To Bead Or Not To Bead

September 22, 2021

That is never the question. I think beads go with everything (like chocolate or cheese). The question is what kind and how much. When I first quilted the piece shown above, I thought I would bead some of the windows. Now I’m thinking I’ll make little purple circles on the interior border. Once I’ve actually started the process, I may discover the occasional purple and/or pink bead will be sufficient.

The same is true of this piece. I thought I would do some hand quilting with beads, but the fabric is dynamic enough that I may let it speak for itself. There is one black square that I’ve already embellished with sequins. I have a trumpet charm that is definitely going on, but after that I will let the fabric and embellishments negotiate a settlement. If I listen closely, they’ll tell me what they want.

Luck and wisdom!

Protect The Humanity Of Your Characters, Even If They Aren’t Human

September 20, 2021

I went to a lecture by Michelle Cruz Gonzales on writing characters from different backgrounds than your own. Since I write sci fi, quite a few of my characters are different from me, but her core message was spot on for my needs. She said, “Protect the humanity of your characters without ego or vice, and with the same intensity as you do word choice or sentence structure.” I immediately thought of my favorite aliens, and realized the reason I appreciate them – even if they are villains – is that I see myself in them. Their humanity resonates with me, whether they are human or not, and I feel a connection with them. Whether I cheer for them, disagree with their decisions, or loathe their actions, they are still compelling. With some research and practice, I feel more confident that I can write about human characters who are from different backgrounds and do them justice.

Luck and wisdom!

Sometimes I Listen

September 15, 2021

Vi Moore suggested the quilt I was working on was telling me it was done. For once, I listened. Oh, I added a few beads, and another layer of leaf canopy. Well, you wouldn’t expect me to leave the piece entirely unadorned, would you? I used restraint, however, and only added a few beads to suggest the glint of sunshine through the forest. Now I need a title for the piece. Come to think of it, Listen might work.

Luck and wisdom!

Writing For The Distracted Reader

September 13, 2021

As a writer, I envision my reader sitting in a quiet room and tuning out everything else to journey into the world I’ve created. As a reader, I hope the writer of the book in my hand finds a point and sticks to it, because there are more books on the stack to read, as well as magazines, and I’ve got those notes to clean up for the next chapter, and that quilt isn’t going to embellish itself. You see the problem, yes? If I can’t rise above being a distracted reader, why should I expect any other reader to do so?

The answer is, I should start writing for that distracted reader. I should remember there is a difference between a complex story and a convoluted one. If I discover that I’m not adding layers but building a labyrinth, I should pull out the red pencil and start simplifying. If even I can’t remember my characters without a cheat sheet, I should start culling.

That’s easy advice to give, hard advice to follow. So here’s another idea – make more work for yourself. If you really want all those characters, split the narrative into two novels, or three, or a series. The same goes for a complex plot, especially if it spans generations. Just as you break your novel into chapters, find convenient places to stop with volume 1, and volume 2, and on to the point that you’ve told the entire story you have in your head. Somewhere in the process you will decide if you are happy with a simplified version of your vision or if you really will be spending the rest of your life writing about it.

Luck and wisdom!

Stacks Of Stuff For The Blah Days

September 8, 2021

There are days when I barely have the creative energy to choose what tea I’m going to drink. This week, with a heat wave and bad air, promises to provide many such blah days. Luckily, I’ve added a stack of ready-to-quilt projects to the sewing room. These are small quilts, art experiments for the most part. They aren’t basted, but the back is made and the batting is cut roughly to size. I’ve even made the binding so I have to make a decision about anything. I generally follow the pattern of the dominant fabric in my art quilts, or use a narrow, wobbly grid so I don’t have to mark anything. This will keep me working even when I can’t do anything requiring mental effort.

To prove how lethargic I’m feeling, I can’t even muster any enthusiasm for beading the tree quilt. I finished the hand quilting and bound it, then hit a massive block. My beads are not speaking to me, the quilt must have laryngitis, and my embroidery threads have taken a vow of silence. Perhaps when the heat spell breaks they’ll decide to talk again.

Luck and wisdom!

Marking Time

September 6, 2021

The lipstick I have been using for Zoom meetings is almost gone. It was old when the pandemic started, so old I thought it would end up being part of my estate. That got me thinking about other ways I could mark the passage of time in my stories without resorting to months and dates. I remember hearing some comic say her parents had been married so long they were on their second bottle of Tabasco sauce. Perhaps I could work the lipstick image into a story, or another food image, or finally using up those little round bandages that come in every box of assorted strips and squares but never are the right size for anything. What could you use to mark the passage of time without mentioning a calendar?

Luck and wisdom!

What Writing Taught Me About Quilting

September 1, 2021

I’ve attended many a writing workshop designed to help me chop through “the muddle in the middle” – that part of your story where you are far enough from the beginning you know well and the ending you want to reach that your creative supply lines are breaking. I’ve reached that point with this quilt. The fabrics I chose seemed to have enough contrast on the table, but cut up and sewn together? Not so much. Then there’s the tree I wanted for a focal point.

I planned to make a fir tree here. It turned into a oak of some sort. Now it’s looking more like a palm tree. Actually, in my part of California there are palm trees everywhere, so I’m cool with keeping it as a palm tree. What isn’t cool is the lack of contrast. I’ll try more embroidery, but I suspect I will be forced – forced, mind you – to bead the living daylights out of this thing. Oh, stop laughing.

Luck and wisdom!

Opening With Weather

August 30, 2021

There are times when opening your story with weather is appropriate. Although I live nowhere near Louisiana, I’m all about weather today. My region would be happy to take a good bit of the rain that Ida is bringing, although we don’t need any wind until the fires are out. That’s all backstory, however, because my point is that weather, like setting, can be a character all on its own. At the very least, how weather affects your named characters can be an important part of your story. You’ll only know if opening the story with weather is useful after you’ve achieved a better understanding of your characters and plot. In the meantime, add a description of the weather to your daily journaling, or at least make a note of when weather has affected your emotions in surprising ways. This will give you the raw material you need to bring your characters to life. It might also give you an idea of when you should push through any seasonal doldrums, and when it’s time to break out the comfort food and your favorite sick-day movie. You’ll thank me later.

Luck and wisdom!

Challenges And Scraps

August 25, 2021

The latest Challenge project is Jazz. We can do whatever we want, as long as we can come up with a credible story as to why our submission says Jazz to us. I thought of the novelty print of people pictured above. I bought it at a craft fair, I think. It is silk-screened with very thick paint on polyester. It’s cute, but not useful for most of the quilts I make. Then I saw some scraps of a cotton novelty print of musical instruments, and I put the two together. After that, I went searching through my scrap bins.

Using leftovers for challenges or contests is a great way to work yourself into art quilting while getting rid of scraps at the same time. If you like the finished piece, enter it in the contest. If you don’t like it, well, enter it anyway and if it doesn’t win give it away. You’ve got nothing to lose because you were using the bits you saved because they might be useful some day. The next time you run across a challenge or contest with a theme that might be fun, tell yourself that “some day” is today.

Luck and wisdom!

What Baking Taught Me About Writing

August 23, 2021

I wanted to make an applesauce cake that would fit our changing dietary needs, so I pulled out my cookbooks and started reading. Yes, I could have put the parameters in a search engine and reviewed the results online, but it’s fun to look through the cookbooks. I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, but after a while I figured out which parts of five different recipes would work for me. My health needs-appropriate dessert reminded me why writers should also be readers. You have a target audience that you want to please, and maybe other writers have come up with some techniques that you can adapt. It’s still your story, but learning from your peers can make it a better story.

Luck and wisdom!