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  • Sara Braas

6, 7, 8, 9, 10/10 #Writingyearinreview2023

This year in review thing was fun, but now my daughter is on break from school, and frankly I'd rather spend time with her than log in for the next five days to update this blog. As many of you writers who are balancing out being a mom to young kids, working full-time, and stealing back time to write will understand. You have to set boundaries and prioritize what's important. So I'm just going drop the rest of the list:


6. The first 5 bullets were all about suspense, but I have done so much work in the KidLit world as well this year. I joined 12x12 Challenge after much debate about whether to spend even more money on writing resources (you could spend an unlimited amount on craft classes, travel to conferences, buying books, etc. so again you have to prioritize limited resources)

It ended up being fabulous for none of the reasons I joined it for (I joined for community, critiques, and the dashboard). I love love loved the webinars. Julie Hedlund brought her "A game" with the monthly webinars. It was like having handpicked classes just for you. Emotional Resonance by Andrea Wang Watercress was a standout, but each one added something.


7. In 2023, I wrote 7 new drafts of picture book manuscripts that all need revising. That’s fresh material to work and tinker with (and I love to tinker). I also revised 6 manuscripts. I came up with 5 completely new ideas to work on next year. And, I have 5 polished manuscripts that are submission ready (according to my critique group who has read them all multiple times).


8. I got one “revise and resubmit” for my dark humor PB about Dinosaurs in Outer space from an amazing editor after a class I took with her. I thought that was going to be IT - my big break into publishing - but after the resubmit she turned me down. Waw waw waw. I learned a ton.

One of my submissions (narrative/creative nonfiction) is still out there, hopefully being considered at this very moment. I'm getting more consistent with submitting which is great.

I’ve started to think about every submission, contest, and query as planting a seed. Some of them will grow and many will not. But in the end I’ll hopefully have a garden.


9. I took 3 Acrylic Painting Classes through Madison Technical College: This is not writing. This will never be writing. I don’t know why I did this. As if I don’t have enough on my plate. This turned out to be one of the greatest gifts to myself in 2023. It was Thursday nights from 6-9pm. I met art friends. I have art friends now!!

I got confident with the materials. I played. I made some things that were terrible. I made some things I’m proud of. I made a lot of things in between. I love color and blending paint with my fingers and making a mess. I got to show one of my paintings (a portrait of my daughter) in a local art show. Who me? I did that!!


The only way this may relate to writing is that I now have the desire to (one day in the future) illustrate my own picture books – one or two - not all of them. I’m more of a writer than an illustrator. But I truly love being able to put the ideas that show up as pictures in my head down on paper. Even if just for me. Even if just to play and imagine and experiment and create. It’s a kind of joy.


Drumroll please.

#10 This last one makes me shake my head. I’m so excited and proud of it. This year in 2023 I won the Hugh Holton award from Mystery Writers of America (Midwest). I’m so grateful for this push to keep going, this validation that judges from MWA read my work and thought it was good. This tops 2023 for me. This is why we write, revise, submit, repeat.


While I’m still on the hunt for an agent, and I didn’t finish everything I set out to do in 2023, I look at this list of accomplishments. I think of all the craft classes I took, all the books I read, all the manuscripts I critiqued, all the new writer friends I made. This has been a huge writing year for me. HUGE!


Let me wrap this up by saying even if not a single person reads these TOP TEN WRITING ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2023 posts, I wrote them for me. To honor the work I’ve done. To take a minute to be grateful for the effort.

This is the work. This is the 4th year of taking writing seriously for me. I could have written a similar list for the past four years.


It's not easy to be a writer. But I’m going to have patience, be persistent, and write my stories. Because my stories matter.

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5/10 #Writingyearinreview2023

In 2023 I got up the nerve to pitch my novel at PitchFest (Part of ThrillerFest). I pitched 13 agents. The first one I talked to flat out turned me down. It stung, but I kind of knew he wasn’t for me.

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