Year in Review

Something I did not consider when I wrote a semi-panicked essay about getting older a few years ago is that I was going to keep getting older. A blog post expressing consternation about turning 42 looks positively quaint when you are on the cusp of 45. Having learned my lesson, I’m not going to revisit the topic as my birthday approaches (Jan 6!), because the result would only be a post that will look ridiculous a few years from now when I am fifty.

Instead, a recap and a catching-up-on-things.

The one thing I wanted to do in 2012 was finish a book. I didn’t manage to do this. Sure, The Puzzler’s Mansion made its debut, and that was splendid, but I didn’t complete anything new. The adventure story I’d been working on seemed to sink under its own weight, leaving nothing but a pathetic trail of bubbles as it descended into the murk. I wasn’t particularly charged by any of the other projects I had floating around. I wondered if maybe my writing career would be three-books-and-out.

I don’t have much of a word count to show for it, but it was a busy year nonetheless: I participated in the creation of four different puzzle hunts in 2012: I had an event at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, co-written with Jeffrey Harris; I made a kid-friendly puzzle hunt to go along with Mansion launch; I joined up with Rick Rubenstein and Francis Heaney to present the main event at the 2012 National Puzzlers’ League convention; and then I joined Dan Katz and several others to run Boston’s BAPHL 6.

Oh, right, I also made a birthday puzzle hunt for Lea. I think that has officially become an annual thing. I should probably start on this year’s edition soon. In 2012 I gave it to her a month late.

There is a possibility — a small one — that we’ll be ending my daughter’s homeschool experiment. There’s a magnet school in New Haven focusing on science and engineering, and we’ve heard nothing but great things about it. We’re going to attend an open house in a few weeks, and we’re going to try to get Lea in there for a day to “shadow” kids her age and let her see what the school is like. Lea says she wants to go back to public school, but I fear that when she sees that the teachers there make you learn things you don’t already know — and that there will be actual homework in the evenings — she’ll run back to the safety of homeschool, where she can go at her own pace, and where homework is just a nasty rumor, like the Boogeyman.

But even if she loves the school, there’s no guarantee she’ll get in. Everybody wants to get in to this place, so admission is done on a lottery system. The odds ain’t great; I think homeschooling is likely to continue. This would be fine. We’re making excellent progress in her math textbook, and after a few bad starts, she’s starting to understand the ins and outs of writing essays and reports and (soon) short stories. History seems to go in one ear and out the other, I admit. But she still loves programming in Scratch, and hopefully in the next few months we can start dabbling in Python. Outside the house, Lea is still active in tennis and pottery, and recently she started rock climbing.

Alex continues his daily medicated tightrope walk. Autumn was a terrible time for him, maybe the worst ever — he was hitting kids, he was hitting teachers, he was throwing things in anger; he might as well have stayed home and watched television, for all the good school was doing him. But we once again adjusted the meds, and ta-da, Alex the sweetie was back from vacation. There was a complete reversal for a few weeks — Alex was good, great, fantastic, every single day. Now things have settled down, and some days are good and some days are less than good. I’m a little worried about him as he heads back to school for the first time in over a week. Hopefully he’ll settle right back in to the routine.

2012 brought a whole lot of news about the revolutionary Fragile X drugs we’ll be seeing in the future. This follows the whole lot of news we saw in 2011, 2010, and 2009. We don’t even think about it anymore. Except a little.

There’s already plenty on the calendar I’m looking forward to: The MIT Mystery Hunt is just a couple of weeks away. I haven’t been doing many school visits lately, but I’ve got six of them coming up in February, including a trip to Birmingham, Alabama. Mansion will be out in paperback in May. Before you know it, I’ll be heading to Austin, Texas, for the National Puzzlers’ League convention.

And, yes, I hope to write a book in 2013. That adventure story that sank under its own weight and that I finally was mature enough to give up on? A couple of weeks ago it came roaring back into existence. (I picture Yoda lifting the heavy manuscript out of the Dagoba swamp using only the power of his mind.) I came into the office to poke around at a new project, and wound up staring at this old one for a while, and before you knew it, I saw what I needed to do. Over the next few days, I edited out not one but two deadweight characters; I figured out more-or-less what needs to happen in the book’s third act; and I took the word count to over 75,000 words. It’s certainly possible the whole thing will sink into the Dagoba swamp again, but right now I am charged and hopeful. If I can keep up this pace, I might have a draft finished by springtime. Not a bad way to start the new year.

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  1. Linda B.
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Happy writing, Eric, and happy birthday!


  2. Arrchivist
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  3. Eric Berlin
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    This is because many of those puzzles suck.


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