Thanksgiving in October

I think Canadians deserve a paid holiday in November. Let’s place it on the fourth Thursday of the month. Let’s call it Columbus Day.

Seriously, I saw my first store festooned with red and green Christmas lights yesterday, and it drove home Erin’s point: the Americans receive a tremendous side-benefit with their Thanksgiving turkey: their Christmas season doesn’t start until the end of November. Without Thanksgiving as a firewall, the Canadian Christmas season is allowed to bleed backwards to Halloween. I used to joke that the if the Toronto Santa Claus parade came any earlier, Santa would have to show up in Speedos, and now it’s happening. The leaves aren’t off the trees yet — half of them haven’t even turned. It is too early to think about Christmas.

One thing I’ve never understood is whether or not Canadian Thanksgiving is on Monday or Sunday. The official holiday is Monday, but I’ve always thought of that as akin to Easter Monday — not a particularly religious holiday, but something to give bankers, postal workers and civil servants a chance to recover after gorging on Easter eggs and other candies. My parents and I have always celebrated Thanksgiving as a religious holiday. Going to Church and fixing an extra special Sunday dinner fit more naturally on a Sunday than on a Monday. More than a few of my friends, however, had their special dinners on Monday. Am I odd?

Grey skies have settled in for the weekend. It’s appropriate weather for the season, and it’s inspired me back into a writing mood. I’ve made some revisions to Fathom Five and I’m thinking about which chapter would be best to read for feedback in front of Kathy Stinson’s writing group.

You might think the first chapter would be the best to read, but that’s not always the case. Kathy noted, in an earlier presentation, that workshopped books sometimes start well, but falter as the story goes on, and moves beyond the sections that were workshopped. In a ten week course (of which two have been spent), I’ll be lucky if I get a chance to read more than two chapters to the class. Perhaps those chapters should be from later in the book, at points where I’m less sure of what I’m doing.

Kathy’s class is going well. This past Tuesday, we read out the writing assignment we’d worked on the previous weekend: write about a memorable event that occurred when we were five, another when we were ten, and a third when we were fifteen. Of course, more than half contained the phrase “I remember”, and all the rest (bar one) were written in the tone of an anecdote. The assignment was deliberately misleading, almost forcing us to write as an adult remembering our childhood, rather than in the voice of a child experiencing these events for the first time. Guess which way children’s stories should be written. It was an eye opening experience.

This past Tuesday, we talked about beginnings and endings in children’s picture books; what sets up the story and grabs the reader effectively. Our assignment was to take the beginning of a famous children’s book and write the end (no more than a paragraph), take the end of another famous children’s book and write the beginning, and then write the beginning and ending of your own children’s book. Talk about a challenge. I don’t think I have a picture book anywhere in my house, but I did come up with two paragraphs of my own:

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Ed,
Who liked to jump up and down upon his bed.
He’d bounce and bounce and soar so high,
He thought he’d put his head right through the sky.

Softly Edwards mother soothed his head,
As he lay atop his plaster-dusted bed.
He thought ‘jumping and bouncing won’t get me to the sky,
So when I’m old enough, I’ll learn to fly!”

Not bad at a moment’s notice, but I’m clearly not cut out for picture book fiction.

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