Four local writers featured in new Chicken Soup for the Soul book

By Jack Lawson –

This year’s edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada includes stories from four Kitchissippi writers. Touching contributions from Mary Ellen Kot, Crystal Thieringer, Anita Grace, and James A. Gemmell, involve tales of tree whispering, curling, a famous red-nosed reindeer, and unexpected holiday visitors. What follows is a hint of what readers will find, as well as a brief look at each of the writers.

I’ll be Home for Christmas, by Mary Ellen Kot

As children graduate from arguments in the back seat of the family car to University, then careers, it can be difficult to maintain certain family traditions.

 Mary Ellen Kot is one of four area writers whose work was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada. Photo by Jack Lawson.
Mary Ellen Kot is one of four area writers whose work was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada. Photo by Jack Lawson.

For Mary Ellen Kot, a mother of three, her first experience with this change was in 2005. Kot was faced with the prospect of only having her youngest child at home over Christmas. Her eldest son was travelling the world, and her daughter would be cutting her own path just before Christmas rolled around.

“I was sitting here by myself after taking my daughter to the airport, and there was this loud knock at the door around nine at night,” says Kot. “The person outside was wearing a ball cap, which was weird because it was pretty cold. But I opened the door.”

In the process, she let a little unexpected warmth into their home that Christmas, which is what Kot’s contribution is all about.

“There’s no end to the lousy stuff in the world,” says Kot. “I feel good about being a part of this thing, something positive. This is something cheerful that shows us the good in the people around us.”

Although the Christmas of 2005 is far away now, it’s worth noting that this year Kot, her husband, and her three children will be together. [article continues below]

 Crystal Thieringer’s story in the Chicken Soup anthology gives new meaning to the phrase “reindeer games.” Photo by Jack Lawson.
Crystal Thieringer’s story in the Chicken Soup anthology gives new meaning to the phrase “reindeer games.” Photo by Jack Lawson.

Rudolph’s Shiny Red Nose, by Crystal Thieringer

As cold weather tightens its stranglehold on Ottawa’s walking paths, Crystal Thieringer can still be found wandering the river’s curves and thinking.

“I walk often down by the river valley for the novel I’m working on,” says Thieringer. “It’s surprising how often you can do that, and some other plot point comes along.”

The result of one of her walks is her story in this year’s edition of Christmas in Canada.

“My siblings and I were always fighting in the car on the drive home from my grandparents,” says Thieringer. “When I was a kid my dad would find Rudolph in the sky for us on the way home.”

This comment typically ended all arguments, reminding Thieringer and her siblings that Santa was close. As is the way of reindeer, the kids would never be able to stay up late enough to see them arrive.

Years later Thieringer would discover her own Rudolph on a quiet road in rural Saskatchewan. [article continues below]

Anita Grace, pictured here with her daughter Miya, enjoys creating her own traditions around the holidays. Her story in the collection focuses on one that is special to her family.
Anita Grace, pictured here with her daughter Miya, enjoys creating her own traditions around the holidays. Her story in the collection focuses on one that is special to her family.

Waking the Tree, by Anita Grace

Not all Christmas traditions are rooted in the stories of St. Nicholas, and reindeer. Some parents, like Anita Grace, are interested in creating their own.

“As parents we create magic for our kids at Christmastime,” says Grace. “We need to do fanciful things. We need to put carrots on our front lawns for Santa’s reindeer, or the milk and cookies out for Santa.”

Grace’s short story focuses on one very special tradition; something she invented to help brighten a cold Canadian morning with the sound of young voices.

“I don’t like to get into the stress of the holidays in term of having the perfect house or the perfect tree,” says Grace. “I see Christmas as an opportunity to do something special with friends and family … to have a gingerbread party for the kids – things that are different.“ [article continues below]

WEB-quebecChristmas

A Quebec Christmas, by James Gemmell

For adults who are far away from home, family holidays like Christmas can be a daunting prospect. When James Gemmell moved to Canada from Scotland with his wife in 1976 they were entering new festive territory.

“I come from a very big family and everyone was very close at the various holidays,” says Gemmell. “It was just my wife and I at the time, it was going to be quite hard. Not a lonely Christmas, but totally different from what we had before.”

At the urging of Gemmell’s sister, the couple headed to Montebello, Quebec for a bit of Christmas competition.

Once there, they took part in a curling contest which had an unconventional award; one that the Gemmells only noticed from their podium.

Shortly after this, Christmas changed yet again for their family.

“We had kids,” says Gemmell.  “We’d also made some really good friends here and they became part of that extended family.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada  is available in book stores for $16.95, and will also be sold by members of St. Joe’s Anglican Church at a discounted cost with proceeds going to charity.

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