Making Moments Count!

Several weeks ago I was honored to be named a finalist in this year’s Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain. The story I submitted, DANCING GRANNIES, I wrote to celebrate four of the most amazing women I had ever known- my grandmother and her sisters. These ladies survived the Great Depression, the loss of their mother to TB at very young ages (my grandmother was 8 when her mother passed), WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, race riots, the Cold War, countless recessions, and for some, had witnessed 9/11. But somehow, through all of it, they never lost their sense of humor or their love of music and dancing. My grandmother and her sisters- Mama Glad, Granny Grace, Aunt Julie and Aunt Rhody, could make music out of anything and clog the biggest mountain buck dancer under the table. They cooked, cleaned, worked, grew their own vegetables and canned what they cooked. They made cakes that were lighter than air and tasted like heaven, and biscuits that melted in your mouth. The joy of their lives was their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A few months ago my 92-year-old Mama Glad came to live with my parents.

She had remained independent after my grandfather died, and was proud of being able to make it on her own in her little mountain apartment. But when her health started to fail, she came back to Michigan. My children got to hear her tell stories. We laughed together and remembered. We sang some and talked some and I watched her smile and it was so good. But in the past few weeks she’s gone down hill quickly. It happens when your 92.

My kids and their grandparents! Mama Glad is sitting in the chair.
My kids and their grandparents! Mama Glad is sitting in the chair.

I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m a little shy about sharing my work with my family. I had never read DANCING GRANNIES to Mama Glad. So I took my computer down to mom’s house one morning to work and sit with her, and I finally read her my story. I had to speak loudly, and it made the story funnier and more lively. Every time I got to a line with her name in it, my Mama Glad smiled, laughed and said, “Well!” I read, and we laughed and this unplanned, incredibly special moment with me, my mom and my grandmother just happened.

And I’m glad it did, because a few days later she was admitted to the hospital. Now when I go to see her, the light in her eyes is fading more each day. If I read the story to her today, I don’t think she would hear very much of it. It’s a time when moments of recognition are few, and she’s spending as much time resting and listening for voices on the other side of the veil as she is to those in her hospital room.

But such is this journey we call life. We live, we work, we love, and then we graduate to something so much more. I’m glad I looked for that just-right moment to share and took it when it came. You never know when those moments will be gone.

So this Holiday Season, I encourage you to look for special moments. It’s hard with all the busyness, but they are there. And finding them and holding them tightly is the best gift you’ll ever receive.

Sensibility- Look for special moments during the holidays that feed your soul and your writing life.

Sense- Balancing work and life during busy times of the year takes effort. Plan your writing day so there is time to reflect and time to celebrate.

What special moments do you remember from past holidays?


It’s the Season of Giving!

It’s official, the Christmas season is in full swing at our house!

Our Christmas tree!

I’m almost finished decorating, and I’ve actually purchased and mailed one Christmas present (for me that’s way ahead of the game). I was feeling pretty good about things until I actually looked at the calendar this morning. Yikes! I’ve only got 23 days to finish everything on my list. No matter what holiday you celebrate, I’m sure you’ve had that moment of panic yourself a time or two. What is it about this time of year that pushes us to make everything perfect? Down to the right stocking stuffers and yummy smells coming from the oven, we need to give our families an amazing holiday experience to feel fulfilled every December.

But isn’t that true about writing as well? We feel the need to adjust every comma, place every period in that just-right spot, take out words, add words, rearrange words…and that’s before we ever show a story to a critique group, much less submit it to an agent or publisher. The writing life is like preparing for Christmas every day of the year. Being that perfect all the time is exhausting—and I hate to tell you this—impossible.

So how can we writers take our imperfect selves and make this holiday season one of great inspiration and productivity? By giving back. Yes, you heard right—give back. With each word you write you give something of yourself to this world. Hopefully, what you write fills others with joy, hope and the promise of a better tomorrow. What’s the use of it otherwise? But as a writer, you can also give to others in ways unique to what you do.

So for the next few weeks, turn off your computer for an hour or so, set that manuscript aside, and try these “give back” writing ideas:

  • Offer to critique a writer friend’s work that you’ve never reached out to before. Not a critique exchange, just an offer of help to someone you know is struggling with a new manuscript.
  • Volunteer to read books to homeless children during a Christmas party or after serving meals.
  • Donate books to your public library or get your critique group together and purchase a few new books for a needy classroom or school library.
  • Advertise your friend’s books to others for gift ideas. Authors need all the help they can get when it comes to selling what they’ve created.
  • Help an adult or child learn to read.

Taking time away from your work to give back may feel like you’re not doing your job. But I promise you’ll get back more from the giving than you ever thought possible.

Sensibility- Writing is a gift that is unique to you. Find ways to share that gift with others this holiday season.

Sense- Work hard on your writing, but don’t forget to enjoy these days of celebration. They only come once each year, so learn to savor every moment.


What are other ways you can give back this holiday season? Share your ideas here!