Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Christmas Gift

by Connie Ferdon from the December 24, 2012 issue

Tagline: The postman mistakenly delivered a very happy holiday surprise!

In a Nutshell: When Hannah opens a package without looking at the shipping label, she finds something that belongs to the man down the street. She just moved into the neighborhood, so she hasn't met him yet. He also opened a mis-delivered package meant for her. They decide to have coffee together just as it starts to snow.

Observations: My mouth is all puckered from sour grapes. I think my holiday story was better than this one. But Johnene didn't think so, for whatever reason, and that's the way the cookie crumbles. I'm good with that. Sort of. LOL

I had difficulty suspending my disbelief when reading this story. I started out with anticipation. I noticed Hannah's optimism when she reassured her sister. "I know you worry about me, but I wish you wouldn't. When I meet the right guy, it'll happen." I thought choosing a golf club as the gift was amusing because it allowed for Hannah to have visions of a retiree as her neighbor.

But then I began encountering tiny niggling things. Adam opens the door and pulls on a sweater, allowing Hannah to see his fit body. Convenient for the author, but strange for me as the reader. I thought it was strange that he wouldn't have put his sweater on before opening the door. This wasn't a big deal for me, though, so I read on.

Adam has gotten a package at his house for her, another mis-delivered package. Hmm. Their UPS driver needs to be fired. Two mistakes on the same street? That was hard for me to swallow. Plus, I had to believe that both Hannah and Adam opened the packages without regard to the address label.

Ferdon introduced the slinky nightgown as a humorous conversation starter, but that, too, was strange. I just don't see a woman giving her sister a negligee, even if she worries about that sister's love life.

So, to quote Johnene, this story just didn't work for me. It had many elements of a good Woman's World story, but those elements didn't add up for me. I really would have liked a really warm fuzzy feeling from reading the December 24th issue story, as well. This issue more than any other should have made my heart swell up with emotion.

Maybe your mileage differed. If so, let's discuss.

Photo by: makelessnoise (cc)


Tamara said...

I agree regarding the element of believability, Kate, especially when I have had a "too far-fetched" comment on a few of my stories I felt were not deserved. Also, I was a little suprirsed that, with their squeaky-clean MO, they used a red negligee in the story and had the man comment on her nightwear. But, I am happy for the author just the same.

Mary Jo said...

Considering the plethora of stories that they can choose from, you have to wonder at some of the stories that make it to print. Especially if you submitted one that you believe was so much better. Sometimes it is just a matter of luck.

I read this story, but actually I had pretty much forgotten it by now. I do recall that it did not seem very "Christmassy" to me.

Tamara, I know what you mean. I had what I thought was a darling story that Johnene wanted but the Big Chief turned down because "it couldn't happen". Essentially, it was a love at first sight situation, and there are a lot of young people who can tell you it happens everyday. It wouldn't matter so much if there were actually any market for our stories.

Pat said...

I have to say. I live at 605 on my street. At the other end of the street, there’s a 650. Sometimes the sender has the number wrong and sometimes it is just a misread number. We’ve had mail, packages, and even people stop here because they wanted the people at 650. Therefore, I found this story funny and very believable.

I also have two sisters who would not think twice about sending me that “type” of package and I’m just the same. I’ve driven all the way to Rumson to mail my sister a birthday card from “The Boss” as a joke, (don’t’ ask) only to find that Rumson doesn’t have a post office—as long as it was mailed in Jersey, it didn’t matter where.

This story was a Christmas story, just different which I guess is why they bought it. Who knows?

On the down side, I a story with cell phone bills mixed-up plot that I hadn’t send out yet. Now I guess I hold it for a while.

Mary Jo said...

Good grief, do we all think alike? That is scary. I sent a story to WW over five months ago that was based on packages delivered to the wrong address. I haven't heard, but I guess that one is dead in the water.

Linda Butler said...

I enjoyed reading the comments about this story. I have a different viewpoint and I came away with that warm Christmasy feeling. I loved the story.

For me, this is a matchmaker story. It happens at Christmas but it takes us into the New Year. So for the matchmaker part, who delivered the packages? I suggest that Melanie delivered both of them and not the package company.

I believe she was in cahoots with Adam’s dad and they hatched a plot to get Adam and Hannah together. They went to a lot of effort but some people love to play jokes and they probably had a great time laughing over this.

So how would Melanie and Adam’s Dad meet? We know that Hannah’s house is “new”. She has unpacked and her Christmas decorations are up. A house is “new” for several months and Melanie may have purchased it in the summer or fall. Neighbors know what goes on in their neighborhood so Adam’s dad may have seen the For Sale sign on the lawn and noticed the later sale. Maybe he saw Melanie in her sister’s yard and introduced himself. He doesn’t have to live in the same town, but maybe he spent a night at his son’s. In any event, they connect and hatch a plot.

They decide that Melanie will deliver the package with the red negligee to Adam’s doorstep and expect that Adam will re-deliver it to Hannah. Adam acknowledges that the package “came a little while ago”, so maybe it sat around for a week and he never had the courage to deliver it.

Since that delivery failed, Melanie and Adam’s Dad decide to deliver a package to Hannah and see if she will take the bait. Perhaps Melanie puts the golf club package on Hannah’s doorstep before she enters the house. After Hannah delivers it,Adam is modest and says that he is “trying to learn the game (golf)”. He is not a beginner though because he says that the book was included as a joke. Maybe it was included so Adam could offer to teach Hannah the game. The book then is for Hannah. Adam’s father wants Adam to have a golfing partner with a romantic interest.

Early on in the story Melanie says to Hannah “I just wish you had someone to share all this with.” We know that Melanie wants her sister to find romance. After the golf club package is opened, Melanie says: “And who knows? Adam Stevens may be single and hunky.” Melanie is not speculating; she knows this from the father. Melanie does not wait around while Hannah delivers the package. Ordinarily I would have expected the sister to wait for Hannah to return, but since she knows what will happen, she makes a fast exit.

I’m reading a hidden story in “The Christmas Gift”, but I suggest it is just as plausible as the delivery man making two false deliveries.

Linda Butler said...

The black moment comes as Hannah sets the box down and turns to leave, and the reader wonders if the meet will take place. Our first introduction of Adam is when he addresses Hannah’s back as she retreats down the front steps. Most people would say “Hello”, but instead Adam says “May I help you?” He sounds like a salesman. What is he selling? Maybe the answer is “himself”.

Hannah is greeted by a “tousle-haired man pulling on a sweater over a close-fitting white tee shirt.” He is just getting dressed and because he was slow coming to the door, we can assume he just came out of the shower, or just got up. The white tee shirt is probably form-fitting and shows off his chest to advantage. He has no shirt. This is a strong sexual image. Hannah acknowledges that this is “no middle aged retiree.” However, she is efficient and hands over her package and an explanation and is ready to leave again. He blinks, indicating his surprise and smiles crookedly, indicating that he is thinking of her in the negligee. He hands over the negligee package and says that he did not select it for his aunt, which suggests that she is the only female in his life that he shops for. We assume he is single.

Adam, in a reckless moment, asks Hannah to come in for coffee and to get acquainted and says he knows about her taste in sleepwear. She responds with a snide comment about his golf, and he realizes how bad his joke sounds. He says “I’m sorry if I added to your distress by joking about it.” This apology sounds like it is more than just an apology for a joke. If he had her package for a number of days he may have fantasized about her in the Christmas red negligee, although he was too shy to invite her into his life by delivering the package to her. In addition to apologizing for the joke, he is apologizing for his thoughts about her.

Adam asks her for a new start and introduces himself and asks her to join him for coffee. He’ll start a fresh pot, another new beginning. He now sees Hannah as a person he wishes to get to know for herself.

Hannah’s movements are interesting. Adam first talks to her back as she retreats but fortunately she turns around and comes back up the steps. They face each other in conversation, but as Adam holds the door for her, and as she steps into the house, he draws her attention to the snow. Hannah, who had been facing the interior of the house, now turns to look outside and “looked at the soft flakes that had begun to drift from the sky.” The snowflakes will form a soft blanket which suggests that all their past mistakes will disappear and they can start afresh.

Her physical position has gone from retreating, to coming back, to facing him, facing the interior of the house, then looking out at the sky. Maybe this movement is symbolic of her life – perhaps she retreated from love, then took a few steps to come to the top again, met Adam, saw her future as she looked inward at home and family and then outward towards the world. When she says that “It’s going to be a beautiful Christmas!”, it is because she and Adam are both ready to find and receive love. The story takes place at Christmas but it contains the hope that this new start will continue into the New Year. What she really means is that “It is going to be a beautiful life.”

Anonymous said...

Linda, do you happen to have a blog of your own? Can you tell us where it is?

Linda Butler said...

thanks for asking. I started one in October and haven't posted since. it is at
It is my new years resolution to continue writing on it. It is also a resolution to submit some stories to WW. I signed up for Kate's notes which are helpful. I have ideas but it is not easy to write unique stories.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kate:

Sorry to comment here, but I was wondering if you got my email? The first time I tried it said "invalid address," so I went searching online, now I think perhaps I sent it to your cyber doppelganger (another Kate Willouby writer?). Interested in one of your editing services. One published story and a few rejections. Happy holidays!

Melanie Dusseau

Kate Willoughby said...

Linda, it sounds like you have lots of ideas, judging from your "hidden story," above. I wish you the best of luck. :)

Melanie, in your comment I noticed that you spelled my last name "Willouby" instead of "Willoughby." That might be the problem. :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that was just a typo. I sent the email again. There is a Kate W, same spelling, with an underscore and yahoo address (and a writing blog!). Weird. :)


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Kate on the sale of your New Year's story! What a wonderful Christmas present you've received :)

What do you recommend for SASE's? How much postage do you typically attach to them? Wasn't sure how much was needed?

Best wishes,

Kate Willoughby said...

Tressa, thank you very much. I'm excited to see the story come out on the stands.

You just need to affix as much postage as necessary for the editors to return either a contract and an acceptance letter OR a rejection and the first page of your story.

Mary Jo said...

Tressa,in either case that Kate described above, the #10 envelope will not weigh over an ounce. Affix postage accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kate and Mary Jo,

I was wondering if they hopefully (keeping all fingers and toes crossed) send a contract how many pages they usually send?

And on a different note, Kate just read your critique on Holiday Bells and everyone's comments. Wish I could have read that one. Sounds very interesting.

Kate Willoughby said...

Tressa, an acceptance contains the acceptance letter and a one page contract. :)