Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Interview with Kris Kringle

An Exclusive Interview
with
Kris Kringle
by Kemberlee Shortland
copyright December 2010

I caught up with Kris Kringle over the summer and had the chance to chat with him about his life as Father Christmas and the goings-on at the North Pole. Grab a mug of eggnog and take a moment to learn a few secrets about auld St. Nick! The truth might amaze you . . . or shock you!

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us, Kris. We understand how busy you must be this time of year.

{Santa laughs}

What can you tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your job?

{thinking, eyes rolling toward ceiling briefly} I was born in Patara of Lycia, now Turkey, sometime in the middle of the 3rd century {winks}. When you're my age, the exact date doesn't seem to matter. Ho, ho, ho! {belly jiggles like a bowl of jelly} I was raised in a monastery in Myra when my folks passed away. When I was 30 I became the Bishop of Lycia. Of course, back then I was called Nicholas.

I'm married to Mrs. Claus. In all our years of wedded bliss, she still won't tell me what her first name is {lifting brow and muttering something about complicated women}. We weren't blessed with our own children, but we have hundreds of Elvi living with us now. And well, we've kind of adopted the children of the world as our own, haven't we? {smiles with cheeks like roses}

I think I've got the best job in the world. I work one twenty-four hour shift, then I'm off for the rest of the year. Ho, ho, ho! If you believe that, maybe you should get coal in your stocking this year {winks}. Seriously, being Santa Claus is no laughing matter. Certainly the 24th is the busiest night of the year for Claus and Company, but the rest of the year we put in long days and sometimes the evenings too. We now have billions of names to check, crosscheck and re-check again to be sure they're on the right list. Then there are the letters we get from those little tykes asking for special presents. We have a special department for that. Then there's production, quality control, engineering . . . we've quite a large manufacturing facility at the North Pole. Sure, I could just wiggle my nose and make presents appear, but that wouldn't be any fun now, would it? {winks, touches the side of his nose in "that way"}

What do you enjoy the most about being Mr. Christmas?

Ho, ho, ho! Oh . . . there's just so much I enjoy about being me. I get to meet people from all over the world. I know all the languages. Even that silly hand thing they do on the lower east side {shakes head, incredulous}.

I love to give gifts too, but only to the good boys and girls. For the bad girls and boys I have a coal shed out back {winks}. Hey, where do you think we get the coal for the stockings?

How did you get started and interested in gift giving? When did Christmas begin?

Back in the old days, and I'm going back to the 3rd century, I used to be creative with my hands. I'd carve and shape things all year, and save them up for the big day. I had this cute little donkey, Ho, Ho, Ho . . . that was his name, Ho, Ho, Ho . . . and we'd ride out across the countryside once a year and deliver the toys to poor children. Word got around and the wealthy parents started commissioning things for their kids. Then neighboring communities found out and they wanted things for their kids and well, it just snowballed . . . pardon the pun.

It was after they made me a saint that I moved to the North Pole. I was hoping for a little peace and quiet up there. Then I met the Elvises. Nice little family with pointy ears and funny shoes who love to sing. Requests for gifts kept pouring in, so the Elvises helped me set up shop, and well . . . you know the rest.

Do you have any favorite toys?

{looks around quickly, narrows his gaze then whispers} I promised Mrs. Claus I wouldn't talk about those {winks}.

{interviewer clears throat} Moving right along . . . What has been your best memory of Christmas so far?

Ho, ho, ho! By far the feeling I get when I see the joy on the little one's faces when they receive their special Santa gifts {sighs}.

Do you have a routine you follow during the year to help get in shape for the big night?

{groaning} You know, I tried that low carb diet and the South Beach Diet. Poor Mrs. Claus suffered through the week I was on the cabbage soup diet. Who am I kidding? The poor Elvises threatened to quit if I didn't have more windows installed in the factory. In the end, I just stopped dieting. My good friend and mentor Father Time reminded me that I'm immortal and that a skinny Santa just wasn't right. Ho, ho, ho! I do have to pace myself though. At every stop is a plate of cookies or Christmas cake waiting with a glass of milk {rubs belly}.

What do you find the hardest about preparing for Christmas?

You know, if I had a few more hours in the day I'd like to relax a little, maybe sit by the hot tub a little more, get one of those little Jamaican gals to come up and braid my beard {glancing around quickly for Mrs. Claus, then grins}.

Seriously, a few more hours in the day wouldn't go amiss, especially on the 23rd. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to pack a few billion toys onto that little sleigh? {shakes head, disbelieving}

What is your biggest pet peeve about the holidays? Is there anything that turns you off about Christmas?

Heck yeah! I think the whole thing has gotten too commercial. Back in the old days, it was about love and family and community. Today it's all about "keeping up with the Jones's." Kids want toys better than the kid next door, Mom's trying to bake herself into exhaustion, Dad's obsessive about the turkey. I tell you, Spot and Whiskers have it right. Just camp out by the fire all day with your legs in the air. Ho, ho, ho! And I can tell you, the Jones's are just a normal family!

I think we should get back to homemade gifts, things we create especially for someone, things that come from the heart. That's what Christmas is all about. Tell someone you love them. That's the best gift anyone could get.

I'm sure the readers would like to know about your reading habits. Do you have much time to read?

I love to read. It's a great way to escape for a few hours. I especially love them romance ones. Gives a man ideas! {lifts eyebrow} Unfortunately, the only time I get any peace is in the "necessary" so I read in there quiet often.

What books are you anxious to grab when they come available?

Oh, just about anything really. I love to read. Over the centuries I've learned to read quickly so I can go through a couple books a day. I especially love exotic locations. You know, living in the snow all the time really makes me appreciate sunnier climates.

Like Jamaica?

Ho, ho, ho! {blushing}

Do you have any aspirations to write a book of your own someday?

Maybe one day I'll write my memoir, but for now I'll just stick to Naughty or Nice lists. {scratches chin through his thick beard} You know, if I was anyone else, I'd publish those Naught Lists . . . donate the proceeds to charity. Could end world poverty! {winks}

You haven't mentioned the reindeer yet. How's the gang doing?

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudy are all doing well. Dash and Vixen hooked up. Comet, Donner and Blitzen are sharing quarters now. Dancer and Prancer are an item now too. To each their own. {rolling eyes}

What about Rudolf and Cupid?

Rudy's a playboy. The girls love his red nose. He's ever the gentleman, but to Mrs. Claus's disappointment, we don't think he'll ever settle down. But you never know, do you?

Cupid {sighs}…Cupid's a lover. Loves everyone, everyone loves Cupid. We're afraid that he spends too much time playing matchmaker that he'll never find his own match. {taps the side of his nose} The Elvises are onto something though. Can't say yet, but {makes imaginary quote marks in the air} watch this space. Ho, ho, ho!

{interviewer grins} Tell us something we'd be shocked to discover about you. Kris?

I have an all over body tan. There's this great little nude beach in Jamaica . . . {attention wanders reflectively}

{clearing throat, getting things back on track} Is there anything you'd like to add to this interview, Kris?

Ho, ho, ho! I'd like to wish all the boys and girls a Meeeerrrrrry Christmas {he sings}. There's still some redemption time left before the big night. You know who you are out there {lifts a single fluffy brow}. Do some good deeds between now and the 24th and that lump of coal will become a special gift in your stocking.

Thank you very much Kris for the time spent doing this interview. It's always great, getting to know our Saints better.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Making Time to Write During the Holidays

When we think about the holidays, it's usually the time around Christmas. But really, and especially in America, it's the last three months of the year. Halloween begins with kids wanting the perfect costume for school events, and maybe a different costume for trick or treating with their friends. And while we might have a short lull before Thanksgiving, we're still consciously thinking about all the dishes needing preparation before the big day. Never mind the decorating!

Come Black Friday — that day after Thanksgiving Day when we all realize there's just four weeks until Christmas — utter panic sets in. We have to shop for gifts, post holiday cards, put up decorations, make sure the dinner invites have been sent, and we can't forget to order The Bird, shop for food, then start cooking.

There's no time to sit on our laurels, as the after-Christmas sales start on the 26th. Then comes New Years Eve and Day — another day of too much food and drink, and if you like to go out that night, add in all-night dancing.

By January, once all the holiday excitement has passed, we're left wondering why our current work in progress is still on the same page where we left it before the holidays. I won't even mention NaNoWriMo — the November month long writing burst to write a novel in a month. Anyone who can complete that in the middle of the holidays is a saint in my eyes! But for the rest of us who just want to get in some writing when we have time, how do we make the time?

It's called DELEGATION. A lot of writers are control freaks. If we weren't, we wouldn't love creating characters and new worlds where WE controlled everything. We can write tales of men who listen to us when we talk and really understand what's in our hearts. We can write tales of children who keep their rooms tidy and get good grades. We can write about dogs with incredible intelligence, cars that drive themselves, and anything else that allows us to exhibit our controlling nature.

In reality, control isn't so easy. The pressure of the holidays can really weigh us down. As control freaks, we want to do everything so the end result is exactly how we want it. We're afraid if we let someone else do something that it won't be perfect. But what's perfect anyway? Is perfection 'our way'? As in, it won't be perfect unless *I* do it?

Get over it. The holidays are about being together with family and friends, not how much food you've made, how many decorations you've put up, how many people you got around your table...

Delegation is the only way to survive the holidays.

If you have kids, give them chores. My husband's family did that, and their holidays, while pressured, created many happy memories. There are four siblings, and when they all lived at home, they each had a chore. My husband's was to ferry the grandparents between their homes to his home for the big day. His brother's chore was to help clear up after dinner. Of the two sisters, one was to decorate the tree, and the other set the table. Four really important jobs that mother would have had to do without the help. The father's job? Stay out of mother's way! Seriously, he did most of the job-jobs, such as pulling the tree out of the attic and setting it up, making sure there were enough chairs brought down from spare rooms upstairs for everyone to sit on, fixing the odd things that are bound to break just when you need them, or even run to the shops for something forgotten on a shopping list. All that was left to do was the cooking — mother's domain.

When I came into the household I'd come from a family who, to some extent, all chipped in with cooking duties. After asking if there was anything I could do to help, my mother-in-law laughed and said, "Yes, you can get out of my kitchen." And it's been that way ever since. However, my 'job' soon became to supply the 'afters'... dessert.

For my first Christmas in Ireland I brought with me three pies — deep dish apple, pecan and pumpkin. Apple tarts and pies are a staple on most dessert menus all over the country, so mine was nothing new. The pecan was intriguing though, but it was the pumpkin pie that's been the one demanded every year. Forget that pumpkin puree is almost impossible to get in Ireland and I import it via wonderful family members. But it's nice that I have something to contribute to the day that makes my mother-in-law's cooking job lighter.

By everyone chipping in, it makes the control freaks . . . I mean the cooks . . . job easier. By allowing people to help with holiday preparation you shold find some spare time to get in some writing.

And if it doesn't, you can always get devious! This takes a little prep, too, but the results will be rewarding. The essential thing to remember is that you must have either a pad of paper and pencil, a recording device, or a small laptop which is easily concealable.

1) First, hide your evaporated milk in the back of the cupboard, and under the pretense of going to the supermarket, head out with your purse (with your essential writing aids, as above) to the local coffee shop. You're not stopping longer then to grab a cup. If you stay in the shop you run the risk of running into someone you know and will lose your time talking rather than writing. So, take yourself somewhere scenic and quiet. And write. Give yourself a time limit. It can be anything from 30 minutes to an hour. Remember, you only went to the supermarket.

2) If your family is savvy to this antic, take frequent potty breaks. It's an unwritten rule in our house that when you're in the bathroom, people leave you alone. There's almost nothing worse than someone trying to carry on a conversation with you through the door. They might as well be in there with you, right? And who can do their business with someone watching! Take a pad of paper and a pencil with you. If you have to, stuff it in the middle of a magazine and tell your family you'll be a while. Hey, we all read in the bathroom. There's no use denying it. Swap reading time for writing time.

3) Take a bath. We all need 'down time' from the holidays or when we're stressed. A bath is always relaxing. You can use this personal time for plotting. Have a pad of paper nearby you can jot down a few notes.

4) Can't get peace in the bathroom? Go for a walk. Use a tape recorder or the recording option on your cell phone and do some plotting. Or if you prefer, keep a pocket-size notebook in your jacket with a pencil. Use a retractable pencil so you don't mark up the fabric.

5) There's always the option to get up earlier in the morning, when the rest of the house is still sleeping, or stay up a little later. I'm not a morning person, but for people who are, an extra half hour in the morning could be just the thing you need. Or if you're a night owl, the nighttime peace and quiet could be your Rx.

6) Alternatively, schedule your day. Set aside a block of time and tell your family you're going to write, and unless someone is bleeding or unconscious, you don't want to be disturbed for that block of time. Put and 'out of order' sign on the door, close it behind you, and flip on your computer. Watch the clock though, because your family will be, too.

And frankly, taking chunks of time off, especially around Christmas, is wholly acceptable, so don't feel guilty if you decide to do this. January isn't too far off and I have no doubt that all the ideas and notes you may have had or made will flow out so quickly it will give you the energy you need to let the words fly through your fingers. I love it when that happens. It's as if my characters have taken over and are channeling their stories through my hands.

The main thing is to not let trying to find writing time stress you out, too. Whatever you do to make time to write, have fun with it.

Happy holidays!!