Gambling With Beauty

June 11, 2018

My husband and I are not gamblers, except with plants. Going to the nursery is our version of hitting the casinos. We never spend more than we can afford to lose, because although we are gambling with beauty it’s still even money whether those plants will live or not.

Most of the time we’re willing to let the plants accept their fate, but this little orange critter was an exception. We both loved the leaves, and the way the orange petals glow. It wasn’t doing well where we first planted it, so my husband dug it up and put it in a pot. It did okay, but wasn’t thriving. My husband moved it next to the front door, gave it a new pot, and hoped for the best. The gamble paid off.

I realized that I can use this example for both my writing and my quilting. Sometimes I write a scene or a character that doesn’t fit the story, just as I sometimes make a block that doesn’t fit with the other units of the quilt. Instead of trying to force the odd one to conform, I’m going to save it. I can cut a scene or even an entire chapter and paste it to a file. I can put the orphan block in a bag or bin. Someday, I’ll find the right place for those bits, and watch them bloom.

Discipline and Diligence

June 6, 2018

I wrote a blog for the Tri-Valley Writers website about discipline, diligence and productivity. Even as I was writing it, the snarky angel on my shoulder snorted. “Honey,” it said, “if you could actually be disciplined and diligent, you wouldn’t still have a messy sewing room.” So I decided to break down some of my tasks to help achieve my goals.

Four projects on the list, ready to be basted and quilted

I have finished the tops for several quilts on my Unfinished Quilt Challenge list. The number for the next project we need to complete will be drawn this week. I had a little extra time and decided to make backs for those quilts. I won’t layer them until their number is drawn, but when it comes up I can do that immediately.

I’m also working on one of the projects, a baby quilt. It’s small, but it’s also a traditional quilt, and I lose focus making the same block over and over. I’ve been sewing a few blocks here and there, and will be able to put the center together soon. The final border and back will be the same fabric.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day (6-6-44), and I’m taking that as a good omen. Diligence and discipline may not be my forte, but I can learn.

Luck and wisdom!

In Praise of Talking to Yourself

June 4, 2018

Have I mentioned that talking to yourself is really useful? The other day my husband was trying to remember to plug in his electric car. In the morning, he asked me not to let him forget to do that later in the day. In the afternoon, he told me he had written himself a note about charging the car. With each iteration, I smiled, nodded, and refrained from observing that he was really talking to himself, not to me. Speaking aloud is a fabulous memory aid.

Just pretend you’re talking to the plant

I often talk to myself when I’m trying to remember something. If it happens when I’m home, no problem. I just pretend I’m talking to the plants. Grocery shopping brings out the worst in my memory lapses. I cringe to think of what I must look like wandering down the aisle, squinting at my shopping list, and berating myself for not being more specific in my descriptions (what exactly does “salad stuff” mean today, for example).

I’m starting to think that I should be a little less harsh when I’m trying to remember ideas for my writing. I’m tired of having a great idea that disappears like a leaf in a strong wind when I finally get to a notebook or scrap of paper. From now on, I’m going to jabber loud and proud whenever an idea I want to remember strikes. If anyone gives me a funny look, I’ll smile and say, “Sorry, but I’m writing my novel just now.”

Graffiti Quilt – An Omen, Or Just Crankiness?

May 30, 2018

The latest Challenge Group project is to do something with graphics, graffiti, or lettering. At first I thought of doing an illuminated letter, but then I discovered fabric that looked like a concrete brick wall. “Self,” I said, “make something bright and cheerful on that.” It didn’t quite work out.

Not exactly cheerful

No matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with anything bright and cheerful. Even my message is a downer.

What if this is exactly the world you asked for?

The back is no better. It is a remnant of a piece I bought to make a series of World War I quilts. I’ve also used it for some fire quilts.

Good for explosions or fire

I suppose I’m in a dark mood because there’s an election coming up and my phone is ringing off the hook with campaign calls. We’ll see if my cheeriness returns after the results are announced.

Luck and wisdom!

At the Beginning

May 28, 2018

Whether I am writing or quilting, the first hurdle is always the same – the beginning. No matter how wonderful my idea is, until I get the first line of a story or the first fabric in the quilt established I flutter around like the butterflies in my backyard.

Ready for the first line to reveal itself

When the first line flows easily, I can convince myself that the rest of the story will spill out as if by magic. It rarely happens, but the joy of a good beginning can carry me through the hard work of creating a decent middle and respectable conclusion.

Even if the first line comes easily, it might not be what the story requires when I finally reach the end. The hardest thing about rewriting for me is reworking the beginning. I can gleefully slash whole pages in the middle, but cutting my first line is painful. That’s when I pull out the advice Mary Ellen Hopkins gave to quilters: “If your quilt isn’t working, take out the fabric you love the most.” When I find myself protecting that first line as if it were a cherished heirloom, then I know it is probably time to let it go.

Years In The Making

May 23, 2018

 

I found two quilts in that stack in the back of the closet (and I should really be singing that line to “There’s A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea”) that were finished except for binding. I know they were there for ten years, maybe fifteen. Possibly twenty. Waiting for binding.

I have no memory of making this. It is heavily quilted, and even has back art.

The batting is 100% polyester, which I haven’t used in ages. I bound it in a solid black. I have no idea why I couldn’t make that decision twenty years ago.

I vaguely remember making this quilt. I have no idea why I left it to languish when all I had to do was bind it.

The good news is they are bound now. What happens to them next? Who knows. I will leave you with a song (yes, to the tune of “There’s A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea”), and I hope with the sense that your own stack of UFOs isn’t really that disgraceful.

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a stack, there’s a stack

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt, there’s a quilt

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch, there’s a patch

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead, there’s a bead

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

Luck and wisdom!

Becoming an Author

May 21, 2018

My writing club offers a scholarship at the local community college. The president of the club and I went to the awards ceremony and met this year’s recipient. She is planning a career in teaching, and hopes to encourage her future students to write well. She said she had no plans to be a writer, but she asked about the process. When we described all the ways one could bring one’s work to readers, she changed her mind. Here are some resources for you to become an author.

Smashwords.com

This is for ebooks only, but it is free for authors and offers a boatload of tutorials and help. I convinced my co-author to publish Death By Chenille on Smashwords. We were so energized by having a book on-line that we wrote a second book, then a third, and now we’re working on a fourth.

Small Publishing Houses

Just because you don’t have an agent to shop your manuscript to the big publishing houses doesn’t mean you’re done. A small publishing house might be interested. We published our third book (shameless self-promotion, that book is now available here) through Russian Hill Press.

My books, on my bookshelf – woo hoo!

Createspace/Amazon

Createspace is the go-to place for many independent authors. My uncle, Philip Gordon McGirr, just published a book of short pieces. He is another who never thought about being an author until a friend of his started writing and inspired him.

Booktrack.com

Booktrack lets you score your work. Yup, you can put music, ambient sounds, or special effects sounds together with your written word.

Local anthologies

Not sure your work is ready for a large audience? Check around and see if there are any groups in your area that publish an anthology. Our community college publishes annually, and you don’t have to be a student to submit. Julaina Kleist-Corwin, a local writing teacher, published a book of her students’ work.

All authors struggle to find readers, so don’t be discouraged that your book might sell only enough to buy you a really good lunch. This has been my experience, but I’m okay with that. Becoming an author, even at my level, has been worth it.

One Step Forward, One Step Back, One Step Sideways

May 16, 2018

The inevitable result of clearing out my backlog of quilting projects is discovering how much I’ve grown as a fiber artist. I don’t mean this in a good way. The next project on the list for my guild’s Unfinished Quilts Challenge is a top I made years ago of swirling fish. The top wasn’t where I expected it to be, so I had to pull out the entire stack of unquilted tops from the closet. That was the step forward.

This is as neat as I get

Believe it or not, this is the tidiest my closet has been in years. The tops on the bottom shelf at the back are ones I will quilt as gifts or for donations through the guild’s Community Quilts outreach program. I culled these tops from a much larger stack. That’s when I discovered the step back.

I am not the same person who made these tops

This pile represents tops or tops-in-progress that really don’t deserve to be quilted, at least not in their current condition. When I’m in a better mood, I will re-evaluate each top and determine which (if any) can be salvaged. That’s the step sideways.

This stack contains tops I still sorta kinda maybe like. I will put them on a different shelf, with a note on each as to what I think I should do with it. Perhaps that will save me from once again going through that horrible experience of asking, “Self, what were you thinking!?”

Luck and wisdom!

Writing Down The Dates

May 14, 2018

I was a history major in college, as were most of my roommates. We threw dinner parties to commemorate important dates. The Chicago Fire, the invasion of Poland, Pearl Harbor Day, Armistice Day – anything that came close enough to a free weekend so we had time to cook.

Dates and food are still important to me. I once made Cheesehenge Fondue for a summer solstice. As a writer, however, I want to do more. My friend and fellow writer Marlene Dotterer published her wonderful alternate history The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. I started writing a story that is set in World War I. While the 100th anniversary of the end of that war is fast approaching, the end of that story is not.

I decided part of my trouble was pulling myself out of the “what-does-this-date-mean-to-me?” role. Separating my ego from my words is job number one for getting a story written. One of these days, the right story for the right date will reveal itself. Until then, bring on the cookbooks. There’s always another anniversary to celebrate.

The Garden

May 9, 2018

I puttered productively in the sewing room this week, but the results aren’t worth photographing. The garden is, however, thanks to my husband. He took up gardening a few years ago, which is why the plants live. He says he only buys plants that thrive on neglect, but don’t believe him. I know what a neglected garden looks like and this isn’t it.

The front garden has a lovely section devoted to iris and daffodils. This blue iris is one of my favorites.

He built a lot of small raised beds. The columbine is the only plant that survived the frost in this bed.

Here is a view of the back garden with Trevor the Gargoyle. Guess who whined until he bought her the statue?

In addition to gargoyles, I also like wind chimes. These chimes are hung in a place that doesn’t get all that much wind, but that’s okay too. I like the little tinkling sound, but the neighbors’ dogs don’t. Trust me, howls don’t harmonize with chimes.

Luck and wisdom!