#WeNeedDiverseBooks, 2014, authors, new year, writing, Year in Review

14 things [bookish and otherwise] I learned in 2014

How is it the eve of 2015? No- really. I demand to know how because I frankly can’t make heads or tails of it. My eldest is four. My baby is two. And I have a book that will no longer be coming out next year, but instead this year in 2015. I’m panicked frazzled GAHHHH amazed at how fast it’s all going. Without further ado fourteen things, in no particular order I learned in 2014:

  1. When a dream comes true it isn’t The End its a But Wait! There’s more! This year the biggest dream a writer of books could possibly hope to attain came true for me: I got a book deal. Since I could put pen to paper authorhood has been The Dream. For some reason, much like Cinderella who dreamed of her prince charming to carry her into the sunset on his gleaming white horse for a happily ever after, I imagined a similar Happily Ever After once I got the most amazing phone call one can dream of. In other words, I hadn’t given much thought to what came after. I now know that as monumental a moment as it is to have a book deal, it is the gateway to other hopes and possibilities. I didn’t understand fully until this dream came true that dreams are regenerative, that dreams beget more dreams.
  2. How many people are involved in making a book come to life? More than I ever knew. When my agent Taylor Martindale submitted my novel to the great big world of publishing, we obviously thought it was the best possible version the book could be and yet, my lovely editor Nancy Paulsen gave me amazing advice on ways to flesh it out even more and to add even more layers of nuance and complexity. Then there’s the copy editors, the formatters, the cover designer, the photographer, the model for the cover silhouette, the graphic designer, marketing, and my amazing publicist just to name a tiny few. You go into a bookstore and you see books everywhere you turn, but each book isn’t just the work of one person, each book had a team invested in it. I knew this on some level but didn’t fully appreciate just how vast the network of support was until I saw it happen with my book.
  3. Traveling alone is a sacred experience. While K has taken a few trips away from the kids for work, this was my first time away from them traveling to NYC for BookCon for WNDB. It was 36 hours of amazement. Sitting on an airplane without a lap filled with toys, books, and snacks. Hailing a cab and not having to grab a little one to make sure they stay firmly on the street. Sleeping without a 4am wake-up call for a hug, or a pat, or a glass of milk. I used to be a teacher. A lawyer. This was the first time in a long time I remembered the days of being a professional and of doing my own thing. I missed them, and being home with them is a choice I am thankful I can make, but a brief time to be alone with my thoughts was an incredible thing.
  4. A robot hotel is a thing.  Complete with robots to carry your bags and all. Who’d have thunk?
  5. The spouse is really good with the kids. Really, really good. Maybe too good. Kidding. Kind of. I know K is an amazing father but this trip to NYC? Within two hours of my returning home, my eldest was asking me when I could please go again to another conference so he could hang with dad for another guys weekend. With a few more trips on the horizon in 2015 where I’ll be going solo for potentially longer stretches, it’s a great feeling to know that not only do the kids love the guy-time but K does too. I also know it’s exhausting to be one-on-one with kids all day without break, and so I’m grateful that he supports me enough to do this without even a pause or hesitation.
  6. The YA literary world is an incredibly small one. This year I found my tribe. I met writers and authors and book lovers and connected over our love for the written word. I got to meet authors debuting brand new like me and I got to meet seasoned veteran authors who are so incredibly generous with their time. I learned the YA community is there for you in an incredible way that I could never have imagined before being welcomed into its fold.
  7. It’s okay to be an introvert. In a world, or at least a desi world, geared towards extroverts, this is the year I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m just not the kind of person who enjoys huge parties with one-hundred of my closest friends. It’s what most people in the community do, proudly declaring their busy schedules and parties filling ever minute of their weekends. This year I have decided to own the fact that I enjoy time with my family, close friends, and myself and while this is counter-culture to how my culture at large operates I’m finally learning to make my peace with this part of who I am.
  8. Sometimes, frozen biscuits are okay. This was a tough one for me. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I adore cooking for it. I adore it so much that on years we are not in town for Thanksgiving I do my own fakesgiving the first available weekend after. While I must admit that I don’t do too much in the way of the turkey [Honey Baked Ham makes a mean cajun flavored that warms itself up yummy in the oven] the sides are The Best Thing Ever. I am obsessed with sides. And all from scratch because it just tastes better that way. This year I tried my hand at mashed potatoes with carmelized onions, roast beef, green beans with almond slivers, roasted potatoes, a secret mac-n-cheese made with fine cheeses, stuffing, pumpkin soup, pecan and pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, and I was so bummed based on the amount of baking all of this required I didn’t have time to make my home-made from scratch buttery fluffy [with a hint of crisp] biscuits. I adore home-made biscuits but biscuits require a great deal of TLC and warmth which can be tricky to achieve in my somewhat drafty home. You would think that a decision to get frozen biscuits would not be so angst-ridden. You would think. But if a thing can be thunk you better believe I’ll over think it. So after much debate about all the iterations that this could take, we ended up getting frozen biscuits. And they were good. And it was okay. And while this is taking entirely too long to explain and I will be dead set on making biscuits this next Thanksgiving it’s good to be gentle with oneself when one cannot reach one’s plans. 
  9. Turkey biryani is a thing. A glorious beautiful thing.  Thank you to Tracy for introducing me to the most amazing use of turkey left overs ever. I tweaked this recipe using spices from my own recipe– but wow- biryani in one hour that tastes amazing and ensures left overs don’t go to waste. It will be a new tradition.
  10. Corn-mazes should be on one’s bucket list. But probably only once.
  11. Time-share vacation deals aren’t a scam but that doesn’t mean you should do it. When K told me me he had signed us up for a free three-night stay in a hotel in Myrtle Beach in exchange for a three hour presentation on time-shares, I was slightly less than pleased. The trip was fun enough [my four year-old loves hotels, he can’t stop jumping up in sheer joy at the sight of a motel 8] but that three hour presentation…. oh my. It. Was. Awkward. And while it was straightforward enough and gave me tons of ideas for a short-story based on The Very Desperate Condo Salesman, it’s not something I will do again.
  12. The written word is permanent. With each passing year the barrier between our thoughts and our words has almost vanished. Where before we might utter a random nonsense to a friend over coffee and then shudder and self-correct, now we can just as easily utter impulsive thoughts into the world wide web. Words are powerful. They are more powerful than ever before. Whatever we say we should consider the ramifications. If there is doubt, even 1% of doubt about what one says, it’s better to not.
  13. Stories are old as time, but we find new ways of telling them. If you’re a writer and don’t read Justine Larbaleister’s blog, you should know: it’s fabulous. I particular loved this piece on ideas and plots and how we don’t need to worry so much about what’s been written because we as individuals will manage to create our own story all the same. A great example of such a book I read recently was Renee Ahdieh’s upcoming debut The Dawn and the Wrath, a retelling of the Arabian Nights tale of Scheherazade. She took a familiar story but made it her own. Stories are always written but it’s how we tell them that makes the novel unique. This is a surprisingly novel concept to learn because it frees one up form worrying about what’s already out here and focusing on the ideas marinating within.
  14. New Years Eve never has been and never will be the rocking party time TV tells me I should be having, but a lovely quiet meal with my husband followed by chocolate cake curled up on the couch watching the ball drop while my kids sleep safely upstairs is not just okay–its the best possible way I could imagine seeing off a new year and welcoming the new.

Farewell to 2014 and here’s to 2015. May it bring joy and happiness and peace to you and yours. Ameen.

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