2020 in the Rearview Mirror: What's Up for 2021?

This is my first blog post of 2021 . . . a year that we are ushering in with much hope, albeit guarded hope, as we are in the early days of the vaccination process that should begin to return our lives to some semblance of normalcy.

In this space, I typically review the previous year’s achievements, milestones, and funny moments. What can I say about 2020?

I don’t know if I’m really ready to write about it—but here goes. It was a bad year, full of anxiety, fear, depression, and loss.

My dad died this year. I miss him. I’ve already had that moment where I wanted to ask him something a hundred times, and then jarringly realize I cannot. (Delwyn L. Biel obituary.

Coronavirus did more than complicate our lives, it added a layer of anxiety and fear and depression. A first cousin and people I know peripherally through others tragically died from the virus and others have recovered but still have complications. 

Personal and professional milestones that should have been celebrated with family and colleagues were subdued online gatherings where we all made the best of a suck-y situation. Holidays (Birthdays, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Days, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) became small and intricately planned for maximum protection.

I watched (first with amusement and then with horror) as the most bizarre conspiracy-theory social media posts bloomed into full-fledged denial of the logical and true. For the record, I’m sure that this virus is real, Bill Gates is not trying to kill you, vaccinations do not include a tracking chip, and Wayfair is NOT trafficking children/women through selling high priced cabinetry. (I can’t even begin to get started on the election craziness.) I learned a new term for spending too much time on all the weirdness online—doomscrolling. Stop the doomscrolling people. Go for a walk or do some yoga instead.

Truly, the world has gone nuts. It’s like we’re living in our own special version of The Upside Down from the show Stranger Things—a place where nothing makes sense and danger lurks in dark corners.

And yet, I keep replaying that scene from Moonstruck in my head. You know the one where Cher tells Nicholas Cage to snap out of it.

So, taking Cher’s advice, let me change my focus to the good parts of 2020—because like any year, there WERE also good and happy things.

Travel is always an important part of our year—and even in a pandemic world we were able to bookend the year with trips. The February World Orphan Fund trip to Africa was beyond special. Enlightening and educational, I will be forever grateful that we were able to take this trip before travel restrictions set in. (Read more about it here.) And more recently, we ushered in the New Year in St. Pete, FL, where we kept our annual condo reservation and soaked up the sun for a few glorious days while catching up with family. (Here's the last sunset of 2020 as seen from Indian Shores, Fl.)

Gardening: With so much time at home, it made sense to focus on gardening. Over the course of three painful weekends, my husband and I built a rather large raised bed system for our vegetable gardening. After starting many plants indoors, we had one of the best harvests ever! We also had the most bountiful blueberry harvest on record—freezing more than 60lbs of organic berries. (And this doesn’t count the ones we ate fresh!) Take a tour with me through my garden in the video below.

Writing & Reading Milestones

And, even within all the chaos, writing and reading continued. 2020 included:

2 virtual writing conferences attended. (The SCBWI summer conference and the SCBWI/Smithsonian nonfiction writing conference)

2 contest wins (1st place in the Young Adult and Wisconsin Regional Art Project-WRAP categories at the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute—read more here.)

9 Columbus Books & Beer book club events coordinated (in person and online.)

12 writing and publishing workshops presented. While conferences were canceled, I was able to lead writing and publishing workshops either online or in small groups.

16+ Amazon ads created. I finally plunged into re-learning Amazon advertising this year—with an ongoing, profitable outcome!

43 blogs posted here, including guest posts on writing craft, 12 monthly Writers’ Forums and many book reviews and author interviews.

70+ books read, both published and in manuscript form as an editor or beta reader.

(Unknown/Incalculable hours of TV watched. Can’t even begin to estimate the hours and hours and hours. Thank you Netflix, Hulu, Starz, Amazon Prime, Disney+, CBS All Access, PBS on demand and more! Read more about my pandemic TV watching habits.)


But one of my major highlights was working with 30+ diverse, talented authors from all over the US and the world -- Jerusalem, England, British Columbia, Boston, Dallas, Indiana, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and (of course) Wisconsin. Helping these authors with their publishing adventures through book launch plans, marketing/advertising campaigns, manuscript editing, website design and more, allowed me to bring focus and purpose to each day.


So, What’s Planned for 2021?

A new Published Author Series will debut on my blog next week, giving us insight into what each featured author wishes they’d known before they published their first book or what advice they would go back and give their pre-published self. I suspect we will all gain a lot of wisdom and have a few laughs with these authors.

The Writers’ Forum will continue with an added element featuring a key publishing partner who goes above and beyond in helping authors achieve their goals. I’ll continue to review books, interview authors, and host guest posts on writing craft and the business side of writing.

I have so many personal writing goals that I’m frightened to even put the list down on paper—it’s extensive—it’s ambitious—it’s daunting. But to make these goals even a teeny bit possible, I need to wrangle my writing schedule. I’ve been terrible at protecting my writing time this past year. So, I’ve now set aside Wednesdays and Friday afternoons for my main writing times. Weekends will be reserved for manuscript edits and my own book marketing endeavors. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday will be my client workdays. Can I stick to this? We shall see. I promise to be honest with my successes and challenges with this schedule.

I’ll also be adding to my Author Pro online course catalog and hopefully getting back to presenting workshops and breakout sessions in person as conferences resume in the latter half of the year.

What are your 2020 success stories? What are your writing goals for 2021?

Don’t be afraid to comment below  . . . we’re all in this crazy world of writing and publishing together! ~ Valerie


Great post, Val!

Thanks! I didn't know you read these.
(For everyone out there who doesn't know my family, Denise is my sister, so she has to say nice things.) :) LOL - Val

Your energy level is astounding! I'm so glad we work together and looking forward to meeting you--in person--someday soon!

Thanks, Ann! I feel like we've already met in person --hard to believe we've only talked on the phone!! 2021 will be the year! - Val

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