Yesterday when I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself for not having gotten much done in 2011, I started making a list. What all HAD I accomplished? What had I left behind that I loved best? And the list surprised me.
In January the Inlandia Literary Journal published Homecoming a short story about a loft of pigeons in Banning, California and the places that make us.
I had two essays published at The Rumpus one that dealt with my love/hate relationship with home (and David Grohl) and the other about my grandmother. What We Lost When We Lost Barbara Jean made it on the best of list that week on Longreads.com.
I experimented with self-publishing and put together a collection of pieces to accompany the eBook release of Lift. My collection Rise came out in July. Lift continued on its journey and two chapters were included in New California Writing 2011. And I blushed when Zyzzyva thought the chapters were moving. Then I started work on the audiobook, running a successful Kickstarter, finding a recording studio and narrating the book myself. (Now for final edits)
Also, I made quite a few online friends into in real life friends. And I met Neil Gaiman and found myself remembering why I started writing in the first place.
Maybe most importantly, this summer I flew a Cooper’s hawk and found a new lens for my inspiration.
This is all my personal work. I don’t talk as much about my work as a conservation fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited, although I should. I spend more time working on that than anything else and it is work I am very proud of being a part of. We managed to save a tremendous amount of NAWCA funding that was on the chopping block. In California we saw the breaching of a levvy in salt flats that had not seen tidal flow for over 100 years. I helped fund work in the Klamath Basin, the San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley of California amongst many other places in the West.
Recently someone asked me if I was truly dedicated to this work, if my plans were really just to wait it out until I was making enough money to live well as an author. I laughed. I buy lottery tickets too, but no one asks if my real plan is to win the lottery. “Aren’t you just working so that you can write?,” he asked. “Are you just working so that you can support your family,” I asked.
Then he asked how I get it all done. The short answer? I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I often wonder how people raise families and work at the same time. He should have asked me why I didn’t get more done. Then I told him that I sit in front of my computer most nights. I almost never watch television. I jot ideas down in between jumping from the shower and getting dressed for work. I write when I go out to eat. I write on airplanes. I daydream about storylines when I’m on the treadmill. I use my vacation time to do readings or to finish writing a project. I haven’t had a real vacation in 8 years. In my free time- I write.
That is how you become an author, but having a job you love helps. It helps a lot. So I am thankful for my free time, but also for a job that allows me to make a difference for something I care deeply about, conservation. So looking back, when everyone said, “Get er done!” I think I did. Happy New Year!
I can’t wait to see what the list for 2012 looks like… I can’t wait to hear what you get accomplished too!!