Friday, January 30, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
warm and dry
(4 fire trucks, 2 fire department vehicles...just wish my 3 year old nephew was here to appreciate it!)
Good thing I'm not driving anywhere today--that was my driveway: The line is fixed very quickly...and the electricity and phones all work. The internet works--sporadically.
Monday, January 26, 2009
when you don't get the memo...
To my surprise, I got in. I read the other pieces, which were all reasonably good, but mine seemed, well, different. I have this book deadline coming up soon, and a relative was visiting, but hey, I thought, maybe I can do this workshop.
Maybe I can do this fiction thing.
The first day I climbed up the hill to the university and saw the classroom had no left-handed desks at all. I'm left-handed. (an omen?) I made do with a spare wooden chair and wrote on my lap. The instructor, a talented novelist, then talked. And talked. His eastern Kentucky accent? Delightful to hear. His information--somewhat interesting...for perhaps the first hour. Over two hours later, we had our first break. My bottom was so sore it was hard to concentrate after that! After the first day (9-3), I wasn't sure I wanted to go back.
Day 2 seemed slightly better, although the instructor allowed for little time to make connections with other writers, and again talked at us for a long while. (No partner exercises, few writing prompts, and just a few conversations.) Finally, we got to the time when we "workshopped." People talked about each others' stories. I'd never had a group evaluate my fiction before, and gosh, maybe this wasn't the group for me. Even though more than half of the participants liked my story, the negative comments were all over the map...and they seemed upset when I wanted to respond and discuss my choices. Very few offered me specific revision concepts that I understood well enough to act on. In fact, I wasn't sure I wanted to.
Many of these students called themselves "workshop junkies." They'd "workshopped" the same stories over and over. They loved these "events" where people talked writing and ideas...but mostly focused on Southern writing, as far as I can tell. Although I write all the time, sell my work, and often look for feedback...well, I think I'm not in this workshop crowd. Even the readings assigned upset me. The most difficult part is that I seemed to have missed the memo:
This was an Appalachian fiction workshop. Even though they accepted me to the program, my work and life experience didn't fit in. Instead, I heard phrases like this:
I’ve been quit smokin’ three years now.
I was Holiness until I was 17. *
*Holiness is a Christian denomination. (they assumed you knew exactly what that meant.)
In the conversations, in the shared experience, I was lost. Although the instructor said we wrote for ourselves, not our audience? In every prompt and exercise, I gauged the crowd and wrote for them. I had to fit into their genre; they didn't have to reach to mine.
On Saturday evening, something serious came up, I felt I needed to pay attention to our visiting relative-- and I decided not to go back for Sunday's class, bowing out early with a (darned) good excuse.
The important thing learned from this is that sometimes bailing out is the right thing to do. I was so unhappy and agitated. I didn't feel welcome, like an alien with three heads...at an ice cream parlor....and felt shamed by it. I imagined having to back my three heads right out of the storefront, saying "oops! Sorry! Wrong Planet!" The best part about being an adult and choosing one's educational journey is being able to admit, "Hey, this path just isn't for me. I'm backing the car up now. Let's go on home." Never before did my isolated home office, my computer, my books, and all my email correspondents seem like such a good place to be a writer.
Whew. Glad to be home.
Ever feel this way? Aren't you glad that there's more than one way to succeed as a professional?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
the day after
1) It was awesome to listen to the inauguration events on the radio during the drive. Better than being out in the cold in DC, and for me, better than watching TV. I like imagining it all, although I did look to see the inaugural outfits online later. (fashion junkie, can't help myself!) Also, I tend to cry over these huge events, so it was good I was driving. I kept myself pulled together...no sniffling and tearing up! It's unsafe! I am so excited by all the potential for change with our historic, intelligent, new president!
2) I got to see two sunrises--one in Kentucky on my way to Indiana, and I saw the tail end of a sunrise while leaving Indiana. The big expanse of the midwestern sky in winter is a beautiful thing.
3) It turns out that the only differences between doing a photoshoot with the professor and with the lovely professionals at my publisher's are small ones...
a) the professionals all have a good style sense, so I am not stuck styling each shot on my own
b) the publisher employs a lot of gorgeous and smart people to use as models
c) it's a social event, with food, hot drinks, and even jokes
d) there wasn't one argument, which I thought came along with the photoshoots?! (only with one's life partner, apparently...)
e)The best part was how reassuring it all was. Complete strangers complimented me on these projects I've been designing in isolation for months. That was a surprise. I didn't expect that, but it was worth the drive to hear. Folks in Indianapolis are just nice. Thanks for saying nice things about the knitting!
While in the car, I realized I hadn't answered several questions that commenters have asked on the blog.
Mary G, my professor bought me the silk birthday yarn as a gift, but after doing a bit of research, I understand that it comes from "rustyseller1" on ebay. His ebay shop is Silk Yarn Collection.
In the darning post I did, I had a lot of comments. Who knew folks felt so strongly about darning? I don't own a darning "egg" or "mushroom". I've never needed one, although I think they're very cool! If you use a darning egg, do you darn with one hand? Please explain?
Deb mentioned that she wears out the heels of her socks. The best solution for this is to rip out the old heel (carefully) and reknit the heel. This is called a peasant or after-thought heel. I learned about this from Anna Zilboorg's fabulous paperback book,Simply Socks, which I think is a reprint of the hard cover Fancy Feet. Since both of these books are out of print, I'd recommend checking out online sources for "peasant heel" or "afterthought heel." It's a bit tricky the first time, but after you've mastered it, you can make yourself brand new heels in no time!
On my drive, I saw a lot of trucks. Our country is so dependent on fossil fuels to supply us with everything in our stores...from caskets (I saw a coffin truck!) to milk. It seems to me that one (very small) step towards sustainability, responsibility, and even, well, sacrifice...might be darning socks instead of buying new? What else is a step in the right direction, in your opinion?
Psst: Jodi, if you're reading this, leave a comment! It turns out I have a lot of secret readers out there. Say hey, ok?
Sunday, January 18, 2009
fixing a hole/we are one
So, if you have a chance to reflect, enjoy these fine examples of how we can all work together, in our complexity, empathy, tolerance, and actions. I am so excited by the next few days and the hope it ushers in for the United States. Meanwhile...as I listen to the radio...I'll be knitting over here.
Please leave me a comment if you've got thoughts on these essays or on anything in this post; I'd love to hear what you think!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
fixing a hole
I've been pondering this. A friend invited us to dinner and gifted me with a 100% alpaca sweater. It's black, with 3/4 quarter sleeves, and a bright floral pattern. I didn't think it was my style, but surprisingly, it looked SO good on me that I had to rethink and graciously accept the offer. It's a great addition to my sweater collection, since alpaca is very warm. (more on this in a bit.)
My friend took out another beloved alpaca sweater to show me, and horror of horrors, there were HOLES in it. Moth panic erupted for all of about 30 seconds. Then my husband the professor (the one who studies butterflies and MOTHS, remember?) stepped in and examined it. These weren't moth holes, these holes happened because of actual wear. Yes, weak threads/yarns can break down over time, especially in an intarsia knit. Moths will leave evidence, such as casings and other insect detritus, of which there was none. It's so nice to be married to a PhD who's an expert in the topic!
I volunteered to mend the holes, and my friend was relieved, because while she can darn, she worried she'd do a messy job. I took photos of it, the darning came out just fine, I had hand-dyed sock yarn that matched perfectly...but gosh, the photos are terrible. (use your imagination!)
Then, we heard that the temperature in Winnipeg this week reached -40. Yup, that's the same temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. DARN COLD! Since we hope to be living in Winnipeg next year in this time, I'm rethinking my winter clothing. In very cold weather, it's not embarrassing to double and triple up on hats/mittens...even coats. A regular hat with one layer isn't warm enough even when it's 5F/-15C. (We've dealt with those temperatures with frequency when we lived in upstate NY.) So, I dragged out this thin knit cap that I've had for years...and holey HAT, Batman! Perhaps 10-15 years old...I based it on a Rowan pattern, it's Rowan yarns, and I made it before I was married. Maybe even when I was in college in upstate NY in the first place? I found a hole in the cap along the seam...it was knit flat and then sewn up.
Another darning chore. Darn it! Yet, it's nice to maintain this link to my long ago knitting past...and don't really mind darning, especially if I'll get more use out of this hat. So, I've been wondering...
Do you darn your clothes/knitted items? Do you wish you knew how to darn and mend things? Are you completely opposed to darning? Inquiring minds want to know!
Friday, January 09, 2009
resting on your sheep?
The good news is that I've got plenty of work lined up. The bad news is that, well, I've got a lot of work lined up. :)
Here's a story to tide you over 'til I come back to post again. This past week I met a woman in Nashville who was "between opportunities." Let's call her Gert. Gert asked what I did. I said I was a writer and that I had a book coming out soon. I burst with pride. I couldn't wait to talk about it. She jumped in to ask about how one becomes a writer. I tried to be encouraging, explaining the (long) process. Gert asked for details right down to how to write a cover letter. Again, I briefly explained. I said that one of my favorite parts of being a writer was that writers have to read a lot. I love to read! I read a lot! Reading makes you a good writer! There was a pause in conversation.
"So...." Gert says, looking a bit concerned..or maybe put out. "How many books would I have to read?"
"Oh, one or two a week!" I replied. I was still grinning with enjoyment there. It became clear about then that Gert thought she might could dive in and try this writer thing while looking for "real" work. After that, we heard that Gert wanted to get rid of her dog, she hated that dog but no one would take him. Uh Oh. The professor and I left the gathering sort of fast, and Gert....after that first dog statement, things got weird.
Later that day, we laughed about the situation, (we had to laugh) which seemed increasingly awkward. (the dog part was plain appalling) I hadn't mentioned to Gert that I meant one or two books a week for...you know...the last thirty years. So, underestimating, we're talking 1,600 books or so?
Pride goeth before a fall--maybe I was resting on my laurels or something like that. Should have realized that Gert didn't think there was anything to this "writer act" before I embarrassed myself further... That she felt she could fit in all those books tomorrow and write her own book next week.
Good thing I can laugh. Otherwise, I'd be crying! It's taken me years to write a book. It's taken me years before I can say, "yes, I'm pretty busy working!"
Turns out Gert just thought I had loads of time to spare, since, you know, I was a big FAKE writer who doesn't do much! You know,--just like Sally here, resting on her sheep pillow-ahem-squeaky toy. Oh well. That poor dog. I almost wanted to drive 70 miles back towards Nashville just to rescue Gert's dog...nobody should dislike their own dog...
Weird, huh? So, what's the right response to these bizarre encounters?! Advice? Weird tales of your own to share?