Tag Archives: holidays

Christmas Letters for Writers

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

The Pressure’s On

santa judgesIt’s one thing for mere mortals to throw together a family Christmas letter using colorful Santa stationary and a dutiful recounting of the year.

But for writers, our families and friends expect more.

As “jedikaiti”   pointed out in an Etiquette Hell discussion,

“I have a friend who writes WONDERFUL Christmas newsletters. Yes, a newsletter. About one person’s year. About 4 pages, and I looooove getting it every year.

She’s a professional writer, so she does have a distinct advantage there….”

(Even Santa gets all judgy and up in our grill.) 

So here are a few tips to help you win the Pulitzer of Christmas Letters.

Start With A Hook

Hook A: Honesty

It is our pleasure to bring you the 2010 edition of the Brutally Honest Dashwood Family Christmas letter.

As an aside, this letter includes a phrase I’d love to steal:

Margaret is a heaping helping of crazy.

Hook B: It’s a very Redneck Christmas

Jeff Ward has given some thought to Christmas letters he’d like to see.

We did it! We finally got those indoor facilities installed in the doublewide.

Create a Relationship With Your Reader

You can count on Cracked to understand the delicate thread between author and reader, in their inspired Upper Class Christmas letter:

Dear Relations and House Staff,

As I do every year, let me start by saying, "You’re welcome."

Get To the Good Stuff Fast

Brandy understands the brilliance of netting it all out so you can “get that over with.”

  • No I am not married yet.
  • I don’t know why I’m not married yet.
  • No really, there’s nobody who’s interested in me.
  • Yes, really. Nobody.
  • Yup, I’m almost thirty.
  • Yes, that is my biological clock you hear ticking.
  • It does sound like a time bomb, doesn’t it?
  • Yes, I would love a bottle/glass of wine. Thank you.
  • Invite the Reader Into Your World

    Joey, The Childless Mom, allows her readers to see the real-life, blunt version of “The Funniest Christmas Letter I’ll Never Send.”

    In March, Hubby has his MESA surgery and I sent out the infamous, "WE HAVE SPERM" texts to our friends.

    (I bet there’s a hashtag for that.)

    Don’t Be Overly Impressed With Yourself (Humble is the New Black)

    At PensFatales, Laurie Perry shares her Christmas Letter in a way that ensures we’re more impressed with her year than she is.

    “The cats were cute and pooped a lot this year. I wrote a book, it’s OK. It comes out next year and is just a longer version of this letter with more complaining, but there is a great recipe for fried zucchini and some knitting patterns.”

    Or Avoid Reality Altogether, Because Fiction is Oh-So-Much-Better

    Hey, you could be anyone.  Any Situation.  Perhaps a woman receiving a gift from an admirer, as in, “12 Days of Christmas Correspondence.”

    Dearest John:

    I went to the door today and the postman delivered a partridge in a pear tree. What a delightful gift. I couldn’t have been more surprised.

    With dearest love and affection, Agnes

    December 23rd

    You Creep!

    Now there’s ten ladies dancing –

    So, to sum up. 

    People expect a lot out of “real” writers.  Go with your strengths.  Write a Christmas letter that must be shared on blogs everywhere.

    I just may quote you.

    clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

    Today’s Writing Tip: Establishing Authority

    10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers: Part 2

    by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

    Amaze Your Writer Friends

    Punctuation, Hell, and fake websites were in the list of our first 5 gifts.  The last 5 are filled with sugar plums and the dust of ground-up elves.

    Or maybe something even better.

    (But seriously, who doesn’t savor the nostalgic scent of ground-up elves sprinkled lightly on sugar cookies?  So spicy, so wickedly good.  Like cinnamon, red velvet shoes, and high-pitched laughter in every, single bite. Yummy-yum.)

    Gift #5  This is your life. Do what you love. And do it often.

    From Core 77, I was introduced to the Holstee Manifesto Poster.

    This is Your Life

    It’s like someone figured out how our writer-hearts keep on beating, and wrote it down for the world to see.  Poster, $25.00.

    Who is that someone?

    Mike, Fabian and Dave who have a company together.

    “It wasn’t about shirts and it wasn’t about their old jobs. It was about what they wanted from life and how to create a company that breathes that passion into the world everyday. It was a reminder of what we live for.”

    Gift #4  Your Own Theme Song

    Ever since Ally McBeal I’ve wanted my own theme song.

    Dr. Tracey: You need a theme song
    Ally: I need a what?!
    Dr. Tracey: A theme song. Something that you can play in your head to make you feel better
    Ally: Am I on one of those hidden camera shows?
    Dr. Tracey: Theme songs are vital.

    See?  They’re vital, I’m tellin’ ya!

    And someone agrees with me. Raleigh Coaching offers MUSEic Coaching.

    “Our lives can be thought of as movies with their own unique soundtrack.  YOU PICK THE GOAL | WE PICK THE MUSEic.”

    Tell Santa about this.  He’s all about the jolliness of music.  And he believe in theme songs, too. That’s why there’s so many songs about him at Christmas.

    Gift #3  Rain

    Nothing makes me feel cozier or want to write more than the sound of rain.  You curl up inside, just you and your imagination.  A warm cuppa joe. Comfy socks.  And a writing project all your own.

    It’s like you’re cut off from the world, safe, warm, and full of dreams.

    (Don’t give me that look.  It’s not just me, you know.)

    As the Rainy Mood website says, “Rain makes everything better.”

    And it’s a free website.  Who are these generous rain lovers, anyway?

    Also, there’s an app for IOS and Android (not free but for $4.99 you take the mood of cozy with you).

    Gift #2 GeoPalz

    Kick in the ass, anyone?  No, wait, I mean, get off your ass and walk.  No, wait, it’s just wrong to say ass on a Christmas gift list.

    Yet, that’s how I think about it after I’ve been sitting in a chair writing for 8 or 12 hours a day, months on end.


    Honey, it’s time to do something about your a**, and I’m so psyched about this kid’s pedometer, I can hardly stand it.  (Yes, I said it’s for kids, but we’re going to ignore that and buy it anyway.)

    Okay, get this.

    A) You log onto their website, track your steps, and win prizes.

    B) In the “parent” role, you can buy things to put on your prize list (in addition to what’s there), and then set about winning something you care about.

    C) You can create a family of other writers and cheer each other on.

    D) The pedometer ($25.00 or less) is ten times better than the one I’m wearing right now.

    My pedometer:

    • The buttons are easily mashed so that the steps are zeroed out randomly all day long.
    • The display is too small to see (multiple modes, can’t tell what mode I’m in).
    • The clip will barely fit over the waist of my pants.
    • It can’t be worn anywhere else.
    • It’s an ugly gray.
    • And (sob) no prizes.


    • It does a great job at counting steps.
    • The pedometer has an attached cover (no accidental resets).
    • It comes in many designs to make you feel happy when you look at it.
    • There are prizes and friends for accountability and good cheer.
    • The website is free (and free for those who don’t have Geopalz).
    • The new version 2 (out now) stores 21 days of data, so you don’t have to enter number of steps into the website each day, and it automatically resets at midnight. Plus this new version will track minutes of moderate/heavy activity, can be mounted on your hip or shoe, plus it’s waterproof!


    Gift #1  Creativity Gets In Bed with Organization (ooh la la!)

    Daniel Wessel at Organizing Creativity…. He’s a genius!

    Daniel WHe’s figured out the thing that sinks most writers (and other creative-types): how to organize your creative process (the key to your business) so that it’s even better. And how to actually troubleshoot the Gordian knot that is a finished product.

    Organize Your Creativity PosterResult?  Yes, indeed, a book of epic coolness.  You can get the pdf for free-ish.  Just pay if you find it useful.

    Daniel, dude, even your pricing is creative. (I’ll be applauding with money soon!)

    And the rest of Freelance-Zone readers?  Check out his blog.  It totally rocks.

    I hoped I rocked your world…

    …with these gift ideas. I feel like I’ve seen all the usual gifts for writers and something needed to be done about that.  We needed something unusual.

    May your gift giving be inspired and worthy of ground-up elf.  Happy holidays.

    clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

    10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers

    by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.


    This week, Catherine embraced the Christmas Spirit of Marketing (yes, Virginia, apparently holiday goodwill can be harnessed to help you market your writing!), and I, too, must get my ho-ho-ho on.

    (Yeah, I’ll wait while you realize that didn’t sound right….  )

    Today, I bring you 10 gifties for you and your writer friends.  May the delight of giving lead to milk, cookies, and a  Grinch-y ”heart that grows three sizes that day.” 

    #10  Punctuation Saves Lives

    I think we know this deserves a t-shirt.  Why, look at that!  A t-shirt perfect for gift giving.

    punctuation saves lives

    This shirt is yours for $15.99 over at Cafe Press.

    #9  Going Straight to Hell

    Some clients, some projects—they’re hell.  Just sayin’.  Why not get a passport to make your trip easier, something that doubles as a journal for these trying times? 

    Yes?  Hells, yes!

    Hell Passport

    Travel instructions included.  Just $2.95 at The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild.  Wild site.  Fabulous gifts.

    #8  Everything is Better if It Looks Like a Book

    I sob at the practical nostalgia of BookBook, a case/wallet for your iPhone.

    Book Book for Iphone

    I found it at that gift-giving-extravaganza that is Amazon, just $59.95 for iPhone 4 & 4 S, same for the new Iphone 5.  Suddenly you’re not working, you’re spending quality time with books.  Totally different.

    #7  Old Book Smell

    Many of us fell in love with writing as a child, in a dark musty library (one of the 2,509grand structures built by the Carnegies, no doubt, where the motto “let there be light” made every reader feel heroic).

    If you miss that good ol’ musty book smell, good news, you can buy it and successfully make the transition to electronic books smell intact.

    Smell of Books

    Smell of Books offer Classic Musty and New Book Smell for $9.99 each.

    But be careful.

    Please use in well ventilated area.

    May cause dizziness and hallucinations. May cause itching and runny nose.

    If symptoms persist for longer than eight weeks please consult your physician.

    Not for use on “real” books.

    Do not use while riding public transportation.

    Discard empty container with hazardous waste.

    Not for use as a room deodorizer.

    Not for use on burning books.

    Do not use on a Zune.

    Keep away from the Kindle Fire!

    (Plus, it’s not a real product. But the hilarity of this site alone should inspire you to pen your own faux site as a Christmas gift to those you love.  Or even customers and readers.  Everyone needs a good laugh for Christmas.)

    #6  Paint a White Board on Your Wall

    IdeaPaint is proof science makes the world a better place. Proof, I say!


    It comes in clear, white, and black.  Enough to cover 50 sq. ft. is $225.00; 100 sq. ft. is on sale for $315.00 (for clear).

    I found this goodness at an equally awesome site called Idearella: Creating Glass Slipper Ideas in a Wicked Stepsister World. Their 2010 list of Christmas Gifts is super-awesome-sauce.


    clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

    The Holidays, Writing & Marketing

    by Catherine L. Tully

    Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully
    Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

    Every year I do something that helps move my career forward during the holidays…

    I market myself.

    This means reaching out to people to touch base, getting my contacts organized, sending out some new feelers and other strategies designed to both keep me working and find new jobs. Here are some great things you can do to stay on top of things for 2013:

    • Send holiday cards. Sending out a simple holiday greeting is a great way to remind editors you are out there. Touch base and write a short note in the card. It’s good business.
    • Organize your address book. Add contacts that you should have in there and delete old e-mail addresses.
    • Research places to send an outreach e-mail to in the NY. Get an Excel document going with names and e-mails of people that you would like to reach out to for work in the New Year. Don’t send these e-mails over the holidays–they’ll probably never see light…but do get ready for your marketing push in January.
    • Look for reprint options. Sift through any articles you sold in 2012 and see if you can re-slant them for another publication in 2013.
    • Do your tax prep. I’d advise using an accountant, but no matter what you do for taxes, you’ll need to organize your receipts. Get it done while things are quiet and you’ll be thanking yourself in April. Believe me.
    • Network. Arm yourself with business cards for all of the holiday parties that you will be attending and pass them out like crazy. You just never know when someone will need a writer.

    Do you have any good tactics for marketing yourself during the holidays? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

    Take Five – Rest On Your Laurels

    Amanda Smyth Connor1241543_winner

    I awoke one morning to a gentle knocking on my front door. I looked through the peep hole and saw no one on my doorstep. Minutes later, I heard the knocking again. I opened the door just a crack, and BAM! The holidays are violently upon me.

    Here I sit and here I’ll stay, cowering in the corner, refusing to confront the travel plans, shopping, baking and the traditional family bickering. And to top it all off, I’m in the beginning stages of the Holiday Project Slump; the time of year when the flow of projects begins to go from a gush to a trickle and the number of incoming emails subsides. This time of year it gets harder and harder to get clients on the phone. From now until January marks my official “slow season.”


    It is also during this time of year that I begin to feel a little down. “A busy Mandy is a happy Mandy. A bored Mandy is a miserable Mandy.” Or so the saying goes.

    I begin hosting daily pity parties and complaining loudly to my husband. “Why won’t this client sign the contract? When is that project going to get started that they discussed? Why aren’t they calling me back?”

    But this year will be different. I’ve made a choice not to let the slump get me down. I’m going to gently decline my own invites to those pity parties and instead throw myself a mini-parade. I’m taking time this year to evaluate old projects and accomplishments and to take a hard look at the big picture.

    From personal achievements (launching my own business) to aggressive business ventures that paid off and promising new partnerships, I’m taking five to sit on my laurels. Instead of whining to my husband and friends about my slump, I’m taking stock of my Year in Awesomeness by beefing up my portfolio, spending time putting the finishing touches on projects that I’ve been putting off and in general, polishing my professional presence.

    In staying positive during a down time, I’m empowering myself to go into the new year with a positive outlook and with high hopes that this new year will bring more good fortune for my business ventures. There are so any aspects of the freelance business world that you simply can’t control. What you can control is your attitude and your outlook.

    This season, stay positive and remind yourself of your year in achievements. You’re a freelance rockstar. Don’t forget it. Take the time this season to celebrate that rockstar status.

    Amanda Smyth Connor is a SEMPO-certified SEO specialist, has managed online communities and nationwide marketing campaigns for several start-up and  Fortune 500 companies, and has been an editor for more years than she can remember. She also runs her own wedding planning company, Hummingbird Bridal and Events, throughout the northeast.

    Working Ahead Pays Off

    airplaneby Catherine L. Tully

    I hope that everyone enjoyed the time off for the holiday. Another one is around the bend, and I don’t know about you, but I intend to work ahead so that I can really spend the time relaxing with family. At least that is my plan.

    Working ahead is really a form of delayed gratification. Doing my blog posts ahead of time means more on my plate now. But…it also means that I won’t have them staring me in the face right when I should be winding down to spend quality time with those I love. 

    Since I’ll be traveling again soon (which means more plane time, airport time and general down time), I plan on taking advantage of those days by preparing queries to send out when I return. In the meantime, I’ll be wrapping up what I can here at home before I hit the friendly skies.

    So here goes…my top five tips for working ahead this holiday season… Continue reading Working Ahead Pays Off