Saturday, December 9, 2017

Revisiting "Little Women" at Christmas

My favorite novel with Christmas scenes is Little Women. If you’ve never read at least the first two chapters of the book, I suggest you do. (You can download it free from Amazon.) And of course, part of the book’s charm for those of us who love to read and write is young Josephine’s portrayal as a budding playwright and author.

Louisa May Alcott paints a picture of Christmas excitement and cheer, challenge and heartbreak, kindness and giving through the young March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy; their mother, whom they call Marmee; and their neighbor, Mr. Laurence. One reason I love this book is that those Christmas chapters written in 1868 are devoid of the twenty-first century holiday hype and commercialism that today are barely held back before November arrives.

Yet here we all are, living in the twenty-first century. How can the kind of meaningful Christmas I see in Little Women, and perhaps we would all like to see in our own lives, be portrayed in contemporary Christmas stories and scenes to give readers more than a passing glance? What would we love to see?

Here are a few ideas, taken from this beloved nineteenth-century novel, for not only writing Christmas for characters, but for planning our own most meaningful Christmas experiences. 

  • Giving specifically thoughtful gifts. Beth makes and monograms new handkerchiefs for her mother with “Mother” rather than her initials, M.M., to ensure they won't be mixed up with Meg’s. 
  • Keeping Christmas activities simple, perhaps centering around church or a community center, or a gathering of friends. Marmee allows Jo and her sisters to invite a group of friends to their home on Christmas Day for a play they produce and perform themselves. 
  • Sharing an especially touching Christmas experience from a book or movie. I don’t know if the books she read had any Christmas scenes, but Jo could cry over a heartfelt story as well as anybody (see chapter 3). 
  • Making a significant sacrifice, putting aside tendency to focus on self. The March sisters overcome their own selfish desires to not only provide comforting presents for their weary mother, but to give up their Christmas breakfast for a family in desperate need. 
  • Spreading unexpected joy. After learning about the March family's kind gesture to the mother and children in need, Mr. Laurence sends a special treat to the sisters and their guests. Not every sacrifice will be met with gifts, but sometimes kind deeds spur others to kindness. And of course . . . 
  • Intentionally keeping Christ in Christmas. The March sisters’ chaplain father is away at the war, which is part of the reason they’ve come upon challenging financial times. Though on Christmas morning fifteen-year-old, spirited Jo is momentarily disappointed she has no stocking full of gifts, she quickly appreciates how meaningful Marmee's gift to each of her daughters is: a personal copy of the book with “that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived.”  

May you have a meaningful and merry Christmas, dear writers and friends, and blessings all through the year. 

photo credit of card:

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries 
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren, with foster grandchildren in their lives on a regular basis.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Running Ahead OR One Step Behind?

First Day of Nanowrimo! Oh, I am pumped. My pantser instincts are gung ho. Fifteen hundred words under my belt in less than two hours. Budgeting three hours a day on this project should work well.
My story’s ambitious. Women’s fiction, complicated relationships, moving back and forth in the times of their lives. Fifty thousand words should be a snap.

Second week of Nanowrimo begins. The story is unfolding nicely. I have notes all over the place. Now to find that one detail I wrote down…
Life keeps getting in the way. I need a new phone. I have three blogs to get done this week. My husband would appreciate a home-cooked dinner. I absolutely must clean the bathrooms.
I’m tired.

This story stinks. I’m stuck. What should my main character do next? Any conversation that comes to mind sounds boring. Not worth the time to type it.
I’ll try again tomorrow.

11/30/17 I won! 51,251 words toward my new novel!

Those of you who have tried National Novel Writing Month, does any of this sound familiar? This is my seventh Nanowrimo, and I follow the same pattern every time.
Week One: rarin’ to go.
Week Two: slowin’ down.
Week Three: dead in the water.
Week Four: the grand push forward.

I’ve succeeded at fifty thousand words twice. Would the year I completed forty-four thousand count as an honorary runner-up?

Here’ s what I've discovered. 

I must ask the Holy Spirit to lead. I’ll follow, one short step behind. By checking with Him first before I initiate anything, He can arrange my day in the best sequence for tasks to be accomplished. That includes my ability to get words from my mind into a written form, an obvious necessity during the frantic month of November.

If I will only walk with the Holy Spirit as He sends me on paths of discovery in my plot and getting to know my characters, I always have plenty of words to type that are satisfactory. 

Those other four years when I didn’t finish? I knew what to write. I dictated where the story was going, and I didn’t bother to ask for guidance when sitting down at the computer. I ran ahead of the Spirit. And galloped off in the wrong direction.

In spite of knowing how much I need His guidance, I still tend to drift down my own path. It takes purposeful reminders to wait for direction. This week I’ll get back on track. I know my story has promise. It’s worth the write, and it’s worth a prayer of seeking God’s inspiration before placing fingertips on the keyboard.

Whether we participate in Nanowrimo or not, everything we write can only improve as we choose to follow Him, one step behind.

I don’t think I’m alone in my tendency to run ahead. Do you have a story to share about your own writing journey with the Lord, a confession of when you wandered off and dead-stopped in quicksand? Or a celebration of a project where every step was in sync with the Spirit? I’d enjoy  reading about it! 

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. When she's not involved with Nanowrimo, she concentrates on the middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.
Where Linda can be found on the web: