Jonathan Rogers

Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we've ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.


Cunning and Prudence: Some Thoughts on Persuasion

By Jonathan Rogers

Through language we are able to create realities. We do it every day. Persuading, encouraging, fear-mongering, story-telling, teaching, selling, insulting, begging—these are just a small sampling of the ways we create and/or rearrange inward realities in other people.

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It’s Not Your Job to Be a Genius

By Jonathan Rogers

The first TED talk I remember ever watching was “Your Elusive Creative Genius,” by Elizabeth Gilbert, in 2009. If you aren’t among the 19 million people (literally) who have watched this talk, or if you just want to relive the magic, here’s the link. There’s a lot of good stuff in that talk, but the thing that has most stuck with me these eleven years is Gilbert’s account of the way the word “genius” has changed through the centuries.

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Realism of Presentation, Realism of Content

By Jonathan Rogers

In An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis puts a finger on one of the things I love so much about Tolkien, though Lewis is not specifically talking about his good friend Tolkien’s stories. In the chapter “On Realisms,” Lewis distinguishes between what he calls “realism of presentation” and “realism of content.” Realism of presentation refers to those little concrete details that give the world of a story the textures that make it feel like the world God made. Realism of presentation, writes Lewis, “is the art of bringing something close to us, making it palpable and vivid, by sharply observed or sharply imagined detail.”

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Love and Assent

By Jonathan Rogers

While reading Wendell Berry’s story collection, That Distant Land, I was struck by this description of a character named Martha Elizabeth Coulter:

She was a woman always near to smiling, sometimes to laughter. Her face, it seems, had been made to smile. It was a face that assented wholly to the being of whatever or whomever she looked at.

—Wendell Berry, That Distant Land

I don’t know whether Wendell Berry is a student of Thomas Aquinas, but that description of Martha Elizabeth as a person who “assented wholly to the being” of the people and things around her sounds like the kind of thing Aquinas would say.

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Release Day Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

By Jonathan Rogers

Twelve years ago this month, Waterbrook Press released On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Book 1 of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. I counted it a privilege to be allowed to write the Rabbit Room’s release day review of the book. At the time, the Rabbit Room was barely six months old. There was no Hutchmoot, no Rabbit Room Press, no Local Show, no Chinwag, no North Wind Manor. There was just the blog, with a small but very loyal readership.

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The Fondue Pot Principle

By Jonathan Rogers

One day I needed a fondue pot. A fondue pot is not something one wants to buy. I have lived over 18,000 days now, and on exactly ONE of those days have I wished I had a fondue pot. But the day in question was that day. So I went to Facebook and put out an all-call for a fondue pot.

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The Leaf-Mould of the Mind: On Influence, Conscious and Unconscious

By Jonathan Rogers

Speaking of The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote. . .

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On the Impracticality of Beauty—and the Practicality of Showing Up

By Jonathan Rogers

A cynic remarked that last week’s fire at Notre Dame has turned out to be an excellent excuse for social media users to post pictures of their vacations in Paris. A less cynical interpretation is that the fire at Notre Dame prompted social media users to memorialize an encounter with a work of art and beauty that reminded them that they were living in a bigger story than they typically thought.

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Field Notes for Writers

By Jonathan Rogers

Writing is the act of sitting alone and trying to connect with other people, some of whom may not even be born yet.

By necessity, writing is a solitary enterprise. When it comes time to put words on a page you have to go somewhere and be by yourself. Nevertheless, writers need other people.

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Talk to Strangers—Everybody Has a Story

By Jonathan Rogers

In a recent episode of the Radiolab podcast, producer Latif Nasser shares some of his techniques for finding stories to research and write about. The episode grows from this article, in which Nasser offers even more techniques, which range from setting Google alerts to rummaging around in library collections of personal papers and oral histories to repeatedly clicking the “random article” button on Wikipedia.

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A Better Story: An Election-Day Rumination

By Jonathan Rogers

Last week the students in my Writing Close to the Earth online class read George Orwell’s classic essay, “Politics and the English Language.” In it, Orwell makes the case that vague, abstract, usually Latinate language is an important tool in the dishonest politician’s tool-belt.

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A Word of Thanks for Eugene Peterson

By Jonathan Rogers

Last week one of the dearest saints of our era stepped into the Long Hello. Eugene Peterson, a pastor, teacher, theologian, and writer died after a long illness. Here’s the story from Christianity Today. It draws on a beautiful account by the Peterson family, which reads, in part:

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