My Five Favorite Blogs of 2012

February is a month dedicated to love. The month we seek out a valentine of our very own, a like-soul with whom we can share joy, hope, and happiness. This celebration of love makes February a perfect month to do a post about things I love. Or, more specifically, the top five blogs that I love. It’s with that concept in mind that I give you My Five Favorite Blogs of 2012 post.

I spend many hours each month reading blogs on a variety of topics from all over the web. Oftentimes it amounts to over a hundred different blogs in a month. Some I read occasionally, but others become a ritual for me (like the morning coffee and daily newspaper). The five blogs below are just a few of the great blogs out there, but they are a part of my “ritual reading” due to their quality and my enjoyment. I like these writers and the stories or information they share.

These blogs are specifically notable because of their high-quality writing and their interesting and refreshing approach to topics. My favorites selection was based on the following criteria:

  • Vibrancy and consistency of voice;
  • Adherence to expectations of theme;
  • Lovely, crafted writing; and
  • Stimulating and/or diverse content.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit these blogs and sample the writing. And, if you’d like, please feel free to share some favorite blogs of your own in the comments section below!

1. 101 Books http://101books.net Author, Robert BruceI’ve been reading Robert’s blog for over a year and am always happy to see his newest post arrive in my Inbox. Simply put, he’s on a mission to read the books off a Time Magazine list (see his description below) and the readers of his blog are involved in an interactive journey with him. 101 Books is a great blog that explores literature in the here-and-now, with direct audience feedback, rolling conversations, and extra fun “tidbit” posts along the way. Robert introduces himself and his journey on his About page:

My name is Robert Bruce, and I’m a 35-year-old full-time writer and former English major who loves to read. I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m going to read all 100 of Time Magazine‘s greatest English-speaking novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses). I don’t know how long it will take. After all, I’m married, I have a ten-month-old, and I like to train for marathons. But hopefully I’ll get through this list before my eyesight goes bad and the interwebs stop working.

Robert has a friendly, non-assuming guy-next-door quality to his writing that I love. It’s obvious that he’s a literate person, but he never hits his readers on the head with who he is; rather, the reader comes to know him through the warm conversational tone of his posts. He’s a guy you like and trust almost immediately. He’s just a normal guy writing about books he loves (or doesn’t) with a warm, friendly tone:

You might’ve guessed at some point that I’m a white guy. Maybe not. But, yeah, I’m a white guy.

I was born in 1976, when race relations in the U.S. were somewhat improving—at least in the sense that we were past the days of segregation and overt hostility. So when I read about some of the things African-Americans faced in the early part of the 20th century, it’s a real eye-opener for me.

That’s what I love about literature—it has a way of giving you a sense of time and place through the eyes of a character who is experiencing it all firsthand. Richard Wright’s Native Son does that brilliantly. I believe To Kill A Mockingbirdand Go Tell It On Mountain are other great examples of this type of novel.( from http://101books.net/2012/02/21/bigger-thomas-growing-up-in-a-white-world/).

His reviews are well-written – containing relevant, striking excerpts from the texts – and can be emotionally and culturally challenging. I was impressed by his posts about David Foster Wallace to the point of buying and reading Infinite Jest and The Pale King for myself.

Robert offers a little of everything to his readers at 101 Books, using the books and their authors as a backdrop for deeper cultural conversation. The blog serves as a platform for discussion of such topics as literature (as expected), cultural mores, racial relationships in the South, current political issues, et cetera. The blog, 101 Books, by Robert Bruce takes my #1 favorite blog slot for 2012.

 

2. NARRATIVE http://richardgilbert.me Author, Richard Gilbert. There was a sheep farmer from… and so starts the unique quality of NARRATIVE. Its author, Richard Gilbert, did own a sheep farm and is a talented and diverse individual as his Bio explains:

I’m a memoirist, essayist, and journalist whose writing has appeared in Orion, Fourth Genre, Chautauqua, Farming: People, Land, Community and other publications. Two of my memoir essays can be read on line, “Kathy” at Brevityand “My Father’s Tractor” at SNReview. Memoir (and) offers the opening of  “Remembering Paul,” about my helper on our sheep farm in Appalachian Ohio, the complete text of which is available on Scribd. Also on Scribd is my Pushcart-nominated Chautauqua essay “A Dry Year,” about rebuilding a pond during a summer of Biblical plagues—heat, drought, locusts, storm—with a legendary excavator who carried a tragic secret.

I operated a sheep farm for ten years, and for those really interested in animal husbandry, Sheep Canada published my essay on the history of selective livestock breeding, “From Bakewell to BLUP”; the Google reader version of part one is here.

I worked in newspapers and university press book publishing, each for more than a decade, was a Kiplinger fellow in journalism at Ohio State, and earned an MFA in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. I have taught writing at Ohio State, Indiana University, and Ohio University and now teach English and journalism at Otterbein University, on the banks of Alum Creek in Westerville, Ohio. I’m writing a memoir about farming and Appalachia.

NARRATIVE is a gorgeous site that looks like a glossy magazine, feels like a high-brow literary e-zine, and reads like a lyric poem. It’s one of the best websites I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, in both style and content, anywhere on the web. Richard has done a wonderful job of creating a site filled with literary riches.

Richard brings his talent and experience to the pages of NARRATIVE in a way that offers insight, technique, guidance, and inspiration to emerging writer’s and general readers. If you love the art and craft of writing – you’ll love NARRATIVE. If you need inspiration or motivation – look no further than the pages of NARRATIVE. Richard writes in a clear, yet lyrical style. His book reviews and style/technique articles are some of the best I’ve found. The site is a treasure-trove for writers and a sheer pleasure to read for any and all who visit.

3. Mother2rah http://mother2rah.wordpress.com by Siobhan Ironically, though I am a Poet, this is the only poetry blog to make the list. I personally believe it’s very difficult to do a poetry blog well. It takes a strong voice to carry poetry in a way that reaches many people while staying true to itself.

Siobhan is an exceptional poet. Her work is often erotic and tinged with sadness – we feel the depth and intimacy of the human heart beating behind the words. She has a strong voice and her poems remain true to her and themselves while avoiding any sense of triteness or repetition.

Siobhan describes herself and life on her About page in a concrete but mysterious fashion. This same duality marks much of her poetry and gives it a hypnotically transcendent feel:

My verse thrives on the tensions inherent in loneliness, longing, and fulfillment – either through the life of the mind or those moments of life in which our senses are filled with the external to the point where loneliness is forgotten.  I have written poetry for over twenty years. I tend to use verse to deliver my observations on being a woman in the world today.  My work is very personal yet holds a universal quality to which most can relate.  (As an aside – I graduated from the University of IL at Chicago in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with an emphasis in Business & Inter-personal communications.)
In the last few months of 2008 I watched my life unravel and felt helpless to stop it.  I did my best to remain calm and tell myself everything would be ok; it wasn’t.  So, as 2008 came to a close  I wasn’t entirely sure I’d see very far into 2009, however I made it to the end of 2009 and I am still breathing (albeit painfully at times.)

These are raw poems with a lyrical beauty. The writing is deeply moving in an emotional sensory-filled way. The poems breath the poet – we feel the wisp of her presence, but nothing heavy-handed or overly structured. The beauty of her voice shines brightly and the work on the blog revolves around intense intimacy and considerations of love. If you don’t like poetry, you should read Mother2rah – you may fall in love with poetry after all!

4. Charles J. Shields at http://www.charlesjshields.com I became acquainted with the work of Charles J. Shields through his book, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. I reviewed the book on this site (go here for that review), and was surprised and pleased when Mr. Shields dropped by and left a comment thanking me for the review.

I started following Mr. Shield’s blog at that time – about the process he was going through writing his new book, And So It Goes – Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. The blog is beautifully written, like his books, and gives wonderful asides and stories not found elsewhere.

I highly recommend the two books listed above, and I’m sure you would enjoy a visit to his site. The site contains news stories, reviews, and stories about Kurt that didn’t make it into the book – stop by for a fun and enlightening visit!

5. Barking Up The Wrong Tree http://www.bakadesuyo.com/ Author, Eric Barker I debated about including Eric’s blog because he doesn’t write as much as he adapts news stories, research, current studies, etc. adding commentary. However, as this is a blog I read constantly and I do love his site…he made the cut!

If you have any interest in Science or cultural insights, then Barking Up The Wrong Tree is the blog for you. Eric gives us up-to-the-minute news and research results in concise, bite-size nuggets. It’s a fun, amazing, and sometimes, very surprising read. Stop by for a visit, and let me know what you think!

Well, that does it, my five favorite blogs for 2012. Please let me know what your thoughts are if you stop by to give them a try. And, by the way, what are some of your favorite blogs and why?

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Artwork: Notes Forgotten by Bob Orsillo. Please visit Bob at Http://www.orsillo.com to find out more about him and his artwork. Or, purchase his prints, notecards, and more at a his Fine Art America page  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/bob-orsillo.html

Sell Art Online

 

 

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Burning

Burning red days
follow pink-petal nights.
Fragrance singing soft
lullabies. In memory

yearning ruptures,
breast bursting open,
tears like ash
slowly spilling
into crimson spoons

used for digging
up history.
Pure-petulant remorse,

regretting too late
the burning black days
to follow.

composed January 27, 2011

The Bird Calls His Presence

It is a first memory. The plaintive call of a Whippoorwill in the night. I’m a small child sitting with my grandparents on their front porch as a gentle wind drifts by carrying the smell of gladiolas on its wings. The bird calls his presence.

 

Whippoorwill has been calling to me for the past year. A quiet, sad sound rolling through my mind like the song of the bird I listened to as a child.

The list of pros and cons for starting an online literary magazine (or any literary magazine for that matter) in our world today does not add up in equal columns.  We are a world of sound-bites, quick thrills, and Twitter. The list of cons is much longer than the list of pros in a culture that grows less literate with each passing year. And, of course, there are the questions one must ask: Is there a market for such a publication?; Do we really need another lit mag?; and, Can there possibly be anything left to say? These are all valid questions to ask and consider.

For most of the year my answer has been a resounding No. No, the market isn’t very large. No, we really don’t need another lit magazine. No, there isn’t anything left to say. After all, everyone is talking, but so few people are actually listening, right? Everyone has a blog, but how many followers do they really have? The news shows and Internet are filled with voices 24-7, but Americans are so busy they seldom have time to listen. I (like many of my peers) need a secretary just to keep up with my “favorites” and my RSS feeds, and my subscriptions, and then there are the Tweets and Facebook updates. We are inundated with words – we can’t possibly need more.

And then, a strange thing happened to me. I realized that I had not welcomed the shift from printed materials to online materials into my life. I decided it was time to stop dismissing online magazines and blogs as “online diaries” and investigate and explore their true essence.

I started reading more blogs, amassing RSS feeds and subscriptions, joining various writers blog groups, and listening to what the world was saying. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve discovered surprising writers with tremendous talent lurking in the mist of Cyberspace. I found new information mixed in with totally unexpected epiphanies.

I’ve come to understand that there are literate, diverse writers and publications with great insight and joyous gifts to offer. I’ve also discovered that people ARE reading, commenting, and contributing.

My recent exploration helped me to realize that art isn’t usually about what we need in a logical sense. It is more often about what we need in the deepest parts of our human selves. We need to create, we need to express, we need to sing our songs. And we need to have those sides of our truest, deepest selves validated and cherished by the world around us in some way.

That artistic expression and validation is the goal of Whippoorwill. It is intended to be a place for exploration and growth, a place where we can sing and here another’s song, a place of validation for our artists ego’s – where talent can become inspired, shared, and appreciated among peers. It is with that train of thought that Whippoorwill begins its journey. I hope you’ll join us and I bid you a heartfelt Welcome!

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Note on Whippoorwill content and submissions: The theme and purpose of the magazine are intentionally loose and undefined to encourage open artistic submissions. Submissions will be accepted on a continuous basis. Initially, two to three issues per year are planned with a possible print edition of “The Best of…” produced yearly, depending on the submissions and audience we obtain.

Please feel free to email with ideas, suggestions, or questions about possible content. Please send submissions in body of the email to: marissa@whippoorwilljournal.com. We are seeking poetry, fiction, flash fiction, essays, non-fiction. However, we prefer not to see genre fiction, horror, or deeply erotic works at this time. Again, email or send a blog link if you’re not sure. We are also seeking regular bloggers and contributors. Pay scale is determined individually with the author.

 

 Re-Post from Whippoorwill at http://whippoorwilljournal.com/blog/editorial-musings/the-bird-calls-his-presence

 

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