Month: December 2011

The Traditional Christmas Letter

We used to be a literate nation, America. We read, we wrote. Can you name any good writers from the past 40 years? Of course not. That’s not the country we live in anymore. We’ve traded Henry James (a titan of literature) for LeBron James (a writer of subpar force). We’ve swapped communication for lolwut txting.

To be honest, it could be worse. At least we expunged cursive. That was long overdue for expulsion.

Anyway, when you have to Google the “traditional Christmas letter,” then there’s just nothing left to say.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Hey, I had a great idea for a story. Hear me out: it’s about a girl in the city who—[DELETED]

—Maureen Moore, Orange Park, FL. 

Sorry about that, Maureen. There’s a Christmas tradition to save. Your answer: no.

Rather than share the lost tradition of the traditional Christmas letters (begun by Pliny the Older) or learn you in how to write these things, I’ll share my own work as a guideline. Enjoy.

Dear Everyone,

Hope you all are having a wonderful Christmas season! We know times have probably been harder on you than they’ve been on us,1 but the holidays are here and full of cheer.

It’s been a full year for the Writing All Wrong camp, and we’ve taken the time this holiday season to reflect on our fortune, reaching out in love to let you know what’s been going on in our neck of the woods. We sincerely wish we could come visit with you all2—maybe a trip to one of3 our villas in Monte Carlo is on your agenda!

Mr. Writing All Wrong has been keeping busy, just like the rest of you,4 I’m sure. Writing gigs seem to roll off a conveyor belt these days, and while it’s been quite the bear to rotate between our mountain and beach properties, we’ve managed well. As always, Mrs. Writing All Wrong makes the best of our open schedule, cooking, cleaning, baking, sewing and keeping the kids (and husband) in line.5

Speaking of kids, Anderson just recently wrapped up his third year at Harvard, making the most of his scholarship6 and opportunities, majoring in Finance. We’re looking forward to the work7 he’s got going on in his startup. Following in footsteps of success, we hope.8 Hah! As for Kimberly, she’s done well to handle the pressure and delicate work-life balance of being a CEO at 25.9 It was just yesterday she sold lemonade on the freeway, and now she’s calling the shots for Lemonadia®. Time flies so fast!

After such a whirlwind of a year, we again send our love, joy, and riches 10 to our loved ones this holiday season. Please enjoy the accompanying gift basket of caviar, Andalusian hams, and some of our finest pepper crackers and foie gras.11 We wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Writing All Wrong.

Notes:

  1. Have to acknowledge one’s station here.
  2. No, not really.
  3. We have five villas.
  4. Even though some of you were laid off for the holidays…
  5. She doesn’t do any of that. We’re trying to evoke the “good ol’ days,” whenever those were.
  6. Full-ride with benefits, of course.
  7. Like every other college junior, he has his own business, one that his snob rich parents helped him start.
  8. Laughing it off makes it seem less ridiculously fortunate than it really is
  9. Humblebrag. Who cares about pressure when you rake in enough buck to copyright it?
  10. Didn’t send riches, sorry.
  11. Didn’t send a basket. Forgot to edit that out, sorry.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and postmarked for traditional Christmas delivery.

Writing Good Christmas Cards

We’re taking a turn for the festive here at Writing All Wrong, engorging on Christmas cookies, cakes, and guzzling peppermint/gingerbread mochas, brewing a storm of writing under snow and mistletoe.

Right.

The holiday season is like a yearly maelstrom that’s on every calendar sold in America, but it doesn’t appear until about two weeks before it hits. You can plan writing. You can’t plan holidays. You might be able to plan writing during the holidays.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Speaking of writing How do i write a good Christmas card?

—Greg Danning, Schenectady, N.Y. 

I’m flattered that you ask: no one does this anymore, except me. Writing is eternal, seeping into all corners of life. I’ve single-handedly enlightened the Christmases of all I know, spreading cheer with gracious and thoughtful cards, lovingly handwritten by candlelight. I spend every evening in December at my escritoire, humming along to Bing Crosby and Andy Williams as they croon the holidays to the tune of my writing in longhand.

If you have to ask, then you obviously live in a mindset when it’s always winter, but never Christmas. Here’s how you amp up those Christmas cards and put the “Jolly” back in “Have a Lolly Jolly Christmas.”

1. Acknowledge everyone in the family.

“Hey Todd, hope you and Vixen (and your ex-wives Roxxy, Charmayne, and Skyy[sp?]) are doing well this holiday season!”

Don’t leave anyone out. People hate being left out, and they hate when you leave out people important to them.

2. Create suspense and eagerness.

“I enclosed $20, since I figured you could use a bit of extra Christmas cash. Enjoy!”

I love this. I typically enclose the $20 before I mail it, but I’ll remove the bill before sealing the envelope. It’s a great way to get a return letter, phone call, something to keep the lines of communication open.

3. Make sure they know what’s on your mind, what you’re up to.

“I wish you all the best, but we’re doing great! Can’t believe what fortune we’ve enjoyed with our getaway house! Lovingly sent from under a palm tree in Maui, Writing All Wrong.” 

How else will people know what you’re up to these days? Don’t ask, do tell.

4. Don’t wish well, wish specific.

“Wishing you a swift move out of the unemployment line, and here’s hoping your furnace doesn’t kick the bucket this chilly Christmas season (since I know you had to cut back on presents from the cost repairing it already).

Precisely. Show some forethought. General wellwishing is no wellwishing at all.

5. Use holiday generosity as a springboard for offering favors.

“Just saw the pics of that new backhoe — you should come up for a cup of cocoa and Wild Turkey and help us out with the ditch we’re diggin’. Spend the night or two or however long it takes, whatever. It’ll be fun!”

Always give a chance for people to offer you favors. It’s in the Spirit of Christmas, after all.

Feel free to share what makes your Christmas cards as special as mine.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and re-gifted in a white elephant soiree.

Writing Contest? Duh, WINNING!

Most of you may not know this, but writing can translate into a few pecuniary benefits. Sometimes even monetary. You really don’t have to do it for free. But outside of cashing in on wordspew, the next best thing you can wing is winning. Contests, limerick slams, plein air poetry airing, whatever. People compete with this business, breaking out the arsenal and making communication a written race-to-the-top.

But does the best writing always win? Nope.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

There’s a writing contest I want to enter. 250-word minimum, and I really want to win! HELP!

—Daphne Green, Fairmont, W.Va.

Didn’t we just get over this contest thing?

That’s not a question.

In a perfect world, I could say, “Write your best,” and that would do it. Cartographic psychoholic thriller? Should be a surefire winner. Borgesian short story with a metaphoric denouement? Hand over that store-bought trophy. A perfect world. Not happening on today’s planet.

No, the contest is rigged with more wires, catches, and detonations than a maniacal professor’s Bomb Diffusement 405 final project. It’s a trapdoor that trips under the weight of greatness. If you write well, then you’re cheating. Contests are meant to reward the mediocre, not herald anything worth reading or writing. So how do you win without coming at it like a natural dunce with a swell of dumb luck?

Know the contest.

Not just rules. They publish rules. Know the people, know who’s judging, know the contest creators. If this is Highlights for Toddlers you’re writing to, keep the meth-strung, zoo-liberating, black-caped unicorn out of the narrative. The Student Siren? Nothing profound. Won’t wake most from a booze-soaked stupor. Go for the flashbang in the wrought-iron pan.

Know the judges.

Make them smile or cry. They’ve got to smile or cry. That’s the sad part about appeasing these flighty judges. The best writing should be a combination of scalpel and machete, writing so good it cuts into your innards and works surgical voodoo. Writing so good it makes a clean chop through brush, crop, and limb. A “whoa, that’s one heck of a blade omigod where’s my arm?” kind of strike. In a perfect world, I want to be maimed by deft writing, wounded. Or I want that scalpel cutting new pathways into my cerebrum, leaving me more room to think when I’m no longer under the literary ether. Judges? No. Make them think too hard and that five-pack of two-dollar blue ribbon goes elsewhere. To the cheeky entry that got an “Oh, that’s cute, I like this” or an “Oh wow, that’s so special I wanted to cry” out of them.

Know thyself.

Every subjective contest (writing, cooking, ice dancing, interpretive sleepwalking, etc.) ends up being a popularity contest. It just makes sense to continue awarding those whom most people like. If you’re the popular kid in class, then just submit something without any glaring errors, and you’ve got yourself a winner. The key to winning is winning the hearts, minds, and fickle affections of your peers, judges, and by proxy, the contest arbiters.

If your worthy writing entry falls ever short to those of Suzie Perfect and Eric Awesome, let it slide. Popularity is fleeting. Art is forever. Winning everything isn’t the only thing.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and voted in Women’s Digest’s annual “Write Me A Man Made Like How You Like Your Coffee” contest.