My Year in Books: 2015

11 January 2016

I was going to say "Hello from the other side," but then Carmel went and used that line in her New Year's resolutions post, so I figured it would be cliché. In any case, salutations to one and all! Literary Lane has been awfully silent of late, and since this particular interruption in the lull is due to Christmas break (I head back to the not-so-frozen tundra in less than a week), I'm afraid my posts will continue to be irregular in the new year. College has a way of doing that to you. Every year I look forward to publishing my round-up of books, though, so allow me to indulge the opportunity to dust off this online nook and build a fire in the hearth.

read in 2015
[some for pleasure, many for school]

the mayor of casterbridge - thomas hardy
mind of the maker - dorothy l. sayers
heart of darkness - joseph conrad
the fellowship of the ring - j. r .r. tolkien
the importance of being earnest - oscar wilde 
oscar wilde's wit and wisdom (book of quotes)
lord of the flies - william golding
perelandra - c. s. lewis
1984 - george orwell
pygmalion - george bernard shaw
outliers - malcolm gladwell
whatever happened to penny candy? - richard j. maybury
prosperity and poverty - e. calvin beisner
the code of the woosters - p. g. wodehouse
harry potter and the sorcerer's stone
harry potter and the chamber of secrets
harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban
harry potter and the goblet of fire
[all by j. k. rowling]
the son of david - nancy guthrie
founding father: rediscovering george washington - richard brookhiser
the book of job - translated by raymond p. scheindlin
christianity and liberalism - j. gresham machen
le malentendu and les justes - albert camus
on the incarnation - athanasius
the freedom of a christian - martin luther
a reformation debate - john calvin & jacopo sadoleto
total truth - nancy pearcey
western heritage: a reader
the great divorce - c. s. lewis

The Fellowship of the Ring, every bit as splendid as I'd anticipated, and The Great Divorce, startling in its beautiful, yet haunting depth, were by far the best reads of 2015. Tolkien and Lewis — bet you didn't see that one coming? In 2015 I also began The Complete Works by Flannery O' Connor, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, but since I haven't finished them, I didn't add them to the list. All three have been collecting dust on my bookshelf at school this autumn, but having already crushed four weeks' worth of clothes and other necessities into my bags for Christmas break, I left them there over the holiday. I do want to finish them this year, but I'll probably hold off until May brings back my literary freedom.

to read in 2016

the aeneid - virgil [currently reading]
orthodoxy - g. k. chesterton [currently reading my dad's copy, which means I need to finish it before I go back]
the divine comedy - dante alighieri
mere christianitytill we have faces [reread], and the weight of glory - c. s. lewis
la chanson de roland
mansfield park - jane austen
the constitution of liberty - f. a. hayek
the complete poems - emily dickinson
john adams - david mccullough

...And maybe one of these days I'll finally do more than flip through the pages of Anna Karenina and read it properly.

what did you read in 2015?

Buzzing Words and Bookish Thoughts

22 August 2015

"my head is a hive of words that won't settle."
virginia woolf

Taking off work the last two weeks before moving to Michigan and starting college was one of my better decisions. Initially, it sounded counter-productive — is this not a period in my life when I'm singularly stretched for funds? shouldn't I put in hours as long as possible? — but time is not to be sniffed at either, and at this point, I put it at a higher value than mere money... because time, whether it is time to pack or time to shop, time to organize or simply time to read on the porch and chat and savor what little is left of summer, is ultimately running out.

I'm technically a college freshman, although it feels false until I'm on campus. I have one more week in the southern humidity (which has been quite mild these past several days, strangely), and then I'm off, kit and caboodle, for a little town in southern Michigan and a whole new life. Months ago, it terrified me; now it excites me. My only concern at this point is stretching each penny to accommodate what I need for school and remembering to pack persnickety little things like razors and shampoo. (Lists have been my constant companions these twenty years at least... or so it feels.)

You find me stopping now to update this quiet blog because of the aforementioned break between work's end and school's beginning. After a full, delightful summer of working six days a week at the café, things like not having to rush off to work every morning and eating an uninterrupted lunch at home seem like pleasant novelties. I love my job, but I'm also grateful for time to rest and mentally prepare myself for the journey ahead. Lest you think all I did these three months past was clean tables, make sandwiches, and shop for comforters, however, I give you my

summer 2015 reading round-up

In June, the Harry Potter books entered our house via the public library, and everyone (with the exception of my baby sister and my dad) got in on it. Even my mom could be found listening to The Philosopher's Stone on audiobook while folding towels in the afternoon. Carmel tore through the entire series in what seemed like the space of a week (in reality, it was closer to a month), and on the opposite end, I'm still deep in Goblet of Fire. Despite my minor quibbles with Rowling's somewhat juvenile narrative style, her characters — particularly Harry, Ron, and Hermione — became quick favorites of mine. All it took was the first trip to school on the Hogwarts Express ("Has anyone seen a toad?") and I knew I wouldn't be turning back around. I didn't travel much this summer, but I can say I spent a lot of time at Hogwarts and the Burrow, with the occasional unpleasant stop at Privet Drive.

Back when the school year ended, my British Literature tutor gifted me with a beautiful copy of Wuthering Heights; sharing this on Instagram sparked a small #summerwiththebrontës social media challenge which continued through August between Jenny, Katie, and myself. The concept was simple — read a Brontë novel, biography, or both, take a picture, and toss it into the ring. As a staunch believer in the maxim that there is no such thing as too many pictures of books, it excited me to both read and  follow the progress of my friends' reading as we all turned pages. Wuthering Heights itself, which I've nearly finished, both enraptured and horrified me. Emily Brontë writes with a stark, chilling beauty, and I find her characters oddly compelling. Nothing in Heathcliff or Catherine strikes one as attractive, and yet as each whirls the other toward the bleak end, like watching a train-wreck, I cannot look away. Bewitching is probably the best way to describe it; Jane Eyre was easy to love, but there's no ignoring Wuthering Heights.

How did you spend your summer? What did you read?

All Things New: Summer 2015 Reading List

27 May 2015

Come broken and weary
Come battered and bruised
My Jesus makes all things new
All things new

Come lost and abandoned
Come blown by the wind
He'll bring you back home again
Home again...
andrew peterson | "all things new"

Reader, I graduated.

It happened this past Saturday, but sometimes I still have to question whether it really occurred or whether it's coming in a day or two. School and dance each met their own bittersweet conclusions over a week ago, but with graduation parties (we had my own just this Sunday) and general festivities still in swing, the reality of summer is taking its sweet time sinking in. Still, the facts are facts: I am now officially a homeschool graduate and a rising college freshman. (I even changed my about me page!)

For the first time in a long while, I have no dangling assignments or textbooks to finish up this summer and no English reading lists to be completed before the beginning of the autumn term. My time — notably my reading time — is my own, and that's exciting. (As in, crazy after-dinner kitchen-dancing exciting.) I may dabble in research as I first planned back in the winter, but if we're to be completely honest, I'll most likely end up savoring these all-too-quick months with whatever books take my fancy. It's delightful to think of Flannery in the early morning light with a cup of tea — Tolstoy or Brontë on rainy afternoons curled up on the couch — Rowling or Austen read on long car-rides or else pool-side — the thought before the substance is no less happy in this case. God is gracious and good, we have prevailed through winter's storms (literal and metaphorical), and His mercies are new every morning.

to read: summer 2015

anna karenina by leo tolstoy

mansfield park by jane austen

wuthering heights by emily brontë

go set a watchman by harper lee

mere christianity and the great divorce by c.s. lewis

the harry potter books by j.k. rowling (we'll see how far I get between now and mid-August)

the ballad of the white horse by g.k. chesterton

a tree grows in brooklyn by betty smith

mystery and manners and the complete stories (to be finished) by flannery o'connor

[And while we're throwing practicality and feasibility to the wind...]

the two towers and the return of the king by j.r.r. tolkien

What do you want to read this summer? Do you find your literary tastes change when paired with warmer weather?

Rise up, oh you sleeper
Awake, the light of the dawn is upon you
Rise up, oh you sleeper
Awake, He makes all things new.

Cover Reveal: Ain't We Got Fun by Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke

13 April 2015

ain't we got fun
emily chapman and emily ann putzke
coming may 25, 2015!

It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family's farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain't we got fun?

Find Ain't We Got Fun on Goodreads and add it to your shelves!

about the authors

EMILY CHAPMAN, also known as Bess Rowland, is a young hobbit living in the dear old South, and she is entirely bonkers. She's a dreamer, an optimistic pessimist, and an introverted people person. Blue skies, dancing, Disney, and whipped cream make her happy, and she swears she's been to Narnia. She's been a reader all her life, became a writer because of that, and published her first novel, Cry of Hope, in March of 2014. But without her Savior, all of this would mean nothing. It is in Him that she puts her hope. “And hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out His love into hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” – Romans 5: 5

EMILY ANN PUTZKE and Gi Rowland have two big things in common – their love for God and coffee. Besides writing historical fiction, Emily enjoys being an aunty, photography, Irish dancing, spending time with family, attempting to play the guitar, reenacting, and reading. She loves polka dots, war movies, and all things vintage. Her first novella, It Took a War, was published in December of 2014.

Guest Post: Recovering Allegory

27 March 2015

Suzannah Rowntree, reigning mind behind the insightful blog Vintage Novels, has now released her debut novel, Pendragon's Heir, a new spin on classic Arthurian romance. The book just hit cyber shelves yesterday, so you're not too late to follow along with Suzannah's celebratory blog hop! (Just click the link to her blog to stay in the loop.) I'm pleased to welcome her to Literary Lane this morning to speak on a topic that has grown sadly unfashionable in the past few decades. Suzannah, as you might have guessed, has quite another way of viewing it...

recovering allegory
by suzannah rowntree

The Foreword to The Lord of the Rings, my favourite book, which was written by my favourite author, JRR Tolkien, is a small classic, and contains the following words:

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.”

In younger years, I accepted this—as I am still prone to accept anything Tolkien says—quite uncritically. I think a lot of my friends actually accepted this opinion in the same way, and certainly nothing in the wider world of modernist storytelling disposed me to be any more charitable to allegory than Tolkien was. One does tend to think of allegory as being inartistic and contrived, and resent it when it intrudes upon fiction.

No doubt Tolkien had good reason to be exasperated by all the critics attempting to straitjacket his wonderful story into various ridiculous interpretive frameworks. But in more recent years, as I’ve studied history and literature in more depth, I’ve come to realise that allegory is by no means the simple and childish genre I first thought it. Rather, allegory has a very long and indeed a very noble history. For centuries during medieval Christendom, it occupied pride of place in every author’s literary arsenal.

A Short History of Allegory
From earliest times, people have used stories to illustrate truth. In fact, “parable” is a synonym for “allegory”, and the parables of Jesus Christ are an excellent place to begin any defence of allegory. Later, the apostles themselves set the tone for later medieval allegories, interpreting the redemptive history of the Old Testament as allegory of things in the New. In Galatians, Paul explains that Abraham’s concubine Hagar is an allegory of the Old Covenant, and his wife Sarah is an allegory of the New. Later, Peter, in one of his epistles, interprets Noah’s ark as an allegory of baptism.

These are just two of many New Testament examples. By the time St Augustine wrote The City of God in the early 400s AD, this allegorical mode of interpretation was widely accepted. As Augustine argues in his magnum opus, to interpret history allegorically does not mean denying that it literally happened. Rather, these church fathers were eager to follow the apostolic example in reading their history with the eyes of faith, discerning the deeper meanings beneath the historical events.

By the high Middle Ages, this hermeneutical approach had reached a high-water mark of sophistication and complexity. There were two major interpretive modes—the literal and the allegorical—but allegory itself was divided into three further modes. To John Cassian and other medieval thinkers, Scripture spoke in four different senses, summarised in a Latin lyric:

Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.

According to Peter Leithart’s translation in Ascent to Love: A Guide to Dante’s Divine Comedy, this may roughly be translated as:

The literal teaches past deeds, the allegorical what you are to believe,
The moral [tropological] what you are to do, the anagogical what you hope to achieve.

According to Cassian, the literal or historical sense simply tells us what happened. The allegorical sense tells us something about current spiritual reality on a collective/macrocosmic scale. The moral or tropological sense applies to our own personal spiritual life, and the anagogical looks forward to an eschatalogical consummation.

Thus, for the medievals, the story of the Jews’ journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land might have been interpreted, literally, as the history of the Jewish nation; allegorically, as a picture of the Church’s quest to inherit the earth in the New Covenant era; morally, as a picture of the believer’s sojourn in the world on his way to heaven; and anagogically, as a yearning for the consummation of history in which the Church will for all time reach its Promised Land at the Second Coming.

Likewise, the parable of the Good Samaritan could be, and was, interpreted literally, as a story of travel in first-century Judaea; allegorically, as a picture of the church’s mission to the world (the church being represented by the innkeeper who cares for the wounded man); morally, as a picture of our lost and sin-sick condition, incapable of being assisted by the Law and the Prophets in the persons of the priest and the Levite; anagogically, as a forward look to the time when our Good Samaritan will return to repay His church (the innkeeper) and take believers to his home.

Still with me?

Given this intense focus on allegorical interpretation of Scripture, also known as interpretive maximalism, it’s no surprise that the medievals came to view allegory very highly, incorporating it into much of their fiction. Not until the Enlightenment in the 1600s and 1700s did allegory and symbolism finally fall from grace, giving way to the more rational and literal mind of modernism.

The Potential of Allegory
This historical framework gives us three important keys for unlocking the potential of allegory. 
First, we see that for the medievals, allegory was primarily a way of understanding actual history, via Scripture. Where we see it primarily as a way of inserting meaning into narrative, they saw it primarily as a way of extracting meaning from narrative. It’s important to note that for the medievals, the literal sense of the history was still important. The Garden of Eden had a symbolic meaning, but that didn’t mean it had no literal being. This, I believe, translated into a form of allegory in which the meaning did not tend to overwhelm the story on the literal, surface level. CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, is much more typical of medieval allegory than is The Pilgrim’s Progress in that the story is fully engaging even if the deeper meaning evades the reader.

Second, allegory itself was capable of operating on many levels at once. We see this multilayered meaning in what may be the most magnificent allegorical work of all, Edmund Spenser’s epic The Faerie Queene. On the literal level, the Faerie Queene is a thrilling tale of questing knights, but the symbolism is wonderfully complex; if you drill down a level into one layer of meaning, you discover another layer lurking beneath. One character, literally a villainous witch, also symbolises a whole slew of things: Falsehood, the Roman church, and Mary, Queen of Scots, to begin with. (And yep—if you’re guessing Spenser was Protestant, you’d be correct.)

Again, our lack of familiarity with allegory outside The Pilgrim’s Progress has, I think, prevented us from recognising allegory as the highly complex artform it could be. The allegory in Bunyan’s work, as edifying and gloriously well-written as it is, operates on one fairly obvious level; it does not exactly rise to heights of artistic sophistication.

Third, in reading enough medieval romances, one begins to see that allegory was not usually treated as a genre in itself. Rather, it was often used as a literary device like metaphor, foreshadowing, or dramatic irony—just another tool in the author’s toolbox, used and then set aside to strengthen a particular effect. It is not unusual in medieval literature for the characters, whose adventures have until now been fairly free of allegorical symbolism, to experience some analogue of Bunyan’s Interpreter’s House at some point in the plot. This happens, for instance in Le Morte D’Arthur, where the warriors of the Round Table set out on the Quest for the Holy Grail and immediately find themselves in a series of surreal adventures which later turn out to have allegorical meaning. 

Allegory for the Twenty-First Century
As you may know, I’m the author of a novel based on Arthurian legend, Pendragon’s Heir. A few months ago I heard from a friend and advance reader who told me, “In addition to being my new favorite Arthur legend, I think it might be my favorite allegory, partly because it's not really all that allegorical.” That surprised me a little, because I had not consciously written the novel as an allegory.

But as I think it over, I realise that I did write the book, as near as I could manage it, from a medieval perspective on allegory and storytelling. I am never perfectly satisfied when a book comes with no meanings swimming, like watery leviathans, below the surface. Accordingly, some passages and devices in Pendragon’s Heir are intentionally highly symbolic. Sometimes this is because I borrowed freely from Malory and his Le Morte D’Arthur, and the allegory was inherent in that original material. And sometimes, it’s because an idea occurred to me which fitted perfectly into the themes and flavour of the rest of the book. But there is no overarching, coherent symbolic scheme in the novel: just glimpses of allegory, rising to the surface, throwing off a glint of gold, and fading back into the depths.

I’m still not sure exactly what Tolkien’s objection to allegory was. But he is the man who caused me to fall in love with medievalism, and medievalism is what caused me to fall in love with allegory, so I will trust that he had good reasons. All the same, I think it’s high time we gave allegory another look. True, it’s been out of favour as a literary device for centuries. But today, I wonder if it is making a comeback. Certainly more Christian authors seem to be picking it up and adding it to their toolboxes, perhaps under the influence of CS Lewis. I think this is an exciting development. I have found allegory capable of astonishing maturity, variety, poignancy, and beauty. Let it be a lost art no longer.

. . .

all about pendragon's heir

Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It's been years since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon's Heir?

Available for purchase on Createspace (paperback) and Smashwords (e-book) // Read reviews and add the book on Goodreads // Check out the Pinterest board!

all about suzannah rowntree

When Suzannah Rowntree isn’t travelling the world to help out friends in need, she lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, trying to beat her previous number-of-books-read-in-a-year record. She blogs the results at and is the author of both fiction and non-fiction. Pendragon’s Heir, her debut novel, released March 26 on Kindle and in paperback.

Terrible First Efforts

09 February 2015

We all remember our terrible first efforts: those manuscripts we knew for sure would land us on New York Times bestseller lists, but in reality sat in various stages of completion and collected metaphorical dust on our hardrives. Over a month ago, Braden shared a vlog on The Storymonger in which he read some excerpts of his early writing. I thought the idea was a brilliant one and had planned to film a vlog of my own, but time got away from me (when does it not?), and I decided to go with a written post instead. The following are excerpts from varied sources, primarily The Story of Elena, my 2011 NaNo novel. Elements of Elena made their way into early drafts of Rifles in the South Field, but for the most part, the idea was set aside for reasons that will soon be made quite clear.

read & snicker

Oh Elena, don’t be so dramatic . . .”
“That’s Lady Elena, peasant,” I returned bitingly. 

The cottage was an open-doored, open-windowed affair, and rarely a day went by when it did not ring with the charming notes of a Celtic air. Though the girl was not much of a singer, her mother and father did not mind the regular warbling, for the former was half deaf in one ear, and the latter was so consumed with his books that he could not have told the difference between his daughter’s high notes and a screeching dog.
a bit of irish whimsy

It seems like such a silly thing over which to have a war. The holy city of Jerusalem. . . . Will it bring them great wealth and prestige just to say they control it? Certainly not. Besides, if it did, I would have found some way to gain it by now.

Aunt Bridget brought a rather large basket to the table at that moment, practically overflowing with vegetables, bread, cheese, and a host of other provisions.”
“Aunt!” I exclaimed in alarm. “How am I to get anywhere carryin' that?!”
“Pish posh,” she responded without concern. “Ye'll be glad of the food when ye're hungry on the battlefield.”
“I don't think I'll be thinkin' about that when I'm fightin' against men who seek to end my life!” I exclaimed again.
“Well, whether ye like it or not, ye're bringin' it, and that's final. I won't have me own nephew starvin' to death.” She eyed me firmly.
Seeing she wasn't to be swayed, I relented. Food might come in handy during the journey, after all.
[Food might come in handy?]

Richard Kingsley and I are here to enlist in the army, sir,” I said, looking the man in the eye with a steady gaze.
“Oh, that is good news—we need all the soldiers we can get,” the man said, looking relieved. “Do you have any experience?”
“Little, sir,” Richard said.
“Very well, then you shall start at the bottom. There will be plenty of time to work your way up.” The burly man pointed to a small tent. “Go in there; the man will tell you everything you need to do.”
["Welcome to Crusades 101."]

Just look around you, and then look over the horizon at the Arab camps. We look like a small crumb on a platter piled high with food.”
[Does anyone actually say that? Let's make it a new expression.]

But how are we to know if the woman of whom we are speaking and your wife are one and the same?” I asked, entering back into the conversation. “There could be hundreds of Mistress Bakers in England.”
“Did she offer you a place to stay?” our new friend asked inquisitively. 
“Yes, she did—why?” Richard asked. 
“Then she’s my wife,” he replied with certainty. “Never will you meet a kinder or more generous woman.”
[What does this say about the other English women?]

Forgive me, but it seems to have slipped my mind that the world will end with your family’s reputation.”
do you dare to share your own juvenilia?

The Write Solution (When Your Stories Run Dry)

02 February 2015

"I read more than other kids; I luxuriated in books. Books were my refuge. . . . And there was a moment during my junior year in high school when I began to believe that I could do what other writers were doing. I came to believe that I might be able to put a pencil in my hand and make something magical happen. Then I wrote some terrible, terrible stories." 
bird by bird | anne lamott

I used to shun books about writing. "Just sit down and write," I'd groan. "Reading about the process won't give any polish to your rough draft. Write and learn as you go." And for a while, I lived on that advice. Violets Are Blue, Rifles in the South Field, Anath's Song, and bits of other novels were all scribbled by the so-called seat of my pants. I had outlines. I had various marked up notes. I did bits of harem-scarem research here and there, sometimes specific (but more often broad). It worked — for a time. But when I realized I was rusty on the basics — when my dialogue failed to carry the story; when my characters fell flat; when the whole business frustrated me with its half-baked approach — I knew I needed to go back to the most basic elements of all.

I'm still not a proponent of self-help books. I still live by the same writing advice I first swore by years ago: read good books and keep at your own writing until you can produce good books. But if you're like me and you're realizing there are aspects of your craft that could really do to be sharpened, well, there are masters aplenty at your fingertips.

Any athlete who tries to run before he can walk will fail. He'll fall to the sidelines and cough in the dust churned by his superiors' pounding feet. That's exactly how I've felt for the past three years: determined to write full novels, but with little on which to go. My plots were in shambles, grown dusty after months of neglect. I once wrote fluidly, but as my essays have improved, my fiction has fallen to the side. My best writing comes in the bursts of spontaneous dialogue and impromptu flash fiction that I scribble down from time to time and occasionally post.

The day came when I decided to put the madness on hold. I'd talked with my dad about my frustration over my seeming inability to produce any decent story material (sound familiar?). He recommended I change my approach to fit reality. Each morning, I've been waking up an hour earlier than usual to read fiction. Currently it's Flannery's Complete Stories; next I'm hoping to begin Anna Karenina. I know if I wait until the day starts, it won't happen, but if I make a point of rising early enough, an hour of leisure reading sounds quite appealing. At night, I read a chapter or two from a book about the art of writing. I recently finished Dorothy Sayers' Mind of the Maker (highly recommended) and have started in with the ever-hilarious Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. I'm imbibing quality fiction, as well as refreshing myself on the elements of good stories.

In short, I've given myself permission not to write a novel right now. Rifles in the South Field sounds too forced when I try to pound out a few thousand words; perhaps, like a good wine, it still needs to mature. After this semester ends and I've gone through my shelf of books and essays on writing, I'll be ready to attack that list of research books: not half-heartedly as I once did, fitting in a chapter a month in the midst of school reading, but patiently and methodically. It's true that we make time for what we want to do, but we do our work with excellence when we're not stretched too thin.

I'm glad to know that the learning process can still be an exciting one. For once, I don't feel anxious over the fact that I'm not currently working on a novel. I look forward to reading Flannery in the morning and Lamott at night, and I've learned much from each. I've pulled away from my own fiction, and as a result, I'm able to see the flaws. It's both humbling and fulfilling to accept the fact that I am still the student, to stop speaking and instead draw up a chair and listen. Youth used to seem an anxious space of time in which I needed to fill files with complete pieces of literature, but the rush to finish high school with so many documents heavy with words means nothing if they're not good words.

So, reader, don't discredit the writing books. More importantly, don't discredit the books. I struggled alone for too long with little to no results. If you've noticed your own words coming stale and flat, know that you're not the only one. The cracks in your prose may have to do with a decline in the words going in. Is your fiction intake healthy? Are you well-versed in the art of the written word? There are good, credible authors at your disposal, and these time-worn gems won't empty your pocket like the newest how-to-write-a-book-fast manual. Newton spoke truthfully when he called these wordsmiths giants, and you'll see so much farther if you step on their shoulders.
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