Tree Ornaments, Reading Tips, and Other Midweek Reflections

  1. Just because you’re allergic to a Christmas tree doesn’t (apparently) mean you’re allergic to all of them.
  2. It took our fake tree breaking to try again, even though we live in Christmas-tree land here in Oregon.
  3. All my favorite holiday ornaments are handmade–by me or my husband, by my little ones, by our mothers and grandmothers, and by special family friends.
  4. Live Christmas trees can fall over, even in houses without cats.
  5. I think this was taken in the 90s in San Francisco.

    I think this was taken in the 90s in San Francisco.

    Even the precious fragile ornaments on our tree are surprisingly resilient.

  6. If your friend’s dad takes a picture of you with your mouth open, that’s embarrassing, but it’s even more embarrassing as a tree ornament.
  7. After many years of hanging this particular ornament annually, it has become not an embarrassment at all, but a friend. A welcoming back in time with the quick unwrap of a bit of tissue paper. A moment, sealed, in a long friendship of fun, sad, silly, quiet, contemplative moments like this one.
  8. When invited to read, practice your piece, and time it, before reading in public, especially when you are allotted a certain number of minutes.
  9. If you want photos of yourself reading, teach someone how to use your camera in advance and hand it off before your turn to read.
  10. Public readings are contagious. Words are contagious. Laugh and nod and applaud like crazy, because the energy of the audience feeds into the performance. It becomes more than one person’s words that way. It becomes an experience, like live theater or music.
  11. It’s okay to laugh or cry on stage–something human, a reaction to the moment, or (in my case) to the sound of laughter rippling around me. A first-time reader choked up for a moment during her own story last night and it was so incredibly touching. It brought us all that much deeper into the world she has created.
  12. Do not take a decongestant or antihistamine thirty minutes before reading to a crowd of 80 people. A potential sneeze or sniffle, whether from a seasonal cold or allergies, is way better to risk than a totally dry mouth, where every “s” gets stuck to the roof of your mouth.
  13. If you take a decongestant, for the love of everything, bring your water bottle up on stage and do not leave it six rows back under your chair where you start fantasizing about it while trying to wet your lips so they will open enough to spit out the next word.
  14. Not sending out holiday cards means fewer holiday cards received, but that’s okay. Sometimes we have to take shortcuts.
  15. Make things. Give things. They will be cherished. Even the quickest littlest things when there’s no time or extra money to make or buy something bigger.
  16. Yesterday my press received a huge gift from Cheryl Strayed, ofΒ Wild fame, who tweeted and Facebooked this link to our upcoming anthology. Instant incredible website traffic! Such a gift, that sort of exposure. So thankful for her kindness today, and I don’t even know her, although she’s friends with some of my friends.
  17. Keep your website in order in case lightning strikes like that; it’s obviously time to write the back-cover marketing paragraph.
  18. I am better at giving away books than I am keeping an accounting log of the books I have given away.
  19. Giving is more fun, anyway, isn’t it?

Happy holidays, everyone!

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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15 Responses to Tree Ornaments, Reading Tips, and Other Midweek Reflections

  1. Love this list, Laura!! I’d love to know more about the tree falling over – reading that instantly brought to mind visions of Chevy Chase πŸ˜‰

    • Ha! We sent our kiddo down to water and she shouted about needing to come downstairs quick. It must have fallen while we were out. I’m guessing it was because the little one had been pulling ornaments off the front of the tree, unbalancing it. She said “uh oh!” for the first time upon seeing it there on the ground.

  2. Oh my! Whenever I think of falling Christmas trees, I think of the fabled story of my great-grandfather who, after several incidents with a tipsy tree, decided to nail it to the wall. : )

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    I love the list! And how I wish conference presenters would heed your advice in #8! I don’t know if there’s a more long-winded group out there than a bunch of archaeologists giving papers. πŸ˜‰ Even without the antihistamines and decongestants, water is a must. And I think that Christmas tree adventure would make a fabulous story. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

    • Ha! Yes, next time I will NOT leave the water six rows back under my chair. If it had been a press event, I could have excused myself and grabbed it, but it was a holiday celebration for another organization, so I just tried to swallow and lick my lips and continue! Speaking of archaeologists, I’m reading Artifact, a cozy mystery novel by Gigi Pandian, and there are archaeologist characters. It’s about a missing treasure and very fun, very well written. You might enjoy it, jm!

  4. I still have all the old-fashioned decoupage ornaments I made when my oldest was a baby. She is now 40. πŸ™‚ And they bedeck the Douglas fir we cut down each year.

  5. #1 – True of cats, too

    #6 – Better an ornament than a viral photo on Facebook πŸ™‚

    #12 & #13 – When you’re on stage, you own that time and space. If you need water, ask. Somebody will produce some. As in #11, it’s a human reaction. Nothing wrong with that.

    #16 – Great!!

    • #1 – ha!

      #6 – One of my friends and her sister ended up in one of those awful family photo collections that went viral.

      #12/13 – I only had seven minutes, and the piece I cut out of my story ran that long, and I was about a page from the end when I was desperate, so I went through with it. Many people praised my reading, afterwards, and the two people I confessed to about the decongestant said they couldn’t tell. Someone even asked me to record audio books, so I guess it wasn’t that apparent. It felt awful, though!

      #16, yes definitely great!

  6. 4amWriter says:

    Merry Christmas, Laura. I love #14, that is so true. I haven’t sent cards out two years running, and obviously people are paying me back. I feel really bad about it, because I was known for not just sending them out early (like the first week of December), but also because they were always handmade.

    Oh well, maybe next year.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    • Kate, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’m the same way–always handmade cards, and always with production starting around Halloween so we could send them out in early December. Alas, not this year. I did end up cheating with a box of pre-made cards, sent to some of the longtime family friends on the list, around Dec. 21! It was a lot faster and easier than my usual, but not as satisfying. Maybe next year indeed! I’m eyeing a beautiful card by a friend’s family that’s a single piece of paper folded into a book, and each family member had a page. So lovely.

  7. Jessie says:

    In the third grade, I won an award for a short story I wrote and was asked to read it in front of the whole school. I didn’t think that much of it, until it was my time to read, and I realized that it was super embarrassing for me to say the name of the character I created. It was some sort of nonsensical name like Wooweeb and he was from a planet called Wobbilywoo. I panicked about kids laughing (the wrong way) at my character and worried that I would look silly.
    I made the seemed-good-at-the-time decision to speed mumble through my story.
    No one could understand the weird names I said because they couldn’t understand a single word that came out of my mouth. It was one of the more embarrassing moments of my young life.
    So here’s another vote for the benefits of preparation before a public reading!
    Happy New Year Laura!

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