Looking back on 2017
Year in Review
Wow, after all of the madness of this year, I'm still finding it hard to believe that 2017 is in the rearview mirror. I've decided to start a new tradition of recapping my year so I can look back on these entries year from now and have a better sense of where I've been and where I'm heading. These questions were pulled from this site, with just the year updated.
Approximate Words Written: 441,604
Published: Wayfarer, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding
Wrote: Prosper 2, The Darkest Legacy, TDM short stories, half of a scrapped WIP (sigh), three proposals
Books read: 15 (I KNOW. It was suuuuuch a bad reading year for me. I was creatively blocked for a lot of this year, and I just didn't get as much enjoyment out of reading as I normally do. I also worked non-stop from April through the end of the year, so a lot of my reading time--right before bed--went to drafting instead.)
- What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about? Definitely visiting the set of The Darkest Minds movie and how overwhelming and wonderful it was. It felt like a true once-in-a-lifetime moment.
- If you had to describe your 2017 in 3 words, what would they be? Productive, turbulent, introspective
- What new things did you discover about yourself? This year I discovered that negative thinking really does ripple through my whole life, and I can really spiral if I don't refocus my thoughts or recognize what's happening. That, and I have an a shockingly deep hatred of the character Kylo Ren??
- What single achievement are you most proud of? Finding and buying my house, which felt very adult of me. I feel very settled and love being home and working from home, but it was total madness getting packed, moved, unpacked, and buying what I needed before leaving on tour for twenty days.
- What was the best news you received? That my brother and his girlfriend were getting engaged. I'm so happy to gain another wonderful sister! I'm also deeply grateful that Wayfarer debuted at #1 on the New York Times list after struggling so much with that book.
- What was your favorite place that you visited in 2017? Definitely Barcelona, though I feel like Atlanta should get a runner-up mention. I visited Atlanta more this year than all the others years in my life combined! Second runner-up is Cabo San Lucas with my sister and mom. I accidentally booked us in a really nice hotel the last two nights (long story) and it was fun to have a a true treat yo'self moment.
- Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year? Being a hard worker. This is a trait I inherited from both of my parents--I can sit and work for hours/days/months to meet my deadline obligations. My motto for this year was that if I agreed to the work, I wasn't allowed to complain about it. That served me really well in helping to reframe my thinking about my projects.
- Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on? My mom for sure. The lady is a super hero.
- Which new skills did you learn? None, I'm just proud of surviving this year, Survey, so stop judging me. Wait, I take that back. I taught myself how to properly use a drill. SO THERE. (Now I want to take up archery just to have a better answer for this next year.)
- What, or who, are you most thankful for? No nuclear war, which feels like a very low bar.
- If someone wrote a book about your life in 2017, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else? Oh, geeze... I wish I could say it was an adventure or love story, but I'm going with dramedy.
- What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2017? You have to constantly fight for the things that matter most to you, and release the things (and people) that don't.
- Which mental block(s) did you overcome? I've talked about this before, but I had a real creative crisis while working on Wayfarer and in the months after. It took almost the whole year to get back into a creative groove of being productive and having fun. I did a ton of work on two different projects that will never, ever see the light of day; I was initially really disheartened by what felt like two misfires, but I've decided I needed to have some free experimental time to try to clear out those creativity blocks. I also noticed that I'm much more comfortable with public speaking than I used to be, though I'm really not sure how that happened.
- What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with? Honestly, this is too hard of a question--I would need to list way to more than five people, and all for different reasons. So I'm going big with my answer: every single reader who came to a talk, signing, or school visit. Writing can be incredibly isolating, but you guys give the work I do meaning. I'm so grateful for you and any time we get to spend together.
- What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise? I could take this question two different ways, I guess? On one hand, it's The Darkest Minds movie going into production. More personally, breaking through the creative block I mentioned above. It forced me to go back and analyze what works and doesn't work in my writing, and has helped me shake out a better way of going about drafting and editing. It felt like re-breaking a bone to reset it in a better way. I learned A LOT, even if there were moments of deep disillusionment and frustration along the way.
- How did your relationship to your family evolve? It's been so nice being home and getting to have family dinner with my family every Sunday. I definitely feel like I'm part of the team now that I live nearby, and less like a distant spectator.
- What book or movie affected your life in a profound way? I read mostly non-fiction this year, so I'm going with a movie (I know, I know): Wonder Woman. It was by no means a perfect movie, but it was one of those films that reminded me how powerful storytelling can be. It was the perfect antidote for the cynicism that feels so deep-rooted lately. Diana was allowed to be flawed and have so many different sides to her, something that shouldn't be as rare as it is. I also recently rewatched the film Children of Men, which is one of the "spiritual" inspirations for The Darkest Minds (by that I mean, that film made me look at the world differently and made me want to write a book that had that kind of emotional impact). It was even more relevant in today's world, and I cried SO hard at the end.
- What was your favorite compliment that you received this year? "Your brain is amazing and I want to live inside of it."
- What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life? I really love having my routine of waking up, walking the dog, making coffee and breakfast, then getting to work. I know that sounds incredibly boring, but it's honestly so soothing and the consistency helps me to be that much more productive. I also enjoyed decorating my house for the holidays and occasionally buying myself flowers and making my own arrangements.
- What cool things did you create this year? Books! Short stories! One thing this year reinforced was how important it is to do other creative work outside of writing, so I liked taking little breathers to decorate my house, create little videos, etc. I want to try needlepoint next year, or at least be able to mend clothing/sew buttons back on.
- What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)? Mostly stressed and exhausted. May through October was particularly rough.
- Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year? Visit a film set, be in a wedding, buy a house, visit Barcelona and Cabo San Lucas, publish a middle grade book... lots of little firsts, too, including becoming the caretaker of the trees in my yards.
- What was your favorite moment spent with your friends? First place: Julia's wedding in Connecticut. Second place: my very first writing retreat with author pals!
- What major goal did you lay the foundations for? One of my long term goals is to dabble in writing outside of YA. I'm really happy that I was able to release a MG, but I'd also like to try other formats... more on that soon!
- Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary? My dog being carried off by a large bird of prey in my new backyard. I KNOW BUT HE'S ONLY SEVEN POUNDS IT COULD HAPPEN.
- What experience would you love to do all over again? Definitely that Barcelona trip! There's so much more I want to see... and so much more delicious food I want to eat.
- What was the best gift you received? Oh, gosh... I got some wonderful, meaningful things from my family this year (family photos, inherited furniture, etc.), but I'm obsessed with the plotting magnets that Sooz gave me for Christmas and know I'm going to get a ton of use out of them. Not to be a total sap, but I'm really grateful for the gift of friendship this year. The friends who helped me move into my house, the friends who kept my spirits up about work, the friends that widened my social circle... I really couldn't have gotten through this year without them.
- How did your overall outlook on life evolve? I feel much more settle and peaceful in my day-to-day life; I have a much better balance between work and living than I did before. I've gained a lot of confidence over the last two years by simply letting go of worrying about how other people see me and just having fun with the people I love, and I'm grateful for it. The political and social turmoil was terrifying and heartbreaking in turn, but it helped remind me how important it is to get involved, both on a local and national level. I want to volunteer for a political campaign next year.
- What was the biggest problem you solved? When you put it that way... there really weren't big problems, so I feel like I didn't do enough! I had a huge plot issue with Prosper 2 that I've thankfully worked out before diving into edits on January 2nd.
- What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it? This is such a small thing, but the band Papa Roach (of which I am not really a fan) randomly retweeted a tweet of mine and I still laugh about it. Also, the great escape that my sister, Mom, and I did from one hotel to another on our Mexico trip and the whirlwind of chaos it took to get everything packed in five minutes. (Again, this is a long story and it's one of those YOU HAD TO BE THERE type things, but we managed to make this event as dramatic as humanly possible, which isn't like us at all.)
- What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever? Generally speaking, the two vacations I took (I rarely take vacations, so this was huge) and my house/my house's office space, which has a window/natural light. Two more things: getting a dog door for Tennyson, which lets me sleep through the night uninterrupted, and this under eye concealer. I know this sounds like such a small thing, but I've always been extremely self-conscious about my dark under eye circles and this is the only thing that's really worked for me.
- What one thing would you do differently and why? I really want to try to reclaim my weekends and not work on Saturday and Sunday, except on deadline crunches. Next year, if it's possible, I'm going to give myself mandatory time off from writing in order to get out more and make new friends, explore more of Arizona, and try to get in the habit of volunteering regularly again. I'm not sure that next year is the best one to try this with all of the movie stuff and deadlines, but we'll see.
- What do you deserve a pat on the back for? Finishing The Darkest Legacy's first draft in the short amount of time I had to do it.
- What activities made you lose track of time? Biking, chasing my dog around, meeting friends for dinner and drinks, being obsessed with updating my Letterfolk board in a possibly unhealthy way.
- What did you think about more than anything else? Politics, society, how we got here and where we're going. Also, true crime.
- What topics did you most enjoy learning about? I really learned so much more about our political and judicial systems this year even though I had considered myself pretty knowledgeable about them. I learned a lot about different true crime events as well, and must recommend this book to you as I had never heard about the horrifying Osage Murders before reading it.
- What new habits did you cultivate? My new-old habit was getting back into cycling regularly, which has been great for my physical and mental health. Also getting into a routine of cleaning my house. Doing small things every day instead of waiting for a lot of work to pile up makes me feel like I have more control over the rest of my life.
- What advice would you give your early-2017 self if you could? Don't be afraid to take time away from the world to do your work (you have to feed yourself and your dog), but always try to show up in any way you can for those who need help and support.
- Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year? Not this year, no...
- What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year? Honestly... spending less time online. This kills me to say because I love chatting with everyone, but it was so necessary for clearing my head and enjoying my day-to-day life more. I felt more productive and like I had significantly more time and energy to dedicate to family, friends, and causes that are important to me. Sometimes social media can feel performative and inauthentic, which can skew our perceptions of what matters if we're not careful. I'm trying to change the way I use my social media platforms in 2018; on Instagram, for example, I'm worrying less about curating the most devastatingly beautiful images and instead trying to respond more to comments and messages.