#Grateful For A #NewYear, One #Writer #Plots #NewGoals With #OldStories And #OldFriends.

Good morning to you, one and all, on this Happy New Year’s Day!

After spending most of December digging my way out of a mountain of grading (finishing Christmas Eve of all days), I awarded myself a chance to visit your online studios to balance with the lack of physical travel here. Everyone chose to come to our house for Christmas instead–in spurts–which meant my three young Bs reveled in FIVE Christmases. Bo did his darndest to keep the house clean while I did my darndest not to give everyone food poisoning for the holidays. (Thank God for slow cookers.)

We. Are. Tired.

But we are also healthy, warm, and safe, all blessings to be thankful for.

With the departure of Christmases and the arrival of snow, I returned to my writing goals from this past summer with fresh perspective. With better understanding of the time involved for both the boys’ schooling as well as my own, I brainstormed a writing to-do list for the next five months of 2021.

  • Academic article. Not a creative endeavor, but still a writing task worth the mention. A colleague and I had presented for a literacy conference in summer and hoped to utilize our research for an educator’s textbook this winter, but the project fell through. Still, it would do our professional development good to submit our work as an article for a journal, and it would be nice to let the educators I interviewed that their lessons learned would be shared with others somehow. This is priority work to be completed before Easter.
  • Fallen Princeborn 3. Finish the novel’s outline, especially regarding a major character’s transformation. My hope is to have a draft completed by the end of 2021 or early 2022, so having an outline done before summer will make drafting much easier.
  • Author Platform. I like my website, and don’t intend on changing its format any time soon. It’s just a matter of staying on course with bi-monthly posting. Facebook, however, is another matter. It just isn’t my bag as an author, and I’m hoping I can lose it and still utilize Instagram for a live feed idea that’s been buzzing in my brain for a while. It all depends on schools opening and the twins returning to the classroom…
  • Middler’s Pride. God-willing, I’d like to revise, expand, and publish this on Amazon before 2021 ends, so I need to be finished with revisions before the children’s summer break.
  • What Happened When Grandmother Failed to Die. Our recent snowstorms have carried my thoughts to this story often. I’d like to get back to it, if only for brief intervals, to see if its cast can survive one night in the Crow’s Nest.

If 2020 taught us anything–apart from WASH YOUR F’ING HANDS–it’s that we must be flexible to survive. Sure, thriving would be great, but let’s just work on surviving right now. I sound like a broken record, I’m sure, speaking of goals so often and surviving the writing life. But adapting to an ever-changing environment–especially one with a pandemic involved–requires a fluidity that stubborn minds like mine struggle to keep. Writing it out helps me find hope in the plan, and so perhaps reading this helps inspire you be okay with trading the grandiose plans for small-scale goals like these.

It also helps to work with old stories, plots the imagination has walked many times and won’t stumble upon too often when drafting time appears. Starting a new story with all-new worldbuilding, characters, and so on would be certain overload at this point. I suppose that’s one reason I have the Grandmother novella on the to-do list–it’s a one-off I’d like to see done so my imagination can stamp FINISHED on it and re-distribute those energies elsewhere. If you have any tips on keeping old stories fresh until you can return to them, I’d love to hear it in the comments below! Or, you’ve perhaps talked about this already on your own sites. If so, please share the links with me so I can check them out. Many thanks!


As I spent Christmas weekend reading your poems, stories, analyses, and updates, a anxious niggle started to grow in my mind. What if my next term of 150 students would drive me into another hiatus? I’d hate to get lost in yet another realm of static and monotony without connection to the kindred spirits who bring creative joy to my life. Such connections are what keep us alight and alive, are they not?

I was reminded of this, all too deeply, just before Christmas.

The phone rang in the morning just as Biff and Bash were logging onto their chrome books for lessons. I hate answering the phone. I hate trying to keep the boys in line while talking on the phone, my attention always split and missing important points and then feeling a fool for having to ask those points be repeated, thus prolonging the phone call and keeping the boys in line and sounding like a witch when a child inevitably brings a cup of juice/cocoa/water too close to the computer and practically spills it everywhere while the speaker on the phone must rehash the call’s purpose AGAIN thus prolonging the bloody phone call more and the vicious cycle goes on and JUST DON’T CALL ME IN THE MORNING EVER.

The area code for the phone number, though…it looked old and familiar. This person did not live around here, or in Wisconsin at all. Yet I…I knew there was something familiar, something homey about it…but what?

I answered. “Hello?”

“Jean?” The voice creaked with age. “It’s Ed. Ed Smith, your neighbor from Escanaba.”

Recognition shocked me. Ed and his wife had looked 100 when Bo and I lived in a remodeled (and possibly haunted) bakery up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan ten years ago. “Ed! Hello, my goodness, it’s lovely to hear from you!” My mouth was full of bubbly incoherent greetings. Heaven knows what Ed made of them.

“I wanted to call and say thank you for the Christmas card. Gosh, your kids are looking so big. Quite a handful, I bet.”

Biff and Bash’s fight over who got the Snoopy Halloween pencil for the math lesson was loud enough to be heard across the street, let alone the phone, so I just laughed and said, “Every day is an adventure. How’s Molly?”

“Oh. Well…” Papers shuffled near him. He grunted–I imagined he had found a place to sit in their little living room of green chairs and giant crocheted doilies. “Well she still has Alzheimer’s pretty bad. She lives in the nursing home, you know the one down T__ Street. Been there three years now.”

“Mom, Bash won’t give me the pencil!”

“Biff is teasing me!”

I held the phone away from my face long enough to give a low, heavily enunciated command: “Work it out. NOW.” I went to my room and closed the door, mentally running through Christmas cards of the past. Did they ever mention Molly having Alzheimer’s? Did they ever send one to mention it? I couldn’t remember, damn my memory…I said something about proximity, that it was good he was still nearby to see her.

“Oh yes. Harder now, though, with the snow.” A faint tapping on his end–drumming his fingers, perhaps. “Still can’t go in, so I stand by her window. Plows don’t always get the sidewalks, and my cane, can’t always navigate.

“Calling gets, oh, a few minutes talking. She’ll remember enough to chide me for somethin’,” he said with a chuckle. “But she can’t grip the phone much, see, so most of the time I’m just sayin’ her name while she tries to pick it up. Nurse usually comes in around then and we can’t talk much longer.”

Memories of my own grandmother and her last year of life plagued by severe dementia fogged this avenue of talk. I couldn’t go down this way. I would only cry, and this man did not need to hear more sorrow. So I asked about their children and grandchildren, and he explained how they visit once a week to help around the house and visit.

Not that he wanted the help, mind. “I’m doin’ just fine, I tell them, but they keep coming in and muddlin’ up my order of things.” He sighed. “Nice, though, having the company.” He grunted again–standing up?–and I heard more paper rustling. “Yup, I was reading through all the cards, and saw your kids growin’ so old. I can’t write that good, see, but thought hey, maybe those numbers in Molly’s book are still good. And here we are!” He chuckled again, though I wouldn’t say for good humor. No, this felt more like his way of sharing relief. “Got, let’s see…Bo’s number here, and this other one. Bo’s dad, I think. They still good, too?”

He read them to me. I concurred about Bo, and explained Bo’s father passing some time ago. It was not something Bo wanted to write in that year’s Christmas card.

“Well, I best not be keepin’ you. You’ve got your hands full.”

I could not bear for this conversation to end on death. “We’re doing our best with what we can. Just like you and Molly, right? Any special Christmas plans?”

“That’s right.” A little clanging–coat hangers. “All this talk on vaccines for the nursing homes, sure hope they get it here soon. It’d be nice starting the new year holding Moll’s hand again. I,” he paused, “I haven’t been able to hold her hand since March.”

I was a mess again of garbled encouragements and holiday wishes until he clicked off. And I cried.

Such a little thing, holding another’s hand. Yet not a little thing.

Not at all.

Our old friends, our old loved ones–they need to know they have not been shut away no matter what restrictions the world places upon us. Let this New Year be a time to re-connect with those you’ve not spoken to in a year or ten. Let them know they matter in your world.

Just as you, each and every one of you, matter in mine.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends. Here’s to a promising New Year of hope and light for us all.

52 thoughts on “#Grateful For A #NewYear, One #Writer #Plots #NewGoals With #OldStories And #OldFriends.

  1. Oh dear, you’ve got me snivelling now. I’m just starting to write a handful of belated letters to older folk back home who don’t have email. Goodness knows when I’ll get to send them.

    Anyway, you wanted a tip about keeping an old story alive? Go and have a chat with the characters and see what they’ve been up to. Works for me 😉

    Here’s to a better and kinder 2021 for us all xxx

    Liked by 3 people

    • That sounds like a splendid idea, Chris–I shall give it a go! And I know what you mean–I am making a list of relations I’ve not spoken with in all the pandemic mayhem so I can get some correspondence to them. As you say, we need to stay in touch with those who aren’t into screens.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Many thanks, Stefy. It has, indeed, been a year of great loss, and I am sorry that you are on this journey through the shadowed valley of grief. May you find hope and healing in this new year. May we all find it so. xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Let our New Year’s resolution be this: We will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.” – Göran Persson

    Wishing every day of the new year to be filled with success, happiness, and prosperity for you. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve got me going now. This is so beautiful and poignant. Definitely let’s make this year the one we connect with those who mean so much to us. I’m no writer but I know when I revisit an old story I kind of feel a bit short changed. I want to ask them what’s new, has life been kind to them. So Chris is so right for me. Happy new year my friend. It’s a few years now that we’ve been saying that. It’s wonderful to have you as a friend. Xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mr Maxwell’s positive take on failure is most interesting, Ms Lee. I’m working on the premise that he knows more than I do…and that’s not difficult. Yet isn’t there a place for failure when it comes to writing, and for that matter other facets of life. When writing a lot of humour/satire a couple of years back, it all commenced on the day I was dying of abject boredom. Fliting through debatable serious tales I’d wished I’d never written, leaving them do gather dust, I chanced upon a supposed serious piece and in an instant saw potential for humour…pure luck. The original was so very bad and it was begging me to change its genre. And there I had him, ‘Jonny Catapult the Plumber the Artists All Trust’. Jonny ended up taking pride of place in a book not long thereafter. I think what I am trying do here is to answer the question you’ve posed, ‘If you have any tips on keeping old stories fresh until you can return to them, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!’ If the piece fails to please, change the genre. A splendid New Year to you and your family, The Old Fool

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi, and happy new year. I agree that the pandemic has taught us that we need to be flexible. And patient too, because things might not get significantly better for quite a while. So, I hope that people will be able to hang in there decently for as long as it takes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a very sad story, Jean. My heart hurts for your old neighbors. I hope they get to be together soon. And I hope you get through your huge list of to-do’s. I have that same kind of list most every day and still have not learned to manage it with grace. Maybe one day. Big love and happy New Year! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing, Jean, the positive things and the sad bits. As you say, for now it’s the surviving that matters, and the living to the full to hope for somewhere round the corner. Best wishes to you and your family, and all the very best for the year to come. And the years after.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A very Happy New Year to you, Jean:)). Though I’m typing with tears pouring down my face at the thought of that couple not able to hold hands… Every night (when Himself isn’t working) we sit together watching TV, holding hands.

    And my tip for keeping your WIP in your head?? I’ve two. I go onto Google images and find faces that are close to how my main protagonists/antagonists look and download them so I can easily see them. And my screensavers reflect the world I’m writing in. So right now, I’ve mountainscapes cycling across my screen – and when I was working on The Arcadian Chronicles it was desertscapes. It is surprisingly effective at keeping my own writing in the front of my head…

    In the meantime – go you! I love the sound of your writing targets for the year. Delighted to hear you are not going to let Grandma drop – I loved the sound of that one! And obviously I’ve a keen vested interest in any progress you make on Princeborn 3! Have a good week, Jean:)).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I love the idea of having the visual cues! I love building playlists of music that help me write, but adding corresponding settings and faces to the aural cues sounds splendid. The world outside is so like the snowy isolation of the Grandmother right now, which is a constant cue, too…
      Here’s hoping 2021 sees a lot more hands being held. We need to bring those hands together again. xxxxxxxx


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  10. A beautiful post, Jean. It’s so easy to forget that it’s the little things that count, not just the holding of hands, but also the reaching out to talk… the things we take for granted in other times. Thank you for reminding us.

    And, what a good idea to make a reassessment, and a plan. I’m going to follow your example. Happy New Year! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lovely post Jean- it really focused the mind on what is important in this life, while also touching on the difficulties of trying to write while balancing day to day life. The quote was a good reminder that truly Visions do not change only Plans.
    Good luck with your writing aims in the coming year and remember every positive action is a success even if it is only writing one solitary word (it’s more than 90% of the world will do- getting something down on paper from your head).
    Also remember the words of Chairman Mao- the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And he did rather well for himself- even if he had to crap on a couple of million people along the way. Or as he might have put it in his Little Red Book – you can’t make an omlette without breaking heads.
    Happy new Year Jean to you and yours. Paul

    Liked by 1 person

    • hello hello, Paul! I hope you’re well, and that you had a good Christmas and New Year. Yeah, I don’t see m’self agreeing with Chairman Mao on much, but you’re absolutely right. Nothing can be accomplished without taking that first step. I’m showing LOTR to my kids for the first time, and this sounds so like Bilbo and Gandalf’s song they sing in the beginning. “The road goes ever on and on, down from the road where it began…”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Jean, it was happy and quiet.
        “The road goes ever on and on…” Hmmm sounds like an elevator pitch for LOTR itself. Hardest millionty billionty pages I ever read.
        A bit of trivia… we live up in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. About 40 minutes away on the far side of the national park is a place called Bronllys (Welsh for Beauftiful Court) where stands a ruined castle’s tower- which you can ascend- and an old Victorian TB hospital still the local cottage hospital (for minor clinics) which actually looks more Art Deco. Away in the distance, standing apart from the ridge of the Black Mountains, is a solitary volcanic cone called Sugarloaf. From what we heard on a Welsh TV show, Tolkien went there on his holidays and was captivated by the place, especially with the ominious red glow from the Iron Founderies of Merthyr Tydful looming over Sugarloaf. It inspired Mount Doom and the green rolling valley, the Shire. Although to be fair none of this is on Wikipedia- I’ve just checked.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, what a wonder that must be to behold! The Wisconsin countryside where Frank Lloyd Wright was inspired is also a bit Shire-like to me. Such are the places we pray never fall into the hands of modernization.

        Liked by 1 person

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