December’s Showcases are introduced by Pen to Print Alumni and Write On! Thoughtful Tuesdays editor, Eithne Cullen.
Welcome to December 15th Showcase page. I’ve really been enjoying editing these pages, especially as they’ve been part of my personal countdown to Christmas, so I’d like to share another image from Pen to Print artist, Danny Baxter. It’s another bright, visual reminder of the Christmases we’ve known in the past and the images we associate with the feast.
(c) Danny Baxter, 2021
Here’s a lovely Christmas poem which was submitted by Karthy Sooraj, through our pentoprint.org page. It begins by giving a really upbeat feeling of cheer to start us off in the Christmas spirit.
A Christmas Poem
December has finally arrived with festive cheer.
Winter’s frost and ice speaks for its bitter silence.
The natural cold air creeps around us everywhere.
People are merrily wrapped in layers of clothing.
The birth of Christ celebrated lighting our hearts.
Christmas day, a day to think and reflect back on.
Candles are lit with such thought and delight.
Let the festive spirit light happiness for everyone.
Lights sparkle around homes and Christmas trees.
Children imagining Santa will drop their presents.
Yet many people excitedly whizz around the ice rinks.
That magical winter wonderland that artist paint.
Time to indulge Christmas puddings and stollen cakes.
Mistletoes are seen and such kisses are memorable.
People crave to see the winter sun that peeks out.
The hours are longing fast for the darker days.
The naked tree branches sway and dance in the wind.
Nothing grows beneath that frosty white canvas.
Flowers and plants are hibernating during this time.
Red berries nurture in their evergreen holly bushes.
All those moments are fine tuned in the winter days.
© Karthy Sooraj, 2021
Our own Pen to Print writers have been busy writing pieces of Flash Fiction about winter and Christmas. Writing flash fiction can be a great way of telling a story in a few words and writers have to discipline themselves to be economical with the words they use to tell their stories.
The first flash piece I’d like to share is from Iesha Denize, who is a writer, artist and regular contributor to Write On! In her piece, she shares her feelings about winter and the glorious colours that lead us through autumn to winter. I particularly love the rich descriptions and the way they come to life for us as readers.
A Flash Of Winter
The word ‘Winter’ has always conjured fear into my heart, as the first association to come into my mind is the cold and I hate the cold with such a passion! Coldness, for me, is something that comes to life, something which becomes very real, a someone who has been hibernating through the spring and summer and who begins shifting and turning through autumn until he finally rises and walks forcefully into the harshness of winter.
Autumn often plays with some of winters’s friends; plays with the wind, has been known to entertain hail and sleet and even, sometimes, storm and yet holds promise of sultry Indian Summers. Autumn brings a different darkness and a still, cool calm, which mirrors the russet jacket the earth puts on as a way to handle the deepening evening chill of the season. That beautiful jacket of rusty reds, rich mulled, mellow purples, basking in a pumpkin orange glow; streaming slices of gold through the dusky haze, of cool brown hues of tan and chocolate, colliding with the emerald greens of the forest, dusted with hints of lime and lemon yellow, betraying the echoes of summer departing.
When said winter arrives, he shuts down the memory of the vitality of spring and the cool, humid breeze of summer, painted as layers which glide gracefully across our lives, complete with flies and languid sun. Instead, he brings with him an unsettling stillness of anticipation and the company of the harsh winter gales. He often also brings freezing fog and frost, some of his favourite playmates, and that other lifetime companion: rain, who, when joining the party, helps to share the fun of painting the town white, after a night out together.
Snow… Such a promise of clean, crisp, fresh newness, deceptive in its aesthetic, which always betrays with its reality, yet we remain hopelessly in love with the illusion, the romance of such a fabulous hypnotic spell woven into the fabric of our seasonal lives.
© Iesha Denize, 2021
The next Flash piece is from Pen to Printer, Lucy Kaufman.
“That’s the one. No not that one, that one! He’ll do. Looks like he’s got a nice bit a meat on him.”
A thick arm gathers round and I am scooped into the light, my right wing crushed in the fumble of rough, blind fingers. Searing pain as one of my slender bones — several million years in the thrall of evolution — snaps like a dry twig.
I am not a he, I protest, but my squawk is stuck in my throat. A tight fist grips my beak shut.
“Oo yeah, he’s a biggun. He’ll be lovely with all the trimmings.”
So would you be, I long to retort, stuffed with sage and onions and stuck in a furnace but as a second man binds my feet, I can only bulge my eyes. I’ve been warned about this, heard all the stories. By this time tomorrow I’m leftovers.
I stare her out as she opens the sack. She’d better make good use of my wishbone!
© Lucy Kaufman, 2021
I love the way Lucy leads us into the story and we don’t realise who the speaker is until we are well into it.
Here’s a little Christmas memory Flash from me.
My mum told us that, one Christmas, she was getting ready for bed when she heard the sound of Santa on the roof. She knew he wouldn’t come down the chimney if she was still up. She wasn’t in her nightie yet, so she jumped into bed wearing her slip. It must have worked; he still came. We believed her!
© Eithne Cullen, 2021
Juneha Chowdhury is another of our Pen to Print writers. In this short piece of Flash Fiction, she tells a very Christmassy tale.
I’d asked him for a rare toy when I was five. Now, 30 years later, he was handing out parcels to my kids. I could have died the day I found out he wasn’t real. But how do you explain the exact toy in their hands? A mere coincidence, or a much deeper connection?
© Juneha Chowdhury, 2021
Pen to Print poet, Mary Walsh, has written a poem about Christmas which fits very well with Juneha’s theme of the magic of Santa Claus and the way we wait for his arrival.
The child sits
Balanced on the windowsill
Tendrils of her wispy hair squashed on the glass
Nose cold and red pressed hard against it
Eyes scanning the frosted rooftops
“Won’t come while you’re awake” Mummy says kindly
Lifting the small, chilled form
Back to the warmth of the blankets
“I want to see Santa” sleepy now
A gentle hand strokes the wayward hair
She closes her eyes
© Mary L.Walsh, 2021
And finally, we all love using the old traditional recipes for cakes and pies, puddings and stuffing as we prepare our Christmas treats. Claire Buss finishes off the contributions from our Pen to Printers with this lovely recipe from her family.
I would usually make this pastry in order to make mince pies. It’s very short and just works beautifully with all that rich mincemeat inside, but the best bit about making this pastry is the leftovers, which I always gather together to make a dab. A dab is all the spare pastry gathered together and rolled out into a rough oval with a filling of your choice in one half. Mincemeat or jam works well. Fold it over, seal with egg or just pinch together. Then egg or milk wash, sprinkle with brown sugar and cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 200 degrees.
The Pastry Recipe
1 pound flour
Cut the butter and Trex up with a knife, then, using your fingers, work the fat into the flour and make a breadcrumb texture. Add cold water until it all comes together.
I love my nana’s recipes. The method is always so intuitive: add enough cold water until it comes together; how much is that? Entirely up to you! I recommend cold hands when handling this pastry. If you don’t have naturally cold hands, just run your wrists under the cold water tap until they are cool. Enjoy your dab!
© Claire Buss, 2021
Thanks to all the writers who have shared their work on the Showcase Page. There is such a variety of writing and so much talent to share today.
I do hope your preparations for Christmas and the holiday season are going well. And, if writing is something you’ll be doing, don’t forget to submit to our showcase by visiting pentoprint.org.
If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to: pentoprint.org/get-involved/submit-to-write-on/
You can read more fiction, poetry, interviews and author advice in the latest issue of Write On! Issue 10 of Write On! is available now. You can see it here.