I’m just going to be upfront: 2019 was really fucking hard. It came with a plethora of changes — new job, new state, new way of life — and damn, if I don’t feel like I’ve been flattened by a planet-sized ironing pin a few times. Don’t get me wrong: I made huge strides in my career this year, produced work I’m incredibly proud of, spent time with people I love, and challenged myself in new and exciting ways. But just like every year when I look back on what’s happened over the last 12 months, I’m shocked that I made it through everything in one piece.
These posts always start with some variation of that first paragraph. I guess that’s just life.
On Christmas, I sat down and mapped out my goals for 2020 in my Passion Planner, including big and small benchmarks I want to hit. Although the past couple years have simultaneously felt like catapulting toward goals while also running as far away from them as possible, I hope that the start of a new decade will bring with it a renewed sense of purpose and energy.
I turn 30 in May. It’s been a while since I thought to myself, Wow, I haven’t accomplished enough for my age! I’m so behind! because there is no time limit on this stuff and also, I’m not even 30 yet, but I do wonder whether I’ll actually feel any different once I hit this age that everyone treats like a major milestone in and of itself. Birthdays are such weird, nebulous things, but this one does feel important — much like everything else coming up in 2020.
But we’re not there just yet, so here’s a quick rundown of major milestones from the last year.
- I became the full-time Managing Editor at The Beat. Talk about a dream gig. Writing about comics and entertainment is such a blast, and helping other writers come into their own while writing about their passions is utterly incredible. I’m so thankful to Heidi Macdonald for making me her right hand and to our entire team for being so stellar, day in and day out.
- We moved to Montana. Reed and I drove across the country in a 15′ moving truck with Tommen and Jojen, and it was simultaneously freeing, stressful, and totally surreal.
- I took a trip to Portland for Rose City Comic Con. RCCC was a lot of fun, and I also got the chance to meet some dear friends in person for the first time. Plus, I made new friends, connected with colleagues, and picked up some really awesome art and comics. I also got to visit Books with Pictures, which is such an excellently curated space.
- I wrote the first draft of my first novel! For years, I’ve had this idea sitting in the back of my head; I wrote most of the story in 2013 and then lost the files (RIP), but decided — mostly on a whim — to try again this year for NaNoWriMo. I wrote nearly 60,000 words that month and cried when I finished, despite knowing that I have several rounds of revisions to make before I can even consider sending this manuscript to my angel of an agent. Still. That feeling of completion was far more overwhelming than I realized it would be, and I’m so proud and so excited to start editing (even though I hate editing my own work).
And, as always, I’ve got lists of my favorite media of the year! You can check out my favorite comics of 2019 in our master list at The Beat, as well as my favorite comics, TV shows, and movies of the decade. Decade lists are so hard, y’all. The last 10 years have been So Much.
According to what I actually tracked, I read 136 books, comics, and graphic novels this year — though I read several hundred single issue comics and webcomics as well, so that isn’t entirely accurate. You can see the full list of what I read at GoodReads, including ratings for every title and reviews for most, but below are five 2019 books that stuck with me.
The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce edited by Angie Manfredi
I wrote a full review of this incredible anthology for Fatventure Mag, but I can’t get over how vital this book is. An invaluable resource for young, fat readers especially, this anthology features work by some of the biggest names in the fat acceptance movement, all talking about the ways in which they are living and thriving in the bodies they have right now. This is not a watered-down, “love yourself” approach to body positivity — it’s a fat-centric, liberationist piece de resistance that deserves pride of place on everyone’s shelves.
Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen
You caught me: I read an ARC of Real Queer America in 2018, but the book hit shelves in March and I re-read large chunks of it before I interviewed Samantha Allen about it for my debut piece at Bitch. This book came into my life at an integral point: I read it and thought about it in the months leading up to our Montana move, and it made a huge difference to my entire thought process. Allen’s writing is absolutely stunning, the breadth of her experience and empathy for those she befriends and interviews totally staggering. Every time someone’s asked me for a book recommendation this year, this title has tripped off my tongue, no matter who’s asking; it’s a must-read, hands down.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
When I read and reviewed an ARC of Red, White & Royal Blue late last year, I wouldn’t have predicted that it would quickly become my go-to comfort read of 2019, but I should have. Through all the tumult of 2019, re-reading Alex’s and Henry’s love story not once or twice, but a whopping three times kept me going, and for that I can only be grateful. There are legitimate criticisms of this book, including how it handles dangerous systems of power without really taking them to task, but the escapism of it is very, very welcome.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Wilder Girls absolutely bowled me over. Packed with suspense, psychological terror, and body horror (as well as a semi-detailed depiction of suicide about 2/3 of the way through the book, for those who need a content warning), this post-apocalyptic tale follows three friends whose lives are changed forever after a plague puts their school and its island into quarantine. I devoured this book from cover to cover and have not stopped thinking about its atmospheric, bone-chilling, skin-crawling horror ever since.
A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham
Only knowing Cyrus Grace Dunham through their family name and their sister’s depiction of their relationship in her own memoir, I didn’t know what to expect when I was offered an ARC of A Year Without a Name. Reading it, therefore, genuinely surprised me, not only for Dunham’s lyrical writing and excellently articulated self-awareness, but for the vulnerability presented within the book’s pages. Interviewing Dunham about this book for my debut at them. was a really cool, really interesting experience, and I expect others who read this book might have a similar experience. Of everything I read this year, this memoir was among my absolute favorites.
My Spotify Wrapped for 2019 focuses primarily on one album: PUP’s Morbid Stuff, which I had on heavy rotation — along with the Booksmart soundtrack — for most of the year. Aside from that, which is hands down my favorite album released this year, I also fell head over heels for the incomparable Lizzo and every damn song on Cuz I Love You. The first single from Harry Styles’ Fine Line (“Lights Up”) is what prompted me to want to write my novel (seriously) and Billie Eilish rapidly became my go-to when I needed something poppy but still a little dark and twisty to get me through a story or a day.
Frankly, I don’t feel the need to do full reviews for these, because the albums speak for themselves — but if you want to check out my top 100 songs played in 2019, click here.
I went to the movies more in 2019 than I have in a while, but I must admit that a lot of what I saw either wasn’t very good or wasn’t very memorable. That said, Booksmart was not only the best movie I saw all year, but one of the best movies I’ve seen ever. I loved Captain Marvel and walked away fully convinced that Carol Danvers is a lesbian. The Lighthouse has prompted quite a bit of discussion with my partner, but also with my friends and peers. My main takeaway from Midsommar was that the boyfriend totally deserved it. And if not for the transphobic cameo in its credits scene, Charlie’s Angels would have been the perfect movie.
If you want long-form thoughts on any of these flicks, ask me in the comments and I’ll tell you everything!
For the majority of 2019, I watched and wrote about two shows: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I also got super excited about the return of Veronica Mars and even gave the new season a fairly glowing review, before realizing just how badly showrunner Rob Thomas flubbed the ending. The Twitter thread below includes a couple of pieces I wrote about TV in 2019, and I love those pieces a lot — but the truth is, even though I watched a lot of TV this year, I really only enjoyed some of it.
So: I wrote a full review of Shrill for Fatventure Mag, but of everything I watched this year — even the stuff I totally adored — I think this show had the biggest impact on me. I’m sure that’s not surprising. Although there are areas where the show can definitely improve, for the most part, it blew me away with its storytelling, its performances, its soundtrack, and its genuinely fantastic fat representation. Season 2 debuts in January and I can’t wait to watch.
For now, I’m keeping most of my goals to myself, but when the time feels right, I’ll share them.
Here’s what I will say: starting in January, I’ll be posting personal essays and pop culture critique (including reviews!) on Patreon, as well as a bi-weekly newsletter with tidbits from my works in progress, playlists and media recs, brief Hot Takes, and more. I’ve been meaning to make the switch to doing more writing on Patreon for some time, both to help sustain my current creative projects and to start new ones, and I feel really good about the content I have in the works.
If you like what I share here on The Verbal Thing (which I know has gotten more and more spaced out over time), you’ll probably like what I share on Patreon, too! Check it out here and stay tuned for new stuff from yours truly.
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