Thursday, December 31, 2009


Annus Scribblus (A Personal Review of 2009)

Egocentricity is going places!

Another year is almost over. 2009 was my most productive writing year ever. In fact I regard it as my Annus Scribblus. I attained several long-standing goals: I wrote my 500th story (in fact I'm now on number 512); I broke the 200,000 words barrier for a single year; and I passed the two million words mark for total fiction written in my career. In essence, my annual output doubled. All this was a good way to celebrate the fact that exactly twenty years have passed since my earliest surviving story. I have been a writer for two full decades!

In the past twelve months I wrote a novel, a novella, four novelettes and plenty of short stories, 45 in total. Coincidentally, that's the same number of stories that appear in Donald Barthelme's recent (posthumous) collection, Flying to America, a book that ended up being one of the volumes I most enjoyed reading in 2009. Returning to Barthelme was almost as big a revelation as discovering him for the first time, in my long-lost youth. What a genius, what an ironist, what a philosopher! For the complete list of my other favourite reads of the year follow this link.

I believe I created some of my best work this year, stories such as 'Southbound Satin' and 'The Impossible Inferno', both of which will appear in my forthcoming Ex Occidente collection in 2010, a volume that contains most of my finest fiction from the past ten years. I also finally finished my grand linked collection of fantastical pub tales, Tallest Stories, and another collection, the slightly more restrained Mirrors in the Deluge.

As for my publications: my novel, Mister Gum, was published last September; and two new chapbooks, Madonna Park and Plutonian Parodies, appeared shortly afterwards. Various stories found homes in various anthologies and magazines. All very nice! But what about non-literary activities? Ah, that's where 2009 comes unstuck...

This was an incredibly static year for me. Apart from writing and reading, I actually did very little. Outdoor activities suffered the most. To be fair, the abysmal Welsh weather didn't help matters: in the entire summer I only managed two bivouacking adventures, and although I did manage to get back into running and completed a 5K charity race, I didn't keep up my regime, with the result that I lapsed back into unfitness, the state I'm currently in.

Next year will be different... I don't intend to stop writing, or even take a proper break (I have to finish another novel and write at least two novellas) but the pressure will be less: the headlong rush to the halfway point is over. Writing as the only significant activity in my life is a strategy I don't intend to repeat! I must travel again in 2010; indeed I am planning a trip to Romania that will include Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Greece. So it only remains for me to wish you all:

Happy New Year!

Hello Rhys! Hope you had a good Christmas, and best wishes to you for a happy and productive 2010! I thoroughly enjoy your work, and look forward to reading more of it. Like you, I'm thinking of taking up running again, but keep hearing that it can be bad for your ankles/knees/hips; have you come across any ailments in those areas? Maybe any potential damage to joints is negated by running on grass? Anyhow, all the best for the coming year...
Thanks, Simon! Best wishes to you also for 2010. Yes, running is certainly hard on the knees. A few years ago my knees were fine but my ankles felt the strain. Now, for some erason it's the other way around. I recommend running on grass or sand (if you're near a beach) as the vibrations from impacting with concrete are just too hard!
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