‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?”
About Megan E. Freeman
Megan E. Freeman attended an elementary school where poets visited her classroom every week to teach poetry and she has been a writer ever since. She writes middle grade and young adult fiction, and her debut middle grade novel-in-verse Alone will be published in January 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. Megan is also a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, and her poetry collection, Lessons on Sleeping Alone, was published by Liquid Light Press. An award-winning teacher with decades of classroom experience, Megan is nationally recognized for her work leading workshops and speaking to audiences across the country. Megan used to live in northeast Los Angeles, central Ohio, northern Norway, and on Caribbean cruise ships. Now she lives in northern Colorado.
Back when I was a single mom, my daughter and I started a travel tradition of choosing a trinket from each voyage to bring home and turn into an ornament to hang on our Christmas tree. Over the years, our quests for adventure and our curiosity about our species led us far beyond our own U.S. borders to Europe and Asia and the Middle East, and our collection of ornaments grew along with our collection of memories. When I met my husband, we carried on the tradition, and his work took us to many wonderful North American cities bustling with art and culture and fabulous cuisine. Finding and selecting our ornaments became a way of capturing the essence of what we wanted to remember from each experience.
In normal times, my daughter would soon be flying home to Colorado from Singapore where she now lives and works, and we would be decorating gingerbread houses and stuffing stockings and baking cranberry-orange bread to take to friends. This year, though, is different. It’s been almost twelve months since I’ve seen her in person, and we have no idea when it will be wise or safe for us to travel again. Like everything in 2020, things have changed.
In my forthcoming middle grade novel, the main character wakes up after a secret sleepover to discover she’s been left behind after the entire town has been abandoned. When Simon & Schuster bought the manuscript in 2019, we had no idea this book about a girl who lives in total isolation for over three years would echo feelings many of us have experienced during the social distancing and physical isolation of the COVID pandemic.
Now, as I unpack our Christmas decorations to hang on a tree that will not be seen or enjoyed by anyone beyond my husband, my father-in-law, and me, I find myself simultaneously heart-warmed and grieved, remembering joyful journeys to far-flung places while keenly aware of the small circumference our footprints have made around the circle of our home over the last nine months.
And yet each ornament — the little painted camel like the one my daughter rode in Abu Dhabi, the piece of Belgian lace like the curtains from the chocolate café in Bruges, the keychain with the leaping orcas like the ones we watched feed in the Salish Sea, the gilded oak leaf like those from the glade where twin fawns and their mother strolled through our campsite — each ornament holds the memory of rich and delicious times spent together, and each holds the promise of more joyful times ahead.
So we hang our ornaments and wear our masks and keep our distance from the people we so dearly love. We offer tributes to the Zoom gods for the technology to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s laughter. We give gratitude to the frontline workers striving to keep us safe and well. And we place our faith in the scientists working to find the keys to a healthy post-pandemic future. A hopeful future filled with miles of journeys not yet taken and years of happy holiday reunions to come.
Author Megan E. Freeman
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Publication Date January 12th 2021 by Aladdin
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing middle grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.
When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone — left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.
With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.
As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?