Christmas and Holiday Greetings

Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, whichever you prefer.

I have to admit I'm stumped.  I want to write a heartfelt, heartwarming, heart full Christmas message to you, one that's not corny and cliched. 

And I'm not sure I can.

Because Christmas is all about corny (like the wonderfully tacky Night Before Christmas clock that chimes carols on the hour I just bought) and cliched (all the phrases and songs we hear over and over again).  And maybe corny and cliche is why we like Christmas so much.

At least I do.  I love Christmas.  I love Christmas because: Decorations_snowman_indoor_269103_l

  • Every year, we go to the tree farm and cut down a tree.
  • The tree makes the house smell wonderful.
  • I cover every surface of my house with Christmas decorations, so that it looks like a rabid elf just visited.
  • Christmas lights illuminate the darkest time of the year.
  • I get to spend lots of time with my family, including my new grandson, Henry.
  • We do fun Christmas things like walk through Peacock Lane and visit the Grotto. Everybody complains that its cold and stupid and corny and crowded but we all love both places. PeacockLane2
  • Every year I drive my husband crazy by obsessing whether I was totally and completely fair in buying Christmas gifts for people.
  • Every year my husband hits the wine when I start wrapping presents, including wrapping every single stocking present.  And I love buying stocking presents. PeacockLane1
  • We watch the same Christmas movies every year while wrapping said presents. (Or at least I wrap, he drinks.  Kidding, honey.)
  • I get to see my entire extended family in a big Christmas Eve party. Sugar_gumdrops_iced_13962_l
  • I get to spend Christmas day with my kids and my sister's family.
  • I get to remember how lucky I am to be part of this crazy, big family.
  • Hmmm, did I mention how much I love my family?
  • I also get to see friends.  I love my friends, too. And I'm celebrating having lots of new friends this year.
  • I indulge my sugar addiction.  Okay, maybe that part's not so good.  But I still enjoy it.
  • I can chat with the cute bell-ringer at Fred Meyer. (I'm dying to ask him his story.  Is he retired?  He looks too young.  If not, how does he have enough time off to volunteer day in, day out during the holiday season?)
  • I refuse to send Christmas cards, and tell people that I'm being environmental, but really I'm just lazy.
  • I appreciate the spiritual dimension of Christmas, and this year I'm celebrating being part of an incredible church community.  It means the world to me.
  • We eat the most delicious ham ever at Christmas dinner.
  • The week after Christmas is relaxing.  Still have work to do, but there's time for movies and hanging out. (I'm dying to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  How about you?)
  • In the aftermath of Christmas, suddenly everything seems clear and clean (all those surfaces clear of decorations at last).  And we've got a bright, shiny new year to look forward to.

And for all this, I count myself incredibly lucky and blessed.  I hope that you find some similar Heart-winter-freeze-44607-lthings to be grateful for this Christmas season.  I'm blessed beyond measure to have you all as my wonderful readers.  So go, relax, and enjoy this holiday and we'll be back at it on Monday with my final December giveaway!  (I also have a couple blog posts about writing in mind.  I've held off posting them, figuring nobody would really be paying attention in the crazed, mad runup to Christmas.)

What do you love about Christmas? Oh who am I kidding, its Christmas Eve, you probably don't have time to write a comment.  But if you do, I'd love to hear about your traditions.  Merry Christmas, everyone, I truly love you all.

Photo credits:

Snowman by joetyson.

Cookies by Patrick Q.

Heart by aschaeffer.

All of the above I found on

The two images of houses on Peacock Lane I took from their website

Writing Contest Winner Announced!

Okay, it wasn't exactly a writing contest, though you did have to write a comment.  But, somehow that headline sounded better than anything else I could come up with.  So, are you ready to know the winner?

Drum roll, please…..

Every time I hear that phrase I think of the scene in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation where Chevy Chase has spent the whole day and half the night covering every inch of his house with Christmas lights.  The moment for the big reveal has come.  It is time to plug in the lights.  He gathers his entire family, parents, and in-laws, and kids included, and asks for a drum roll, with which his wife, Beverly D'Angelo (whatever happened to her?  I like her*) obliges him, rolling her tongue against her teeth.

And then nothing happens.  The lights don't work.

But don't worry, I'm not going to do that to you here.  And I've kept you waiting long enough.  So, once again, the winner of the contest for the Pilot fountain pens is…..

Zan Marie!


Just so you know I did this randomly and fairly and squarely, I used the random name generator at a site that, as far as I can tell, teachers use to choose their students.  Whatever it is used for, it is simple and it works great.

Zan Marie, email me with your home address so I can get you those pens.  And, by the way, Nicole Wolverton, you're my winner from last week.  I need  you to contact me so that I can send you the Moleskine journal.

And stay tuned!  Next Monday I'll be announcing another contest with a special gift for writers.  In the meantime, if you feel like chatting, how's your Christmas shopping going?  Are you done or just starting?

*According to YouTube, there's a new short film in the Vacation series coming out in February, with Chevy and Beverly.

**Don't forget to sign up for my free newsletter by filling in the form to the right.  You'll also receive a free ebook about creating a vision board for your book.


A Month of Giveaways for Writers!

It's December, I'm in a holiday mood (my Christmas tree is already up and I'm in the process of finishing the decorating) so I've decided to give things away.  Not just once, but four times.

Here's how its going to work: on Monday, I'll announce the prize and ask a question related to writing.  You answer in the comments, and on Friday I'll randomly pick one of you to win the prize.  Please note: I'm not choosing you on the basis of the brilliance of your answers, so don't worry about that.  Just comment and you get a chance to win. (Also, all my commenters are brilliant and I adore and appreciate every one of you.)

A different prize will be announced every Monday in December, so come on back and check it out!

Okay, ready to find out what the first prize is going to be?  Drum roll, please…. Moleshine_lrg_journal

A Moleskine journal.  A Moleskine Classic Ruled Large notebook, to be precise.

I love Moleskine journals.  The paper is smooth and easy to write on, the basic size is easy to transport and you can manipulate the spine in various ways so as to make it easy to balance on your knee and scrawl in, if need be.  (The drawback with many perfect-bound journals is that you can't turn the cover back on itself and sometimes writing in a book that only opens flat can be awkward.)

Also there's an iconic feeling to the Moleskine, perhaps because generations of authors and writers and artists have used them throughout the years.  Writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin.  Artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso.

But, mostly I use Moleskines because I like them, plain and simple.  And when it comes to journals, you should use what you like, because if you do, you'll write in it more often. By the way, I've written a bit about journaling in this blog, and here are some of those posts:

The Writer's Notebook: Loving Moleskines

Journaling, One Path to Writing Abundance

Practical Considerations For Journal Writing

The Carry-Along Book

Okay, okay, here's the part you've been waiting for.  Just answer this question and you'll be entered into the contest to win a Moleskine:  Do you write in a journal regularly? Does it inspire your creative writing?  (Yeah, I know, two questions.  Consider it a Christmas bonus. Answer one or the other or both.)

Catch you back here Friday when I'll announce the winner!

(Also, please note, I have nothing to do with Moleskine, I just love their products.  They are not sponoring this giveaway, I'm doing it all by my little old self.)

What Book (or Writing Projects) Will You Birth?

Merry Christmas, everyone, if you celebrate.  Either way, I hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful holiday. 

I find the holidays an especially creative time of year.  Even with all the hoopla and festivities (I'm having 21 people over for Christmas Eve tonight, including 2 kids and a nephew who will be dressing as Santa to entertain them, plus 2 pugs, 2 cats and 1 German Shorthair) and the time necessarily spent away from writing, my creative juices are flowing.

Because, after all,what we celebrate is a birth. Jesus_christmas_mary_268993_l

Whatever your religion the nativity story is an inspiring one.  Taken purely on a symbolic basis, it is a powerful allegory for what it takes to bring light to the world.  Both Joseph and Mary (who was a mere teenager) had to endure hardship, criticism from their communities, and undertake a grueling journey in order to birth their baby.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, but every creative project is a birth.  A creative life is made up of a whole series of them. And sometimes, along the way, we get overwhelmed with the demands of taking care of our babies.  Because, you know, infants and children are a flippin' demanding lot.  Sometimes it is helpful to step back and look at how we're dealing with them. So when the festivities are over, take out your pen and paper and ponder the following questions:

1. What am I birthing?

2. What do I need to let go of to bring it to fruition?

3. What do I need to start doing to facilitate it?

4. What do I need to stop doing?

5. How will I tend this project once I've brought it into the world?

And in the mean time, a Merry, Merry Christmas to all. 

Discover how you can get an online degree in social work.

Photograph by lumix 2004, via Everystockphoto.

The Magic of Believing

***Note: The regularly scheduled post on journaling will continue at its usual time tomorrow or Friday.  Until then, if you would like to read the series on journaling, you could start with Part One and then head to Part Two.

Every year during the holiday season, my family and I watch our favorite Christmas movies.  Our selection is pretty much based on which movies we happen to have on DVD, and those are tried and true oldies like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Love Actually, The Holiday, White Christmas, and the perennial favorite, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the animated version that Burl Ives narrates.  This past weekend, we watched a relative newcomer–Elf, starring Will Ferrell.

Buddy the Elf doesn't fit in at the North Pole, mainly because he is, well, human.  He sets off to find his real father in Manhattan, and in so doing spreads Christmas cheer throughout the jaded city.  Buddy manages to make even hardened ex-cons believe that there is a Santa.

I love this movie because it speaks to the power of believing.  Come to think of it, maybe the entire Christmas season speaks to the power of believing–that there is a Santa, that the days will grow longer and spring will come again, that a great spiritual teacher and savior was born, that miracles can and do happen.

When my two children were little, Christmas loomed large–for them and for me.  They had huge expectations to fulfill every year, which was mostly my part, because I'd bought into making Christmas a big deal.  There were cookies to bake, advent calendars to fill, events to attend and be part of–like the church Christmas pageant–and long, endless want lists to toys to buy.  It was exhausting.  I often marveled that year after year, Christmas happened, that mothers ran themselves ragged putting on this display.  I wondered if one year we'd all rebel and Christmas wouldn't happen.

But we never did, and I think that was because of the magic of believing.  We believed in the magic of Christmas and wanted to share that with our families.  We wanted our children to believe in Santa Claus, to believe in the miracle of Jesus's birth.  And so we continued on with our Christmas craziness.  All because of the nature of belief.

I thought about all of this again as I watched Elf last weekend.  And I started thinking about the magic of believing about things other than Christmas.  Such as:

What would your life looked like if you believed fervently that you were capable of creating the life you wanted?

What would you be doing right now if you believed fully and completely in yourself?

And here's the most important one:

What dream do you have for 2010 that could use a little magic of belief behind it?

Let's all help each other believe in ourselves next year, okay?  I plan to start by investing fully in the magic of Christmas over the next couple weeks.

**While you're in dreaming and believing mode, sign up for a free coaching session that can help guide you toward accomplishing your goals.  Go here for all the details–I've added dates in January!

Lessons From The Snow

Its been snowing in Portland since Saturday and now we have about a foot on the ground.  I know that Snow 070
most of you consider Oregon a northern state and you thus assume that we always get a lot of snow, but such is not the case.  Its been five years since we've gotten an appreciable snowfall, and 40 since we've had this big of a storm.

Because we don't get snow very often, it is not cost-effective to maintain a lot of equipment to clear it.  So despite the fact that the city employees work very hard to plow roads, they simply can't do enough in a situation like this.  And most motorists don't bother with buying chains. After all, if you only need them once every five years or so, there are more compelling things to put in the budget.

So I've been mostly stuck at home with a houseful of people, a sort of early Christmas house party.  Yesterday, going a bit stir-crazy, we all walked down to the Daily, which, thank you God, was open.  All pedestrians walked down the tire tracks in the street as the sidewalks are just too drifted with snow to allow easy passage.  Later, we found chains in the basement and spent an hour digging the car out and putting them on.  Um, when I say "we" I mean the royal we because I wasn't about to get anywhere near a snow shovel. 

And did I mention that I only started my Christmas shopping on Friday?  In a panic, I started ordering things online.  Since then, I've gotten notice that the packages have been shipped but none have arrived on my doorstep.  You think its because planes haven't been flying in and out of PDX? Or because even trucks with chains on them are getting stuck on the snowy streets?  Hmmm, I wonder.

You'd think I'd be getting tons of writing done, what with being snowbound and all.  Think again–all this is incredibly distracting.  And, I will admit, lots of fun.  But while I may not have been writing much, I have, of course been thinking.  What follows are my profound Thoughts having to do with snow.  And writing, of course.

1.  It will all be okay.  So the presents don't arrive in time, at least the kids are old enough to understand why.  I'll wrap up cards that tell what they were supposed to get.  Or we'll have another dinner later and unwrap the real presents.  There's not a lot I can do about it, so why spend energy worrying about it?

2.  Details are what make the story.  We know this. Of course we know this.  But it is one thing to hear on the radio that buses are having a hard time navigating the streets and yet another to talk to my son and have him tell me that he saw 10 buses stuck in the snow on his way home yesterday.  Or to talk to my sister who was riding a bus this morning and just as she answered my call it got stuck and everyone had to get off.  The whole lot of them walked off looking for a new bus and when it came, it was so full it zoomed on past.  Aren't those details more interesting than the bland radio report?

3.  Stepping away from the computer is good for the soul.  Shocking, I know, but since we've been having our non-stop house party every night we drink wine, eat dinner, and watch a Christmas movie.  News flash: this is fun.  Even more fun than hanging out on my computer, writing.  Amazing the things you learn in a pinch.

4.  Showing up is what counts.  You might not finish the whole damn novel, but you can write a scene of it.  Or a paragraph.  Or even a sentence.  I know, I beat this drum constantly and loudly but over the last couple of days I've seen again how effective it is to spend even a minute or two with whatever project you are lovingly shepherding.  What with the tumult in the house, I've been hard-pressed to find time for my client's projects, let alone my passion projects.  But spending a half hour with Emma Jean yesterday reminded me why I strive to make time to work on my novel–and it made me feel like I'd accomplished something so I could go watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation without guilt.

That is it, the sum total of my Thoughts after being cooped up for four days.  But, hark, the sun is out and could it be I just saw a drip coming off the roof?  Never mind that the forecast calls for more snow tonight…

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Gift Ideas for Writers: The Wordstrumpet Christmas List

Christmas season has officially begun and even though I went to an awesome wine tasting and sale last night, it wasn’t at a mall or even a traditional store so thus I did not officially participate in Black Friday.  I did, however, buy a handcrafted Christmas ornament and started getting in the spirit of the holiday.  And what better way to celebrate the start of the season then with a Christmas list?  I love lists of all kinds but especially Christmas and birthday lists.  What follows is The Wordstrumpet Christmas list, full of books and and various other items of possible interest to writers.  It is admittedly random, in no particular order, and based on my current obsessions, which may well change completely tomorrow, in which case I’ll write a new list.  Until then, here we go:
1.  While we are talking about awesome wine tastings and sales, why not buy gifts from a local artist or craftsperson?  There’s nothing more special than a hand-crafted present, whether you made it yourself or bought it from someone who did.  If you don’t know of any convenient local sources, try Etsy for a vast array of fabulous ideas.

2. The Ethical Executive. This book by Robert Hoyk is a must-read for everyone, not just executives, because it will help you steer a path through the sticky wickets of multiple ethical dilemmas.  I featured this book on a page on my sister site, Bookstrumpet, which you can see here.

3.  While we are on the topic of great books, how about a little Christmas cheer?   You can buy Christmas is a Season, on Amazon (see the handy button to the left) and read a story by none other than moi.

4.  While we are on the subject of Amazon, I am still coveting a Kindle., the new electronic reader.  When I travel, and I travel often, I cart pounds of books along with me.  I had to buy a rolling carry-on bag to save my shoulder and I’ve takeen to checking it planeside because it is so heavy from the books.  If I had a Kindle, I could load every title I wanted to read on it and save my arms.

5.  I’ve just discovered the author Will North, and I’m reading his novel, The Long Walk Home.  He’s being billed as a latter-day Robert James Waller (author of Bridges of Madison County) but trust me, he’s better.  Way better.  He’s a ghostwriter, like me, though I can’t claim quite the high-falutin’ clients that he can.

6.  A session with Suzanne Peters to clear out any blocks you might have around your writing career or your ability to put words on the page.  She’s doing an amazing new process called  and getting great results with it.

7.  Every writer needs a furry companion, and there’s no better choice for that than a pug.  If you’re in the Portland area, try the Pacific Pug Rescue to adopt a pug in need.

8.  I’m addicted to office supplies, especially the really cool, elegant ones that Levenger sells.  I could spend entire fortunes on office supplies and books, and be happy.  Well, I do like to buy clothes, too, but that’s a topic for someone else’s blog.

9.  I desperately need a new computer (Vaio, don’t fail me yet) and there’s no denying it, I want a Mac.  Blasphemy, since I’ve been a PC user for years, but there it is.

10.  There comes a time in every writer’s life when he or she needs some support, encouragement, or instruction. Why not consider signing up for The Writer’s Loft? You’ll get one-on-one instruction, working closely with a mentor.

11.  If you have a desperate need to learn more about writing fundraising letters, you can purchase the book I wrote on said topic here.     Good stuff, honestly.

12.  Make 2009 the year you write your book.  I’m starting an online program to teach you exactly how to do that.  Your book is your business card.  You need one to achieve the success you desire.  Stay tuned for more details on this program, coming soon!

13.  Lucky number thirteen bonus idea:  sign up for my newsletter, full of writing tips and ideas.  Or sign up one of your loved ones.  Its free!  All you have to do is provide your name and address in the handy box to the right.

Call for Submissions for Christmas Anthology

My good friend and colleague, Linda Busby Parker, is starting a new press!  Her first publication is going to be a Christmas anthology and she is accepting both fiction and non-fiction submissions for it. 

Linda is the author of Seven Laurels, which is a wonderful book that you should read, and she's one of the best fiction teachers I know.  She's a mentor at the writing program I direct, and she also teaches at colleges in and around Mobile, Alabama.  All this by way of saying that I know she's going to put together a great anthology.  I'm in the process of adapting a chapter from my first novel to submit at this very moment.

The guidelines follow.  Email Linda if you have questions, or contact me and I'll forward comments to her.


In search of well-written Christmas stories (fiction or non-fiction) for a new annual anthology, Christmas Is A Season: 2008. This anthology is being published by Excalibur Press and will be available early November, 2008. Short stories or works of non-fiction should have a Christmas theme and range between 700-5,000 (maximum) words in length. The deadline for submissions is September 20, 2008. The non-fiction pieces should take the form of a personal essay. Both fiction and non-fiction submissions should express some aspect of the spirit of Christmas: the meaning of Christmas; the religious significance of the season; the spirit of giving and receiving; peace; the meaning and importance of family at Christmas; Christmas charity; Christmas from a child’s point of view; the hustle-bustle of Christmas; the humor in the season; the sadness in the season; decorating for the holidays; the family feast; the Christmas blues; or any subject related to Christmas and what Christmas means or has meant to you. More than the narration of a single incident, each piece should tell a story, a complete narrative with an arc—building to a climactic moment and a falling away from that climactic moment in some form of resolution. The anthology will be paperback with a beautiful four-color cover.

What: Christmas stories (fiction or non-fiction) for a new anthology titled, Christmas Is A Season: 2008 to be released by Excalibur Press, early November 2008.

Word Limit: The stories and personal essays may range from 700 words to a maximum of 5,000 words. Longer pieces should be tightly edited and should offer considerable payback in terms of the quality and punch of the story or essay. (In longer pieces, every word should be essential!)

Deadline for Submissions: September 20, 2008.

Editor: Linda Busby Parker, Ph.D., MFA, author of Seven Laurels (a novel), winner of the James Jones First Novel Award and The Langum Prize for Historical Fiction.

Address for Submissions: (Submissions should be mailed via U.S. Post Office)

Excalibur Press

3090 Dauphin Square Connector

Mobile, Alabama 36607

Contact Information:

In compensation for the short stories or essays published, each contributor will receive one copy of the anthology, Christmas Is A Season: 2008. Each contributor will also receive a price reduction for each copy purchased.