I must admit that this calendar year, 2020, is one upon which I will be pleased to turn the calendar. Among many of the terrible, terrible events of 2020–events that sound more like the Apocalypse or a Creedance Clearwater Revival classic than a normal change of the decades–there have been some high points for me. After nearly a decade of preparation and writing, I officially received my PhD diploma from the University of Chester in a socially distanced ceremony. I’ve taught some cool classes and put many miles on my walking shoes as my family headed out of doors in COVID-busting hikes and wanders. And my son, who astonishes me with his creativity and sheer brightness, simultaneously turned 16 and released a song that has since had more than 6,000 spins on streaming platforms.
It’s also been an interesting year for me when it comes to my burgeoning work in reading and writing about L.M. Montgomery and the spiritual life. In May, after 2.5 years of writing and editing, my first Montgomery studies peer-reviewed paper was published. This was my literary-critical piece, “Rainbow Valley as Embodied Heaven: Initial Explorations into L.M. Montgomery’s Spirituality in Fiction,” published in the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies (see here). In June 2020, I was supposed to a paper for the L.M. Montgomery Institute’s 14th Biennial conference–the premier Montgomery studies event in the world. Though the conference was cancelled, we managed to host a digital forum to capture some of the essence of the event.
I decided to keep working on my paper, keeping my scheduled writing retreat in June to pull together the threads of a year’s note-taking and journal writing. They decided to keep the 2020 Elizabeth R. Epperly Award for Outstanding Early Career Paper contest open, receiving full journal submissions and judging them. With submissions from six countries on three continents, I am pleased to say that my paper was selected as the winner! You can read all about it here, including the description of my piece, “Making Friends with the Darkness: L.M. Montgomery’s Popular Theodicy in Anne’s House of Dreams.” I’m working on a revision of the paper this week for 2021 publication. Stay tuned for details about the release.
2020 also saw the launch of the Maudcast, The Podcast of the L.M. Montgomery Institute, which I produce and host. Designed to be a monthly podcast, this brand new bit of work is our quest to discover cutting-edge scholarship about the life and works of Lucy Maud Montgomery, welcoming to the microphone leading academics, emerging scholars, local researchers, and imaginative readers and writers from Prince Edward Island and around the world. Designed before the pandemic, with a delayed launch because of the COVID lockdown, we managed to publish 6 guest interviews in 7 podcasts in 2020:
- S01E01: Lesley Clement, Launch of the Vision Forum
- S01E02: Laura Leden, L.M. Montgomery and Nordic Translation
- S01E03: Kate Scarth and the L.M. Montgomery Institute
- S01E04: Trinna Frever and the Art of Reading, Parts One and Two
- S01E05: Andrea McKenzie and Reading Montgomery as a Historian
- S01E06: Carolyn Strom Collins and the Anne of Green Gables Manuscript
To close off 2020 with our 7th episode, I thought it would be fun to sit down digitally with members of the local MaudCast team. In this Very Merry MaudCast, I chat with Kate Scarth, Chair of L.M. Montgomery Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island, Alyssa Gillespie, editorial assistant for The Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies, and technical director of the MaudCast, Kristy McKinney. With eggnog lattes in our hands and red currant wine in our hearts, the MaudCast team toasts this strange year that was with hopes for the years to come. In discussing our family holiday traditions and our favourite Montgomery moments, Kate and Alyssa read Christmas scenes from Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Windy Poplars (Windy Willows in the UK). The episode concludes with my 20-minute reading of “Christmas at Red Butte,” Montgomery’s prairie Christmas story. Much like O Henry’s classic “The Gift of the Magi,” “Christmas at Red Butte” is a story that reminds us of the importance of family and self-sacrifice–even in the midst of adversity, isolation, and distance from the ones we love.
I think it is a fine way to conclude the year, so I hope you enjoy! Best wishes to you all as we look toward the new year!
Oh, and this is quite nice–Fireside Poetry for the Winter Solstice: original, new, and classical poems for the turn of the seasons by friends of Signum University. Gabriel Schenk did a brilliant job hosting this, and I think Gabriel will become the Bob Ross of fireside poetry–though a more British and slightly saucier version.