Saturday, December 31, 2011

365 Days

Where did the days of last year go?

Days (and nights) flew by, consumed by family, work, writing. But everything seemed harder to come by, and as I round the stretch of 2011 I realize: I am tired.

This year, for the first time, my body began to feel its age. Ten weeks in physical therapy for a bum shoulder (exacerbated by the sedentary lifestyle of a writer and professor); now, an achy lower back alleviated by a new yoga regimen and Miracle Balls (no, not what you think). My mind also found difficulty focusing; between the stimulation of work, my writing program, and the gazillions of stories and poems begging to be born, sitting at my desk at dawn often felt an exercise in frustration.

Still, I managed to write:
*32 poems, 33,000 words on a novel-in-progress, 28 pages of critical essays for class, more than 2 dozen microfictions, major revisions on two novels, and a half-way decent query letter for CLOSER TO NORMAL that has (so far) netted a full and several partial requests

*A few honors: SHUT-EYE garnered an honorable mention in the String-of-10 contest run by Flash Fiction Chronicles, 2 poems made Robert Brewer's Top 50 Poem-A-Day picks, and Camroc Press Review nominated LAST TRIP for Best-of-the-Net

*Fifteen stories and poems found homes in literary journals run by editors I admire, including Monkeybicycle, Blue Fifth Review, Thunderclap!, Pure Slush, Right Hand Pointing, Eclectic Flash, Every Day Fiction, Connotation Press, The Linnets Wings, and Istanbul Literary Review. THANK YOU editors who found enough worth in my words to publish them.

*Reading informs my writing, so I read, always. I consumed a lot of novels and short story collections, but the reading went slower than in prior years: I read as a writer rather than a reader. I read this past year for structure, for understanding how the thread of theme is established in the first words. I will have another post soon on my favorite reads, but there are books I will not soon forget: OLIVE KITTERIDGE, THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, THE BEE_LOUD GLADE, and collections of stories by Tobias Wolff, Aleksander Hemon, Meg Pokrass, and Laura van der Berg.

My day job demanded much, but rewarded more. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach my marvelous students and watch them move on to academic and clinical positions. Several new grants focusing on substance abuse in Maryland, the quality of psychopharmacological medication use in nursing homes, and depression in patients with emphysema kept my salary on par and revitalized my research.

But the past year is more than a list, more than numbers. The past year embodied a constant struggle to maintain balance and, for the first time in five years, writing did not always win. Until this year, much of my writing was driven by the fear the words would dry up. So I would write madly, compromising at times my relationships, my health, the chores. I no longer fear I will stop writing as suddenly as I started six year ago tomorrow. There is no need to rush, the words, the ideas, they all will incubate and percolate and marinate and be there when I am ready. For this realization I am grateful.

My only regret is the necessary busy-ness of this year required me to prioritize my time, which ended up limiting my involvement with so many writers and readers in my online communities. To visit your blogs, to read your words at fictionaut, to follow your successes via facebook and twitter... a treat to spend a few minutes with you. A tremendous reward. I hope time loosens a bit in 2012, so I can savor your stories and poems and lives.

I am not one to make resolutions, but I do know what I need to work on this upcoming year: my health, my family, my friends, and the slow approach to writing.

My Health: I need to fix my back, which means I need to walk 10,000 or more steps a day (pedometer - check), shed 10 pounds (Weight Watchers - check), and increase my flexibility (weekly yoga - check; daily stretches and Miracle Balls - check)

My Family: Spend more concentrated time with each of my children and, of course, the husband

My Friends: Spend more time with both virtual and cyber friends. Make phone call dates with those friends who live far away, share a meal with those who live nearby

My Writing: Remember to take time with stories and poems, keep them close until satisfied they are finished. Do not worry so much about finding homes but finding the right words.

Most of all, I hope 2012 brings balance, to me, to you, to the world writ large.

Thank you dear readers for sharing the journey. Peace...


  1. Health is important so take care of that. I can say this because being in my sixties I know that good health is a pre-requisite to everything else you want to do in life.
    Happy New Year, Gillian

  2. Oh, Happy New Year, dear Linda! You are always an inspiration to me and I'm glad to see you are making your health a priority. (Let me know how Weight Watchers goes for you! I am a HUGE fan of the program.)
    And I want one of those Miracle Balls. No, not those kind....
    See ya in the funny papers!

  3. "Pontificate" you say. Well, it sounds like you've been working way too hard. Your list of accomplishments are amazing, for sure, but I hope you really do look after your health this year. Rest is good, remember that! Congratulations on the homes you've been finding for your writings. That's something I'm going to work on for mine. But I hear you about focusing on finding the right words first. Get well and Happy New Year!

  4. Dear all, Happy New Year! So much potential in 2012, I feel it!

    Let me lay to rest any concerns regarding my health. I am, at least believe I am, in fine health. But the years have made me more creaky, and I am at last realizing I need to oil my joints and shed a few pounds. It's just a refocusing on the regular preventive stuff I once took care with but have neglected. Ah, getting older is no picnic! Peace...

  5. a little late to the party, sorry, but you've had such an amazingly productive year just in terms of what we've gotten to see here... i've been very impressed. i can't wait to hear about how the novel etc unfolds :)