2020 Retrospective

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Dang, what a year. Exhausting, intense, isolated, social, stressful, lonely, quiet, noisy, productive, exhilarating, depressing… just about every adjective in the book applies, more so than usual even, more so than the usual way that days and weeks and months shift from one thing to another. 2020 was all of those things, and often many of them at the same time.

So, what did I get up to? In some ways less, and in others far more, than I expected to.

In early January I was diagnosed with De Quervain’s Syndrome, which is a repetitive stress injury, in my right hand. I was in a splint for months, and had to mostly put down my yarn and not crochet this year. I tried a few times, when I had things under control and the pain was manageable, to do some crafty things. And inevitably my hand would start hurting again and I’d have to spend more time in the splint. This is pretty frustrating, and crocheting is one of the ways I de-stress – there’s something wonderful about seeing a physical thing taking shape in my hands. Until I can learn how to moderate it and make sure I’m not hurting myself, though, I won’t be making any more monsters to give away at convention readings or random gifts for people. Ah well.

Before the pandemic landed here, in January, I went to ConFusion in Detroit. That was my one and only physical convention of the year. There I was on the panel “Making Fandom Communities Anxiety-Friendly.” I also did a reading, and brought cookies. The cookies and the stories were a hit, and overall I had a good time, and the trip led to me signing on to help clear the queue a bit at GigaNotoSaurus, which is a fantastic market for longer fiction (which I mostly don’t write, but I do love getting behind the scenes and seeing how markets work).

And then in early March I got the flu, quite badly. Right after my sweetie got back from traveling in Europe, where Covid19 was really starting to hit. That was not fun, but at least we got a head start on quarantining. I got a test to confirm it really was the flu (despite my flu shot and everything, sigh), a refill on my inhaler and some drugs to help ease the cough, and we settled in… and haven’t stopped settling in since.

And round about when I was recovering from the flu was when Jessica and I decided that doing a kickstarter to fund the Dream Foundry was irresponsible when so many other organizations were more in need of the money. Also, if there’s one thing we learned from doing a Kickstarter in 2019 it’s that we hate doing Kickstarters. So, we decided to run an online convention. With no experience, less than a dozen people to help, and less than two months to make it all happen.

And it was glorious. Flights of Foundry happened in mid May and was a huge success, as a fundraiser, and maybe more importantly, as a proof of concept that online virtual conventions could be fun, informative, and useful. People met people. Panels and talks and workshops happened. Vendors sold things and discussions were had on all kinds of topics, long after the panels stopped. And we raised ten thousand dollars for the Dream Foundry this year, this year, this curséd year. And we did it without charging admission at all – no fees or barriers to entry. We tried to have programming as close to 24 hours as possible, and we damn near managed. We built something neat and shiny and people showed up for it, and it was great.

It was also freaking exhausting, to be clear. While one certainly can put together an online extravaganza in less than two months on a shoestring budget, I don’t recommend it. Still, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Speaking of the convention, I participated a little bit in it in ways that weren’t just wrangling volunteers, frantically answering emails, and coordinating with workshop leaders and attendees. I had a reading slot and read a lot of my poetry and a couple of short stories, was on a fantastic panel about adaptations and remix culture, and moderated a panel on fiction submissions. Things I learned: readings online are harder than offline, surprisingly, and I found myself wishing I’d shared the timeslot instead of just having it to myself. Also, I don’t like moderating (no shade on my panelists here – it’s just not my thing). But I still had fun, in between checking to make sure nothing was on fire and that the streams were still all running.

Oh, and I wrote a poem a day during April. Yes, while frantically putting together Flights of Foundry. I’m kind of baffled by my bursts of productivity but when they happen they’re pretty great. The poems are also, on the whole, pretty great. I’ve done some light revisions to them and am sending them out now, so hopefully you’ll see them in print sometime soon.

In June I was grateful that not seeing people was now the norm, because I was fully exhausted from Flights of Foundry. Giddy, but exhausted. And that’s when my one publication of the year happened! I had been throwing things at Daily Science Fiction for years, and I’m delighted to have finally broken into that market with this sweet little list story, Things The Spirit Living Inside the West Wind Brought to Abby’s House After the Terrible Storm.

Most of the rest of my year was spent trying to stay healthy (so, not going anywhere or seeing anyone, with my multiple risk factors for covid) and dealing with post-convention stuff. Next year (no wait, this year! Ha!) we’ll be doing some things a little different, so that dealing with preparing convention material for video release on our YouTube channel isn’t a part-time job in and of itself.

I did do one other significant and neat thing, though. In October, Jessica and I were brought on to help out with The Outpost Convention. We did a little bit of before convention preparation (though that was mostly taken care of before we were hired) and then ran the event behind the scenes day-of. After quarantining happened down in Chicago, I drove there to minimize logistical hassles (and also bad internet – my internet was so flaky that month) and we ran the convention together sitting at her dining room table.

Otherwise, I treated this year like a fire had just crash-burned through it. I worked a little on revisions. I participated in two different critique groups, very regularly. I watched some shows (mostly on the Dream Foundry’s discord server – we do regular watch parties there). I read, but only a little, as my concentration was shot. I tried to find as many ways to be kind to people as I could – sometimes that meant giving money, or dropping off some food on a porch, or being a ready and willing ear for a venting session, or playing a game together online, or just texting at random hours. I tried to be kind to myself, too, and let go of expectations about Writing Glorious New Things, or Sending Out All The Stories And Poems. And I watched and waited for signs of new growth. Sometimes, you just have to wait. Sometimes that’s fine.

I don’t know what to expect from 2021. I’m wary of assigning too much meaning to arbitary designations of time, to the calendar flip and the turn of the page. But it’s undeniable that I’m hopeful, now that it’s a new year. I ate my lucky black-eyed peas yesterday, and dropped off peas for other folks near me too. The cats are well. I have an electric blanket. The internet is less flaky. I have a stack of books to read and games to play, and my house feels cozier and homier than it has yet, and also so empty. I look forward to sitting in companionable silence and reading, not across a screen but in my living room, with a friend. I can almost see the promise of that, peeking up past the horizon. I’m ready. But I can wait.

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