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. 
elena

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.
elena

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.
elena
[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.”
elena
["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.”
elena
[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.”
elena
[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.”
elena
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.

Contradiction

27 January 2015

photo credit: alyssa joy photography
"When we asked Pooh what the opposite of an Introduction was, he said, 'The what of a what?' which didn't help us as much as we had hoped, but luckily Owl kept his head and told us that the opposite of an Introduction, my dear Pooh, was a Contradiction; and, as he is very good at long words, I am sure that that's what it is."
the house at pooh corner | a.a. milne

When I began this blog five years ago (today!), I didn't know where it would take me. I was an ambitious twelve-year-old who loved books and wanted to talk about them with other people. In the space of a morning, "Lizzy's Library" was born (Living On Literary Lane didn't come until several months later), and for a time, I was known as "Lizzy Bennet" in the realm of homeschooled bloggers. Not long after, I changed that name to the more permanent "Elizabeth Rose," a step in a new direction that still retained some semblance of the old. Under that monker I have been writing these four and a half years.

(You probably know what's coming next.)

I've been planning this "unveiling" of sorts since last autumn, but since Carmel was working on her own website overhaul, I delayed my January 1st reveal until today, January 27th, so as to avoid confusion. I can still recall in detail that ordinary day five years ago when I wrote a brief introduction, laying out the goals of my brand-new weblog: book reviews, poetry contests, giveaways, and writing excerpts. Some of these have changed dramatically between 2010 and 2015, and I imagine they'll change a bit more between 2015 and 2020, but the heart of Literary Lane — storytelling, the writer's craft, imagination, and the role of Christianity in these and all other aspects — is still the same. With that knowledge, I hope you will not feel strange around these parts, since both Literary Lane and myself have had a bit of grooming.

But who am I, exactly?

chloe m. kookogey

I have to say, it feels so nice to be known at long last by my real name: to draw in-person friendships and online friendships together and bind them in one. I've written up a fresh "about me" page, which you can check out hereHannah Rose Beasley Art & Design created Literary Lane's new look, and it proved to be the perfect fit. Hannah herself was a joy to work with and I appreciated getting to see my thoughts and ideas built into a format that is open, beautiful, and welcoming. I had been thinking my inglenook was in need of some sunlight, and I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. Friends, get thee to her website and consider purchasing one of her design packages: her work is worth the investment.

Besides the outside polish, not much has changed around these parts. You'll see posts going up regularly on Monday and Friday, and you might see hints of college peeking out here and there (because yes, that is happening in the fall, as strange and quick as it seems), but otherwise, I'm still the same person I've always been. That's why this post is less of an introduction (but not quite a contradiction) and more of a welcome.

“So perhaps the best thing to do is to stop writing Introductions and get on with the book.”
winnie-the-pooh | a.a. milne

Dusty Fiction

19 January 2015

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
flannery o'connor

You may have noticed that Flannery O'Connor has been making several cameos hereabouts. For Christmas I received a beautiful copy of her Complete Stories, and though my pace has been so slow as to be hardly dubbed "currently reading," I am making my way through the book.

I first met Flannery on the page in my English class last year by way of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "The Life You Save May Be Your Own." At the time, I wasn't terribly invested. Flannery herself — her life story, her thoughts on writing, her faith — made a strongly favorable impression on me, but I couldn't escape the uncomfortable twinges her fiction sent down my spine. There's no getting around it: Flannery wrote about the gritty, the deformed, and the grotesque. Even after reading her prayer journal, I still couldn't stomach her fiction. Did I like it when my impassioned teacher shed light on the raw redemption and grace? Of course. But the stories themselves on no other merit than their own? They weren't what I'd expected, and I finished the assignment on a neutral footing.

In giving them another try half a year later, I've determined to read each story carefully with my eyes wide open. (Hence the snail's pace.) Two stories were not enough to win me to Flannery, but I've read eight now, and her misfit-riddled prose is growing on me. Last Sunday before church I read "The Crop," and I think I've found a so-far favorite.

“If Miss Willerton were going to write a story, she had to think about it first. She could usually think best sitting in front of her typewriter, but this would do for the time being. First she had to think of a subject to write a story about. There were so many subjects to write stories about that Miss Willerton never could think of one.”
"the crop"

Miss Willerton, as I'm sure you've realized, is a writer. After crumbing the table after breakfast, she sits down and taps away at her typewriter for the rest of the morning. The only problem is that for every ten minutes she spends writing, she spends the other fifty deciding what to write next. She has a particular inclination towards the colorful, the pathetic, and the artistic, but as time inspiration starts flowing, she finds herself in the story in place of the female heroine, and her hands lie idle as her mind runs free. On this particular day, she decides on a sharecropper and his wife for her main characters, but she soon kills off the woman and inserts herself as the object of the man's affections.

Had the story stopped there, Flannery could be called an honest writer, perhaps even an insightful one, but her fiction would follow the same trend as every other archetype about the spinster author who can't escape her attic and thus lives vicariously through her characters. Flannery doesn't stop there, though. Miss Willerton, called Willie, has just (fictionally) given birth to a daughter when Lucia wakes her from her reverie and sends her to do the grocery shopping. The last shreds of illusion fall to the ground when Willie goes to collect a dozen eggs and two pounds of tomatoes.

Eggs. Tomatoes. Grocery sellers. They reek of every common thing she despises.

When she's leaving the market-place, Willie comes face to face with her characters' living and breathing doppelgangers. Only, these people don't have the glamour of fictional sharecropper life in all its imagined lore hanging about them. The husband is "long . . . wasted . . . shaggy." The wife's ankles are decidedly thick, and her eyes can only be described as muddy. There's nothing remarkably picturesque about this flesh-and-blood couple, and Willie hurries home in disgust, scraps the half-written story, and begins one about the Irish.

Books, even history ones, have a way of painting an ideal image of people, and we drink it up and spit it out anew in the form of our own creations. I spoke in past post of humans' hidden backgrounds and veiled mystique. That is but half the picture. In Flannery's own words,

Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you.”

In "The Crop," Willie abandons her sharecroppers as soon as she encounters them without the guise of literary cosmetics. Were I in her position, I might have done the same. Humans simply aren't as romantic as they're made to seem on the page. Men don't always whisper sweet nothings in ladies' ears like Kenneth Ford. Women don't always retain their beauty after fighting or fleeing or fainting (in fact, I'm sure they never do). Willie turns to the Irish for sake of their "musical brogue" and "splendid history," but were she to encounter a legitimate Irishman, she would probably throw that idea out as well. We've drunk so much of literary romance that we can't stand the reality of humanity.

That is what I have finally come to love in Flannery's stortelling: she's not afraid to get her hands dirty when she writes. Her characters are full of flaws; sometimes they seem made of nothing else. She doesn't paint an elegant picture of mankind, but the image she does paint stings so sharply with truth that we're drawn to it all the same. I find bits of myself in Miss Willerton. I'm sure some of you may as well; if not now, perhaps in the days of your own juvenilia. We've all sat down hopefully for an afternoon of scribbling and found the process harder than we anticipated because it requires us to face humanity's deepest flaws — our own deepest flaws, for that matter. Sin bleeds from every layer of skin. But when we understand that — when we are willing to write in the tangles and knots and throw away our old notions of excotism and mystery — then will the light of grace shine through strongest of all. You will, as C. S. Lewis once pointed out, be writing truth, and the miracle of Providential mercy will stand in stark contrast.

Is your fiction dusty?

Emboldening Stories: An Interview With Jennifer Freitag

16 January 2015


Jenny approached me a week ago with a novel proposition (pardon the pun): a post-publication Plenilune interview that deals with some of the questions readers have raised after finishing the book. Now that Plenilune has made a variety of impressions on its audience, I had fun doing a bit of research through reviews of all colors, and came up with the following list of interrogations, which Jenny willingly answered. Have you wondered about the pacing, the exposition, the romance, or the warfare in Plenilune? Still considering whether it's something you should pick up or pass over? Then read on, Lizzy! Plenilune — and its author — just might surprise you.

1. Welcome to Literary Lane, Jennifer! After more than two months on the market, Plenilune has received its share of reviews. Have any readers’ comments surprised you?

Well, considering I had not read Jane Eyre during the years I was working on Plenilune, the comparison surprised me—what surprised me still more were the similarities, not in plot, but in detail, between the two novels.  

Another thing which surprised me is the polarization between people who like or don’t like Plenilune.  No one is middle-of-the-road on it, even if they must be divided in their own opinions: it is an all-or-nothing novel: you either love it or hate it.  That degree of emotional response took me by surprise.

2. Several readers have compared Plenilune to Jane Eyre in style and form. In what way is your prose akin to Brontë’s? Where do you differ?

This is the only Charlotte Brontë novel I have read—and I’m not finished with it—but I have the endorsement of someone who has studied Charlotte’s writing, so I’m assuming my assessment is not totally off the reservation: Charlotte Brontë and I are both passionate artists, and no matter what we write, we see things in a visceral.  Our emotions are powerful and important to the way we see the world.  But at the same time, I noticed, we don’t quite trust our own tempestuous spirits, because alongside that rich, colourful flare of vision and prose is a sense of the calm and collected, almost as if holding ourselves and the world at arm’s length so that we can see them clearly and so that our passions do not wholly cloud our perception.  

3. Your characters have been labeled wild, god-like, and larger than life. In the context of planetary fantasy, how do these lords and ladies maintain enough humanity so that we still relate to and empathize with them?

To really do this question justice, the answer would be longer than I should make it here.  Suffice it to say, mankind has, since the antediluvians, looked backward to a golden age in which men were great, grand, god-like, and bent the world to their will—just as we would expect of a race crafted along divine lines and turned out onto a planet with the injunction to dominate it.  No longer living in those times, we have legends, epics, and the fantasy genre to sate our desires to be more than merely dust.  The characters in Plenilune are “larger than life,” but they exhibit those ancient human attributes that we want, and we still associate with those personalities at a deep, essential level.  

4. Civil war lies at the center of the novel’s plot. In that vein, have readers expressed surprise or consternation at the violence in the story?  What is your stance on literary bloodshed, both in your novels and in others’?

There has been some surprise expressed, which has puzzled me, given the subject matter of the novel.  You couldn’t not have violence in the novel, given that is revolves around war, and given the nature of the culture and characters involved.  The impact of the novel would be lost and the taste would be spiceless and insipid without physical expression.  

Obviously, I don’t have a problem with bloodshed in writing.  Some of the stories we like best are the ones in which people are willing to go to the point of shedding blood (their own and other people’s) for what they hold dear, and it would be an injustice to human sentiment to leave that out of Plenilune.  There is a time for peaceableness, but there is also a time for war; I’m surprised that any student of the Scriptures and the history of the war-lords of Israel would find my bloodshed “over the top” or too much to handle, especially as I do steer clear of “gratuitous” violence.  When people take issue with the violence that arises due to the war in Plenilune, I am more often perplexed as to the nature of modern fiction today, which would render people shy of my approach to bloodshed.

5. Romance, though not the primary focus of the story, plays a significant part in Plenilune. Does your handle on love affect its interpretation in the book?

I don’t read a lot in the romance genre, so the tropes and clichés of the trade are lacking from the relationships in Plenilune: I think that lack throws people off at first.  Someone said that Plenilune is like nothing they had never read, and therein lies the key!  My approach to my written romances tend to be far more intuitive, the conjoining of two souls more subtle, than you may find in a novel slotted solely under the genre of romance.  

6. How does the pace of the novel deviate from most twenty-first century books? Why does this best suit Plenilune?

I want to be safe and say right here that the answer contains a slight spoiler.  The underlying drive of Plenilune is the gradual, inexorable melding of Margaret and Plenilune itself; the war between the contenders for the Overlordship of the Honours becomes progressively more and more contiguous with the possession of Margaret as she herself becomes the visible icon of that world.  This naturally takes time to explore and build, and the pace of the novel is occasionally like the pace of life: Margaret has to come to know and grow into Plenilune, and vice versa.  Because of this important aspect of Plenilune, such a pacing would not be suitable for novels that don’t hinge upon this plot point.

7. Readers have voiced mixed opinions on Plenilune’s ornate prose. Do you feel your use of exposition adds to the story’s merit?

[review by elisabeth grace foley]
Plenilune and the people who populate it are rich and raw and like nothing Margaret has experienced before: everything she experiences with them hits a nerve in her and rarely lets up.  The rawness and richness of the prose style I chose for Plenilune is tailored to deliver the same impact to the reader.  It would be lying to say this hammering was always pleasant for Margaret; I gather readers, suffering a similar barrage, feel the strain of the overwhelming splendour of the story’s surroundings as well.  

The characters you meet in Plenilune, as has been pointed out, are larger than life: even more than that, the character of Plenilune itself is going to have a genius that will almost break your bones, it is so immense.  The intensity of the prose is an exposition of the world Margaret is getting to know, and it is a character which is often unforgiving in its revelation to the reader.  But without it, it would not be Plenilune.

8. Looking back on the book post-publication, are there elements of it you would change? 

At this point, no, actually, there aren’t.  I’m still astonished by the cohesive scope of Plenilune, and as I continue in my career, I can only hope to attain that again even as I grow in my craft.  There is a mindset in the writing community today that tacitly stipulates that one cannot write one’s own novel: one must have beta readers, and be constantly going to other people to insure plots are “good,” or to glean new ideas.  While I would not be so arrogant as to deny the use of outside eyes and minds, I do not believe I need help writing my novel.  It is my novel, and if I cannot write it myself, I have no business in this craft.  Having edited and scrubbed and tightened and polished the novel more times than I can remember, I would now not change a person or a plot-point.  In the words of Lord Frith,

There is no bargain.  What is, is what must be.”

9. Plenilune has been called a “love letter to goodness and grace . . . to legend and pain.” Is this an accurate reading? Specifically, in a story where warfare and animosity are not veiled, how does grace come through?

A “love letter to goodness and grace…to legend and pain” is probably one of the most touching and rewarding things I have heard about Plenilune.  Plenilune was an opportunity to express in unveiled terms how passionately militant grace can dominate the human spirit.  While closely joined within the characters, there is a sharp contrast between the swift harshness of justice and the tenderness of mercy: the godless, unbending, and haughty are leveled with the full weight of retribution, while the weak, helpless, and unprotected are shown grace.  

It is possible that the harsh side of characters is interpreted by readers as being part of their flaws.  These characters are fallible and fallen, and will have flaws, but their occasional hammer-and-tongs attitudes and the seeming brutality of their justice when it falls are not flaws at all.  In our acceptance of the idea of Christ-likeness, we readily gather to the concept of meekness, gentleness, mildness, compassion, forgiveness; while these are all beautiful attributes, people often overlook the wrathful side.  There is no other word to describe it than “wrathful.”  A reader will find certain characters in Plenilune zealous for the Lord’s house and jealous of the protection, rights, and comfort of those who have no power to defend themselves.  The picture of a consuming fire is not a flaw, it is an aspect of holiness; the disavowal of the haughty and wicked are not signs of unforgiveness, but an imitation of God’s own heart.  On the other coin-side of this wrath is grace.

10. How do you want readers to come away from Plenilune?

There is a Rich Mullins song which asks, “Did they tell you stories about the saints of old, stories about their faith? They say stories like that make a boy grow bold, stories like that make a man walk straight.”  I want both myself and my readers to come away from this story bolder and deeper.  In the words of Evangelist (referencing the Lord out of Isaiah): “Look well to your own hearts and set your faces like flint.  You have all power in heaven and earth on your side.”

You can learn more about Jennifer at her blog, The Penslayer. Plenilune is available for purchase through Amazon.

Cover Reveal: The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea

13 January 2015


the sound of diamonds
rachelle rea
coming june 15, 2015!

In Reformation-era England, a converted rogue wants to restore his honor—at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk Godfrey knows he has only one chance at redemption.

An independent Catholic maiden seeking refuge in the Low Countries finds herself at the center of the Iconoclastic Fury. Jaded by tragedy, Gwyneth’s only hope of getting home is to trust the man she hates, and she soon discovers her poor vision is not the only thing that has been blinding her.

But the home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, will the saint and the sinner hold to hope…or be overcome? When Dirk’s plan fails, could all be lost?

Find The Sound of Diamonds on Goodreads and add it to your shelves!

about the author: rachelle rea

RACHELLE REA plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. As a freelance editor, she enjoys mentoring fellow authors in the craft. A homeschool graduate and retired gymnast, she wrote The Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college.

Find Rachelle: Website // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads

A Wild Vortex of Books

31 December 2014


“Without the high and noble the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless.”
j.r.r. tolkien

Coming into 2014 twelve too-short months ago, I had the sensation of girding myself for battle. In some ways, that sentiment did not prove false as the year progressed. Our family faced numerous financial setbacks. The present state of our nation grew bleaker. My sister and I traveled alone for the first time and came face to face with the grittiness of sin at one o' clock in the morning. In Flannery's words, though, “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” It seems too trivial to capture the Lord's mercies in mere faltering words, but I must, for they have been great. In the space of a year, we have not lacked for food, shelter, or company. We've made the simplest, silliest, and most wonderful memories that I will take with me as mementos when I move away. I've trundled through the end of my junior year, begun my senior year, and come to grips with the reality of living several hundred miles from the people I love best next year. Relationships have been shaken, reformed, and built together once more. The thrum of it all comes back to this: great is His faithfulness.

I couldn't manage to effectively sum up an entire year in one post: for that purpose, there are blog archives (sparse though they may be). Still, I wanted to make an acknowledgment of this year's passing with a bit of reminiscence, and that seemed as good a reason as any for some list-making. (Bring on the bullet points!) 

top five domestic posts

These were the posts that received the most interaction on Literary Lane this year. Thank you for taking the time to share your hearts and participate in discussions: you make my life richer.

On Christian Sincerity. Is it a denial of Christ to avoid that cliche conversion scene?
March Chatterbox: You Were the One Next to Me. "We're held to the only standard the world can see. It doesn't mean there isn't more."
Sweeter Than Wine. When writing romance, can you achieve authenticity without compromising your conscience?
You Were Meant to Be Right Here All Along. The world is bent on discovering itself: I want to know my Lord.
September Chatterbox: Willa-My-WillaShe was the beam of light that slanted across his life, but she brought shadows with her.

top five international posts

These were the words that shook me, challenged me, and pushed me ever further up and further in. "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."

Troubling Stories by Anna Graham.
How to Balance Your Literary Diet by Suzannah Rowntree.
Success With a Third-Grade Diploma by Rachel Heffington.

read in 2014
* indicates a favorite

Of books, there were plenty. The titles I read this year are listed en masse below. 2014 was a rewarding year for the bookcase, and I savored the variety of literature that I was able to sample. In American literature I discovered new favorites such as My Antonia and Our Town. The second half of the list grows decidedly British: blame it on the happy overlapping of my assigned and personal reading lists. English literature is truly a wonderful thing.

my antonia* - willa cather
till we have faces* - c.s. lewis
the great gatsby - f. scott fitzgerald
fly away home - rachel heffington
anon, sir, anon - rachel heffington
the sound and the fury - william faulkner
of mice and men - john steinbeck
the eagle of the ninth- rosemary sutcliff
the letterbook of eliza lucas pinckney
the glass menagerie - tennessee williams
death of a salesman - arthur miller
our town* - thornton wilder
farenheit 451 - ray bradbury
shadow hand - anne elisabeth stengl
starflower*- anne elisabeth stengl
the faith - charles w. colson
kingdoms in conflict* - charles w. colson
the fault in our stars - john green
a prayer journal* - flannery o'connor
the lamb of God - nancy guthrie
david copperfield- charles dickens
beowulf
hamlet* - william shakespeare
emma*- jane austen
jane eyre*- charlotte bronte
a christian manifesto - francis a. schaeffer
plenilune* - jennifer freitag

My top three favorites from 2014 — one would be too cruel — in no particular order are David Copperfield, Plenilune, and Jane Eyre. (I may or may not rank books based on how much they tangle with my emotions.) Assigned reading quickly dominated pleasure reading, as is its wont, so it was rewarding to check off some Dickens, Sutcliff, Lewis, and two more Tales of Goldstone Wood in addition to the bleaker Fitzgerald and Steinbeck. In the nonfiction category, I discovered Charles Colson, particularly his Kingdoms in Conflict, which has inspired me to pick up more of his books in 2015. (If you have the chance to read his personal testimony, do so: it's riveting.) The Sound and the Fury and Beowulf, though short in length, were probably the most daunting of this year's haul. (Beowulf was ultimately more enjoyable — the kennings!). I finally finished Emma after years of dabbling in the first few chapters, which was fun, if not terribly surprising; perhaps next year I'll take on Mansfield Park or Persuasion

to read in 2015
[among others]

the fellowship of the ring - j.r.r. tolkien
winter's tale - mark helprin
anna karenina - leo tolstoy (do I dare?)
the complete stories - flannery o'connor
the space trilogy - c.s. lewis
the importance of being earnest - oscar wilde (not to be read with muffins unless desirous of buttered cuffs)
several lord peter wimsey mysteries - dorothy sayers
mansfield park - jane austen
orthodoxy, the ballad of the white horse, and the man who was thursday - g.k. chesterton

what did you read in 2014?
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