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The Year in Writing 2016

I never get as much material out in the world as I intend to, but I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. I’ve been publishing since the ‘90s, and manage a few things every year while teaching. Since the birth of my first daughter, instead of keeping up with music and other hobbies, I’ve focused on writing and submitting to publications, which is itself another job on top of revising, editing, and reading journals to find good fits for my own work. Besides family duties, I teach full time and took on two new classes this year. Teaching English 101 and 102, more specifically grading the amount of essays that these classes produce, is taxing and often uses the same brain space that I use for writing and reading.

Grading essays = less writing.

Personally, it’s been a tough few years. I lost two close mentors, one being my grandfather. At some point, I’ll be able to write about it, but I haven’t yet. I lost a friend from grad school, and several former students. The holidays create a longing for former times and loved ones gone, but there’s comfort in creating new memories with the ones I have close and as I get older, I’m less of a curmudgeon about some things.

Among the several positives in my life, I’ve got a few strong email friendships, regained two good friendships, one that may be also a writing/editing partnership and one that often allows me to nerd out about difficult music.  A couple of former students have been steady email writers and those conversations have meant a great deal this year.

A longtime friend and writer unintentionally helped me re-see how I work. I’ve been writing and publishing poetry for over a decade, but each poem is quite different and I’ve never successfully put a decent manuscript together for various reasons. I’m about 70% done with the first draft of a book-length manuscript. I now have several project ideas lined up. One is a collaboration with a writer/illustrator and it is well into a draft, but we’re both family men, so we’re taking our time. My process feels healthy and I’m getting more work done than I ever have without the art guilt I’ve had in the past.

The first half of the year was busy and difficult. In January, Derek Ballard and I were able to get  our comic over at Study Group. Is it the end of Ghoulanoids? I’ve written quite a bit of material for it, but I don’t know. Actually, Derek and I have a backlogue of pieces, some of which you may get to see in 2017, but I don’t want to say too much because I feel like I jinx this stuff every time I talk about it.

Through Study Group I got to work with Josh Burggraf on a Valentine’s Day comic called “Love’s Labor.” This was totally fun and Burggraf’s stuff is just awesome. I wanted to write in a voice I had never used in comics and use that as a filter for thinking about the Classical Greek definitions of love. Josh was completely open to the topic and brought it all to life with his art.

Somewhere around this time I published the basic rules for a game for improvised music that I originally wrote a decade ago.

Right around the beginning of summer, I wrote liner notes for a fantastic rock album and started an ongoing column called Test Prep, a companion piece to the horror podcast The Terror Test. I’ve been able to use this space to connect philosophy and horror, two of my favorite interests. I’ll likely do an end-of-the-year column before getting ready for next year.

In October, I wrote about the films I watched in a horror movie marathon that lasted the whole month. Reed Randolph and I collaborated on The Coven of Lonely Gourds, a kind of 13 nights of Halloween project. Reed not only gets contemporary horror, but also I love that he knows all the older stuff, too. I had wanted to try to write something like this for a long time, something that is light-hearted, goofy, ghoulish, and allows me to pay a small tribute to writers like Poe and Gorey who I’ve admired almost my whole life. 

In November, I added to my catalog of cavaleras and had a couple of poems go up over at shufPoetry.

I think Decembers will be about reflection, more than output. Finals season is brutal. Next year, if Test Prep is still going, I’ll try to keep that going through October and then take December off. I’ve enjoyed coming home from work, cooking, and then watching Christmas movies or cartoons with the family and not worrying about getting to the desk.

Categories: Writing

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Stephen McClurg

I like red peppers and Jan Švankmajer movies.

1. Current Listening: Lots of soul from Muscle Shoals

2. Current Viewing: A Hard Day's Night (1964).

3. Current Reading: H.G. Wells: In the Days of the Comet

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