Yes, yes: it’s August, and I’m only just now getting around to my ‘year in review’ post for last year. I don’t know about you, but by the time 2020 finished, I was in no hurry to remenisce…
It won’t surprise you to learn that my writing and reading last year was affected by some external challenges. These included, obviously, the pandemic, but also a messy and drawn-out house moving process, which required us to stay with relatives for several months. Other writers reported that even when they had time, the state of the world made it hard for them to concentrate, or to produce new work, and I know what they mean.
So much for the bad stuff. Here’s some good news:
- I won the Peter Carey Award with a story about chicken called ‘Bock Bock‘! This was especially meaningful to me, because the competition is run by some excellent humans including Wayne Marshall and Jem Tyley-Miller, and in 2020 was judged by gun short story writer Elizabeth Tan.
- I signed with a literary agent: the indefatigable Martin Shaw of Shaw Literary. Martin immediately went to work on my behalf, and as a result of his efforts, publisher Wakefield Press has picked up my short story collection, due for publication in early 2022!
What I wrote
Most of my energies were devoted to finalising my collection, so that Martin and I could submit to publishers. To that end, I wrote 4 new connected short stories. It was my intention that these would provide a kind of superstructure for my collection, so that all the stories would occur in the same universe and be linked. But it turned out that publishers did not share my vision, and they won’t be included in the collection that comes out next year, so most of my new writing in 2020 came to nothing. For some reason, I don’t really care! It may have something to do with the fact that a short story collection, by me, is coming out early next year (have I mentioned this? That the excellent folks at Wakefield Press will be publishing my short story collection next year? I have? Sorry, I’m still pretty excited).
I also wrote an unrelated short story that, I think, is possibly the strongest piece I’ve written to date. Yes, it will appear in the collection, and in the meantime you will be able to read it in Griffith Review 74, scheduled for November 2021.
Anyway, I know why you’re really here. You’re here for some charts!
In 2020 I made, for me, what is a tiny number of submissions. Happily, my acceptance rate continues to improve, so I managed to have 5 new pieces published for the third year running.
Above is what this looked like over the course of the year. It was a grim Apr-July, let me tell you.
…aaaand this is the last four years. Submissions have continued to dwindle, as has writing time. My attention turns now to completing a polished draft of my next big project (a novel), so submissions will continue to drop in 2021.
Maybe that’s okay? Maybe I no longer need regular external validation that I am a legit writer, and that I haven’t lost the knack? Maybe. I guess I’m going to find out.
I made about $2,000 from my writing in 2020. Most of that was prize money from story competitions, with a couple of other publications providing the balance. I didn’t do any presenting work last year. I applied for a COVID-related arts grant, but was not successful.
As for reading, in 2020 I was eagerly anticipating new books by Elizabeth Tan (Smart Ovens for Lonely People) and Patrick Allington (Rise & Shine). I loved their previous work. I couldn’t wait. And… both of these books lived up to my ridiculously lofty expectations. Shirl by Wayne Marshall: also fantastic.
A stand-alone short story that I read in 2020 and that I still think about: ‘Ounya Passed‘ by Daniel Hutley at Overland.
And a longer essay on marathon running, which will pull you in even if you are not a runner: Nicholas Turner’s ‘Run to Feel‘.
Because I’m writing this in August, I can tell you that I’ve had a couple more successes already this year in terms of story competitions. The new writing, though, has been coming slowly. Turns out caring for two children is even more demanding than caring for one (I’d assumed that they would largely administer and entertain each other).
I am enjoying writing — slowly. I am enjoying reading — slowly. I feel like a writer, even when I am not writing. And the hunger to create remains, but the angst has receded somewhat. Metrics and stats aside, I feel like I am in a good place.