Year's End - 2019 in Creative Work

A whole mess of stuff

I would love to be the sort of person who observes traditions faithfully, year on year. I long after consistency, repeatability — I love ritual, I love the idea of a ritual year, little inlets of quiet time pooling with well-defined but inviting borders around them, saying now you will leave your work and turn to something more important, sacred, deep, and emerge nourished and refreshed.

That sort of vision of a year evokes the same peace in me that clean surfaces do, and seems roughly as achievable — which is to say, haphazardly, inconsistently, in bursts of anxious activity variously ashamed, desperate, frustrated. How easily clutter accumulates on the dining room table of one’s soul, how crowded life becomes with urgency, with small vicious nibblings of requirement. How hard is the work of leaving work.

So the year’s end, then, so often for me feels like a flurry of getting ready, of clearing a path through drifts of neglect for the New Year, the year in which I will meet all deadlines, finish long-term projects, build healthy habits. Impossible not to notice how this is the thing I succeed in repeating, this intention, this desire — a reckoning with failure, an arguing for success, lining up achievements like evidence in the courtroom drama of the self. Is it possible, I wonder, to arrive at the end of the year with all things done that one intended to do, a cleared Tetris-floor of a foundation for new adventures with this, the ideal and accomplished You?

Well, Your Honour, while the bowl of this winter day swells with champagne light, while I acknowledge that I haven’t finished my PhD for yet another year and gamely continue to shoulder that emotional burden, here’s what I did do.

Published:

  • This Is How You Lose the Time War, a novella co-written with Max Gladstone. I write that and stare at the single line item and think, but this was actually my whole year, wasn’t it? It came out in July but the first half of the year bent before it and the second half bent after it. Tour events in 12 cities over 5 months, 4 hardcover printings, at least 3 paperback printings in the UK, 1 TV option, foreign rights deals in 4 other languages we can’t announce yet, multiple Best of Year lists — absolutely every single thing to do with this book’s emergence into the world has brought me astonishment and joy, and I need at least a paragraph here to acknowledge it. (PS the link goes to Amazon.ca, where the ebook is part of a Boxing Week sale for $3.99, probably good until end of day on the 31st)

  • “Florilegia, or, Some Lies About Flowers,” a queer short story retelling the Blodeuwedd myth from the Mabinogion, written for The Mythic Dream anthology and against Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. I love it very much. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask for a dedication in-book to my friends Jenn and Nadine, who beta-read it while I knuckled my hair in despair over multiple aspects of the ending. It is theirs in my heart.

Wrote:

Taught:

  • 3 creative writing courses at the University of Ottawa

  • 1 week at Clarion West

  • 1 Locus Award Weekend Workshop

  • 1 week at Viable Paradise

Read: At least 50 books, probably more

Academe:

  • Successfully defended my dissertation proposal in May, officially becoming ABD, before writing off the summer for travel and the autumn for travel and teaching. So it goes. The thing will be done when it’s done and I’m not putting my actual life on hold for it anymore.

  • Got hired for a Limited Term Appointment (LTA) as Creative Writing Coordinator at the University of Ottawa, a 5-year renewable position.

So that’s that! I also reacquainted myself with my harp, travelled to many places I’ve never been to before (Åland, Bay Area, Seattle), done things I was scared of (drove to and in NYC!), and reorganized my living room (a shocking life change!). In the new year, I want to get healthier and stronger, graduate with a doctorate, and write new fiction — this was much more a year of Authoring than a year of writing, and reckoning with that in the last two days of 2019 is hard and weird and probably deserving its own essay.

Wishing you all the absolute best in 2020!

Love,

Amal