I used to do a year-end round up and goal-setting, but then had a few shit end of years and it fell off the wagon. Just read Holden Sheppard’s excellent blog post about his goals-both personal and writing related and thought, yep, I want to get in on this.
It had been a longterm goal of mine to branch out with my writing and get non-fiction articles published. In 2020 I made that happen and in 2021 I built on that. I had 5 articles published with SBS Voices. My last article Letting go of our fantasies of rich people's houses, had 16K views and that was pretty amazing. I also wrote my first review for The Guardian Stream Team series about my favourite movie Stir of Echoes, Stir of Echoes: Kevin Bacon attempts to unearth dark secrets in working-class Chicago. This took me about 8 hours and was a huge stretch. Imposter syndrome hit hard and I regretted pitching it at one point, but I preserved, finished it, had it accepted for publication, and had my second publishing credit with The Guardian.
Next year I want to build on this and branch out to more publication opportunities and pitch more non-fiction articles.
My memoir writing evolved into writing essays in order to capture big issues. I’ve written a few over the years and wanted to work on a book of essays, then realised it might not be something that I could get a publisher interested in. I have been submitting these to journals and haven’t had any accepted. I think I’m not going to invest any more energy in submitting these and will instead just keep working on a book of essays for future publication.
This has been a success in terms of completing the novel that was the creative component to my PhD and a fail in terms of completing the 20,000 word exegesis. While I have three more years to complete this, I am at a crossroads and struggling. I was thinking about taking a break as I stopped working on the exegesis because I needed fiction writing to make me happy during lockdowns. But I also think I shouldn’t leave this too long as the trail may go cold. I need to try and hit this a bit during the school holidays and see if I can get it back on track.
This is one huge area of success. I completed a draft of my PhD novel, which felt huge because it took three years to write and research it as it is set in Srebrenica during the Balkan War. However I realised that I want to write it as part of a three part trilogy and so this means I need to go back and revise to fit into this. I also drafted the second book in the trilogy in five months, which is the quickest I have ever written a draft.
Part of the reason is that it is part of a trilogy so the characters and world-building were set, and that I had been thinking about it a lot while I was working on the first. We were also in lockdown and writing was my way of shoring against crushing depression at spending 6 months of my life remote teaching from my bedroom.
The other reason is that I realised I need to write all three novels before I look at publication. I have never written a trilogy before and as I’m moving forward, I am making decisions that mean I have to go back and revise. I’m so excited about this young adult crime thriller trilogy featuring a Bosnian young girl that begins in a war zone, continues as she is a refugee in Australia and then ends with her new career. I don’t want to reveal too much until I reach the marketing stage.
This is a huge new area for me and it has been incredibly stimulating and way out of my comfort zone. I have been wanting to pursue self publishing for a while as getting published in Australia is getting tougher and tougher.
My first book is a short story collection, The Cuckoo’s Song, that is twenty years in the making, featuring my prize-winning and previously published stories, as well as some new stories. I have done a deep dive into the world of self publishing, listening to podcasts, joining Facebook groups, reading books, doing online courses. It has really challenged me as I’ve learnt about how to format books, upload them online, trying to figure out marketing now.
I am planning on self publishing at least four books this year:
The Cuckoo’s Song-to be published 31 January 2022
The Good Daughter-my prize-winning debut novel that I got the rights back to. This is heavily inspired by my life with my protagonist, Sabiha, and I both coming from St Albans, being Bosnian and having a mother with a mental illness. I am re-branding with a new cover and publishing as the Half Sisters duology.
The Other Daughter-the follow up to The Good Daughter featuring Sabiha’s half sister Alma when she learns about her sister.
Looking up at the Sky-about a girl who gets a nose job, thinking that her life will change for the better. Also inspired by real life. (What? I didn’t tell you I had a nose job. I’ll circle back to that when I publish this book). This book is drafted. It needs a revision to get it ready for publication.
YA Thriller Trilogy-drafting in the background. Will be published back to back to try and encourage read-through with the first chapter of the next book in the backmatter. No date set at this time, but it is my hope to have it scheduled for publication by the end of 2022 for 2023.
Last year I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By the time I was diagnosed I was suffering some pretty significant health issues: my blood pressure was going up, my circulation in my feet was being strangled and walking was tough, and the impact on my moods was horrific where it didn’t matter how long I slept, I constantly felt tired and depressed.
Receiving the diagnosis was really hard. I knew it was coming, this is an illness that runs in my family and my mother passed away from hypertension (high blood pressure) which was contributed to by her diabetes. I also had gestational diabetes, which is a strong indicator that it’s coming.
I had to completely transform my life and my diet. At that time I was size 18 and I was really happy with my body. I was curvy and I felt sexy, hot and did not suffer any self esteem issues at all. I was exercising nearly every day and maintaining my weight so it didn’t go up anymore and I loved being able to eat whatever the fuck I wanted.
After my diagnosis I did a deep dive into research about the disease. It is hereditary and it basically comes down to how much weight your body can carry without buckling. I completely transformed my diet: cut sugar, cut portions, cut all the yummy sugary stuff I ate. Over the past six months I have lost five kilograms and my health has improved. My dress size has dropped, which is fine, but I’d still rather a fucking donut once a week, as opposed to once every three months.
That is to say, my health is much better and I need to continue to prioritise exercise and healthy eating in order to maintain good health outcomes. I used to wake up at 6 am to write, but now wake up to exercise and have shuffled my writing routine so I write at night. My arse has shrunk and I am even wearing activewear, which is one positive. Still donuts versus activewear= if I had a choice, I know which one I’d pick.
So those are my goals. I’m working part time and teaching four days this year, which has given me space to be able to start my self publishing journey and to increase my writing productivity. I have a huge list of things I want to achieve, however I also know that life kicks us in the stomach when we least expect it, so I will reevaluate and scale back as I need to.
Happy 2022 to all of us. May it not be a dumpster fire like last year was.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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