Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 In Review: Out of the Comfort Zone

Welcome to the new year! I normally would have done some "year in review" posts between Christmas and the new year, but I spent most of that time at my parents' house, and then there was the weekend, and then it was New Year's Eve. But I can still review last year.

I had a wonderfully relaxing holiday that it may be difficult to come back from, as I seem to have grown accustomed to spending my days wrapped in a blanket and reading a book. That began on Christmas, when it started snowing about an hour after we finished Christmas dinner. I had my second-ever white Christmas. The first was when I was seven and living in Oklahoma and it snowed all day on Christmas Eve, with the snow remaining for Christmas. Ever since then, even when we lived in Germany, we might have had snow on the ground since Thanksgiving, but it would melt a day or two before Christmas and then wouldn't snow again until a few days later. But this year, it started snowing on Christmas afternoon (fortunately, after I'd traveled) and snowed into the night, so that before sunset we had a nice covering of snow on the ground. When you're out in the country, there's not much to do on a snowy day other than read, so that's what we did. It was lovely. The snow melted and the roads cleared in time for me to get home, and I rang in the new year with my friends.

As for my year in review, I didn't think of it this way at the time, but this was kind of a year for pushing my boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone. The biggie was entering the world of self publishing. Because I started out in very much the traditional mode and had been involved in a number of writing organizations, I had internalized the mindset that self-publishing was what you did when you couldn't get published. It brought to mind images of those people at library book festivals, sitting at their tables and trying to interest people in their memoirs or books of poems about their cats. The world has changed significantly since then, and it's now more something people do when they want to take control over their careers than something that indicates failure. Yes, there's still some poorly written and edited stuff being self-published, but I read a book last week that came from one of the big publishers that was so badly edited it was painful to read. We're talking barely literate teenage Internet post bad. But I finally got hit with the clue stick and realized that this was the only way I was going to get the rest of my series published in the US, and those books weren't doing anyone any good sitting on my hard drive. I haven't made publishing history, but I've made enough money so far that I broke even for the year, with as much money in the bank at the end of the year as at the start of the year, in spite of losing my major freelance contract (though I did get a fair amount of income in advances from the Japanese publisher). I think my ideal would be to maintain a mix of kinds of publishing, so as not to have all my eggs in one basket. If I can sell a book traditionally, that's great, but if not, I have other options, and I think the gulf between self and traditional distribution is shrinking as bookstores are closing. My city lost its two Barnes & Nobles at the end of the year, so we now no longer have a bookstore. If you're stuck shopping online anyway, how much does it matter if the books are in stores?

The other thing I did this year that I would have said you were crazy if you'd told me I'd be doing it was chaperone the youth choir trip. The thought of being a responsible adult in charge of a bunch of teenagers, sleeping in bunks or on the floor for a week and whitewater rafting in a boat full of kids would have been terrifying, but it ended up being a great experience. I formed a lot of great relationships and even had a couple of the teen girls wanting to sit next to me for the Christmas Eve church service.

In general, I feel very blessed. I saw a few of the Facebook whine posts from people who are single and far from their families, and that made me realize how full my life is in spite of not being in a romantic relationship or having a big extended family around me. In fact, I have so many people in my life that I occasionally have to shut down completely to get the amount of quiet time I need. I have a big group of crazy, fun friends and a few closer friends. I have my "family" in the choir, who all seem to have adopted me. I have small children who think I'm some kind of Disney princess superhero and teenagers who think I'm pretty cool for an adult. I have my ballet class support group/exercise buddies/girls' night out bunch. I have my neighbors and their dogs. Plus, I get to make a living, even if it's not an extravagant one, doing what I love and without answering to anyone or having co-workers. It's not a bad life.

Things have been tough in recent years, but they started turning around near the end of the year and there are some potential really good things on the horizon, so here's to 2013! But first, I really need to wash dishes.

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