DeJa Vu Blogfest 2014

deja_vu_2014Much thanks to DL Hammons for setting up this blogfest.

Once a year it’s nice to reflect and take stock. In accordance with the blogfest rules we give you a post that didn’t receive as much blog love as we thought it deserved.

We hope you enjoy it.



Every family has some honored holiday traditions, and pulling out a dusty copy of a favorite Christmas film often numbers among them. In my house, we watch that movie snuggled under blankets, with big bowls of popcorn and mugs of frothy hot chocolate. My kids will likely choose It’s a Wonderful Life to be our film; they usually do.

This enduring holiday classic stars Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful lifethe type of role that defined him, the ordinary man who is profoundly extraordinary in every way that matters.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love this film and its uplifting story, but few know how close it came to never seeing the bright lights of Hollywood or the adoration of millions. For this story, with all it’s big heart, memorable characters and a message of unerring love, is a 1943 self-publishing success story.

Greatest gift

Philip Van Doren Stern dreamed the bones of this tale one winter night, and crafted it into an inspirational short story. After finishing it, he did what every other author does, he sent the project to publishers, all of whom quickly rejected it. Stern took his own money and printed 200 copies. He called his book The Greatest Gift and it numbered under 50 pages. Stern wanted to share his story and hoped its message of redemption and community would resonate with others. He decided to send out all two hundred copies to his family and friends as a Christmas card.

A few years later, one of those two hundred copies landed in the hands of filmmaker Frank Capra and he loved the little unknown book’s story. It sparked a deep passion inside Capra, and he quickly bought the rights, and adapted a script and filmed it.

Capra finished the movie just in time for release at 1949 Christmas season.

It’s A Wonderful Life captured five Academy Award nominations, including one for the Best Picture category and still ranks on many fans’ favorite movie lists. Plus, it holds the American Film Institute’s number one spot for most inspirational American film of all time.

Not bad for a story no one in the publishing industry wanted.

So in honor of Christmas, I give the world back Philip Van Doren Stern, an author with a story no one wanted to buy, who somehow, even after bitter rejection, found the faith to send his story out into the world, and watched as it changed lives.


Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook( However, Pinterest ( is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

34 thoughts on “DeJa Vu Blogfest 2014”

  1. I’m rather late (13 days late? Crikey!) in getting around to the bloghop participants. I’ve been soooo busy…

    Loved this!!!
    What a wonderful journey for ‘this 50-paged story that nobody wanted to buy’… really inspiring… thanks for sharing!
    Happy New Year to you and your family! 🙂

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I know the feeling! This season has been very busy for me too. Plus my whole household got sick just before Christmas.
      I think the story and the story behind the story are both universal tales of faith. That’s why we love them today and we will still love them in another 70 plus years.
      I’m so glad you stopped by. Happy New Year to you too.

  2. One of my favourite films and yes, we watch it every year with blankets and popcorn! I knew the after story, how it wasn’t well received initially, but I never knew the before story, so thank you 🙂 Catching up with the deja-Vu hop! xx

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you dropped by. The blogfest was so much fun. And I got to meet some great new bloggers. : ) Happy New Year!

  3. I loved discovering this little known story about the story behind It’s a Wonderful Life! Thank you so much for sharing it. It’s always been one of my favorite movies. Merry Christmas!

    1. That is so true! When you start looking into the history of famous books and films they are often just a hair away from getting nowhere when something just clicks. It just shows the power of not giving up. Thanks for stopping by. Happy Holiday! Robin

  4. I actually watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the very first time last week. I loved the movie and got all teary eyed at the end.

    Sorry for showing up a day late to the blogfest – thanks for visiting my blog 🙂

    1. Hi,
      I always get teary and I’ve seen the movie tons of times. It’s just that kind of film.
      I’m glad you stopped by, and you’re not a day late from my viewpoint, I’m still reading blogfest posts too. I only made it to about half the blogs yesterday and today I have gingerbread houses to make. It might be Sunday before I make it around to reading the remaining posts.
      And I enjoyed your post on T-shirts, I’m also a collector. : )

    1. Hi Corinne,
      I’m glad you liked the post and thanks for coming by. It was fun sharing this story again. And the response has been wonderful. Merry Christmas to you too, and a Happy New Year.

  5. Cool backstory to the movie! I may be the only person in the country (especially over the age of XX) who hasn’t seen the movie–but even I know what a great one it is! Thanks for the timely share with the Deja Vu fest!
    Rebecca at The Ninja Librarian

    1. Hi Rebecca, I hope you can find the time this season to see the film. It is a true classic and I’m sure you will like it. : ) Thanks for the comment and I hope you enjoy the rest of the DeJa Vu Blogfest.

  6. Oh wow! I had no idea! What an outcome for the author! This story brings the movie all the more to life. Thank you so much for sharing this bit of not-so trivial trivia!! Happy Deja Vu.
    michele at Angels Bark

    1. Hi Michele, I’m so happy you liked the post. I love this story, and I’m so grateful Deja Vu Blogfest gave the post a much needed second chance. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Robin

  7. Awesome story! What a perfect post to revive. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is my wife’s favorite movie of all time and it’s a long-standing Christmas tradition in our house. I never knew the inspiring-writer story behind it. Now I like it even more. 🙂

    Happy Deja Vu!

    1. Thanks, Chris. I’m always happy to meet fans of the film. And I’m thrilled to hear I’ve given you an extra reason to love this amazing story. Thanks for stopping by.

    1. Hi, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It is a cool little bit of background information on a wonderful movie. Thanks for the comment.

    1. Hi Julie,
      The story behind the story might be just a footnote in the movie’s history, but as a writer it sure got to me. I’m glad you came by.

  8. I never knew that about “It’s a Wonderful Life”–how cool! Thanks for sharing, Robin. I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie over the years, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I sat down and watched the whole thing beginning to end. It is a great movie, well worthy of the AFA’s #1 ranking.

    My Christmas movie tradition is to watch “The Bishop’s Wife” (starring David Niven, Loretta Young, and Cary Grant) while wrapping gifts on Dec 23rd. It’s a movie I’ve always enjoyed since I first saw it many years ago, possibly when I was a young teen. It’s a great heart-warming story for the season. 🙂

    1. Hi Colin,
      I love The Bishop’s Wife, it’s also on my don’t miss holiday film list, along with White Christmas and a few other classics. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. oh my goodness, I had NO Idea! This is incredible. What a perfect re-post. Thank you so much for sharing. Gives me hope with my own MS that my agent and I believe in and love but no editor seems to want.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Beth. I read your cute post this morning on query letters. I hope I remembered to leave you a comment. I’m glad my post came at a good time for you. Hope is a power thing, every writer needs a healthy dose!

  10. WOW! My family has this same tradition and I never knew that about the movie…and I consider myself a writer! Now I’ll have a special relationship with it…so thanks for that!

    And thanks for re-sharing this with us today! 🙂

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for organizing the blogfest. I read some great new blogs today. : )
      I love sharing this story. I think every writer has that one story they know is the one! In this case it just took a little while for other people to catch on, but when they did … magic happened. Thanks for stopping by.

    1. Hi, There are some fantastic posts in the blogfest this year, I’m glad you liked mine. Thanks for stopping by. Robin

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