Editors’ Picks of the Year: The Best of WordPress.com in 2013

This week, our editors dove into the archives to find and rediscover notable posts published this year on WordPress.com, from nonfiction to poetry, and photography to illustration. These posts have been especially resonant to us and the community, and represent the diversity of voices of our users all over the world.

An Open Letter to the Girl I Pretended to Have a Crush On in Eighth Grade at Rottin’ in Denmark

You were the first girl I pretended to have a crush on so no one would know I was gay. I didn’t intend for it to happen, for it to be you, for it to be so easy. But it did, and it was.

From the opening lines of his epic open letter to Tracy Dolan, Michael Hobbes at Rottin’ in Denmark mesmerizes readers with his sharp and thoughtful storytelling, describing his strategy for surviving adolescence as a gay teenager. At 5,787 words, Hobbes’ letter is a longer piece to savor, and captures what it’s like to grow up, to fit in, and to ultimately find yourself. A favorite on WordPress.com this year, the post was well-received elsewhere on the web, including Longreads.

When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland at tressiemc

She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially.

Scholar Tressie McMillan Cottom caught our attention this year with her incisive, critical think-pieces on race and class, and her commentary on black female bodies as amusements parks for white people — in the context of Miley Cyrus’ carnival-like performance at the MTV Video Music Awards — is worth reading. We recommend tressiemc for thought-provoking discussions on culture and sociology, period.

Collaborating With a 4-Year-Old at The Busy Mockingbird

The whimsical collaborations of Mica Angela Hendricks and her four-year-old daughter at The Busy Mockingbird were a huge hit this year: think snail and mermaid-like creatures with oversized human heads, or the tie-wearing manimal in the forest, above. Looking at these illustrations, you can’t help but smile.

The Pixar Theory by Jon Negroni

Every Pixar movie is connected. I explain how, and possibly why.

Jon Negroni’s wildly popular post detailing the Pixar Theory is completely entertaining and imaginative: he lays out a working narrative that connects all of Pixar’s movies into one cohesive timeline. From Brave to WALL-E to A Bug’s Life, he weaves a grand theory involving this animated universe’s key characters, and the result is a fun journey for both die-hard Pixar enthusiasts and film lovers alike. (We chatted with Jon this fall about this post’s popularity and the growth of his blog — check it out.)

Reporting for Duty, Sir at Paving the Road Back

Even as he displayed that puckish smile over and again, he also displayed a certain resolve, a certain protector-warrior sense, even if only in glimpses, that reminded us all — that reminded him — that he was still ready for duty, ready to assume a role that he loved, ready to face again, if necessary, a violence that would perhaps destroy him, but that would not — would not — destroy those whom he loved.

Rod Deaton is a psychiatrist with an extensive background working with military troops and combat veterans. His blog, Paving the Road Back, offers a glimpse into the work he does, as well as the lives of the brave men and women who’ve served the US military. Always crafted with care, his stories are poignant, like this post on “Ethan,” who became hooked on opiates after suffering a traumatic brain injury while serving in the Middle East.

Documenting Syria by Russell Chapman

Earlier this year, freelance journalist and photographer Russell Chapman spent time in Syria, talking to people from political, military, and humanitarian wings of the new Syrian opposition about what’s happening in the region. Russell’s photographs offer a glimpse into this war-torn landscape; the image above features FSA fighters in Aleppo.

27 Nights at What Happens to Us

I read your journal, she finally said.

I read the part where you questioned whether you had chosen the right twin? Where you wondered if we made love in the same way?

In this contemporary tale of dating and relationships, David at What Happens to Us writes about a man torn between two twin sisters, Kara and Kendra. While we don’t want to give anything away, we’ll say David has a strong, original voice, and he keeps us glued ’til the end. It’s an intriguing introduction to his fiction — we can’t wait for chapter two.

My Penis Girl by Gendermom

“Mom, I think something went wrong when I was in your tummy, because I was supposed to be born a girl, but I was born a boy instead.” He wanted me to put him back in the womb to right the wrong. He was sobbing.

Gendermom chronicles the joys and challenges of raising M., her five-year-old transgender daughter. In “My Penis Girl,” Gendermom recounts how M. knew early on that she was a girl, and describes her initial concerns as a parent before finally “letting her boy go.” Her site is an inspiring example of how bloggers can build supportive communities and an outlet for those rearing a transgender child.

On Geek Versus Nerd at Slackpropagation

Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them.

Popular culture, statistics, and social science intersect in scientist and software engineer Burr Settles’ discussion of “geek” versus “nerd.” From analyzing Twitter data and PMI statistics, he explains how these two terms — often viewed as synonyms — are different. Are you a geek or a nerd? Read it to find out.

Vintage Social Networking at Wrong Hands

Canadian cartoonist John Atkinson created this light-hearted cartoon commenting on social media, online publishing, and the internet of today. It’s well-done and spot-on (and we love seeing WordPress right in the middle, among all these social tools).

It’s Just Sex, Dammit! by Dorkdaddy

There are a thousand things necessary for a successful day and a successful life. Balancing the checkbook. Reading to the kids. Visiting your parents. Maintenance on the house. Laughing. Resting. Playing. Growing. Learning. These are the things of life. These are the things that determine whether we are fulfilled, whether we are successful in life. None of them require intercourse. And yet still we venerate sex as the ultimate goal in life, as if everything else is just a way of occupying time between sexual interludes.

At Dorkdaddy, a father documents his misadventures in raising three children, as well as interests in pop and geek culture, from superheroes to games to fun in all shapes and sizes. We love this candid discussion about our fascination and obsession with sex, and the pleasures and troubles it brings.

Western Desert Journey, Egypt by Quintin Lake

Photographer Quintin Lake wowed us with his stunning images from Egypt’s Western Desert. From the surreal tent formations in the White Desert to the ripples captured in sand dunes, Quintin’s snapshots are truly jaw-dropping. His passion for architecture inspires his work, which lends an artistic, geometric feel to some of his travel photography.

Sorry Sylvia (Plath) by Simon Kindt

Could you imagine this Sylvia?
That this is what we would do to you?

That high school teachers
would keep dragging you out of the ground,
and laying your bones out for inspection,
looking for symptom,
and signifier,
pretending like we could ever know
what you looked like on the inside of your skin.

Simon Kindt‘s poem on Sylvia Plath touched many readers, conjuring many images and thoughts: young minds learning to read poetry, piecing together a life from the words one has left — so precious, yet not enough. As you read, you might also feel pain or misunderstanding, or perhaps feel that spot within yourself that only poetry can touch.

The Knuckle Sandwich Epiphany at How the light gets in

It was in that moment that I finally recognised my childhood ambitions for the fantasies they were. I had never been cut out to save the world through passive resistance.

The Sydney-based writer and illustrator at How the light gets in will win you over with quirky stories and drawings; we enjoyed this offbeat yet charming post about coming of age in the 1980s, and all the awkwardness and uncertainty that accompanied it. From an original point of view to visual narratives, this blogger has the elements to tell great stories.

Tracks at Without an H

Photographer Jon Sanwell documents daily life in Southeast Asia on his blog, Without an H. His portraits of people, urban and street shots, and countryside landscapes from Vietnam and beyond are lively and full of vibrant colors. We love all of his photo collections, and especially enjoyed these images from a Hanoi neighborhood that lies along the train tracks.

We’re thrilled that so many talented writers, artists, and photographers call WordPress.com their online home, and that all of you use this platform to express yourselves, far and wide, across the globe. We look forward to reading you in 2014 and hope you continue to share your ideas and stories with us, wherever you are.

Want to read more editors’ picks of 2013? Dive in now. If you love reading the freshest picks and most-recommended reads on WordPress.com, sign up for Weekend Reads, which we’ll deliver to your inbox monthly.


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Cheri Lucas Rowlands

69 Comments

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  1. shacoyo

    Congratulations to all of the “picks” of the year!

  2. huntmode

    Chiming in with congratulations to the winners of 2013 and to all of us that wrote our hearts out and clicked our way out of a 1000 words with gorgeous images.

  3. monika

    congrats to all the picks! i’ve followed a few thanks to you guys (WP gang).

  4. cerebellumtellum

    Congrats to all of this years picks. Looking forward to 2014 #blogonmyfriends

  5. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Choice indeed. Really great stuff. I’ve clicked a few to link outside my tab & am heading off to read now.

    Merry Christmas :)

  6. Jam

    warm congratulations! very inspiring esp for a rookie like me! Keep it on!

  7. fantasyfurnace

    Cheri- I realize that sports does not appeal to everyone but one could say that poetry doesn’t either. Perhaps, and I must admit that I am fairly biased on this issue, it would be nice if you could include a sports article (or two) when next you list your faves of 2014. Just a suggestion and something to ponder…
    Have a happy, healthy, & safe Christmas and New Years from all of us at Fantasy Furnace!

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Thanks for the feedback. We went through all the previously Freshly Pressed posts from 2013 and it was challenging to select a shortlist. We’ve begun to collect great posts for various categories (sports included) for a future topic archive.

      • fantasyfurnace

        That was so nice of you! My site has been with WordPress for over three years now and making an appearance on Freshly Pressed is one of our goals as we feel if you make it there then you have indeed reached the Super Bowl of ‘Blogdom’…

        Thanks for your response, your interest,
        and your courtesy.

        -Hank/Fantasy Furnace

  8. dorkdad

    I am floored… completely humbled. Would it be too cliché for a blogger to say “I can’t find the words to express my gratitude”?

  9. thehappyhugger

    These are great choices for “picks” for the year. Congrats to them.

  10. Deli Lanoux, Ed.D.

    Wow. Rich and enriching both come to mind. Pretty awesome stuff.

  11. John Hayden

    Some fantastic writing here. I followed Rotten in Denmark. Tremendous talent. Humbling.

  12. Russell Chapman

    Thank you so much for having my blog on picks of the year. This is a huge surprise. You just made my day :)

  13. Bryan Hemming

    Congratulations to all those picked, and well done the WordPress team for wading through what must be mountains of posts that must’ve been on your list. And to all the rest of us, who misssed out this year, may we have better luck next year!

  14. Jess

    Congrats to all! :) Some great reads!

  15. Abby

    Great examples of some amazingly interesting ideas for posts. Looking forward to reading them all.

  16. frizztext

    Documenting Syria by Russell Chapman would be my no. 1 article …

  17. sixdegreesphotography

    All wonderful, worthy picks to be best of 2013!
    Thank you WP for continuing to shine on some great blogs!

  18. Chas Spain

    Wonderful end of year review with some more bloggers to be inspired by – a real treat.

  19. ashokbhatia

    Being an editor of WordPress is surely a very tough call, especially with the festive season almost upon us. Heartfelt thanks to your team for having taken the trouble to bring these scintillating posts to the attention of mere mortals.

    Have a great time ahead!

  20. William Miller

    Congratulations to all of you who made it onto this exclusive, end-of-year list. Warmest regards, and a Happy Holiday season to all of you.
    -Bill

  21. spnphoto

    Congrats to all. Really well deserved!

  22. Mritunjay Dev

    Congratulations to the winners of 2013 for writing beautifully…. and thanks to wordpress admin for providing the common platform….

  23. frugoal

    Way to go to all of the best of 2013! Now look out 2014, have a feeling it is going to be another year of terrific blogging!

  24. psyren

    Wow. Thank you so much for including my tiny blog in this list – what a wonderful Christmas surprise!

  25. dilmilgaya.com

    Some great picks & congrats to all!

  26. zahrahhussain

    Wow. I’m relatively new to WordPress, but reading through some of these wonderfully crafted posts has been truly inspirational. What I would say, however, is that the selections seem confined to the arts. Where are the science blogs, the autobiographical day-to-day diaries, the fashion blogs? What would truly be great would be if blogs of all sorts — and not just those that focus on story-telling, poetry, drawing or photography — were given a fair chance of winning. My blog — although very new and very empty at present — chronicles the whims and wonders of a London student whilst she makes it through a very difficult degree programme (me) — and I don’t see something like that fitting into any of the winning categories here. I’d like to aim for this once I’ve been on WordPress longer, so please notice all us other bloggers as well! But that was a wonderful showcase of talent. Thank you for sharing these posts with us.

  27. Beth Ann

    Congrats to them all!!! Can’t wait to go read each and every one! There are so many talented people out there—-It amazes me at times!!!

  28. Wrong Hands

    Congrats to everyone! WordPress bloggers continue to show the rest of the Internet how it’s done!!

  29. Val Sanford

    Fantastic picks this year. I am enjoying the exploration of other people’s ideas, words, and images.

  30. richbrunelle

    Congrats to the chosen, excellent writing. Looking forward to the future . . .

  31. bensbitterblog

    I just wish there was more that were humorous. Such an underrated category.

  32. johnnywavecrest

    Very inspiring! Hopefully everyone is working towards producing content as amazing as this!

  33. Luis Recillas Enecoiz

    It’s a pity that all the blogs you comment are in English. How about blogs in French, Spanish, German, or Italian? There are marvelous blogs in other languages that you should check out.

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Thanks for the suggestion, and while we do agree — our community is worldwide! — we currently don’t have the resources to read and consider content for Freshly Pressed in other languages. We’re a small team of editors; we do our best to highlight bloggers in different countries, but at the moment can’t branch out to different languages.

  34. cecile53

    Congrats to the picks.
    Well I can understand that the editors have chosen english texts for their picks about topics, because most members write and read english.
    But as far as it goes for pictures/photo’s they could have gone to non-english blogs.
    I do follow some blogs of photographers from Belgium and the Netherlands and I do think some of them are very ‘pick-worthy’.
    I do hope that the editors broaden their view next year to non-english blogs.

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Hi there — thanks for your feedback. At the moment, we’re a very small team of editors and don’t really have the resources to read and consider non-English blogs for Freshly Pressed. Good call on looking specifically for photography/visual posts, though, that might be published on non-English blogs. Thanks.

  35. tikulicious

    Many congratulations to all. Excellent blogs and so much to learn. Bravo!

  36. rn360

    Great Blogs! Thank you for sharing them with the rest of us! ( looks like I have a lot of work to do! :)

  37. Metal Reef (@MetalReef)

    Personally thought much of it had a twisted agenda in the choices but that was to be expected.

  38. asmaakhattab

    I knew it was desert of Egypt from the moment I saw the picture :))) <3

  39. Jon Negroni

    So honored to have made the list! Congratulations to all of the fellow winners (you all deserve it!) and thank you WordPress for providing such a powerful and accessible platform that made all of this possible. Cheers everyone!

  40. chrispawelski

    Neat stuff … would love to get included in this sort of list one day.

  41. milizza

    Congratulations! I really found all the articles and topics quite interesting.

  42. dwb17

    I think the variety displayed in this post is a great example of how the internet builds a global community. It is inspiring to see different feelings and experiences conveyed through blogs. I love John Atkinson’s Vintage Social Networking cartoon and the Pixar Theory intrigued me for days on end. Congratulations!

  43. Quintin Lake

    Thanks for including my Western Desert Journey in your list. I’ve just returned from Wadi Run in Jordan so more otherworldly landscapes coming to my blog soon

  44. Oldschoolteach

    Thank you! As an education blogger, I tend to get knee-deep in anything education. However, you have offered an interesting mix of blogs that have caught my eye. I will definitely take a peek at some of them.

    And maybe I’m mistaken, but I didn’t notice any education blogs represented. If I am incorrect, would love to see what was chosen.:)
    Thanks again!

  45. maugryph

    I was wondering how you came to you choices for this year. Was it simply your favorite posts you discovered while randomly surfing the reader? Did you choose from only ‘popular’ blogs or where all blogs on wordpress.com given a chance? Could the post only be concerning general common everyday topics? Does it have to be word intensive or can art blogs like my own have a chance? Or is only only photography and comic strips allowed? Are movie, game, and book review site taboo to be considered?

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Hi there — our editorial team went back and looked at all the posts featured on Freshly Pressed in 2013; we shortlisted picks, considered a mix of categories, as well as picks that had a general broader appeal as well as “hidden gems.” In the newsletter (linked at bottom of post) we included more picks that didn’t make the shortlist, and also personal faves or picks centered around themes/topics we’re naturally attracted to. Not all the newsletter picks had been featured on Freshly Pressed; it wasn’t a “requirement.”

      Yes–visual art of all genres were considered, and we’ve picked review sites for Freshly Pressed before, as long as the quality of writing is high and offers thoughtful original quality and isn’t simply a “book report”-like or straight product review.

  46. Go Scribbles

    This was definitely an entertaining handful of picks. It was lovely reading these well thought out and put together blogs. I appreciate how wordpress.com sets the time aside to congratulate readers on their hard work and give them their few minutes of fame.

    Speaking of a few minutes of fame: I’m new around here, so I’m not one hundred and ten percent sure how this works. I would love to actually get some reads on my social experiment of stepping outside of my comfort zone, and jumping into doing things I would normally tend to avoid doing. I do not get many (if any) readers on my blog, and I would highly appreciate if someone could tell me what I have to do to receive a spot over here, on wordpress picks?

    Thanks so much for reading and caring, lots of love and congratulations to everyone; you guys deserve all the credit you get!

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Hi there — if you’re looking for feedback on your blog or specific posts, you can comment on the Community Pool on The Daily Post (http://dailypost.wordpress.com), posted every Sunday. You can get input from other writers and bloggers there, and the blog in general might be a good place to poke around, for ideas and tips and resources.

      As for offering tips for being featured in an end-of-year like this? There’s no “formula,” and our editors look for a range of posts (writing, style, genre, approach, etc.) throughout the year. Excellent, original writing or work is key.

  47. Crash MacDuff

    Congrats to all the picks! Well done!

    Now, how can I get snow to fall on my blog page?

    Happy New Year to come!!

    ~ Crash

  48. Ama

    Congratulations to the guys and gals on this list. As a poet the Sorry Sylvia Platt piece is pure genius!
    Thanks WP Editors’ – what a great compilation!

  49. emotan77

    A big congratulations to all the picks whose sites I must visit to enjoy the writings and, perhaps, gain more insight.

  50. Russell Chapman

    An update on my Syria work which was chosen by the editors. This slideshow should be interesting http://russellchapman.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/syria-facing-the-revolution/

  51. Bentham Science Publishers

    To the authors – Congratulations to all the Picks of the ear 2013!
    To the editors – Work well done!

  52. eeseverance

    Writing is one of the best ways to keep a society free. Thanks to all of you who write. But, and there is always a but; where to hell are the conservative blog picks. Not everyone leans to the left you know.

  53. marx1981

    Interesting sites , congrats . Will be exploring around…:)

  54. granny1947

    Congratulations…I have some good reading to do this year.

  55. juliecrombe

    It’s really interesting to get more information about the best picks of the year! I loved browsing through those websites! Congrats to all the featured blogs. I’d love to make it to the freshly pressed list this year too! How can I make my blog more visible to people? I read about this in another blog post already, have followed all the steps too, but I’m still looking for ways to make the WordPress employees notice my blog. Could you write an article on that? Thank you for your response!

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