For me the year starts over in September. Must be the time spent in school, but I also love the season shift and the sense that you are clocking in fresh. But January has always been a time to do a check-in too. My family was into writing down goals each year, so I’ve been doing that since I was literally a small child. My husband and I have continued the tradition. Along with goals for the next year, we look back on what we wrote the year prior and do a little reflection on what came to fruition, what did not.
Jennifer Bowen, ‘QueenBee’, CEO of BookHive Corp.
I have a few bite sized takeaways. First off, BookHive has been ‘up and running’ for two and a half years. In 2016, I probably had about six months where I floundered, still thinking I had to do everything. It was really with the encouragement of my father (he’s in research too) to take a call from some marketing wiz to see what else I could do that broke me through. I did walk away from the call (which I took, harried, in the back of a cab in between running to the next thing in NYC for my day job as a personal organizer) with a clearer action plan. First off, I got my wonderful IT guy in North Carolina to continue the never ending ‘SEO’-ing task, and hired someone to do my social media. Both provided pretty instant results as we booked a large, unusual survey project for a new client.
This brought me to the realization that I don’t love social media all that much, and actually find it draining (do you feel the irony, as you read this on Facebook or Twitter?) I mean, listen, I am glad it is there. But I want to be in the world more, the real world. Yet, I am very grateful for Tallie Gabriel my new social media maven who can research all the helpful topics for authors and be that outreach via our blog and platforms. Asking for help isn’t my first instinct, but I’m glad I have the instinct at all. After the election, I took Facebook and Twitter off my phone and have been less face down into the screen. As a result, I’m only checking my email multiple times an hour during the work day, not like, every 5 minutes. I feel more fluid, more free.
Somewhere in there, I was smacked with the realization that I’ve only been reading books via BookHive authors the last two years (but I did read ‘The Goldfinch’!! I think that can almost count as two books…) It’s been a pleasure to read these often very new works. But as a writer myself, I could feel my own technique slipping. I recently recruited a project and found beta readers who are reading 100-200 books a year, or more. WOAH. (that deserves a caps and italics) I have a much more modest goal of 12-15 books a year for 2017. ‘The Snow Child’ was going to be my December 2016 book but a year end 160,000 word count BookHive project took the focus. So now it has become my book of January 2017. If I love to be hard on myself, this year, I was less than ever. Progress.
I took my first fiction class at Sackett Street Writers Workshop in Brooklyn in the fall. My teacher Orli Van Mourik was the perfect blend of super smart and super supportive. She offered critiques that helped guide and encourage the class to keep finding ways to better critique ourselves. I finally started a new project, which I am calling ‘my second first novel.’ I cut my teeth on a YA novel that inspired me to start BookHive in the first place. The last time I had written fiction was in high school. Draft after draft, I worked on the YA book in multiple writers groups, tested it through BookHive, took a break for a year, and then returned to it in 2016 for one last go of it. By the end of it, I knew I wanted to put it down for a long while. I don’t see this as a defeat. Instead, it gave me the freedom to write something new. Also, I took everything I have learned the last few years, and started my second first novel on much stronger footing. Writing fiction well is still a beast, and a slow process for me. But Orli’s class really got my jumpstarted, and in 2017 I’ll be taking a 20 week novel writing class at Sackett to hopefully write a draft. To name the new fiction piece, I stole one from a play I wrote – ‘My Grief is Golden and True.’ On my 38th birthday last August, my husband and I went to Tarrytown, New York to get away from the humid muck of NYC in August. For almost half of 2016 I had total writers block. But I started doing some playwriting (how I started as a writer) but felt vulnerable after sharing the new play at a creative retreat in early summer. After such a long writing break (almost a year) all my words still seemed to be wrapped in bandages, not really whole or ready for public consumption. It was a grim time as I wasn’t sure if I was a writer anymore. As a surprise, my husband printed the title of the ‘Grief’ play and framed it for me, to remind me to stay encouraged. It was a soggy, tear filled birthday breakfast, but one that stuck with me. A few weeks later I signed up for Orli’s Fiction class, determined to try again. I named the new ‘novel’ after the play that I stumbled with, sort of as a way to remind me that my path is not always linear. We get there when we get there, in weird, circuitous ways. I placed the framed picture above my computer, and below the framed postcard that inspired the design elements for BookHive.
Play title, to new novel title – ‘ My Grief is Golden and True’
Finally, I think it was a year where I more comfortably embraced that I am not just one thing. I have often lamented that while I am a hard worker, I can never focus on one thing. If only I could, I think, then I would be a superstar in that area. But maybe, I am a superstar at being OK with being in the thriving middle. And who knows what will peak year to year? If I could only be a writer, or only be a creative forward thinking CEO, or perfect personal organizer, etc. – then my path would be so clear. But I’m not that person. I want to write, and help authors through BookHive, and pay the bills with organizing, and be a person, and cook good meals, too. Today, I am making Beef and Barley soup for the first time, and nostalgically riding the wave of my twenties listening to Tori Amos ‘Under the Pink’ – an album I haven’t listened to in fifteen years. It was a year where a baby eluded me again with another loss, yet, the hope of the next thing also smiled back at me, waiting to come true. In 2017 I want to volunteer more to causes that matter to me, and write more, read more, be in the world more, and as always, do the next right thing.
BookHive Corp. does beta reader editorial research for authors. For more information – www.bookhivecorp.com