It may be me becoming more cynical but isn’t every year described as a “momentous year” somewhere in the media? Certainly you’ll hear a lot of that phrase in the next few days!
It is true 2018 has had its moments but it will be overshadowed by 2019 and whatever happens with Brexit. And that is as political as I want to get!
In any case, I prefer a more positive review at the end of the year. Positivity and negativity can be contagious and I know which I would rather “catch”. Also, it’s not as if there is ever a world shortage of bad news, unfortunately.
Highlights then for 2018 for me include:-
1. Discovering I can get on with a smartphone! I held out against one for ages, not feeling I needed it. Now I have one, I can’t imagine what I was thinking before. I often write flash fiction stories, draft posts for CFT etc on an app I have on this and find I’m using time on railway journeys etc more productively. This is a good thing as it frees up time when I’m home again for other writing projects. Also, rather than ring up my husband to tell him “I’m on the train” and annoy every other passenger in the carriage (trust me, you don’t want to hear this, not after the umpeenth time of hearing it anyway!), I can email him (And yes, just annoy him instead!).
2. We have now owned our border collie cross, Lady, for a year. While still very young and with lots to learn, she has developed a lot in the last 12 months, as she should do, and now has plenty of dog and human friends. Apologies to Janet Williams who called in recently. Lady decided that what Janet needed more than anything else was to be sat on! Janet was unaware of this need but Lady wasn’t… Lady forgets her size at times… Janet should be recovering around about now, I would have thought!
3. My first non-fiction piece was published in print recently in Christian Writer, the quarterly journal of the Association of Christian Writers. It was a 500-word piece about the telling details that can help bring stories to life. (Funnily enough, telling details can bring a non-fiction article to life too).
4. I was published in an ebook compilation for the first time in the summer when To Be…To Become was brought out by Bridge House Publishing in conjunction with the Waterloo Arts Festival.
5. I’ve taken part in an Open Prose Night at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for the first time.
6. I’ve given a brief talk at the Hampshire Writers’ Society for the first time. Many thanks to all for their warm welcome.
7. My first 75-word story (including title) was published on renowned website, Paragraph Planet, back in November. (Such a great name for what they do too! The link takes you to their archive. I’m on November 22nd but do explore the other stories here. Great variety. I very much hope to write more here but it is a great challenge to write to an exact word count including the title. What I find helps is to automatically deduct up to 10 words from any limit set for a flash fiction competition or market and that more than covers the title! For fellow flash fiction writers, always watch the competition rules. Some are specific they want the title counted, others do not. Always double check.
8. The wildflower meadow at Hiltingbury has been absolutely stunning and a joy to experience when out walking the dog earlier this year. Well done to all behind this. It seemed to me at one point whenever I was out there, someone was taking pictures of the fantastic array of flowers there. Understandably so. Such amazing colours. The images below were taken by me when the flowers FIRST came out. Later in the year, there was a wonderful display of pinks which was a real treat to see (and I must admit I was surprised to see them, not expecting another flowering of anything much thanks to the heatwave. That, incidentally, was not one of my highlights of the year!)
9. Getting more into classical music and loving it all. Music, for me, is one of the great joys of life and I love a wide range of genres but classical, to until fairly recently, was a closed book. Not any more! Pieces I’ve developed a real love for over the last 12 months are Jupiter by Holst, Adagio for Strings by Barber, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams. I must admit I don’t know all the technical terms (Adagio for one!) but am sure will pick this up over time (Adagio = slow and stately! I looked it up!).
10. Relishing swimming sessions at the revamped Fleming Park. (Sorry, for me, it will always be known as that. Places Eastleigh just isn’t good enough as a name as it’s not distinctive enough or that inspiring. I do love what they’ve done with the facilities here though and I am pleasantly amazed someone gave real thought to the car parking requirements here. Is it me or sometimes is car parking added on as an after thought to a project? If it is thought about at all that is…). Image of the actual Fleming Park facilities below was taken from the CFT archives.
11. Resuming working on a novel I wrote a while ago and falling back in love with my characters again. I’m using the techniques I’ve picked up writing flash fiction and CFT posts to ruthlessly edit this book and I hope to start submitting it to relevant people probably next spring or thereabouts. The book will be stronger for that edit and I think the gap away from it has helped me see its failings more clearly. Failings can be rectified! Well in writing they can be… easier to do there than in yourself I think.
12. As ever, meeting new writers and catching up with old friends at Swanwick and the recent Bridge House event are always highlights. I love social media for the ease with which you can stay in contact with friends during the rest of the year but there is nothing like getting together face to face every so often. (And if a pub lunch or having a drink or two with said friends is also part of the mix, even better!).
13. Editing Graham MacLean’s Art Series earlier this year was a joy. His pictures are stunning. It was lovely to share them here. The Doctor Who episode, Vincent, with Matt Smith as our time travelling hero, opened up my eyes to the sheer colour and imagination of Van Gogh’s works. I suppose if I have any regrets on the creative side of life is my total inability to draw anything. My “painting” has to be with words.
14. Seeing the latest productions from the Chameleons and the MDG Players has been a lot of fun but the former’s production of Blackadder Goes Forth was particularly well done. It also made a moving tribute to those who suffered so much in World War 1.
15. The Hursley Park Book Fair was the biggest book event I’d taken part in to date and was good fun.
16. I interviewed Gail Aldwin earlier this year and Amanda Huggins was part of my CFT post about networking and it was especially nice to finally meet both of them face to face at the Bridge House event.
It is nice to come up with a list of highlights and naturally I hope 2019 has many more but it pays, I think, to take a step back and look at what has gone on in the last 12 months. I find this especially useful in looking back at what I’ve written, did I achieve all I wanted to, did I achieve something new etc. When I did, great. When I didn’t, how close did I get? What can I adjust so I do better in the next 12 months?
Incidentally, much as I think a brief look back and look ahead is a good thing to do, I wouldn’t give you a thank you for standing out in the inevitable cold to actually see in the New Year in London or what have you. I prefer to carry out my reflections in the warm!
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and may I wish you all the very best for 2019. See you here next year! As ever, a huge thank you to Janet for all of her hard work in setting up and running the CFT website.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.