Francesca Capaldi Burgess considers seasonal writing for foreign markets
My first ever successful short story was a Christmas one, published in The Weekly News in December 2008. It was the tale of a Mother Christmas in a store, whose initial outlook wasn’t exactly that of comfort and joy. My records tell me I sent it on October 17th, so I’m guessing I wrote it that month, when the Christmas silly season had already kicked off. It was set in England so little or no research was needed for it.
The following year I started sending stories to magazines abroad, and encountered two sets of problems. The first was to do with submitting to the southern hemisphere, where the seasons are the reverse of the UK. A story I wrote in 2010, January Mornings, involved two sisters, one in England, one in Brisbane, sending emails to each other, both envious of the other’s weather and way of life. Having lost contact with my Australian relatives, I had to resort to the internet for information on the weather. Then again, they lived in Melbourne, which has a different climate. Australia is a large place and what’s true for one area won’t necessarily apply in another.
The second problem with seasonal writing for abroad is to do with traditions. Where Christmas in Australia is concerned, many of the inhabitants have retained a number of the customs from Britain. However, judging by the photographs sent to my mum many years ago of family Christmases, (including a picnic on the beach!) things can be a little unfamiliar.
It’s a different story (so to speak) when sending magazine submissions to the Scandinavian countries. The seasons are closer to what we’re used to, but traditions aren’t necessarily the same. In Sweden and Norway, for instance, St Lucia’s day, on 13th December, is a big celebration. They also have their main festive meal on Christmas Eve, as do many European countries.
Spring and summer are often the times for weddings, but you can’t take it for granted that everyone does things our way. A friend of mine found this out when she submitted a wedding story to the Scandinavian magazines a while back. Did you know that, in Sweden, the bride is rarely given away by her father and that she often carries coins in her shoes? Or that if a Danish bride leaves a room, then all the male guests can kiss her, and vice versa? (Now that could lead to an interesting situation.) It’s not enough to change your characters’ names from Jack and Emily to Jan and Inger, and add a few Fjords. In South Africa, there is the added complication of different tribal traditions.
I’ve also had stories published in Ireland, but even there one can’t assume, just because they are nearby and familiar to us, that they do everything the same.
There are endless factors to consider. What about stories featuring school holidays? Term times in different countries will have different dates. Even in Scotland the summer holidays run from June to August, not July to September as in England and Wales. Do all countries experience a fall of leaves in autumn? It depends where in the world you are. Do they get snow in Australia? I know the answer is yes, due to a postcard my grandmother sent me as a child. I remember being amazed. And did you know that Africa has ski resorts?
So yes, there might even be snow in Africa this Christmastime… (Research is important!)
You can also read a Christmas post of mine about a visit to Santa at Nonna Blog