My 2021 Goals

It’s that time of year again! And the scariest thing is how fast it comes back around…I swear the years are going faster and faster.

Anyway, before I start dwelling too long on my imminent slide into old age and death, here are my goals for 2021! And if you missed my recap of 2020, you can find out here https://chantelleatkins.com/2020/12/10/my-2020-goals-vs-the-reality/ how I got on with the goals I set myself at the end of 2019.

  1. Do even better in the vegetable plot – Improving how much food we grow ourselves was top of my list of goals last year and it is again for 2021. There are so many reasons why this is important to me but I think the main reason is mental health. Gardening absolutely saved my sanity during the first lockdown and home-schooling. It’s addictive. It burns more calories than just about any other exercise and getting dirty is good for you physically and mentally. I could go on and on about how amazing it makes me feel to spend time in the garden, but I think you probably get it. Towards the end of this season I extended the plot and I am still popping in there whenever I can to keep on top of weeds and to add mulch and manure. I cannot wait to start sowing again!
  2. Publish the next two books in the Holds End Trilogy – This should happen. Emily’s Baby and The Search For Summer are both good and ready to go. They need formatting for ebook and paperback, they need their back cover blurbs finalised and they need front covers. All these things are in motion and I hope to release them early next year, possibly February and March.
  3. Revamp and re-release Bird People and Other Stories – This little short story collection needs a makeover. I have already contacted my designer about revamping the front cover and my proofreader is going to go over all the stories after I have. This shouldn’t take long and I hope to re-release it in April.
  4. Finish and release my short story and poetry collection The Old Friend and Other Strange Tales and Poems (working title!!)– This collection just keeps growing and growing but at some point I need to call time on it and get it out there! I will get the same designer to do the cover so that it compliments Bird People and of course there will be several rounds of edits and proofreads before it is ready, so I hope to release it towards the end of the Summer, perhaps July or August.
  5. Start the second draft to my current WIP The Day The Earth Turned- Book One – I am very close to finishing the first draft and really hope to have it done by the end of 2020…so the next step for this one would be a second draft. I was tempted to dive straight into writing book two, but as this is such a complex and challenging book to write (more on that another time!) I now feel going back over Book One would be beneficial before I start Book Two. There are already bits I want to change, for example.
  6. Move things forward with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – now that I have a creative partner, I am really excited about the CIC changing and growing in 2021. We have some exciting plans in motion which we will talk about very soon. Lots and lots of things in the pipeline – so I really hope that after the disaster of 2020 where thanks to Covid I barely earned a thing, I can finally start to see the hard work pay off in 2021.
  7. Carry on writing the screenplay version of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – this is a project I recently started and it’s not a priority. It can’t be, with all the other things going on! But if I have a spare moment in the week, I do enjoy getting back to this. It’s really challenging and fun turning a book into a screenplay and of course, it would be my absolute dream come true to see the series turned into a TV series.
  8. Get better at promoting my books! – I have been shockingly bad at this in 2020. Sometimes I go weeks or even months without so much as tweeting a link. I really need to come up with a plan and stick to it. I think I will get a separate notebook just for promotional activities and ideas and make a load of lists to tick off. This should motivate me a bit more and keep me on track.
  9. Keep adding notes to other book ideas… – I was tempted to add ‘finishing some almost ready books’ to this goals list but I think I would be setting myself up to fail. I got over half way through a first draft of the sequel to The Mess Of Me recently but then decided The Day The Earth Turned had waited long enough and I wouldn’t let The Mess Of Us jump the queue….In 2019 I wrote the first draft of a YA novel with the working title We Hate The Cool Kids. I would also love to tackle a second draft of this but again, it will have to wait. And then there is the spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series…in the fifth book I introduced two characters called Alfie and Tom. They took on a life of their own and I started to plan a spin-off book for them. I’ve actually written fourteen chapters of it in a very small notebook and they are always in my head! But no, no, no, The Day The Earth Turned series and my two collections will take priority in 2021! I have to draw a line somewhere! I will, however, keep adding notes to these books whenever I think of something. They are all very much alive and crowding my head and their time will come.
  10. Continue to Practice Self-Care – it wasn’t until the perimenopause set in last year, followed by Covid 19, that I realised how bad I am at looking after myself. I’m talking about really small, simple things – the small pleasures that calm you down and make you smile, like long baths with a good book and a drink of wine! I started making more of an effort in 2020 and I will carry this on. I will insist on time for myself in this busy, hectic life and I will make sure I get it.

So, that’s my list of goals set for the year ahead. I do hope 2021 is a better year for everyone. We can only hope! Are you setting yourself any goals for the next year? Please feel free to comment and share!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

2021 Reading Challenge

Hi everyone,

This is a post to correspond with my Christmas Calendar Countdown. Every day since the 1st December I have been providing a festive treat for my readers and followers, so far including: win an ebook competitions, win a paperback competition, name a character in my current WIP, sneak peek of a new book cover, me reading from my WIP and much more. I hope you have been enjoying them! This post is for Day 13 and behind the door today is a reading challenge for you to get your teeth into throughout 2021. I’ve taken part in a few reading challenges myself and they are really good fun and often force you to try genres and styles and authors you maybe would not have otherwise. I haven’t taken part in one for a few years though, so rather than search the net for a suitable challenge I decided to come up with one of my own. I tried to challenge myself with this, so I hope you like it and if you want to take part, just tag me in any posts you share!

So here is the challenge;

  1. A book where the location is paramount
  2. A book set in a country you have visited
  3. A book set where you live or as close to it as possible
  4. A book with a title at least eight words long
  5. A play
  6. A book whose title is also a song
  7. A book aimed at adults where the protagonist is a child
  8. A fictional book based on real events
  9. A book with a one word title
  10. A book where the protagonist is a different ethnicity than you
  11. A short story collection
  12. A book with a black front cover
  13. A book with a dual narrative written in 1st person
  14. The first book in a series
  15. A book with an illustrated front cover
  16. A book about climate change
  17. A non-fiction book about a serial killer
  18. A post-apocalyptic book
  19. A classic you have always meant to read
  20. A book you wished you had studied at school
  21. A book you have seen the movie adaptation of but have not read the book
  22. A book where the main character is an animal
  23. A book from your least favourite genre
  24. A book from your most favourite genre
  25. A book aimed at children which focuses on nature
  26. A book from an indie author you have never heard of
  27. An award winning book
  28. A book where the main character has your dream job
  29. A book with the most colourful cover you’ve ever seen
  30. A book where the main character has a disability but the story is not about it

I’m quite excited to give this a go! I don’t know what to call it though – any ideas?

My 2020 Goals Vs The Reality

It’s something of a tradition now – towards the end of every year I post my goals for the year ahead on my blog to help me stay on track. As that year draws to a close I look back over those goals and see how many I achieved! 2020 has been a year like no other – memorable for many reasons! We have all had to dig deep to find our resilience, positivity and courage and I think in the most, we’ve done pretty well. So, what were my goals for 2020, set way before I had ever heard of Covid 19? And how many did I achieve? Read on to find out!

1 -The Goal : Achieve a successful, well-stocked, functional vegetable garden! Okay, might sound strange, but this is linked to my current state of mind. Being outside, doing dirty, outdoorsy things in the fresh air, especially things that have a positive impact are very, very good for me right now. The best thing I can do when I feel down is get outside. I’ve had a vegetable patch since we moved here ten years ago. Over the years it had got bigger and better and some years I have been very successful with daily harvests in the summer months and it has been great. The last few years have been a lot less productive for various reasons, but this year it’s my top goal. Weird I know, but more than any writing or work related goal, this is what I want to achieve the most. I’m not sure why other than that I know it does me good to be outside, I know I can do it because I’ve done it before and it might be a wise move what with all the Brexshit uncertainty! It just seems really important for some reason. I will be starting in January. Making plans and buying seeds and starting some off and weeding. I can’t wait. This really is going to be my top priority.

The Reality : Achieved! Well, thanks to Covid and the subsequent lockdowns, I achieved this quite well. Not as well as I should have done, but every year I grow a garden, I learn from my mistakes and improve on them for the year after. The garden was my saviour during lockdown. Throwing myself into every area of it was addictive and extremely mood-enhancing! So yes, I did pretty well with the vegetable plot and I still have some things growing out there now. I have also recently extended it for next year so I can grow even more!

2 – The Goal : Learn to play the guitar! Another goal not related to writing or work! But another one that suddenly feels very important. Perhaps because I’m increasingly aware of life passing me by, of running out of time and chances. Perhaps because I have always wanted to try. Perhaps because I so admire anyone that can play an instrument. Perhaps because my characters in the Holds End trilogy are playing instruments and writing their own music and it would also be research? Perhaps because my daughter has agreed to teach me and it will be a good thing to do together. I don’t know why. I just know it’s important and I am really excited about trying it.

The Reality : Not achieved. I actually made a good start with this goal. After Christmas last year I made time every Thursday to sit down with a YouTube video on my phone and learn to play the guitar. It was not easy at all – it certainly did not come naturally but I did begin to see progress….Then Covid…As soon as we went into Lockdown in March, I stopped trying. Partly due to the time and energy spent home-schooling my children and partly just due to my own mental health. There was enough to cope with! Will I pick it up again in 2021? I really don’t know.

3. The Goal : Release Emily’s Baby in the Spring – Doable. Emily’s Baby is the follow-up to A Song For Bill Robinson, the second book in the Holds End trilogy. It’s having a final round with beta readers at the moment and will have another few rounds of edits/proofreads with me after that but I anticipate a Spring release, perhaps April.

The Reality : Not achieved. Emily’s Baby is still waiting to be released! This had nothing to do with Covid. I had left Emily’s Baby on a cliffhanger and was working on the third book in the series, The Search For Summer. It suddenly occurred to me that it would work much better to release them close together. So Emily’s Baby was put to one side and I forged ahead with The Search for Summer. The good news is both books are ready to go in the New Year! I am currently finalising front covers and blurbs for both!

4. The Goal : Finish The Search For Summer Doable. I am currently writing the first draft of this in a notebook and I’m three quarters through. It’s going well. I should easily finish the first draft by early 2020 and will then start the next million drafts and aim to release it towards end of 2020 or perhaps the start of 2021.

The Reality : Achieved! I finished the first draft and many, many subsequent ones. As mentioned above it is now as ready as Emily’s Baby and just awaiting a book launch plan, front cover and blurb! Yay!

5. The Goal : Finish Parts Five and Six of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – These books are currently at draft number four. Next will be a read through on my Kindle, followed by another edit, and then it’s beta reader time. I’d like to think I will release them in 2020 but I think that’s too ambitious so I will just aim to finish them and be happy with them and plan a 2021 release for both books at the same time. It might be wise to finish the Holds End series first and get that promoted and then turn my attention back to this one.

The Reality : Achieved! I even published them! This series finished ahead of the Holds End series. I decided to combine parts 5 and 6 into one book, part 5 and released it in September 2020. I am so happy and proud that this long-running series is finally finished!

6. The Goal : Finish the first draft of the YA series I was working on…  This refers to the post-apocalyptic YA series I started some time ago. The first draft was going very well for the first in a four book series but it got side-lined by The Boy series and the Holds End series…I hope to at least finish the first draft of book one in 2020.

The Reality : almost achieved! This got pushed aside as I scrambled to finish The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series and the Holds End series. As they were all so close to completion, it made sense to keep working and focusing on them. I am now back working on the YA series mentioned above and I am very close to finishing the first draft of Book 1! It could even happen before the end of 2020 so I am going to mark this as achieved!

7. The Goal : Do a second draft of YA novel We Hate The cool Kids – This was a book that jumped the queue in 2019. I wrote the first draft in a notebook pretty quickly but the ending troubled me. I don’t have any immediate plans to release this but I do think aiming for a second draft and a tied up ending would be good for 2020 depending on how things go.

The Reality : Nope! Sadly, this one has remained in it’s notebook and there has been no further progress. It’s nice knowing it is there though! A finished first draft waiting it’s turn.

8. The Goal : Continue working hard with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – No specific goals this year for my little company. I have three new clubs starting after Christmas and this will keep me busy enough. Long term, I would like to get more writers on board to help deliver my ambition of encouraging children and adults to write and keep writing. I hope to get a community project off the ground finally but life is so busy and the after-school clubs take a lot of time and prep, so I am not going to put too much pressure on myself here. Just keeping it all going is enough of a goal

The Reality : It’s complicated! The start of 2020 was exciting for my little company as I doubled my writing clubs from three to six. And then…Covid. By March I had to stop all of the clubs and watched all my work disappear over night. I was absolutely gutted. And for a while I didn’t know how to react. There was home-schooling to deal with, the strict lockdown, four children’s mental health to consider as well as my own and I just didn’t have the time or the energy to deal with it. I watched enviously as so many other self-employed people rushed to get their businesses online and I just couldn’t do it. I considered quitting many times. But towards the end of the summer I got my act together, gave in and purchased Zoom and haven’t looked back. I now have five clubs, four on Zoom and one in person and once Covid finally slings its hook, I hope to have my physical clubs back AND keep the Zoom ones going. I am very near to finishing an online course for children and have planned many more online workshops and courses, all based on things I have run in person before. I also now have a business partner!! So there are now two of us throwing ideas around and generally keeping each other excited about the company.

9. The Goal : Keep adding stories and poems to a collection – I’m not putting a time scale on this next collection of short stories and poems, but I will try to keep adding to it and working on it when I feel the need!

The Reality : Achieved! I have added loads of stories and poems to this on-going collection. It’s starting to get quite big! I need to go over them all as some are newer and rougher than others, but I am pretty happy with it and hope to release it in 2021 after the next two Holds End books come out. I am genuinely excited as it’s quite a dark, strange and in some areas, personal collection!

10. The Goal : Slow down, enjoy life, breathe, cry, listen to more music, be outside as much as possible, be honest about my feelings and keep writing them down – a little jumble of goals and aims to end on, but perhaps these are what will make the others achievable. I’m only at the start of this perimenopause fun, and it’s knocked me for six. It’s brought back emotions, thoughts and anxieties I thought I had long walked away from. Sometimes it is genuinely exhausting getting through a normal day. Moods shift and change with no warning. Some days I feel totally normal. Other days I sit in the car and cry. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’ve just got to remember to talk about it, write about it and just allow it. It is what it is.

The Reality : Achieved. Well, I suppose I can thank Covid for this one thing. The pandemic forced us all to slow down, didn’t it? I’ll be honest – I kind of enjoyed the first lockdown. I didn’t have to go to work, I probably saved money because I wasn’t driving around all over the place every day, dropping everyone off and picking them up and going to my clubs. I was just at home. The weather was beautiful and our home and garden were appreciated like never before. Home-schooling was tough at times but it also brought me a lot of joy. My youngest was amazing, so resilient and cheerful – he was a little ray of sunshine throughout the whole thing, lifting all of our spirits. I made time for myself because I was worried about how I would react. I created a ‘sit-spot’ at the end of the garden just for me, a place to go and sit and read and drink coffee on my own. I started taking long baths at odd times of the day just to be on my own for a bit and it worked. I often let the tears come in the evening when I sat down to write, but that was okay. I needed to. I wrote loads of poems and stories and was honest with all of my family about how I was feeling. I did okay!

So, those were the goals I set myself at the end of 2019. Covid got in the way with some of them and actually helped me achieve others. I don’t yet know what I will put on my goals list for 2021… Of course, there will be some book releases but other than that, I’m not sure. This year really has changed everything and it’s quite hard now to look too far ahead or to try to plan anything. You just don’t know what is around the corner.

Did you set yourself any goals for 2020? How did you do? Did the pandemic help or hinder them? Let me know!

Guest Post #2 Pandemic Pets – How Our Furry Friends Saved Our Sanity

Hello and welcome to another guest post in my Pandemic Pets feature. Each week I will be welcoming a guest on to The Glorious Outsiders to talk about their pet and how the experience of owning one helped them through the Covid 19 pandemic. For our second post, please welcome Simon Finnis to the blog. Simon is a regular writer at my adult writing group and a fantastic poet and short story writer. Here he talks about how walking his Labrador Harvey made lockdown more bearable.

Pandemic Pet

If we had not fully appreciated the value of a dog as a companion, a source of therapy and love, a force of sanity and comfort in a seemingly crazy world, we certainly do now. Months of vacillating uncertainty as the pandemic raged across communities and nations. The agony of personal doubt and tiptoeing around the edges of pits of despair as the supposed certainties of a previous pre-Covid life are thrown into turmoil. Our Labrador-retriever’s contribution to the year 2020 has been enormous!

My wife and I have had plenty of time and opportunity to better acquaint ourselves with our beloved four-legged friend. His energetic and loving welcome at the start of each morning injected a greater sense of purpose and meaning into our days as a new routine began to take shape. How were our days going to work out? All at once, walking the dog would take on a new enhanced status. Something to cherish.

At a time when it was easy to feel so negative about the world, here was a reason to feel privileged. We had an even stronger motivation to go out and explore our beautiful and varied surroundings during lockdown. Suddenly we found new places to walk close to home. It became possible to relate to the world more from an animal’s perspective, to take time and have a more sensual and engaged relationship with both nature and our built environment. There was certainly less need to rush about crazily as had so often been the case in the past, constantly being driven by the clock; less stressing about work, traffic, shopping or meeting up with friends in time.

There is something infectious about the undimmed enthusiasm of a furry, four-legged companion. Whether at home or outdoors, their curiosity and playful nature has become the perfect antidote to a seemingly grim reality of coronavirus being drip-fed through the media over the last few months. One upside to all the turmoil was a now daily opportunity to escape from all the noise and overwhelming busyness that had hitherto been filling our lives. It was time to see the world from a new perspective, to turn down the volume, adapt to a new rhythm and value each day. I believe that there is much that pets can teach us as humans. If anything, the pandemic has offered the space to develop a greater bond with our dog, fully sensing all the light and beauty it brings into our lives.

Thank you so much to Simon for joining us today! It was lovely to hear how the family dog made lockdown so much more bearable. If you would like to tell us about your pet and how they’ve helped you through the pandemic, then please get in touch! Stories and poems are also welcome!