Christmas Letters

MICHAEL SHAWN MCCALLEY
Michael Shawn McCalley Author Interview

30 Chicago Christmases is a collection of personal letters you’ve sent during the holidays over the last 30 years. Why was this an important book for you to publish?

I have asked myself what I would grab from my house in a hurry were it burning to the ground. The obvious answer was my collection of end-of-year Christmas letters that I have been keeping in a 3-ring binder. I did not want to reach the end of my life without leaving behind any indication of having been here. I did not want to reach the end of my life without sharing what I have learned or observed. In publishing this book filled with holiday-themed correspondence, my hope was that others might benefit from the insights that have come from my experiences.

Your 30th year-in-review letter will be in 2020. This is a difficult year for everyone, but was there anything specifically personal to this year for you?

During the earliest and most restrictive phases of the pandemic lock-down, I never identified with the oft-spoken adage that “we’re all in this together.” Despite technology which has allowed for telework and electronic forms of communication, I have felt greatly distanced from a sense of normal and from other people. Christmas 2020 looks to take place under a lock-down. My hope when writing this book is that it would be a way to connect with people, with activities, and with traditions at a time when get-togethers and travel might be inopportune.

Was there anything that surprised you when you went back to look at these letters for this book?

No, I cannot say that I was surprised by anything. What I had written was consistent with my memories of what I had described. My letters did include some details that I might have forgotten had they not been put to paper. What I did feel was a sense of affirmation with respect to the choices I have made and that my life feels like it is headed in the right direction going forward.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

I want readers to appreciate how beneficial and significant writing can be to a sense of well-being. I do not wonder where the years have gone because I have got a record of what I have done with them. Others who write can experience that same sense of satisfaction in being able to account for how they have spent their time on planet earth or at least avoid that sense of loss felt by non-writers who wonder how time got away from them.

Author Links: Facebook | Amazon

My name is Michael McCalley, and 30 Chicago Christmases is the first book I have authored. Before now, my writing outside of work had been limited to personal correspondence and accounts of travels when I have taken a vacation. Many people have told me how much they enjoy my letters which I consider my favorite compliment. What I write also tends to be short, generally no more than a few thousand words. Never would I have considered myself an author or a writer of an entire book. But then the pandemic hit. I coped with lockdowns and restrictions by writing more than usual. During this time, I successfully recovered the most aged of some lost “year-in-review” Christmas letters which I had stored on some old floppy disks. They go back continuously to Christmas 1991. Beginning with the 2009 Advent season, additional mailings detailing the build-up toward Christmas in the Windy City supplemented the annual letters sent to my parents. The year-in-review letter sent for 2020 is my 30th. My pandemic project has been the compilation of all my holiday correspondence into what has become 30 Chicago Christmases. At times, it may read as a reflective memoir intended for those interested in personal growth and development. The book is also an account of how Christmas is observed in Chicago, which is part current history and part travelogue. I chronicle the happenings downtown, in my neighborhood, at work, and at home. Vivid descriptions of activities and events which make the Yuletide special in the Windy City put the reader at the center of the festivities. This book will delight readers who want the experience of a Chicago Christmas for themselves and to share with others.

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Posted on November 28, 2020, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Having previously read many or all of the Christmas letters, what surprised me most from the book were the vivid descriptions of decorations, holiday craft markets, and traditions during the weeks leading up to Christmas (and increasingly before Thanksgiving). One need not be a Chicago native–or have ever traveled there–to appreciate the observations and personal reflections on the Advent season from the author. Perhaps the reader would compare these to their own family or community Christmas preparations, and be moved to start new seasonal traditions. When I read the individual letters each year, it seems I was looking more for news from my friend, while overlooking how he had brought Advent to life on the pages and the peace and calm that it brought to him. The book also contains much introspective thought from the original letters and in embedded commentary on topics including family, materialism, and mortality which should stir the reader to examine their own life and the focus of their time, money, and energy during Advent, Christmas, and throughout the year. While the book might not make the Top 10 list of items to grab from my own house were it burning to the ground, I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for discernment in honing their own list … of if they just want a good seasonal read.

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