It’s been a mixed bag of a year for me, writing-wise. Though I did manage to keep my resolution to write more in 2011, I started out on a low note, fresh off the World Hum layoffs at Travel Channel last November. The American road trip blogging gig that fell apart in May was another pretty tough hit.
From June on, though, things started to look up. Jim, Mike and I announced that World Hum was back on its feet. I published an essay I’m still really happy with, Stilettos in Paris, and I attended the inaugural Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers (look, ma, I’m ambitious!), and spent an inspiring few days in Arkansas, meeting other writers, eating bacon and plotting world literary domination.
In the fall, my friend Sarah Menkedick invited me to write for her new site, Vela. My first essay there, In the Bush, is my first real stab at a longer narrative, and I’m pleased with the result. I also landed my first assignments with Up Here, one of my most-desired bylines. My first story for the magazine appeared in the October/November issue, and there’s lots more to come in 2012 – one of many reasons why I’m looking forward to the new year.
My year in reading was more uniformly successful. Maybe (probably) because there were long stretches where I didn’t have a ton of paying work to do, I read a lot in 2011. I wrote about some of my favorite travel-related reading in a year-end post at World Hum, but I also read a lot of non-travel nonfiction this year, and even some fiction. The best history book I read this year, Battle Cry of Freedom, was worth all the time it took — it’s a monster tome, a single-volume history of the American Civil War that manages to be remarkably readable, considering the ground it has to cover.
But my most memorable reads this year were essays, not books. Here are four that stuck with me, in some cases even months after I first read them:
- Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer by John Branch, in the New York Times.
- I’m Gonna Need You To Fight Me On This: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD by MacMcClelland, in GOOD.
- “Heavenly Father!” “I love you all!” “I love everyone!” “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” “I love all of you!” by Luke Dittrich, in Esquire.
- My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Antonio Vargas, in the New York Times.
I’ve started playing around with Byliner, and if you’re interested you can find lots more of my favorite essays and journalism on this “Recommends” page.
Happy New Year! And bring on 2012.