Writerly resolutions for 2019

This will be the year that I finally get a full draft written of We, The Rescued. I currently have 25,000 words written, so it shouldn’t be beyond reason to write another 50K or so.

Also, I want to clear out my backlog of half-finished stories and story ideas. My goal is to get a story a month into submittable shape that isn’t something that I’ve taken to a full draft and previously submitted. Hopefully the long story (which hasn’t decided if it wants to be a novella or just a long short) won’t act as a big logjam towards this goal.

I intend to check in here once a month to reflect on progress towards the goal.

2018 in reading

I’ve noticed that over the past few years, the number of books I’ve read each year has been in steady decline. This year I read just 67 books (which, I suppose is still a fair amount).

My favorite reads for the year, in alphabetical order, were:

It’s worth noting that my list is female-dominated, moreso than my overall reading, which continues a pattern from previous years.

Some statistics: books by women accounted for 52.4% of my reading, up from 50.8% last year. PoC: 21.4% up from 16.3%. Dead White Men 10.5% down from 20.1%. Non-US 25.7% down from 39.8%. Translations 4.6% down from 14.1%. Authors new to me 76.7% up from 68%. Re-reads 0.7% down from 2.8%. Authors I’ve met relatively flat 7.5% from 7.2% Median publication year 2013 vs 2009. Books advanced in the reading queue to meet demographic goals, 35.8% up from 24%. Books read as novel research, 16.4% down from 22.7%.

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2018 in rejections (and acceptances)

After a few years of trying, I’ve finally hit my goal of 200 rejections (and then some). This meant that I got a lot more submissions out. The year started strong with a short story acceptance each month from January through April (plus a poem accepted somewhere in there), but then things went quiet for most of the summer before I got a couple more acceptances in the fall.

Graph of fiction acceptances and rejections

My positive response rate dropped somewhat, from 36% to 27% and my acceptance rate also declined from 4.2% to 3.6%.

My poetry numbers confirm that I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to writing poetry and I exist as living proof that a blind monkey throwing darts is bound to hit the target once in a while.

Graph of poetry acceptances and rejections

For those craving numbers, my acceptance rate for 2017 was 0.4% (up from 0% last year!) and my positive response rate was 8.2% up from 3.4% last year, although both numbers are down from 2016 which remains the acme of my poetry career.

Beautiful Sentences: Nnedi Okorafor

She got that plant to do the opposite of die.

Nnedi Okorafor, “Tumaki.” 


Beautiful Sentences: J. Courtney Sullivan

Live long enough, and life teaches you that God is not your lucky rabbit foot.

J. Courtney Sullivan, Saints for All Occasions.


Beautiful Sentences: Katie Kitamura

Translation is not unlike an act of channeling, you write and you do not write the words.

Katie Kitamura, A Separation.


Beautiful Sentences: Brit Bennett

She couldn’t stop calling or writing or driving past the house. That was what it meant to love someone, right? You couldn’t leave them, even if they hated you. You could never let them go.

Brit Bennett, The Mothers.


Beautiful Sentences: Julia Álvarez

Perhaps this is the only way to grieve the big things—in snippets, pinches, little sips of sadness.

Julia Álvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies.


“A Pilgrimage”: The Story Behind the Story

A Pilgrimage” is one of those NewImagestories that originated by reading off the page. In this instance it was a Mexican short story that I was reading in Spanish. I don’t remember the story details very well, other than being somewhat lost in the Spanish. As a consequence I began imagining the story that became “A Pilgrimage.”

I spent a lot of time on Google Maps working out the route that the characters would take to walk from St Louis to Chicago. Some, but not all, of the landmarks along the way are real. The shrine to St Peregrine in Chicago is also real. I meant to go there to be able to right the scenes set there with greater accuracy but was never able to get away from the family to make the pilgrimage, so to speak.

I received invaluable early feedback from writer friends Katherine Sanger and Kyle Roesler.

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Beautiful Sentences: Uwem Akpan

The light surrounded him like a halo that was too big for a saint and had to be shared by all who were near.

Uwem Akpan, “Say You’re One of Them.”