2018 Year in Review

On my previous blog, I posted monthly updates about what was going on, what I was working on, what I was reading, etc. I have not been doing that so far here, but I would like to starting in 2019.

Besides not posting those monthly updates, I also did not do as much as I would have liked to with this blog or with any of my writing or other creative projects in 2018 because of a couple major life changes. My mom passed away at the very end of 2017, and in addition to the emotional distraction, we had a lot of work to do with cleaning out and selling her house.

Early in the year, I applied for a new job, got invited for an interview, and eventually got the good news about getting an offer which I accepted. Although the move has been positive, transitioning to a new job is stressful as any big change is. I am hoping that I will feel more settled in my new position in 2019 and will be able to establish some better routines for my creative work.

Of my creative projects, my writing took the biggest hit from the busy year. I made little progress on anything I had hoped to work on and did not get any new stories published. My last publication was A Telling Silence in The Penman Review in October of 2017. 

In 2017, I had started a more earnest effort to learn to draw which as been an on-again, off-again project for about the past 5 years. For most of 2018, I barely drew, but in the second half of the year, I bought Alphonso Dunn’s Pen & Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide which I have been sporadically working with. I have been enjoying his approach to drawing so it’s been a pleasure to work on the exercises when I get around to it.

The year wasn’t a total bust, creatively. I feel I made a lot of progress with my photography. During the year, I expanded my camera options. Early in the summer, I bought a Minolta XE which gave me a second 35mm camera (in addition to the Canon EOS Rebel 2000). A month later, with the help of my modest inheritance, I upgraded from my Canon EOS Rebel T3 to the Canon EOS Mark IV with two lenses (an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM and an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM). I also bought a Felxaret which I still really haven’t learned much about and the Olympus TG-5 which I bought prior to our Montreal trip. Most recently, I got a new lens for the Minolta XE (a 70-210mm F/4).

Perhaps not surprisingly, I have taken more pictures this year then ever, and I have been trying to improve my skills with practice, by watching Lynda tutorials, and by following more photography blogs.

One other positive thing about 2018 is we did get to travel a bit. We went to Washington DC in February and again in December, had a rather lovely extended trip to California, and spent Thanksgiving in Montreal.

Despite the distractions, I was able to meet my reading goal of 36 books. In addition to so much going on, I had also subscribed to The New Yorker which accounted for a lot of my reading time, and I thought I might end up reading fewer books as a result. Although my list is always a little inflated with some graphic novels and photography books, I was glad I reached my goal.

  • The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  • La Belle Sauvage, Philip Pullman
  • Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, Elvis Costello
  • Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • Saga, Vol. 8, Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
  • Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, Svetlana Alexievich
  • The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, Mark Strand (Editor), Evan Boland
  • The Hatred of Poetry, Ben Lerner
  • Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith
  • Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture, Dana Gioia
  • Ploughshares Winter 2017-2018
  • V., Thomas Pynchon
  • Star Wars: Darth Maul, Cullen Bunn (Author), Luke Ross (Illustrator)
  • Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill
  • Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin, Charles Soule (Author), Marco Checchetto (Illustrator)
  • Look at Me, Jennifer Egan
  • Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu, Matt Owens, Denys Cowan (Illustrator), Jesus Saiz (Illustrator)
  • Best American Poetry 2017, Natasha Trethewey (Editor)
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  • The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer
  • Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
  • Renoir: Father and Son / Painting and Cinema, Sylvie Patry (Editor)
  • There There, Tommy Orange
  • The Short Story of Photography: A Pocket Guide to Key Genres, Works, Themes & Techniques, Ian Haydn Smith
  • The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, Olivia Laing
  • Ploughshares Spring 2018, Lan Samantha Chang (Editor)
  • Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart
  • Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, K.M. Weiland
  • Peter Lindbergh & Garry Winogrand: Women
  • The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), Andy Warhol
  • Saga, Vol. 9, Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples (Illustrator)
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine, Charles Soule (Author), Giuseppe Camuncoli (Illustrator), Jim Cheung (Illustrator)
  • The Perfect Nanny, Leïla Slimani, Sam Taylor (Translator)
  • The Trouble with Being Born, Emil M. Cioran, Richard Howard (Translator)
  • Ploughshares Summer 2018, Jill McCorkle (Editor)
2018 Reading Update
2018 Reading Update

I didn’t set out to re-read anything but I wound up re-reading a few things all of which I enjoyed as much as I remembered: V, Look at Me, Catch-22, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, and  The Trouble with Being Born.

Of the new things I read, I really enjoyed The Lonely City, Lake Success, There There, Acceptance, Homegoing, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, and Dept of Speculation.

Of course, my year included plenty of movie watching, and I did get to the theater more this year than the past few years bolstered by another trip to the Philadelphia Film Festival which accounts for most of this list.

  • The Last Jedi
  • Black Panther
  • Death of Stalin
  • RBG
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Blackkklansman
  • We the Animals
  • Support the Girls
  • Ben Is Back
  • Woman at War
  • And Breathe Normally
  • All about Lily Chou-Chou
  • Studio 54
  • Cold War
  • Foreboding
  • Non-Fiction
  • Ramen Shop
  • Asako I & II
  • Ash Is Purest White
  • Happy As Lazzaro
  • Amin
  • Long Day’s Journey into Night
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • Shoplifters

There are still plenty of 2018 releases I still want to see which I’ll probably need to watch at home at this point, but of the movies from this list, I would say my favorites were Blackkklansman, We the Animals, Support the Girls, Cold War, Ash Is Purest White, and Happy As Lazzaro.

I’m not one to make a lot of New Year’s resolutions, but I was off from work from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day so it was a good time to think about things I want to work on and get a head start on my projects.

Basically, I just want to do more of everything in 2019 than I was able to in 2018. I think getting back to my monthly updates will help with accountability and not letting too much time pass without working on anything.

I want to focus more on this blog as I had some specific intentions as to what I want to do with it. I also want to get back to working on our food blog, SimpleGoodness. We had had a food blog ever since moving to Philadelphia 7 years ago, but we stopped updating it a little over a year ago. Fairly recently, we dusted it off and renamed it. We still haven’t done much with it since then, but I hope to do more with it in the coming year.

I would like to try to make the blogs more of a focus. In the past, they’ve been more of a side project that I work on after I work on other things. I normally enjoy working on them and often wonder what satisfaction I may get from them if I posted more consistently.

And, of course, I want to be much more attentive to my creative writing and drawing than I was in 2018 while, hopefully, not losing any momentum with my photography.

It’s all a bit ambitious knowing how difficult it is for me to be productive while working for a living, but I need to be better about capitalizing on what time I have. I know from previous years that I’m capable of doing more than I did in 2018 so I will head into 2019 optimistically.

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