Tonight is the second to last night of the year, and I’m counting down my top 10 favorites of the articles I’ve run on this blog during 2014. These aren’t the most popular, but they’re the ones I think are my best work from the year and which best represent what I want this site to be and why I think people would be interested in it. Numbers 10, 9, 8 and 7 were listed this morning. Now here are numbers 6, 5 and 4.
In terms of hits and comments, this article from October was probably the most popular of my top 10–and perhaps the most controversial. November is the time that writers on social media take place in a contest called “NaNoWriMo,” National Novel Writing Month, which is mostly hype and stresses completely arbitrary, misleading and perhaps even harmful “goals” that tell the world all the wrong things about what it means to write a novel. Is it any wonder that this contest has an 85% failure rate? In this article I explain why NaNo’s organizers sneer at plot, have no need for characterization, confuse discipline with motivation and evidently believe that all you need to write a novel is a pot of coffee and the physical stamina to sit in front of a typewriter for hours a day. A novel doesn’t come out of a writer’s fingers–it comes out of their hearts and their passions. Needless to say my stance makes me unpopular among NaNo’s legions of dedicated fans, but I call ’em like I see ’em, and I’m proud that I did this article and that a fair number of writers out there do agree that NaNo is more of a NoNo than anything else.
This surprisingly popular article from earlier in December came out of the environmental history conference I attended in Bergen, Norway in November, and specifically the work of University of Bergen graduate student Magnus Vollset who graciously allowed me to showcase his research about the mysterious drought that plagued Norway in 1947. Striking just at the time Norway was trying to rebuild itself after the brutal occupation it suffered in World War II, the drought got Norwegian meteorologists thinking about climate change for the first time in a serious and sustained way. I sought to make climate change a prominent theme on this site during 2014, and this article represented the perfect melding of climate change with history. This article also got picked up on StumbleUpon and ultimately emerged as the most-clicked climate change article I did this year.
I’ve been doing reviews of Choose Your Own Adventure novels for a long time, and in 2013 I had the good fortune to interview Edward Packard, co-founder of the series (in two articles I chose as the best of my blog for last year). In November I’d just scored an interview with the other co-founder, prolific author and renowned educator Raymond (R.A.) Montgomery, through the kind graces of the company he still ran, ChooseCo (which is now putting out new CYOA books). Just as I was about to send him my questions came the sad news that he died on November 9, 2014 at the age of 78. This, so far the only obituary that’s ever appeared on my site, is a tribute and sad farewell to the man whose broad imagination and tireless writing thrilled and entertained millions of kids in my generation who grew up in the 1980s, and whose books are right now thrilling and entertaining our children’s generation. Mr. Montgomery’s adventure has ended, but our own adventure is continuing so long as we continue to love his wonderful books.
Tomorrow, December 31, I’ll present my top three favorite articles. Stay tuned!