The Story Had To Be Told: On Writing The Christmas Rose

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, I published my short story, The Christmas Rose. It’s been less than 24 hours since I shared it with my readers, and I wanted to answer a few questions about why I wrote it.

Q: The story is pretty long — almost 8,000 words. Most people aren’t reading pieces that take more than a few minutes to read. Why didn’t you cut it down to under 5,000 words?

A. It is one of the longer shorts that I’ve written. Most are around 3,000 words. I’ve been trained well by the competitions and requirements of the print journals where I submit most of my work. I knew this piece was going directly to the web and to an eBook format, so I worried less about the length.

There’s another reason, though. First and foremost, the story had to be told, and I couldn’t hold any part of it back to fit a generic reader’s tolerance for a sustained reading. In other words, it doesn’t fit into the criteria of a social media read (that’s one of the reasons why I created a PDF of the manuscript so readers could download it and read it at their leisure).

Q: Aren’t you afraid that it won’t get more widely distributed then? It seems like the length is a real roadblock to it taking off.

A: Then so be it. I know the formula of what makes things go “viral” in today’s fast-paced world. Maybe this is an “anti-viral” piece. I’ve stopped caring about that. I’m going to be 50 years old in a few months, and I have a lot of stories to share before I go. I’ve stopped worrying about what works in this immediate world. If my story is 50 words or 500,000 words long, then that’s what it is. I’ll let my present and future readers decide what they want to do with it.

Q: How long were you working on this story?

A: Not terribly long at all. The basic premise came to me about 3 weeks ago that “believing” in something, like Christmas or Santa Claus, is not just for kids. We have a responsibility to continue our efforts to believe in our power to change the world — whether that is the “world” in our local town or community, or an entire nation or nations.

In the middle of writing the piece, we took a trip down to 34th Street to look at the lights in Hamden in Baltimore City. We never made it because a flash mob shut the streets down as they sung “Silent Night.” I thought that was the greatest thing to happen. Shut everything down with music. Stop driving by the world and take a few minutes to celebrate the beauty with friends and strangers alike. Wonderful stuff.

Here’s the video that was released from that special night:

After I wrote the first draft, I knew there was very little I wanted to revise. It’s a Christmas story, all right, but it’s so much more about what we can do for others. Our nation is in a stressful place right now. We can focus on the pain, or we can focus on acts of kindness for all that can begin a genuine and long-lasting healing.

Q: Is any of it real?

A: None of it and all of it. Luther’s Village is a micro version of historic Lutherville; Hunter’s Valley is Hunt Valley. Emily Starling is an extension of the kind elders I knew in my neighborhood in Loch Raven and Towson who gave so selflessly to others.

Q: What about the Christmas Rose?

A: The Christmas rose itself (Helleborus niger) is not very “rose-traditional” looking. And, more importantly, it is poisonous. I loved the story behind the flower, but using this exact plant for my story just wouldn’t work. The hybridization of flowers happens all the time; it is not unrealistic to believe that Emily was able to create a hybrid that would be safe and offer a nice fragrance.

I think planting and giving flowers is the greatest gift we can give to others, both for now and for the future. I’ve always enjoyed the stories about the hope flowers bring. It doesn’t take much to bring a little color and hope to others, does it?

Q: How can I read “The Christmas Rose”?

A: You can read it online HERE.

You can also download the eBook (PDF) to enjoy on your phone or tablet: Christmas Rose Story.

Thanks, readers, for reading and, possibly, sharing my story of The Christmas Rose with others. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

as always………………………….rvw

stock-footage-loop-able-christmas-snow-globe-snowflake-with-snowfall-on-blue-background

34th Street: Missed The Miracle

d11d1c516380d1c6ed3da36170911e6e4c7c3683a178d1573d9f56f12fe6a193Post 616.122014

“Missed it by that much.” -Secret Agent Maxwell Smart

We decided that tonight would be a great night to take our annual trip to 34th Street in Hamden to check out the lights and lawns as only Baltimore can do. We left a little before 7 p.m., stopped at Starbucks to get a few holiday drinks (thanks, Wonderful Student, for the gift card), and headed down Roland Avenue, across Hamden’s famed 36th Street, and stopped abruptly. The line of cars started two blocks north of 34th Street, even before you made the left turn to travel the additional 3 blocks to get to the Big Show.

What the heck, we thought. Our drinks are full, the Christmas music was flowing freely on 101.9 FM, and we had nowhere to be. So, we decided to stay in line and begin the inch-by-inch crawl to the famed Baltimore block (not THAT block!) of lights and holiday magic.

It took about 75 minutes for us to make it to the intersection where the mystical show on 34th Street began. As we waited to cross the road and begin our oohing and aahing, a police officer, with full lights running, pulled up in front of us and got out of his car.

He proceeded to disappear in the masses of holiday walkers, and we were all stopped at a complete standstill. After a few minutes deliberating with two other officers who arrived at the scene, the first officer who blocked us stopped all traffic, set up traffic cones blocking the entrance to 34th Street, and gave us the big whistle and hand jive:

“You!” he pointed in my general direction. I looked a little to the left and to the right, then finally returned to his stare.

“Me?”

He nodded rather confidently and pointed away from the pretty Baltimore lights and directed me to fight with the angry traffic making its own way to– well, now to absolutely nothing.

We had waited nearly 75 minutes to be turned away. As Maxwell Smart would say, “We missed it by that much.” And that we did.

My wife, Amy, and I laughed, and I even think our son was a little relieved just to head home. All that time to get a sneak peek at some lines strung up and a few off-street attractions. Denied!

We made our way back along Roland, up to Cold Spring, then over to Charles, where we picked up Gittings and found THIS:

Gittings LightsThis photo does NOT do it justice at all. The house was covered — literally — in lights, and it brought back a smile to all of our faces. Our 2-hour trek had led us here, and as a result, we all benefited greatly (praise the Lord) from the beautiful display of lights.

We headed home, listening to more Christmas music, and planning out a different strategy in 2015. Until then, I think that we are happy in knowing we tried, and that there are plenty of other ways we can prepare for next year so that we can enjoy The Miracle on 34th Street — or any miracle, really… as long as it doesn’t involve so much traffic!