Each month, we pitch a new question to our staff and readers. If you have a question you’d like us to answer, email it to us. This month we asked: What were your proudest moments in 2009? The following stories show a year in resolutions of a different kind: not the things we resolved to do, but the things that were resolved.
In 2009 I had a collection of stories, The Emperor’s Toy Chest, and a novella, The Fair Grounds, taken by the UK-based press PS Publishing. Along the way I learned a lot about Napoleon, the Ottoman Empire, and haunted houses. Qué será será.
When my friend and coworker Laura was laid off in May, I felt awful and powerless. But then I decided to tell everyone I could what an amazing marketing writer and colleague she is. I created the site 32 Reasons to Hire My Friend Laura, set up a Facebook page, sent out tweets, and emailed lots of colleagues to let them know about Laura. Then I took a month and a half to share all 32 reasons. Based on the original intent, it wasn’t a huge success. Only 200 people visited the site and Laura didn’t get a single job lead out of it. But she did use the site to market herself to leads, several of whom commented on the buzzard in interviews. Laura has built a nice freelance practice (and is available to help you). Most importantly, with just a few hours of my time, I helped a friend going through a tough time believe in her own strengths and skills.
This isn’t the easiest thing to talk about, not least because a very cynical voice in my head will accuse me of going soft—or worse, Emo—by relating something so personal. I’d prefer to talk about the great new job I just got, or the trip to London I took, or even that I played with some friends’ band at a show at the Virgin Megastore in Union Square just before it closed.
However, my sentimental impulses, deaf to my inner cynic’s taunts, won’t let me. A wiser man than myself (via a character in his Bored to Death series), wrote, “I hope your heart is broken many times, because it means you will have loved many times.” So, yeah: I was in love this year, and I was loved, and it made me very happy. That was my big achievement of 2009, and this is coming from a guy who got a phone call from one of his heroes.
Lauren Frey Daisley
American author Jessamyn West wrote, “Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” What that statement really means is that West didn’t own an alarm clock.
In 2009, I finished a novel and married. I would argue that no book can ever substitute the real living that takes place when you are every day confronted with the natural and worthy challenge of mindfully loving someone. I would also argue that since they inform one another, no one ever needs to choose between the two. She just needs to wake up every morning at 5:30 to type 500 words before leaving for work.
I am, as you might imagine, still a newlywed and in the very early stages of finding a publisher. An agent I respect recently wrote to me that my book is “moving, unexpected, and thought provoking.” Very nice to hear. Possibly even nicer, the same—and then some—seems to be true about marriage.
Inspired by TMN’s own Maggie Mason, I created a list of 100(+) Things to Do Before Death. My favorite item I got to check off this year? Ride in the Fremont Solstice Festival Naked Bike Ride. I was completely naked other than some red, yellow, and blue body paint (I was painted to resemble my bike). Photographic evidence (sort of) can be seen here.
My favorite accomplishment of 2009 was reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I started along with the group at Infinite Summer, but eventually got so caught up that I blazed ahead to the end, a month ahead of schedule. The book had been on my shelf for a decade, recommended by several friends even before that. I’m happy that the folks at Infinite Summer gave me the push to take it off the shelf, plus provide the momentum to keep going even through the difficult parts. I think it’s a great book, and I’m glad to finally have read it.
Technically, I’m down two-three on the heady list of wishes I posted to Facebook last January: “Jessanne Collins is projecting to the universe for 09: lack of dysentery, book deals, puppy love, credit card bailout, booze cruises.”
To date, I haven’t secured a contract, a dog, or Bank of America’s amnesty. I did survive a trip to Calcutta—including a dance party on the Hooghly river—bacteria-free. I’m thoroughly thankful for that, but the pursuit of those as-yet unrealized goals has been pretty gratifying too. Shopping a proposal has taught me a hell of a lot about rejection, patience, temerity, and less-than-instant gratification—in other words, about life as a writer. And what’s a writer if not a reader? This year I discovered the literature of Suze Orman and undertook my own old-fashioned, bootstraps-style bailout. If I do the math right, there may just be room in the budget for a shelter mutt in 2010.
2009 was a year of big things that portend even bigger things for many of my favorite people—most of which have to do with growing up. The world is full of things to do when you’ve reached the working world and find there’s a lot more to come, including something hugely small, like getting over your issues enough to accept someone else’s. But amid the coming weddings, families, cross-country moves, and career changes, I’m proudest this year of my little sister, who took a step back from school, moved home, got a part-time job, started returning my calls, and—though it probably doesn’t feel like it to her—did a little bit of growing up herself.
Jessica Francis Kane
My daughter learned to read (and tie a ponytail by herself, greatly simplifying our mornings).
My son loves his preschool (and has conquered the potty, greatly simplifying everything).
My brother asked his girlfriend to marry him! (She said yes.)
Last spring I got a fortune-cookie fortune that said, “Your dearest wish will come true.” This distressed me. I wasn’t sure I knew my dearest wish. Not just a dear wish, but the very “dearest” one? A month later, I sold my first novel, and I think outside the category of friends-and-family-will-have-long-and-happy-lives, finding an editor like Fiona McCrae at Graywolf might have been it.
My most satisfying personal accomplishment of 2009 was an 82-mile week in October that peaked my training for a Thanksgiving Day race. It was yet another week of apocalyptic proselytizing, scandalous reports, and very weird weather—better suited to ennui than 13 runs in seven days. But each run brought an incomparable feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
The best was an easy recovery jog on a warm evening with 50 mph wind gusts, big waves walloping the Red Hook piers, and a low sheet of barreling clouds all colored pinks and purples by the sun setting behind the Statue of Liberty (and further enhanced by the lingering buzz of my late afternoon toke). Just before finishing, another runner—just a silhouette—approached from the opposite direction. The tailwind’s effect on his impressive afro hid his face, but upon passing revealed a smile as big as mine.
I proposed to my boyfriend and he said yes.