Winter Blogfest: Mary Patterson Thornburg

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of The Kura.

The Joy of the Holidays

“The holidays,” we say, wanting to be inclusive – even “the winter holidays,” although for those of us in Earth’s southern hemisphere they’re summer holidays. As I was writing my novel The Kura, set mostly on an alternate world, in another reality, I wondered if the people there celebrated them too. But of course they did, and do. When a native of that world steps into this one on a snowy December night, my heroine explains it to him:

“They approached the downtown area, where lights glittered on every lamppost and the store windows were decorated with tinsel and artificial snow. ‘Is it a celebration?’ he asked. ‘The Midwinter festival?’

“’Yes. A lot of people call it Christmas – that’s what my brother and I called it, growing up – and people from other cultures call it other things. Use it to celebrate other things. But it’s all about Midwinter, really. The return of the sun, in the North. The rebirth of light.’”

When I myself was growing up, my father worked for a Christmas tree company, and his holiday season started with the first frost and got more stressful by the day, making him a bit cynical about the whole thing. My heroine’s father reflects some of this cynicism when he says, of the lights and decorations, “Yes, it’s pretty. Some of it’s almost beautiful. They start this earlier every year, and it’s all about money. Nothing to do with Jesus Christ, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Midwinter. All about money.” But he can’t keep that up. A minute later he’s agreeing to put up a Christmas tree and planning a party. There’s something about this season that makes it hard to be a cynic for long.
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My holidays this year will be spent alone. My husband, who was for thirty-five years the nearest bright light on my own Christmas tree, died in July, a few days after my country’s Midsummer Festival, which we call Independence Day. Our family is thousands of miles away, and we’re all staying in, staying safe, in this year of worldwide pandemic. But as I write this, I feel the joy of all these coming holidays rising around me. I will send the cards, listen to the music, put up my little plastic tree, and visit with my beloved people through bursts of energy that bounce from one phone to another, caroming off an artificial star. And I will reflect on that “rebirth of light” and the promise these winter holidays make, to all of us, that – in the words of the Dalai Lama XIV – “Our ancient experience confirms at every point that everything is linked together, everything is inseparable.”

Happy holidays to you! 

Six years ago, two men chased Alyssha Dodson into a dark room under a bridge in her Indiana city, and she found herself in another universe. After three months she came back. She promised her father she’d stay in his world. But what she’d left behind was a place she couldn’t forget, dreams she couldn’t escape. And a piece of her heart.

Now, when a man dies in a hit-and-run accident, leaving her a strange, double-faced coin and a message she doesn’t understand, she’ll have to break that promise.

Mary Patterson Thornburg was born in California, grew up in Washington State, moved to Montana when she was 18, and spent many years in Indiana, where she studied and then taught at Ball State University.
Her dream was always to write fantasy stories and novels, but she didn’t get started until she and her husband moved back to Montana in 1998. When she’d finished her first story and it was published, she took off running and never looked back. She’s had stories in Cicada; Zahir; The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, and the anthology Dreamless Roads, among other places. Her first novel, A Glimmer of Guile, was published by Uncial Press in 2014. Her second book for Uncial, The Kura, came out in April, 2015, and since then there have been novellas and short stories galore. She’s currently writing as fast as she can.

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  1. chandler pyle says

    having read this book several times, it still brings refreshment like a summer’s rain, bearing the relief and pleasure. All here writings have a certain truth that expands the thinking, searching mind. I just love the color and texture of her story skills

  2. I’ve enjoyed the writing of Mary Patterson Thornburg for more than a decade now! Her work never fails to entertain me as a reader, and her skills with the written word are something I often attempt to emulate with my own writing.


    • D.L. Russell, thank you SO much. I think I’m a better writer than I was more than a decade ago… no, I KNOW I am — every once in a while I take a look at one of my things that didn’t get finished or didn’t go anywhere, and I cringe! We keep growing, and part of that is practice, another part is good editing. But I think a big, big part is that I’m a better reader and pay closer attention to what I read. We learn from each other.

  3. Anne B Click says

    I love your writing.

  4. Kathryn Jennings says

    Mary Patterson Thornberg has such a soothing, thoughtful way with her turn on words. She looks at life like that of a cynic who just can’t be, for she sees people in both their good and bad being–all as being part of the One. I sometimes get caught on a line that just couldn’t be said more soundly in capturing the essence of the situation. She has an intelligence and an understanding of the human predicament.

  5. I hope you had a nice holiday season.

  6. Kimi Hamaoka says

    I love Miki! A warm and wonderful woman, and a creative and engaging writer.

  7. I’m so sorry for your loss this year. But your post was lovely and uplifting. Appreciated!

  8. sounds interesting

  9. Kathy Raines says

    I much appreciate this essay, and I love the closing quote by Dalai Lama XIV – “Our ancient experience confirms at every point that everything is linked together, everything is inseparable.”

  10. John Goggin says

    Love the post. I’m sending you all the best wishes for a happier New Year.

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