Work Hard, Play Hard

by Gurpreet Sihat

At the start of the year, I had a hope that 2019 would be stable, filled with wonder and drama-free. I definitely didn’t check the final box, and there’s a whole blog post coming your way next week on the first, but I think I did pretty well with the wonder. Actually, I know I did a brilliant job with the wonder the year. 

My year started with one of two business trips, and from that moment, the work just kept coming. I expanded my social media management into creating blog tours for writers and was lucky enough to sign a number of new clients over the course of the year. I got to work with a range of people, from writers to yoga instructors, life coaches to boutiques. Each client was unique, and they taught me so many incredible things about my craft, life, and their different specialities.

Armed with brand new graphics from my sister, Ranjit Sihat – who left her company, In Motion Designs and branched out on her own this year – I also revamped my website and Skye was born. Skye represents the three most important sections of this website: content for readers, for writers, and about mental health, and I cannot tell you how much I love her. 

But every spare second I had was spent writing. 2019 has seen the welcome of completed first drafts of my entire YA fantasy trilogy, Primordials, the first of which I have just finished the first round of editing to, as well as the plans for a standalone YA East-meets-West novel and a number of submission pieces that will be started in 2020. Perhaps the biggest achievement, though, is my short story The Angel and the Teller of Tales. Inspired by the story of Scheherazade and the One Thousand and One Nights (also known as the Arabian Nights), the story was picked up by Dancing Bear Books. It was published as part of an anthology, Little Book of Fairy Tales, on November 1st

“Gurpreet Sihat – you keep me grounded and focused when I’d rather be ignoring everything and looking at memes all day. You say what you mean and mean what you say, and your help and friendship makes my career much better. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do for me. I know I’m not always easy, but you, my lady, are always amazing as hell.”

And then came the play…

I was lucky enough to have two holidays this year. The first was to the Wallonia region of Belgium, where we stayed in Namur and visited Dinant, Mons and Liège. I was completely out of my comfort zone. Not only was it a struggle trying to find vegetarian food, but not many people speak English in Wallonia, so it forced me to recall as much of my GCSE French lessons as I could. I also made sure to do at least one ‘scary’ thing a day, including going up a Ferris wheel in Mons, and getting to the Dinant citadel via cable car! My travel buddy, Darya, had to leave early, so it also became the first time I’ve ever been in hotel in a foreign country by myself! I jumped at every little sound in the middle of the night, but it was the moment I gave the reboot of Queer Eye a chance, fell madly in love and decided that I was going to start asking myself WWTFFD (What would the Fab Five do?) whenever there was a problem. Without a doubt, Liège was my favourite destination though. For years, the sculpture Lucifer of Liège has inspired my male characters, and I finally got to see him face-to-face! I even bought myself a beautiful moon necklace to commemorate the moment this child of the moon basked in the Morningstar’s light! 

My second holiday was to Paris. Another trip had been cancelled and I had made a joke about running off to the French capital. The lovely Devon immediately agreed to the plan and the following morning we were booked to go for my birthday! To make the whole thing even more unbelievable, my cousin, Kiran, surprised me, traveling halfway across the world to join us. Despite the insane heatwave, we had a magical trip and we made the most of every single second. We packed our days with day trips to Versailles and Giverney; had breakfast outside Notre Dame and the Moulin Rouge; went to the top of the Eiffel Tower; watched the sunset from the Montparnasse Tower; prayed in the Sacré-Coeur and Église Saint-Sulpice; payed our respects to Hugo, Dumas and Zola in the Panthéon; tried desperately to find the Phantom of the Opera in the Palais Garnier; and spent hours trying not to blubber over the masterpieces in the Louvre and the Rodin Museum. And that wasn’t even the entire trip! 

“Not possible to spoil you… you deserve everything!”

But it wasn’t just abroad that I found wonder. I was lucky enough to have some incredible experiences right here in London this year. I saw Wicked at the Apollo, Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution at County Hall and the incredible Bill Pullman and Sally Field in All My Sons at the Old Vic. I was invited to the final season premiere of Poldark, the BAFTA preview of I Am Nicola, Tin Star, Temple AND His Dark Materials where I met the legendary Phillip Pullman! I also went on a number of book related events, including authors such as Matt Haig and Holly Black, Holly Bourne and Gina Martin, Leigh Bardugo and Brigitte Kemmerer and so many others! Though it will perhaps always be John Barrowman’s 100-watt smile and Franco Nero’s wink that makes my heart skip a beat whenever I think of these past twelve months. 

2019 was the year of Leonardo da Vinci! Not only did I get to see the original Virgin of the Rocks in Paris at the Louvre, I saw two da Vinci exhibitions in London: one at the British museum celebrating the man as an inventor, and the other at the National Gallery, which was all about the Virgin of the Rocks, the painting that sits beneath her, and what the chapel she had originally been commissioned for may have looked like. I saw Van Gogh at the Tate Britain, Anish Kapoor at the Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery, the opening of the Troy exhibition at the British Museum AND managed to get tickets to see Tutankhamun’s final world tour. I even climbed to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral and visited Newcastle where I had an impromptu ghost tour and went to more galleries and bars than I can count! 

“GKSihat is one of the kindest people I know – she works hard to be that way, often in the face of personal struggle, and she’d do literally anything for anyone.”

If there was one department I count myself luckiest in this year, it’s what I like to call the kwaheri department. The goodbyes. Though there were a few deaths scattered throughout the year, saying kwaheri this year was mainly to friends who created even more excuses for me to travel! My favourite Kiwi, Andrea, and I were lucky enough to see each other twice before she left for New Zealand. Having drinks in Edinburgh and then doing a tour of Highgate Cemetery which inspired a lot of my creativity in the months that followed. Devon, who I was so excited had moved to London last year, got an incredible, well deserved opportunity in Germany, which is officially my very first getaway of 2020! And my oldest friend, Krishna, packed her bags and left for Toronto. I am so proud of all three of them for following their passions and making their dreams a reality. They’re amazing women and I wish them all the best for the decade to come! I cannot wait to see what wonder comes from our adventures together in the ‘20s.

So, to end this first part of my 2019 round up post, my favourite 2019 fact of the year, curtesy of QI: Did you know, Putin had his pubes tested against Rasputin’s residual testicular fluid to prove that he was his reincarnation. See Sis, I told you I’d fit that into a conversation one day! 

Merry Christmas to you all!

“I love your openness about mental illness. It’s such an important aspect of our wellbeing and should be normalised so no one feels ashamed of sharing something so important and holistic. And yes, your capacity to love is wonderful. You’ve made me feel so special and loved and I appreciate you so much, dear talented friend.”

Throughout this post, I’ve slipped in text messages, social media posts and snippets of book acknowledgements that have meant so much to me this year. Often, it’s really difficult to see the impact you have on other people. It causes you to doubt your value. Your worth. 

At the end of the year when I found these, I realised how much good I had done this year. How loved I was, even when I felt like there was little point in me being alive. It made me feel like everything bad I was going through, every struggle and tear and anxiety-filled sleepless night, was worthwhile. For these people, I was enough. 

If there is one thing I ask of you all in 2020, it’s that you remind the people you love that you see them. That you appreciate them. That you love them. You may just be saving a life. 

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