2016: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Oh Charles Dickens.

Now that it’s February, I know I’m sooooo late on looking back on 2016, but better late than never. The nature of how 2016 ended keeps coming back to me, even as we’re already in 2017. I keep thinking back on how I was talking to my sister about this a few weeks ago, on of how people jokingly (let’s be real, seriously) talk about 2016 being the worst year EVER. And I think we all know why without me having to spell it out, since the darkness still follows us everywhere we go.

But what my sister said really resonated with me. She said, “You know what, 2016 was the year I peaked. I ran a marathon, got out of a bad relationship, became a Fulbright scholar, etc.” But then the world completely shifted toward the dark, which seemed to shadow every good thing that came before, every moment of light that filtered in between.

In many ways, I sort of agreed with my sister. For me, 2016 was the year I achieved more than I thought I ever could—I signed with my dream agent, I tackled THE hardest revisions I’ve ever had to complete and came out with a stronger story, I traveled around to conferences and met so many other wonderful writers, I mentored another writer who I’m so proud to see is now agented and progressing along her path to publication.

I don’t want to discount the very dark direction 2016 went down, and I also don’t want to overshadow it by raising my own personal silver-linings that came out of it. Ultimately, I do think what I’m most at peace with, coming out of 2016, was that I felt so much stronger by the end. Beaten, but not defeated. Down, but always rising back up. Wonderful things happened, yes, but nothing made them greater to me than being challenged by what those good things brought (and the bad as well), and feeling like I learned so much more about myself, about how to proceed from here on out as someone who’s more aware, active, and prepared for what’s to come.

And to start 2017, I also want to look back on my 2016 resolutions—to see how I did, and keep them strong in this new year as well:

  • Finish a book.

Sooooooo, I think I cheated a little bit because while most of 2016 was spent revising Pirate Fantasy, I felt like my process of revision and rewriting turned it into a completely new book. The story I wrote before is SO different from the story it is now, but I absolutely love the new monster it’s become, the way it’s evolved and grown even closer to my heart. The sheer amount I’ve rewritten (and rewritten and rewritten and ughhh) and the new additions I’ve made feel like I did finish a brand new book, and I honestly couldn’t be prouder of it. But for this year, I do hope to finish another book which I feel is totally doable. And necessary. My urge to explore new worlds and characters is itching at me!

  • Revise Pirate Fantasy, while working on something else.

I feel like I can say I actually fulfilled this!! *confetti* While I wasn’t always working in tandem with revising (my brain was already close to exploding enough times on just Pirate Fantasy), I did manage to beast out over 90k of Phantom Fantasy in 2016! However, the pantsing is still going strong and the story is far from over, which means this first draft is going to be one HUGE baby. Along with drafting this project, I also want to tend to my garden of other ideas and projects–which surprisingly grew a lot last year!–and see what other stories are leaping for my attention.

  • Read, read, read.

I’m just going to be flat-out honest and say 2016 was not a great reading year for me. AGAIN. I have a hard time reading when I’m revising, and since I was on the revision train so often, that meant pushing back reading as a priority. Yikes. The good thing about 2017, however, is that I’ve been back to reading like an absolute FIEND. I think because I’m desperate for even the briefest escape from the world, I’ve turned to books—and they’ve embraced me back with open arms and provided me comfort like nothing else. I’m actually 7 books ahead in my Goodreads challenge which is unheard of for me, so I’m hoping to keep up the reading momentum, as well as reading widely and more out of my usual comfort zones 🙂

  • Progress as much as you can on the writing journey and never lose sight of why you’re on the path in the first place.

2016 was a huge year for my writing and me, and sometimes I still can’t even believe what’s happened has actually happened. But for me, progress also comes in so many other forms that aren’t just those milestones on the journey to publication. My ultimate show of progress, I feel, was going from feeling like I was constantly ten steps backwards with my story, to fighting and revising my way through draft after draft until I overcame all of those missteps. 2016 was the year I learned the art of creative patience and honoring the story—of feeling like no matter what, the fact that I’ve produced something I love, that I know I’ve worked hard on, and that I’m proud of by the end of the day will be enough. With no guarantees in this industry, it’s especially important to feel fulfilled by the work that you put forth and pour from your heart, not what you get in return for it. This is one lesson of many I know I’ll always treasure.

To add to this ever-growing list of resolutions I seek to meet however I can every year, here’s a new one that I also want to uphold:

  • Prioritize being a support to others who need it, providing the encouragement and listening ear I wish I had when I first started writing.

Before I found my wonderful group of writing friends and critique partners, I was every bit that sad picture of a lonely, young writer who didn’t know how to put herself out there, how to be confident with her writing, or how to go about advancing her writing career. When I think about it, it really wasn’t that long ago (like 3 years ago haha), but SO much has changed since then. The writer I was back then would not have believed how much luck was coming her way in the form of friends, a sense of community, and opportunities she would soon be encountering. Last year, I mentored in Pitch Wars and had the BEST time helping a writer along her journey. I’m already mentoring again this year for Author Mentor Match (HI TANVI, IF YOU’RE READING!!! Guys, Tanvi is my mentee match from this program and has breathtaking prose for days ❤ ), and I want to keep lending a hand to other writers whenever I can, and however I can.

OKAY. Done with resolutions, and now it’s time to stick to them and see them through! Last but not least in this post, I’ve once again dipped into my collection of fortune cookie fortunes and am tacking up some brand new ones onto my cork board to reflect the new year!

“Treasure your good memories and you need not worry about ending a banquet.”

“Happiness is around the next corner, wealth down the street.”

“Welcome the good change coming soon into your life.”

Wishing everyone a positive new year with lots of good luck and happiness 😀

Holiday Fun, Resolutions, and Fortune Cookie Fortunes

Happy holidays, happy New Year to all, and welcome 2016! There are so many celebrations at the latter end of the year, and I’m definitely still stuck in a holiday-coma from it all. For example, I can still feel Christmas in my stomach because there was just SO. MUCH. FOOD. As well as so little exercise . . .

However, aside from the food bliss, Christmas this year was spent in Chicago—where I, once again, got to visit my cheese-obsessed CP Maddy before spending the rest of my time at my cousins’ gorgeous house (which I affectionately call “Baby Hogwarts”).

My CP reunion was, as always, all kinds of wonderful. Maddy and I spent a lot of our time writing together (no surprise) whilst looking over some adorable pets, threw a hardcore book photo shoot (for the lovely BTAF bookstagram), cruised around town like fiends, and of course excelled in the renowned art of eating.

Afterward, when CP time was sadly over, I was thrown into full-on Christmas mode complete with frantic family happenings and preparations. What was probably my most emotional Christmas moment was when we were all watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (because Harry Potter weekend is code for “drop everything and watch for hours upon hours”). I was already sniffling like a fool because Fawkes the Phoenix had just healed Harry—when, all of a sudden, out comes my aunt with a gift she just happened to forget giving me earlier. It was the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Needless to say, I was downright SOBBING. I’m getting a little teary-eyed just typing this out, so I’ll cut this short before my tears splash all over my poor keyboard. But all in all, Christmas in Chicago looked a tad bit like this:

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Running on coffee to get those words out and running

 

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This deep dish pizza was INSANE

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Died and went to Nutella Latte heaven

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This festive house in my cousins’ neighborhood had zero chill

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On the other hand, I had zero chill around this delicious ube cake during Noche Buena

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Creepy/beautiful masquerade tree

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Wandered into the Disney store and found a disappointing amount of Rey. Seriously, WHERE IS REY?!?

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This puppy refused to let me work

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The guilty culprit

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I got to visit THE Anderson’s Bookshop!!!

After all of this madness, it was so surreal to come back home and jump right into the New Year. This time of the year always forces me to pause and reflect, which was more than welcome after the ugly chaos that was post-Christmas traveling. *shudders*

Whenever the year comes to an end, I love looking back and seeing how much I’ve changed over these many, many months. But for the first time, I think in forever, there is something so bittersweet to me about saying goodbye to 2015. I’ve pretty much stamped every post with how grateful I’ve been all throughout this year, mostly because I honestly feel I can’t say it enough. 2015 was the year I met a fantastic group of writing friends who have made this journey a hell of a lot less lonely. 2015 was the year I took the time for my writing, and most importantly, for me—to allow myself to emotionally recharge after a big loss, and to fill loss that with the sort of light I’ve only been able to find with books and writing. And lastly, 2015 was the year I went wayyyyy out of my comfort zone and discovered the huge rewards in doing so. I did a lot more traveling than my usual homebody-self was used to, attended writing conferences and bookish events that my introverted-self would normally shy away from, and really threw myself into my writing in a way I never thought I’d be able to.

And you know what? Every up and down of this year paid off in so many ways, which has only made me more excited for what 2016 has to offer. I feel like this was the year when I accomplished so many personal wins, and there’s nothing more satisfying than ending a year and welcoming a new one on that fantastic note.

So, without further ado, my resolutions from last year that are always relevant to my current ones:

  • Finish a book. Well, 2015, I did! I started this year with a mess of a first draft that was Pirate Fantasy—but after much trial and error, as well as truckloads of revising and read-throughs, I feel like I’ve given this story that I love so dearly the most thorough treatment I can. All I can do now is hope for the best from here on out and keep chugging along 😀 As for 2016, I’m hoping to pop out another novel to keep the momentum going!
  • Revise Pirate Fantasy, while working on something else. Okay, so this one was a tad bit ambitious. The naive writer in me thought that I could handle drafting multiple projects at once—which, for some writers, is very possible/impressive—but I realized earlier on this year that Pirate Fantasy was going to need 1000% of my focus for the most part. However, that didn’t stop my mind from popping out ideas like hotcakes because ohmygoodness, 2015 was the year I realized I had a wealth of story ideas inside me. Even though I didn’t pop out two novels this year (oh, if only!), I have been working on another project on the side—Phantom Fantasy—which I’ve been SOOO excited about! I can’t wait to work on it more during 2016, and to discover other story ideas swimming around in my head.
  • Read, read, read. Unfortunately, I did officially complete my Goodreads challenge. Out of 90 books, I only read about 69. Womp womp. However, when I thought about it again, I’ve read 50+ other manuscripts for my internship which means that not only did I complete my reading goal, I actually went over! Still, I’m setting my 2016 Goodreads challenge at 90 books again and I’m determined to get there!

And then lastly, but most importantly:

  • Progress as much as you can on the writing journey and never lose sight of why you’re on the path on the first place. This, of course, is the huge one—and at times, the most difficult one to keep remembering. When you’re knee-deep in revisions or fatigued in the writing cave, there will be times when it’s hard to persevere since it feels like all the odds are stacked against you. But every part of the writing process (and life, in general!) is packed with odds of all kinds to overcome. Although I can’t predict what will happen to me or my writing in the future, I’ll take control of what I can now and keep going regardless because my writing is first and foremost for me before anything else. As long as I can see my own progress, in whatever form or size it comes in, there is always reason to celebrate. And after 2015, I know to my core that I am satisfied with all the progress I’ve made as a writer and a person this year thanks to this philosophy that I’ll carry with me into 2016.

Okay. Done. No take-backs. Resolutions have officially been made, and I feel more than ready to tackle them in 2016! And to end on an even more hopeful note, I have a cheesy tradition of posting the top fortune cookie fortunes that I have randomly tacked on my cork board in reflection of the new year. Here we go:

“The current year will bring you much happiness.”

“You will conquer obstacles to achieve success.”

“Good news will come to you from far, far away.”

Hope this brings some luck and smiles to you all 😀 Happy New Year, everybody!