Year-in-review lists can be overrated: they run the risk of showcasing the positive and culling the negative at the expense of richness. Or vice versa, depending on your list. And there is plenty to note in the mundane, the un-noteworthy.
But I’ve been inspired by a few year-in-review lists over the last few weeks: my friend Ryan Pratt’s unique take on the genre over at Dead Letter Birds; The Millions’ Best-of lists; and Maisonneuve magazine’s most-read stories of 2014, to name just a few.
So here’s an abbreviated year-in-review of my own.
From January to June I ramped up my creative nonfiction projects. I wrote my first review for The Globe & Mail. Still-uncorrected typo in the headline aside, I am proud of the piece, a review of Dennison Smith’s The Eye of the Day. I also reviewed half a dozen great books for the Winnipeg Free Press and one exceptional new Canadian novel for The Winnipeg Review, Karen Hofmann’s After Alice.
From July to December I reviewed more excellent titles for The Winnipeg Free Press and The Winnipeg Review, including Michelle Berry’s Interference and Angie Abdou’s Between. I also reviewed Michael Crummey’s poetry collection Under the Keel for CV2 magazine (link unavailable, alas). And I had the pleasure of again reviewing for The Globe & Mail, this time Rudy Wiebe’s latest, Come Back, as well as for The Rusty Toque (more Michael Crummey) and FreeFall magazine.
In the fall I became a staff writer for the Town Crier, a bloggy offshoot of The Puritan magazine, and flexed my essay-writing muscles in three pieces–a look at Mennonite literature vs. Northumberland literature, a critical examination of place & careerism in the creative process, and a meditation on writing & isolation. I also interviewed Angie Abdou on writing & promotion.
No year-in-review list is complete without a hat-tip to the year’s failures & disappointments, its many rejection letters and closed doors. But I am reminded of a few lines from Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: the Mad Farmer Liberation Front”:
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
Closed doors held in tension with new opportunities (and all those unmentioned mundane moments between) make for richness indeed. Again and again this year I’ve been reminded of the generosity and energy of Canada’s literary community. I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve been given to participate in its conversations.
Here’s to 2014.