2016 In Review: Part Two (Life, Health and Happiness)

Welcome to Part Two of my 2016 wrap-up! Part One was all about writing and reading, but this one’s more of a collection of candid ramblings about – you guessed it – life, health and happiness.

Life

To be honest, there weren’t too many big life developments throughout 2016. As I mentioned before I dropped off the blogosphere, I was taking some internships while working at a bookshop, working for Writer’s Edit, and trying to get my freelance career up and running.

Apart from the internships, which I finished halfway through the year, things look pretty much the same now as they did throughout 2016. I had hoped to be well and truly finished at the bookshop by now, able to rely on freelance income without the necessity of a ‘side job’ to keep me afloat financially. Alas, I’m not quite there yet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately, and in particular, how I don’t make very much of it. I’m aware, of course, that the industry I’ve chosen is not the most lucrative. Nobody pursues a creative career for the money. But that doesn’t change the fact that you need it.

I’ve found that while ever I’m worrying about trying to bring in more work and more money, though, I can’t focus on doing anything creative. I feel like I have to be spending all my spare time focusing on work, and can’t really justify spending time on my own writing, for example. It’s been really hard to keep things in balance, to maintain my creative identity and my dreams.

I have this grand vision of how I want my life to look: managing my own days, being my own boss, balancing my work and my creative pursuits, taking charge of my future. Some days, that vision seems very far away. But at the moment, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about this year. I’m feeling like it could hopefully, finally, be the one where I make it happen.

If and when it does, I’ll be sure to let you know.

lifeImage via Kaboompics

While things haven’t changed or progressed as much as I’d like between last year and this one, there’s one thing I’m glad has remained constant, and that’s Writer’s Edit. Since starting out as an Editorial Assistant right after I lost my job almost two years ago, Writer’s Edit has become such a huge part of my life. I’ve learned more, worked on more rewarding projects, and had more fun than I ever dreamed when I first applied for that temporary intern-style role.

I’ve now moved from Editorial Assistant to Editor, and am so excited to be continuing with Writer’s Edit into the future. In 2016, we achieved all sorts of wonderful stuff: launching an ebook about publishing and the final volume of the Kindling anthologies; publishing plenty of great articles and reaching plenty of great milestones; and making some truly exciting plans and developments for the future (stay tuned for more on those).

But the most life-changing thing that’s come from my involvement with Writer’s Edit isn’t the professional development and opportunity it’s afforded me. It’s the two incredible, lifelong friends I’ve made in Helen and Kyra. More on these incredible women in the ‘Happiness’ section below.

kindling-anthologiesImage via Kyra Thomsen

Health

Back in October, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. To be honest, I actually considered the diagnosis a good thing. It was a relief to finally be able to put a name to what had been making me feel pretty terrible for a pretty long time; it felt great to be finally doing something about it by seeking treatment.

After diagnosis and a treatment plan, I was responding to my new medications really well and feeling better than ever. Nate and I went on a holiday in November (more on that below); I came home feeling happy, healthy and refreshed, ready to see out the rest of 2016.

And then… My body turned on me completely.

At the very end of November I came down with what I thought was a simple cold/flu. But it dragged on, and got worse, and dragged on, and got worse. Whatever infection I’d picked up also set off my other condition into a flare-up, which meant a truly horrible double whammy of symptoms. I’ll spare you the details – suffice it to say that for three straight weeks, I was sicker than I’ve ever been in my life.

There were endless visits to the doctor, sleepless nights, countless needles, tests and tests and more tests, different types of drugs… I simply couldn’t function as a human being, and I wasn’t getting any better. It was not a fun time.

Anyway, as Christmas crept closer, I was finally put on some medication that made me feel better for the first time in weeks. But that came with an interesting set of side effects in itself, and my recovery was slow. In fact, it’s only been this last week or so that I can say I’ve felt like I’m back to my normal self (or as close as I remember ‘normal’ being, anyway).

health_2Image via Unsplash

Now that I’m well again, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about just how important my health is.

We all take our health for granted from time to time, and sometimes it takes a period of illness like this to serve as a wake-up call. I generally take pretty good care of myself; but now, having experienced such a period of absolute debilitation, I’m going to redouble my efforts.

Having spent almost a month not being able to do anything, learning how it felt to effectively lose that whole period of my life, I want to aim never to take my health for granted again. I want to take full advantage of being lucky enough to enjoy a properly working body (well, almost properly working!) full of life and energy.

I’m going to manage my condition as best I can, and set myself up for the best possible health with more good food, more exercise, more time spent outdoors, more living.

Bring it on, 2017.

health_1

Happiness

Despite the less-than-ideal December I had, the rest of 2016 was pretty great. There were a lot of things that made me happy – my incredible partner, amazing family and wonderful friends being the main ones.

Here are two of my top happiness highlights from 2016…

A holiday with Nate

After not having been on a proper holiday for almost two years, Nate and I took two whole weeks off together in November, and it was the absolute highlight of my year. First we camped in beautiful North Haven, then road-tripped up to Byron Bay, somewhere neither of us had been before.

We spent time at the beach and by the pool, went on hikes and drives, read books, visited breweries, lighthouses and waterfalls, ate lots of good food, and just generally spent some super lovely quality time together. Then we had a few days just to spend at home before we both returned to work, which was lovely, PLUS we finished it all off with an awesome night at the launch of Kindling III.

Best. Two weeks. Ever. I love this boy with every bit of my heart, and I can’t wait for our next adventure.

happiness_1

happiness_4

happiness_3

happiness_5

happiness_2

Adventures with Helen and Kyra

These two girls, seriously. I don’t know what I would have done in 2016 without them. I can’t quite express how much I appreciate having them by my side as we all try to make it in this crazy world of writing and publishing.

But even more than that, I appreciate their friendship. They’re two of the wisest, funniest, most wonderful and supportive friends I’ve got, and for that I consider myself so, so lucky to have become so much closer to them over the last year.

From a road-trip to a publishing festival in Canberra, to Kyra and Justin’s beautiful wedding in Robertson, to an actual Harry Potter party at a club in Sydney, we had a LOT of fun together in 2016. And there are plenty more adventures on the way!

This year, all three of us will be focusing on bringing our first fantasy novels into the world, and I couldn’t think of two people I’d rather take that journey with. I know there’ll be plenty of love, laughs and most likely wine involved along the way. <3

happiness_6

happiness_8

happiness_7

***

So what’s coming up in 2017?

As well as working hard to make my dreams come true and all that jazz, here are a few things I’m particularly looking forward to this year…

  • Nate’s and my five-year anniversary, which we’re planning to celebrate in Melbourne.
  • A ten-day trip to California with my beloved sister Liv.
  • A writers’ retreat/girly weekend with Kyra and Helen.

Yep – it’s already shaping up to be a pretty lovely year, I think.

I can’t wait to see what else it has in store. :)

Advertisements

2016 In Review: Part One (Writing and Reading)

Well… I’ve done it again.

I’ve let my poor, long-suffering blog sit gathering dust and cobwebs – this time, for almost an entire year.

I’m pretty disappointed in myself for taking such a long hiatus. But hey – it’s the first week of 2017 now, and I’m ready to forgive myself and start fresh!

To kick things back off, I’m doing a round-up of 2016 in two parts: Writing and Reading, and Life, Health and Happiness. I’m starting with the straight-up stuff here, all about the things I wrote and read in 2016, and in a few days, I’ll follow up with a bit more of a personal post about what’s been going on with me.

Then, I’ll be aiming to post at least monthly, recapping what’s been going on in my bookish and writerly life throughout the year. This was my intention last year as well, but come March, my life had gotten so hectic that I just couldn’t commit to one more thing… So off the blogging bandwagon I fell once again. But anyway, more about that in Part Two.

For now, let’s get stuck into the fun stuff… Writing and reading!

Image via freestocks.orgImage via freestocks.org

Writing

2016 was a bit of a mixed year for me when it came to writing, mainly because I don’t really feel like I did very much of it. I mean, sure, I wrote thousands upon thousands of words for work, but creatively? Not so much. But it wasn’t all bad, and besides, looking back on things now makes me even more determined to write loads more in 2017.

Here’s a round-up of writing bits and pieces from 2016:

My novel

Ahh, yes… The fantasy novel. That thing I started back in November 2015 and still haven’t finished. About that…

Well, after vowing to get back to writing my draft in early 2016, I embarked upon a self-imposed ‘NaNoWriMarch’ with the lovely Helen. But while Helen blazed ahead like the writing Wonderwoman she is, I only managed a mere 7,000 words before my NaNoWriMarch reverted back into plain old Regular March.

This wasn’t for lack of trying, though. Truth was, I’d simply taken on too much at this point in time (notice how March was also when my blog dropped off the face of the earth again?). I was working three part-time jobs, completing two internships, and trying to keep up with life and writing on top of all that.

Needless to say, something had to give before I burned out completely. And that something, sadly, was my little novel.

But all isn’t lost! I haven’t given up. The dream is still there, and later last year, I started making concerted efforts to rekindle it again.

I asked Nate to get me Scrivener for my birthday. I started reading research books about perfumery. I did yet more plotting and planning. I even actually wrote a few snippets in some of our Writer’s Edit Twitter word sprints (which will be starting back up sometime this year – keep an eye out and join us!).

To be honest, I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole thing. I feel like there’s still SO much I need to work out about the characters and the story and the concepts before I can dive properly back into writing.

But this year, I’m determined to finally finish my draft. I want to be able to give it to my favourite writerly ladies, the amazing Helen and Kyra, so they can help me fix what will undoubtedly be a bit of a hot mess. I want to create intriguing characters and make magic and tell a good story and build a world all of my own.

In short, I want 2017 to be the year I really live up to the title of ‘writer’.

I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.

paperback-bird-2Image via Unsplash

Newcastle Short Story Award

In my last (very long-ago) post, I mentioned that I’d submitted an eleventh-hour entry to the Newcastle Short Story Award. Well, it turned out that I was lucky enough to be shortlisted, and my story, ‘The Land of Always Living’, was published in the 2016 anthology!

This was super exciting for me – I’d never been shortlisted for an award like this before. So needless to say, I was stoked to be able to attend the awards ceremony, drink a celebratory glass of bubbles with my lovely friend Mat, and see my little story in print.

I’m in wonderful company in this anthology. I was so inspired reading all the amazing stories from the winners and other shortlisted entrants. I’ll definitely be flicking through it again for inspiration and motivation as I prepare my entry for the 2017 competition!

newcastle-short-story-award

Writer’s Edit

I wrote a bunch of articles for Writer’s Edit last year, and loved every minute of it. I learn so much myself every time I sit down to research these writing advice pieces. It’s my absolute favourite sort of article to write, and I love the feeling that I’m contributing in some small way to the amazing collection of resources for writers we have over at Writer’s Edit.

Here’s a round-up of everything I’ve put together for W.E. since my last blog post here in February:

There’ll be plenty more where those came from in 2017!

paperback-bird-3Image via Pixabay

Reading

2016 was a good reading year for me. I read 62 books in total, 22 more than my original goal of 40 and almost double my 2015 total of 35. This was largely due to the five hours I spent on the train every Wednesday while I was an intern at the NSW Writers’ Centre, which helped me knock over more than a book a week!

In my reading wrap-up for 2015, I mentioned that I wanted to read more non-fiction. Well, after spending 2016 thinking I’d been reading loads more non-fiction books than usual, it turned out that I had read… less than ten. Awkward. But in my defence, there’s just SO MUCH amazing fiction out there, and there’s nothing like finding an incredible new series to lose yourself in (which I did many a time last year!).

Anyway, I want to try again this year and really give non-fiction a proper go. So I’ve decided to aim for, at the very least, 15 non-fiction titles, making up a quarter of my total reading goal of 60 books. (To this end, I’ve gone on an over-enthusiastic reserving spree at the library and put a stack of non-fiction books on hold all at once. Wish me luck when they’re all due at the same time and I have like three weeks to read every single one.)

I also said I’d make an effort to read more Australian authors in 2016, which I did: 17 Aussie-authored books compared with a mere four in 2015. I’d like to up this again in 2017, if possible.

Finally, while we’re talking stats, just out of interest, check out the girl power in my 2016 author breakdown below. Ladies be writing some AMAZING stuff, especially in my beloved fantasy genre.

Anyway, here’s a round-up of everything I read in 2016:

Fiction

  • Half a King – Joe Abercrombie
  • Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  • Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
  • Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  • People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks
  • Truthwitch – Susan Dennard
  • The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
  • American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

crows-kingdom

  • Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
  • In the Quiet – Eliza Henry-Jones
  • The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
  • Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
  • Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
  • The Eye of the Sheep – Sofie Laguna
  • A Man Made Entirely of Bats – Patrick Lenton
  • Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas
  • Heir of Fire – Sarah J. Maas
  • Queen of Shadows – Sarah J. Maas
  • Empire of Storms – Sarah J. Maas
  • The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas

acotar-acomaf

  • Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta
  • Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil – Melina Marchetta
  • Nutshell – Ian McEwan
  • Newcastle Short Story Award Anthology 2016
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid
  • The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling (reread, Jim Kay illustrated edition)
  • Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets – J. K. Rowling (reread, Jim Kay illustrated edition)
  • The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski
  • The Winner’s Crime – Marie Rutkoski
  • The Winner’s Kiss – Marie Rutkoski

winners-trilogy

  • A Darker Shade of Magic – V. E. Schwab
  • A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Schwab
  • This Savage Song – V. E. Schwab
  • Vicious – V. E. Schwab
  • Try Not to Breathe – Holly Seddon
  • The Paper House – Anna Spargo-Ryan
  • An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir
  • The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt

darker-shades-series

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
  • Days of Blood and Starlight – Laini Taylor
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
  • Welcome to Orphancorp – Marlee Jane Ward
  • And I Darken – Kiersten White
  • The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood
  • All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-series

Non-fiction

  • The Diary of a Nose – Jean-Claude Ellena
  • Fight Like a Girl – Clementine Ford
  • Joe Cinque’s Consolation – Helen Garner
  • This House of Grief – Helen Garner
  • Givaudan: An Odyssey of Flavours and Fragrances – Annick Le Guérer
  • A Murder Without Motive: The Killing of Rebecca Ryle – Martin McKenzie-Murray
  • Alex & Me – Irene M. Pepperberg

helen-garner

Author breakdown

  • Books by female authors: 47
  • Books by male authors: 15
  • Books by Australian authors: 17

Genre breakdown

  • Fantasy/speculative fiction: 39
  • Literary/general fiction: 14
  • Short story collections: 2
  • Non-fiction: 7

***

Well, that concludes Part One of my 2016 round-up. Part Two: Life, Health and Happiness is forthcoming, so put the kettle on… I’ll be back soon (and I mean it this time!).

:)

paperback-birdImage via Unsplash