Hi friends! I’m very pleased to welcome [back] Ainsley Wynter to our blogiversary celebration! (Especially since 😬😅 I still owe her a review… reviews?) And seriously – I think we’re all in on this topic, yeah? [I think … it might be important to note that she sent it to me on January 4th…] So without further ado, Ainsley!
SLIDING INTO 2021 AND LEAVING THE GHOSTS OF 2020 BEHIND
By Ainsley Wynter
As the door closed on 2020, I was one of the people who slid out without saying much of a goodbye. At midnight on New Years Eve I sat on the couch with my kids and husband and watched the ball drop—twice, since I live in the Midwest—and then went to bed. I did that heroine thing of holding a breath that I didn’t know I was holding. Some time later on the morning of January 1st, I carefully blew it out. Maybe 2021 wouldn’t be a total shitshow. Maybe we could leave some of the awful in the past year behind.
I promise that this post will be celebratory and not a retrospective on a tough year, partly because I don’t want to think about 2020 more than you do, but also because it’s good to celebrate and find those moments of happy. And this is not to say that 2020 was all bad. Last year saw a rise in activism, voter turnout, and at the height of the protests in June, majorities across racial and ethnic groups in America expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. And although the anti-maskers are the folks who tend to get media attention, I know there are millions of people who have worn masks, limited contact as well as worked jobs deemed essential that put them at greater risk of contracting the virus—all because they had to. I’m sure you know these stories too.
I would like to say that what I learned in 2020 was to find joy even in distressing and fearful times—to be able to be in the moment because the future is not a guarantee. Sorry for the slogan-y talk. Sometimes it isn’t joy that I find. Often it’s just being able to recognize something sweet or wonderful in nature or to laugh with my kids. I am “working” on being in the moment. Sigh. But that is what I am taking away from last year: a commitment to focusing on being in the moment, in the now, and letting go of the rest.
What does that have to do with romance reading and writing? I believe they are interconnected. It was really hard to read and write romance last year. (For So Many Reasons.) For me personally, I had a hard time reading because I was so drained from work. Very grateful to be working, but absolutely cooked at the end of the day. I needed to be a more passive consumer than reading would let me be. And as for writing? Lol, sob. Well, I’d planned to publish at least two more books last year, and I came very close to releasing one. And then March and April hit and I had edits and my writer brain hit an absolute wall. I admire people who were able to be creative under such pressure. I went into survival mode.
I’m so glad I don’t feel that way anymore. We’re certainly not “through” all of the things that happened in 2020. I don’t think one can be changed that much or that deeply and ever truly go back to how it used to be. I would rather live in those hard truths as painful as they are than some fuzzy landscape of everything always works out.
Somehow the year changing adds a different perspective. It truly lets me turn the page and gain some distance. And being nine plus months into a pandemic definitely helps you set priorities: joy, connection, doing what matters, reliance upon each other. Whew. Some days that takes active focus. I remind myself that it is okay to take a break, to go read, to even reread a favorite book.
In a year where I finished the fewest number of books and DNF’d or hit pause on so many more, I finally got back to figuring out what worked for me. Every night I’d read before bed, at a much slower pace mostly due to tiredness. I read much more nonfiction than I had since grad school. And as I kept reading romance, I was glad that I did. I discovered a new favorite author, I read deeper into another fav’s backlist, and I treated myself to comfort reads. As a faithful member of Romancelandia, I continued to add to my TBR, but that is a constant. 😉 Even if I wasn’t reading them very quickly, I knew that they would be there when I was more ready. I am hoping I will be in 2021.
Romance, as we know, is the genre of hope. And love is that pot of gold at the end—earned and hard-fought, perhaps with low angst depending on reader preference. Sometimes our genre gets derided as escapist. I cannot think of a time in my adolescent or adult life when reading romance did not help me get through a difficult time. Maybe it was escapist. Maybe I needed a break from something awful. Maybe I wanted to laugh or cry or go on an adventure or fan myself at something amazingly hawt. I am so grateful to a genre for giving that to me all these years.
It is mind-blowing to think of a blog reaching the ten year mark. That is truly an accomplishment. What a wonderful gift to romance readers! The shifts and changes that have rippled across the genre in ten years’ time have been intense. To have survived that is no small feat. Congratulations on reaching this milestone! Thank you, Lime, for letting me guest post. I am honored. ☺
What is Ainsley giving away, you ask? A copy of Office Hours by Katrina Jackson!
For Assistant Professor of Sociology, Dr. Deja Evans, it sucks. Hard. Every day.
Between the class prep, the meetings, grading student work, trying to find time to complete her own research and the meetings, she didn’t have a life, she had a digital calendar that decided whether she got to wallow in her feelings at 3pm or 7pm, on Thursday or maybe Sunday. And the worst meeting of them all was the two-and-a-half-hour, once a month Faculty Senate, which was drier than her dating life, duller than her skin in winter and far longer than her attention span.
The only thing that made those never-ending Faculty Senate meetings bearable was watching Dr. Alejandro Mendoza, Associate Professor of History, breathe. For years, Deja had harbored a kind of secret crush on the sexiest man on campus never thinking that he would ever feel the same, until one unexpected day, they have a steamy after hours encounter in her office and suddenly her life seems much more exciting.
That lasts about half a minute.
Over the course of a hectic academic year, Deja tries to survive her classes, help her students, prepare herself for her third-year review, and most important of all, she has to learn how to get out of her own way and just let Alejandro love her.
To enter the giveaway, answer Ainsley’s question: How has your romance reading been affected (or not) by the past year? Are you trying any new approaches to reading in 2021?