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Column: With this handy template you can write a nifty holiday letter

Former managing editor of several community newspapers, including the Woodburn Independent, Lake Oswego Review and the Times papers, Kelly is chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.One of the drawbacks to the holiday season is receiving those awful, run-on holiday letters from friends and family members who think they can write but really can't. Perhaps you have considered writing one yourself but you didn't want to come off as pretentious and full of yourself, right?

Well, no need to worry. I (being a professional writer and all) am prepared to offer you a complete holiday letter template that contains all the prompts you need to say everything necessary in just one page of sparkling prose. Even better, it's free. Just fill in the blanks below and you're good to go:

Dear (name of recipient here),

Because you happen to be my (or our) favorite (uncle, neighbor lady, friend, bartender, mailman, hooker, garage door repairman), allow me to update you on what an amazing year it's been.

First of all, my (or our) little (name here), our most beloved (son, daughter, cat, poodle, gecko) outdid herself (or himself) by (list one — and ONLY ONE — major accomplishment here, such as graduating from obedience school, mastering the saxophone, advancing to middle school, making the all-star team), in spite of the fact that he (or she) is so unbelievably (small, stupid, ugly, disdainful of others) that we quite honestly never thought he (or she) would even survive this long.

You probably remember me mentioning (name), my (spouse, friend, neighbor, drug dealer) in the past. Well, you won't believe it, but he (or she) went and got himself (or herself) (promoted, arrested, shot, crowned prime minister of a small Third World country) and has left me (or us) all alone in this (huge house in Lake Oswego, single-wide trailer on the edge of town, '67 VW Bug, pair of Skechers), leaving me (or us) to wonder what the heck is gonna be next?

You may have heard about how this summer I (or we) spent several intense days in (the hospital, Hawaii, a deep funk, traction, rehab, lost on Mount Hood). Well, it all began, innocently enough, when we (or I) decided to go on a (picnic, a spiritual retreat, bank-robbing spree, quest for Hostess Twinkies), but ended, appropriately enough with my (or our) involvement in a (major traffic accident, award-winning choral group, movie starring Edward Norton, giant mudslide, religious cult). It seems like it took us (or me) forever to get out of that hot mess!

In the words of (name here), my onetime (mother-in-law, English teacher, pastor, mentor, concubine), it ain't over until it's over, and that's why I (or we) have insisted that we're not quitting until we (win the lottery, have the surgery, learn to walk again, strike oil in Oklahoma, win Employee of the Month). Then — and only then — will we (or I) think seriously about (retiring, moving to Yachats, taking up the banjo, getting a dog).

We (or I) really miss you. How can we (or I) ever forget that time we (graduated from interior design school, laughed so hard soup came out of our noses, rode our bikes all the way to Philomath, made ourselves sick on chicken legs at North's Chuckwagon?, hiked to the top of Spencer's Butte)? That was such a special day.

Well, better get back to (building a wing on the house, washing the dishes, inventing a cure for diabetes, playing hacky-sack, my rat-killing) — but next time you're in this neck of the woods, you simply must stop by. We (or I) really do miss your (bright smile, fat wallet, great sense of humor, spiffy eye for fashion, tendency to bring gifts), and, as you well know, we (or I) always have a (pot of coffee on, a bed for you to sleep in, a hankering to hit the local bars, a nice big jar of medical marijuana).

Meanwhile, we (or I) urge you to have a (merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, cool Kwanza) and a happy (New Year, Super Bowl, Boxing Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day).

As always, your (friend, client, worshiper, stalker, equal),

(Your name here)



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