6: #ownvoices #HolidayTreeNovella Using the Singular They in Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree

10, 9, 8, 7, 6... This marks the fifth day of my ten-day countdown until the release of my novella Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree. You can read more about #HolidayTreeNovella at the bottom of this post, but today I’m again talking about my use singular they/them.



When some readers expressed concern, confusion, or were otherwise irked by my usage of singular they in Cleaning House, I addressed the issue in my blog post They Came, They Saw, They Conquered – Concerning the Singular They/Them in Cleaning House. Now, since I’m about to release another work in the Appalachian Elementals series, a novella titled Mama, Me, & the Holiday Tree, I’ve attempted to head off any problems by adding an author’s note to the front of the work that directly addresses my usage choice.

Consider this note an unapologetic explanation as to the topics explored in the novella including beliefs, mental illness, magic, and, yes, gender identity, though my protagonist, Centenary Rhodes, doesn’t need to explore the last. She’s firmly planted in her identity and sexuality, but the rest…

Author’s Note

   Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree is set in Appalachia, in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee, in the year 2017. That said, the characters, faiths, and spiritual paths presented in this novella are diverse on multiple levels. This includes my usage of the pronouns they and them. I’ve chosen to use they and them to identify the elemental spirits because they are genderless shape-shifters, meaning they cannot be defined in binary male/female terms. Such magical creations cannot be limited by Human constructs, though my Human characters often try for their own understanding. The elementals in Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree can also be seen as non-binary if readers so choose because I include non-binary, sometimes referred to as genderqueer, Human characters within my writing. The main character in the novella, Centenary Rhodes, identifies as genderqueer.

   The Human characters within Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree also include pansexual, gay, transgender, and heterosexual identities, and their faiths vary from Protestant Christianity to pagan spiritualities to mixes of the two because no one faith or identity defines us all.

   I also address parent-child relationships where one, in this case the parent, is mentally ill. This is drawn directly from my own experiences as the parent of a mentally ill child, but no matter who is in what role, the dynamics are much the same as they are between Cent and her mother, Nida. There’s distrust, doubt, and frustration at every turn from everyone involved, but there are also moments of laughter and tenderness, and there’s always love, though it’s sometimes at arm’s length.

   As for the magical characters in Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree— please remember that this is a contemporary fantasy novella, a work of fiction, so the liberties are mine to take. But if you don’t believe in magic, find a quiet, wooded spot somewhere, relax, and open your eyes to the possibilities. You might be surprised by what you find.


If, at this point, you’re still struggling with my usage of singular they, here are some resources to help you along.

Wikipedia (includes a good bit of history on the usage)

Washington Post: Gender-neutral pronouns: When ‘they’ doesn’t identify as either male or female

A Guide to Non-Binary Pronouns and why They Matter

Why be Nonbinary?


Lastly, before you ask, yes, I’m genderqueer/ nonbinary myself, but I still choose to go by she/her for various reasons, the most resounding being almost fifty years of hearing she/her applied to me.

Old habits are hard to break.

To each their own. Leave the rest alone.

A dozen handmade holiday ornaments, that’s all, but it might be an impossible task.

Centenary Rhodes and her mother are at constant odds. It’s one of the many reasons Cent left home when she was eighteen. Mama’s difficult for anyone to manage, but now that Cent’s back home, she has to try. Mama, however, won’t acknowledge who Cent’s become, even though she’s repeatedly been shown the truth.

It’ll take more than popcorn strings and paper snowflakes to heal the rift that’s formed between Cent and Mama. It’s going to take bushels of patience, heaps of magic, and assistance from everyone on both sides of Embreeville Mountain to reset the Balance between them.

But with Yule and Christmas just around the corner, it might already be too late.

Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree is available for preorder in both print and ebook formats.

AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE    and elsewhere


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