The Little Christmas Book That Could–and Did!


christmas-carol-2A Christmas Carol
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Charles Dickens called it his “little Christmas book,” and he hoped that this hastily penned story could bring in enough money to pay the bills. The checks had stopped coming. Even though Dickens was an established author, work had slowed down.

The idea for his story came on a long night-walk through London. Dickens often walked at night, sometimes 15 or 20 miles, and as he walked he thought about the miserable poor. Many worked so hard, but they had nothing to show for it. On that night, Dickens identified with them.

He returned home, and he wrote. Dickens wrote feverishly for six weeks, laughing and weeping over his characters and his words. When writer’s block struck, he walked it out wandering the streets of London looking for inspiration. He finished A Christmas Carol at the end of November just in time for Christmas.—

In fact, this week, on December 17, we celebrate the 174th anniversary of its publication.

Dickens’ little Christmas book that he hoped could bring in enough money to pay the bills did! It became an instant bestseller. Dickens’ celebrated. In his own words, he “broke out like a madman.”

A Christmas Carol helped to change the way Victorian England celebrated Christmas. In the 19th Century, Christmas was a quiet holiday and not the big celebration that it is today; however, the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from a cold miser to a joyful philanthropist encouraged others in the act of giving. It brought joy into the bleak mid-winter.

Just six weeks after its publication, A Christmas Carol was performed on stage, first in London and then in New York. The little Christmas book that could kept on going, and Charles Dickens, the penniless author, became world-famous. The words of his rushed little book lived on in stage productions, musicals and films. A Christmas Carol has never gone out of print—and it likely never will.

Merry Christmas to you, my readers. And God Bless You, Every One.

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22 Holiday Gift Ideas for Writers

giftsforwritersIt’s time again for my annual list of holiday gifts for writers. From extravagant to simple, you’re sure to find something on this list for writer friends (or your own list for Santa!) I’ve linked some  gifts to their source; for others a quick search online will lead to multiple options. Okay? Let’s go . . .

Starting with extravagant:

homeworkspaceideasA personal domain name and gift certificate for web page design. A web page is one way authors display their work and connect with potential readers. If you know someone who isn’t tech savvy and really wants a web site, this is THE gift.

A writing retreat. A short stay at a B&B, cottage, or other getaway spot where your writer friend can have uninterrupted writing time. The poet Maya Angelou did this. She’d book a hotel room in the city where she lived just to get away from home and write.

A one-year membership in the writers group of his/her choice. Memberships in these groups are in the $60 to $100 range. A Christian fiction writer might prefer the ACFW. Children’s book authors will enjoy the SCBWI. There are other groups. It’s best to let your writer friend choose. If your person already belongs to a group, consider sending him or her to one of the group’s conferences, all expenses paid!

An office make-over. This is a “honey-do” gift! Treat your writer wife, hubby or significant other to the home office he or she has always wanted.

Now, on to some less expensive, practical ideas:

89A digital voice recorder. This gift is perfect for the author who gets brilliant ideas in the middle of the night or where writing them down isn’t convenient. Check out Omnicore for a list of the 15 best digital voice recorders in 2017.

“Nite Note Light Up Note Pad.” Maybe your writer friend prefers to write thoughts that come in the night. This inexpensive ($10) light-up note pad allows him or her to jot down notes in bed without turning on a light.

A gift certificate to Audible. Writers read! So, give them the gift of books. The Audible app makes listening to books easy.  The first month trial is free. After that it’s $14.95/month. You can cancel any time.

BLACK+DECKER Brew ‘n Go Personal Coffeemaker with Travel Mug.” How about a single cup, compact coffee brewer for your writer’s home office? This affordable (under $20 on Amazon) machine brews a perfect 15-ounce cup and keeps it hot in an insulated, stainless steel mug.

A few jewelry gifts:

il_570xN.923171697_t9nxPersonalized book cover necklace. This is one of my favorites. Perfect for a published author. Have her book cover made into a pendant! Find it on Etsy for $30. And, while you’re on Etsy, search “gifts for writers and book lovers”.

Author pendant. Another Etsy find. This simple necklace just says “Author” on a lined paper background.

Watches for writers. Zazzle.com offers a nice selection of wristwatches for writers. Price range is around $50 and up.

Several reference books that writers will appreciate:

51EF+jaClOL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_The Writer’s Market 2018. This is the go-to guide for finding contact information for thousands of publishers along with submission requirements. If your person writes specifically for children, then get The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2018.

Guide to Literary Agents 2018. Securing a literary agent will help writers get the best book deal possible from a traditional publisher. Over 1000 agents are listed here with contact and submission information.

The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide. If you know a writer who wants to self-publish a book but doesn’t know how, this guide is the perfect gift. Another option is Amazon’s A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers: How to Print-on-Demand with CreateSpace & Make eBooks for Kindle & Other eReaders. I like this one because it includes formatting information.

Some fun stocking stuffers:

pencil_socks_packThe Coloring Book for Writers: An Inspirational Brainstorming Tool. (two volumes available). These combine coloring activities with prompts, inspirational quotes and activities to get creative juices flowing. ($8.95 on Amazon)

Pencil Socks. Aren’t these fun? From the Literary Gift Company. This UK company has a US version, so be sure to select it in the drop-down menu at the top of the page. And browse their other literary gifts. You’ll find tons of ideas!

“Writer” Vinyl Car Window Decal. This removable car window sticker tells passersby that an author is at the wheel. From RedNebulaStudios on Etsy.

T-Shirts for Writers. You’ll find a bunch on Amazon. Click on this link, or go to Amazon.com and search “writer tshirt”.

Random ideas:

coffeeSweats. There’s nothing better than throwing on a comfy pair of sweats before settling in to write.

A Coffee Gift Card. This can be as simple as a gift card for Starbucks (or your person’s favorite coffee shop), or a more expensive option–coffee to brew. One of my favorite coffee companies is Door County Coffee from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. They offer some scrumptious flavors. Watch for sales and free shipping.

This One Costs Nothing! Offer your services as an office assistant. Do printing, organizing, cleaning, or whatever else your person needs to free their time for writing.

And, finally, this:

Every author needs a cat nestled on the lap or near the keyboard, or a dog sleeping at his or her feet. Adopt one from your local animal shelter!

Cat_Dog_computer.jpg

Now, get going and have fun shopping!

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Lydia Maria Child–Who Was She and What Made Her Famous?

cover-lydia-reader-copy-1.jpgLydia Maria Child, one of the first American women to earn her living as a writer. You might not know her name, but you know the words that made her famous.

Read on!

Born Lydia Francis in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1802, she detested her first name and preferred being called “Maria”.  As a child, she received her education in a most unconventional way by an eccentric teacher. James Parton, author of Noted Women of Europe and America, tells us:

“She received the best part of her education from circumstances, rather than from schools. Her first teacher was a certain Ma’am Betty of local celebrity, who was extremely untidy in her habits, kept her school in her bedroom, chewed tobacco, and continually lamented, as the never-to-be-forgotten catastrophe of her life, that Governor Brooks had once seen her drinking from the nose of her tea-kettle. Whatever may have been the other qualities that fitted this amiable lady for the position she occupied, it is at least certain that her pupils became attached to her, and it was their unfailing habit to carry to her a Sunday dinner.

osv-3At Thanksgiving, too, she shared the wide charity of the Francis household, where it was the custom at this genial season to summon to a preliminary feast in the large kitchen all the workmen, besides some of the obscurer friends and dependents of the family. Pumpkin pies of vast extent baked in milk-pans were there served to them; a chicken pie of immense size graced the center of the table, surrounded by large dishes containing a profusion of doughnuts, turnovers, and other like delicacies. The little girl was of course present on these occasions to enjoy the pleasure of the guests, and doubtless, also, for she was a healthy, hungry child, to appropriate a few stray cakes and tarts to her own use.

It was at the age of twelve, while visiting her married sister in Skowhegan, Maine, that the idea of adopting literature as a pursuit first occurred to her.”

american-winter-scene--a-country-cabin--lithorgaph--91664531-570909f23df78c7d9ed6b7e3Maria’s career as an author began with a popular series of advice books for women (The American Frugal Housewife). Later, she wrote historical novels, anti-slavery literature and edited an early American magazine for children for which she earned a steady income of $300 per year. But it was one poem that made her famous, a poem that celebrated her childhood memories of visiting her grandfather’s house on Thanksgiving Day. You know the words. (Almost everyone does!) Here are the first two stanzas:

The New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day. . . .

800px-Grandfather's_House,_Medford,_Massachusetts

Grandfather’s House

Surprisingly, no one seems to know who wrote the melody for “Over the River and Through the Woods” or whether Lydia lived to hear it. She died in the fall of 1880 at age 78.

“She died in 1880, tranquilly and unexpectedly. Her funeral took place on a half-clouded October day when the ground was strown [sic] with the red and gold of fallen autumn leaves. Her pall-bearers were chosen from among the farmers of the neighborhood, who were all her friends, and as her coffin was lowered into the grave the sun burst forth, and a perfect rainbow spanned the eastern sky.” (James Parton, Noted Women of Europe and America)

 The real Grandfather’s house still exists in Medford, Massachusetts near the Mystic River. Sadly, the woods have long since disappeared.

Here is the entire poem:

I hope that all of you enjoy a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!
I’ll see you back here in December.

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