Monday, January 4, 2010

You Tell Me: What Did You Discover in 2009?

Oh, dear. I seem to have fallen down almost completely on blogging last month (not to mention on my self-assigned monthly-photo journal "a picture speaks a thousand words" game). I blame the two nearly back-to-back sinus infections that arrived as part of my December joys, not to mention general holiday chaos. But ah, well. The New Year is about starting fresh with good intentions, not fretting about the past, right? Right! And, purely by coincidence, it turns out that this is my 50th blog post, which feels like exactly the right place to start the new year!

Speaking of the New Year, lots of people have been doing great, detailed year-end round-ups about 2009. In the interest of actually getting this posted sooner rather than never, I'm gonna skip most of the deep introspection, because one of my, deep, dark secrets is that I love making ponderous lists and if I let myself, I'll spend way, way, too much time thinking and rambling on about them. But suffice it to say that, for me, 2009 included both some "best of times and worst of times," as I'm sure it did for most folks. One thing that's solidly in the "best" category from the past year, though, is this evolution of this blog, its readers, and the outlet it offers me (and I hope others, too!) for "thinking out loud" about publishing, about the creative life, and about all the places art and life intersect and converge. So, if you're reading this, thanks for a being a part of all that. If you've contributed to the conversation at one point or another, or in many spots, thanks all the more. And if you're a reader who hasn't spoken up yet, please do! (Unless you're a spammer. In which case, please head out the door marked "2009" and don't come back, ever.)

One thing I do like to ponder at year's-end, though, is the question of how--and via what mediums--my life has totally altered in ways I wouldn't have even guessed it could. What things have become a part of the fiber of my daily life that I couldn't have imagined, even a year or two before, would become a part of my life at all?

Over the last few years, I must say, there have been an increasing number of tech-type things falling into this category. I'm not the earliest of early adopters, but I'm increasingly surrounded by early-adopter types, and I am opinionated, so usually* once I've heard about something a few times, I tend to want to try it out so I can have my own thoughts about it. And if I like it, I then tend to crow about from the rafters to anyone who will listen. A few examples from the past handful of years? Google Reader, which lets me to consume blogs in a completely different, and far, far more productive way that I'd ever have conceived was possible back when I first started paying attention to blogs. RSS feeds = brilliant. Etsy, the craft website that started taking all my spare pennies back around 2006, but has kinda made up for it by leading me to wonderfully talented illustrators. And, yeah, Facebook, which shook up my world in all kinds of interesting ways, too, just as its done for pretty much all of us. And on the decidedly non-tech side, I'll go with a few more luxurious discoveries, including tea-as-a-genuinely-pleasing-alternate-form-of-caffeine-to-coffee, the joys of knitting, and the knowledge that many museums in New York have recommended donation amounts, not carved-in-stone, exorbitantly-expensive fees.

Leaping to the more recent past, what were my best discoveries of 2009? Four spring to mind:

1. My e-reader. E-readers have certainly complicated publishing over the past year (to put it mildly), but from a totally different perspective, i.e., the quality of life for your average publishing employee, wow. They've changed everything. I use mine primarily for manuscript-reading, and as such, it's no exaggeration that it's changed my life. I joke that it's even changed my fashion--I kinda feel like I'm suddenly inside an infomercial now, but the truth is, just a little over a year ago, I used to carry a separate bag to and from work, every single day, in which I would carry hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of paper. Often, I was too worn from simply lugging all that paper around to even want to read any of it on the subway or when I got home! And truth be told, I'm not sure how I would have survived this year's uptick of less editors/more books to edit, hurry, faster/more agents/more agented submissions to read, and hurry, faster, there, too, without the e-reader. Also, someday, I'll tell my own assistant how once upon a time, I used to read all my manuscripts on paper, and she will look at me like I am SO FREAKING OLD. (And then I'll cry.)

2. Twitter. I admit it, I held out on Twitter for quite awhile, but I ultimately caved and joined just around this time last year, because I wanted to see what it was like to follow the ALA Newbery/Caldecott Announcements in real-time. A year and 2,000+ tweets later, I have to say that the day-to-day dialogues, conversations, and connections formed via Twitter prove to be more valuable everyday. Twitter's constant steam of engaging conversation among smart, savvy people helps me to constantly THINK about new, interesting things in new, interesting ways, which I think is utterly essential in a time of change like our industry is facing. But there's a simpler side to it, too. The truth is, the world's full of fascinating/creative/thought-provoking/ hilarious people, and I love how many new ones I've found or gotten to know better via Twitter.

3. My $20 crockpot from Target. Yeah, I know, it's decidedly non-tech, and I'm several decades behind the curve on this one, but seriously? You throw in bunch of raw ingredients--pretty much ANY random raw ingredients you can think of--and then turn it on and go away/go to sleep/go to work and come back to, like, a week's worth of delicious-smelling meals? MAGIC.

4. Ireland. My trip to Dublin this summer, though brief, was a glorious checkmark on my life's to-do list, and a definite highlight of 2009. It's a whole land of storytellers--what's not to love? And seeing a new place and then coming back with new eyes to my own life anew (to paraphrase Marcel Proust a bit)? Priceless.

Okay! Enough nattering from me. (See, I warned you. List-making makes me ramble!) What were some of YOUR best discoveries in 2009? From places to tools to objects to books to tech-type stuff to...well, you tell me!

* ahem. Disclaimer: Most of the time. Or at least sometimes. And Occasionally I stubbornly swear-up-and-down that I'll never-ever try something, only to eat my words later. See also: Facebook and Twitter, and probably lots of other things I've conveniently forgotten about once protesting against.


  1. Hi Molly! I'll have to agree with you wholeheartedly on both Google Reader and Twitter. I didn't discover them in 2009, but this is the year I really *used* them. And I discovered so many new, amazing people!

    Happy 2010!

  2. Great post, Molly. Twitter was HUGE for me. It helped me find my agent, which is the greatest new thing I found this year. (No BBB, you're not a "thing." You're much more than that.) I discovered the Backspace and BEA Writer's Conferences, which were priceless as far as learning great tips and networking goes. I found my writing BFF (she lives in OH and I live in PA) through an agent's blog. I discovered I can write several books in a year and get better with each one. The most valuable thing I discovered in 2009 is how to trust myself. I'm looking forward to 2010 more than I've ever looked forward to a year in my life.

    Thanks for asking. ;-)

  3. My biggest discovery this year was the incredibly vibrant, intellectual and just plain fun community of children's book writers, readers and publishers. I've known for years that I wanted to be involved in the publishing world, but I was less sure whether to aim for children's books or adult literary fiction -- since my interests are split pretty much right down the middle there. But interning at Scholastic, jumping in on every author reader I could find and finding the kidlit world on Twitter showed me just how much those who work with children's books love each other, and life in general. Now I'm sold!

  4. Oh, I'm so glad you like your e-book reader. Hubs gave me one for X-Mas and I have to admit, I keep staring at the thing like it's an alien. But, I figure if I want to keep up with the times, I best pop that sucker out of the box and start reading (I was debating returning it and spending the money on *real* books instead...sigh).

    Twitter--huge for me this year, too. In fact, so huge, it's become a big of a time-suck. Must. Cut. Back.

    Also, my 10 inch laptop--it's so cute and light. *cuddles*

    And, my greatest discovery--hubs. He's so uber-supportive of my writing. There's no way I could do this without him.

    Great post, Molly! :)

  5. Reading - Id hung it up for awhile b/c i was writing so much

    my MAC - all i can say is ahhhhhhhh!

    my agent - she rocks

    my credit card paid off! - woot woot!

    Happy New year Molly

  6. wow... as difficult and challenging and just plain hard as 2009 was, I can see clearly what a year of discovery it was:

    -social media in general was a very big deal for me: facebook, twitter, and blogging became critical tools to keep in touch with the kidlit community, meet new folks, rekindle old relationships, and express my opinions and ideas (though I'm horribly horribly behind on the blogging)

    -for as long as people have been telling me I have a novel in me, I didn't believe it until 2009. and while most of it is still buried within, slowly slowly it's emerging.

    -while I knew I needed to work books to be happy, leaving my job was a result of my discovering that I also need to work in the kidlit or nonprofit sectors to really feel vibrant.

    -most importantly, I discovered that I have an amazing community of people who have my back, in NYC and around the nation. I may have thought I knew this, but I didn't *know* it in my core until I needed them.

    and Molly, thanks for the reminder to pause and reflect and be grateful.

  7. Have you seen the three pot crock pot?

  8.'s Perfect Timer for Writers was a real find for me. It's so easy for me to answer a phone call or take a coffee break and end up in a too long conversation, or to Google a fact and end up doing a little more Web browsing than I meant to do. The Timer helps me keep track. It is very simple to work. I set it for however many hours I've set aside for writing, then press start. If I get up for a cup of coffee or answer a call, I press stop. The timer restarts from the last setting when I return. (You have to clear it to erase the original countdown.) This nifty little gadget helps me avoid frittering away my writing time. (I noticed Ninth Moon has run out of stock on these. But last time I looked, a near identical timer is available from at )

    I like the model that lets me set it to vibrate and light up versus buzzing. This is a personal preference - buzzers sounding off when I am deep in concentration have also enabled me to discover that my startle reflex is - you guessed it - alive and well.

  9. I took a class on mediation at the beginning of 2009 and it taught me how to really listen to the people around me (called active listening). I use the skills everyday - and I'm amazed at how important it is when people really feel like they're being listened to. It's even helped my family relationships.
    I also learned this year that blogging isn't as scary as I thought it would be.
    And last but not least, I learned that having your whole house done in purple carpet looks totally awesome!