Permission to Toss

January 20, 2020

One of my writers groups has an annual workshop. The last couple of years we have used it as a brainstorming session. I used my time more as a confession about what I’ve been allowing to get in the way of my writing. My group kindly pointed out that “allowing” isn’t the right word. I have obligations that take my schedule out of my control. One of the members, Paula Chinick, said since my obligations are non-negotiable, I should focus on something other than my to-do list. “Take a look at the pile of notes you brought,” she said. “You don’t need all those scraps of paper.”

As well as being my friend, Paula is the owner of Russian Hill Press and has lots of experience dealing with the eccentricities of writers. She knows that I keep scraps of paper with notes-to-self. This is a great strategy if those action items are accomplished and the notes are tossed, but a nightmare when they pile up. Clutter is my constant companion, so I know exactly how exhausting it can be to watch the stacks grow and grow. Paula suggested I create a digital file of my notes, thus giving me both permission to get rid of the scraps and an assignment she knows I’ll keep.

One of the notes I am tossing

And this is why every writer needs a strong, supportive writers group.

Luck and wisdom!

Starting the New Year Project Pile

January 15, 2020

This is the second year that my sewing machine went to the shop over the holidays for a cleaning. As with last year, I took advantage of the time to arrange my extensive pile of tops to be quilted. This year, however, I rough-cut batting for the tops before stacking them. Since basting quilt sandwiches is one of my least favorite tasks, I am hoping breaking it down into smaller steps will help keep me on schedule.

Before I get to the quilt tops, however, I need to bind a quilt the Progressive Party made for me, which will go to Amador Valley Quilters next month. It’s our birthday month, and the guild has challenged members to complete a quilt we will donate to the community.

Before I get to the binding, however, I need to clear off the ironing board. I turned it into a staging area for another club gift, this one for Tri-Valley Writers. We offer a free drawing for members every January for a small basket filled with writer-related items, and this year I get to do the assembly.

Before I get to the basket, however, I need to do one teensy, tiny shopping trip. Eventually, I will get to the projects – or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself as one more “but first . . .” chore slips onto the to-do list.

Luck and wisdom!

Choosing A Book By Its Size

January 13, 2020

I didn’t have any books that I wanted to bring with me on my travels, so I got to play one of my favorite bookstore games – choosing a book by size. The game works best in a cozy, independent shop, because the first step is to make a quick assessment of all the paperbacks that I can hold easily. Next is to go through the genres. I gravitate to nonfiction mainly because I have a better idea of what I’m going to get with nonfiction. There isn’t a lot you can do with a book that surprises you in an unpleasant way at 40,000 feet. Last is actually reading a few pages of the book. If I’m lucky, I’ll find two or three books to choose from, but sometimes there is only one that holds my interest. That’s what happened on both ends of my travels this time, but I lucked out with each choice.

On the way out I brought Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars. I’ve read her short stories in “Asimov’s Science Fiction” and always enjoyed them, but this is the first novel I’ve read. What a treat! Her alternate history of the space race is set in the 1950s just after a massive meteorite strikes just off the mid-Atlantic. The main characters must confront all the bigotry of the era while trying to save not only as many Americans as possible from the immediate catastrophe, but all of humanity from the ecological disaster that will follow. I started the book at takeoff, and nearly finished it before we landed.

On the way back, I found Horizon by Barry Lopez, a memoir and travelogue. The author distills a lifetime of discovery with a lifetime of questions, and concern for the future. The book resonates with me on many levels, even as it gives me more to ponder than I already had and no firm answers.

My little game doesn’t always reward me, but this time it did. Both books are delightful reads, beautifully written, and showing what deep thinking can produce. They both offer me a glimpse of the road I need to travel to become the writer I want to be. Try the game yourself, and see what treasures you can discover.

Luck and wisdom!

The Crabby Quilter

January 8, 2020

Like all good quilters, I try to contribute to the local economy by finding a quilt store wherever I go. This month I found The Crabby Quilter in Annapolis, Maryland. I first tried the store on the day after New Year, but they were closed for computer upgrades. Luckily, I was still in the area when they opened. The wait was worth it – but of course, you knew that. How could I not wait for a chance to see a place called The Crabby Quilter? They gave me one of their Shop Hop magnets with my purchase of blue crabs and smiling sharks. I have no idea what project will be right for these treasures, and it doesn’t matter. I’m starting the year off right with fabric that makes me happy.

Luck and wisdom!

The Calendar and Me

December 23, 2019

For the first time since I started this blog, I’m going to take a short break. I’ve published while traveling, and I’ve published at the holidays, but this time I am traveling during the holidays and there is only so much fun I can handle. So, enjoy the end of 2019, and have a wonderful start to 2020!

Luck and wisdom!

Pushing Through to Happy

December 18, 2019

Since the project that no longer appealed to me was taking up most of my design wall, I had no choice but to soldier on to the end. Much to my surprise, I started liking it again. Whether it was because I could see the end in sight, or because I found a fabric that worked for a border, but the time I got to the last seam I was happy with the top.

I’ve made the backing (from a large piece that was in the collection but didn’t make it to the front), but I won’t be quilting it until after the holidays. I have quite a few tops with backs ready to layer, and they will be first on the New Project List so that I can start out 2020 by completing quilts.

Luck and wisdom!

My Story To Tell

December 16, 2019

If you’ve ever written a memoir, you know that one of the questions you will be asked is “How does your family feel about what you wrote?” I’ve started asking myself that question even about the happy stuff. Sometimes we are privy to good news but can’t say a word until the official announcement. The novelist and blogger in me has a real hard time respecting those confidences when there’s a good story waiting to be told. That’s why I started asking, “Self, is this your story or someone else’s?” If it’s my story, I have the right to tell it when and how I want. If it’s someone else’s story, take the fingers off the keyboard, Buttercup. The person with the most stake in the story gets to determine when, how, or if it will be told. In this time of holiday family newsletters (and everyday social media), take care that you don’t overshare. Your family will thank you.

Luck and wisdom!

A Christmas Miracle with Curved Piecing

December 11, 2019

The quilting goddess was in a good mood this week. My latest Progressive Party project was all curves. Three blocks of curves. Three blocks of curves that will go in someone else’s quilt.

They turned out.

Admittedly, the project included templates, these were mostly gentle curves, and the fabrics were good quality (allowing just enough stretch to make a smooth seam, not so much that I had to angst over distortion). Also, I’ve done a few projects with curves in the last year so my skills aren’t all that rusty. But still – three blocks and they all came out! This is worth celebrating, so I did.

Luck and wisdom!

When Writing What You Know Works

December 9, 2019

The short story “SeeApp” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2019) is a brilliant illustration of why we are advised to write what we know. James Van Pelt taught for 36 years; he may have never been in a school like the one in his story, or met anyone like his characters, but everything feels right. The descriptions are in his bones, and the words flow off his fingers. This is why my co-author Ann Anastasio and I set our first book in a quilt store, and grounded all our books in the quilting world. We know those places like our own kitchens, and we know the people in them. It was easy to create the settings and characters when we had our combined lifetime experiences to draw upon. Once that was on paper, the stories took off on their own. I’m convinced everyone has at least one story to tell, so give it a try. Put the world you know best in words, and see where that takes you.

Luck and wisdom!

The Kid’s Quilt That Could

December 4, 2019

Rain returned to my part of the world, making it safe from fires. This includes the fire inside that gets me into the studio to create. It didn’t help that I no longer loved the piece on the design wall. It has a bunch of animal and forest prints, and will be given away to a charity. Then I got my own little Christmas miracle when I walked into the studio and the green strips started to sing through the gloom.

This is the reason I chose that green, because it adds a little zing to whatever fabric is next to it. Well, I think it does, and I know small children like bright colors, so it stays. Anything that keeps me sewing when it is cold and rainy is okay by me.

Luck and wisdom!