Dear friends and family,

2006 was a year. It had 365 days in it. And in those days, things happened. And now, with fewer of those days to work with, we write you to tell you about them in three parts. Most of this is true, except for the parts about Annabel winning a Fulbright to study at a French daycare, Susan getting $20M from a Hollywood studio to turn one of her manuscripts into a Kate Winslet movie, and Dylan winning on Iron Chef America with the theme ingredient: canned cream of mushroom soup. In those cases, we're telling you that because we don't want you to tell you the real truth, because then you'd think we're showing off.

Susan's Journey Toward Publication:
A Saga in Far Too Many Parts

SusanWhen we last left our intrepid heroine, she had completed her second manuscript and was getting ready to send it out to take its chances in the publishing world. Early this year she landed a literary agent--exciting news, because roughly half of the major publishing houses won't accept unagented manuscripts at all, and all of them prefer agented work. Susan envisioned herself with her first sale under her belt by July, allowing her to enjoy the sweet public triumph of walking around the Romance Writers of America national conference with the much-coveted First Sale ribbon affixed to her name badge.

And then came the rewrites. Susan's agent didn't feel her novel's ending was quite strong enough, and it took four months and three rewrites before they agreed it was ready to submit. While Susan fully acknowledges that the new ending is far superior to the one she originally wrote, her agent didn't even start submitting the manuscript until a week or two before the national conference, meaning there would be no First Sale ribbon for her this year.

So she attended the conference as just another anonymous unpublished writer--albeit a rather smug one, because her agent had just sent her manuscript to four editors, so surely her first sale was just around the corner. She began to dream of selling by October, in time for her to enjoy the sweet public triumph of being honored for her first sale at her local writers conference's award luncheon. This, she decided, would be even better than the First Sale ribbon, because the local writers know her and would share her joy.

And then the rejections began to trickle in. Susan doesn't like to talk about the rejections. Suffice it to say the editors all seem to think she's talented, but the ones who've seen her book so far aren't sure there's a place for what she's currently writing in today's market. She didn't get her triumph in October, nor at any point thereafter. There's still a chance her novel will sell--there are a few publishers left to try--but Susan's spirit is feeling battered and bloodied by the process.

But--she hasn't stopped writing. She's working on her third manuscript, and she's eager to start the fourth sometime next year. It'll be a historical adventure story, which she thinks will be a better match for her writing style and interests than the romances she's written so far. Sometimes she's exhausted. It's not exactly easy writing while holding down a full-time job and being mother to a two-year-old. But when you've found the one thing in the world you want to do, you don't stop just because it's a little harder than you thought it would be.

Dylan Summarizes His Year With Bullet Points

DylanDylan's year was strange.

Annabel Wilbanks, aged 2

Annabel

Annabel continues to grow and change at an amazing rate. She's now up to her Daddy's waist and still getting taller. She's looking forward to Christmas, only she calls it "Christmas tree." She asks for the Christmas tree episodes of her favorite shows, referring to characters dressed in Santa hats as "Christmas Tree Dora/Max/Ming-Ming/etc." And she's got the Santa and presents thing all figured out, apparently by some kind of preschool osmosis, since she started talking about it before we did.

She loves books, animals (both toy and real), Dora the Explorer, and going to baseball games with her mommy and daddy during the summer. (We hope that the Mariners manage to turn it around over the next few years, because we figure Annabel is only a season or two away from understanding the game well enough to realize we've been dragging her out to watch a cellar dweller ever since she was five weeks old. After all, this year she learned that you only clap and cheer when Mommy and Daddy and our friends in the next row do, no matter how happy the inebriated Red Sox fans in the section get...)

Here's the complete collection of 2006 Annabel pictures.

In Closing...

Remember last year how we said this?

2006 should bring at least one major change to the Wilbanks household--as Annabel gets older and bigger, we’re outgrowing the cozy little house we’ve rented since our marriage. So by this time next year, we’ll either be writing you from a new house or a purchased and expanded version of this one!

Yeah, that didn't happen. Housing costs in Seattle went up by nearly 15% in 2006. So, we held out, as "cozy" turned into "impossibly cramped." And now, well, it's time to move. Circumstances have put us in a position where we're going to leave Fremont Avenue and seek our housing fortune elsewhere in North Seattle. So, hopefully, by this time next year we'll be writing you from a new house! Really. We mean it this time.

We hope this letter finds you well and would love to hear from you. Susan can be reached at susansw@gmail.com, Dylan at wnalyd@gmail.com. And if you're out Seattle way, come by for a visit. (Preferably, after we have a spare bed to put you on.)

ad gloriam Domini (and until next year),
Dylan, Susan, and Annabel Wilbanks
We welcome your comments and salutations of 2006.