Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

Old Year: Reflections, successes, fails and goals

New Year, the season of gloating. The time when you lather yourself up in your achievements for the exiting year and indulge in a big, soapy, self-caressing bath as publicly as possible then froth up the bubbles into  grandiose projections for all the accomplishments you’re going to make in the coming year.

One big, retrospective, future facing selfie.


Here’s mine but if you don’t feel like joining me in the hot tub of self-congratulation the message underneath is this:

I had a very good year. Why? I made it so.  You can too. Persist.


1 After agents rejected it, making me wait months first, I found a publisher for a sort of novel (so non ELT friendly – I might be the next E. L. James – that it’s coming out under a different name in Feb 2014) withHarper Collins as Harper Impulse. This book had taken me 5 months to write, a year to edit (although not continuously working on it), 3 medium substantial rewrites and much seeking of feedback from writers/friends. It’s a two book deal and I’ve started two follow ups. One needs completing imminently.

2 My first Graded Reader, The Tomorrow Reader – completed 18 months before – went on sale in February. I’ve no idea what sales are usually like for these. First half of the year, it sold 544 copies, I’ll add the second year half’s figures when I get them. I then had to chase the publisher to nominate it for the Language Learner Literary Awards, taking place 2014, which they usually participate in but, this year, basically couldn’t be bothered to until I quietly insisted. Two ignored emails, two less ignorable phone-calls and not accepting “It’s not really a priority for us this year.”

3 I was commissioned to write a Speaking Skills Self Study book for Harper Collins. Because of various factors, I had to write the majority of this while managing summer school and doing 11 hour days, 6 days a week. Final drafts approved at the twilight of 2013, out in May 2014. This is a whole book with my name on and is a sort of halfway between Graded Readers and course-books. I hope.

4 I finished – God, I hope it’s finished – the long road to completion of my second Graded Reader, As Others See Us, out 2014.

5 I found, chased and rechased Commissioning Editors at all the EFL publishers who do Graded Readers and, purely as a result of that, was commissioned to write a Graded Reader for Macmillan and have been invited to do a (paid) sample for OUP. Also three publishers are considering another one I pitched to them that I wrote the draft of last Christmas, again after much reminding and re-reminding.

6 My summer school, Bede’s, for which I organise the Academic side on a freelance consultancy basis, passed its British Council inspection with flying colours. We got so many points of Excellence, I can’t even remember the number, and I know many of those are things I improved or put in place with the help of the excellent team there.

7 I got two flash fiction stories accepted. One was on a website that seems to have vanished and the other will be online in June 2014. These are something I need to be a lot more proactive about writing and submitting.

8 I’ve got 4 blogs on the go now. One doesn’t really count as it’s now just a static site holding a parody I wrote of Fifty Shades of Grey. Another is too personal to share with people I know, if that makes sense to anyone but me! This is one (some stats on the year here), and my other is under the smut name. This year I really need to promote them more but I think the basic principle – writing good content – is something I have done which is mostly what I care about.

9 I found a developer and a designer, after over a year of asking everyone I ever met, and we’re working on a language learning app game from an idea I had. We should be ready with a beta version in January and there are plenty more ideas where that came from. Ideas alone are worthless until you put them into action.

You’ve got an idea? 

That’s nice.

No-one could care less until you do something about it.

10 I finally tried writing a short story and have sent if off to a competition I can’t win, The Commonwealth Short Story one. But, aim high. I’ll send it somewhere more realistic when it doesn’t shortlist!

Not wins

As for the more negative aspects of 2013….well there weren’t really any. But I think that’s partly just how I look at it. They’re all just works in progress.

1 I failed to get an agent for my novel. One of the ones that requested a full manuscript and then rejected with no particular insight as to why was JK Rowling’s agent. But, who cares? I got a publishing deal without anyone taking a cut!

2 I didn’t write enough. Not enough fiction, not enough flash fiction, not enough short stories. I had ideas I have scribbled in notebooks and not written.


3 I didn’t polish and submit enough things that I did write.


4 I had major writer’s block about the second book of my contract. I only really overcame this in December and the deadline is mid Feb. I’m going to have to start 2014 with something I’ve never done – asking for an extension and it’s my fault. I’m not too disappointed with myself, especially now I’ve got the project going again, as I tried various different ways to get a handle on it and didn’t give up, but it’s very hard for me to ask for more time.  Particularly because, for this publisher, it’s their first experience of me so they don’t know I ALWAYS get things done early.

5 I’ve not made enough effort with social media, particularly Twitter. I prefer Facebook to an audience of people I know and can fully be myself with. I need to work on this next year.

6 I didn’t speak at any conferences, missing the deadlines in 2012 for 2013. And, worse, I missed the IATEFL 2014 deadline and might have missed the TESOL Spain one. Big Oopsie. Hopefully, TESOL Spain is a go-er still. I’d better chase them. However, I was asked to be on a panel in Jan 2014 at the IATEFL Materials Writing Sig conference so that will be one at least.

For a more tongue in cheek look at New Year, here’s my 2013 and 2014.


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This entry was posted on January 1, 2014 by in Graded Readers, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , .
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