Best Posts of the Year: The Honorable Mentions

Image Credit: Astrid Kircherr, courtesy of Vanity Fair

Blogiversary Week is about to conclude with the top post of the year. (In case you missed it, the worst posts of the year have already been spotlighted. Check out The Case for Something I Don’t Care About, “Pen Reviews”, The Skirt-Chasing PoobahHaiku Nothingness, and Company Does Not Love Misery. Or don’t!)

I’ve hinted that the top post will be one of my Object stories, as were numbers five, four, three, and two. And guess what? It is! I’ll be revealing it soon.

It’s not a surprise that the Objects dominated the field this year. Nothing else really came close.

But today I wanted to highlight the few posts that almost cracked into Object territory. We do more than just crank out Objects here at the Jacke blog! And here were some of the most well-received Non-Objects of the year:

Continue reading

Back to the Best! Most Popular Post of the Year #2

Okay, enough of the march (slide? plummet?) to the worst posts of the year… let’s get back to our climb to the top. So far the entries making the top five in the most popular posts have all been taken from the Objects series (the Coffepot, the Monopoly Game Piece, and the Keyboard). The suspense, if there has been any, comes from wondering which Objects have trumped the others.

We’re up to number two. And…it’s another Object!  In fact, it’s the very first one I did. Object #1: The Padlock.

I could talk about how important this one has been to me. It freed me to talk about my past in a way I haven’t always done in my fiction. I was always a nostalgic person, but for most of my writing life I was young and thought I needed to say a little something about the world. Now, world-weary, I feel as if I’ve earned my trips back to the past. I’m sorry, Wisconsin. You’re on the list now.

All four of the top posts thus far have been set there. The Coffepot (eighth grade), the Monopoly Game Piece (high school), the Keyboard (fourth grade), and now the Padlock (high school). What can I tell you? Wisconsin is specific. My hometown is extremely specific. But childhood and adolescence are universal.

And I don’t exactly consider these to be about childhood. In all of these stories I reimagine the events from the adult’s perspective, if not in the stories themselves, then at least in my understanding of them. I heard once that the Simpsons writers realized sometime during the first season that basing shows on Bart was going to run out of storylines  – but episodes about Homer were limitless. And that makes sense. Kids have an intense little window on the world, but adults have it all: every emotion, every experience, every up, every down that life has to offer.

So that’s what I tried to get at in The Padlock: the coaches, not just the players. And in the others, I think you’ll see the same thing. It’s the adults in the room (even if the “room” is “my memory”): that’s what fires the imagination.

I owe this to The Padlock.

Oh sure, it meanders a little at the beginning. A good diversion, I hope. But it’s not a seize-you-by-the-lapels opening. I felt like I had to get a lot in. I would revise it now, and maybe I will for the next iteration (a book of Objects).

Or maybe I won’t. I had to get through certain things: who my friend’s father was (Fred Sanford) and who I wanted to be (David Letterman) contrasted with how I actually turned out (Walter White).

I was finding my voice.

And an audience. I posted The Padlock halfway through April. Traffic spiked. It’s gone up every month since then – over a thousand percent since that first Object was posted. (The other 24 Objects have no doubt done their part.)

I’m truly grateful for each and every reader, and for everyone who’s reached out to me through email or in the comments section. I’ve tried to pack these stories with emotion and insight and surprise and entertainment. I’m always glad to hear when people have enjoyed them. It makes the Internet (and the world) seem a little less overwhelming.

Okay, enough soppiness. I’ll be back soon with the worst post of the year. (Oddly, those are proving to be more popular than the best posts of the year. People like blogging wreckage! And I deliver!) But for now, with my gratitude and affection, here is

The Jacke Wilson Blogiversary Countdown

Most Popular Post of the Year #2

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #1: The Padlock

I couldn’t leave—I couldn’t take my eyes off our mountainous, half-drunk, angry coach, unable to complete what seemed like a ridiculously simple task. How could this little piece of metal stand up to this enormous tool and this man—this Paul Bunyan of a man, all two hundred and seventy-five pounds of him, whose whole life was football and wrestling and bar fights and loading trucks and lowering engine blocks into muscle cars and crushing beer cans against his forehead and clenching his eyes against the dark memories of combat—how could such a man be defeated by such a simple thing?

He put the bolt cutter between his knees and spit on his hands. Read the entire story

The suspense continues! Which Object will win? The Spitwad? The Sign? The Burger Car? The Bass Guitar? Or will something besides an Object top the list? Maybe a Writer Laughing? Alice? Or Flannery? Stay tuned!

Back to the Best! Top Post of the Year #3

Wow! It’s been a fun week here on the Jacke Blog, as we’ve counted down the most popular posts of my first year of blogging. And of course, we’ve also forced ourselves to recognize the least popular.  (I’m still getting over the pen reviews! I had forgotten about those! I’m surprised WordPress didn’t revoke my blogging privileges.)

Back to the winners! Number three!

People, this one has a special resonance for me for many reasons. First, I’ve been incredibly moved by the many comments of people who have said how affected they were. I think there’s something indelible about the experience of teaching and learning music that most people file away somewhere. There are powerful emotions beneath the surface, sitting untapped. And then along comes a song, or a face – or in this case a story – that stirs them up.

There’s something else at work here: these are childhood emotions. But when you recall them as an adult, you see them through an adult’s eyes and understanding. I was one of Ms. Steiner’s pupils, a ward in her care. But now I see her as sort of a comrade-in-arms: one of the many people trying to pass along wisdom to today’s young people. Except she was completely crazy. The kids had broken her.

And so I also have an adult’s camaraderie – a survivor’s mentality – that I share with the others who had her as a teacher (or who had teachers like her). Many of these people have reached out to me. It has been astonishing how widely this little post has traveled.

And of course, this one also had the amazing followup post, in which an old friend of mine sent me a photo of a painting that her father, a French artist, had painted. A painting of the teacher sitting behind his daughter at the piano, which he was inspired to paint after watching one of their lessons. A painting, as I noted the first time around, which contained for me every memory of those days on that dark, cavernous stage, doing my best to learn an instrument that I could only play in my imagination.

music-teacher

I clown around a lot here on the Jacke Blog. And the story itself is rife with humor – I can’t read it without laughing, which is probably not the sort of thing I should admit, but there you go. I do. Ms. Steiner and I were quite a pair. It all cracks me up, every time I run through it.

But I’m serious about how grateful I am for the many comments you’ve sent me. This has been one of the highlights of my blogging year, and it’s made all the efforts of writing and posting and taking care of the mechanics seem more than worthwhile. Thank you, everyone.

So…ladies and gentlemen…

Top Post #3 of the First Annual Jacke Wilson Blogiversary Week Celebration

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #7 – The Keyboard

Every kid in town was afraid of the music teacher.

The grownups didn’t understand this. Miss Steiner had been teaching forever – she had taught the grandparents of some of my classmates – and when she had been young she had apparently been kind and patient and not yet disillusioned. To us, though, she was impossibly old.

And worse than being old, she had gotten mean.

At least it seemed mean at the time. Now I think it was probably a vast internal cauldron of frustration, simmering for years, now boiling over. Decades of teaching music to elementary school children had taught her one thing: children are terrible at music no matter what you do. And the corollary statement: if you are someone who loves music, then observing this phenomenon up close, day after day, year after year, will destroy you.

By the time our generation came along, Miss Steiner was desperate to save Music from the butchering hands of grade school kids with no talent. She would accompany soloists at recitals, pounding the keys of her piano in an attempt to drown out some poor clarinetist murdering a rendition of “I Love You Truly.” She played with desperation, as loud as she could, sweating and clenching her teeth and gasping for breath at the end of each song. It was as if she had no choice – as if Music itself had demanded it of her. Continue Reading…

And the Followup Post:

100 Objects Special Interlude: The Music Teacher

Image Credit (painting): Gui Lessin 

Winner! Top Post of the Year #4!

We’re counting down the top posts of the year here at the Jacke Blog. (As well as the worst.) It’s probably not a surprise for those of you following the Jacke Blog that so far the Objects are taking home the prizes. I’ve been very grateful at the response to these – the Blog really started to take off when I started posting them. And the comments and feedback have been so positive they have flooded my heart with joy. Thank you, Wonderful Readers!

What are the Objects? Stories. That’s it. Sometimes a little supernatural. Sometimes closely related to my own life. Sometimes not. Fiction, more or less.

Stories about being a boy in Wisconsin, and a college student in Chicago, and a vagabond, and a teacher, and a pursuer of literature, and an admirer of people who can do things, and an itinerant worker, and a wayward but ardent father, and a dutiful grandson.,,

All those things. And many more.

And of course, the popular post about the time I invented a quasi-religion through a simple act of refusal.

Top Post of 2013-2014 #4

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #18 – The Monopoly Game Piece

 

Blogiversary Week – The Ecstasy of an Object

Okay! It’s One-Year Anniversary Week here at the Jacke Blog, and we’re counting down the most and least popular posts of the year, as voted upon by you the readers (via your page views these past twelve months).

This morning we started things off with a wayward post about renaming the ebook.  I concluded that I should have renamed the post. Or not written the thing at all. A miserable little creature.

But this is more exciting! The countdown to the most popular! And here we are at number 5.

Jacke Wilson’s Blogiversary Celebration

Most Popular Posts of 2013-2014 #5

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #15 – The Coffepot

This is the story of a young man who was an excellent speller. He won seven spelling bees in a row, dominating the competition year after year after year. And then, in the eighth grade, with a trip to regionals (and state! and nationals!) on the line, this champion lost for the first time in his life, shocking the town.

How could this happen? How did he stumble?

Readers, I have some tough news to deliver. A difficult set of truths.

The Eighth Grade Spelling Bee of Cadbridge, Wisconsin, in the Year of Our Lord 1984, was fixed. Completely rigged. The boy, the potential champion, lost on purpose. For reasons that remained murky for years, he threw the bee.

I know because I was that boy.

It was the worst thing I ever did. But not for the reasons you might expect. Keep reading…

Ah yes. The story of attempting to throw a spelling bee, with a couple of surprise twists. A tough one to write. An easy one (hopefully) to read. Enjoy my misery, people!

I’m not surprised to see this one here. People remember those spelling bees, and they remember the feeling of  being an adolescent longing to fit in, and they remember teachers like the one in the story.

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on this one, including an email from an eighth grade classmate, who himself is now the principal of a school. “I could still kick your ass for doing that,” he said.  If only I’d known that at the time! I was in a strange place called Puberty, where chemicals race through your body and your brain is hyperaware, hyperfocused, and often hypermisguided.

But I’m glad the story came through and resonated with readers. At least there’s that.

Congratulations, Coffepot! You’re the fifth most popular post of the year!