Lessons from 2023: Level up

Matthew Arnold Stern
3 min readDec 15, 2023

Brian Fitzpatrick, one of my writer friends, asked what word or phrase we wanted to bring into 2024. I answered, “Level up.” After the past four years, when I’ve had two novels published by Black Rose Writing, brought my weight down to a healthy level, lived through a pandemic, and adapted to working from home, I was now ready to move to the next step.

In some ways, 2023 felt like a year of advancement. Life seems to be getting back to normal. COVID is still here, and we still need booster shots and occasionally wear masks, but we’re learning to live with it. People are returning to movie theaters, concert venues, and sports arenas. They’re getting on airplanes (when they’re not acting like entitled jerks) and going on trips.

For me, it meant a return to in-person author events. I went to four this year, and I have one confirmed for next year and another on the way. I finished a story I’ve been struggling to write since high school. It was also a year of retooling. Our family got an electric vehicle, and I recently upgraded my MacBook Pro to the latest M3 Pro model.

This year also showed what was possible for me as an author. At Loscon, I was on a panel about connecting with the audience. That panel included Steven L. Sears who has a long history in Hollywood that includes being a co-executive producer of Xena, Nicholas Tana who is an Amazon-award-winning director along with other accomplishments in music and writing, and M. Todd Gallowglass who has two Master of Fine Arts degrees and has written over 20 books. But I was there as a panelist, not a moderator. I — the author of just four published novels and a non-fiction book — was expected to share my expertise with these luminaries. Imposter syndrome definitely kicked into high gear, but I realized that I had something of value to say. Not only did I get through the panel, I realized that I have a place with these other successful authors.

For anyone who still thinks writing is a competition where the only way we can win is if someone else loses, the writers I met at Loscon were the most welcoming people I ever met. They’ve been through the struggle themselves, and they uplift those who are going through it. They made me feel welcomed.

When I talk about this good stuff, don’t think I’m ignoring all the horrible things that…

--

--

Matthew Arnold Stern

A novelist and award-winning public speaker and technical writer. My novels Amiga and The Remainders are available now.