Monthly Archives: December 2017

Too Much of A Good Thing!


by Lillian Csernica on December 28, 2017

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This has been the year I got serious about weight loss. 80 pounds gone! A great relief, both to my joints and to my various doctors. I knew the holiday season would present an obstacle course of temptations and trials. It would also bring many lovely gifts from the people who know me too well. A life without books, cats, and chocolate would not be worth living.

Here, then, is an account of all the goodies bestowed upon me.

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My Christmas stocking: (Yes, I’m about to turn 52 and my mother still stuffs my stocking.)

  1. Nutella with pretzel sticks.
  2. Necco wafersNecco wafers
  3. European solid chocolate Christmas ornaments.
  4. Two milk chocolate elves

Homemade Ghirardelli brownies

A Harry & David Tower that includes fudge, baklava, chocolate-covered cherries, cookies, and chocolate-covered popcorn they call Moose Munch.

A box of Mrs. Fields cookies.

A big red metal bucket full of four dozen Mrs. Fields cookies.

A Ferrerro Rocher Chocolate Set, dark, hazelnut, and coconut. (18 candies total.)

A Russell Stover Box, the Nuts & Chews.

Homemade Christmas cookies and a bag of homemade spiced nuts.

A Ghirardelli gift set.

Another box of Moose Munch.

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Have I eaten all of this? Good heavens, no! Have I put a dent in some of it? You bet. Those Ghirardelli brownies didn’t last 24 hours. My husband and younger son did have their share. I confess the Moose Munch is all gone. We watch a lot of movies during winter break, and Moose Munch is the perfect snack.

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Soon I must go back on the wagon. Last January saw me commit to the California Medical Weight Management Program. This January I shall continue that commitment. It’s fine to whoop it up during the holiday season, especially when my friends and family were kind enough to give me the really good stuff!

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Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – How To Be One of Santa’s Elves by Lillian Csernica


Sally has been kind enough to run one of my blog posts about the nuts and bolts of answering letters to Santa Claus. Thank you, Sally!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Last Saturday we found out more about the wonderful job that Lillian Csernica takes on very Christmas as an official Santa’s Elf.. This week she takes us through the process of becoming one of these very special volunteers.. Obviously the information is related to the United States but I am sure there are similar organisations in your specific country.

How To Be One of Santa’s Elves by Lillian Csernica

I’ve been a volunteer for the local post office answering Letters to Santa Claus for almost ten years now. During that time I’ve read requests that range from outrageous (in the funny sense) to really sweet to downright heartbreaking. When adults grow up and leave the magic of childhood behind, I think many of them forget that in the minds of children, Santa Claus can be the court of last resort. I highly recommend the movie “Dear God,” which is all…

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5 Quick Tips to Get You Through That First Draft


by Lillian Csernica on December 20, 2017

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Write the ending first. It will probably evolve. That’s fine. You can change it. When you have a destination in mind, it’s easier to map the route, right? Same goes for stories. When you know what you’re aiming for, you can figure out how to put the best obstacles in your main character’s way. He or she will fight harder and then win a bigger victory.

Go where the energy is strongest. Listen to your characters. Write down what they want to tell you. They may have ideas that haven’t broken through to your writing mind yet. I know, some days you just can’t figure out what to write next or how it should be written. Find a conversation, a bit of internal narrative, or some big disaster in the story that captures your imagination. Run with it! See where it takes you.

Experiment with POV. Who has the most to lose? Who has nothing to lose and everything to gain? Writing from the antagonist’s POV can provide useful insights. You don’t have to use this writing in the actual story. The better you know what’s going on in the minds of each of your characters, the more precise and vivid their actions and dialog will be on the page.

Go big or go home. Push your action, your characters, your magic, your tech, as far and as hard as you and it can go. Don’t be timid. Readers want powerful writing. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the brushstroke technique, but when you’re trying to finish that first draft, it’s better to go all out. Throw in everything and the kitchen sink. The editing process is the time for picking and choosing which story ideas to keep.

Finish it. Until you finish it, you can’t submit it. Until you submit it, you can’t sell it. I know that’s obvious, but it’s important to bear all this in mind. Writing is hard work. The initial rush of a new idea wears off and then you have to figure out the rest of the story. It’s easy to get swept up in a new idea and leave that other one sitting on your mental back burner. FINISH IT. The only way to learn how to write better, stronger stories is to get all the way through them one at a time.

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, publication, science fiction, Writing

The One Writing Skill You Must Have


by Lillian Csernica on December 11, 2017

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Here we are in the holiday season. This time of year will stress out anybody, even those people lucky enough to have a “normal” family life. Writers often come from dysfunctional families. Writers often have mental health issues. Put it all together and the holiday season can be quite a gauntlet to run, between day jobs, holiday preparations, family gatherings, and the desperate struggle for time and space write.

My therapist taught me a skill that I will now pass along to you. This skill is designed to buy you the mental and emotional space you need to survive when you find yourself overwhelmed. Your mileage may vary, but give it a try. Three simple words:

Achieve literary distance.

How does one do this? Here’s my method. I always have my tote bag with me. At the moment it contains four notebooks, two manuscripts, one of those zippered pouches for pens, and a few other odds and ends. I take the tote bag everywhere. When life gets too intense, I pull out a notebook and a pen. If I’m stuck in a line, I spot the most interesting people and jot down quick lists of their notable physical and behavioral traits. If I’m in a waiting room, I might write a scene involving two of the people waiting there also.

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The point here is to derail our anxiety by making our trains of thought switch tracks. Becoming consciously more observant puts us into a more objective state of mind. Sometimes what we really need is to get out of our own heads. By calling on the skills that help us achieve literary distance, we can at least get out of the Anxiety Attic and go hang out in the Creativity Corner.  When we deliberately shift our focus outward, we may very well lower our anxiety levels.

I know this works for me. I get all stressed out about being on time, getting everything done according to my To Do list, or I’m all knotted up mentally because of a conflict with a family member.  When I achieve literary distance, that helps me step back, take that deep breath, connect pen to paper, and re-establish a calmer, more flexible state of mind.

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Make this skill work for you. If you like texting ideas on the Notepad function of your phone, go for it. If you need a blank journal with no lines and a few broken crayons, more power to you. If you just want to sit in a comfy spot and take some mental notes along with a few deep breaths, that’s good too.

Writing is our superpower. We can use it to rescue ourselves.

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Filed under Christmas, creativity, Depression, editing, Family, Fiction, frustration, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, Special needs, therapy, Writing

Reblog: Your Autistic Teen and Family Holiday Gatherings


Little kids with autism grow to be teens with autism. As is true with all adolescents, pressures both inside their bodies and in the social world can make them sometimes be irritable and reactive. Parents who live with them adapt and adopt new strategies for supporting their children over time. Relatives who see the kids intermittently often aren’t prepared for what it means to interact with a bigger kid who can’t be as easily directed or managed as when they were young. This is especially true if some of the teen’s behaviors are socially awkward or even potentially frightening. Christmas is a time of year when many families have a big family gathering to celebrate. Parents of teens with autism and their extended family members are often torn: The teen is a loved member of the family who should be included, but will including him be disruptive to the family or even harmful to the teen? If you are a parent of a teen with autism, you are already well aware of the need for preparation

Source: Your Autistic Teen and Family Holiday Gatherings

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A goody bag from the funeral director


This is absolutely wonderful. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing this one of a kind experience.

Words and Fictions

I wasn’t well last week, so this post replaces the advertised programme. I said I’d continue blogging about Lisbon writers. But Fernando Pessoa and Joe Saramago demand full attention. When your head and eyes ache, you burn with temperature, and you’re not feeling fit for human consumption, their wonderful words do little more than swim around like the ubiquitous Lisbon sardine.

By Saturday I could venture out, and a local shopping street again gave me a lesson in fundamentals. Once the lesson was about multicultural London; last time it was about birth. This lesson, as if to remind me there’s always someone iller than oneself (my cold had reached the self pitying stage), there was a beautiful pair of black horses, kept still by two top hatted gentlemen in morning coats with an elegant engraved glass carriage behind. All you need for a traditional East End funeral. Funeral 2a better

I prepared to…

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December 1, 2017 · 2:51 pm