Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Creative Christmas writing ideas for children (and adults?) By Steve Way


I thought you might find the example ideas below useful for stimulating children (and maybe adults) to do some Christmas related creative writing. I’ve used them in schools and in other contexts and they seem to have gone down well! Just a possible tip; since the children invariably ask how many letters to Santa etc that they have to write I generally tell them that they have to write at least two but no more than six million (in which case we have to inform the police.) If the children are responsive to my daft humour I also let them know that I am going to let them write on the special modern, ‘new-fangled’ (I bemoan the fact that we never had any when I was at school) DOUBLE SIDED (Gasp!!) paper. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see how many of them get the joke!


                                                 Pongos Circus of Wonder,

                                                 The Big Top,

                                                 Wherever it is we’re at this week,

                                                 Tuesday 16th December 2021

Dear Santa,

         I hope you are well. Giggles the clown here. For Christmas could I have some enormous trousers? I need them for my fellow clowns to pour custard down. I’ve had to wash my current pair of enormous trousers so many times they’ve shrunk – I think the custard makes them shrink faster for some reason.

         Also, could I have a new car for our act? Our old one is so worn, the pieces of it stick together when they are supposed to fall apart. Why at the end of one act the stupid old thing was running perfectly and still had all its doors on – ridiculous!

         Finally, unlike last year, please don’t send me any more new jokes. We’ll stick with the old ones, like we always have.

         Yours sincerely,





                                                          Wednesday 16th Dec 2021

Dear Santa,

         It’s Germany here. I hope you are well. For Christmas please could I have a few more mountains? Although I’ve got quite a few high bits, no one ever talks about my mountains. Lots of nearby countries are famous for their mountains and as you know I like to be the best at everything.

         It’s also occurred to me that as well as having a huge “Black Forest” how about letting me have a “Green Forest” or an “Orange Forest” or even a “Stripy Yellow and Blue Forest”. That would be a bit of a laugh – and you know how much I enjoy a bit of a laugh! … As long as it really is only a bit.

         Best Wishes,




                                                          9 Liquid Street,

                                                          Water Avenue,


                                                          DR14 8WW

                                                          Friday 13th December 2021


Dear Santa,

         I am writing on behalf of my carpet. My carpet has been in my house for over forty years (it was put in the house by the person who first moved into it.) In all that time it has never received a Christmas present. As you might imagine after forty years of being walked over, having dirty shoes cleaned on it, several muddy dogs rolling on it and quite a few cups of tea spilt on it, it is very threadbare. Is there any chance you could send it a couple of rugs to cover the most worn out and dirty patches, I’m sure it would appreciate them?

         Also, while I think about it, my old fridge could do with a couple of new drawers and a plastic thingy to go in the bottom of it. Finally, just to mention, my toilet roll holder needs a new middle bit.

         Thank you for your help.


                  Tony Turtlesoup


                                             The Round Table,

                                             Camelot Castle,


                                             Fair England,

                                             Tuesday 4th December Time of Yore

Dear Santa,

         I hope ye be well. For the season of Christ Mass, would ye be so kind as to send me some more knights for my round table. Some of them have been killed by dragons before others have slain them (the dragons that is.) Also, some of the victorious knights have married the fair maidens they’ve rescued and so that leads to an even greater shortage of knights. It’s depressing, especially at this time of year when the nights are drawing in. The nights are short and I’ve a shortage of knights.

         Oh, and did I mention that some of my knights have gone off on quests and never come back?

         Yours knight-shortagely,

                                               King Arthur



                                                               York Castle,

                                                               York (where else?)

                                                               14th Dec 1649

Dear Santa,

         I hope you are well. The Duke of York here. I was wondering if you could send me ten thousand more men? The ten thousand I’ve got at the moment are hopeless!

         All I did was march them up to the top of the hill and march them down again. And when they were up, they were up in arms about how hard I was making them work and when they were down, they were down on their backs snoozing the minute we’d got back to camp. I can’t have an army as useless as this! It wasn’t even much of a hill! Why if I try and take them over the Pennines to invade Lancaster, they’ll take all year to get there and be no more use as soldiers as a bunch of school children!

         I look forward to hearing from you and hope you’ll send me some real soldiers.

         Yours sincerely,

                                  The Grand old Duke (of York)



                                                      Buckingham Palace,

                                                      The Mall,


                                                      Monday 16th December 2021

Dear Santa,

         Could One please have three hundred new corgis for Christmas? The palace seems so empty with only two thousand of them running around the place and knocking over the statues.

         Also, could One have some more guards and things covered in gold and jewels.

         Yours sincerely,

                                    Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth


P.S. A few pairs of warm slippers would be appreciated too.


P.P.S. And a new crown if you’re running out of stocking filler ideas.



The Stables,

                                                    Behind the Toy Factory,


                                                    Wednesday 16th Dec 2021


Dear Santa,

         Rudolf here. I know I ask for this every year, but this year please can I have a year off. It’s exhausting flying around the world pulling your heavy sleigh. It always makes me laugh to think that children think your sleigh is magic and floats of its own accord. As you know if we didn’t pull on your sleigh fast enough and hard enough, it would fall down.

         Well frankly this year I really am exhausted. OK the rest of the reindeer and I have had a whole year to rest… but so have you and you aren’t getting any lighter.

         Finally, another thing I don’t want is a silly red hat with a white bobble on it. Reindeer don’t wear hats – how many times do I have to tell you.

         Yours red-nosedly,




The Moon,

                                             Earth Orbit,

Above Turkey at the moment, oh now its Greece… ah Italy… um France… oh forget it…

Thursday 16th Dec 2021


Hello Santa,

                We hope you are well. It’s the Lunar Reindeer here. From the colony that got started when a few of our forefathers (and foremothers) escaped from the harness attached to your sleigh.

       Now, we hear you’re finding it hard to find flying reindeer to help pull your sleigh. Well we’ve got a few young bucks up here keen to volunteer. So, all you have to do is give us the Christmas present we want - namely LOTS OF CHEESE!!! There’s absolutely none here and for some reason it’s the only thing we want to eat all the time! We think about nothing else!

       Hope to hear from you.

       Yours sincerely,

                                  Rudolf Armstrong


P.S. Any chance of also buying us a lottery ticket? Ta.



Revolt in the Christmas factory.  


We of the Working Everyday Elves Party (WEEP) hereby issue the following demands.  If they are not met by you Father Christmas, we will not make any more presents.


1) We want some heating on in the factory. It's freezing!


2) Stop coming up behind us and saying, "Ho Ho Ho!" when we're not expecting it.


3) Why should we have to change out your reindeer? … Yuck! … It's about time you did some of the dirty jobs.


4) GO ON A DIET!!  We're fed up of getting squashed in the corridor when you walk by. Also eating so much makes you burp all the time, which we think is very unprofessional.  Children look up to you, you know.


5) We want pictures of us working in the factory on more Christmas cards - so people can see who really does the work around here.


6) Buy some new sacks for goodness sake! They're hundreds of years old! They're all about to collapse. You'll look a fool if they split open and the presents fall out all over Poland, won't you?


7) Do we have to listen to a tape of Christmas songs all year round while we're working? Can't we have Radio One on - at least for one month?


8) Why do you still insist on having Christmas cards showing you coming down a chimney? No one has chimneys anymore! Cards showing you using your huge bunch of skeleton keys to break into people’s houses would be much more up-to-date and accurate.



Ways to make Christmas easy.*

*Abridged version of ‘400 ways to make Christmas easy’ which first appeared in What kind of fool would buy this ridiculous magazine magazine.


1.    Go to the moon. You can have Christmas on your own.

2.   Find out how to become an octopus and swim under a rock and hide for a month. (See explanation above.)

3.   Arrange for all your relatives to be abducted by aliens or kidnapped. Then you won’t have to send them cards or buy them presents.

4.   Hire someone else to be you and go on a world cruise.

5.   Tell everyone that Father Christmas doesn’t exist, that Jesus was actually born in March and that pagan festivals never took place in December.

6.   Spend all day swallowing carbon dioxide so you cause drastic Global Cooling causing it to snow so much that no one can go anywhere and certainly not come to your house expecting Christmas dinner.

7.   Travel back in time and send everyone such an awful present last year that they won’t want anything to do with you this year.

8.   Steal all the clocks, diaries and calendars in the world. (This may be a little difficult, only attempt if all else fails.)

9.   Teach turkeys the rudiments of language and social unrest and hope they organise massive nationwide escape attempts.

10. Use the ideas from the book “Frankenstein” to reincarnate Scrooge and produce thousands of clones, each to be manager of every workplace in the country.

11. Invent aerial speed cameras so that Santa gets caught for speeding so many times he has his flying sleigh-riding licence removed.


It’s been around a while but I’ve only just discovered this link to stories on;


Tuesday, 1 December 2020


 Polar bear - Wikipedia

It is the start of December, and a Christmas season unlike anything known before. 

Usually I'd be getting ready to share winter stories and songs with children, parents and carers, all huddling cosily around the mat at my local library. 

Instead, at home, we've been videoing a snowy story, ready for the staff to post up on the Library's Facebook page sometime soon. 

The story was an old favourite, remembered from years back when, and so I decided to share my written version here on ABBA today too.




A long time ago, in a cold faraway land, a man called Ivan was walking through the snow. On and on he went but he did not walk alone. A white bear padded along by Ivan's side. He had rescued her when she was a cub and now she followed him wherever he went.

As Ivan walked, he saw steep cliffs and sharp mountain peaks around him. The night was coming and the snow was growing thicker so Ivan knew he must find somewhere to shelter. 

Then, not far off, he saw a farm-house, with smoke curling out of the chimney.  A man came and unbolted the door when Ivan knocked. Warm air came out from inside that home, filled with the scents of delicious food.

 "Please let me stay for the night, sir," Ivan asked. "I will be not trouble."

Now it was the custom in those days for travellers to lodge in people's house, so the man looked hard at Ivan and then he did welcome him inside. Ivan left his bear curled up contentedly in the snow.

The house was very full. There was a mother too, and aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers and plenty of children. The tables were crowded with pies and cakes and apples and nuts and all sorts of good things to eat and drink, and the walls were decorated with green branches and ribbons and small gifts. 

"Oh, I forgot," Ivan thought happily. "Tomorrow is the day of the winter festival." But then he noticed that not one face was smiling. Everyone looked sad, or scared, or both at the same time. "Tell me. What is wrong?" Ivan begged and so they did.

They told Ivan that the year before, when everyone was asleep and the room ready for the festival - just as it was at that moment -  a horde of wicked, pointy-faced trolls came down from the mountain tops. They burst into the room and raced around, snatching up this and that and jumping on to the tables. Some food they gobbled up, some they threw around and the rest they trampled with their hard, nasty feet. They screeched and cackled as they pulled down all the decorations and by the time the trolls left, everything good had been broken or spoilt. 

"And they will be coming again," the children cried. "We heard them calling from the mountains."

Ivan nodded wisely."Listen, if you let me bring my pet bear in to sleep by the fire, all will be well. She is gentle and will not harm any of you." Everyone agreed, so Ivan went outside and whispered to his bear. In she came, quietly, and curled herself up on the rug by the warm fire just as if she was a pussy cat. 

"Now get to bed," said Ivan "and bolt your doors. Do not worry." Ivan hid himself safely in a cupboard to keep watch.

Before long, those bad trolls came crrep crreping down from the mountains and up to the house and in through the door. They sniffed with their pointy noses and wriggled their pointy fingers and giggled as they looked all around, ready to make mischief and worse. Suddenly they saw the shape of Ivan's bear, asleep by the glowing fire.

"It's a great big pussy cat," they cried. "Let's tease her! Let's poke her! Let's pull her fur." And so they  went close to the sleeping bear, and they did poke and pull her. 

The bear grunted a bit and grumbled a bit and growled and then she opened her  eyes. When she saw all the nasty trolls, she lifted her great head and roared as loudly as she could. Then she rose up and set to, wopping the trolls with one paw and bopping them with the other, this way and that.  As soon as they could, the terrified trolls screeched and scrambled their way out of the house and away into the mountains.

 What joy! What happiness! When the people saw that the trolls had gone, they were so delighted. They thanked Ivan over and over - and his bear, of course - and began their winter feast then and there and did not stop for days.

 However, Ivan soon knew it was time to set off again, so he started to say goodbye. 

"But, what willwe do if the trolls come next year, Ivan, when you aren't here?" the children asked. 

Ivan chuckled. "Tell them that while Ivan's pussy cat was here, she had two kittens and she left them behind by the fire. Now those kits have grown and grown, and are twice as big and strong and cross as their mother." The children laughed, but they remembered that story.

And that is exactly what happened. The next year, when troll voices called down from the mountains, the children shouted back and told them there were now two big white pussy cats by the fire. 

"Then we are never ever coming again!" screeched the trolls, and off they ran, far away and over the mountains and they never ever did come back.

Each winter, ever since, that house has always had the happiest of celebrations, and each year, they always tell the story of their friend Ivan and his wonderful white pussy cat.

Free Images : tree, forest, branch, snow, winter, frost ...

 Good wishes to you all.

 Penny Dolan


Monday, 30 November 2020

Just in case you want some ideas for Christmas writing... Sue Purkiss

(Tamsin Cook usually posts on the 30th, but she's not well this month. So as a feeble substitute, I'm putting this up; it's the latest task for my writing group, which appears on my Let's Write blog. It might just possibly come in useful if you're planning to do a workshop - or if not, just enjoy the poem and the extract!)

I was going to present you with some images of Christmas as a starting point for writing - but when I googled Christmas, none of the images that came up really seemed to represent Christmas for me. Though I did like this one!)

So I decided instead to look for some writing that I hope will inspire you. First, here's a poem by U A Fanthorpe.


This was the moment when Before

Turned into After, and the future's 

Uninvented timekeepers presented Arms.

This was the moment when nothing

Happened. Only dull peace

Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans

Could find nothing better to do

Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment

When a few farm workers and three

Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight 

Into the kingdom of heaven.


And in a very different mood, this comes from The Country Child, by Alison Uttley. This book is about a year in the life of a little girl living on a Derbyshire farm at the end of the 19th century. There's a whole chapter on Christmas, full of the most delicious things, but this bit is from the beginning.

Christmas Day

Susan awoke in the dark of Christmas morning. A weight lay on her feet, and she moved her toes up and down. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. It was Christmas Day. She stretched out her hands and found the knobby little stocking, which she brought into bed with her and clasped tightly in her arms as she fell asleep again.

She awoke later and lay holding her happiness, enjoying the moment. The light was dim, but the heavy mass of the chest of drawers stood out against the pale walls, all blue like the snow shadows outside. She drew her curtains and looked out at the starry sky. She listened for the bells of the sleigh, but no sound came through the stillness except the screech-owl's call.

Again she hadn't caught Santa Claus. Of course she knew he wasn't real, but also she knew he was. It was the same with everything. People said things were not alive, but you knew in your heart they were: statues which would catch you if you turned your back were made of stone; Santa Claus was your father and mother; the stuffed fox died long ago.*

*(The stuffed fox was something she saw on her way to bed every night, which she was afraid of.)

Some suggestions for getting started:

Get a biggish piece of plain paper and make a spider chart - put down, without thinking too much, all the ideas, memories and things you associate with Chistmas. Circle the ones that stand out. 

  • Consider: would they fit a poem best, or a short story, or a memoir/reflective piece? If you're stuck - how about taking one of the lesser figures in the Bible story, or just an onlooker, and telling the rather unlikely story from their point of view, eiter as a poem or as a story?
  • Or, think back to a Christmas you've experienced, which was memorable in some way, either good or bad: the turkey that wasn't cooked, the storm that caused a power cut, the relations who didn't get on... the first Christmas in a new house or in a foreign country. 
  • Or go for a children's story - make it magical or funny: the elf that fell out with Santa, the new-fangled motorised sleigh that put Rudolph out of business. Or make it darker: the present you wanted so much but didn't get, the Christmas play that went all wrong, the arguments that marred the big day. Or, you could think back to how Christmas was for you as a child.

Illustration by C F Tunnicliffe from 'The Country Child'.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Three jokes and an apology

    I've been writing a lot recently, and am close to finishing a new story. But I seem to have overdone it because all this morning - and as I write this - the joints in my right hand are aching. Since I really do want to finish my story by Christmas, I'm going to beg your indulgence, save my hand, and keep this month's blog VERY short.

    In its place, three laughs I've collected from the internet over the past few months. I hope to resume normal service by the time the next blog rolls round.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Things I Have Learned to Love in Lockdown

As we near the end of a year, it's traditional to look back, celebrate the successes and reminisce over the highlights. I'm not sure we'll be doing much of that in 2020. However, in the spirit of the season, here are my list of things that have cheered my writing, warmed my imagination, and kept me going through a difficult year.


Just before we went into lockdown for the first time, I was fortunate to get a contract for a book of Welsh folktales. The deadlines were tight, especially as I had several weeks of events booked in. 

Then, like an evil fairy godmother, lockdown waved her wand and my events vanished. I had a steady, manageable workload which kept me writing through April and May even when I didn't feel like writing. I have never appreciated a deadline so much. 

New Technology

I hate being on camera. But thanks to some funding from Literature Wales, I took the plunge into the world of video editing. I'd made short films before, but this was a steep learning curve, using my house as backdrop, navigating arguments with my cameraman, aka husband, and getting to grips with a new editing package. I use Da Vinci Resolve, which takes a while to learn, but it's the most comprehensive free package available and there are a lot of excellent online tutorials. If you're doing a lot of filming, I recommend it. Now I just need some fancy technology to help me remember my lines.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Excellent for when your other half is on his sixth hour of conference calls in the spare bedroom above your office.


I'd never really bothered with them before, but when I wasn't in the right frame of mind for reading, which has happened a lot, it's been great to listen to something instead. Here are some of my favourites.

Writing Excuses - Short discussions on writerly topics.

Death of 1,000 Cuts - I'm up to day 66 of the 100 day writing challenge on this one. The ten minute exercises are perfect to get me started on days when writing is hard.

Something Rhymes with Purple - Words, wordplay, etymology.

The Two Princes Warm and funny with a witty script that plays with many fairytale tropes.

Escape Pod Science fiction short stories, all excellently narrated.

Stretchy M&S Bra Tops

You can ignore this one, gentlemen. But why put up with uncomfortable clothes when it doesn't matter what you look like?

Small Routines

From bacon sandwiches on Fridays to a daily walk. When days blur into one it's good to have a way of making some moments stand out. I have a rule that I must go outside once a day, even if it's just a five minute walk around the block.

Looking Forward

I am very grateful for small things this year, but the lockdown has brought some major changes too. In particular, with my husband working from home, we decided to pursue our 'retirement dream' of moving out of the city. Why wait for retirement, after all, when next year we may all be squashed by a falling asteroid or eaten by zombies. (After this year, I'm not ruling anything out.)

So, in a few weeks time, we'll be packing up over twenty years of belongings and moving north to a village just outside Abergavenny. The fact that it's where I set my last book is not coincidental - I've been drawn to the area for a long time. 

New surroundings. New people to meet. New bookshops to explore. New inspiration. New books to write? I hope so. Here's to a happy 2021!

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

UK YA Spotlight: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis and Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield - Holly Race

I haven't managed to read much over the last few months, as I rather foolishly decided to take part in NaNoWriMo to write book four, at the same time as editing my second novel. But the books I have read have been stunning. Proper, decide-to-let-the-toddler-sleep-in-dangerously-late-so-I-can-finish-this stunning.

The two books in question are both horrors: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis and Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield.


Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker - she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she's swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she's never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father's most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map - and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there's someone - or something - stalking Lola's every move.

The more she discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola's got secrets of her own. And if she can't find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her...

This is the first of Kat's novels that I've read, but it certainly won't be the last. There's more than a little Stephen King in her writing, but the characters are rich with spikes and hidden trauma. I've seen a lot of people compare Harrow Lake to The Babadook, and that film sprang to my mind too. While the supernatural occurrences in Harrow Lake are creepy enough to keep you up at night, wondering if you, too, can hear Mr Jitters sliding into your room, the psychological roots of the story are equally strong. The ending left me sobbing and giving the air a little victory punch in equal measure.

Buy Harrow Lake on

GOOD GIRLS DIE FIRST, Kathryn Foxfield

Blackmail lures sixteen-year-old Ava to the derelict carnival on Portgrave Pier. She is one of ten teenagers, all with secrets they intend to protect whatever the cost. When fog and magic swallow the pier, the group find themselves cut off from the real world and from their morals.

As the teenagers turn on each other, Ava will have to face up to the secret that brought her to the pier and decide how far she's willing to go to survive.

As with Harrow Lake, the atmosphere of the setting is one of the stars of this book. But there's more of an Agatha Christie, And Then there Were None vibe to Kathryn's debut novel. Secrets, and the ramifications of holding on to them, is the glue that holds together Ava and the other teenagers who find themselves on Portgrave Pier. Kathryn does an incredible job of making us feel for so many of the characters, despite some of the things they've done or find themselves doing. The momentum of the book swept me up and by the end I was delaying work meetings so that I could find out what happened!

Buy Good Girls Die First on


Holly Race worked for many years as a script editor in film and television, before becoming a writer.

Her debut novel, Midnight's Twins, is published by Hot Key Books. She also selectively undertakes freelance script editing and story consultant work.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

IMAGINE ALL THE PEOPLE, by Saviour Pirotta

I like to think that all my stories are about people. They may be set at memorable historical moments like the opening of the Parthenon in Athens (Shadow of the Centaurs) or in famous places like the village of Skara Brae in Scotland (The Stolen Spear) and Stonehenge (The Whispering Stones). But the driving force is always the characters. I imagine this is true for most writers. It seems people remember the characters in a much-enjoyed story long after the details of the plot have grown hazy. When I think of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first things that spring to mind are the lovely Mr. Tumnus and his umbrella, and the wicked Jadis in her carriage? 

I love people watching, trying to guess who they are, what they do for a living, what families they have etc. Scarborough where I live is a fantastic place for this kind of activity. I have a special notebook which I've labelled 'the people pot' where I keep notes of characters I've created based on people I've seen. Over time I've developed this into a writing exercise I often use in schools, and it seems to work very well in online sessions too.

Here is a picture I took at the municipal market while on holiday in Malaga last year. 

I call the characters Papa Red Hoodie and Son Blue Hoodie. But are they in fact father and son? Are there any clues in the picture to prove or disprove that fact? Could they be uncle and nephew? Friends? Boss and employee? What names might they have? Where do they live? What kind of abode? Are they alike in their way of thinking or so dissimilar they prefer not to hang out when the stall shutters come down at the end of the day?

Can you think of what they might have had for breakfast this morning, perhaps churros y chocolates at the market, or just a quick coffee and some leftover tortilla from home, eaten on at the wheel as they drive to the fish suppliers? What are they thinking as they serve their customers? Are they happy, sad?

This picture was the starting point for a story I am writing.  Son Blue Hoodie finds something inside the fish he is filleting, something it swallowed before it was caught. And it's something that triggers an adventure, a story that will use all the details I've imagined for the characters.

Here's a second picture, taken in Malta a few years ago. Look at all the band members, the instruments they are playing. Can you think up of a reason why each musician has gone for the instrument he plays? Is there a story there?

(Incidentally, this is the street where I lived as a child. The decrepit house on the left side features in one of my ghost stories but that's another subject, for another post). Meanwhile, I hope you've enjoyed perusing my pictures and you find my hints for creating character helpful. 

Saviour Pirotta's Mark of the Cyclops won the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award in 2018. His online book Pandora's Box has just been voted the Fiction Express Award for best middle grade novel on their platform. Follow Saviour on twitter @spirotta and instagram on @saviour2858.  Preorder his book here