It’s been a while. We had such high hopes. Yet here we are, at the end of you, sitting amongst crumples of wrapping paper and the leftovers from Christmas dinner. And really, all I have to say to you right now is:
WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?
It’s tempting to blame Covid for the strange, unsatisfactory gappiness of this year — but if I’m being honest, the most frustrating thing about you, 2021, is that you’ve been a year of almosts and near misses. So often I’ve come closer than I’ve ever been to grasping everything I’ve been working towards — only to have it snatched out of my fingertips.
The worst blow came at the beginning of the year. The novel that was shortlisted for three competitions (including two awards at major publishers) died on sub. This was the novel that got me my agent, and while we got a lot of positive feedback from editors, ultimately no one wanted to offer on it. And so, The Shape of the World has gone onto the back burner. It’s especially painful, considering that just over a month ago, I and the other Shortlistees of the Rivers of London Award were invited to Gollancz’s London offices for an intro to publishing day.
Meanwhile, a couple of my short stories have been making it into the final rounds of decision-making with a string of pro-rated magazines. And yet, still, again, ultimately, none of this has resulted in a single sale.
I’m going to be honest, some of this is difficult to think about, much less write about. Almosts are hard. They can be devastating, to have come so far and worked so hard, only to be told, once again, still, that it’s just not quite good enough. And perhaps it would be easier to write off 2021, in the same way that we all had to write off 2020, but we have to draw the line somewhere. And to be fair, there are some good things that happened this year:
For one thing, as you’re reading this, I’m putting final touches on the submission draft for my new middle grade project about diaspora kids, monsters, and the worlds we see in mirrors. For another, I’ve started the first, rough drafts of the book that is the book of my heart. These are small magics, but they are precious.
Finally, outside of the writing world, the Boy and I have officially gotten engaged. We can hardly wait until next year to gather all our friends together and celebrate everything we want to build together.
In a year full of setbacks and almosts and not-quite-theres, I find it important to remember this: nothing at all is guaranteed. So much of this industry, of this life, is out of our hands, subject to whims and luck and ephemeral happenstance. Ultimately, the only thing we can really do is take ownership of the things that we can control: the effort we invest in our work; the people we choose to spend time with; the moments we pay attention to.
So, my lovelies. Here I am, wishing you all the best of the last dark days of this year. And I hope, in the days to come, that you write more, write passionately, and treasure the people you love. Our time is always too short.