An Imperfect Christmas Tree

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged, and I’m rather frustrated at myself for that. For several years, I posted a new blog faithfully at least once a week, but this year I’ve become more and more sporadic with my writing and my posting. The reason for it isn’t important. I’ve been busy, I’ve been distracted, etc., etc. Whether my reasons are valid and reasonable, or just lazy excuses, also isn’t important – the upshot is that I’ve fallen behind on my writing goals for the year, and I’m feeling rather lousy about it.

This tree is far more lopsided than this picture shows.

I’m feeling unproductive, feeling like a fraud (I can’t be a writer if I don’t actually write), and generally wondering if even the little bit I have written this year was worth the time and effort. But something that helped me to get it all back into perspective was earlier this month when I put Christmas lights on the little crooked fir tree in my front yard. Continue reading

Writing Prompt: Celebrate your Character’s Favorite Holiday

Winter is my favorite season, and Christmas is my favorite holiday, and so at this time of year I invariably find myself wanting to write wintry and Christmas-themed scenarios, even if my current WIP has nothing to do with either one.

I think it’s a valid writing exercise, though. Writing about a holiday that may or may not actually figure into your story is a great way to develop more details about your characters and world. Does your character hate Christmas and everything festive? Does your character celebrate Hanukkah but always wanted to put up a Christmas tree? How does the time period, nationality, and culture of your character affect their winter-time celebrations? Does your character live in a fantasy world with a holiday of your own creation?

Try writing a scene or a vignette about your main character(s) celebrating – or avoiding – their traditional winter holiday. It doesn’t have to fit into your current story – just write a scene and see where it goes! You might learn a lot about your characters and your story’s world!

Christmas Gift Ideas

I wrote a post last year about gift ideas for the writer in your life (or for yourself, if you’re a writer). To add to that list of pens, books, and writing apps, I’m promoting two other writerly gift ideas.

Agile Writer Conference

Agile Writers is a Richmond, VA-area writers group of which I’m a member. The group runs numerous courses, like a comprehensive program for writing a full first-draft novel in six months, to specialty classes covering different aspects of writing, editing, and publishing. Next month, Agile Writers is putting on their first ever writers conference. I am of course attending, and I’m also speaking – I’ll be teaching a class about how to use Twitter to build your author platform and connect with your readers.

A conference ticket makes a great gift – for your writer loved one, or for yourself! And because I’m a speaker at this conference, if you register using the code GRACE17, you get a $10 discount. Cool, huh? Conferences are a great place to not only learn about every stage of writing and book production, but to network with other writers and people in the publishing world. So click on over to the Agile Writers site and get your ticket with the discount code of GRACE17 before Christmas! Continue reading

Christmas Stories

Just a brief post for Christmas week. I hope you are enjoying the holiday, getting to spend it doing things you love, with the people you care about most.

As I was reflecting on two of my favorite things – writing and Christmas – I remembered a fun holiday movie from a number of years ago: Beauty and The Beast: Enchanted Christmas. My favorite scene/song from that movie is “Stories” – Belle realizing that the power of good storytelling might just be the trick to reaching the Beast.

Beautiful animation, beautiful words, beautiful meaning. A good story, like good music, can transcend time and culture and bring us all closer together.

Enjoy the song, and enjoy the holidays and the rest of 2013. Merry Christmas!

Music Review: “Dreaming Of Home,” Susan Aglukark

Canadian singer/songwriter Susan Aglukark has long been one of my favorite music artists. She is Inuit – the aboriginal people who live in the arctic regions of northern Canada – and her music bridges all cultural gaps. Her latest album Dreaming of Home is no different. The spirit of Christmas and a love for family and home are universal, and this collection of holiday songs shows just that.

Dreaming of Home features several familiar Christmas favorites, like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song),” and “Huron Carol.” Other songs, like “Caledonia” and the titular song “I’m Dreaming of Home,” are simple songs of the love and warmth of home.

If you’ve heard Susan’s first Christmas album from a number of years ago, you’ll recognize “Old Toy Trains” and the Inuktitut version of “Silent Night.” These are new versions, though, for this album. As much as I love her original renditions of these songs, I was excited to hear them again with a different sound.

As she usually does, Susan sings in both English and her native language of Inuktitut on this album. “Huron Carol” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are in Inuktitut, while “Old Toy Trains,” “Silent Night,” and “Do You Hear What I Hear” are sung in a mix of both languages.

My regular readers probably know how much I enjoy listening to music in other languages, but I think this is especially meaningful at Christmas. Hearing Christmas songs in different tongues, whether they’re familiar tunes or not, to me exemplifies the meaning of Christmas – it’s a gift for everyone of every culture, all over the world.

A gentle folk-rock sound and Susan’s clear voice make this album a delightful Christmas treat. I know that I’ll be adding these songs to my annual Christmas playlist for many years to come.

Merry Christmas!

Susan Aglukark’s website

“Do You Hear What I Hear”