Gift Giving

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: December 25, 2013
Categories: Celebrations, Inspiration
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Santa reading with globeThese last few days, with the Christmas season upon us, the melody of the song “Santa, Baby” played in my head. You know, the one where she tells Santa everything she wants for Christmas.

 

I didn’t much feel like making a list of what I would like in life or for Christmas: I’d get what I’d get, and anything else could just rest. And I thought of the original Christmas. Though yes, it involved Jesus receiving gifts from the magi, ultimately Christ’s birth was about Him giving: He came to give His life as a ransom for many (see Mark 10:45 or Matthew 20:28 in the Bible).

 

So I mulled instead what I’d like to give the world, through my writing. And I remembered again what some writers important to me have given me. Most of these writers impacted me starting in my childhood or adolescence. For example:

 

-Jules Verne, whose books of regular travel, more than those of science-fiction, marked me. One of my favorite books at the age of ten was The Long Vacation, the story of a handful of New Zealand schoolboys stranded on an island for two years; then there was The Amazing Adventure of the Barsac Mission, which I won as a school prize in third or fourth grade, where a group of Europeans find this amazing futuristic city in the wilds of Africa; or Around the World in 80 Days… From Jules Verne, I received a longing for adventure, for travel, the desire for strange lands, and the taste of strange names in my mouth. You have no idea how exotic names like “New York” or “Smith” were to an eight-year old growing up in Communist Romania.

 

La Medeleni (At Medeleni), by Ionel Teodoreanu. This three-volume novel by one of Romania’s early 20th century novelists traces the fortunes of a Romanian upper-class family and their estate, Medeleni. Because the first volume treats the childhood of the three protagonists, children read it; I devoured the next two volumes, too, which treat adult themes, and, though it broke my heart, it became one of the favorite novels of my childhood. As the vibrant Olgutza dies and her brother loses Medeleni, La Medeleni pierced me with the bitter-sweetness of life.

 

-Patricia McKillip and the Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy: While I am just now working my way through—and deciding about—her later works, this fantasy trilogy has been one of my favorite books and a regular re-read for me ever since I discovered it in high school.  The beautifully-written story with a marvelous plot is evocative of other stories lurking beyond those McKillip tells.

 

-Patricia MacLachlan of Sarah, Plain and Tall and so many other lovely books gives a sense throughout them all that all’s right with the world, and all will be right.

 

-Elizabeth Goudge, a mid-century British novelist (Pilgrim’s Inn, A City of Bells, The Scent of Water, and The Rosemary Tree have been among my favorites), gives the sense in her novels that relating rightly or other things in life can be difficult, but one can choose to do the right thing and thus create beauty and rightness in the world.

 

-Eleanor Cameron and The Court of the Stone Children, which I’ve loved since my early teen years (and which I just realized won the National Book Award back in the 1970s), gives a sense of the reality and intricacy of the past.

 

OK, I’ll stop here with my list of presents I garnered from others’ writing.

 

What I want to give others through my writing, in turn, includes much of what I have received myself: I want to gift the world with beautifully, tightly written, evocative books that give a sense of hope, of the beauty of life; of destiny, and of one’s life mattering. That it matters what one does…

 

Hmm. Writing this post clarified something for me. Checklists by Cheryl Klein, fab Scholastic editor and writer about writing, asks writers to consider “the point of the book”: what truth, emotion, concept, do you want readers to go away with from your writing? I think I have a better sense of what she means as a result of this exercise.

 

So what about you? What gifts have you received the whole year long, even your whole life long, from other writers? And what gifts, what lingering feelings, do you want to gift your readers with?

 

-Sabina I. Rascol

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