2020: Year in Review

When I was in my late 20s, I learned that people sent out year-end updates about their lives to their friends and family members. Such letters were seen not only as normal, but as polite. College friends of mine were the first people I knew who did this.

As for me, an early adopter to social media, I didn’t understand the appeal of telling all your business in December when you could be telling it all year long, as it happened.

I enjoy sending out holiday cards, though. Probably more than receiving them. I like the idea of having an outdoor photo shoot in cute clothes and letting people see how well you aged over the past year. I reckon you’re supposed to be showing off your children in these cards, but eff these kids.

I don’t have any anyway.

My cousin Jayonna came over (masked up) and used my camera to take photos of me for my holiday card. I taught her a little bit of composition, gave her the long lens (to stay even safer), and we played around for an hour in my backyard (and side yard). I liked the results.

It’s hard getting things done in Conway when you’re poor. Some of my friends ask me not to call myself poor. Others prefer that I say “broke” instead. The truth is that I’m somewhere in between. I don’t have a job with any sort of benefits. My health insurance consists of prayer, masks, and staying at home. I can’t get what I want when I want it without considering what I’d have to go without.

But I do have the generosity of my Patrons. Thanks to them, I am able to actually be a writer on a full-time basis. I can pay my rent, my internet (now with better upload speeds!), my cell phone bill (though service is spotty at best), and some streaming entertainment. Most times, I can afford food, though sometimes I apply for SNAP benefits. Right now, North Carolina gives me about $13 a month in benefits.

Thanks for the cobb salad and pack of Fresca, North Carolina.

There’s not enough to be said about my Patrons, though. It’s humbling to know that over a hundred people believe in this vision and have followed me from DC to Conway to help me see it through. I say often that I will try not to disappoint them. Most say I could never disappoint them. It still makes me anxious, though. I never want to be known as that author guy who went to the country and disappeared.

So I work as hard as I can to live up to my promise. And you know what? I think I did okay this year.

In May, my anthology Time was released. So was my novel Children of Fury. I am proud of them both, but especially of Children of Fury. I knew it would be complicated trying to explain that it was Volume III of a series for which Volume II hadn’t been released, but in the end, people didn’t care much. I got good reviews, but I could always use more.

Additionally, I published two short stories set in the Dark Nation universe, and connected to Children of Fury. The first was Thunder Rolls, a sequel story in which a character contracts COVID-19. The second was Pascal, a prequel story centering on a secondary character from Children of Fury at the age of six.

Thunder Rolls hit number one on release day. Pascal is climbing the charts as I write this. I am proud of myself for that.

Sincerely. It’s progress.

Over the summer, I was invited by Dr. John Shevin Foster to contribute a piece to a segment of the Black Theatre Festival that he produced. I decided to write a monologue in a Shakesperean style (modified sonnet/iambic pentameter) called “Such a Night as This.” It’s from the point of view of a rather straight-laced Black gay man whose more progressive husband goes missing overnight during the protests of 2020. It was performed really well by the actor Adrian Baidoo.

I always get a kick out of seeing my work performed.

I wanted to be finished with Dark Nation, Volume II by now. I am not, though I am much further along than I was a year ago and the ending is in sight, but I have to be candid about why I am not done. I was really distracted by my committments to Gamma Xi Phi, the arts fraternity that I lead. There was way more on my plate than there ought to have been, and that’s a major lesson for me. In 2021, work will be more evenly distributed. My part will get done regardless. I have modeled, taught, checked-in, and done everything else I could possibly do as a leader. All there’s left to do is let others lead and allow them to fail if they have to.

I’ve been seeing in social media memes lately that “I’ll just do it myself” is a trauma response. As I unpack that, I can commit to not doing it all myself in 2021, unless it is my work as a writer.

I almost forgot a major accomplishment of 2020! For the first time, I actually applied to writing awards. I won’t say which ones exactly, but I applied to five different awards in my intersecting genres. I did it because I feel confident that the work is good enough to be recognized. Losing won’t be the worst thing in the world–I’ve never even applied to any literary awards before now. (Besides maybe the Clik Magazine honors back in 05 or 06)

Applying to these awards can be expensive, and my Patrons and friends really stepped up to make sure that applying would not be a financial burden on me.

Back to Gamma Xi Phi. I don’t want anyone to think that GXP was a burden on me this year. I truly enjoyed every challenge and felt fulfilled each time a project was completed. My chapter, Beta Lambda, provided adult coloring books, supplies, and mental health information to over 50 households in Northampton and Halifax Counties. We initiated more members than we have in any prior year (including my mom), chartered a chapter in Raleigh/Durham with another on the way further south, made forward-thinking policy changes, and really did a good job with virtual programming.

2020 was good to me. However, it was not good to many others. We lost too many people to an avoidable plague. We switched to modes of learning that most families were not ready for. And the news was unrelentingly bad day after day.

I hold space for all those who didn’t have a good year. I see you and I understand. You are here and that is enough.

I apreciate your support. I thank you for reading. And I’ll see you in 2021.