Monday, December 31, 2012

Tree Toppers Tell the Story

The title tells a lot about your poem or story or book. It should make your work stand out.  It is the first thing a reader or editor or agent will see.  It is often the last thing to go on my final draft.  A really good title adds something to the work.

That Christmas tree topper can say a lot too.  It too is often the final adornment on the holiday fir.   The crowning touch.  When I was a child the honor went to my dad.   My own children used to argue(in true Christmas spirit) over who would get the privilege.   The tallest usually won out.  I have a vivid memory of the year they worked together...the youngest child downed in Santa's cap perched on the shoulders of the oldest.  Still because the tree was too wide he could not reach the top of the tree.  Ingenuity won out and with two broom stick handles one in each hand, he was able to grab the angel and guide her to her perch.  There's a story there and it needs a title.

The ornament on top of the tree might address a theme.  The traditional star might represent the star of Bethlehem.  The angel could reference the angelic hosts.  Like books, some trees are more heavily themed than others.  The all white tree,  topped by a snowflake,  elf and miniature toys topped by Santa.   Like a story the possibilities are endless...a cross, a dove, an apple.   Endless possibilities, endless meanings.  A roll of toilet paper?  See the previous post in this blog.

A title takes some thought, some work.  So does the top trim on that special evergreen.  A friend out here on the Navajo reservation topped her tree with a lamb this year.  I wish I had thought of this.  I have come to love sheep on the reservation...they are nearly sacred animals part of everyday life.  On the reservation "sheep is life."  My friend told me she usually puts a snowman on top of the tree.  She couldn't find it.  The lamb is a dog toy.  I like that too.  This lamb kind of reminds me of Sherry Lewis and Lamb Chop(for those of you who are old enough).

Since we moved out to the Southwest, our tree has been topped by an angel but I was not thinking angelic host.  It was the Southwest that inspired my angel made of corn husks.  You buy the husks in the grocery store here.  They are used to line the hole for the special Kinalda cake (featured in an earlier post on this blog).  Corn husks are also used to wrap Kneel Down Bread another traditional Navajo food.  My tree has many Navajo ornaments so the theme carries through the tree...subtly connecting theme and place.

My outdoor tree made with weathered wood collected on the mesa behind my house is topped with a  branding iron I found at a swap iron star enforces the western theme, ties into place, and grows out of the voice of this author.

So how will you top your tree in 2013?  It can take a year to come up with a great title...and that perfect tree topper.

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