It can be hard, reinventing the wheel. Every holiday season, the same challenges and opportunities roll around–and every author is forced to decide: this one, or that one? Host a reading at the library, or coordinate a potluck and book sale at home? Or, worst of all, there’s the option of letting the holidays slide–of letting them drift away in a haze of busy schedules and truly important family and social demands–without making use of them as an author.
My suggestion? Host a holiday writing party! This isn’t your plain-Jane reading or book sale, although you could definitely incorporate elements of those tried-and-trues into your new plan. No–a writing party is much more inclusive and much more fun for kids of all ages (“from one to ninety-two” as Nat King Cole would put it). And while you are still the facilitator and secret power-broker behind the scenes of a writing party, you’re not the sole event–and at this time of year, that’s a blessing! No really, one can only pull off the holidays if one is expected to carry every burden. And typically, once the idea of a writing party is broached, everyone is eager to pitch in!
If you’re thinking “Hey! That’s not such a bad idea!” then I have a couple of suggestions, based on prior experience (I love these parties!):
- Have everyone bring a dish, and in a twist have them steer clear of the typical holiday goodies, which everyone will very soon be sick of from sheer quantity–candies and cookies and so forth. Instead, have them bring something inspired by one of their favorite books! Kids might find something in Redwall to inspire, and there is an entire genre dedicated to “geek cookbooks” online, where you can find cookbooks (official and unofficial) with recipes from The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Little House on the Prairie, among others … so this is not such a difficult challenge to meet. (And adults: there are endless lists of cocktails inspired by literature out there, so don’t be afraid to crack open that bar after the kids go to bed!)
- Dedicate a part of your session just to snacking. It’s worth it, and it gets the chatting and the fiddling and the greasy fingers out of the way before the serious work begins. There’s usually a quiet lull in the conversation about twenty minutes in which serves as a nice segway–but again, everyone’s party should be tailored to suit your specific vision! Just make sure that food is stored away from the writing table, since messes do tend to happen–and everybody has a favorite “loud chewing sound” story! (Hot beverages are usually handy at the table, though.)
- Then, get down to business. You’ll know what this ought to look like when it happens, and when it feels right. Every book club, writing club, and party has its own rhythm, but don’t worry–you’ll know. Sometimes it’s helpful to keep a timer nearby, or to set one up on your phone–breaking writing up into a couple of shorter sessions with quick snack and bathroom breaks in between is one way to keep everyone’s blood moving and energy up. And if that doesn’t cut it, consider leading a couple of breathing activities or even–yes!–yoga moves! Studies indicate significant improvements to focus in intellectual activities when the body is kept active and balanced. (It helps with carpal tunnel syndrome, too. Shake out those cramped wrists and fingers!) Oh–and don’t forget to offer up a couple of writing “prompts” for anyone in need of inspiration, and gear them towards your audience. Adults may want to write fiction–or letters to loved ones at Christmas. Kids might want to doodle or draw, or slay a dragon in five paragraphs or fewer!
- Wrap up with a quick reflection. Try to steer clear of putting any one person on the spot, but offer up a couple of open questions about books, characters, challenges, and more. At this point, or as the last writing session is wrapping up, you can begin bringing the snacks to the writing table. The goal is for everyone to reach a point of total relaxation and contentment, and holiday joy.
Be inspired. There are so many shapes and forms your writing party might take–it may look nothing like the one I’ve described here–it might be outside, with just a couple of friends, or inside, with a pack of small children looking on. It could be held at the library! Or at your kitchen table. There’s no one way to hold a writing party–but a writing party is the best kind of party. After all, like the adult coloring movement–like Knit Night–like quilting and gardening and origami and yoga and meditating on one’s reading, writing is an activity which triggers serotonin release, calm, peace, and rejuvenation in those who take part in it. We can’t think of a better way to kick the holiday stress than by hosting a writing party!
What do you think? Will you have a chance to host an event this Christmas season? We’d love to hear about it. Drop us a line in the comments section below.
You are not alone. ♣︎