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The Gifts by Kidd Wadsworth

February 27, 2023 by in category Infused with Meaning by Kidd Wadsworth tagged as , , , , ,
 Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

She placed the three gifts on the mantle, each beautifully wrapped: one in gold foil paper with a white ribbon it’s bow a dove, the second in green and white striped paper like a mint candy cane was topped with a green paper pine tree, the third in classic red and white Merry Christmas paper was adorned with three large red bows. Otherwise, the room and house were undecorated. She couldn’t bring herself to carry all the boxes of ornaments and lights down from the attic. Mike used to that. He would shout, “Ho, ho, ho and where’s my hot toddy!” Christmas decorating had always begun the same way with Mike carrying box after box down the stairs and her in the kitchen juicing lemons and then screaming, “I forgot to buy bourbon!”

By the time she returned from the store, he’d have the tree up, Christmas music playing, and strings of lights spread out on the floor. “Did you buy replacement bulbs?”

She turned on the gas fireplace. It was cozy room—a lonely room. She pushed down the yearning inside of her soul. “Don’t go there,” she whispered.

She bulwarked heart with memories of other Christmases. Presents and more presents, how rich her parents had been. And each Christmas morning ended the same way, with wrapping paper strown about and delicious smells of ham wafting from the kitchen, and presents, so many presents and not a single gift she liked: clothes, all in shades of navy and mauve, clothes she would never wear, high-heeled shoes that hurt her feet, make-up—didn’t her mother ever look at her face? She didn’t use makeup. At her church they had a Christmas tree with tags on it: stuffed animal, girl’s coat size 8, mittens, boy’s backpack, etc. Surely her Christmases were like the Christmases of those children. All the gifts bought by people who didn’t know them, who didn’t really understand them. Year after year, she slowly learned. Don’t get your hopes up. No one knows you. You are their daughter, but they don’t see you.

Now twenty-eight years old she understood. She had reconciled her expectations to the reality of the world. It was impossible to really know another human being. So, every Christmas she bought herself presents. All sorts of wonderful things like copper cookie cutters and an antique bookshelf. She cooked what she loved including pumpkin pie with extra cloves. She never offered anyone a slice of her pumpkin pie. That would have been cruel—too, too cruel.

And every Christmas she put Mike’s gifts back up on the mantle and dreamed of what could be inside. Their first Christmas together he had stormed out when she refused to open his present. “Please understand, I just can’t be disappointed anymore. What we have is so special, I don’t want to damage it. I can’t bear knowing that you’re the same as my parents. That you don’t really get me.”

He had come back, of course he’d come back. He’d held her.

The next Christmas she’d put the green and white striped present on the mantle, and their third Christmas the present with the red and white Merry Christmas paper. By then Mike had adapted. He brought home hundreds of small things for her. A new mixer, he’d gotten her the red one to match the paint she’d picked out for the kitchen walls. A cup holder for her car that expanded to hold her giant coffee mug. Caffeine and cloves, yup! He was Santa all year long.

“Someday you’ll trust me,” he’d said. “Someday, you’ll open the gifts.”

But that someday didn’t come—no one is supposed to die at twenty-six. She looked up at the gifts on the mantle. “The last two probably just have rocks in them to make them rattle. I mean he wouldn’t keep wrapping up stuff knowing I wasn’t going to open the presents.”

She turned away and turned back again.

“My memories are all I have, Mike. I don’t want to find out that it wasn’t really as good as I thought it was. I don’t want to know that you were only human. You tried hard. I know you did. And this way, I can keep on pretending that you loved me, that you really understood.”

She sipped her hot toddy.

This is the beginning of a story I’m considering for the Bethlehem Writer’s Group new anthology. By the way, did I mention the Bethlehem Writer’s Group’s short story contest is now open for submissions? Click here for details: https://bwgwritersroundtable.com/

Kidd Wadsworths Stories

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In the Judgment Seat

May 13, 2020 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , ,
picture of dianna sinovic

From a Cabin in the Wood’s is a column featuring authors from the Bethlehem Writers Group. Writing for us this month is Dianna Sinovic.

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dianna Sinovic has also lived in three other quadrants of the U.S. She writes short stories and poetry, and is working on a full-length novel about a young woman in search of her long-lost brother.

In the Judgment Seat

The Bethlehem Writers Group, one of the writers groups I’m in, sponsors an annual short story contest for all non-members, and the members do much of the judging—the first cuts, the semifinalist round, and the finalists. Once the finalists are selected, a guest judge (an author outside the organization) makes the final call on the rankings of first, second, and third.

Each story is judged by three people, using a templated rubric, with the two highest scores determining whether the story makes it to the semifinalist category. Sometimes the same story can accrue widely divergent scores. How could three readers have such different reactions? That difference of opinion explains why sometimes the debates the group has on which stories come out on top are quite heated.

I’m often amazed at the creativity of some of the entrants, but also always disappointed in others. I think—if only the author had done X, Y or Z, the results would have been much more satisfying or made more sense.

It’s also instructive to see how often an entry lacks a story arc. Even if a story is short and basically just one scene, it still needs a beginning, middle and end, with a goal in mind for the main character. Author Juliet Marillier said that stories with no proper ending also don’t make the cut when she judges.

It’s also interesting to see that some authors submit pieces that are mostly likely memoir. This can work if the personal account contains the essence of a good story, with that needed arc and depth of character/emotion, but many often don’t.

How the theme is approached is also eye opening. We choose a new contest theme every other year. This year’s topic was animals; it didn’t matter what kind of animal or how many, but an animal had to play an important part in the story. I read tales that featured insects, cats, horses, dogs, sea animals, and reptiles, some good, some not so good. With research only a browser click away, I was discouraged at how often writers didn’t do their homework when trying to depict animal behavior.

Of course, it’s much easier for me to see the flaws in other people’s works than in mine.

Each year’s judging process serves as a reminder to always ask others to read my work and offer their feedback, to let me know where my stories fall short so I can further revise.

Sweet, Funny, and Strange Anthologies Featuring Stories From The Bethlehem Writers Group’s Short Story Award

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Time Is Running Out

April 25, 2018 by in category Writing tagged as , , ,

Short Story Award | Bethlehem Writers Group | A Slice of Orange


Time is running out to enter the

The DEADLINE is APRIL 30, 2018
We are looking for unpublished stories 
of 2000 words or fewer on the theme of
Send us your sweet, funny or strange stories about wizards, clairvoyants, other-worldly creatures, vampires, werewolves, telekenetics, ghosts, goblins, witches, mediums, poltergeists, the supernatural, and other paranormal experiences.
Our 2018 Guest Judge 
Kimberly Brower of
Brower Literary & Management, Inc.
Kimberly fell in love with reading when she picked up her first Babysitter’s Club book at the age of seven and hasn’t been able to get her nose out of a book since. She holds a BS in Business Administration from California State University, Northridge, and received her JD from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books that are different and will surprise her, with empathetic characters and compelling stories. She takes great pride in her client list, from the debut authors to #1 NY Times bestsellers, and likes to consider them all her favorite authors. 
Connect on Twitter:  @KimberlyBroweror on their website: http://browerliterary.com 
For more information see Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Website.
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