I got to spend a tiny bit of time with Jennifer Ziegler when I was in Austin a few years back. She has a smile that pulls you in; I sincerely doubt she’s ever met a stranger. I didn’t know her work before we met but am glad I know about it now! Her titles are among the book-gifts I’m giving great-nieces this holiday.
Chances are, you’re reading this before you head out to brave the shopping crowds. Or maybe you will wrap presents today, or bake, or go to a gathering. I’m betting there’s a list nearby of all the tasks that need to be completed these next couple of weeks.
Let’s face it, the holidays are the backdrops for so many of our vivid memories — both the cherished and, well, the kind that make you wince and shake your head. I can easily recall several holiday scenes of yore that have etched themselves permanently into my gray matter. The time Grandpa tried to take a shortcut by driving through the backyard and knocked over the birdbath. The time my brother and his high school pals tried to pull a nativity scene prank and ended up at the police station. The time my toddler shouted “What the…?” during a quiet moment in our church’s Christmas Eve service. Then there was the year of the “exploding chicken.” All of these tales are famous within my family.
The holidays naturally provide the ingredients for a great story — for both the real-life kind that will be told around the table for years to come, and also for fictional ones. All the elements are there: a sparkling (or not) holiday setting, increased tension as the day draws near, and kooky extra characters in the form of gathering family and friends who all hold the shared purpose of having a good time. Already there’s drama, yearning, and the possibility for wacky humor.
For these reasons and others, I chose to set my second book about the Brewster Triplets, REVENGE OF THE ANGELS, during this time of year. Dawn, Darby, and Delaney are almost twelve, and the holidays aren’t quite as simple anymore. It used to be all about getting gifts, eating cookies, and enjoying time off from school. But things are different now. As adolescents, their expectations are higher, their worries have multiplied, and stress and planning have replaced the sense of magic and wonder.
And the holidays are not going well for the triplets. First, they work really hard to get cast as the Three Wise Men in their church’s annual pageant, but are told they have to be angels instead, just because they are girls. Added to that, their parents won’t get the presents they asked for, extreme weather has stranded their mom and beloved older sister in Boston, their dad has to work a lot, and someone is stealing decorations and baked goods off people’s porches. It’s enough to make anyone with holiday spirit turn into a Grinch.
By the end of the book, the triplets have learned what we all need to learn: that the holidays shouldn’t have to go perfectly to be meaningful. What’s important is spending special moments with the people who matter most to you.
Besides, it’s the surprises and imperfections that build lasting memories.
Jennifer Ziegler loves writing stories and is proud of her books REVENGE OF THE ANGELS (Scholastic, 2015), REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS (Scholastic, 2014), SASS & SERENDIPITY (Random House, 2011), and HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR (Random House, 2008) – along with other books and stories she wrote under assumed names. She also loves author Chris Barton (who happens to be her husband), their four kids, her dog Ernie, anything covered in dark chocolate, all kinds of music, going on walks, and everything that makes her laugh. She hates lima beans and writing bios. Visit her at www.jenniferziegler.net.