Let’s be honest. 2020 is best viewed in the rear-view mirror.
It’s been a year, hasn’t it? It’s really kicked some of us in the nether region.
But here’s the thing.
Despite the lockdowns and having to be much more aware of my surroundings and personal hygiene, and having to postpone or rethink holidays or events and learn how to do catch-ups via zoom and messenger and skype, I actually had a pretty good year.
Winding back the clock to the start of 2020, in March, I was a guest on Clare Lydon’s Lesbian Bookclub podcast. I had an absolute blast chatting with Clare, who is an amazingly talented lesfic author, and a great podcast interviewer. I joked with some Aussie lesfic author mates of mine about how many times I’d say ‘mate’ on the podcast, but in the end, I only said it once, which is some sort of record for me.
If you haven’t listened to the episode, you can check it out here. Also take the time to check out Clare’s books. She’s one of my favourite authors and won’t disappoint, especially if you’re after something with all the feels and lots of cheese.
Also in March, my wife and I travelled to Melbourne to watch the women’s cricket T20 World Cup Final at the spiritual home of cricket in Australia, the MCG. When we left home, we didn’t know who was going to be playing in it as the semi-finals hadn’t been played, and thanks to the rain, it looked like the Aussies might miss out. However, the heavens cleared to allow the second semi-final to go ahead, and I was stoked to be one of 86,000 fans who got to see the Aussies lift up the trophy on home soil after a comprehensive victory over India.
While at the MCG, I ran into Brittany Carter, amazing sports journalist and commentator for the ABC, and Mary Konstantopoulos, of the ‘Ladies Who‘ empire, both staunch supporters of women’s sport and all-round fabulous women. (If you aren’t already, follow them on social media.)
I also got to meet the wonderful and funny author, KJ. We intended to meet for morning tea/coffee, but ended up having lunch and could have kept on chatting until the cows came home (if we had cows, which neither of us do. Also, see how KJ has rubbed off on me, with those little tangents that have started creeping into my own writing?? Lol)
Then, just one, single, week later, I got married. For real.
My wife and I have been together for 17 years this February and had a commitment ceremony way back in 2009 when we thought the possibility of legal marriage was just a pipe dream. It just so happened that our commitment ceremony date fell on a Saturday in 2020, so (after a LOT of subtle and not-so-subtle hints from me that it would be great to not have to remember and celebrate 3 dates), my wife proposed just after Christmas in 2019. She’d already booked the date with a celebrant, and then all we had to do over the next two-and-a-half months was organise, well, everything else!
Needless to say, it was one of the best and most fun days of our lives. And I’m seriously considering having a recommitment ceremony in another 10 years, just to have the chance to party with everyone again.
But of course, covid had begun to run rampant all over the world, and just a week after we got married, most states in Australia started closing their borders and going into lockdown. We were pretty lucky where we live. We’re far enough away from the south-east where most of our population lives, and where most of our cases were contained in those early months.
Since my wife has a chronic illness, we decided it was best that she work from home to minimise her contact with people, and so began 3 months of self-imposed lockdown which was actual wedded bliss.
I’m not kidding.
All over my social media, I read about couples having a LOT of trouble spending 24/7 with their spouses (granted, add kids into the mix and that’s a hell I wouldn’t want to contemplate).
But my wife and I got into a regular work routine, started walking the dogs in the mornings on our breaks, and ate all of our meals together. We did puzzles together in our downtimes, and to be absolutely honest, apart from having her home all day, nothing too much changed.
While others seemingly had a hard time adjusting to their partners’ previously unknown bad work habits, my wife and I had a ball.
And the fact that she was set up for work in our lounge room meant that I spent a lot of time at my desk writing – or attempting to write, mostly – because I couldn’t just wander out and turn on the TV or skive off on my PS4 when I was blocked.
And that brings me to my writing successes from 2020.
I finished and published two books last year, both of which I had started years ago, and were either partly drafted, or in outline form.
The first was Amy’s Rest, which came out in June. I’d been noodling on that story for the better part of two decades, and the finished book is unrecognisable from the early attempted drafts and notes that I started in my 20s. Amy’s Rest was my first foray into the adult lesfic world, after writing upper MG/younger YA stories, and I’ve been blown away by how readers have responded to my Aussie humour.
Then, of course, came my second Christmas book, Dashing All the Way, in December. It’s a sequel, of sorts, to the very first story I ever published, a short novella called Three Wishes. I wanted to see what the lesbian couple in that short story were up to a year after they met. And I had so much fun writing Mac’s character that it was hard to resist going back for more.
In between those two new releases, I had some very unexpected news.
Crush was shortlisted for the inaugural Matilda Children’s Literature Prize, a new publishing competition run by Harper Collins Australia.
To be one of only three manuscripts selected was absolutely amazing, and I was blown away, to say the least. Especially since Crush was my first novel-sized story I’d actually finished and published, and still is close to my heart. It’s set in a small rural town that is based on the town I was born and writing about it, and Tess and Maddie was so much fun.
Crush didn’t win the prize, but I garnered the interest of an agent and had some amazing conversations about the children’s and YA publishing industry in Australia that have made me reassess where I’m headed with my writing.
And during the year, I connected with so many new readers and authors, through social media and my books, that I feel reinvigorated heading into this year.
So, what’s in store for 2021?
Well, this is the year I turn 45, which totally blows my mind. I don’t feel 45, not mentally or maturity-wise anyway, but my body certainly feels it. I spent just over 20 years throwing myself around as a soccer goalie and it’s only now starting to really catch up to me.
This year, I want to be fitter and healthier than I’ve been in a long time. I won’t get back to playing a sport, but I do want to spend less time on my butt in chairs writing and more time moving. I also want to eat better, and get more sleep, and I’m putting plans into place to achieve those goals.
I also want to read more for fun and relaxation, practice my guitar and ukulele more often and try out some new creative pursuits to give my brain something different to grapple with other than words on a screen.
Writing-wise, I want to write and release more books, obviously!
The third book in the Alice Henderson series has been sitting on my laptop half-finished, taunting me for two years. After a lot of twoing and froing I think I finally have a handle on the story, so that will be first cab off the rank. Depending on when I finish it, I may hold it back until next summer to release it in time for cricket season.
I have a new story set in Elizabeth Creek (the town in Amy’s Rest) that I’d like to write and release by mid-year. It’s still in the pre-writing stage at the moment, but I like the story so far, which is always a good sign.
And as a result of those chats with the agent and Harper Collins editor from the Matilda Prize, I’m in the planning stages with three possible upper middle grade stories, featuring girls-who-like-girls main characters. One may involve a family-owned ice-creamery, another may involve yowies, and another may involve the quest for a first kiss.
I can’t say too much more than that, but I’m hoping one of those ideas will spark more brightly than the others. If so, and I get it finished, I will be pursuing traditional publishing initially for that book.
Because Australia has a strong traditional children’s publishing culture, and I think those books are best placed there, where they can reach schools and libraries and bookstores more easily than I can myself.
Oh, and I’m also going to attempt to record my own audiobooks this year, but that’s a tale for next week.
What about you? How did your 2020 end up? And what have you got in store for 2021?