Dear 2011, You Win at Life: My Year in Review

The “Year in Review” has been a theme across the blogosphere this week and though I’m a bit belated—having been busy cramming some lovely last-minute activities into 2011 like skiing and fireworks in an area of the country where a good internet connection is hard to find—I thought that it was a worthy effort to give a fond farewell to all the excellent highlights of the past year.

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In the past twelve months, I got my very first publishing credit, followed by what was a welcome parade of several other acceptance letters (the only one currently available online is my academic paper, Lost in Translation: Retelling the Tale of Joan of Arc in the Honors Review), traveled to Boston, Massachusetts and to Savannah, Georgia for the first time, graduated with my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and History, lived in NYC, got a Certificate in Publishing from New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute, met Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner, and Frank Warren of Postsecret fame (on separate occasions), commuted nearly 10,000 miles (and listened to 18 audiobooks) in my first five months working at my job as an Assistant Editor at Transaction Publishers, wrote an entire 50,000-word NaNoWriMo novel in the company of some great new local writer friends, won a few writing awards, and—we mustn’t forget!—since I started this blog in May, I’ve met lots of lovely new blogger friends, with a solid base of 32 lovely and loyal followers.*

‘tis been a good year indeed!

On a side note, over at Writer’s Relief, they’ve complied a round-up list of their best and most popular writing articles from 2011. I think it’s an excellent collection and they can help inspire some New Year’s resolutions for better writing and better submission habits. Another good resolution would be to sign up for the free Writer’s Digest newsletter! It’s chock-full of inspirational articles, writing prompts, and contest information. I know that since I graduated, I’ve been surrounded by less and less writing students, writing professors, and pressing due dates. Both of these newsletters do a good job of filling that hole by offering encouragement . . . or, when I’m more reluctant to compose something new, preferring to burrow under the covers and procrastinate with a book, the newsletters succeed at nagging me and reminding me of my writing goals.

Here’s wishing that 2012 is even better than the last!

*Waves at you through computer screen.

The Cure to Writer’s Block: Tell the Story Behind PostSecrets

Two weeks ago I attended the PostSecret event at Rutgers University, Camden campus with my younger sister.  For those of you who don’t know, PostSecret is a community art project started by Frank Warren a handful of years ago where people send in anonymous postcards inscribed with a secret they’ve never shared before and Frank posts a collection of them on the Postsecret blog every Sunday; some of you might remember its initial launch to fame with the All American Reject’s popular music video.

 

Since then, Frank has compiled five PostSecret books–the newest one being Confessions on Life, Death, and God

and has done hundreds of presentations on the lecture circuit.  Two weeks ago, people revealed secrets varying from embarrassing public peeing experiences, to admitting considering suicide, to getting down on one knee and proposing to a girlfriend left completely out of the loop until that moment (this kind of made my sister and mine’s lives).

Wedding Proposal Rutgers University, Camden 2011

Wedding Proposal at PostSecret Event

All it took was a single sentence; a single honest, trembling-voice sentence and the entire room felt like they knew the speaker.  Secrets are like an introduction to a person; their hopes, fears, and driving motivations.   As I sat there listening to people’s secrets, I felt like I was surrounded by characters.  When writing fiction, sometimes I have a hard time identifying what the main character’s driving motivations are; I have a hard time rationalizing what they should/would say or do because I don’t know what makes them tick.

Secrets are what make people tick.  I’ve talked about this recently concerning  family ancestors and the need to dig up those secrets to write good memoir.  When writing fiction, as the author, you need to know your characters secrets; if you know their inner-most secret, then you’ll know how they’ll react to every scene you put them in.  The audience doesn’t have to know that secret until the end of the book.  Theory: this is a good writer’s dirty little secret.

Here’s my favorite writing prompt: go to the PostSecret blog, or pick up one of the books and read until you connect with a particular secret.  Use it as the first sentence to a new story; it can be your story–one thing Frank mentioned during the event was that a lot of people have the same secret–or a fictional character’s story.  It can be a story about what lead them to admit that secret; the emotional struggle that led them to physically mail it in.

What’s your character’s secret?