At a writing retreat that I've attended the past few winters, there is a tradition of gathering for a huge bonfire behind the inn one night. It is almost always way too cold to be outside, but a few dozen authors, illustrators, and editors bundle up in scarves and hats and mittens (we loan these things to folks who have come from California) and crunch through the
snow toward the flickering fire.
There are snowflakes and stars and wood smoke. And singing. Always singing. And there's a ritual where everyone takes a small piece of paper and writes down a hope for the coming year. It can be anything -- a wish, a dream, a goal, even something that you feel like you need to let go of.
After a bit of singing and star-gazing, we drop those slips of paper into the fire and watch the sparks fly up to the sky. Soon thereafter, someone remarks how cold it is, and we head inside for warmer conversations.
I'm not much of a New Year's resolution person, but this is a tradition I've come to love. There's something magical about the physical writing down of that hope and then the letting go.
Most often, my wishes have to do not with anything too tangible. While I'd love for my books to be nominated for awards or get starred reviews, somehow, that feels too specific to be sending the universe in a shower of sparks, so my wishes tend to be of the big picture variety -- things like determination and patience and a sense of balance in my teaching-writing-parenting life. And often, throughout the year, I'll slow myself down and think back to that cold night under the stars, those sparks flying up, and that in itself brings me back to what's important.
This January, I wish you peace and joy and inspiration. Brilliant ideas and the patience to bring them to life. And I highly recommend building a fire on a cold night. Just try it. Write down a whispered dream and let it go.
Kate Messner grew up in Medina, a small town in Western New York. For the past twelve years, she has been a teacher of middle school English. In 2006, she earned National Board Certification in Early Adolescent English Language Arts and frequently gives teacher workshops on technology integration, differentiating instruction, and of course, reading and writing across the curriculum. THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z is her first contemporary mid-grade novel. You can learn more about Kate and her books at www.katemessner.net