In 2016

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I don’t believe in the New Year starting in January, either; for me it has always started with a new academic year, in the autumn, and all of that post-Christmas guilt stuff is just an excuse for self-flagellation and meanness. What I do for New Year’s, instead, is to list what I’ve done over the past year. That seems more likely to produce, on the whole, happiness. And even bad memories are worth more than half-assed, panic-induced vows to improve my life.

So, in 2016, I:

started writing and reviewing for Litro Magazine

navigated the French train system alone

stayed in a chateau owned by a friend of the Chaos, who runs a restaurant there


hosted my first author Q&A on the blog

decided to reclaim the word “fat”

wrote a series of posts on digital literature (finale coming soon!)

started singing again

attended an underground play

partied like it’s 1944


started my first novel (I’m now at 74K words)

mourned the results of the EU referendum

welcomed my parents to our London flat for the first time!

walked fifteen miles through London at night in support of breast cancer research

went to Glyndebourne


left my job

threw a summer drinks party

turned 24

visited St. Ives (and decided to write my second novel about Barbara Hepworth)

bitched mightily about having to walk uphill in Cornwall


overcame massive social anxiety to go to my very first music festival

participated in a mass read-through of Henry VI, Part 1

sent my brother a postcard at college every week of his first semester

welcomed a goddaughter, Beatrice Illyria


sang at the Royal Albert Hall

met Carlos Acosta (and decided to write my third novel about ballet dancers)

waited tables during the pre-Christmas period (this is hard)

mourned the results of the US election

got wazzocked with the lay clerks of Westminster Cathedral on Christmas morning

read 141 books

It hasn’t been a good year, though. On a personal level, it has mostly been really pretty good, but posting about how good my year was is solipsistically gross if I fail to include the fact that it has been a bad year in many other ways: for the LGBTQ+ folks in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and their friends and family; for pretty much everyone in Syria; for the women of Ohio, where the state legislature has just pushed through a six-week abortion ban; for a substantial portion of Trump voters who didn’t realise that Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act would make their lives literally unlivable; for the people of Valence and Berlin and Nice and Baghdad and Brussels and Istanbul and Quetta. For Jo Cox’s husband and children. For the families of the 258 black people murdered by police in America this year: Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Korryn Gaines, Laronda Sweatt, Deresha Armstrong.

If you think for one minute that this is in some way not your problem, you’re wrong.

2017: if you want it to be a better year, there’s only one way to go about it—you can’t stop celebrities from dying or TV networks from moving your favourite show. You can give your time, and you can give your money. Here are some ideas:

Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project – I donate to this institution because it’s in my home state. I guarantee there’s something similar near you, or you can give to Planned Parenthood.

Safety Pin Box takes the nice-but-not-exactly-super-effective idea of safety pin allyship and makes it a real thing: your subscription gets you two or three “ally tasks” a month, all of which are directly effective in the fight against white supremacy.

Liberty is England’s premier human rights organisation and it is RIDICULOUSLY cheap to become a member. You can give as much as you want/can afford, but some subscriptions are as little as £1 a month; the highest individual subscription fee is only £15.

Do what works for you. Do something that you’re just a little bit uncomfortable with: a couple of hours a week volunteering, or donating £5 more per month than your budget can absorb without having to change. Or call people out at your school/workplace/kitchen table: it can be just as uncomfortable, and just as important.

Anyway, whatever you do, have a very happy New Year. Onwards!

37 thoughts on “In 2016

      1. I was too, for a while. Then I decided that I wasn’t going to let these fascistic dorks define American-ness for me—and that I could be “the American I wish to see in the world”, as it were. I’m trying extra hard now (especially because I live overseas) to embody all the radically good things about the American ideal, especially a belief in equality.

      2. Sort of! I’m in the UK because I have family here (my mum is English), came here for university, and decided never to leave; London, specifically, was a work-related move, though.

  1. I love your 1944 party photo! It looks like a wonderful time! I can’t go to Washington DC for the Women’s March but it turns out we are having one at the St Paul Capitol and as long at it isn’t blizzarding or twenty below, I will be there! I have never done anything like this before so I am excited and terrified at the same time! Happy New Year!

  2. Have a great 2017. I like your words about the sort of things we need to do in this very grim era. I hope I would never fall for the idea that Trump and his ilk really represent what it means to be American!

    1. I sure hope not. I KNOW not! I mean, they’re real, and the danger they pose is real, so in a sense it doesn’t matter, but I think it’s important to represent other ways of being American to the world 🙂

  3. What a sweet picture of you with your god-daughter! And 141 books is amazing – especially considering everything else you’ve been doing. I’ve been meaning to read the first chapter of your book ever since you published it. I will do it – I won’t forget!

    So, if you have an idea for your third book, what about your second? 🙂
    Happy New Year!

    1. Yay, thanks! Yes, she’s a total sweetheart. Well, except for when she mistakes me for someone who can feed her, and then I fail to give her boob immediately – she gets very indignant about this.

      I want to write my second book about Barbara Hepworth, or someone like her! I know nothing about sculpture, so the research period for that will have to be intensive…

      1. No, I don’t think so – Claudel was committed to an insane asylum (supposedly voluntarily, but the order was signed only by her doctor and her brother) in 1913 and kept there for 30 years. Hepworth was only born in 1903. I wonder if she knew Claudel’s story, though.

      2. Ah, I wasn’t sure of the timing (and too lazy to look it up!). But, yes, I wonder if she was even aware of her. My guess is that she wasn’t, since Claudel wasn’t really given her due for a long time, I don’t think. But you never know…

      3. It’s a really good question. I know Hepworth fought to study in Paris (and did), so it’s possible she came across Claudel’s name there.

  4. Great post. And I agree. What’s happeniong out in the world is pretty bad. But whatever we can do, however little, to change things, we should embark on wholeheartedly. Bitching in a corner changes nothing.

    1. I should probably add that I do see the cathartic value of bitching in a corner, and of making sure that you’re surrounded by people who love and support your existence, especially if you’re one of the many, many groups of people threatened by the new administration. Activist burnout is real and terrible. But few people do enough activism to make that likely, honestly, and donating can be a way for people to make a huge difference with a (relatively) low impact to their own comfort.

      1. I agree. And sometimes, activism is quite difficult, if you don’t live near a ‘centre of gravity’ where such things take off. Although it’s easy to make that into an excuse …..

      2. No but you’re right—and sometimes people have obligations that prevent them from taking time off work, traveling, etc., to where the action is. But money is more portable!

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