End of 2020

Warning: this blog post is negative as hell.

Warning: this blog post is negative as hell.

This year has been exhausting. Take now for instance, I am writing this blog post half to keep myself awake. I keep nodding off and that’s not like me, and not a good idea since I am looking after kids and trying to keep them ‘entertained’ so my other half can do his work Zooms.

(Insert eye roll here.)

Who would have thought this time last year that this is how we would be living? I could cringe when I look back at my hopeful blog post from January.

(Insert cringe emoji here.)

Recently my son got an ‘achievement’ on his school app for wearing his face covering. That made me mad-sad. I hate that this is the way kids are living. The worst thing about the first lockdown was feeling like a let-down as a parent. Everything that you normally tell children is good for them changed, you had to do a swift u-turn. Nobody’s fault – but still. It’s hard.

I could happily forget how hard – I’m quite skilled at that – but the thought of a new lockdown starting on Boxing Day has brought back to me just how difficult some months were. I know lots of people have had it much harder. That has been stressful too, just worrying about people:

people who don’t have a garden, people with underlying health issues, people living with an abusive person, people living alone, kids feeling like they are being blamed, teachers trying to do their jobs, doctors, older people, shop assistants, jobs, the economy … It never ends.

While I feel exhausted for no good reason, except for dogs that wake too early for my liking, I realise that I am probably wrecked from all the worry. Sigh. It’s nearly Christmas.

Last week I tried to wrap up my work for Christmas. I do this from time to time and then I remember that writers don’t take holidays. In fact, writing is my sanity. I began to feel very down and remembered that writing is not something I should take a break from. Maybe ease off a bit, yes.

On that note, I do laugh when I see people signing off from Twitter for the holidays. Like, what? Social media is not your life? I feel so used! Kidding aside, social media breaks are a great idea and sometimes I need them too, but most of my friends are on there and this year in particular I don’t want to leave anyone without that connection. Plus, I need the connection as well.

So this is the time when we look back over our year.

Well okay, if you insist.

I was glad to bring my detective series to light. The first two DI Sloanes got their readership, and in tough times. Check, check.

I got Arts Council support – thank you!

I got a shitload of redirections from agents, which does not diminish my work or talent, and I much prefer a no over a nothing. (Much prefer? Jesus, why are my blog posts so middle class! I don’t talk like this in real life.)

I co-edited a Christmas anthology that has knocked my socks off with its success, supported charities and hopefully introduced you to new writers. I’m proud that it feels fresh compared to most anthologies from NI. Thank you to everyone who has supported, contributed, submitted, and thank you to my co-ed. of Underneath the Tree, the lovely and talented Claire Savage.

I read loads of books from different povs and fell in love with Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, though not a new book it just hit me in the feels, as they say … somewhere.

I read loads of books from home. I made a list for Arts Council NI. See my recommendations here in the Belfast Telegraph.

I got to grips with technology – Hello, Zoom! – taught online and made videos for school workshops. Lost the chance to go to a couple of really cool locations to participate in literary festivals. I could cry! (Don’t think about that, Kelly.)

I have a trip to Paris planned and a writerly trip to Norway too. That’s for Sloane book 4.

Who knows if these plans will go ahead but having nice things in the pipeline helps.

With Problems with Girls I was able to get some promo. It was so lovely to meet with Karen Mooney and chat for NVTV. (Here is the obligatory part where I say we socially distanced. Of course we did.)

It was beyond lovely to see a friend from the writing community and Women Aloud NI in the flesh!

Watch our chat here.

Check out Karen’s new poetry collection Penned In which she co-wrote with Gaynor Kane during the pandemic. It’s stunning!

I hope to see people soon and if not I will have to give myself a kick up the bum and arrange more Zoom parties. Either way, we’ll get through this.

What’s to come in 2021?

I’m going to be the mother of an adult! Imagine turning 18 during a strict lockdown. She doesn’t mind though. My kids are growing up and that’s an exciting life adventure in itself.

I’m having my 20th wedding anniversary in the summer. My marriage survived a pandemic and working from home! Yay.

In May ’21 I have a new short story collection coming set mostly in the art world. It’s called Everybody’s Happy. And by May I hope that will be a true statement.

(Is it too late to change the title to Everybody’s Vaccinated and the New Strain is Not Any Worse?)

In the autumn there will be a new Sloane instalment based around a cold case. I’m keeping the title a secret for now. (I know, who cares!)

I’ll be writing – any luck – and editing. Trying to stay out of trouble.

What are your plans?

Wishing you the very best for 2021!