Writerly New Years Resolutions You Ought to Try


As we gear up for a new year, Tara Laskowski, author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons (Matter Press 2012) and the forthcoming Bystanders (Santa Fe Writers Project 2016) is kindly sharing some suggestions that will benefit your craft, as well as your karma.

Happy Writing in the New Year. Make 2016 your most productive—and more importantly, most fulfilling—yet.

Please welcome Tara to Write Despite.


Yep, it’s that time—to commit to something (or several somethings) that you’ll accomplish over the next year. To change the ways that you’re less proud of. To start over, reset, renew.

Only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving New Years resolutions. Perhaps this is because we dream too big and set ourselves up for failure? Whatever the case, I’m presenting to you some resolutions that I’ve tried in the past or would like to try this year. Some are bigger, and some are tiny—and achievable—I swear! I hope they spark some ideas for you and make your 2016 full of happy reading and successful writing.

Re-read a book you love. If you’re at all like me, you’ve got a stack of books somewhere that you want to get to, but can’t ever seem to. You can’t really imagine taking the time to go back and read something you’ve already read, even if you love it.

Well, give yourself permission to do it. For every two or three new books you read, re-read something you love. I have started re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis again, and it is giving me such pleasure to revisit these characters. Also on my list—Mrs. Dalloway, the Harry Potter series, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Secret History.

Subscribe to a literary journal. Lit magazines are struggling. They get more submitters than subscribers in many cases. Find one that you love, and buy an annual subscription. Then read it. If you find a story you really love, email the writer and let him or her know.

Swap favorite books with a writer friend. Ask your friend to name two books that changed her life (that you haven’t read yet.) Then give her two books that you adore that she hasn’t read. Read them. Discuss over drinks and sweets. Consider your life changed and enriched.

Write something outside your genre, just for fun. Normally write novels? Try flash fiction. Are you a poet, always a poet? Why not write a crime fiction story? Instead of science fiction, ground yourself in reality for a time. Pulling out of your comfort zone can get your brain thinking in different ways. A bonus: it also takes the pressure off and gives you the freedom to just explore for a while.

Several of the stories in my new collection exist only because of this experimentation. The story “The Monitor” was my attempt to write something with supernatural elements in it—a woman who starts to see a ghost in her baby monitor. The story ended up getting taken by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Another story, “Every Now and Then,” was the result of me messing around with writing modular stories—a form I’ve grown to love. If I hadn’t tried to break out of my writing comfort zone, these stories wouldn’t exist.

Review books on Amazon. This is a really easy and cheap way to show love to the writers you know and adore. There are many articles out there about why and how Amazon reviews are good for the writer. Take five minutes and write a thoughtful, honest review of a recent book you read and post it on Amazon—and Goodreads, too! I promise you that you will make that writer’s day.

Finish that one project that’s lurking behind you. Maybe it’s the novel you’ve been writing for seven years, or the story where the concept is great but you can’t get the ending right. Or the collection of short stories that needs three or four more to flesh it out. Whatever the writing project, make 2016 the year to tackle it. And then go for it. You can do it. I’m cheering you on!

"Tara Laskowski"

Tara Laskowski grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and now navigates traffic in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. She is the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons (Matter Press 2012) and the forthcoming Bystanders (Santa Fe Writers Project 2016). Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Since 2010, she has been the editor of SmokeLong QuarterlyShe and her husband, writer Art Taylor, write the column Long Story Short at the Washington Independent Review of Books. Tara earned a BA in English with a minor in writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University.

Year of Books and Blessings

Another year ends, and we’re feeling the need to look back with appreciation before we head into the next one.

what are you grateful forFrom Karen:

Well my novel Homing Instincts has been out in the world (or the marketplace, I should say) for one year, and what a whirlwind it has been!

Christmas is a very big deal in our house, and during this season I always like to step back and think about the many, many blessings in my life.

My first year as a published novelist was full of unexpectedly wonderful support from readers and friends alike.

Here are few of the people and things who helped make this experience possible and so memorable:

  • Michelle Richmond and Fiction Attic Press, for bringing the book into the world and for cheerful support and help every step of the way
  • Cathy Cruise. Okay, enough said on this one. You all know Cathy edited this thing so much, she ought to be a co-author. Love you, Cath.
  • Colleen Kearney Rich for that last, all-important new set of eyes, and Jacqueline Sheehan for leading the Northampton fiction workshop where the missing piece of the puzzle finally fell into place.
  • Roxanne Steed. Artist and friend. Having Roxanne’s lovely painting grace the cover of the book was the best decision I’ve made in a long time, and she’s been a terrific promotion partner.
  • Readers, readers, readers. I can never thank you all enough. So many readers have been so kind and appreciative. There is no greater success as a writer than knowing that your work has touched someone, has made them think and feel. Thanks for letting me know how much Homing Instincts meant to you.
  • My siblings and my mother-in-law for abundant cheerleading and praise. You guys are the best
  • Our Write Despite readers, for continuing to follow and contribute to our blog — even though I suspect we may be a wee bit tedious at times
  • My husband and son, the real jackpot. XOXO
  • The good Lord above, because I believe He sometimes has a hand in these things …

Happy Holidays!

From Cathy:

Well 2016 here we come. But first, the Airing of the Grievances.hear about it

Kidding. Been watching too many Seinfeld reruns while wrapping gifts.

First, the Airing of the Gratefulness. This year has made me thankful for:

  • Perseverance. Because agents don’t come looking for you. Instead, they wait for you to submit to many, many of them before they kindly but decidedly turn you down. Which leads to:
  • Indie publishers. Because sometimes they actually like your book and will take a chance on it. Like the awesome Samantha March of Marching Ink. Because publication. Finally!
  • And, like Karen said, an army of early readers and supporters:
    • Karen Guzman. Yes, I’m returning the love. She read it twice and that’s more than anyone should have to. Thank you, Karen, for your sharp eye, spot-on advice, and constant yammering that I could do better.
    • Kirsten Lopresti—same thing. Two reads and boatloads of advice and encouragement. Many, many thanks.
    • Tess Allen, Jill Williams, Adrienne Arrage, Colleen Kearney Rich, Ruth Boggs, Pat Devlin, and probably several others I’m forgetting, who read and gave feedback. Thank you all so much.
    • My husband (another beta reader!), son, daughter, and niece who ate more takeout and amused themselves on evenings and weekends much more than they should have (and still are, while I’m in the final editing stage). Love you all too much.
    • Our Write Despite followers! Just knowing you’re out there is motivation to keep going. Thank you for your interest, and best to all of you.
  • Finally, I’m grateful for friends who all published books this year. Could not be happier for:

You all keep me on my toes and make me jealous and proud and inspired, not always in that order.

So it’s with love and exhaustion and eagerness for the new year that I’ll end this. Wishing all of you a year full of great reads, inspired writings, and pals and printings and publications.

Happy Festivus! May your pole remain bare and your Feats of Strength miraculous.