The “Best of 2014” lists have been making their way around the Internet since Thanksgiving. I hope they haven’t made you feel the way they often make me feel, which is that I do not read enough … or watch enough television … or watch enough movies … or watch enough dunks … or watch enough, well, you get the idea. The fear of missing out and all that.
At moments of rational thought, of course, I get over these lists pretty quickly. The vast majority of “award-winning” Hollywood movies, television, and music are self-congratulatory, mediocre (The King’s Speech, anyone?), and forgettable within a few weeks. I rarely read more than a handful of books on any single Best of the Year list, mostly due to time, and because of all the books I’m still reading that were published pre-2014. The sheer quantity of books released each year, let alone that thing called Life, makes it very difficult for anyone other than a professional book critic to read the several hundred books (out of several thousands) that are deemed the best of any given twelve month time period.
One of my failed attempts this past year is to remain offline on the weekends. I know, I know: fat chance, right? There was an article I read, or an interview, I don’t entirely remember which, with a newspaper journalist who had been working in the 90’s. After the end of his work day, he left to go to dinner and, some time early in the evening, a major story broke. But the reporter couldn’t be reached. He wasn’t at work. He wasn’t at home. He was at dinner. And the story was a big one and all that, but the world didn’t end when one person continued to enjoy dinner with friends for another hour or two.
This year, I have once again failed at a life-work balance. But I think I fail at it every year, despite my best efforts, and what I try to keep in mind is that failure to achieve a lofty goal does not mean that effort to get there was a failure. So I didn’t read every great book published in 2014. That’s not the end of the world.
So, we figured that you too have missed a few things that we’ve published on our website this past year, and it would be easy for one and all if we make it a little easier to find a few of them.
In roughly chronological order, here are our ten most popular blog posts from this past year. We didn’t try to make an assessment of what was “best” based on content, but simply by what was viewed and read the most, which should give you a strong feel for the roller coaster that was 2014.
Writing Beyond Good: Creating Emotional Resonance Several times this year, writer Q. Lindsay Barrett swung by our blog to drop a little knowledge on how to strength one’s writing. In this post, her focus is on giving the reader characters that we care about, and also about adding significant and concrete details to the fictive world.
Writing Beyond Good: The So What? Factor Another terrific post by Barrett about, well, why bother? This piece is concerned with theme and what type of factor that is when developing a narrative.
On MFA vs. NYC vs. Love of the Art. One of the issues that comes up in my Internship in Publishing class is MFA programs. Here’s just a snippet of what I wrote about them and the environment they foster:
Writing programs are implicitly encouraging a career path of indentured servitude, and in good conscience, I don’t see how we can continue to hoodwink students with this “time to write” nonsense when the writing program culture encourages professionalized poverty.
My Problem with Mary Miller: In Defense of Reports from the Field Back in May, writer Mary Miller took issue with the presentation of VIDA’s “reports from the field.” Our social media editor Alison Balaskovits took issue with Miller’s criticisms and fired back.
So You’re Picking Up Philip K. Dick From the Airport. One of our fun, longest running bits on the blog is from comedian Wes Hazard. He imagines that he’s giving you, dear reader, a little advice for a situation that many of us, when we were graduate students, have been in: picking up a famous writer that you’ve never met before from the airport and then driving for who knows how long to a destination that you pray you know how to drive to without being late or hit by a cement truck. It even comes with a Spotify playlist!
The Trending Infection: An Open Letter to Mark Oppenheimer. This year, Maya Angelou died, and along with an outpouring of tributes, there were also a handful of criticisms of her life, work, and recognition. Writer Rae Bryant fired back.
What Literary Magazines Land in My Mailbox. Yes, I subscribe to literary magazines, I don’t just rely on the exchanges TMR has with other journals. Though, I am now wondering if any of my subscriptions have expired. One more thing to add to the end of the year To Do list …
Save the Alaska Quarterly Review. The title really does say it all. But when it was brought to our attention, we did what we could to let our readership know and to take action to protect one of the best literary journals in the country. We hope that continues to hold true.
On NOT Submitting to Specific Literary Journals. You can’t send your work everywhere. At least, I don’t think one should. Here’s my post on two places that I have not, and will not, ever send my stories for publication.
Mind-Body Problems, Rephrased: Murakami, Gender Identity, and Global Literature. This stunner of a post by writer Gabrielle Bellot is a stunner, with a multitude of issues, concepts, ideas, thoughts, and emotions in every paragraph. Might be my favorite post of 2014.
We will do our best to provide you with more wonderful content in 2015. I hope that reading or rereading a few of these articles will jar your memory of the past twelve months (it certainly did to me) of what has happened, why it mattered, and how we go forward into the new year as readers, writers, and publishers.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye