Faith Over Fatalism

Thursday, December 10, 2020

During recent Decembers, I’ve been catching up on my holiday reading. You know what I mean…all those books on the shelves, bought in years past when I was way too busy to actually read ‘em. The other day I picked up The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, a book my daughter had purchased at a school book fair nearly 25 years ago. 

Thank goodness, I was not drinking my cuppa or tea would have spewed all over the place. Holy Herdmans (the six kids who take over the Christmas Nativity pageant), this is an hilariously horrible story! And when I finished the last page, I sat basking in gratitude that this book existed. Because honestly, I’m not sure The Best Christmas Pageant Ever would have sold today. 

Here’s a list of just a few gems you’ll find in this short Middle Grade book: 

--cigar smoking (by a kid) 
--the Bible and lots of religion 

Yep, and that’s just the title and the first paragraph. Imagine a present-day agent reading that first paragraph! I laughed out loud but the word “aghast” is coming to me, imagining that scene. 

And it’s true, there’s plenty of politically incorrect stuff in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. But there’s a transcendent message, and Robinson delivers it in a perfectly non-preachy way. So perfectly that the book’s won awards and continues to be a perennial best seller since 1972. There’s even a movie and a play, and as far as I know, the play is still presented to this day. 

So what’s this totally irreverent and funny book got to do with you, writers? Just this: write what you want to write. Tell the story you want to tell. And don’t worry about agent/publisher/market pleasing. 

The truth is, most of us who write a swell book that has something objectionable in it to the gatekeepers will not find a publisher. Maybe the time isn’t so great for selling a story that has Christian themes or a kid who smokes, so maybe you keep changing the manuscript to make it fit someone else’s wants. Or maybe you throw up your hands and walk away. 

Which is kinda the fatalistic point of where I was this year. And then I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and got to thinking. I know kids still read that book. And I think kids will read my books…the one with spirits and spirituality, or the one with the Civil War backstory (and a guy who smokes). But they can’t read a book that hasn’t sold and been published. 

And that’s where the faith comes in, ‘cause maybe the Best Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza) Present Ever we can give ourselves is to believe in ourselves and our stories enough to put butt in chair and self-publish. 

So okay, it might be something different for you, but isn’t it time to go after what you want? I mean, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from 2020 (and sort of the Herdman kids, too), it’s that we make today count because who knows what the future holds? 

I published a book for someone else who had a dream; I think it’s about time I published my own dream. So kick fatalism to the curb and tell me. What do you believe in enough to make happen today?


Jeanine DeHoney said...

This is a great post Cathy, reminding us all to believe in ourselves (have fervent faith) and go after our dream. Good luck with yours and today I will work a lot harder on mine.

Margo Dill said...

I'm thinking about making Editor-911 Books have a motto like: We publish books other people said they didn't want to. But more positive than that. But seriously, poor Fred, everyone said his stories were old-fashioned. He's 91! His stories are good, classic stories full of wit and wisdom, and kids and adults are loving them. I'm also publishing my friend Cinda's book, who has a middle-grade main character who prays to God (aghast!) but she considers it a mainstream book. It is an amazing story with horses and she has worked and worked and worked to make it the best it can be. Editor-911 Books is releasing that in January, and then there's Sioux's. Well we all know the story there. My point is: indie presses and authors do not have to worry so much about the bottom line like editors and agents do. We do not have a committee deciding everything for us.

If you need any help with self-publishing, shoot me an email. I used the sources on the A LOT. They have free and paid ones. And they have a great free podcast.

Renee Roberson said...

I've been pondering this very thing this year, Cathy. There are so many authors out there who have been traditionally published and then gone on to self-publish other projects they couldn't find a home for. It's inspiring for people like me. You have the publication credits already, you have the network, and most of all, you have the talent! I say go for it.

By the way, my daughter was in a community theatre production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" a few years ago. It was a hoot but I've heard the book is much racier!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I agree with Renee. You're talented enough to do it (publish) any way you want. The Beatles sang, "Why don't we do it in the road." I say, do it self or indie or whatever way you choose. But do it.

I love "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" along with "The Best School Year Ever." However, I'd never thought about how hard it would be to get it published today. Probably impossible.

Thanks, as always, for making me think.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, y'all! I so appreciate your support and belief in me...and Margo, you may indeed be hearing from me in 2021.

Also, yep, the book is chock full of wild and crazy, totally irreverent moments. Which is why I think kids love it! ;-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...


This was truly a post that many of us, not just Sioux, needed to see. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is such a amazing book. But so many people would condemn it today.

Maybe we all need to sit down and watch Demolition Man as a little reminder of what an inoffensive, risk-free world looks like.

Anyone care for a burger?


Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, wow, Sue. Now I have to go and watch Demolition Man. :-)

Linda O'Connell said...

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is one of my all time favorites! And bekeive in YOU? Are you kidding?! you are top notch!

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