Honestly, I’m struggling to work out where this year went. It seems like two minutes ago we were all drinking to get over the shitstorm that was 2016, and now here we are again, gearing up to start drinking to get over 2017.
It would be extremely easy to piss and moan about this year, because I’ve spent a lot of it being very angry and upset (though despite all this I have to say my mental health has been in a much better place, which I’m chalking up to therapy, and muting 104 words and phrases on Twitter). 2017 has not, for the most part, gone the way I wanted, but I’m not here to wallow. Not rn, anyway.
So, here are my 2017 Highlights:
1. Launching SHIFT Zine!
What started as a ‘maybe’ in the Twitter DMs slowly grew into a real project, and now is an actual online magazine! It’s been so amazing to work on it with Alice, Rachel and Darran, and see how we’ve gone from a meek little site to being invited to ‘Accredited Press Only’ events. We have no chill about this whatsoever, and why should we? Roll on next year, and bigger and better things!
2. Attending Philip Pullman’s Press Conference
Impossible to have pulled off without the SHIFT team, and the incredible guys at Riot Communications, who got us onto the list (thanks, Laura!). This was the most incredible three days, two of which were entirely devoted to the man himself. Pullman is my all-time favourite children’s author, and the sheer mind-altering anxiety I had trying to keep the fact I was attending a secret, and then having to actually go to Oxford and to the events…
Somewhere, the anxiety morphed into excitement, and I wasn’t the only journalist literally bouncing around the Bodleian Library as we waited for it to start. It was honestly one of the best days of my entire life, and I even got to ask the closing question of the press conference *flicks hair*. We then had a tour of the city and the locations in the books old and new, and then my friend Jen collected me and there was pizza and cocktails (and a dramatic reading out-loud of the book in the small hours).
The day after was the signing at Blackwells, and I was already emotionally fragile, but determined to hold it together and not cry all over Philip Pullman like some sort of dweeb. The fragile state was heightened by the fact someone had declared that only books bought that day would be signed, and poor little me was clutching a battered copy of Northern Lights as if it would explode. I started crying pretty much as soon as Philip arrived, and the waiting queue sang him Happy Birthday. I managed not to sob when it was my turn at the table, but I did crack and ask him to sign Northern Lights as well as La Belle Sauvage. He said ‘of course!’, and look bewildered that I’d been scared to ask, and accepted the letter I’d written him thanking him for Lyra. That sent me over the edge, and I just about made it down the steps before bursting into great heaving sobs, that I am pretty sure Blackwells got on camera.
3. YALC and LFCC
My third year attending YALC / LFCC, and one of the best. YALC’s set-up seems to improve every time, and even though it’s competing with the Big Boys of LFCC downstairs, it more than holds its own.
It was a delight to see the gorgeous and talented Lisa Heathfield again, and to get a Card Against Humanity card signed by Samantha Shannon, as well as the new editions of her wonderful Bone Season books.
This was probably the first year I spent more time on the lower floors than YALC, however, because my inner nerd was singing. Particularly on the Saturday, when the beautiful Sana and I duo’ed as Captain and Ms Marvel. We had our pictures taken a lot, which was kind of weird and kind of great (except that time were were eating chocolate on the floor and some dude asked for a picture. Like… time and a place, my guy).
I also lost my head entirely when I got to meet one of my ultimate crushes, Benedict Cumberbatch. I would love to say I was incredibly sophisticated, but the truth is that I forgot how to speak when he said ‘I love your costume, you look so awesome’, and so had to make do with garbling I THINK YOU’RE JUST REALLY LOVELY at the poor guy before I left. Big shoutout to Daphne of Illumicrate, here, for getting me his autograph the next day, when I’d realised I did want it after all, but had left it too late to queue.
Shoutout as well to everyone who text me asking what he smelled like, immediately afterwards. For the record, he smells like an expensive man who knows he’ll be raising his right arm a lot.
4. Meeting Book Friends
Nothing beats a god book launch for meeting randoms you know from Twitter. I’ve been really lucky this year, and been able to hang out with some super cool people (including Jacqueline Wilson, who I all-but Rugby-tackled at Katherine Rundell’s launch for The Explorer, and who was incredible gracious and kind to poor old bumbling me).
What continually strikes me about Book People is how supportive they are – it doesn’t matter where they are in the industry or their career, everyone is keen to see the people around them succeed and do good. It’s honestly what keeps me going, a lot of the time.
5. Good Omens
You can laugh all you want, but it’s going on the list. I’m really annoyed at Past Me for not reading it sooner, because this book sailed swiftly into the favourite books category and is firmly limpet-ed there, now. Yes, it’s funny, and yes, it’s witty, but the real selling point for me is the sheer hope in the pages. The ending is utterly beautiful, and the blurred lines of good and evil are so well written that I know it’ll be a book I am constantly re-reading for the forseeable.
Also, it’s utter ambrosia for my inner nerd. I’ve started a fan page, and I cosplayed as Aziraphale at Comic Con, and I plan to do so again in the summer, where I’ll have a Crowley to join me, too.
I got two tattoos this year, one at the start and one at the end of 2017, and I love them both so much. Both were done at Vagabond in Hackney, though by different artists. The shell is for my love of the sea, and for the book I wrote that got me my agent; and the violin is for my love of Sherlock Holmes, in all their incarnations.
Well, ok. Another year without evolving into a Proper Author.
But I did write.
I wrote a lot.
I wrote somewhere around the half-million mark in terms of words. I cracked two-hundred-thousand views on my main fanfic account. It’s been difficult to keep slogging, sometimes, I’ll be honest, but this year I’ve sort of fallen back in love with storytelling (not just writing!), and I’m hoping to keep up that good work in 2018.
Make fun fanfiction. Enjoy yourself. Make things up. Share them. That’s the point. – Neil Gaiman
There’ve been losses, yes.
But there’ve been holidays, and sunny days, and days out and making things and eating things and playing games and phone calls and reconnecting and more.
It would be completely impossible for me to do what I do without the love and support of my family – they provide the childcare, the emotional support, and the roof over my head. So, thank you, family, for making the best out of 2017, with me.