Looking Back at 2011

A year ago, I took a detailed look back at 2010.

The year had many high points. Lots of things were learned, such as Ayurveda and winter tree identification, and maple tapping. I got to attend a lot of events, including MacBeth and the sandhill crane migration, the State Fair and UFC 123. I visited cool places, such as a spa I wrote an article about, my parents in Costa Rica (monkeys!), my boyfriend’s parents at the lake on the 4th of July (fireworks from a boat!), Phoenix and Tucson, Madison and Chicago. I got to see a lot of cool people speak, including Will Allen and Mike Perry and even Chris Guillebeau, and I got to some good live shows, including Screeching Weasel and Jake Shimabukuro (night and day). I got to do some teaching. I spoke at an Ecofeminism class, taught a creative writing class in Chippewa Falls and a freelance writing class at the Loft. I was on Zak Woods’ radio show, which made me feel special, and had a guest post on Copyblogger. I got to interview some amazing people, including Forrest Griffin, Urijah Faber, Randy Couture and Susan Wooldridge. I started a flame war on a local website, which was way more fun than it should’ve been. I bought need things, such as a Mac, and got my website up and running.I got to move out of Eau Claire. (!!!!!)

There were main low points as well. They included a failed attempt to cook duck, accidentally running over a turtle, auditioning for what turned out to be a part-time minimum wage job, living in a crappy apartment with a non-functional dishwasher in Eau Claire, having nobody show up to herbal workshops I had tried to teach, having a party where nobody showed up, not having anywhere to train and upsetting some guy in the gym because apparently deadlifting makes too much noise. It always sucks when people talk smack about you loudly enough to hear them, even if they are losers and date girls who use lifting gloves to do hamstring curls.

Anyway, that was 2010. How did 2011 go?

WORK

2011 was my second year as a freelance writer, and career-wise it went very well. I feel honored to have gotten published in one of my favorite magazines of all time, Experience Life, where I got to work with two of my heroes–Jen Sinkler, editor extraordinaire, and the amazing Krista Scott-Dixon of Stumptuous.com fame. I got to write for other dream publications, namely Taste for Life and Black Belt. I also got to write about food for the City Pages and local foodie site Simple, Good and Tasty. It is always a pleasure to write and serve as the managing editor for the Performance Menu: Journal of Health and Athletic Excellence, which I feel has some of the best cutting-edge information on health and fitness, especially Olympic weightlifting. Interviewing sports psychologists such as Brady Greco and Kate Hays was a real treat, as was speaking with coach Marty Morgan. I even interviewed Henry Rollins for the website, though I’m pretty sure his publicist hates me.

I am a huge MMA fan, and got to interview some pretty amazing fighters (27, but I’m the only one counting) and write articles and columns for some of the best MMA sites online, including Sherdog, Intermat Fight, Fightergirls, Cage Queen, Chikara and MMA HQ. My MMA writing was not just limited to interviews and profiles. I also got to write about which fighters I felt the UFC should bring back, Ultimate Women Challenge screwing over fighters, an MFC fighter stiffed on medical bills, how Gina Carano’s medical issues are nobody else’s biz, and my thoughts on everything from the Bryants/Rampage/Hendricks/Rogan fiasco to my response to Miguel Torees’ rape jokes. I wrote about the spying charges leveled against Jon Jones. I introduced the new WMMA rankings. I helped hold fighters accountable for missing weight and refs accountable for bad stoppages. I wrote about the very sad deaths of Shawn Tompkins and Maryellen Cano. Despite the haters and trolls and many threats of lawsuits, I am proud of my voice in the MMA media landscape.

I was lucky enough to be invited onto a couple of podcasts, get interviewed for Platform magazine, and be featured in the spotlight of “Networking News,” Twin Cities Professional Editors Network’s newsletter. And my sugar scrub recipe which was originally published in Bust magazine was featured in their BUST DIY Guide to Life anthology.

My involvement with PEN, NWU, ASJA and SPJ meant I got to attend some great events on everything from food writing to the future of the magazine to a business journalism workshop. I also took online courses on ethics in journalism, profile writing and sports reporting. Developing my craft is very important to me.

I did some work only peripherally related to writing, which was a blast this year. I got to proofread some graduate level papers and several book manuscripts. I put together a freebie on SEO for brick and mortar businesses and did some SEO consulting, as well as consults with aspiring freelance writers. I did some ghostwriting and some test item writing and sold article reprints. And I was interviewed for an add-on bonus for a writing guide put together by the people behind Daily Writing Tips.

WORK AND PLAY

I got to attend a lot of great events this year. I covered a medical conference for a business site, and got to interview Kenny Beckman. I received a scholarship to Growing Power’s Sacred Soil: Cultivating Seeds of Community Transformation conference in Milwaukee. I attended a Whole30 seminar (life-changing) and a Brutal Recess workshop by the awesome peeps at BodyTribe. I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland (with some amazing speakers) and the National Writers Union conference in Detroit as a delegate and was elected co-chair of the Journalism sub-division. I even got to visit both Madison and Orlando.

While traveling, I visited some really great gyms, went to weird places like King Spa, which was crazy, and Decompression, even crazier. My friends are awesome.  I even played with pottery. And Todd and I got to Milwaukee for UFC 123 and to hear Joe Rogan do stand-up. I was also lucky enough to catch some great live tunes this year, both in and out of town, including Catfish Stephenson, Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band and the Stanton Moore trio.

I did a lot of cool things in or near town, too. Todd and I went to see the Prairie Home Companion, and we went to book signings by Henry Rollins and Christian Landry. We also got out to ComedySportz and to hear stand-up at Acme. I found lots of cool cafes and a far infrared sauna. I dressed up as Mystique for Halloween and got myself invited to a party.

My jiu jitsu game did not improve as much as I would’ve liked in 2011, and I lost tons of tournaments, but I was lucky enough to visit multiple gyms in Milwaukee and Madison and even attend the women’s grappling camp in Minneapolis. I got to go to a seminar by Fabio Gurgel and one by Chris Haueter as well.

THE HARD

There were a LOT of hard things this year.

First of all, I made a lot of mistakes. I was pretty disappointed in my original coverage of the Nate Marquardt debacle, for instance, and although I did do additional reporting in the field, I still feel like my original reaction showed very poor judgement.

I had two articles in purgatory. That means they are written and ready to go but are being held indefinitely. I believe one of the two will run in the summer. I am very sad about the other one, because it is very good and I am not sure when or if it will ever get used. My fingers are crossed.

I had another article butchered in editing to the point where it was unrecognizable. More sadness ensued.

The vast majority of my clients for the year were amazingly awesome, but I did have a total of three problem clients. Two were deadbeat clients, and one assumed I would do work far beyond the scope we’d originally agreed upon. Setting clearer terms is something I hope to continue working on, as well as scouting out clients better to make sure they are a good fit.

On the list of mistakes I made, I helped put out an amazing product, and didn’t do enough to market it yet. There’s always next year!

Another item of concern is that I have recently noticed that I can never take a day off. Even when I travel, I must continue to work. Likewise, some local writing is not really as location independent as I’d like. I am hoping to remedy this in 2012, as I’d love to visit my parents one of these days, and working 24/7 is not my idea of a fun time.

I had a lot of trouble outside of work, too. Living in a small town is NOT for me, and I am glad that I’m gone now. I think I am slowly relearning how to interact with people.

Switching gyms, although it was absolutely necessary, was a difficult experience for me–kind of like getting out of a bad relationship. There was a fair bit of backlash and drama associated with it which I’m still feeling a little. And trying to find a new gym by visiting a ton of them, while also necessary, was a bit unsettling. Moving was another necessary evil that was a bit destabilizing.

I had my share of random suckage this year, too. I suffered various injuries (including a knee injury, an arm injury and getting elbowed in the face–ooh, fun) and the worst cold ever. I lost my favorite pair of mitten/gloves, got the worst haircut ever, and had a traumatic rolfing experience. I also had to deal with crazy neighbors and a landlord I am not a fan of. Figuring out how to respond appropriately in these types of situations is something I believe I need to learn in this lifetime.

Beyond my own personal experience, I believe the year was hard for a ton of us. A lot of really cool people died this year: Poly Styrene, Gil Scott-Heron, Shawn Tompkins, Steve Jobs… There were so many tragedies, with Gabby Giffords and in Japan to name just a few. The media landscape was very dark, with a Texas judge beating his daughter and the Penn State scandal, to name a few. Collective bargaining was harmed by Scott Walker. Borders Books shut down. And the Utne Reader is moving to Kansas.

I do believe the good outweighed the bad, even in 2011, and I have very high hopes for 2012. I feel like I have a very clear picture of where I am, where I want to be, and what I need to do to get there.

How was your year?

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