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Monday, December 19, 2011

Dazzling Distractions: How do writers survive the holidays?

How do writers keep writing amidst the many distractions of the holiday season? I admit, it's tough. Especially when your mom is visiting from the West Coast, and your child's school vacation days hit, which means more creative desk time scheduling. But over the past week, I gave in. I actually crawled out of my writing cave to join the merry makers. I drank some egg nog, strung Christmas lights on two shrubs, saw the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, sang non-denominational seasonal carols at the Solstice Assembly at my son's school (seriously), set up a Christmas tree, decorated for Hanukkah, and participated in several other seasonal festivities.

Here are two highlights:

I took my mom and little guy to a wonderful exhibit at the Concord Museum here in Massachusetts. Concord -- home of literary luminaries Emerson, Alcott, and Thoreau -- has a strong literary tradition, which is honored every December in their stellar Family Trees exhibit. Thirty-six Christmas trees are displayed throughout the museum, each decorated by a professional artist, and they all honor children's books, picking up on images from the book's illustrations or storylines. Every tree focuses on a particular book. This year, my favorites included a Pippi Longstocking tree with red yarn hair braided throughout, a Polar Express tree with a streamlined train spiraling down on a track, and a Hundred Dresses tree that actually wore a dress (pictured on the right). The trees are placed throughout the old building, amidst historical artifacts, and often integrated into the exhibits themselves. The Little Women tree was in an recreated 19th-century bedroom, for example, and the Polar Express tree made a strikingly modern contrast to Ralph Waldo Emerson's study. Place by each tree is a tiny antique chair and a copy of the corresponding book. My mom and I had a wonderful time letting my son choose what trees to sit by and we read about eight picture books during our visit.

The other big event for me this month was my taiko drumming performance. The group I study taiko drumming with stages a Winter Extravaganza every December. It's fun to hear what other classes have been working on all semester, and to share our love of this art form (a combination of martial arts, music, dance, and vocalization) with fellow drummers as well as people who've never experienced it before. I survived the song my class played -- it was a difficult one -- and we had amazing solo artists perform with us. That was a new challenge for me, keeping a beat going while soloists did their own thing. It's a lot harder than it looks! I'll post a video once it's available.

TOKYO HEIST also made an appearance at the taiko show too -- on the silent auction table! I donated one galley copy to see if it might help raise some money for our organization. I was thrilled to see people actually leafing through the book and bidding on it, and the pre-published copy went to a classmate of mine. It was also fun -- and kind of surreal -- to see the book on the table next to things like an autographed Red Sox baseball, an art museum membership, theatre tickets, and Japanese art objects!

Despite some lost work days, I'm glad I fought my usual winter impulse to be a hermit. After logging a lot of computer hours this year, it's been good to get out in the world, to experience other forms of art, and to reconnect with family and friends. I've fed my imagination in various ways -- for zero calories!

What are your highlights of the holidays so far? What's fed your imagination and your soul?

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