Year in Review 2022
It’s that time of year for the retrospective, where on the cusp of a significant switchover from year to year, we look back on recent times and reflect. I haven’t done one of these in a while but it seems like a good idea now, both as a means of jumping into more writing and because, in spite of 2022 being a real slog, it was a slog with purpose. It was the final grueling steps on big quests and, well, that’s worth remembering.
There were two major culminations of decades of work that happened this year: finishing my PhD and finishing a co-written novel. The doctoral program I started in fall 2015, and I’d been steadily working on while employed full time, while living through the pandemic, while experiencing all the challenges that being a human in the 2020s entails. It was a delight, an opportunity to grow, to meet others with passion for their research. It was also exhausting, a grueling crawl at times, finishing projects while balancing so many other aspects of life. At the end, it was such a relief to present to my committee and have that chance to just talk about where I’d been and where I might be going. And of course there are no words for hearing the words from my excellent advisor Dr. Wood: “Congratulations, Dr. Speer.”
The novel has been a work in progress across the past few years, one that has given me space to be mentally elsewhere, taking pieces of life and twisting them into threads of narrative. It was an opportunity to consider my own anger over the last few years and to distill it down to the core, and sublimate it into a fictitious form. It was also a period of real growth learning how to build up events and the core of a character into what makes a story. It was an exercise in revision, weaving the pieces, zooming out to look at the whole, and then reworking the components until the many elements of the linguistic collage clicked into place.
Last Monday, I submitted the novel as a query to two amazing agents. While I recognize the lottery ticket levels of statistics stacked against us in the publishing arena, I’ve been pleased to see at least one of the agents has been actively screening other queries out but has not yet screened ours. I don’t have an expectation that the second agent we query is going to be one that results in an offer of representation, but nonetheless, it’s heartening to see that at the very least all of the research and drafting and redrafting of our letter, pitch, bio, and opening pages has made for a query that doesn’t result in a rejection out of hand. It’s an exercise in humility to be asking for this kind of consideration, but also an act of hope.
This December, I received a fluffy commencement update that included a quote from the undergraduate student rep: something about believing in yourself and in your dreams as you venture out into the world. My initial reaction was to smile, remembering the optimism of that age. And then I had a moment of reflection, thinking about the reflexive cynicism that can become so second nature over time. I’ve spent so much time over the past few decades striving, pressing forward, making incremental progress without necessarily having the end in sight. Now after all this time I’ve reached those ends, those bright points of completion came into view and I’ve passed over those horizons. Going into this next year is an opportunity to remember where those successes have come together, even as I look ahead to question what paths to trod next.
Here’s to hope in 2023.