Tuesday 29 December 2020

Looking Back On 2020

A year ago, I was looking forward to what I called 'a special year'. It was going to be the Diamond Anniversary year for the Romantic Novelists' Association and I was looking forward to a number of celebrations during 2020. It was going to be the year I became a published author and I couldn't wait to celebrate the launch of my debut novel a few months later. Little did I know then how this last year would be a year that has affected everyone, many tragically, and turned normality upside down. 2020 became the year of COVID 19 and life as we'd known it changed beyond recognition. As I always do at this time of year, I've been reflecting on my writing journey over the past twelve months and wondering how things would have panned out if there had been no pandemic. 

In February, I attended  Love Writing Manchester, my first and only RNA Diamond celebration in person. That weekend at the end of February also turned out to be the last and only time we stayed away from home in 2020. On April 21st, my debut novel, now entitled 'Her Mother's Secret', was published as planned and, in full lockdown, it was just my husband and me celebrating on our own in the garden. A surprise Zoom meeting with family and friends in the evening was the nearest we got to a launch but it was enjoyable nevertheless. For me, that feeling of becoming a published author was a dream come true. I wasn't prepared for the generous comments, messages and reviews that came with publication, and appreciate every one. 'Her Mother's Secret' was long-listed for the 'Not the Booker Prize' (it only has to be nominated to achieve this!) and it was fun to be part of it. In September, the novel was a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award. I was very proud to have been eligible for this award which is given to novelists whose novels have been through the wonderful RNA New Writers' Scheme. I had been so looking forward to attending the York Tea in September when this had been scheduled to take place but thanks to the RNA committee there was a very special virtual ceremony via Zoom instead.

The publication of my second novel, 'Her Sister's Secret'followed in September. Restrictions had eased a little in Wales by then in that we could now eat out as long as rules for social distancing and hand-sanitising were strictly observed. This time we went to a local Sicilian restaurant and sampled the sort of foods my characters would have eaten during their summer of '66. As with my first novel, I was overwhelmed by the fact that readers were messaging me to say they'd enjoyed the second book and many had taken the trouble to leave reviews. 

My contract with Ruby fiction was for three novels and I took part in NaNoWriMo again this year in order to get the bulk of the first draft of novel three written. I'm pleased to say that I was a NaNo winner this year having written over 50,000 words throughout November. Being part of a supportive group from the writing community helped me achieve the goal this year. 

I hadn't heard of Zoom before lockdown but it has been invaluable for keeping in touch with my RNA Chapters and writing groups. The Conference in July had to be cancelled but a very enjoyable virtual alternative was arranged by the RNA committee, including Zoom one-to-ones with agents and publishers. A huge thanks to all concerned! There have been numerous seminars and talks organised by the Society of Authors, the RNA and the virtual Hay Festival. I have attended workshops by Alison May and Jenny Kane, and a ten-week Further Adventures in Crime Writing taught by Katherine Stansfield of Cardiff University. 

Instead of an annual visit to Worcester for the launch of the Worcestershire LitFest Anthology of Flash Fiction, this year it took place via Zoom. I had two flashes included in 
'Her Final Goodbye', one shortlisted, and read it aloud on-screen. 

At the end of the year, I was delighted to have two short stories published in the ChocLit/Ruby Fiction anthology, 'Cosy Christmas Treats'.

A writer's life is a solitary one in many ways and perhaps that has helped us deal with the awful enforced isolation of 2020. I have very much missed meeting up with other writer friends in person but I've been grateful for social media and tried to make use of it whenever I could. How has the lockdown affected your writing this year? Has reading helped you to escape from reality? 

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.