Better Time Management: My New Year’s Resolution
Another year has gone by, such a nice year for me, so much that I was sad to see it leave. The biggest thrill was, of course, Torch winning the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature. I know that prizes can be unpredictable and out of our control. The best thing writers can do is focus on what they can control — finishing the book and making it the best that it can be. But each writer’s goal is different. I’ve always valued critical acclaim over bestsellerdom, because working hard and getting good grades came more naturally to me in school than having tons of friends and being in the popular clique (or any clique at all). If my books somehow resonate with a huge readership, as opposed to appealing to the subject-matter-obsessed “special reader” that I am, it will totally be by accident. And I’m certainly not going to hand-sell thousands of copies to my friends and online admirers.
Winning the prize did feel like validation, though, for a book that was difficult to write and stretched me in terms of craft. It made me think about multiple point of view narratives and the unusual POV choice of a collective protagonist. I’m going to be lecturing on this topic of the collective protagonist next week and hope that more writers will take on the challenge of having multiple main characters who rise and fall as one, as opposed to the individual heroes that dominate fictional narratives today. But the collective protagonist was far from the only challenge. Equally difficult was giving readers hope when my characters had lost their country, their freedom, and their future, and doing so in a way that was realistic and true. We owe a debt to those who came before us, who struggled and lost, but whose dreams lived on to inspire and guide future generations.
But with the end of one year and the beginning of another comes the assessment of New Year’s Resolutions. My resolution last year was to be a better member of the writing community by reviewing more book in various locations — not only Amazon but also my blog and established review sources. I can say that while I could always do more, I stepped it up in this area. I added about a half dozen reviews to Amazon, which is a half dozen more than in previous years. But where I did even better was increasing my review output for The Historical Novel Review, including reviews of Elana K. Arnold’s YA novel The Blood Years and Lucille Abendanon’s middle grade novel The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree, both set during WWII. I mentioned a couple of my 2023 HNR favorites in blog posts, including Susan Lynn Meyers’s middle grade novel of a Jewish immigrant family settling in North Dakota in 1905, A Sky Full of Song. I also blurbed three novels that came out in 2023 (Focus. Click. Wind by Amanda West Lewis, I Am Kavi by Thushanthi Ponweera, and The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla) and am looking forward to seeing another one that will be out in 2024 (Trajectory by Cambria Gordon). I interviewed authors for my blog, and my interview with Amy Nathan and feature with Kip Wilson are among my most visited posts for the year. I plan to continue reviewing and supporting other authors and their books in the coming year. It’s important to support the books you want to see in the world, and for me that means supporting historical fiction for young readers and books that highlight neurodiversity written by those with lived experience.
So that gets to my resolution for 2024. You may have noticed a slowdown in blog posts in the past few months. Some of that is due to being busy, traveling, and having family in town for the holidays. But much of it is due to poor time management. It’s great that my books are doing well and I have two more coming out in 2024 — my YA historical novel in verse Eyes Open and a translation of the YA illustrated prose poem Our Beautiful Darkness by the Angolan author Ondjaki. But I haven’t started a new project. My fans at Kith are pushing me to write another picture book to follow up on Ways to Play, and I’ve joined Storystorm this month to jumpstart my effort. However, I lost track of time and signed up two days after Storystorm began. Oops. I can still make it up, though. And I still haven’t started my middle grade historical novel
I’m hoping that a break from social media will free up more time to write, and to update this blog as well. I’ve dropped off Twitter/X except for an occasional check-in because of its owner’s antisemitic and white supremacist views, and the discriminatory moderation that has made the site more difficult for those who don’t share those views. I joined Bluesky, but the invite code requirement has meant fewer people on the site and therefore less discussion. I’m still on Instagram, posting both book-related items and Lego pictures, but improving my time management means I don’t spend a lot of time setting up the perfect Lego vignette. Priorities, priorities!
I hope to announce finished projects by the end of 2024, the product of my latest resolution. Happy New Year to all of you, and I hope 2024 is the year for you to achieve your dreams!