Sara Ohlin’s essay, “The Best Christmas Turkey That Never Was,” has been published in an anthology of heartwarming holiday stories. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Sara Ohlin’s essay, “The Best Christmas Turkey That Never Was,” has been published in an anthology of heartwarming holiday stories. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

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When Christmas goes haywire, it’s grist for this writer’s mill

Whidbey resident Sara Ohlin’s essay about an exploding turkey is published in a holiday anthology.

Whidbey Island author Sara Ohlin’s essay, “The Best Christmas Turkey That Never Was,” is included in this year’s “Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Amy Newmark, who edited the collection of essays, said Ohlin’s writing stood out from the thousands of submissions she received.

“I loved her story,” Newmark said. “Although there are 101 stories in that book, I still remember that story vividly. She had an imperfect Christmas by accident … yet it was still a wonderful Christmas.”

Ohlin wrote creative nonfiction and essays before switching to romance novels several years ago. Two of those books have recently been published: “Handling the Rancher” (she said she didn’t choose the title) and “Salvaging Love,” available in print and e-books. A third is due out in March.

Ohlin said she writes at a small desk in the corner of her bedroom. “My best writing is usually when I’m facing a wall. I do love the silence,” she said.

Her website is www.saraohlin.com.

This was your first essay accepted for “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” When did you write it?

I wrote it right after Christmas last year. The Pyrex glass dish blew up the turkey in the oven. That one just kind of flowed pretty easily.

Was it daunting to write a Christmas story?

Not daunting at all. I didn’t actually think they would accept it. I’ve been writing for a long time and now I write novels. It was just kind of cathartic to write … I love Christmas and the holidays and all the spirit around it.

You wrote about how your family stepped in at Christmas with food and gifts to help the family of a neighbor, a single mom with three young boys who was having financial difficulties. Did you hear back from them?

No and that was OK, too. I can only imagine that might have been difficult for her. Our kids went to school together. We still saw them once in a while and the mom was always really kind.

How did your kids react to buying gifts for your neighbor’s children?

It was really fun for my kids to do that. My son was so mad. He wanted to buy more. He wanted to get them every Lego on the shelf. That was the only battle we had to fight that night — we can’t do everything.

How old are your children?

My daughter, Lily, is 11 and son, Jasper, is 9.

Do you think they took anything away from this experience, or as kids did they just move on?

I think it’s a combination. We do talk about it, especially because the essay got published. They’re excited for me. Also they’re the kind of kids who like to get stuff under the tree.

How do you celebrate Christmas?

We do a lot around the holidays that revolve around baking and tradition. We do an Advent calendar or scavenger hunt or go for a walk and see the lights. They love this time of year. My daughter is always saying, “I love giving gifts more than giving them.” On the flip side, they make Christmas lists each year. And we still have to have the talk that “Yes it’s fun, but we have to do things like being kind to each other.”

Was part of the point of the essay to assure people that even good cooks can have disaster days with an exploding cooking dish and mistakenly giving away the 8-pound turkey breast you bought for your family rather the the 3-pound turkey breast for your neighbors?

It’s true. I’m a great cook. For me not to have a meal turn out, especially at Christmas… I was really cranky when I realized I had the wrong turkey breast. When (the glass baking dish) blew up it was like, “If we have salami and cheese tonight, it will be OK.” My dad was like, “If I come this year, are you going to blow up the turkey?” It’s become a funny part of that holiday.

Do you know why the glass cooking dish exploded in your oven?

I’ve made that (same type) of recipe once a week for years. I roast a chicken and pour the wine in … I honestly don’t know.

What are your Christmas plans this year?

We’re staying here on the island and trying to have the grandparents come fly out. In October, when my husband was getting Halloween stuff0 out, he opened our Christmas bins, and all our ornaments were destroyed in the move (from the East Coast). They were covered in mold.

How many years have you had some of the ornaments?

I had all my mom’s ornaments and great-aunt’s ornaments she handmade for us. I’m 46. Some of them are 60-70 years old. The ones our kids had made at school with their pictures in them. Lots of memories.

Oh no! What are you going to do?

We’ve been making ornaments. We have a house we’re renting. We bought the tallest tree we could find — 11 feet. We’ll try and make the best of it. I have an essay about this coming out Dec. 18, about having all the ornaments destroyed and all the memories that come with it. It’s for a blog, www.herviewfromhome.com.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Hear Sara Ohlin’s essays

Here’s how you can listen to the essay “The Best Christmas Turkey That Never Was” by Whidbey Island author Sara Ohlin:

On Apple: itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/chicken-soup-for-soul-podcast/id1085746482

On Google Play:

play.google.com/music/listen#/ps/Ikzjwpprm6g2knrv2pb5b7ksmz

An essay by Ohlin about the damaged Christmas ornaments will be posted Dec. 18 at herviewfromhome.com/.

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