16 from 16 – a look back on the year that was 2016

Top Ten Guide To Glastonbury

So many people have found 2016 tough. It feels like the world around us has caved in a little bit – like the place has gone a bit mad. We don’t know what’s coming next – or which celebrity is facing the chop. Recently while taking part in a current affairs debate on my local radio station LMFM, we were asked to take a look back on the year and remember the highlights. The chat quickly turned into a recap on how awful it was.

In my head, while the conversation was going on however, positive thoughts flooded my brain. “I’ve actually had a really good year,” I said, when it came to my turn. Guiltily I said that on a personal level it had been bloody fantastic. And it has.

I made the point that there will always be bad news – always wars, suffering, political upheaval. To survive on a personal level, to keep going, to help your mental health stay on an even keel, you do in a way, have to block it out. You can’t change a lot of the things around you. It is not in your power to end the war in Syria or stem the flow of migrants or do anything, apart from tweet, about Trump.

I shouldn’t really feel guilty for having enjoyed my year with my family and friends. For looking forward to the impending arrival of our second child, for being happy at what I’ve achieved in writing or in my work life and for even getting the sittting room finally done up, 18 months after I started.

With all the chatter about 2016 being an awful year, I’d like to say that we shouldn’t be totally absorbed into this negative media thinking. If you’ve had a good year – then don’t be afraid to say it.

Today I’m joining in a blogging linky called 16 from 16 – created by Sadhbh from Where Wishes Come From. It’s a recap of the year that was, taking in some of you favourite posts and a look back at your own blog. I took part in 2015 and it’s a great way to look back, as well as forward.

Here are my blogging 16 from 16.

1.Most Popular Blog Post

I knew this would happen when I set it up. I expected it. It’s what happens when you have 600,000 fans on Twitter and are famous the world over for being part of one of the most watched TV shows in the US of A. In March, I interviewed Colin O’Donoghue, who plays Captain Hook, ahead of the 100th episode of Once Upon A Time. When I posted the blog, it almost crashed my site. Actually, it kind of did, because Google put a spam block on the link I’d used to promote the piece and didn’t lift it for another six weeks. I’ve no doubt, had they left well alone (me, a spammer, come on Google) the views would have been even higher. Colin is a friend of ours from way back and we’re so delighted to see his success, it’s so well deserved too. After Colin’s legions of fans departed my site and things got back to normal, my next most popular post was about a lovely experience we had shopping at our local toystore and the importance of spending your money in the local economy. When I look back on my stats I can see that some of my evergreen content – tips on writing, breastfeeding and my Netflix posts continue to pull in big readerships. Guess I got the SEO right on those, huh?

Read Colin’s interview here or my piece on visiting your local toystore here.

2. Favourite Post

I’ve had a look at all my posts and there a few that stand out for me. I really enjoyed joining in Sadhbh’s linky describing your home town – I loved recording my experience of the town we live in. Some of my writing posts were particularly cathartic too where I was able to capture where I was in my writing ‘journey’ at that time – whether facing rejection, rewrites or success – it’s great to look back and see my mood captured in one post. But to pick a favourite – to find the one I enjoyed writing the most or even looking back on to read, then it was to be a silly piece I wrote about parenting. If you know anything about my child you’ll understand that she is mischievous as they come – a true Dennis the Menace reincarnate. Here I wrote about quite a traumatic experience we had when the toddler decided to wash her own hair at the kitchen table entitled How to Waterboard Your Child in 25 Easy Steps.

3. Favourite Photo

This photo is still the screen saver on my phone so I guess that makes it my favourite photo of the year. It was part of a blog post I wrote about our trip to Newgrange Farm where we went for our daughter’s birthday. I love the simplicity of Daddy and Daughter toddling along, the colours and the tumbling grey sky. We’d such a lovely day there – it’s these family memories that I love creating and hopefully we’ll have plenty more in the years to come. Funnily enough, after this, the brand Regatta Great Outdoors were in touch about a campaign and I was able to use this photo to promote that as that’s what both are wearing here. You see, thinking ahead – get those brand photos ready!

4. Best Adventure

The biggest adventure I’ve had this whole year is my writing one. Adventures should have excitement, adrenalin, highs and lows and boy, did I have all that this year. This time last year I was only beginning the draft of my current novel and in the following months, among the rewrites, edits, drafts and redrafts, I set out to learn as much about the industry as possible. This happened naturally – I decided I would go to as as many events as I could and put myself out there and when I did, I found a whole world of acceptance, where people thought as I did, dreamed what I dreamed, worked the way I worked – towards publication. This resulted in the signing with the lovely Tracy from Trace Literary Agency in the Autumn of this year and my writing adventure went up a whole load of notches. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring. You can read back on how I was feeling during all the writing up and downs here.

5. Favourite Craft

As Sadhbh is a crafter, and I am not, it’s difficult to know what to add here. I didn’t have any particularly wonderful design moments – I didn’t make anything special like creating my new blogging space last year.  In June however I found out that we were expecting a baby – so I guess you could say – I made a baby? Here’s how I announced that news – right at the end!

6. Most Common Theme

As I class this blog as Lifestyle, Parenting and Literary – I’m either writing about parenting, writing or randomness that takes in fashion to shopping to reviews. Considering the year that’s been with finishing my novel, attending a ton of literary events and interviewing over 40 writers on the blog – theme 2016 was most certainly ‘writing’. As I intend to concentrate on family and my actual writing in 2017, I expect these posts will be fewer – but that’s ok. You can take a look back on my author interview series here:

7. Favourite Comment

Does my child need speech therapy? What to expect

I love getting comments and connecting with readers – you see the views on your posts but it’s lovely to actually get feedback and find out that there are real people sitting behind the screens, reading your words. I got a lot of feedback on my speech therapy post – where I spoke of where we were at with our daughter and our speech delay – privately a lot of people got in touch to say they were going or had gone through the same thing. I find my parenting posts can strike a real chord with people, especially the light ones where I try to laugh at the chaos that goes on in (all) our home(s). I also have to spend time deleting spam comments, as all bloggers do. I captured that in the post 8 Ways the Spammers Try to Get You. I think when I grow up I want to be spammer. Total dream job.

8. Favourite Celebration

I had a quiet enough year social wise, due to my pregnancy but I did make it to Glastonbury (on the dry) in June and to Doolin Writers’ Festival in March. I had a fabulous night at the Irish Books Awards too and would class that as my favourite celebration of the year. You can read my post about almost sitting on Graham Norton’s lap here.

9. My Best Move

Writing to Tracy at Trace Literary Agency. Taking a chance and being brave. Not being afraid of saying yes.

10. Favourite Freebie

I’m not mad about the term freebie, because I’ve come to understand that nothing is free in this world – and when a blogger receives something free of charge, they pay back the value of the item often many times over, through their time and by advertising the product to their established audience. I also think if anyone seeks to be a blogger in order to receive freebies then they’re in the wrong business, it’s really not what it’s about. (Mini rant over!) I receive a number of different emails throughout the year but only review what I would genuinely like myself or think my readers might like. I also review things I’ve paid for myself or write about when I’ve had a particularly good experience. I like positivity! JD Williams asked me to review some of their products this year and I loved the dress and boots in this post. I also loved the ChloBo bracelet reviewed here.

11. Best Blog Moment

There was a point in the year where I realised that I was coming up in searches or becoming known in my area for being a ‘blogger’. It was when I was approached by our local Aura fitness centre to trial their swim tots swimming classes and the correspondence came through their Dublin office. When I got chatting to the PR she told me she’d searched for bloggers in the North East and I’d come up. I was so pleased to hear it and to be discovered in that way. Over the next year I’d really like to establish myself as a ‘local’ blogger as I think there is a heap of things to write about in the North East. And I’m a home bird. You can read about our first swimming experience here – it didn’t exactly go to plan – and what we’d learned after our lessons here.

12. Worst Blog Moment

There haven’t been any – last year I was very disappointed not to make it onto the shortlists in the Irish Blog Awards – but this year I made it in the Literary category and was chuffed to do so. I think I may be taking things less seriously – all my concentration really has been on my writing work, so the blog became an outlet, somewhere to express myself and to connect with others. I’m also not putting pressure on myself to post and the new design I implemented this year means there’s plenty of content on the home page. With my old blog it was very obvious if I hadn’t posted in a while. So if you don’t hear or see from me for a while – take a scroll!

13. Favourite Title

Potty Training, Poo Parties and Wee Skiing.

Welcome to the world of toddler parenting.

14. Favourite Blog Series

I continued with two series this year – How I Write and Diary of  a One Year Old.  I also starting reviewing everything I was reading in a series called Books I’ve been Been Reading. (Inspired title, wha?) I enjoyed the How I Write posts, because I learned so much from them. Most of all I learned that every writer is different – that you have to find your own way – what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. Towards the end of the year, I was finding I’d less and less time due to a number of commitments, and so I’m not running the series regularly anymore and will instead be posting sporadic interviews. But it ran for a full year and has 40 author interviews – not too shabby. You can pick out some author interviews from the series here.  My Diary of a One Year Old series ended when my daughter turned two. I hope in the New Year to post about life as a mother of two – because I’m sure there’ll be plenty of magic moments. (I mean that in the most sarcastic of tones). You can find the diary posts in the parenting category of the blog.

15. What I Learned in 2016

God. Everything. Nothing. So much. So much still to learn. 2016 will stand out as one of the epic years of my life – like the year I turned sixteen and got hair straighteners and discovered drink, or 2011, when I took redundancy and got to spend months cleaning my house and going to the gym while recovering my wounded career soul. What I’ve learned is not to underestimate yourself – I’ve achieved far more in this year than I ever thought possible – and it all happened gradually. A lot of things fell into place, a lot of people arrived on the scene at the right time. But mostly – I was ready for it, I had worked and continue to work hard, because I now know what I what and I fear, I may stop at nothing to get it. That’s the thing about your early 30s – you start to separate out what’s really important in life. Me? Settled? Why yes I am.

16. What My Blog Did For Me in 2016

It did a number a things – gave me confidence, a space to rant, a way to connect with people the world over. I’ve met friends through this blog that I speak to far more often in a week than I do my real world friends and they’ve been a comfort and a joy. One thing I’ll take from 2016 is the great big move online – by running this blog and website, a number of social media channels and watching other successful bloggers I’ve learned about online marketing, search engine optimisation and design and these skills in turn have contributed to my job as a marketing manager and my skill set in the world of content creation. What started as a small hobby has grown into something so much more. I’d be lost without it. And I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2017 will bring.

Thank you for reading, for dipping in and out, for liking, sharing or commenting.

Happy New Year to you all.

I’m off to have a cup of tea in this. Thank you husband for my Christmas gift. (He also bought me a laptop, but I’m afraid to use it. What was that I was saying about learning loads about technology…)

If you’re a blogger you might like to join in this linky too. You’ll find all the details on Sadhbh’s page here. You can also read my 15 from 15 here.

December Girl is now available on Audio. Visit Amazon or Audible or click on the cover below to download.

December Girl audiobook

4 Comments on 16 from 16 – a look back on the year that was 2016

  1. Lovely round up. I’m still a bit stuck on the ‘you know Colin O’Donoghue??!!’ Part ????
    I loved your ‘how I write’ series. It’s been such an inspiration and again emphasised how it’s such an individual art form, and yet we can learn so much from others. May 2017 be just as good to you.

    • Haha -he’s a superstar! Defo, it really shows the diversity and the different paths that people take on their publishing ‘journeys’. I found I did a lot of work when my baby was small- it was such a break from the monotony of baby madness. Hoping the same after this one, but we’ll see! Wishing you the very best for 2017 and all you’d like to achieve 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for taking part in the linky. I’ve enjoyed following you along through 2016 and especially love your ‘How I Write Series and how you share your writing journey. I’m thrilled you’ve got an agent now and I’m full-sure nothing but good will come of that and I’ll be buying your book at some stage soon!
    Best of luck for 2017 with the new baba and everything else. I hope we get to meet up again at some stage too!

    • I’m just seeing this comment now! Ah, thank you so much for the lovely words – I really hope 2017 is a great writing year too! I would love for you to buy my book – and I’ll be buying yours! I’m sure we’ll get to meet again – just not sure when 🙂

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