Year-End Thoughts from Writerly Bites

My favorite reads, my favorite podcast episodes, my plans for 2021

Hello, writers. Have you made it through the flurry of winter holidays? No doubt you celebrated in a very different way this year than you normally do. After a year full of tragedies and unexpected small joys, I think most of us are more than ready for 2021 to be different — or to restore us to a state of normalcy.

I read a little less than I normally do this year, because I have a new baby in the house and new motherhood during a pandemic took up a fair amount of time. But I still found myself thrilled by many of the books I did read, and I want to list a few of my favorites here:

Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood

The Changeling, Victory Lavalle

The Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli

The Unpassing, Chia-Chia Lin

Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler

Buddhism for Western Children, Kirstin Allio

Of the books I read and loved this year, I think they all have the quality of being interested in their characters’ transformations. These books are about people in the process of change, struggling to know themselves or to know the people they love more intimately. They were all thrilling. They were all beautifully written. I think the word “beautiful” is often confused for pretty or fancy or elevated, , but beauty is much more than that; it’s about clarity, truth, and keen, penetrating insight.

This year, I started the Writerly Bites podcast, and I’ve released ten episodes so far. I’m particularly happy to have interviewed Lara Ehrlich and Rachel Lyon. Look to 2021 for new writing tips, and interviews with more of my favorite authors working today, every week. I’m excited about all that’s to come for the podcast in the new year, and I hope you’ll help spread the word so that the podcast can continue to grow.

2021 will hopefully carry with it much promise — a new American president, a widespread vaccine, and more personal victories for our own writing. I’ll be with you, writing and sharing the tips I’ve learned over the years for getting more and better words on the page.

Your prompt for the first week of 2021:

This isn’t a year for ordinary new year’s resolutions. Many of us are still in a holding pattern, waiting for life to return to some semblance of normalcy. But part of that restoration means valuing our writing and our creative inner life. So in the first week of 2021, make sure you’re doing something for you. Set aside two hours that are undisturbed, and just for yourself. Don’t use the internet during that time. In the first hour, read a book without checking your phone once. In the second hour, write. Write one paragraph, or write two pages. Don’t edit, don’t read what you’ve written on other days; just push forward, and write down the uncomfortable thing your character doesn’t want to admit to him or herself. It might take you the entire hour to arrive at that one uncomfortable line; but keep patiently pushing forward to that line.

More News for 2021:

• I’m teaching online classes with Storystudio, Maine Writers, and Grubstreet

• I have a short story forthcoming in New Letters