A Writer’s Holiday Spirit

First Airstream holiday tree.

This year, my parents and I decided to “just do stockings” for our Christmas celebration. My parents aren’t especially religious and I’m Buddhist, but we’ve always celebrated Christmas as a time of year to give well-meaning gifts to our small clan of relatives and reflect on the year. We have a special Christmas Eve dinner tradition with the three of us, and a delightful breakfast casserole and mimosa Christmas morning. Then we open gifts, listen to cheesy music, and read and eat chocolate the rest of the day. The next day is like any other—marching onward to the New Year.

But “just doing stockings” this year freed me up to consider donating money to some of my favorite nonprofits. A little goes a long way, so rather than give all I could to one place, I chose small increments for a handful of organizations that made a difference in my writing life over the past few years. Are there organizations that make your life easier—either in the workplace, in town, or on a national level? Who cleans your sidewalks and does your neighborhood watch if it’s not government-organized? Who funds that extra after school program for your child’s artistic desires? What grant agencies give money to the community-service oriented businesses in your district or town? Who brings aid to victims of natural disasters stateside and abroad?

Looking over the list of folks who extended their hospitality and services to me and many others in the literary world this year, I made donations to:

Fishtrap, dedicated to clear thinking and good writing in and about the West. Also, 49 Alaska Writing Center. Both of these non-profits bring emerging and established writers into the schools to foster a love of writing for kids, too. Investing in them feels like promising a classroom of kids a visit from a “real author” at least once during their school year.

The Wrangell Mountains Center was my first stop on the 3-year tour back in 2009 and I have been donating to them every since. They gave me a full ride to attend a writing workshop that set off my love affair with Alaska and connected me with a handful of Alaska writers who have opened their hearts, doors, minds, and talents to me time and time again. Going back to the source, I love giving to this group, whose mission is to foster understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of wildlands and
mountain culture in Alaska through scientific and artistic inquiry.

I also gave money through membership dues to Carolina Mountain Club, North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association, and the Shambhala Meditation Center of Asheville. Though the hacking and sawing I do on the trails with those first two outdoor groups may seem the antithesis of the peaceful abiding I do at the meditation center, in reality the two are not all that different. Both feed my spirit, both generate good karma, and both make life easier for someone somewhere down the line (or the trail, or the meditation path…so to speak).

Finally, I donated to IAVA. This is the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and you can view their holiday donation video here. If I were ever to have another career, I’d love to help soldiers after their deployments. IAVA supports that, and so much more, for the more than 2.5 million Americans that have now served in Iraq or Afghanistan. I’d be lying if I didn’t also say that I one day hope my book Flashes of War makes its way into the hands of these folks, possibly leading to a donation-partnership through book sales or a speaking event where I could meet some of the men and women whose work informed and inspired my writing for the past three years.

I swear there’s one more group I donated to, but it escapes me now…(oh yeah, it’s the North Carolina Humanities Council), which is a good sign. I’d much rather have trouble recalling how much I donated to whom, than whether or not I got the right size argyle socks for so-and-so. It feels good to give back. Whatever your passion, there’s bound to be an organization who could use a $25 donation and your well wishes. ‘Tis the season, after all!

Countless thank you’s to the nearly 8,000 viewers a month who followed The Writing Life blog in 2012. Your support—silently or through comments—makes the solo sport of writing seem a little less lonely. Near or far, anonymous or named, I appreciate that you follow my work and care about the literary arts. Write on!

  • Lynn Lovegreen

    Best wishes to you too, and I like your stockings-only tradition. Wonder if I could get my family to do that next year….

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