Christmas in my home means a lot of things. It means dusting off the decorations I put away in January, taking a moment to admire each one and perhaps reminisce about the person who made or gifted it before finding a place to display it for the season. It means digging out stained and splattered recipe cards, coating the kitchen with flour in pursuit of familiar flavors: gingerbread and spiced cranberry and peppermint. And the celebrations of the season wouldn’t be complete without pulling old friends off the bookshelf and getting reacquainted with Scrooge and Marley, Saint Nicholas, and of course those incorrigible Herdman children.
In short, holidays are about tradition. And that’s exactly why you should consider adding a holiday story to your writing lineup. Whether it’s Halloween or Hanukkah, Thanksgiving or Talk Like A Pirate Day, including holidays in your writing can earn your story a treasured place in your readers’ seasonal routines.
One of the most famous holiday stories is A Christmas Carol. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you are undoubtedly familiar with the miserly old grump’s supernatural stroll through his memories in search of a change of heart. The word “scrooge” doesn’t even belong solely to the character anymore, but to every penny-pinching misanthrope, just like every lip balm is called chapstick. You either die a hero, or live long enough to become a generic noun.
You’d think a story this universal must have launched with a multi-bajillion dollar ad campaign and the backing of a powerful publishing tycoon, but no—after his usual publisher rejected it, Charles Dickens decided to self publish the book. It was released just ten days before Christmas, and yet the initial print run sold out well before the holiday arrived. You don’t need any gatekeeper’s approval to send a great story out into the world. And a great holiday story will inspire its readers to come home to your words year after year.
Of course it may be a tad ambitious to aspire to A Christmas Carol’s readership and cultural impact. The other benefit of holiday stories takes just the opposite path, in fact—finding an unexplored niche. If the holidays that capture your heart are not of the over-commercialized variety, you may be able to remedy a serious lack of representation in the market. And by speaking to people who feel the same way, you can cultivate a loyal and enthusiastic readership. (Believe it or not, one of my favorite books includes a chapter about Arbor Day.) So if you want to add some literary traditions to your Ramadan, Holi, Purim, Winter Solstice, or Pi(e) Day celebrations and find your options lacking, maybe it’s time to write the stories you want to see in the world.
(Note: Relatively Normal Secrets has great fall vibes, but sadly, it does not take place over a holiday. Fortunately, my next work in progress features two of them!)
Publication Date: July 6, 2021
Tuesday and Zed Furst are perfectly normal children with perfectly strange parents. Their father won’t discuss his job, their mother never leaves the house without her guard dog, and the topic of the family tree is off limits.
When a last minute “business trip” gets the adults out of the way, Zed and Tuesday decide to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Too bad some thugs with shape-shifting weapons have other ideas. Their escape leaves them trapped in the modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim, where everyone insists their father is a disgraced fugitive. They hope whoever is leaving them coded clues may have some answers, but they’re not sure they’re going to like what they learn.
If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll need the help of a smuggler with a broken compass, their unusually talented dog, some extremely organized bandits, and a selection of suspiciously misquoted nursery rhymes.
Zed and Tuesday may not have all the answers, but one thing is certain—when it comes to normal, everything is relative.
C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.
She recently settled in the high desert of rural Utah with her husband, their three children, and a noisy flock of orphaned ideas. Someday she will create literary homes for all of them. (The ideas, not her family.)
Relatively Normal Secrets (Cinnabar Moth Publishing, Fall 2021) is her debut novel. She writes fantasy novels for tweens, picture books for children, and short stories and poems for former children. Her work will appear in numerous anthologies in 2021. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing.
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