In this week’s episode, we’ll be talking about a sensitive topic – should you acknowledge holidays, either in your novels or even just on social media. If this is something you struggle with, have a listen. In this episode:
- Pros, cons, and considerations of acknowledging holidays in your writing
- Pros, cons, and considerations of acknowledging holidays on your social media
- The story shared in this episode: Why my kindergarten play haunts me to this day and what it taught me about holidays, perception, and racism
“So, as much as I loved being on that stage in that holiday play in the beginning, it quickly became something else. It became something I wouldn’t realize until much later was about race and exclusion and reminding people that I was different, not explaining to people that I already belonged.”
Scroll down for links to listen.
You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and more. Find links to all the apps here. If you like listening to the audio on video, you can also watch via my YouTube channel, or just read the transcript for the episode, too (you'll find it at the bottom of the page). You can also support the podcast (and me!) on Patreon!
After you listen, join our podcast community on Facebook or comment below and let me know: Do you acknowledge holidays in your novels? Why or why not? Do you have any holidays specific to the worlds you’ve created in your novels? What are their purpose? How do they help with the plot?
With some holidays approaching as we near the end of the year, decide which ones – if any – you want to share on social media and be clear about why you’re sharing them. Draft some posts that not only acknowledge the happiness of the holiday, but also include words of comfort for others. If you’d like to get feedback, make sure you post your ideas on the blog.
As with many of my podcast episodes, I have a FREE worksheet to help you decide which holidays to post about, to write about, and to brainstorm sensitive ways to speak about them.
Please note: Mehvish Khan owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of the Inside the Writer's Soul podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as her right of publicity. This transcript may also contain errors.
YOU MAY: You may share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles, on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “M. Khan” and link back to this page.
YOU MAY NOT: No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Mehvish Khan's name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services.
[00:00:00] In this week's episode, we'll be talking about a sensitive topic. Should you acknowledge holidays, either in your novels or even just on social media? I'll also share a story about why my kindergarten play haunts me to this day and what it taught me about holidays, perception, and racism. If how to promote and write about holidays is something you struggle with, keep listening.
[00:00:24] You may write alone, but you are not alone. Inside the Writer's Soul focuses on how personal experiences can inform your writing and help you speak from the soul to really connect with readers and other authors as well. Your writer's soul doesn't need to take the writing and publishing journey alone. Join me, your host, M. Khan, and let's move forward together.
[00:00:51] Today, we'll be talking about a sensitive topic: should you acknowledge holidays, either in your novels or even just on social media? Now, this is something I've struggled with a lot as a Muslim woman. My holidays were never really acknowledged as a kid. They weren't on calendars, I didn't get automatic days off from school, things like that. These days, I, at least, see them recognized on calendars, but it's still a struggle for me to decide which holidays I should acknowledge on social media or even in my books.
[00:01:28] I do recognize certain holidays. I write contemporary fiction under a pen name and my characters don't have a specific faith, but they do celebrate holidays such as Christmas, so I have included that in past books. If we write things like fantasy or other genres, then we also have the option to create new holidays that live in our world, but we really need to be careful about the holidays that we create to make sure that they are sensitive to real holidays that do exist in the world.
[00:02:05] Yet, in social media, I don't really acknowledge many holidays at all. Not religious ones or even things like Independence Day or Mother's Day or Father's Day, and this is for a few reasons. On one hand, I'm afraid of triggering a bad memory for someone, say on Mother's Day when someone might have lost a child or maybe they just have a tough or nonexistent relationship with their mothers.
[00:02:32] On the other hand, I don't want my readers to feel as though I'm excluding any of them. So then I feel pressure to include every holiday I can find. So what is the right balance to strike? So before we answer that question, I am going to share a story today about me as an adorable kindergartner in my class's holiday play. Are you excited? I can tell you're excited. This is the story of the first time I was on stage.
[00:03:05] I have vague memories of the lead up to that play. I was only about 5 years old at the time, so some of the memories are a bit hazy, but some of them are incredibly vivid. I remember getting the script for the play and I have a very clear memory of the pages that contained the words I needed to say. So it started a quarter of the way into one page and extended onto the next, so it was probably a full page of dialogue if put together. Even though I was young, I had a good memory so memorizing all of those lines was not the difficult part for me. No, it would it become difficult until I was actually on stage.
[00:03:53] I remember how it felt to be on stage for the first time. I never really liked being the center of attention, being the only brown or tan girl in my class, the one with the "funny" name or "funny" holidays. All of those things made me hate standing out, but on stage something was different. While I was often afraid offstage in real life, onstage I wasn't really afraid at all. Isn't that funny?
[00:04:24] I remember standing on stage. I remember the bright lights surrounding me and the dust that danced in the light as it shown around me. I remember the other girl who was on stage with me to my right. It was just the two of us, each with our own microphones standing a few feet apart from each other. I remember the darkness in the theater and the glint of someone's glasses in the audience from the stage lights. I remember the 80's style cameras that let out a bright flash and a click as people snapped photos. I remember, but it wasn't until I was on that stage under those fights in the middle of my monologue, facing those shadowed people in the dark school theater, that I realized I wasn't just onstage, but I was also on display. It hit me, as I finally said the words out loud, that my part in this holiday production was all about an explanation of why I was different. It was all about why I didn't celebrate Christmas. Basically, it was about why I sometimes didn't belong.
[00:05:41] And suddenly the few feet of difference between me and the other girl on stage seemed like a jagged canyon I'd never be able to cross. So as much as I loved being on that stage in that holiday play in the beginning, it quickly became something else. It became something I wouldn't realize until much later in life was about race and exclusion and reminding people that I was different. Not explaining to people that I already belonged. Why did my faith matter so much? Why did my not-quite-white, not-quite-black skin tone matter so much if my hair color doesn't matter? Why does the color of my skin or my faith matter? Faith is basically like another hair color, after all. It's a personal choice or a choice you're born with and live with, and it shouldn't be a reason to exclude anyone. To this day, I don't know what my teacher was thinking. Having me go up there and explain to her room full of mostly Caucasian parents and family members of the other students in my class, why I was so different all these years later. I can only recall snippets of the monologue, which makes me cringe even now. I can't remember the rest, but I don't think it was very sensitive to my culture and religion. My teacher might have meant well, but I don't think she ended up with the intention she started out with. My mother had helped me learn my lines, but my mother would never have spoken out if she thought something was insensitive. My mother is shy and soft spoken and was not one to speak out at that time. There was a way for me to give a monologue and educate people - yes, even at 5 years old - but I don't think the monologue I gave ended up doing that, though perhaps my teacher thought it did.
[00:07:33] The biggest thing this experience taught me was that it's important to be sensitive to everyone and to be kind and generous with as many people as you can. There are times I still feel like the girl on that stage, the girl who feels excluded, feels too different to belong. And that is one of the reasons why I started this podcast and this community, because everybody deserves a place to belong and to be themselves. Everyone deserves to be welcomed and to realize that our differences don't make us stand out because we all have differences. Our differences make us unique, but they don't separate us. We stand out because of the amazing people that we are. We stand out because of the amazing things we're writing and doing. And yes, your writing is amazing, even if you don't think it is right now.
[00:08:21] My being Muslim is one of the least interesting things about me, and it honestly shouldn't even come up in conversation most of the time, yet it does. I don't want to just post about holidays on social media for the sake of social media. I want to post to really connect and acknowledge people of different faiths and backgrounds. I don't want to be insensitive, so sometimes I don't post about holidays at all and other times I do because I struggle through holidays, too. So if I'm struggling, I might not post about that particular holiday.
[00:08:54] The takeaway here is to just be consistent and be kind. Don't post about holidays that celebrate bad people, for example. This podcast is going live on Columbus Day in the U.S. and Columbus was actually a really terrible person and we shouldn't celebrate him. But instead you could celebrate indigenous peoples and recognize their value and the importance of their culture. Thanksgiving, another U.S. holiday that takes place in November is also a terrible holiday and wasn't reality not about bringing together pilgrims and Native Americans. So I would say it's okay to post about what you're thankful for, but also acknowledge the truth about the holiday, too. And P.S., the food around Thanksgiving is some of my absolute favorites and I know it could be for some of you, too. You can still like Thanksgiving food and being thankful and grateful without liking the history of the holiday.
[00:09:48] For other holidays be kind as well. Don't just write something like Happy Mother's Day, but also write a few lines acknowledging those who may see this as a tough day. Celebrate those moments and holidays that are important to you, but don't exclude, whether intentionally or unintentionally, others. Be consistent and be kind. This is what I've learned.
[00:10:11] Now I want to hear from you. Do you acknowledge holidays in your novels? Why or why not? Do you have any holidays specific to the worlds you've created in your novels? What are their purpose and how do they help with the plot?
[00:10:26] With some holidays approaching as we near the end of the year decide which holidays, if any, you want to share on social media and be clear about why you're sharing them. Draft some post that not only acknowledge the happiness of the holiday, but also include words of comfort and encouragement for others. If you'd like to get feedback, make sure you post your ideas on the blog. The link's in the show notes.
[00:10:48] And, as with many of my podcasts, I have a resource to help you. Just head to my blog where you can download a worksheet on this topic for free. And while you're there, don't forget to leave a comment about this podcast and join our community of writers and listeners.
[00:11:05] Thank you for listening to this episode. Check out the show notes for links to my blog and our community where you can get involved in the discussion and support others. While you're there, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to get to free and powerful tools to help you: 1) access to my growing library of free resources for authors and 2) you'll also get access to my exclusive writing challenge "How to Write Faster in 14 days", where I share all my tips and techniques that helped me finish over 20 works in five years. Check out the show notes for all the links and thanks again for being part of this community.