Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Guest Post by Teresa Edgerton


(Ha! You all thought I was going to talk about writing, didn't you?) 

The Christmas season is almost here.  As far as the retailers are concerned it is here; they’re already putting out their displays.

And I'm not ashamed to say it: I love Christmas.  I look forward to it all year, and when it comes it brings me moments of tremendous joy.

Now you can be sure that the minute I announce that I love Christmas, someone, somewhere is thinking, "I don't do Christmas.  It's just too commercial."  And if I state my love of Christmas on a forum or at a large gathering, there will be two or three people who feel obliged to tell me this with weary cynicism.

But this is how I look at the weeks before Christmas:  Either I can see shops and stores preparing to lure me across their thresholds with every nefarious wile at their disposal. Or I can think, "This is the time of year when I go out searching for treasures and delights to give my loved ones."  And I find that second way of looking at it far more rewarding.

To be honest, it doesn't always work out that way.  There have been years when I could hardly afford to buy gifts for anyone.  Years when I couldn't scrape together money for Christmas presents until practically the last minute ... and had to fight the crowds the last few days ... and then stayed up long after midnight wrapping presents on Christmas Eve ... and then had to get up again at some ghastly early hour because the children were bouncing around in their beds eager to race to the tree and see what Santa had brought to them ... and then I spent the whole day utterly exhausted ... and then—

Well, I didn't say it was easy to keep up the Christmas spirit, did I?  But that doesn't mean that it's not worth the effort.

The same years when the money was short and circumstances were difficult have provided me with some of my best Christmas memories:  Like the first year we were married, when my husband and I could barely afford a tree, much less decorations, so we bought the smallest and cheapest fir we could find and adorned it with tangerines and paper snowflakes that I cut out of typing paper.  Or the year when my husband wept for joy because Gwyneth, just one-year-old, was filled with wonder at the discovery that she could put her hand inside a stocking and bring out ... a tiny Raggedy Ann doll.  Or the year when we spent many happy weeks secretly making gifts for the children ourselves:  puppets from me, and a puppet theater and a castle from John.  Or the year when there was no money for presents at all, but we could at least put up the decorations we had been collecting over the years, and Daisy (cynical, unsentimental Daisy) walked into the house, looked around, and exclaimed, "I love Christmas!"

Christmas, I believe, has this wonderful habit of becoming what we choose to make of it, what we are willing to take the time to make of it.

I've had relatives say to me, "We aren't having Christmas this year.  We can't afford it."  But for me, I can't afford not to have Christmas.  It is the time of year when I feel most alive.  There have been years when it lifted me above poverty, sickness, and grief.

Some of the same people who have no time for Christmas have no time for fantasy.  (OK, I'm going to talk about writing after all.)  They think it's simple escapism.  One day at an SFF convention I heard someone say dismissively, "It's easy to write a fantasy novel.  All you have to do is make everything up."

Yes, all you have to do is make up a world (it may be a world that bears a close resemblance to our own but it isn't quite, or it may be a world completely new that didn't exist until you thought of it), a world with mountains and seas, cities and towns, laws and customs, penalties and pleasures, and then breathe life into it all, and write a story that will delight you, whether it delights anyone else or not, and do all that with love and care and every last bit of imagination you can put it into it.

As writers of fantasy, we can write escapism and/or we can write something that tips the world on its head and provides a clearer vision of the way things really are. (The two are not mutually exclusive.) 

Remember when you were a child playing in the grass and you tumbled over and looked at the world upside-down?  How different it all looked, how fresh and new!  Yet it was the same old world, nothing had actually changed; you were just seeing it all with fresh eyes.  Then you rolled back over and everything looked ordinary again ... but there had been that moment when the grass was greener and the air brighter, and the people hung downwards with their feet on the ground and their heads in the sky.

And we can take that moment with us and remember it for the rest of our lives. 

As we grow older, we spend a lot of time looking down at our feet, so that we can keep them firmly on the ground where we’re told they belong.  But sometimes we need to be reminded that we also live with our heads in the sky, and take a long breath of that fresher, brighter air. That's what fantasy can do for us.  

Fantasy is another one of those things that has a habit of being whatever we are willing to make of it.  It can be complex and subtle and filled with mysteries much deeper than magic.  That is one kind of fantasy. Or it can be slick and gaudy and not mysterious at all. When we come across that kind of fantasy we could say, "I don't like this.  It's too commercial."  But what has that to do with anything?  If it gives someone joy to write it and someone else joy to read it, then what is wrong with that? 

As for escapism, if something gives us a few hours respite from the dull realities of our everyday world, restores our true vision of that brighter world that exists all around us, and refreshes our spirits however briefly, then why should anyone quarrel with that?  

Joy is a strange thing.  We all find it in different places.  Sometimes we have to hunt for it.  Sometimes it takes us by surprise.  Sometimes we have to create it for ourselves.  And it isn't always easy.  But why should it be? 

Teresa Edgerton is the author of eleven novels and numerous short stories spanning the fantasy genre, writing under her own name and her pseudonym, Madeline Howard. She divides her time between writing her own fiction and freelance developmental editing, helping new writers to polish their manuscripts and improve their skills. Her epic fantasy series The Rune of Unmaking (writing as Madeline Howard), and the genre-bending Goblin Moon (writing as Teresa Edgerton) are available at Amazon and through other online outlets

You can find Teresa at:


Note from Em...

I'm very grumpy about certain holidays - Halloween and Guy Fawkes night in particular, but I love Christmas. Love it! 

I'm very happy that Teresa joins me on my blog to share her love of Christmas.

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