What's New? Parlez-Vous Français? (Mary Strand)

This month at YA Outside the Lines, our assignment is to do something new and then write about it.

For a couple of high-anxiety days, I thought I might have to break down and FINALLY put together the pedal board for my guitar and start using it, but what does anyone else care about pedal boards, right? Right. So I kept fretting.

(See what I did there? Okay, if you don’t play guitar, maybe not.)

But then I woke up this morning with the answer. Voilá!

I’m ALWAYS doing something new. My energy levels have dropped since my October shoulder injury, because I still can’t use my right arm, but I still have more (currently frustrated) energy than most people. And all my life I’ve always wanted to do EVERYTHING. Play every sport, play every instrument, speak every language, blah blah blah.

Some would say I’m insane. They’re not necessarily wrong.

But I don’t care.

For instance, I just started Duolingo on January 1. But which language to choose? Spanish, my second language? French, my (somewhat distant) third language, but the language of my beloved Paris? Italian, which is so far down my language ladder that calling it my fourth language is laughable? Or Norwegian, the language of my dad’s family, which my daughter has been adding to her repertoire of language skills?

I decided there was no wrong answer, so I chose French. Three days in (as I write this blog), I’m loving it. Just 10-15 minutes a day, but what I already knew allowed me to skip ahead to lesson 27, and I’m combining it with watching Emily in Paris on Netflix (a Too Dumb to Live heroine, as writers say, but set in Paris, and chef Gabriel is scrumptious). So far, so good!

But the bigger concept is that, since 2018, I’ve done a “list of 100” at the start of each year and then reviewed how I did, both during and at the end of the year. Goals, plans, things to try, and sometimes crazy wishes. I break my list of 100 into Writing, Music, Business, and Life, but that’s just me. The concept (to my knowledge) comes from Leonie Dawson, who makes brightly colored workbooks and planners that you can fill out with your list. Being me, I just type mine up.

The list of 100 is and should be different for each person. Mine is wildly ambitious, so much so that I’ve never yet achieved even 50 items in a year, but I’m excited by what I do achieve.

Here’s a sample of not-too-revealing goals from my list of 100 for 2023:

8. Write a screenplay [something I’ve never done] and submit it somewhere.

17. Set up and rehearse/play regularly with a pedal board. [See? See?]

25. Perform at First Avenue, 7th Street Entry, Turf Club, Hook & Ladder, or Parkway.

37. Finish and release Golden Girl album on CD and multiple platforms.

60. Speak at a workshop or conference.

69. Get a back facial. [My daughter recommends them. I’d never heard of them.]

77. Learn to box.

83. Do Duolingo French for at least four months. [Only 3 months and 27 days to go!]

95. Take Highway 1 from San Francisco to Portland.

96. Eat at 10 new-to-me restaurants in Twin Cities. [This is a perennial fave.]

98. Be an extra in a movie.

Some goals tend to repeat themselves (writing and/or revising novels, writing songs), but I work hard to stretch myself each year, either by making a goal tougher or by finding something completely new to do. As a result, in 2022 I published three novels, released my debut single, got a motorcycle license, skied at Wild Mountain in Minnesota (the only major hill nearby that I hadn’t skied), tried the French meat pies for which Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Minneapolis is famous (yum!), and ate at 12 new-to-me restaurants in the Minneapolis area.

Yes, I’ll sometimes shout “list of 100!” to my long-suffering family or close friends when I check something off the list. Yes, a few people might like to torch my list of 100. But it keeps me motivated all year long, and it inspires me to think of new things to do, only some of which are utterly insane.

I highly recommend it.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.


  1. Thanks, Holly! Great idea! I really do give great thought to what NEW things I can try each year!

  2. I'm going to try really hard to come up with at least 50 things for my list of 100 this year.... (which will be more than I've ever managed in the past, LOL!)

    1. You can do it! :-) I just counted, and 33 of mine are music related. Since I basically have two separate careers, it's easier to get to 100. But I actually had 2 or 3 more that I wanted to put on my list this year ... and ran out of room!


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