2018 in Retrospect Plus Here Comes 2019: Ever Onward, Ever Hopeful, Ever Joyful

There’s only one day left of this year in which to reflect upon it, and one thing I’ve been urging students to do is sit down and reckon up some of their accomplishments as well as planning out next year’s goals. So here I am, practicing what I preach.

Fiction-wise, the biggest thing published was my fantasy novel, Hearts of Tabat, in May. (If you’re one of the folks who enjoyed it, please think about putting up a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or wherever.) While it’s book two of the Tabat Quartet, it functions as an introduction to the series as well as the first book, Beasts of Tabat, does, and maybe they actually read better in that order, I dunno.

Other publications included stories for my Patreon campaign, this dour little piece of flash in Daily Science Fiction, and stories in anthologies, including “My Name is Scrooge” in The War on Christmas.

I finished up writing two novels, one of which (You Sexy Thing, a space military fantasy) is off with my agent, another (The Five of Us, a MG far future space story) of which I’m currently editing, and got halfway through two others: Exiles of Tabat (the sequel to Hearts of Tabat) and Devil’s Gun (sequel to YST).

The anthology I edited, If This Goes On from Parvus Press, will come out in spring of 2019, and is chockfull of good stuff. So will the little collection that’s intended as a reward for Kickstarter backers, Rambo on Rambo. Thank you to Parvus as well as my rocking team of slush readers, who heroically tackled (literally) hundreds of stories.

The Patreon effort continued to grow, and I hope in 2019 to get it to the point where I can start my own monthly magazine. One helpful thing I started doing was using the software Airtable, which came recommended by Pablo Defendi, and treating the effort as though it were itself that magazine, with weekly features like Tasty Thursdays, in which I provide and talk about a recipe, and Friday Questions, a mini Ask-Me-Anything where conversations can range all over the place. I also hooked in my Discord server for $5 and up patrons and coaching clients and also recruited some other writers and Rambo Academy faculty in order to create a community where people could encourage and motivate each other as well as trade story and novel critiques,

Nonfiction-wise, I finished up the book for Moving from Idea to Finished Draft. I wrote a couple of Clarkesworld essays, “The Future, Ordinary” and “Saving throw vs. Boredom: How RPGs Taught Me Storytelling“. I also published a new class, Hex-Engines and Spell-Slingers: Writing Steampunk and Weird Western. I did a number of reviews for Green Man Review, and have several more in the pipeline – just need to get back into the groove of doing those. I wrote the usual round of blog posts, including favorites On Writing: Advice for Attending a Writing Workshop, Chekhov’s Gun Store, and When and Why to Hire an Editor, And What They Should (and Shouldn’t) Do

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers overall gained a few more teachers, and continues to grow, which is frickin’ awesome, and lets me sit in on classes by the likes of Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire and Rachel Swirsky, along with a host of other great folks. We had our first gamewriting-related class, High-Speed Worldbuilding for Fiction and Games with James L. Sutter. Check out the latest version of the faculty list. Speaking of teaching, over a thousand students have come through the Rambo Academy now, which is awesome, and I added several new live classes to the roster. I expanded the number of free slots in each class from one to three.

I went to the usual round of conventions, including International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, Norwescon, Emerald City Comic Con, GenCon, WorldCon, DragonCon, GirlGeekCon, Surrey International Writers Conference, and Pacific Northwest Writers Association. I got to both tell Peter S. Beagle he was the new SFWA Grand Master and then give him the award — and I get to do the same with another personal hero this coming May. I was a mystery muse for Clarion West this summer and some of the students from there took me up on my offer of a coaching call (If you’re one of them reading this and sad you didn’t, the offer is still open.)

I made my Twitch TV debut as part of the crew playing Esper Genesis. My name is in the rulebook as a playtester, which makes me proud and happy. One ball I’ve dropped is getting SFWA set up with a Twitch effort, but that requires figuring out what form that might manifest in as well as assembling the right volunteer team to care for it.

SFWA continued and continues to make strides forward into the 21st century, despite various small contretemps along the way, and I expect it to break the 2,000 member mark in 2019. Things that got implemented or that kept surging along in 2018, in no particular order:

  • I’ve been working on prodding the SFWA Youtube channel into existence since I was Vice President, and this year it really started to find its feet under the adept leadership of Diane Morrison. Some highlights include. Please check it out and subscribe – lots of good stuff is in the pipeline including gamechats with Jason Stevan Hill and James L. Sutter.
  • The mentorship program was launched. That’s been a long and painful struggle because we wanted to make sure we got it right, but the first wave of mentors and mentees got matched and the results (and numbers) are terrific. I’m mentoring someone myself — if you’re interested in participating in one or the other (or both) sides of that the next time they open up to matches, keep an eye on the website. You do not need to be a member to serve as mentor or mentee.
  • The Givers Fund created by outgoing SFWA CFO Bud Sparhawk continues to roll along disbursing money to efforts promoting fantasy and science fiction. Much of the money raised for this comes from our partnerships with HumbleBundle and Storybundle, which we have worked with in the last 2 years to create Nebula-themed offerings as well as efforts throughout the year, including two SFWA-author Storybundles.
  • The first Nebula Awards weekend I ever went to was a hotel banquet plus a handful of desultory panels. Nowadays it’s a bajillion times busier, bigger, and full of requested features. At some point it deserves a blog post all its own, detailing all the cool little features it’s acquired, like the Alternate Universe Acceptance Speeches. In 2019 (and 2020), it’s in Woodland Hills, California.
  • The Partners and Spouses party at the Nebulas was another thing I’ve pushed for, an event honoring the folks who often make it possible for writers to write, hosted by the inimitable (and SFWA Ombudsman) Gay Haldeman. In 2018 there was even programming aimed at those folks, assisted by Michelle Appel.
  • Indie members have been one of my foci all along and I continue to see them shaping the organization with their enthusiastic, energetic, and above all market-savvy input. We continue to be the only org of this kind letting people qualify with crowd-funded projects. Efforts associated with them include the NetGalley program and the New Release Newsletter.
  • Finally that frickin’ Game Nebula plus revised membership requirements for game writers are in place. Check out the SFWA Recommended Reading list to see some of the games SFWA members are playing and recommending.
  • The continued growth of the SFWA volunteer program under Derek Kunsken’s adept hand continues to please, and the volunteer breakfast that we implemented three years has (I hope) become a mainstay, along with the cool thank you certificates handed out there.
  • Kate Baker helped organize Six Sigma training for the Board at the Nebulas this year and the extra day of that was so well worth it that we’ll be doing it again in 2019.
  • SFWA Ed is rocking along under Jonathan Brazee’s able hand, they’ve got several claases up already, and I’m working on a mini-project for them right now.
  • Publications are getting sorted out. The Bulletin continues to lurch towards a more regular production schedule and has some things it previously lacked, like submission guidelines. The Singularity, originally intended to solve the problem of people getting a piece of mail from SFWA, going “I don’t want this,” and unsubscribing not realizing that meant no more e-mails from SFWA at all, including stuff about the Nebulas and the SFWA elections, has a regular schedule and is always full of great stuff, with people using it, which is a nice sign. Moving the Forum (and once and for all ending the confusion between its name and the electronic discussion forums) to electronic form only and re-shaping it into the Binary, a twice-yearly members-only formal writer-up of votes, committee and board member reports, and budget numbers, has been another effort that has been successful and helped turn something a little retro looking into an entity for this century.
  • Social media has gotten more of a focus in the past few years, and I see the SFWA Twitter account currently bubbling up all sorts of good content from past years on the SFWA blog, including a number of my own pieces.
  • Another of my visions, the SFWA First Chapters project, designed to help with the perennial question, how do I sift through the kerjillion novels that come out in a single year, is off and running!
  • Undoubtedly I have forgotten a kerjillion things that I will remember right after posting this; I will edit them in as they occur to me.

Some SFWA moments, like writing up a requested statement on what a SFWA President does for the Elections committee, are a little bittersweet because it’s the last year of my Presidency. While I am REALLY looking forward to putting more time and mental bandwidth into writing, I know I will miss a great many of the interactions. I will continue to work with the org as a volunteer — that sorta goes without saying, I think, but I’m still figuring out what I want to do. I got to make my final round of picks for the next SFWA Grandmaster, the recipients of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, and the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service Awards, and they’ve all been Board-approved and notified, and I am super happy with the chance to acknowledge them all. This will be my last Nebulas as SFWA President, the closest I’ve gotten to playing prom queen in this life, and so I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to out-do last year’s banquet dress.

A nice highlight, coming in late fall, was that I got a helper! The daughter of a friend, Molly Louise, has been working hard at putting together a more regular social media presence, doing some writing for the blog like To France and Beyond and What Happened to Sabrina?, helping put together the newsletter, and creating some fun graphics. It’s been a big help and I look forward to working with her in the New Year.

Sadder notes of 2018 included losses like Ursula K. LeGuin, Mary Rosenblum, and my friend K.C. Ball. I was touched that Orycon asked to reprint my tribute to her in its program.

I had bought a lot of 4 horses for the sake of the Stardust Unicorn in it, and decided to modify one of the excess ones.This is still in progress.

The pictures illustrating this write-up show a new obsession: Breyer horses. Throw in the availability of used toys and memorabilia on eBay and you have a recipe that sates my inner 12-year-old. Here’s the one I’ve been working on customizing. It’s a fun rabbit-hole, and my BFF and I are planning a trip to Breyerfest in the middle of the year.

I’m looking forward to that as well as to a lot of projects in 2019. A lot of last year’s productivity was spurred by finding a new writing process last September, one which is painful yet productive, and which involves getting up at 5:30, hitting the gym, and then denying myself Internet until I’ve hit my wordcount mark. It’s based on Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words an Hour.

What I am looking forward to in 2019:

  • Turn in Exiles of Tabat, the MG novel, and the next few books in the space series, which is planned on as a somewhat insane ten book story arc.
  • On-demand versions of the flash fiction class, the all the -punks class, and the Stories that Change the World class.
  • Finally get the third edition of Creating an Online Presence done.
  • Frequent visitors will have noticed more guest blog posts on here. I’m hoping that eventually I can grow it into a monthly magazine of sorts since the Patreon continues to gain traction. If you’ve got something you’re promoting that you want to guest blog about or are interested in talking about some sort of semi-regular column, please drop me a line. By the end of 2019, I hope to have made significant progress towards that goal.
  • Moving the Chez Rambo household to a new place – we’re looking for new digs, probably still here in West Seattle, and I know that’s going to be a major effort.
  • Upcoming/planned appearances include Confusion in January, Norwescon, the Nebulas, GenCon, WorldCon (Dublin!), Cascade Writers, PNWA and Surrey International Writers Conference. I’ve also booked a treat for myself in the form of a trip to Breyerfest with my best friend in July, which should be a hoot and a half. Neither of us have ever been and I’m working on booking us an Airbnb that will let us interact with live horses too. If you have suggestions of things we should see while in the Lexington area, let me know!

Resolutions aren’t usually something I formally do, but I am going to try to be better about keeping up with my journal/notebook this year, because I find recording things like word counts for writing sprints or tallying gym visits makes me more mindful of and better about doing them. I like to jot down “10 Things About Today” in my daybook on a regular basis because I like looking back at those small details and remembering incidents, like seeing two little girls in purple ballerina skirts purposefully making their way up a hill yesterday or talking to a woman in the gym about the book she’s reading. I’d like to pick up the habit of meditation, because my mind is a monkey-mind, constantly distracted, worrying, and busy puzzling things out and composing pretty phrases in my head.

I hope to be better about both maintaining existing ties as well as establishing new ones, much of that in the form of letting my amazing friends and family know how much I appreciate them. To be a little more tidy in my daily existence for the sake of my own sanity, since an orderly environment is so much nicer than living on the edge of creeping chaos. And finally, to make more art for the sake of making art, like my notebook doodles or the masks I make every once in a while or my little Breyer customization project.

To continue to work on thinking before speaking, to encouraging other voices to talk — and listening to them, and to be mindful of the impact of my words. To continue to work at being able to go to bed knowing I’ve made an effort to make good things happen in the world, that I’ve cultivated love rather than spread hate, and that, above all, that I’ve been true to myself.

Here’s to a shiny 2019 for us all.

Peace out,

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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