I hope this finds you well and safe and enjoying your holiday prep up there at the North Pole.
I’m not sure if you’re taking requests from writers during these troubled times, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway.
I won’t lie. I wasn’t quite as good a writer as I should have been this year. (Or have been in past years.) It took me forever to write The Wedding Plot, book four in my Mercy Carr series, and I missed more than one deadline. If that means coal for me, understood. Regardless, it should mean a very special gift for my editor, Pete Wolverton at St. Martin’s Press, the most patient and compassionate taskmaster in publishing.
But if due to extenuating circumstances you’re granting us writers a pass this year, here’s my Christmas Wish List:
A treehouse studio in the woods.
I know, I know, I already live in the woods. But it’s crowded here in this big old Colonial with me and my extended family (three generations and counting) and three dogs and a cat. If I could go deeper into the woods, I’d find the true solitude I need to pound out a thousand words a day. Five hundred words at the very least.
That may not sound like much to a guy who delivers toys to every kid on the planet in only one night, but for me, Santa, that’s a good day’s work.
A classic typewriter.
So I already have a smart phone and an iPad Pro and a laptop. Not to mention dozens of blank notebooks, for when I must resort to pen and paper. But when the words aren’t flowing I long for the unlit solidity of an old-fashioned typewriter. And when the words are flowing, there’s nothing more encouraging than the authentic clickety-clack of the keys as the black ink spills out on the white paper. It’s the drumming of the muse. Or, as master collector Tom Hanks puts it, “The sound of a typewriter is the sound of productivity.” The perfect specimen: the Olivetti Lettera 22, in pink if possible please. (Ocean Green would be my second choice.) Hey, if it’s good enough for Tom Hanks and the Museum of Modern Art, it’s good enough for me.
Forget the swipe, Santa; I want to type.
A sounding board.
Sometimes I just need to talk about my writing to someone, anyone, other than my family, friends, or fellow writers. For me, the ideal sounding board would be a good listener who loves books, dogs, and long walks. This person would show up at my house every morning at 8am with fresh croissants and we’d take my three dogs on a hike through the woods, during which time I would talk about my work-in-progress. My sounding board would listen—no critique, no discouraging words, no debate—and only occasionally make comments such as “Great idea!,” “I know you’ll figure it out,” and “I can’t wait to read this.”
Santa, you know everyone. I’m sure you know someone just like this. Does Mrs. Claus have a sister?
A freezer full of frozen casseroles.
Lasagna. Lamb Stew. Chicken Enchiladas. Mac and Cheese. Shepherd’s Pie. Eggplant Parmigiana. Turkey Tetrazzini. When I’m on deadline—or just on a roll—the thought of stopping long enough to feed my family can be, well, infuriating. I’m in the flow—and nothing kills flow like trading the solo glory of storytelling for the familial melodrama of “What’s for dinner?” Since we live in Nowhere, New England, I can’t just call Domino’s. (I’m guessing you can’t, either.) But with a new freezer packed with homemade (but not by me) meals, I could simply hand over a recyclable foil pan filled with a great dinner, point to the oven, and say, “Bon Appétit!”
Which is French for “Feed yourself.” I’m just saying, Santa.
A personal trainer.
Sitting is the new smoking—and we writers sit too much. Add in all that Mac and Cheese (see above), and you can see why I’m going to need that personal trainer. I know some writers who have a treadmill desk, but I cannot walk and type at the same time. Believe me, I’ve tried—and fallen off. I tried a desk bike, too, which was safer. I never fell off, but as soon as I started writing, I stopped biking. I cannot pedal and type at the same time, either. Better that a buff guy should drop by three times a week and spot me while I do push-ups and lift weights and hit the heavy bag. (Oh, I could use one of those, too.)
You know, Santa, a sound body in a sound mind….
There’s nothing like taking a trip in honor of a great writer. I’ve been to Emily Dickinson’s Amherst house with my friend Susan, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London and the Writers Museum in Dublin with my daughter Alexis, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables in Salem with my son Mikey, Jack London’s Wolf House Ruins with a group of writer pals in California, and the triple threat in Concord, Massachusetts—Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Emerson’s home, and Thoreau’s Walden Pond—with my son Greg.
I’d love a trip to the House of George Sand in Nohant, in France’s Loire Valley. George Sand wrote thousands of words a day while raising children, running a household, entertaining such luminaries as Eugène Delacroix and Franz Liszt, and having affairs with the likes of Chopin. A writer to read, admire, and emulate.
If that’s too big an ask, Santa, I understand. I’ll just watch Impromptu one more time.
I know it’s been a rough year for us all. You must be besieged with requests from desperate writers, both naughty and nice. So whatever you can do would be great.
At least I didn’t ask for a pony.
PS: I’m enclosing a signed copy of my latest novel, The Hiding Place. You can always regift it. You do that, right?