Salutations Happy 2022!

I saw a few Christmas trees on the curb today as I drove home from the Y. Poor, sad trees. I hope they were as well-loved in their transient homes as mine is – and will continue to be. I’m strategic about my tree – late to put it up, late to take it down. I aim for deep into the season because I know I’ll be reluctant to let all that beauty go. I know I must eventually – but not till I have to. And yes, it does mean I pick up many fallen needles. Alas, it’s the fate of a tree so well-loved that I can hardly bear to part with it. No kicking it to the curb until I absolutely must. Nope. It’s still Christmas here at Casa Crosiar. So many blessings of the season to you still.

Writing Goals Mind Map

However, life does move forward. Ready or not. So January is also my time to get ready. Spring semester course set up? Check. Learning a new way to track my book sales and create an author business plan, courtesy of Allesandra Torre whose course on setting writing goals I attended last week. Um…Checking. I’ve drafted goals, I’m playing with a book promotions budget, and… It’s still a work in process. Because the process is hard! But it is making me bend my brain in new directions, and while that can often feel painful, it often does me good. And since publicly declaring goals can help hold one accountable to them, here’s my most recent mind map draft. Does it mean much to you? Not likely. But for a self-professed goal freak like me – who has never before created written goals for writing by the way – believe me when I say this little chart is huge! So thank you Allessandra for making me work so hard! Now for the harder work to dream up action steps toward achieving said goals. Working on it…

A big goal for any writer is, of course, to write. And my big hairy audacious goal (BHAG, a term Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame coined) is to publish – that’s right publish – my current WIP. This year. Even better by July 30 so I can trot it out at this year’s FLARE conference, though that might be too hairy for prime time. But can I try? Sure. If you’re a regular reader, you know that my two protagonists have been outrageously stubborn about letting me know what is supposed to happen with them. But… drumroll, please… I think I figured it out! There’s a lot to write yet, and even more to revise. But I’m so much closer than ever before! With a solid week before my class begins to pound the keyboard. And July 30 in my sights (with November 1 as a backup plan.)

Reading, of course, is a big goal too, and one with a newly-found tool on Goodreads to help. They sent me a prompt to set my 2022 goal and wondering how I did in 2021, I poked around where I’d never poked before. Tada! They kept stats! So reading 50 books in 2022 looks like a totally doable goal. Hurrah! I took a peek through the 64 books I read last year to see what stood out – a bit like the New York Times Book Review did for their last 125 years. They’re more disciplined than I because I could not narrow it down even to my top 5 as Times readers did. Higgins and Center were most read – both new to me in 2021. William Kent Krueger, Lynda Rutledge, Katarina Bivald, and Gian Sardar were other new and notables mixed in with old faves like Joshilyn Jackson, Sophie Kinsella, Jojo Moyes, and others.

But what have you done for me lately, books? Time for the December/early January roundup.

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Here’s one I liked a lot. A grieving old man stumbles into a library, meets a surly young woman with a heavy burden, and discovers a mysterious list of books via the young woman when she opts to become less surly. Both are new to reading fiction and quickly become converts while all about their neighborhood, other seemingly disconnected people come across the same list – in a locker, on a bulletin board, in a book, on the sidewalk. And all are changed – the old man and surly young woman most of all, because of the books and the unlikely friendship that develops between them (also because of the books.) Since many of my dearest friendships grew because of books, I liked seeing it happen here too!

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Now here’s a tale to bend brains. Gingerbread specialist Harriet travels to England from a mythical land not found on any map. She lives with a bevy of distant relatives – some who can be trusted, some who can’t. But who can tell the difference? Ergo Harriet begets Perdita, father unnamed. Fed on stories of the mythical land, teenage Perdita takes a big risk – drugged gingerbread – to find her way back to mythic-world. Not a great idea, but it does convince Harriet to come clean – in a round-Robin-Hood’s-barn manner that includes Perdita’s inquisitive and quite verbal dolls. Right. Not a tale crammed with rational explanations. I found much of the story delightful, some confusing, and some fairly tedious. Good to read, better to complete.

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My guy and I opted for a new Christmas gift practice – 1 book we think the other will enjoy plus 2 other ‘creatively chosen’ gifts. This was the book he chose in what sounds like a fascinating process of applying filter after filter to find a book he was sure I’d like. I wish he’d kept track of all those filters that eventually narrowed his notion of what I’d enjoy down from his first broad fiction filter to this one book. One? This one. Can I report that it was a great choice?

Hmm… Yes. And also maybe not so much. It’s a wonderfully written book and one that’s important, but it was so terribly, terribly sad. Chancy follows individuals who experienced the devastating 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti. Some died, some survived, all were irrevocably changed. So…not a book to ‘like.’ But an important story that has clearly altered my worldview. Did I know that 250,000 people died in that earthquake? I’m sure I heard the number. But did it register like Chancy made it register? It did not. Did I care about those 250,000 and all the people who grieved for them like I cared about Taffia, Jonas, Ma Lou, Anne, and Sonia? I’m sorry to say I did not. Chancy made this tragedy real for me, and I’m still weighing whether I’d rather live with knowledge, or whether I’d find life easier in blissful ignorance. Ah well. Too late now. I can no longer not know about such suffering, the utter powerlessness that she portrayed so believably. However, I also can’t not know about the resilience, strength, and beauty of the Haitian culture, and that’s a gift I’d like to explore more. While I do, I hope I might find ways to help Haiti heal too, however miniscule my efforts might be. Chancy certainly did not write a book about a people who can be forgotten.

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After my literary trip to Haiti, I ached to read something lighter, something more hopeful. Surely Katherine Center would deliver. She did. But not until after a lot of heart-wrenching as we watched twenty-something Maggie not walk away from a plane crash. Oh, nuts. Was this another story that made surviving look like its own kind of calamity? Sure looked like it. Still, Maggie did get assigned a hunky physical therapist with a sexy Scottish accent, and her feisty and hilarious sister came back into her life after a long estrangement. And she found strength she didn’t know she had. Because she had little choice? Or because she chose the path of hope over the path of despair? If you like a dose of hard reality tempered with humor and hope, I recommend Center’s books.

And that sums up my recent reading. Plenty of hard reality (or magical hard reality) but with some measure of redemptive hope. None of these four books focused on our current pandemic, but are there messages in them that resonate for our times? I think so. Perhaps Katherine Center summed up that resonance for me when her Scottish PT says to a frustrated Maggie, “It’s the trying that heals you. That’s all you have to do. Just try.”

I know how powerless I’ve sometimes felt in the face of this pandemic, and I’m guessing you have too. But trying? That’s something – maybe the only thing – that’s absolutely something you and I can do.

So my friends, please try.

Try to get vaccinated and boosted if you haven’t yet. And if you need more information before that feels safe to you, try asking a genuine expert, someone who has invested a lot of their life to learn about the human body and how it works.

Try to avoid situations where you might be exposed. Try to always remember your mask when you cannot avoid such situations. Try to keep washing your hands. Try to keep your hands away from your face.

Try to be kind – to yourself first and to others too, remembering you can’t necessarily see the extent of anyone else’s physical or emotional vulnerability.

And most of all, please try to stay well. What you do for yourself in this instance has a direct impact on helping others – those you love and everyone else too – stay well. Of the two, let’s choose to kick the virus to the curb and keep our Christmas trees up a little longer!

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