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.


Spontaneous Human Combustion—What a Stroke of Luck!

By Jonathan Rogers

When I was a boy, I read a comic book about which I remember only one scene: the protagonists are being menaced by a bad guy with a gun. They get backed into a corner (literally, if memory serves, not figuratively), and just when it is obvious that there is no way they could possibly escape, the bad guy bursts into flames right before their eyes. One protagonist turns to the other and says, “Spontaneous human combustion: what a stroke of luck!”

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The Eye Is an Organ of Judgment: Showing and Telling

By Jonathan Rogers

I often tell people that Flannery O’Connor once wrote “the eye is an organ of judgment.” Turns out, she never wrote that. When I typed “the eye is an organ of judgment” into the Google machine, the only thing that came back was a picture of me, from a previous issue of The Habit in which I had misquoted Flannery O’Connor. Sorry about that.

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A Beauty that Goes Beyond Taste

By Jonathan Rogers

When I was in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, a friend got to telling about the neighbors along her block, just off Magazine Street. One of the more memorable characters was a woman who invited the whole street to her sixtieth birthday party—a party that started at 11pm. Another of her neighbors was a young woman who had late-stage cancer. When she was finally done with hospitals and went home to die, her family came down from whatever northern state they lived in and painted her house for her—blue and purple and white with gold trim. “It was so beautiful,” my friend said. “There is a beauty that goes beyond taste.”

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You Are Not Your Work: On Receiving (and Ignoring) Feedback

By Jonathan Rogers

Every time I start a new online class, I send my students an introductory email that includes the following “Word About Feedback”:

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On Not Being the Smartest Person in the Room

By Jonathan Rogers

In a recent interview with Terri Gross, the writer David Sedaris remarked, “I’m rarely the smartest person in the room. I have other qualities, but searing intelligence is not one of them.”

David Sedaris is a hilarious writer and an excellent prose stylist, so it is tempting to chalk this up to false humility. But I’ve been pondering his remarks in my heart, and I think there’s a lot of wisdom in separating excellent writing from “searing intelligence.”

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Flipping The Switch: From Consumer To Producer

By Jonathan Rogers

“If you want to be a writer, be a reader.” This may be the most commonly-offered writing advice of all. And it’s good advice as far as it goes. But encouraging writers to read has always felt to me like encouraging teenage boys to eat three meals a day and maybe a couple of snacks. People who want to write tend to be people who are already reading. I think. Right?

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On Beginning Without The End In Mind

By Jonathan Rogers

Begin with the end in mind. That’s Habit 2 of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In most human endeavors, this is excellent advice. In large matters and small, beginning with the end in mind helps ensure that the steps you take move you in the right direction. I heartily commend this advice to you…in all areas of your life besides writing.

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Making Friends with the Inner Critic

By Jonathan Rogers

I’ve gotten a few questions lately about how to start writing a book or story or essay. For many writers, the blank page or blank screen is a terror and a seemingly insurmountable barrier. So how do you get started?

There are a million substitutes for starting. You can outline, you can puzzle out plot problems, you can research. For years I’ve been wrestling around with a particularly sticky point-of-view problem for a novel that I “want” to write. I put “want” in quotation marks because if I really wanted to write it, I would be writing it instead of wrestling around with point-of-view problems.

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What’s So Bad About the Passive Voice?

By Jonathan Rogers

[Editor’s note: Jonathan Rogers has begun a newsletter in which he shares many years’ worth of practical advice on the craft of writing. He named it The Habit because, as he says, “good writing isn’t so much a matter of brilliance as a matter of habit: habits of seeing, habits of thinking, habits of working.”

What follows is a peek into his wisdom. If you’d like to read more, you can sign up for his newsletter here.]

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Inviting Your Reader Into A Scene

By Jonathan Rogers

[Editor’s note: Jonathan Rogers has begun a newsletter in which he shares many years’ worth of practical advice on the craft of writing. He named it The Habit because, as he says, “good writing isn’t so much a matter of brilliance as a matter of habit: habits of seeing, habits of thinking, habits of working.”

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On Finding Your Voice

By Jonathan Rogers

[Editor’s note: Jonathan Rogers has begun a newsletter in which he shares many years’ worth of practical advice on the craft of writing. He named it The Habit because, as he says, “good writing isn’t so much a matter of brilliance as a matter of habit: habits of seeing, habits of thinking, habits of working.”

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No Story Is Over: City of Man, City of God

By Jonathan Rogers

This past Sunday my pastor remarked that people who have been transformed by the gospel don’t say things like “I would never pay for somebody else’s healthcare. They don’t deserve it.” That surprised me, because Read More ›