series with Paula Boer, as part of my ongoing work with IFWG Publishing Australia. I worked with Paula on the last of her series this year: Brumbies in the Outback and the very recently released Brumbies in the Mountains. I’m so pleased to have been a part of this process over the years. We’ve worked together since Paula’s first book came out: The Okapi Promise. Paula’s prose has gotten so tight with these last couple of books that editing has gotten to be so easy! It’s been great to get to work together and I think the quality of her books speaks to the passion we both have for her work. Congratulations to Paula on the completion of your series, and I wish you all the best with the new project that is in the works!

Another wonderful work I helped get out there this year is a debut novel, a science fiction called The Pouakai by David Sperry. David’s a US writer out of Seattle these days, but he’s a pilot and former resident of the Hawaiian Islands, where the novel is set. This took a little while to organise, due to me, but David was so great to work with and his story is extremely imaginative–the aliens in it are really different. He also introduces people to smaller islands in the Pacific, which I always think is great. If you have time, pop on over and have a look at his book on the IFWG page.

On a personal note, there’s been some great connections I’ve made with other writers this year. I’ve been lucky enough to be included in a small online writing group, courtesy of a few writing friends I’ve made in the publishing game. We worked in a 6 stories/pieces in 6 weeks challenge, which I really think was the most productive portion of my year. I’m really honoured to be included amongst the puppies and have made some great friends along the way. It’s wonderful to have a group of people to be your sounding boards, editors and beta readers, commiserators and cheer squad, who you know are all facing the same struggles. Thanks for including me.

I’ve also got a great writing group here in Vancouver. I meet with the girls irregularly about once a month. They are a wonderful and lively bunch. Caitlin has been a great friend, Deana has made me open my mind to get my head around a couple of my faltering stories, and Jen and I have been brainstorming on how to cure the science fiction world of its hesitation about female writers in the genre. Each of these girls has read my work and helped me make it better in some way, and they’ve been great to bring me back up when I have been feeling imposter syndrome. With all my heart, thank you, my friends!

I’m also very grateful to Deana for turning me on to the Surrey International Writers Conference this year. This is very much a craft-centric event, and I felt like I learnt a lot. I wish I had been up to the point where I could have worked on my synopsis with an editor, or had a fellow author read my work and critique it, or even pitched to an agent. It’s a crucial learning process I could have used and I certainly would recommend this to any person who writes and wants to be published.

Particularly, I want to thank all of my friends who read and constructively criticised my work this year. It has helped so much, with both my opportunities and with what I’ve learnt. I do want to add a shout out to my other writer friend Mark Hargrave, whose advice and deconstruction has been solid and so right every time.

Also, thank you to everyone who either bought, reviewed, shared any piece that I’ve worked on online, or given me their honest thoughts. It is so important to hear how you liked my writing, or promoted it. That support keeps me going. You all rock.

Otherwise, the only other big event of this year was my engagement. After four and a half years, Greg decided that he liked me enough to keep me around, and proposed on a mountain top in the Yukon. I am a bit sore at the Aurora Borealis for not being visible so he could go with his original plan of proposing to me under them, but one small satisfaction is you can’t really hear me complaining about cold hands and being obstinate on our proposal video (sneaky Greg).

2014 was hard, but I think it was a learning year for me professionally. I am grateful for my lessons, but I am hoping to have a bit more success in the future without so many tears and tribulations. Bring on 2015, may it be a successful one for us all.

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