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Thinking Christmas in July? Kristin Riddick takes an uber-view of the holidays

After a glorious weekend of parades, barbeques, fireworks and picnics, I got back to the real business of summer by connecting with Kristin Riddick, author of the Kat McGee middle school book series, including the timely Kat McGee Saves America. Kristin's take on holidays and media made me rethink the reasoning behind all those red, white and blue cupcakes I devoured.
July 9, 2014

After a glorious weekend of parades, barbeques, fireworks and picnics, I got back to the real business of summer by connecting with Kristin Riddick, author of the Kat McGee middle school book series, including the timely Kat McGee Saves America. Kristin’s take on holidays and media made me rethink the reasoning behind all those red, white, and blue cupcakes I devoured.

This week, guest blogger Kristin Riddick takes an uber-view of holidays.

As a middle grade author who writes stories based around holidays, I have a vested interest in seasonal celebrations. I am fascinated by the ways in which these days bring throngs of people—adults, children, families, neighbors, communities, countries—together to a common celebratory ground.  For however long it lasts, people of all personalities, cultures, races, and religions find cause to rejoice. Even many who may not believe in the reason behind the holiday often want to share in the jubilation.

But as Kat McGee, the young heroine in my stories, learns time and again, a holiday isn’t just about the party it inspires, nor is it about the commercialism we in the media promote. The meanings of these days are really opportunities for teaching moments—about history, tradition, and values.

Don’t get me wrong. I send Christmas cards, watch “The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” every year, display painted Easter eggs, have margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, and don’t even get me started on my holiday-themed desserts.

But I do have to remind myself sometimes what really matters. And Kat McGee has helped me.

A  good book, movie, television show, comic book, video game—any good story—draws us in with strong  characters who change, grow, grow up, and learn. So in each story I write, I try to teach Kat, and her audience, lessons about values and attitudes. The parades and fireworks are great, but what did the first Fourth of July mean? How does freedom relate to responsibility? On Halloween,  friends, imagination and creativity are just as important  as candy and costumes.

My publisher, In This Together Media, seeks out stories with characters that mirror the diversity of today’s classrooms; knowing that’s how kids will relate to them. We playfully entertain, but teach valuable lessons in the process—lessons we could all use a refresher on, values that are as American as…the Fourth of July.

Whether it’s celebrating freedom on the Fourth,  gratitude on Thanksgiving, love on Valentine’s Day, or taking ‘the spirit of Christmas into the New Year, our stories and products give us the power to  celebrate these values and attitudes every single day. (Whether or not we have a day off.) We can pay the respect we give to the military on Memorial Day, everyday; make the time to sit down with our families at a table and be thankful with or without a stuffed bird.

As media makers, it’s our responsibility and opportunity to send valuable messages to our audiences in the most entertaining and creative ways possible. Holidays are a win-win situation. They’re timely, traditional and often universal. They’re a time to give gifts (our products), gather with friends and families, and tell stories, both new and old. So next time you use a holiday to drive your own content idea,  take the fun seriously. Well-taught messages are truly something to celebrate.

Kristin Riddick is a writer, voice-over actor, performer, pilates instructor, and all-around adventurer who finds something to celebrate every day.

Share your stories with me at wendy@sandboxsummit.org.

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