What I’m writing: 2019 goals

What I’m writing: 2019 goals

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing these past few days; where I’ve been and where I’m going next. It’s tempting to make huge, impossible goals for the new year, or to resolve to somehow *be better.* There is an incredibly articulate toddler version of myself that runs around my brain screaming “I’m GONNA write a novel and I’m GONNA get poetry published and I’m SO MAD about it but I’m HAPPY.” I’m going to continue to let her run around at will — she’s in charge of morale. But in terms of actual planning for my future as a writer, my thought process needs to be moderated a little. Let’s start with where I am.

What I’m writing these days:

  • Over the holiday season, I wrote Christmas cards.
  • I wrote a couple of longer Christmas letters to people I’m especially lovingly close to. In the future, I’d like to make Christmas Letters a real tradition within the family I create, because what better gift exists than that of writing how we feel?
  • I wrote a review of a book I really liked
  • I wrote three really smashing recommendation letters
  • I wrote a list of kids for whom I want to keep track of college acceptances
  • I wrote in my journal so much that I changed my mindset and left a lot of bad things behind. Pages upon pages.
  • I rewrote the first ~700 words of this novel I’d like to write
  • I wrote four poems (are they good? idk)
  • I started writing two pieces of an essay about why literature matters (another piece is already written).


So, where to go next:

I’ve been primarily writing poetry since 2017, and while the poems keep coming on like waves, there now seems to be more room for other things. I really would like to write this novel. It’s a Western, it’s psychologically complex, it has a woman protagonist, and it’s going to deal with some historical things I think about a lot. Can I write a novel in a year? Is 2019 “the year of the novel?” Maybe, but I’ve never done that before so I’m not really sure how that works for me. My novels in the past have been long stretched-out projects that take years or don’t make it.

Have you heard of the “85K90 Challenge”? I first read about it on Ari Meghlin’s site, here: “Are you doing the 85K90 Writing Challenge?” but the official website can be found here: 85k90.com. I’m hesitant to start a challenge because it doesn’t quite fit with my writing process, because it would be wrong to prioritize something over my teaching, and because I highly doubt I’ll be ready to actually get published by the end of the year, but I like the concept! Thinking about joining to just see what happens. If anyone has done this I would LOVE to hear about your experience.

Poetry submissions were scary at first, but I think I’ve mastered it (or at least, I’m respectable now). But I need to submit WAY more poetry to WAY more places. So in 2019, one of my goals is to double my submissions. Rejection isn’t fun, but I’ve learned that it feels better if I have multiple irons in the fire at all times.

And in 2019, I’d like to write more essays. One of my favorite things that I’ve ever written was the last essay I wrote alongside my AP Lang class last year. I’ll probably pull that out in the next month or two and edit it, then decide if there’s anywhere that would be a reasonable fit. I’m not sure how to become an essayist except “be Annie Dillard,” but I enjoy piecing things together and thinking about a particular problem in nonfiction form.

Other Goals:

  • Connect with more writers who actually do the kind of writing I do.
    (which is what? okay, point taken)
  • Go to a writing conference or retreat or take a class.
  • Fill up a big notebook
  • Finish more short pieces of prose and practice good revision.
  • Continue to write alongside my students, which is one of my favorite things to do.
  • Write more on the blog — and hey, if I started a “tiny letter,” would anyone read it?


What are your writing goals? Want to be my writing friend? Give me a comment; I’d love to follow you. 



Adventure and Resilience

“I was to have one last night in the hills: another starry one, as you will hear, but with a moist hush to the air that was like something at full draw– a breath, an arrow.” –Peace Like a River, Leif Enger

I’ve always been drawn to stories of adventure– big weather, big stories. Voyages by ship or horseback are grand. So are gunfights and swordfights and fights against fear and loneliness. I decided to start my year off by reading about what the tough do when the going gets tough.

Current Reading

Winter’s Bone
Daniel Woodrell 

This book was handed to me on Christmas Eve with the directive, “drop everything and read this.” I didn’t, but the stack of books on my nightstand suddenly seemed less entrancing, so I did pick it up the next day. What a stunning book. Ree, a 16-year-old member of a clannish and lawless Ozark family, must find her fugitive father in order to keep the house he has put up as his bond. She’s tough and sensitive at the same time– loving, determined to be on the side of righteousness, yet unafraid of the darkness that surrounds her.

Peace Like a River
Leif Enger

I first read this book over Christmas vacation of my senior year of college. It was a hard time for me. I had mono, I was struggling to finish up my fall semester papers to hand in late, I was heartsick. That year was about to get far more difficult for me. I credit this book with my return to reading for joy and love. I had been reading only for work– I needed to return to true literary elation. This book did that.

The story is one that will hook you immediately– Reuben, an 11 year old asthmatic daydreamer of a narrative, witnesses his brother commit a double murder out of a sense of nobility. Then brother Davy goes on the lam, and the loyal family (including the prodigious sister Swede, a writer of epic cowboy ballad poetry) follows him off into the West in an Airstream trailer, apparently following the will of God and the miraculous leading of their father, a school janitor who wrestles angels. It is a journey towards hope and a complicated understanding of good and evil, and towards a fateful reckoning.

Past Favorites:

The Bones of Paradise, by Jonis Agee ~ A sprawling family saga set in the sand hills of Nebraska in the years after Wounded Knee. Beautifully written, hauntingly vengeful.

The North Water, by Ian McGuire ~ Takes naturalism to a dark conclusion in a world of whaling ships and ice and murder.

To The Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey ~ Explorers in Alaska encounter danger and a world of Native myths and power. Split perspective between explorer husband and homesteading wife.

Next on My List in Adventure and Historical Fiction: 

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
So Brave, Young, and Handsome, by Leif Enger (Separate from Peace Like a River and quite different. I think I would read anything Enger ever writes.)
The Plover, by Brian Doyle (sequel to the stunning Mink River, but this one’s about a boat.)

What are your favorite adventurous books? What do you think I should read next?