Since 1968 I’ve sent out a dutiful Christmas letter each December that had three major intentions. Touching base with friends and family was always a given, but exercising my writing skill and incorporating a historical timeline were ulterior motives. Each of our children will someday benefit from a Christmas binder of letters that includes a parallel view of the family in changing times, along with some family photos and greeting cards through the years.
When the nest thinned out, we opted to take Christmas photos of hub and I with one or more of the animals left in our domestic “zoo.” In my Pride and Prejudice phase, we rented costumes and posed as Darcy and Elizabeth with our favorite white Arabian. Another year, we posed in bathing suits on a snow-covered patio, enjoying summer drinks. “Greetings from tropical Minnesota” topped that year’s newsletter.
Keeping the letter witty, cheerful and held to one or two sides of a single page was often a challenge. Running an impromptu wildlife preserve on our woodsy Minnesota acreage the last few decades, however, provided a wealth of material. (I count four children and even their children among “wildlife” which included horses, deer, turkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, birds, snakes, rodents and even a pygmy goat and a pelican.)
After the holidays, I always regretted time constraints that squelched focus on more than the occasional article or feature for a local paper or magazine. Somewhere deep inside those spurts of creativity the Great American Novel fluttered impatient wings. When I did carve out time in my busy life to freelance—that demanding novel raged and pouted over the put-off. Things began to pop when I joined a few National Writing Associations and began to attend their writer conferences.
After placing in a short story competition , the judge wrote a letter begging me to continue the story. An agent at a Las Vegas Writers Conference suggested I write a novella first, then pursue the longer novel I finally got around to pitching. I took their collective advice and my debut novel, “The Accidental Wife,” was scooped up by Wild Rose Press and released in 2015 to good reviews and several awards. Confidence surged into motivation. With an empty nest and only one dog left in our menagerie, I had no more excuses!
I write full time now, churning out ideas once suppressed by time. The vanity license plate on my hot little red car expresses it all. “Novel CJ” is finally in gear. Book Two, “The Accidental Stranger” will be released January 6th in my “Accidental” series. The annual Christmas letter is morphing into a newsletter put out bi-monthly for fans. It is no accident; there is never a time-stamp on creativity or new careers. Never too late to promote delayed dreams! And to think…it all began with one of those much maligned, dutiful Christmas letters.