Archive for the ‘Authors’ Holidays’
In counting down to a new year, I thank everyone for the wondrous 2010! The Divining Wand grew into its own by not only showcasing authors and their books but also — as hoped — connecting readers with authors well beyond their pages. And how fortunate am I to have made such great friends among all?!
May 2011 bring us dreams come true, more good friends, and great reading! Although, if you could see my ARC TBR Shelf, the latter hope is a given. 🙂
Cheers to your New Year! Celebrate well. . . .
Now is the time to look back on how we were and the changes life has “gifted” us. Here’s one author’s insight.
Time Warp Holiday Party
When I was little, I believed that adults did very certain things depending on their gender, not that I knew what gender meant at the time. Women–my mother–stayed at home and kept it clean. Sometimes, moms went out to work, but work outside the home was rare, sporadic, and not central to the family. Moms played bridge, made crafts, mopped the floors, and baked angel food cakes. On the holidays, they were responsible for hams, turkeys, and Christmas cookies.
Men left early in the morning and came home to sit in a chair, have a drink, eat dinner, and fall asleep on the couch. Who knew what they did during the day? It was all a mystery, even after the day my father took me with him to work. We sat in his trailer at a drug company in Palo Alto. There were all the little gadgets he used at home, too, like the slide rule. But he was actually doing? Who knows.
On the weekends, other adults came over, usually just as we were going to bed, and then the real fun commenced. I would hear the clinking of ice in glasses, laughter, the shuffling of cards. Smoke filled the house, cigarette smoke. My sister Sarah and I sat on the step in the hall trying to hear what was going on. But we never figured it out. Adult life was another country, and we had no passage.
Now, of course, I know what it was like to be a stay-at-home mom with not enough cash and a car that broke down often. I know what it was like to go to an engineering job day after day, a job my father disliked intensely. I know what adults do, too, at parties, the way that the every day life can lift and fall away. People let go of the responsibilities and the burdens, and the children are asleep. Can I please have another bourbon and soda?
Last year, Michael and I went to a holiday cocktail party, and I realized how so much has changed from the late 60’s to now. It was very late in the day, but children buzzed around the adults, eating what they wanted off the table. If the children wanted to know what the adults were talking about, all they would have had to do was stop running and look up and listen. But because their parents’ lives are likely not a mystery, they went to play Wii instead.
And as I looked around, listening to my hostess friend tell me who was who, I realized without surprise that these people all had careers and jobs and lives–and a home and family. Thank goodness in forty years something has changed for the better. Since the days when Sarah and I were sitting quietly on the stair trying to listen to the party, women have moved further into education and the work place. Men have been able to share in the birthing process and child rearing, much to their joy and likely dismay. Children are no longer seen and not heard, and maybe heard a little too often sometimes. Let’s put it this way–no children were anywhere but where they wanted to be last night.
Change is hard to see, though, as you are living through it. And for a moment, I closed my eyes and imagined my mother and father here, materialized through time, space, and death to appear at this holiday party, the sweet thirty-year-olds that they were. My father in his suit, my mother in–say–a trendy pants suit, maybe something red. She’s wearing her cat glasses. His tie is thin and black. They look around, smile, ask for a bourbon and soda.
Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being)
It’s still the season for a wonderful holiday, complete with romance and delicious treats. Today’s authors share their experiences.
Emily’s Wonderful Life and Kiss
Who doesn’t love “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Okay, I grant it has some problems. For example, I don’t believe for one minute that Donna Reed’s character would have remained unmarried had George Baliey not existed. No way. I do agree that the town would have been different. The lives of people helped to buy homes there would have been different. His life, though not the life he’d wished for himself, was, indeed, wonderful, for himself and for others.
But that’s not why I like it.
I like it because we were watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” the first time the man who’s now my husband kissed me.
It took guts. The timeline was like this:
1) 1992 My friend Mary meets him while she has a semester abroad in England; he and I hear about each other from her for years.
2) October 1997 He moves to the US (west coast to my east coast), and starts to email and phone me, as friends only. We like each other a lot.
3) November 1997 We meet in person on Thanksgiving weekend at Mary’s house. Afterward he asks Mary if I “like” him.
4) Early December 1997 He sends me flowers with a note saying “I love you.” Hilariously, the florist gets my name wrong!!! Anyway, I thank him for saying so, but confess that I can’t say it back, at least not yet.
5) Christmas Day 1997 He calls me at my parents’ house in New Jersey, from his mom’s house in Devon. My mom and dad assume it’s serious, because only serious boyfriends call on Christmas Day. We open an atlas to England and find the town where he is.
6) End of December. He visits me in Massachusetts on his way back to his job in California. I waffle about whether I feel romantically toward him or not. I respect him, I enjoy his company, I think he’s super. But not sure if I feel “that way” about him.
7) December 30 1997, we watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He’s sitting in my one living room chair. I’m on the floor in front of him, next to his legs, using the chair as a backrest. He’s brushing my hair. Then he kisses me.
Wow. I was suddenly sure sure sure how I felt about him. Respect, friendship AND great kissing? I was on board from that moment. We married the next July, eleven years ago.
So that’s why I think so fondly of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
And if he ever had a George Bailey moment, if he got a chance to see what the world would be like had he never been born, I hope, unlike in the movie, that he’d find me married to someone else. As I hope the same would be true for him if I’d never been born. Marriage is wonderful, and I wouldn’t want either of us to miss it, if we couldn’t have each other.
[Note: Happy first kiss anniversary, Emily.]
Melanie’s Holiday Recipe
This dessert called “Cherry Delight” is only made for Thanksgiving and Christmas…(maybe New Year’s too?):
18 Graham crackers, crushed (or 1 ¼ cup Graham cracker crumbs)
1 stick butter, melted (on the recipe card, my grandma wrote “Oleo” instead of butter, which shows how old this is)
¼ cup sugar
Spread in 9X9 glass pan, well-greased
Cream: 8 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese ½ cup sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla 1 egg
Spread on crust and bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, let cool. Slightly spread 1 can of cherry pie filling (my grandmother calls for a brand called “Thank You,” but I’ve never been able to find it). Top with Cool Whip
Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been coming January 12, 2010)
‘Tis the season to celebrate joy and these two authors have found their own way.
A Christmas Story
I have been a sucker for Christmas movies ever since I was a small child, and have always been partial to the predecessor to White Christmas, Holiday Inn. It’s so charming and old-fashioned, and is a classical screwball comedy of the 40’s.
But…my English/Latin teacher always read aloud to my Latin class the week before Christmas from Jean Shepherd’s wonderful memoir, In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash, and I became so thoroughly engrossed in Shepherd’s world. To my great surprise one year at Christmas, shortly after I graduated from college, we were channel surfing and came upon the movie, A Christmas Story, which was excerpted from Shepherd’s book.
In adapting the film, the screenwriters perfectly captured the feel of the era, along with the humor of the writer, and I was hooked.
Now each year my family watches this movie as we are decorating our Christmas tree; the kids
demand we put it on if we forget. And so the movie has many layers of memories for me: it brings back fond memories from high school, particularly from one of my favorite teachers who was most inspiring to me as a writer; it engrosses me in Shepherd’s universe, freeze-framing in a charming way the Depression era, which wasn’t necessarily such a charming time in which to live, but yet he so effectively pulls in his readers with his sense of family and place; and of course now it’s been brought into a joyful tradition with my own family.
Sometimes Christmas movies (and carols, for that matter) can get a bit maudlin, and I appreciate that this movie can elicit heartfelt emotion without too much treacle, and keep us laughing (always important to me!).
Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!
Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me coming March 16, 2010)
Joëlle’s Holiday Tradition
My husband and I are Buddhist so the holidays just sort of slide by unnoticed here (except New Years – we have a big dinner and count our blessings and sometimes exchange a gift or two). But even though we don’t celebrate Christmas ourselves, we do have a very cool holiday tradition. Several years ago, when we were cleaning out my mother-in-law’s house after she died, we found my husband’s childhood, silver foil, circa 1960s Christmas tree, complete with the spinning coloured light. We try to set it up and decorate it most years now. We actually have a lot of ornaments because we saved some of his parents’ that we inherited, and we have many Christian friends who have given them to us as gifts. It’s a fun remembrance of our families and friends and it’s sparkly, festive, and pretty. And the cats love it!
Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA coming May 13, 2010)
‘Tis the week of the season when one might wonder what day it is. Well relax, settle back, and enjoy what these authors share. ‘Tis the season…
Trish’s Favorite Christmas Gift
My favorite Christmas gift came from my sister Meg. It was nine or ten years ago. We were both adults, entering those transitional years when husbands and children were being added to holiday celebrations. Part of me (as the sister not bringing new members into our family) longed to cling to the old days, when our family was more simple to outline and understand.
Meg handed me her gift with a certain look in her eye that I knew meant “pay attention.” It was a big rectangle, a frame of some sort. I ripped the paper off with great enthusiasm (as is our family tradition) to reveal a collage: pictures of she and I together at every age: toddlers having a picnic on our front steps, me giving her a piggy back ride, the two of us smiling and grown-up before her high school prom. And in the middle square, toward the bottom, Meg had copied this quote: “Chance made us sisters; Love made us friends.”
I still have that collage. It’s traveled with me through at least six different cities, reminding me of a moment of real transition in our family: when Meg and I knew for sure we’d be friends. Not just because we’re related, but because we like each other.
Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After, A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances coming in June 2010)
Katie’s Favorite Music and Movie
I love all Christmas music! The ones I find myself singing all the time are “The Christmas Waltz” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” And my favorite Christmas movie is “Elf.” I have to watch it every year…and I always tear up at the end.
Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA)
Allison Loves This Movie
My favorite holiday movie, and I don’t know if this is considered a classic or not, but it’s still my favorite, is Love, Actually. I love every single thing about this movie and watch it at least once per holiday season. It’s so uplifting yet realistic in a melancholy sort of way – these regular people going about their lives and trying to find a way to infuse those lives with more joy – that is just so touching. And that end scene with Hugh Grant and his assistant? Perfect in every way.
Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010)
Merry Christmas! Here’s an author’s very personal experience that is actually universal — celebrating the holiday of your own for the first time away from home.
Christmas in California
When I moved out to California fifteen years ago, I did not go home for Christmas. Instead of cold and snow and a gray day that pressed up against an early dark night, my Christmas was suddenly filled with sunlight, and the deep blue skies that exist in the winter in Northern California. This was the first Christmas that I had not spent with my parents and the rest of my extended family. And rather than feeling sad or nostalgic, I felt as light as the day.
I come from a big family and Christmas was always chaotic with lots of food, lots of presents, and always lots of hurt feelings, disappointments, anger, tears. So I found it particularly liberating to make my own Christmas traditions that year, to not be restricted by what I had eaten or done all the years before. Since my husband’s family did not celebrate Christmas, I was truly free to make this day our own. We selected our tree—a large Noble Fir that filled our living room with its pine scent and its lights. I baked all my favorite cookies the week before, and our house smelled delicious every day. I chose my own menu for our large breakfast and then for a simple dinner. I hung stockings not just for our son, but also for our dog. I gave our son new pajamas that Christmas Eve (and have done so every year since) so that on Christmas morning he would look good for the photographs. In the afternoon, we all went for a long walk, our dog’s red velvet collar strung with bells jingling all the way. There were few expectations that Christmas; it was quiet, relaxed (although there was still plenty of food and presents), and joyous.
I miss my large family on the East Coast, I miss the beautiful manger under the tree, and the ornaments that have stood the test of time. I miss my mother’s spicy gingerbread cookies with the sweet icing, and the chestnuts my father roasts in the fireplace. I miss the prayers at midnight mass. And I miss the noise of all those people gathered together at one table. Oh, but I love my new Christmas traditions—I love that they are ours, and I love the peace I feel inside when I wake up each Christmas morning since I arrived in California. And I love feeling thankful for my small family celebrating beside me and my larger family celebrating far away.
Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon)
[Please note that readers who purchased The Help also purchased Looking After Pigeon.]
‘Tis Christmas Eve…
Giving Joy for Christmas
My parents are college professors and were never very religious. But they had grown up going to church, and Christmas and all its trappings seemed normal to them. Despite the fact that we lived in the country and didn’t belong to a church, every December my family went out caroling. We learned to sing carols from old Unitarian hymnals we had on the bookshelf, and even now I sing “good will to all” or similar PC lines when I’m at church while the rest of the congregation sings “Good will to man.”
There was a ritual to caroling. We would dress warmly, and gather the hymnals and flashlights. And then we would all pile into our poorly heated VW bus. Our first stop: one of the farming families on our dirt road. We would figure out what to sing at each stop, usually two or three songs. I learned to sing “Joy to the World” when I was three, and it is still my favorite carol. It has a cheerful tune (as opposed to songs like “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”), a happy message and a gorgeous harmony.
One Christmas our neighbor down the road, Mrs. Johnson, had been very ill. We stopped at her house and knocked tentatively at the door. When her husband answered, we asked if Mrs. Johnson would like us to sing for her. He said that she would, and requested that we sing her favorite carol “Silent Night.” He opened the window in the bedroom so she could hear us down in the front yard. The sky was full of stars, and our voices lifted and soared into the heavens. We could probably never repeat the beauty of our singing that night as we helped her celebrate her last Christmas. When the last note died away, Mr. Johnson was crying and so were we.
My goal this Christmas is to find a way to give joy to my family, friends and neighbors. May we all find a way to give the perfect gift, and may we all a holiday full of peace and happiness.
Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water coming May 11, 2010)
We didn’t have a fireplace in the home I grew up in, but on Christmas Eve my father would turn the television to a channel that displayed a faux fireplace. The wood crackled and the flames danced as I cozied up in blankets, listened to Christmas music, and drifted off to sleep. It probably sounds hokey, but it was such a comfort.
Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)
Trimming the Tree
I always got each of my boys a new ornament every year, and my mom always made one for each of them, too. I’d date them and when we’d decorate the tree, it was always fun to remember where and when and why we’d gotten each one. One year, when my older son was about 11 (he’s now 23), he made an off-hand comment that this one ornament that didn’t really belong to anyone in particular, a tiny cuckoo clock, was his very favorite and he looked forward to putting it up on the tree every year. I’d never known (and was amazed it hadn’t been inadvertently tossed one year . . . it’s that small). Well, ever since that year, it’s always the very last ornament he puts on the tree, and even now, when he’s living away form home, so he’s not always home when we put the tree up, I save it for him, so that when he gets home for Christmas he still has that one tiny ornament to hang. He loves it and so do I. Last year, he flew home on the 24th, and I had it waiting for him. He found the perfect place to hang it, turned and hugged me and said, “Now, it’s Christmas.”
Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers)
The best part of the season is the time spent at home creating memories…it’s what these authors share.
Greg’s Family Christmas Tree
This is actually very embarrassing for me to admit but in the nature of the season and full disclosure I’ll come clean and reveal a bit about growing up in a completely dysfunctional family and one of the incredibly odd Christmas traditions we used to follow.
One cold night before Christmas, it could be a few days before or even a couple weeks, there was never any real rhyme or reason to the date, my dad would grab some rope, change into some old clothes and I’d join him in his ancient commuter car. After receiving some encouraging last words from my mother and brother, the two of us would set off into the darkness heading into town.
We’d drive the back streets throughout the town, looking for signs, patrolling empty parking lots, searching, hunting, the anticipation building.
At one point my dad would spot something and quietly ask, “Is that one over there?”
I’d look into the darkness, straining to see any movement, any dark tall forms. “Nah, that’s nothing. Want to try behind the church?”
“Might as well.”
The church was always hit or miss.Sometimes we’d get lucky. More often than not it was just another dark parking lot.
Eventually we’d be slowly driving down some quiet unexplored road, the car moving slowing, both of us growing tired, the car’s worn shocks gently rocking us like we were sailing across some great sea, when one of us would spot something and exclaim, “Look, over there!”
Two men, sometimes more would be huddled around a fire burning in a steel drum, cold hands extended over the flames, finding warmth in this primitive manner.
My dad would glance my way. “You remembered the rope, right?”
I’d spit out, “Of course.” Like I was replying to the world’s most idiotic question.
He’d accelerate the car, the excitement overtaking us. We’d cruise across the last parking lot, or last field, wherever it was that we’d finally found our prey.
My dad would pull the car as close as possible. Sometimes the men would look up in alarm and then we’d know we’d driven a little too close, but generally we managed to not draw too much attention to ourselves.
When we got out of the car, my dad would always mutter, “Let me do the talking.”
We’d approach the men. My dad would smile and extend his hand, negotiate and usually compromise before making a final decision.
Later we’d triumphantly tie our trophy to the roof of our car and parade it through the dark streets, back to our house, forcefully hauling it inside and standing it in the corner of the living room where my family would gather around and watch it slowly die over the next couple of weeks.
Greg Logsted (Alibi Junior High, Sisters 8 series)
Tish’s Milk Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Using the shortbread recipe of your choice, you mash in so many milk chocolate chips that the cookies start to fall apart. Bake, sprinkle with icing sugar, and eat nothing else until they’re gone.
Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010)
Sarah’s Holiday Recipe
I don’t worry about recipes! I make a few simple things, buy a Honey Baked turkey, pick up some prepared sides from Whole Foods, and then relax and enjoy my family. I try to keep the day as stress-free as possible, and remind myself it isn’t about perfection – even though Martha Stewart might beg to differ – it’s about togetherness. Nothing beats going for a walk with my husband and kids, or getting down on the floor and playing with my boys. To me, spending time with my family is the best measure of a successful holiday, even if the potatoes are undercooked and the pie comes in a box.
Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, coming March 9, 2010)
‘Tis the season for rejoicing in memorable music, books and movies as well as sharing with others in need, and that’s what our authors offer today.
CJ’s Favorite Holiday Entertainment
I know many people will say It’s a Wonderful Life and I too, love that one. But my two favorite movies that I never miss over the holidays are The Bishop’s Wife (the original with Cary Grant and Loretta Young) and Scrooge! with Albert Finney.
I love Scrooge! because the music is wonderful, tunes that make your toes tap all yearlong, and Albert Finney does a wonderful job of giving Scrooge a real emotional depth rather than just the stereotype he’s become to our jaded, modern eyes.
I also re-read Dicken’s A Christmas Carol each year–and yes, still end up crying everytime!!!
As for Christmas carols, I love to sing them all year round! My favs include Carol of the Bells, Angels We Have Heard on High, O Holy Night, and The Holly and the Ivy….
Holly’s Choices for Favorite Music, Book nd Movie
When I was in high school I sang with the choir, and we had a wonderful book of carols from England that had some beautiful, rather obscure ones. One of my favorites was “See Amid the Winter’s Snow.” I really wish I had that book now. I also love “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”–it’s an advent hymn–it is so solemn and spooky. The lyrics are from the fourth century. [And can be read/heard here.]
Book–well, everyone, I mean everyone, should hear Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory read aloud at least once, and preferably many times, during their lifetime. I would also like to mention that I know The Night Before Christmas by heart. Even “The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow/Gave the luster of midday to objects below…” So Victorian. (Sorry for showing off!)
Movies– I am just a sucker for all of them, but I always cry at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street–the original. (And I am not a crier.) That cane in the corner! Chills!
Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool coming April 6, 2010)
My favorite holiday carol by far is “O Holy Night.” The music is so beautiful it makes me want to weep, and I like to sing it (to myself) though I know I can’t do those soaring notes justice. My favorite memory associated with that song is when I went as part of a church youth group to an old folks’ home. Mostly we were singing, but I had my violin, and I played solo, without accompaniment of any kind, “O Holy Night.” Watching the elderly men and women become transported by that beautiful hymn has stayed with me all these years. Music is my other favorite way to connect with people, besides my writing, of course.
Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars)
Eve’s Best Gift Given
Hands down the best present I ever gave was a check for the $300 to someone I used to work with to buy a new hot water heater that had broken down two weeks before Christmas. This woman had a pretty rough row to hoe – wracked with arthritis, taking in some tough foster kids to help make ends meet and now had to shower in ice cold water (in New England in December, no less). I knew she didn’t have an extra $300 lying around for this unforeseen expense.
My family and I had just decided to splurge on an aquarium as a gift for the whole family. But when I heard Diane’s story I came home and asked everyone if instead of buying ourselves a fish tank, could we give the money to her for a hot water heater. The first gift was that our kids – who were about 8 and 11 at the time – agreed without too much arm-twisting. And the second gift was that Diane accepted the money. You know how they say it’s better to give than to receive? Well, giving that gift definitely felt better than any gift I’ve ever received.
Eve Brown-Waite (First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life)