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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on 2014

by Sheila Webster Boneham

I've never been big on making resolutions for the New Year. First of all, I spent so many years attached to academic schedules as a student, a university faculty member, and wife of a professor that I tend to think of January as the middle of the year. More importantly, resolutions are usually too big, too rehashed, and too vaguely framed. I'm more of a goal-setter, with specific benchmarks that I can track. (Yes, I make spreadsheets for everything -- running and long-distance walking goals, writing goals, whatever.)

Still, I do like to mark the end of each year with a look back. This year, I thought I'd share some of the ups, downs, and whirligigs. I'd also like to say 

to everyone who has been part of my journey this year. 

Writing, as most of you know, is central to my life and my identity. It's natural, then, that many of the ups, downs, and whirligigs of 2014 have been linked to writing, publishing, and not publishing. Here's a summary....
Drop Dead on Recall (Midnight Ink, 2012), the first of the mysteries, won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America. 

The Money Bird, mystery #2, was nominated (that is, it is a finalist) for the 2014 Maxwell Award (winners to be announced in February 2015).

  • My agent, Josh Getzler, sold mystery #4, Shepherd's Crook, to Terri Bischoff, acquisitions editor at Midnight Ink. It's almost finished, and scheduled for publication in the fall.
  • My essay "A Question of Corvids" won the 2014 Prime Number Magazine Creative Nonfiction Award, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and for the 2015 Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology. Please note - I almost didn't enter the contest but my friend & brilliant writer Penny Guisinger gave me a shove. Thanks, Penny! Please also note - this essay was declined by seven other magazines in 2014.
  • I had three essays and three poems published in literary magazines.
  • I received twenty rejections from literary magazines for essays and poems. 
  • I've written and am about to turn in mystery #4, to be published in the fall. 
  • I have another novel, several essays and poems, and a memoir in progress, and more ideas cooking. I won't be bored any time soon!
  • I taught several writing classes and mentored two writers privately over the past year. I love teaching, both for whatever little help I can give an aspiring writer and for the many things I always learn from the experience.
  • I attended some inspiring writerly events - the North Carolina Writers Network Fall Conference in Charlotte and the Press 53 Gathering of Writers in Winston-Salem were outstanding!
  • Best of all, I've had the support of a terrific network of people - the MFA community at the Stonecoast Program; the many readers and writers I see in real life and "see" on social media; my husband Roger; my lovely Labrador, Lily (who reminds me that there laptops are for cuddling, too!); Pomegranate Books, whose owner Kathleen Jewel, is a champion of authors, particularly local authors, and of readers; my Sea Quills critique-group buddies Nancy Gadzuk, Charlene Pollano, Georgia Mullen, and Mike Connolly. 
Without life at large, of course, the only thing I would have to write about would be me, me, me, and even I would get bored with that limited subject matter, so I do make an effort to live away from the page. Adventure and joy and beauty are essential, and sadness, too, plays a part. Some "life" highlights from 2014 include....
  • I took a wonderful train trip in May - I flew to Washington, DC, then took the Capital Limited to Chicago, the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, the Texas Eagle back to Chicago, and the Capital Limited back to DC. I'm ready to go again! Choo choo! (Two of the essays I mentioned above are about train travel - if you'd like to read them, they are "The 'I' States" and "Nocturne: Nebraska"
  • We said farewell to a number of the Australian Shepherd puppies we bred - they were all around 13 years old, and they had wonderful lives with their people, but every one of them was still "our puppy."
  • I spent many wonderful hours walking around this beautiful area of southeastern North Carolina where we live. I'm especially fond of walking on Wrightsville Beach and at Airlie Gardens, a place filled with magical scenes like the one you see here. I'm hoping to take a long-distance walk in the coming year. 
  • I started and completed a Couch to 5K walk/run training program, and have been running three days a week for four months now. Wahoo! 
There was more, of course. It's impossible to write a whole year in a few words. It's been a good year, all in all. So here's wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, & creative 2015! I hope you'll follow this blog - and perhaps find me and the Writers & Other Animals Group on Facebook, too! (That was another thing I enjoyed in 2014 - starting this blog. If you have a little time, scroll back through some of the terrific posts by terrific authors who have shared the journey!)

Sheila Webster Boneham is an award-winning writer who writes across genres and interacts across species. She is the author of the best-selling Animals in Focus mystery series from Midnight Ink and of seventeen nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters: How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine Publications, 2009, updated 2013). Sheila also writes creative nonfiction, literary fiction, and poems, and she teaches writing classes and offers individual mentoring for aspiring writers. Find her online at www.sheilaboneham.com, on Facebook, or by e-mail.

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