2017 Look Back

City Park, New Orleans, January 1, 2017

The years teach much which the days never know. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I think back just twelve months ago, I remember a whole lot of uncertainty. We (the U.S.) had just completed one of the most surprising election cycles in recent history, and certainly in my history. My posts from a year ago reflect that state of uncertainty, to a degree. There was talk of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, some angst on my part over missing a #WritersResist event in New York.

I’m relieved to write that I feel a modest degree less uncertain now. The Republic still stands, the government still functions. (You can read into “functions” what you will, it’s a broad term.) On a personal level, I’m still employed, I still have some savings for the future, and I’m still writing.

This post completes the second full calendar year of this blog. On the “published writer” front, I signed a publishing contract with After Glows Publishing in the first quarter of 2017, and re-released The Incident Under the Overpass with them in September. I hope that the follow-up to TIUTO will release in the first half of 2018.

I had an essay published in OUTSIDE IN MAKES IT SO: 174 New Perspectives on 174 Star Trek TNG Stories by 174 Writers. I will have a short story appear in the sci-fi anthology Just a Minor Malfunction, issue #4, in late February 2018.

My progress in the published realm feels slow, but at least I can state that there is progress. And while I’m glad to be putting 2017 to bed, the year definitely had its highlights. I thought it would be nice to reflect on the new places I saw this past year:

  • Whitney Plantation: a sobering start to the new year, as I learned more about the role my ancestors played in the life of this once-successful sugar plantation. While not happy times for me, any occasion where my eyes are truly opened is worth remembering.
  • Düsseldorf: I saw a city in Germany I’d never seen before. Also of note, this is the only new place I encountered with my job—every other new place was of my own volition.
  • New Smyrna Beach: vacation with husband Tim on Florida’s Atlantic coast.
  • Murfreesboro, Tennessee: my first total solar eclipse!
  • Greece: a happier occasion to have my eyes opened, on vacation in one of the planet’s cradles of civilization.

So once again, Ralph Waldo Emerson states it best. The last days of 2016 certainly did not have places like Greece or things like a total solar eclipse in their sights. I’m grateful for the cumulative learning offered by this past year.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson and ELO

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.

My calendar is one of the talismans of my writing life. I think it began in 2012—on a weekend away in late 2011, perusing a bookstore on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I found a mini-monthly calendar with some cool inspirational quotes. This is just what I need! I thought. I hung it up on the wardrobe that sits to the left of my desk, and have spent much time (perhaps too much time) pondering the quote that hangs there, anytime I turn my attention from my screen. Little did I know that purchase would beget an annual mini-panic that strikes about mid-December. I need a new calendar!

Up to now, bookstores have been my saving grace. It’s there that I can usually find something that strikes the right note for the year ahead. But alas, bookstores came up short this year. So I dared to turn to the bookstore’s enemy, the bane of traditional publishers, Amazon. Could it provide what I sought? Indeed, an Amazon search kicked me out to Calendars.com, a vast repository of printed calendars of all shapes and sizes and inspirational intents.

I’ve been pleased with my Calendars.com purchase for 2017. It’s called “First We Dream.” January was some pink and blue clouds, a wheat field, and a quote from William Blake: “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.” February was rocks on a seashore and Goethe: “Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”

And March brought me Ralph Waldo Emerson and the quote that opened this post. And that got me thinking. About transcendentalism and ELO. Yes, ELO, the Electric Light Orchestra. The English rock band most closely affiliated with Jeff Lynne, that hit its heyday in the ‘70s.

But first, transcendentalism. I was first introduced to the philosophy my junior year in high school, in my American Literature class. I was immediately drawn to it—the whole idea that an innate divinity unifies all creation totally jived with how I’d been raised, and on a deeper level, it resonated with some kind of intuitive sense in my gut.

It spurred a deeper dive into Emerson’s writings, but I remember getting bogged down pretty quickly. I recall dense prose. Perhaps it’s worth taking a look with more aged eyes, but being perennially short on time, I’ll settle for the quote that headlines March 2017.

The timing is particularly apropos. I’m in the trenches of trying to make the life I’ve always dreamed for myself: being a writer who can make a living off writing. Finishing my second novel is my current highest priority in that quest. And it all feels like a pretty big dare.

So it’s nice to have Ralph Waldo Emerson up there, urging me on. It’s kind of like having an old friend show up at mile 20 of a marathon, shouting out my name and general encouragement.

And where does ELO fit into all of this? It’s pretty simple. I’ve been an ELO fan longer than I’ve been a fan of transcendentalism. All this talk about dreams—from Emerson, and the 2017 calendar writ large—has planted ELO’s “Hold On Tight” firmly in my head. The song was released in 1981, and the opening lyrics might jog the memories of those of you who remember 1981:

Hold on tight to your dream
Hold on tight to your dream
When you see your ship go sailing
When you feel your heart is breaking
Hold on tight to your dream

More inspiration to keep me going in these last few miles.