Ghosts of Christmas Cards Past

I have made my own holiday cards since I was a child. My mom got me started, so I can blame this on her. She used to do block prints. I remember one where she took all of the religious icons and had them morph into peace signs. That was probably in the late sixties. She had me making potato prints where I would carve a Christmas tree into half of a potato and then I would dip it in tempera paint and press it onto construction paper to be used for cards. I haven't stopped making them since. I made fish cards in 1992 and hand painted them.

This one was scratchboard, but instead of printing it myself, I paid a printer to print it and fold it. That was way better than the three days it usually takes me to make around 120 cards or so. I used to send out about 200 cards, but I've had to cut the list back. We owned espresso bars in Atlanta when I made this over-caffeinated Santa.

I can't remember when I made this one, but I think it was the year that my book, "The Night I Followed the Dog" came out, which was 1994. That would explain the dog theme.

In 1998 I got fancy. I created this skating polar bear in chalk pastels and Peaceable Kingdom Press printed and sold it and sent me a stack, so I sent out full-color glossy printed cards for the first time. 

I'm not sure what happened between 1998 and this card from 2006. I know I created and published a slew of books. But this card with a "gourmet snow-person" featured my brownie recipe inside, which called for all-purpose flour. This was the year before my husband's health went from bad to horrible and we discovered he was allergic to wheat and gluten. This was also the last card I illustrated.

For some reasons that are not so odd, life started to become very difficult. I switched to making cards with photos that I took, printed, and glued onto cards that I also printed, cut and folded. It seemed to take a little less time to go into Photoshop and use Illustrator for layout instead of illustrating in whatever medium I chose- mostly it had been scratchboard in the past. 

In 2009 we had a really bad year, but somehow we survived. Hence the Titanic theme. We wished for a better 2010, and it was a little bit better, but I won't show the card I made that year. I don't like it.

This year I'm going with a photo again. This year has been rough. Not quite Titanic rough, but we still feel a bit beat-up. So this year I'm going to look forward. Not back. And I'm hoping that next year I'll have the desire to illustrate again. Something fun. Something feisty. Something festive. 

For those of you who are on my list- you will get the card in the mail. Hand made. Days of printing, cutting, folding and taping. For those of you who are out there in cyber-space- I will share the card with you here. May we all have have happy holidays, a happy new year, and may the ghosts of the past go on their merry ways and send nothing but good cheer.

From my heart to yours.
With love,


The Post-Post

How do you feel when it's over? How do you feel when you've finished that first draft? Do you feel a little empty? Is it like post-partum depression? You spent all this time and emotion and days, weeks, months, dreaming, pounding keys, and now what? Did you let that manuscript rest a little? Let your brain rest a little? (or treat it to something bubbly and numbing?) Did you start thinking of editing in your sleep? Were your characters calling you up in the middle of the night saying, "I miss you, come back, you forgot a transition between chapter twenty-two and twenty-three?"

It is an odd feeling to complete a manuscript, especially when you have given yourself a very time-compressed deadline. You live and breathe that work, and then suddenly it's over. Gone. You are left with a 614K document file. What do you do? Comb through it again and again. Look for typos. Check to see that your characters are staying true to their voices. I have one character in my new work-in-progress that does not use conjunctions. No, he does not. Another says "ye," instead of "you." Fine tooth combs don't alway catch these things on screen, so often, I have to print out the full text- in this case 212 pages and edit the old fashioned way.

Once the line edits are done, and the re-reading makes me smile, or cry, or feel hopeful, then, and only then do I hit the "send" button and my new child goes off to school for the first time- off to my agent's inbox. Waiting there in the queue for her to read it.

And then you are back to that "post-post" feeling again, which will repeat itself when, if all goes well, your "baby" will be sent on to submissions. All that waiting and anticipating is anxiety producing. Writer Jeffrey Eugenides told me that he called it, "being on the roaster" when I met him at the Seattle Library over a month ago. It's true. It does feel like you, or your creation is on a spit, turning ever so slowly over a fire. There is really nothing you can do to put the fire out. Except maybe to start dreaming of the next story. To start plotting, scheming, researching, sketching.

But really it's that fire that keeps you going in the first place, so enjoy the heat while it's there, because it is your creativity that produced it. Break out the marshmallows and toast your accomplishments- each step of the way...

"It's not the destination, it's the journey," is a popular and true statement.

To that, I add, "it's not the published book, it's the story behind the story that makes your journey so rich and rewarding," so enjoy it all whether or not you ever get "there." Wherever there is.

Writer Richard Peck said, "you should end with a beginning."
I agree. I will be beginning another book soon.

I hope you will find joy in endings, and beginnings...
and middles, too.

With Love,