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Happy Virtual Holiday! by Carol L. Wright

December 13, 2021 by in category Writing

Each year, until 2020, our writers’ group has enjoyed getting together toward the end of every year to simply enjoy food, games, and each other’s company. But of course, that hasn’t been possible during the pandemic. What’s more, several of our members have moved to be closer to family in other parts of the country since Covid-19 made it harder to travel.

Fortunately, technology has allowed our group to continue to hold our regular meetings virtually. There’s very little we cannot do on Zoom that we could do in person. We still read each other’s work and offer critiques. We still root for each other as we submit our work. We still plan group projects and publish our quarterly literary journal, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. We still run our annual Short Story Award competition. (In fact, our 2022 contest opens on January 1 with the theme “An Element of Mystery.” Get your stories of 2000 words or fewer ready to win cash and publication.)

But these are all things we can do from our separate locations without having to be face-to-face. Can we really have a fun holiday party that way? How would we play games? How could we exchange gifts?

There’s a reason holiday parties are so popular. Neighbors, businesses, and yes, writers’ groups have them for much the same reasons. They are a way of marking the progress of time. Another year has passed, and we can take a moment to sit back and relax, socialize, and reflect on all we have accomplished over the past twelve months. Friendship, loyalty, and trust are important for productive and fruitful relationships, and each is enhanced by having social relationships—not just work relationships. We rejoice with each other when things go well, help each other where we can, and care for each other during the tougher days when just being there is all we can do.

So, this year, we’re going to have our holiday party again—despite being spread over eight states and four time zones. How? you ask. Well, we’ve figured out a way.

We will meet on Zoom, but each wear our party clothes—or ugly sweaters—and instead of bringing food to share, we’ll bring snacks to enjoy.

We have traditionally had a game or two at our parties. One has usually been a trivia game, but that’s hard in a virtual setting. Fortunately, I found a PowerPoint or Google Slides template for a Jeopardy-style game at: https://www.slidescarnival.com/jeopardy-free-presentation-template/11277. You can easily create the categories that are right for your group. A reading group might want questions about literature—or even the books read over the previous year. A writers’ group might have columns such as Grammar Goofs or Copyeditor’s Marks. A knitters’ group could include Tell Me a Yarn. (Actually, a storytellers’ group could do that, too.) For a group with members who observe many different holidays this time of year, there can be a category for each one. All the emcee needs to do is run an internet search for trivia about needlework or grammar or Shakespeare or Kwanzaa and write the questions. Then, with a shared screen, everyone should have a chance to play along. No buzzers—especially for a large group, but each person who comes up with the right “question” can credit themselves with the appropriate number of points. Then whoever amasses the most points can win the honor of going first in the gift exchange. (Here’s where that mutual trust thing kicks in.)

The most problematic aspect of a virtual party, of course is a long-distance gift exchange. In other years we did a round-robin exchange where each memer drew a number from a hat. The one with #1 selects a gift from the pile and opens it. Then #2 goes next and has the option of taking the gift #1 opened or opening a new one. If #2 takes the first gift, #1 gets to open a new gift. Then #3 can steal either of the opened gifts or unwrap one that is still in the pile. And so on. Then, after everyone has a gift, #1 has a last chance to swap with anyone they choose. It’s nice being #1.

Well, with no central location, no pile of gifts, this year we’re not only randomly handing out numbers, each gift is assigned a letter. This year, we lowered the total value of the gifts for the exchange to allow us to ship items to each other without it all costing more than previous years.

Our party is tomorrow, and we hope it will be a worthy substitute for our prior celebrations—just as we hope, whether you’re able to come together in person or just virtually with your friends, colleagues, and family, that you and yours have a festive and healthy holiday season and a productive and happy new year.

Carol L. Wright escaped a career in law and academia for one in writing. She loves creating her Gracie McIntyre mysteries where, unlike in life, justice always prevails. The first in the series, DEATH IN GLENVILLE FALLS, was a finalist for both a 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and a 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award. She also writes short stories in many genres that have been published in a variety of literary journals and award-winning anthologies. She has compiled some of her favorites in A CHRISTMAS ON NANTUCKET and other stories, published in 2019. To find out more , visit her website at: http://CarolLWright.com.

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