2021: My Year in Writing

As the year turns over, I like to do some reflecting on the year that’s been and set some goals for the year ahead. In 2021, my life changed a lot as I began working part time as a Project Coordinator for the incredible Sensorium Theatre, as well as teaching a Diploma unit in Storytelling & Meaning at Edith Cowan College… which left me not much time for writing. Still, I managed to squeeze a few things in.

Westerly Mid-Career Fellowship

Seven people of a range of ages, dressed casually, sitting on a brick step in a garden, smiling.
BACK ROW L-R: Adele Aria, Ben Mason, Annabel Smith, Daniel Juckes FRONT ROW L-R: Lisa Collyer, Josephine Taylor, Maddie Godfrey

I made disappointingly little progress in my fiction writing, but, as one of Westerly’s Mid-Career Fellows, I ventured into some exciting (and frankly, terrifying) new territory, with a personal essay about (things starting with the letter D including) my divorce, depression and disordered eating, called ‘Defective‘.

I wrote the essay with the help of a retreat at the wonderful KSP Writers Centre, as well as a reflection on the writing process: ‘Reflective | Defective‘.

These two pieces are by far the most raw and and personal writing I’ve ever published, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more vulnerable, but I felt so lucky and safe in the hands of my mentor and editor Josephine Taylor (thanks, Jo!), and loved the chance to get to know my fellow Fellows.

To Whom It May Concern

A collage of photos of 5 incidviduals sitting or standing one at a time on a turqiose stage, speaking in front of a small seated audience.
Clockwise from top left: Annabel Smith, Phil Gresley, Sukjhit Kaur Khalsa, Kirsti Melville, Andrew Sutherland.

I had a super fun time MCing a night of complaint letters at King Street Arts Centre, giving me the perfect opportunity to air my grievances to the men of Tinder; for Phil to lament his Mum’s less-than-textbook parenting moments; for Sukhjit to crap on (I had to do it) about Irritable Bowel Syndrome; for Kirsti to share her experiences living with anxiety, and for Andrew to share the outrageous story of the medical expert from Canberra who was more focused on sending him dick pics than attending to the Covi-d-19 crisis. Another one of these nights will be coming soon, so watch this space for details.

Talking to Other Writers

a Photo of a woman with long blonde hair with an elderly man in a sun hat, standing in front of a large contemporary artwork. The second photo has the same blone woman, with a woman in a black dress, in front of a shelf in a bookshop.
Annabel Smith & Alf Taylor Annabel Smith & Kate Mildenhall

In February, I did my first Zoom interview with Nardi Simpson, on her novel Song of the Crocodile, a moving and thought-provoking story about life for one Aboriginal family after white settlement, as part of Perth Writer’s Festival. I was lucky to chair two in-person sessions in 2021, one with Alf Taylor who manages to keep a sense of humour even when talking about his cruel childhood at New Norcia in his memoir God, the Devil and Me, & another, also with much laughter, with Kate Mildenhall at Beaufort Street Books on her near future novel The Mother Fault.I also enjoyed MCing a Backstories evening for The Centre for Stories, in a delightful garden in Inglewood.

Teaching

Two women seated at a desk, and 2 women standing behind them in front of a whiteboard, all wearing surgical masks.
Delving Deep Into Character workshop @ Fellowship of Australian Writers WA

Due to Covid, I didn’t do anywhere near as much teaching as usual last year, but I very much enjoyed the few sessions I had: a character workshop at FAWWA, (kooky photo above); a plotting workshop at Melville Library, and for Nedlands Library’s Day of Literary feasting, a workshop on how to maintain writing momentum, called ‘Keeping the Ball Rolling.’

After three years of delivering the fantastic Creative Writing 1 course for the Australian Writers Centre, I taught my final workshop in July, to make more time for my own writing. Though it was what I needed, I also felt very sad, as I’ve had many wonderful students come through that course over the years, some of whom I still see around the traps.

With support from The Centre for Stories, and a Creative Communities grant from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, I was privileged to be Writer-in-Residence at Cecil Andrews College in Armadale during Term 1. I had an amazingly talented and engaged group of students, who wrote a thought-provoking selection of stories, in a wide range of styles, giving an insight into the concerns of teenager’s today. Though not an official part of the curriculum, dancing to ABBA while wearing cat ears turned out to be an essential part of the experience! I’m so grateful to my gorgeous students and my co-teacher , the wonderful Ryan Steed, for his passion and enthusiasm.

My Writing Goals for 2022

This year, I want to refocus on my novel Monkey See, which has been languishing for months in a rarely-opened folder. I feel like I have been writing this book for a thousand years (actually five), and can’t wait to get it finished and send it off to someone who’s not sick to death of looking at it like I am! With this in mind, I’m currently on retreat at KSP Writers Centre, for some distraction-free writing time. After that, I will be returning to a novel I started a few years ago, while I wait for the rejections, whoops, I mean publication offers, to roll in!

What are your writing achievements in 2021? And your goals for the new year? Let me know in the comments!

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Annabel Smith is the author of US bestseller Whiskey & Charlie (published in Australia as Whisky Charlie Foxtrot), digital interactive novel/app The Ark, and A New Map of the Universe, which was shortlisted for the West Australian Premier’s Book Awards. I am currently working on Monkey See, an epic quest with a sci-fi twist featuring a monkey, an evil priestess and the mother of all tsunamis.

One thought on “2021: My Year in Writing”

  1. I won’t say I enjoyed those two essays of yours in Westerly, Annabel, given the subject matter. I will say that they were moving and wise, and I very much appreciated your courage and artistry.

    Your complaint letter against the Men of Tinder (as you put it) just made me think of Don Henley. Could something like this be put to the tune of “Boys of Summer”??? 🙂

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