Advent Calendars Go Literary

Chocolate is good, but short stories are better.

November 1, 2016

photo supplied

In recent years, niche advent calendars have become one of the holiday season’s hottest must-haves. Not just for chocolate anymore, today’s advent calendars offer everything from cosmetics to coffee to beer or spirits. And now, thanks to the efforts of one Edmonton-based author and publisher, short stories.

In November 2014, Michael Hingston set out to find an entirely new advent experience. After learning about the ever-popular beer advent calendar, Hingston wanted something more.

“I thought, ‘I should go buy the book version of this,’ but it turned out it didn’t exist. There was nothing like it in the literary world,” he says.

Hingston knew there was a market for a well-designed, carefully curated literary gift, but recognized it was far too late to create something that year. Busy with the holidays, he shelved the idea with the hope that he’d pick it up in time for the next year. He didn’t think of it again until July 2015, about three months before the calendar would need to go on sale. By then, the timeline was tight, but, if done right, manageable.

He immediately reached out to his close friend, graphic designer Natalie Olsen, to gauge her interest. “She thought it was a great idea, so we just went for it,” says Hingston. “We wanted to create a community of readers, so people could connect and talk about what they were reading at the same time. That’s not something you often get with books.”

The pair were determined to publish the project in time for the 2015 holiday season. Hingston was well-connected with authors and publishers across North America, so he began searching for stories almost immediately. As he did so, Olsen used her creative prowess to design an elegant, chic package fit for the most discerning tastes. 

In October 2015, the Short Story Advent Calendar with its carefully curated selection of stories debuted to acclaim from authors, media outlets and book lovers across the country. The inaugural edition sold out in just over a month. 

Edmontonian author Jason Lee Norman was among the 25 authors Hingston chose to include in the first year. “I'm always trying to get people to read more short stories and get excited to read them. So many people heard about this project, it was great. It made reading into an event,” says Norman.

This year, Hingston and Olsen continued their newfound holiday tradition. The 2016 Short Story Advent Calendar was released Oct. 1 with an all-new lineup of page-turners. 

With only a limited number printed, the calendars are available through and select independent bookstores. 

According to Hingston, the limited release is part of the calendar’s appeal. “There’s a certain feeling that something is more special when it's temporary,” says Hingston. “We wanted that — so if you want to be a part of it, you really have to jump in.”

This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.


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