Best Nine of 2019

I love the trend of posting your best nine pics of a given year. Not only is it a chance to revisit some excellent memories and gather them all into one collage (remember making actual collages in the 90s, pasting together photos and stickers and ticket stubs? Am I dating myself?), but pulling together nine pictures from across a year reminds you just how blessed you are.

Maybe I’ve just had an extraordinarily *good* year. Maybe I’m just getting better at seeing the positives. Either way, this year I struggled to narrow down my 2019 experiences into nine thumbnail-sized shots. So what are blogs for, if not reminiscing?

At the beginning of the year, we got a perfect snow in St. Louis–enough to disrupt work for a day, not enough to put us on lockdown. One of the neighborhood restaurants opened its patio that night and provided free spiked hot chocolate/hot toddies around fire pits. Such a midwestern thing to do, and such spontaneous, snowy fun!

We also went to our first (and only) musical at the Fox Theatre while in the Lou. Fiddler on the Roof was every bit as magical as I remember it being when I watched it on VHS in middle school (moreso, since it was live, and I was old enough to appreciate what was going on in the story–I did NOT realize how dark it gets in Act II!).

Taking advantage of our location, we did a long weekend in the other Lou–touring bourbon distilleries, appreciating the baseball history, and visiting Churchill Downs. Louisville remains one of my favorite trips we’ve taken, and I can’t wait to visit again!

2019 saw the first newborn member inducted into the Olin Boys’ Club, as well as a whole host of get-togethers and adventures with our b-school buddies. These include Olin’s formal, graduation, and a trip to the Ozarks, to feature a few. The hubs turned 30, which we celebrated with bowling followed by a rooftop bar.

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We also enjoyed adult beverages in the street, because St. Louis.

We visited Chicago and continued an hour north to see Milwaukee (my favorite of the small cities we’ve visited since moving to St. Louis). We popped home in time to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Then began our journey east.

After a pit stop in Indianapolis (and another, not-pictured, in Pittsburgh), we made it to our new home in DC. I worked on polishing my manuscript and query materials, and began seeking agent representation for my novel.

My brother visited during his (too) brief tour of the US before returning to Korea. I bravely (for me) explored DC on my own, between job-hunting and writing. And my in-laws (after at least 8 years of talking about it) *finally* bought a home in Old Town.

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We made it out to Rehoboth Beach, where we discovered we’re no longer used to the brilliance of a sun reflecting off ocean waves.

An agent responded to one of my queries, complimenting my writing sample and requesting more. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire walk home from our new favorite pizza place. My husband bought a car (unrelated, but almost as exciting for him).

Dear friends tied the knot. Others have growing families. I turned 30.

And celebrated with a parade. Okay, that was for the Nationals, since they won the World Series and all. I started a new job with a fun group of people. I watched so much Great British Baking Show that I was inspired…

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The challah that started it all!

I spent time with those adorable faces (and equally adorable sister- and brother-in-law, not pictured). I baked a lot more delicious stuff. Turns out, I’m a baker! #challahatyagirl

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As the year winds down, holiday parties are filling the calendar. Crazy to think there’s only a week left in 2019, and in the 2010s! What a decade it was. Here’s to the memories, friendships, and epic life changes!

And to 2020: No pressure. 😉

Highs and Lows

Hello, friends! It’s been a little bit, and mostly that’s because I’ve been busy (but also, a little lazy).

So we *moved*. The Navy Yard area of DC is so fun and surprisingly pretty (I’ll admit, I was expecting a lot more concrete, but there are parks and tree-lined streets not far in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood). I will definitely need to post about the great food and drinks we’ve experienced thus far!

I also started a new job! It happened a lot faster than I expected, which is mostly good because I was already starting to get a little stir-crazy–though a little extra time between jobs may have provided more writing opportunities.

Who am I kidding? I started the querying process shortly after the move, so rather than putting pen to paper, I was crafting letters and cramming the happenings of my story into a single page (double-spaced). This process gave me terrible writer’s block, because my brain was so focused on the nittiest, grittiest of details rather than letting my imagination roam free.

So my lack of creativity mingled with my lack of hearing back from agents I queried, sprinkled with stress over starting a new job in a new city with a new, hellish commute has had me bouncing from high to low and back again. The best way to explain how I’ve felt this past month would be to say I vacillate between “High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco and “Special” by Shinedown with very little neutral ground. Though, I’m pleased to report things just might be looking up for me in the writing world. To be continued…

That’s all I’ve got for right now, I’ll try to get back to semi-regular posting once I’m more settled into a routine. I’ve definitely got the commute for composing rambles!

How a Writing Community Helped Me Understand “The Bachelor”

It occurred to me the other day how similar my life is to a season of The Bachelor. Okay, it isn’t really, but just bear with me. I’m part of this online writing community called Scribophile, where we upload chapters of our works-in-progress, and read and critique each others’ works. It’s amazing and encouraging and so so helpful.

But. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about how long it takes me to return a critique. I get wrapped up in some stories and just want to keep reading them, other relationships be damned!, but I try to be fair about returning the attention I receive. If someone takes the time to offer me feedback on a chapter, I want to show my appreciation by offering the same. Also, there are several stories I’m really into–not just one. I’ve established critique relationships with a bunch of people and enjoy the dialogue we maintain about our works on a regular basis, so I feel like I’m missing a friend when we go too long without conversing.

So anyway, I was chatting with one friend about his story and thinking about how I want to just charge ahead and finish his book so we can have a full, big-picture type discussion (and because I’m very excited for the developments I know are coming up because I totally peeked ahead–don’t tell my mom, I hate it when she does this!). Meanwhile, I have the first chapter of a whole new story/crit-relationship pulled up to start on, and I got this irrational thought that it was almost like cheating on his story, because I felt so excited about this new one. And that’s crazy, because loving a new story doesn’t make previously-read stories any less loved (I’ve got several bookshelves of proof).

Maybe it’s because The Bachelorette recently started its newest season, but my mind instantly went to the show, and how one person seems to genuinely enjoy her time with every guy when it’s his turn. It’s always seemed odd to me, like can she really be so *into* this one when she was just laughing so hard with that one?

Obviously this is a very different scenario. I’m just saying that I see now how something can be absorbing and delightful and take up a person’s full attention, only for the same to be true of something similar (and yet, completely different).

Exciting News!

I’ve launched my writing website! 🙂 I started it as a blog a while ago when I was *very* excited about a *very* different story, but didn’t do much with it and turned my (admittedly sporadic) attention here instead. I’m hoping to be much better at keeping up the writing site with regular postings (I’m aiming for once a week, we’ll see how it goes) and plan to shift this site away from documenting writing-related updates (since I need *something* for that other site 😉 ). That being said, my first big “share” on the site is a piece of flash fiction from the world of Blood and Water, the book I’ve been working on all year. It’s set well before the actual story takes place, but gives a glimpse into my main character (Solvi)’s childhood.

If you feel like checking it out, it’ll drop *today* at annieatkinstories.com. I plan to share a few more “side stories” to drum up some interest, so if you do check them out, please be sure to leave a comment letting me know what you think–good or bad! I’m very curious to see if the story works without knowing any of the characters yet…everyone who’s read them so far already knows the characters almost as well as I do. 🙂 I’ll also share things like more writing playlists, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more random thoughts on writing to share as well.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

…you Google things like “how long to recover from a stab wound” and don’t realize it’s shady until you get a bunch of forum results urging you to go to the ER.

…you chow down on dinner as you research said stab wound and only realize that might be gross when Google decides to give you some image results.

…you’ve had just enough whiskey to find all of this very funny, but not quite enough to reassure yourself you’ll feel fine in the morning. (Pro tip: another couple sips and you won’t have to worry about that hangover until it wakes you up. BETTER pro tip: stop drinking immediately and switch to water.)

…someone says depending on what area is stabbed, it could result in loss of arm abduction and you don’t know if it’s the whiskey or a typo OR if you should be concerned about arms being abducted and the people who would mourn the loss of the opportunity for such an arm abduction.

…you start to think these last few points would fit better under a heading like “you might have had enough to drink if…” and decide to call it a night.

…you laugh at that last one because the night is a writer’s time to shine. Or at least tell herself she’s achieving her dreams as she neglects sleep and curses the job that takes up so many hours of daylight.

The Sexiest Letter

I recently decided “F” is the sexiest letter and here’s why:

The shape of your mouth as you form its sound–somewhere between a kiss and a bitten lip. Your lips start to purse, just brushing your teeth. The sound is like a heavy breath.

Plus it starts an arguably “sexy” four-letter-word.

That’s all I got today, folks! (hehe–Fffolks)

How about it? You have any letters that tickle your fancy? Or is it just me, too far mired in words to think rationally?

I Guess it’s Time to Talk About Nanowrimo

It’s been long enough. First off, I completely get why people do it. It makes sense that taking a month to discipline yourself into carving out chunks of time to write, a time when so many people around the world are also writing, encouraging you on, all of that goodness would help a person get 50,000 words onto a page.

I’m very competitive. I do not like to lose. As soon as I start to feel like I’m losing, I hate whatever game I’m playing and just want to quit.

I’m also not a quitter. It makes for a really uncomfortable experience when part of me wants to pout and storm off and the other part is like nah we gotta at least finish this bitch.  Add to that the desire to be more forgiving and loving towards myself and you get a hot freaking mess come mid-November.

I think I got around 20,000 words written, which is no small thing. But unlike last summer, when I was churning out several thousand words a day, my heart wasn’t in it. My head was barely in it–more focused on word count and “sprints” and the desire to edit my current story rather than start working on the sequel. Plus my husband was around, which makes it so hard.

That’s the best problem to have as a writer/human being, though. I have someone in my life whose very presence makes it hard to focus on other things. Even if he’s in the other room working on schoolwork or watching TV, a part of me just wants to be beside him, and feels like any moment I’m not is ultimately squandered. That also makes it difficult to pursue my writing sometimes, which is frustrating and makes me angry with him for making me love him so damn much. There was a lot of moodiness in November that only added to the misery of failing at Nanowrimo wordcounts and falling behind in working on my current novel.

So, for me, it was a very good lesson learned: National Novel Writing Month is not a thing I’ll participate in again, at least not in the near future.

Happy Halloween

Tonight is October 31st which means all the ghouls and goblins and slutty cheerleaders will be out and about.

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I must confess, Halloween is not my holiday. Maybe I’m bitter because my birthday is so close to Halloween, it’s always overshadowed by costume parties. I’m more looking forward to the discounted candy tomorrow.

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Also, NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and this year, I’m competing participating. Since joining Scribophile I’ve made a bunch of new writing buddies, some of whom have encouraged me to give National Novel Writing Month a try. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a month dedicated to completing a novel! The goal is 50,000 words in one month, which is roughly 1,667 words/day. EEK.

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I’ll be using this time to dive into the sequel to my current WIP. I’m trying very hard not to get too competitive with it–there is, after all, a LOT going on in November apart from writing, but I do want to give it my best shot. I anticipate sneaking in quite a bit of writing at work (sh!) and a lot of evenings spent ignoring my husband…

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If-slash-when I survive it, I will be sure to hop on here and tell you all about it. Meanwhile, I’ll try to schedule another post or two this month today, so I don’t drop completely off the face of the blogging-planet!

Oh, and:

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Hamster Snack

Just popping by with a quick life (book) update: I’m sharing my novel, one chapter at a time, with a writing community to be critiqued and torn apart and fitted back together. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive (like, I cried at work today because one comment was so encouraging) and the help I’ve gotten has strengthened my story so much. There’s still a loooong way to go before its truly polished (I’ve only shared 5 of about 30 chapters), but I am so excited and almost-literally every waking hour is currently being dedicated to rewrites/tweaks/updates/daydreams concerning Solvi and the world I’m building around her.

And sometimes I forget to eat, and then wonder why I feel like I might pass out while carrying my laundry down to the basement, and I find myself in my current situation, which is basically:

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Thanks for humoring me during my snack break! Now back to the writing grind…

Just Shut Up Already

Do you know that feeling when you first meet someone who you just get? You love spending time together and getting to know more about them, and you just freaking adore them? Before you know it, your life is kind of taken over by this person. At first, that’s wonderful — the more of them, the better. But then it starts to wear on you, and you see their quirks for the flaws they are, and you want to roll your eyes every time they open their mouth and you start to feel like you if you have to hear one more time about how they will do anything to find their brother you will stab yourself in the freaking eye with a pen…

Sigh.

So that’s where I’m at in my edits…

I know my story is good. When I first finished, I daydreamed about my characters as if they belonged to some other book by some other author. I fell asleep writing my own fan-fiction, sending minor characters off on adventures that would never fit into the novel (but could find their way into a blog post eventually).

After three-plus read-throughs (and several scene rewrites), I am kind of sick of looking at this story. I have to keep reminding myself it is good. That it has the potential to find its way onto a bookstore shelf. Because right now, it feels like trash. Some of the pages of my manuscript look like a rainbow at best — a rotting, bloody corpse at worst — the black words crossed-through in red and scribbled-over in blue and annotated in green. I’ve reached a point where I’m not even sure my edits are constructive — what if I reduce all the magic to grammatical masterpieces and formulaic sentence structure?

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So I’m taking a break. A week off from Solvi and her quest to reunite her brother with their family. A week where I will over-indulge in the Bachelor in Paradise finale, obsess over fantasy football, and lose myself in someone else’s fictional world. I have a whole list of books on Amazon waiting to be experienced — so hopefully I’ll be able to toss up another book review or two on here soon.

And when I get back to her, hopefully Solvi will be a sympathetic, relatable character once again.