This recap of my writing activity is intended as a personal record but is also a chance to crow about the things I achieved. I’m not sure how interesting my readers will find this, but if you’re wondering what I was up to in the writing world, you’ll find it here.
Starting in mid-2018, I began working on short stories and trying to get them published in anthologies and magazines. This eventually became the main focus of my writing because I found the short story format beneficial to my development as an author and also it was better suited for my limited writing time. To produce a novel takes at least two (and likely more) years, which can end up being discouraging. Getting out a few short stories every year on the other hand can provide a satisifying sense of accomplishment.
2021 saw a massive increase in my output in this area, as you can see from Submission Grinder’s handy stats feature:
What this fails to show is the number of stories I completed and submitted for publication. From 2018 to 2020, I completed two stories each year. Whereas in 2021, I completed a whopping eight! Although, not to diminish this accomplishment but to clarify it, four of those were flash pieces (1200 words or fewer).
The increased output is the main reason for the exponential increase in submissions (and rejections). The other reason is I began going after professionally paying markets more aggressively. The competition in these markets is strong and the slots available are few, making the chances of acceptance incredibly low. I have yet to get a placement in one of these venues, but from some of the responses I have received from editors, it is only a matter of time before some of these stories find a home with a professional pay rate.
Three stories were published in 2021.
The first was Uncertain Evidence in May by The Other Stories Podcast. This marked the third time one of my tales was featured on the podcast, one each year since 2019.
The second came soon after in June, with Tidewrack published in the esteemed Lamplight Magazine (Vol. 9, Issue 4). I wrote this story back in 2019 as part of a class taught by John F.D. Taff (aka The King of Pain). His feedback helped elevate the writing and structure above the stories that came before it. It took a long time to find a home for this, but I couldn’t have asked for a better one.
The final story came out on Halloween. The Ballad of the Blue Sidewinder was published by Crone Girls Press in Stories We Tell After Midnight, Volume 3. This is the second time I’ve published with Crone Girls and also my first ever Weird Western story. I’ve also long been a fan of the Stories We Tell After Midnight anthology series, and it was an honor to have this story appear on this new volume.
Lastly, to keep up my presence on the Wattpad platform, I began republishing some short stories that were originally on the site but had been removed. Some were older works I deleted because the writing was too amateurish and others were written for Wattpad anthologies that are no longer around. These aren’t new stories, but I’ve cleaned them up and brought them partially up to my current writing standards.
To date, I’ve posted Kayla, Voot, and the Black Beast of Space, the very first short story I completed when I came back to writing in 2012 and The Face of Fear, a story written for a Halloween-themed anthology.
These can be found on Wattpad in my Uncollected Stories collection.
I’m a firm believer in constantly learning and that there is always something new to discover. In 2021, I attended one writing course and a number of seminars. These are the two that were the most helpful.
This four-week course offered by Litreactor was led by the immensely talented Gwendolyn Kiste (The Rust Maidens, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe). Kiste had us look at the old monster tropes of horror and find fresh ways to approach them. During the span of the class, we tackled vampires, zombies, ghosts, and fairy tales. The classwork was intense and left me with four pieces of flash fiction and two short stories. They were still a bit rough, but most just needed a bit of polishing to complete. Three of the flash pieces are already making their rounds trying to find a home, and one of the short stories is about ready to go out. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Most importantly: these stories were better than they had any right to be for the speed and haste they were written in. But Kiste’s guidance and the support of my classmates pushed me to my best.
What a Powerful Sentence Looks Like
This masterclass seminar was given by 2021 Giller Prize winner Omar El Akkad (What Strange Paradise) during the Toronto International Festival of Authors. Although it was only a few hours in length, I took pages of notes. Using of examples from various sources, El Akkad demonstrated creating immediacy, emotion, and impact through language.
As always, reading goes hand in hand with writing. My consumption of books still isn’t up to pre-Covid levels yet, but I managed 51 novels, novellas, and story collections throughout the year. Here’s a partial glimpse from Goodreads’ Book Challenge display.
I will be putting out my annual favorite books of the year list very shortly.
Other Writerish Things
In September, I took an executive role in the Horror Writers Association Ontario Chapter. Officially I am the Events Coordinator for the GTA area, working with a team of six to renew the ties of the group and draw our local horror writers community back together after the old Executive resigned and the chapter fell into disuse.
I also attended both StokerCon and the Toronto International Festival of Authors. Both were done virtually, but they gave me the opportunity to connect with other writers and to attend many talks, panels, and seminars.
What’s Next (2022)
I have lots that I hope to do this year. I’ve set the goal of completing eight short stories, and four flash stories. The most pressing piece on the agenda is the fairy tale retelling written in Gwendolyn Kiste’s class which was nearly complete at the closing of 2021.
I also intend to start a major rewrite of the novel I drafted in 2020. I began this process in 2021, but it fell by the wayside as I focused on my shorter works and also grew frustrated by the work’s shortcomings. I don’t intend to complete the rewrite this year, but I’ll be happy if in twelve months from now the task is half done.
Once again, I’ve set the aspirational goal of 60 books to read this year. This is just something to shoot for, not something I expect to reach. I find this a better approach than picking a goal that I easily achieve.
Covid pandemic allowing, I hope to attend a few in-person events and even organize some as part of my role in the HWA Ontario chapter. It has been far too long since I had the chance to meet readers face to face. But even if things stay shut down, I will be attending as many virtual events as I can, including this year’s StokerCon.
I’m sure other things will come up along the way, so stay tuned.