Monday, December 26, 2016


After writing about Ebenezer Scrooge’s conversion from isolated miser to compassionate friend in my last post, something occurred to me. When it comes to Christmas stories, so much of them revolve around the importance of socialization. Scrooge is isolated, friendless, and suspicious of his fellow man. But by the end of A Christmas Carol he’s going around saying "hello" to random people on the street. 

Could it be that the extrovert ideal-parties and music and colors and noise and movement and tons of conversation and laughter and food and basically everything in excess--has infiltrated even Christmas?

Monday, December 19, 2016

"Story Genius" and the Art of Making the Reader Care

As 2016 A.D. nears its end, it’s probably only natural that one reflects upon the last 365 days and the events they held, and then begins to plan greater and better things for the next 365 days to come. I am no exception to this proclivity. Two Thousand Sixteen has been a roller-coaster of events and emotions in my life. It was the year I finally crossed The Pond and traveled to Europe, which has always been an aspiration. It was also a year of loss, of struggle, and of depression. And most recently, 2016 is the year that I changed employment again. 

When I interview for a new job, the questions are probing, and (like the change of a year) make me think intently on what my goals are for the future. And practical purposes for making a living aside, I came to the realization I cannot spend the majority of my life working at something for which I have no heartfelt interest. The idealist in me said, “Surely God gave me a love for writing for something more than just one blog amongst a multitude. Surely He meant me to do something more than simply write my life in a journal, and entertain myself with unpublished stories infrequently put onto paper.”

So, afraid as I am, I think that 2017 will be the year I actually try to get something published. I’ve tried my hand at poetry for magazines before without much success. But then, while I like to read poetry on occasion, it isn’t what I long to do with my writing abilities. It’s terrifying, but I think that this coming year’s goal will be to publish a novel. Whether through an agent, or independent, through a mainstream publisher or self-publishing, I don’t know yet. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Reviewing Gene Stratton Porter's "The Keeper of the Bees"

I read The Keeper of the Bees before A Daughter of the Land. My mom, who collects Gene Stratton Porter books along with several other authors, suggested it to me as a sort of peaceful, uplifting story.  In retrospect I wish I’d read A Daughter of the Land first, since that book wasn’t as satisfying, and then read The Keeper of the Bees to cheer me up.

Although admittedly this novel is much more Hallmark-y in its moralizing and sentimentality than any of the other Porter novels I’ve read, I really enjoyed the premise and most of the characters of this story. 

James Lewis MacFarlane—Jamie to his friends and us readers—is wasting away in a military hospital in California from a shrapnel wound in his chest that simply won’t heal. He overhears that, because of his continued illness, the doctors are going to send him to a ward for tuberculosis patients. This will be a definite death sentence, for if he wasn’t already sick, he’d soon contract that sickness and die. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Reviewing Gene Stratton Porter's "A Daughter of the Land"

When I asked for my own copy of The Girl of the Limberlost for Christmas last year, my request was fulfilled fourfold.  I opened up a box and looked up quizzically at my mom.  Inside was not only a vintage copy of The Girl of the Limberlost, but also another copy of Freckles, and then two books by Gene Stratton Porter I hadn’t heard of before: A Daughter of the Land and The Keeper of the Bees

“It was the same price to get a set as it was to buy The Girl of the Limberlost separately,” my mom explained.

This was fine by me. Though Gene Stratton Porter is not my favorite author, there is something comfortable and wholesome about her style of writing that I like to come back to after reading not-so-uplifting stories by Albert Camus or the like. I’ve read a lot of reviews by modern readers who think she’s preachy or predicable, her characters too saccharine or good to be true. 

And this to an extent is justified.  Gene Stratton Porter’s books are kind of like the Hallmark movies of Edwardian fiction. Which is why I was so shocked and uncomfortable when I read A Daughter of the Land.