Welcome to Holiday Tales

Juanita Lester | December 2019

Welcome to Holiday Tales by Juanita Lester

Many welcome December like a warm blanket and a pair of cozy socks on a snowy day. Perhaps this isn’t your experience, and you dread the month of December—some people do. This is why last year we shared Holiday Tales and have decided to do so again this year. We were inspired to continue this new tradition by Writer to Writer mentor Sassafras Lowrey’s piece Writing My Way to a New Sort of Holiday: On Queerness & Christmas Stories. All holiday memories aren’t filled with dancing gingerbread figures and candy cane sampling. The holidays can be raw and emotional. That isn’t to say there aren’t some funny tales either: I’m thinking A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and The Family Stone, which are all my favorite holiday movies to watch! In addition to the many movies, I do try and make it a mission of mine to read at least one book during the holiday. I find that I can get so busy that time can pass quickly without feeling the pages of a good read brush my fingertips.

As a child, I didn’t know how to read until I was six. Because I’d been in a private school, my mother was upset to find out as I entered into first grade that I only knew my alphabet. When my mother moved me to the Maryland public school system, I had a very patient teacher by the name of Miss Dean. She was the kind of teacher all the young girls wanted to grow up and be like, and all the boys actually listened to. I remembered us reading Charlotte’s Web as a group, and she would spend time during recess catching me up on the books I pretended to read like The Little Engine That Could. (I still have that copy from childhood.) It was to my parents’ surprise when one day I asked for a book for Christmas—I wanted a copy of Charlotte’s Web for my very own. Not only did I receive a copy of Charlotte’s Web: I received my first journal. I don’t remember the toys I unwrapped, or what I played with besides Barbie... but I remember the book and journal. I remember the delight and booming voice of my father when he saw I could read a chapter book: “Look how smart my daughter is.”

Every Christmas after that, whether from my mom or my grandparents, I would get at least one book or a journal. Today, I can still tell you which books and journals I received for Christmas growing up. In fact, it was one very tough Christmas, not expecting much, that I wrapped my collection of books and placed them under the Christmas tree for me to open on Christmas morning. Again, it escapes me whether or not I did in fact get anything. I’m sure I did. But the reality was that year was my sister’s first Christmas, and I was 13 and acutely aware money was tight. I just remember reopening my books and feigning surprise at a “new” book under the tree with my name on it. When I didn’t receive a book, I would get a journal. I have all of my journals from the age of six—some written in, some not. When I realized, after college, how important books and writing had become to me, how they shaped my holidays and birthdays, I decided then that every year for Christmas, if I purchased a present for a child, they would get a book their parents could read to them. As my friends’ kids and my cousins’ kids get older, I take delight in the fact that even in the tough holidays, and whether they realize it or not, I still feel like I’m spreading some of that magic, in my own way, with a book.

So, once again, we are sharing holiday tales for the month of December and invite you to share yours as well on our social media! You will read tales from members of our staff. The holidays aren’t perfect, nor should we pretend they are. One thing we love at AWP is that our writing community is a community that truly makes you feel we are not alone and that “we are all in this together.” We hope that you enjoy our holiday tales and have yourself a very happy, and bright, holiday season.

Juanita LesterAlways,

Juanita Lester
Director of Social Media



Juanita Lester received her MA in Publications Design from The University of Baltimore and completed her BA in Fashion Marketing. Previously, Juanita interned at WHERE, Philadelphia Magazine and Baltimore Magazine. Juanita has worked for a small tech company in Delaware, where she became the first Branding and Communications Manager. She now joins us from healthcare, where she was previously also the first Social Media Director. Juanita has deep rooted love for music and dancing, and she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family. Juanita joins AWP as our first Director of Social Media.



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