2017: WHAT A YEAR TO BE A WRITER oh ho boy

It’s !Year in Review! time and up until about five minutes ago all I could think was UGH PUT THIS YEAR IN THE TRASH ALREADY AND BE DONE WITH IT. But I’ve written one of these recaps every year and it’s the one time I actually pause to reflect on what I’ve been doing and focus on what I want to accomplish in the year to come. (See: 2015: The Year I Wrote Like a Motherfucker and 2016: The Year I Wrote Like a Motherfucker Who Had No Idea What Was Coming. For the record, those titles could also apply to 2017 but enough with the motherfucker titles already, jeez.)

How I Did

This is the first time I’ve looked at these writing resolutions since, like, April. Let’s see how I did:

Keep submitting to The New Yorker. I kept submitting. In my mind I have submitted something like 1,475 pieces but in looking back through my rejections, I submitted six pieces between April 2016 and April 2017. And then on May 18th, I woke up from a nap, scrolled through my phone, and struggled to adjust my eyeballs as I read a response from Emma Allen that read in part, “This is really great, and I’d love to run an edit of it as a Daily Shouts online if you’re game. Let me know if that’s of interest.” El-oh-el, I bet she never gets tired of that whole “Let me know if that’s of interest….” business. Nah, I think I’ll pass. Thanks though. OF COURSE IT’S OF INTEREST MY GOD. It ran over the 4th of July weekend and I remember thinking, “Great, when everyone will be drunk and not reading The New Yorker.” But I underestimated America’s ability to do both at the same time and it ended up popping up and moving around on that little Most Read sidebar and, in an incredible goddamn surprise, it also made the “Not-to-be-missed Shouts of 2017” list. Hey, it’s no “Cat Person” but still, I just shouldn’t complain about anything ever again.

Expand my submissions list. While I was in Oregon for a writing residency in February, not working on my book that hadn’t sold yet, I focused on researching how to pitch and where I wanted to submit given the absolute garbage rates for writing. If you’re a full time writer who doesn’t work in advertising let me know how you feed yourself because pay rates are a joke. $50 per piece? $25 per piece? Fuck yooooou. As it turned out, I only had the first half of the year to focus on this resolution (cliffhanger!). I submitted to The Rumpus, The New York Times, and Washington Post and got nothing but sad faces. But I had one piece accepted by Splitsider. My one complaint (complaining already! Didn’t even make it a whole paragraph!): Since Splitsider doesn’t pay, it would be fantastic if they would at least promote these original humor pieces more overtly than just tweeting them out. They have 53k followers on Facebook and what I assume is a fairly hefty newsletter list packed with legit comedy people. Come on, Splitsider! Help us out, man!

Celebrate my first book being sold. Whoop whoop! On the day my kids got out of school for summer vacation, it was official:

Finish writing that book ^. Oh ho yes, I did that. The new title is AMATEUR HOUR: MOTHERHOOD IN ESSAYS AND SWEAR WORDS and comes out May 1st from Harper Perennial. But remember that part about “on the day my kids’ got out of school for summer vacation”? My first draft was due to my readers on August 17th. My kids’ first days of school were August 29th and 30th. I submitted my manuscript to my editor on September 15th. And that’s why this is the dedication:

3rd Annual Writers Weekend. Against all odds—and misunderstandings on scheduling, whether or not we had paid for our cabins when we booked them, and being down to three writers instead of four—we still made it happen. And we’ve committed (as much as four writers with eight kids and at least four jobs can commit) to meeting monthly to catch up until we buckle down again at the 4th Annual Writers Weekend in September.

Start writing another book. During that previously mentioned Oregon residency, I wrote an outline for a novel. And then I started writing it. Four whole pages of it. IT’S PRACTICALLY DONE. It actually is not. I can’t imagine writing another book right now. Books are bloodthirsty and mostly just want to kill you. But I still like my idea for this theoretical 4-page novel and I’m sure I’ll return to it. Once I stop complaining about books being hard. Remember when I said, “I just shouldn’t complain about anything ever again.” I AM NOT GOOD AT THAT.

Get my distraction situation under-fucking-control. Oh. Em. Eff. Gee. 2017 really pushed me over the edge on the politics/end-of-the-world/everything-is-horrible/MAGA/fucking racist cesspool and whatnot all-over-social-media front. And let’s all enjoy the irony that the first year I have *ever* wanted to permanently deactivate my Facebook account is the same year I need to start promoting a book. The universe laughs—laughs I say!—in the face of, well, me. My face. But I’ll call this a partial (very partial) victory. I did take breaks and got better at stepping away from social media. I really absorbed the mental value of those breaks and realized how much better my life would be without Facebook. But I didn’t learn that lesson nearly as early in the year as I should have (that would’ve been June 16th.) And in 2018 I have to basically double my social media presence. Should work out great.

Feel as grateful as someone rescued from a well every time someone says they like my writing. I’ve gotten better at this. But, to be fair, most of the pieces that ran this year were satire. Those are just easier to talk about. They’re not personal. They’re goofy. We’ll see how this all goes once the book is out. Eek.

2017 Favorite Children

The vast majority of the writing I did this year went into my book, but here are a few favorites that made their way out into the world this year, followed by some great pieces from other (better) writers:

I started writing this at 2 p.m., submitted it at 4:14 p.m., got an acceptance at 4:38 p.m., approved edits at 4:45 p.m., and it posted to the site at 4:54 p.m. This was *so fun* and if McSweeney’s had a full-time (paid) writer job where I could just pretend I worked in a newsroom and had to write in a panic all the time I would love it 110%.

It’s almost like sexual harassment is a thing right now!

This is factual.

Sarah Hutto gave me the idea for this piece while we were chatting back and forth on the BookFace. We were originally going to write it together then she wrote a thing and I wrote a thing then we decided I should just write the version I had and then NO ONE LOVED IT WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MONSTERS.

Most of my serious or at least non-smart-ass writing went into my book. So it was a real pleasure to write this piece, about some great friends and their incredible family, and raise money for Outright Vermont while we were at it.

2017 Favorites by Other (Better) Writers

Writing a book is a weird state of being. You feel like you can’t complain about it (because you shouldn’t), people want to be supportive but also want you dead (I get that, I really do), and all the while you’re going through something as significant as getting married or divorced or having a baby. Abby Norman and I have very different stories, but this was the first piece I read all year that made me think, “Yeah. This.” I’m looking forward to her book. (Read about/order it here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/abby-norman/ask-me-about-my-uterus/)

This one from Stephanie Wittels Wachs is cheating as it’s from 2016. But I was reminded of it recently as we messaged back and forth on Twitter about our books. If ever there was a year to step back and absorb every lesson we can about empathy, 2017 was it. (Read about/order her book here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephanie-wittels-wachs/everything-is-horrible-and-wonderful/)

STOP BEING SO PERFECT, COLIN NISSAN. Jesus Christ.

Oh my lord, this is just funny and gorgeous and dreamy.

I am laughing through my tears or crying through my laffs, don’t worry about it, it’s perfect.

LIT AF

Every writer tries to crack that one reaction piece that channels all the feelings yet is built on a simple premise. It’s way harder to do than you might think. When I read this one from Sarah Hutto I knew it was going to go. And holy crap, did it go.

This is such a sad and stunning and beautiful piece.

The series Eric Olsen wrote about his mother’s last days, her death, and his grief are a beautiful exploration of the quiet moments and mercies that played out in a year when crassness and buffoonery too often ruled.

2018 Resolutions

Ugh. “What is 2018 even going to be like?” is all I keep thinking. 2017 was a pivotal year for me as a writer but a hard year as a human. I experienced more stress and emotional turmoil than I have in a decade. So when I look ahead, this is mostly what I’m thinking about:

  • Survive the book coming out. Survive promoting the book. Hope it gets some attention and some love. Hope my kids don’t get their hands on it, although they seem determined to do just that.
  • Keep submitting to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s but work harder to push myself outside the humor zone. Get back to crafting more personal and serious pieces, which is where I actually started. Get those things published.
  • Figure out what the plan is for RAZED, poor, neglected RAZED. If I don’t start paying attention to it I just know it’ll start shoplifting or dressing all slutty.
  • 4th Annual Writers Weekend. Already excited. Already PAID IN FULL, baby! Fired up, ready to go Darren Higgins, Eric Olsen, Nicci Micco!

Oh, one last thing:

I submitted a packet to The Onion back in May. I decided just two days before the deadline to do it and it was easily the best time I had writing all year. Of course I was rejected. Of course I was! But it was an incredible writing exercise and an absurdly fun sprint. It reminded me that writing can’t be all about the acceptances or the rejections—those are rooted in individual editors’ tastes, biases, pet peeves, sensibilities, and points of view. All you can control is how satisfied you are with your own writing and the experience of doing it. It can’t be one endless approval-seeking treadmill.

Other things I was reminded of or learned this year:

  • You can’t expect everyone to be happy for you. You just can’t. Find the people you can connect with who get it, who want to have those same conversations, you’ll get more out of it and feel less blue about things you should be thrilled over. I connected with other lady writers (in Facebook groups! On Twitter! Wherever!) who I’ve never even met in person. It was (and continues to be) fantastic.
  • If I can’t commit to really writing a piece the way I want it (not enough time, work project due, whatever) then step. away. from the piece. And for the love of God, don’t submit it or post it. I have way too many rejections or shitty pieces to show thanks to taking a sloppy approach and dashing off pieces that should’ve never seen the light of day.
  • Someone is always going to be a better writer. There are millions of them. And someone is always going to be worse. There are millions of those too. Just run your own race.
  • No matter what’s happening on the surface (book deal! social media blah-dee-blah!) no one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s life. This was a tough year for me on several fronts and writing victories didn’t make that suddenly not true. In some instances, writing victories actually made some things harder.
  • Time away from this godforsaken laptop is the most important thing I can do to help my writing. And on that note:

Good luck in 2018, everyone. Keep fighting the good writer / human fight!


Kimberly Harrington is a copywriter and creative director, a contributor to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and is the co-founder and editor of parenting humor site RAZED. Her first book, AMATEUR HOUR: MOTHERHOOD IN ESSAYS AND SWEAR WORDS, is out May 1st from Harper Perennial. Follow her/me on Twitter.

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AMATEUR HOUR (2018) and BUT YOU SEEMED SO HAPPY (2021) | The New York Times, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Cut | kimberlyharrington.me

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