• Mark Meier

Guest Wednesday

Things I Wish I’d Known: The Timing of Christmas is Complicated

By J. S. Watts


By the timing of Christmas I don’t mean Christmas day itself. In most Western cultures, that falls reliably on 25th December. Even I know that. What flummoxes me about Christmas is the timing of the writing and publication of Christmas themed words, especially stories and poems (because, apart from novels, they’re what I mostly write). So that is what I will be contemplating in this, the fifth post in the series of “Things I Wish I’d Known”.


I have a number of poems and stories that belong, however loosely, in the category of “Christmas themed”. With one exception, I don’t think any of them were written around Christmastime. The exception is the poem “Christmas Lights, Ware – January Third” from my poetry collection “Years Ago You Coloured Me”. This poem was genuinely written on 3rd and 4th January a few years ago, following a drive home through the Hertfordshire town of Ware. As you might gather, therefore, I don’t have an issue with writing Christmassy pieces at any time of year, including midsummer if the urge so takes me. My confusion relates to when I should submit the stories or poems so that they are accepted for Christmas or winter themed publications.


I’m not a total Scrooge, but, personally, I normally don’t choose to acknowledge the approach of Christmas until December has clawed its way to the top page of my calendar. By then, however, it’s inevitably too late to submit a Christmassy piece for publication before Christmas.


Inspired by the lingering mellow glow of Yuletide indulgence, I have been known to submit pieces in January, only to be told it’s way too early and to try something else later. The same goes for February through to May. I have tried submitting in June only to be told, both, that it’s too early and too late. From July onwards, nine out of ten times the submission is too late. So when, exactly, is the right time to submit for Christmas/Winter issues? I wish I’d known the answer to that when I first started submitting festive season work to magazines and publications. Come to that, I wish I knew the answer now.


Oh well, it is now December and my thoughts have finally acknowledged the imminence of Christmas, so have a Christmas poem on me:


Christmas Lights – Ware, January Third

I thought Christmas had gone,

faded back into mid-winter night

and the acid-burn aftershock of New Year.

But, driving through the town centre

after dark, I found the lights,

primary coloured, electric ribbon lanterns

strung along the High Street

in brazen, gaudy delight,

the exact bright shades

of the cheap paper chains

I stuck together as a child,

painstakingly licking each rainbow strip

to form a piecemeal rope of coloured dreams

strong enough to draw Old Christmas down,

bright moon balloon of kaleidoscopic glass,

loudly reflecting entire colliding spectrums,

as well as simpler echoes

of childhood’s undarkened joys.


Next month: Getting Published Can Take a Long, Long Time

J.S.Watts



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