Wednesday, March 05, 2008

navel gazing and swatchy swatchy

It's getting to that time. The time when I turn in the last parts of the book that I was dreading writing. (To catch new readers up....I'm writing a book about fiber festivals. It will be published and in book stores in early 2009. It's almost all turned in, but...)

I've been trying to write that "About the Author" section. The part where some folks say, "The Author lives in STATE with her husband and likes to WHATEVER." However, I like the longer bios that say more personal things. Plus, I think back on the years of 1991 through 2001, and dang it, I earned three degrees during those years. That college stuff should count for something, right?! Can't I list that? Even though it might sound stiff, academic, or even uppity?

(OK, so it doesn't have much to do with fiber festivals, but I did get lots of practice writing.)

Then there's the writing thing. Do people want to read a long boring string of publication titles? "Author has been published in, among other places, Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, Spin-Off, Belle Armoire, Knit It!, the Jewish Week, the New York State Conservationist and online at Knitty, Magknits and" Or whatever, you know what I mean. Which one of those is important? Should I mention the fiction stuff too? Oy.

How about the actually interesting bits? Joanne used to teach. She taught high school in inner city DC and Northern Virginia and community college remedial writing in Buffalo, NY. She taught religious school music and even taught a cooking workshop on how to boil spaghetti (no kidding) to Duke undergrads.

Or something about the professor? Or about the dogs? Harry is a setter mix, and Harry’s pet Sally is a pointer mix.

You can imagine why I'm driven to swatching and knitting for hours at a one not accustomed to so much navel gazing, I've made my belly button sore and need to focus on other, more important things.
Here are some of the results. (There are no photos of the chocolate cake, homemade pizza, or myriad other things I've done to procrastinate. Soon I'll go buy dog food and milk...)

#1) I'm thinking of making myself a v-neck sweater out of worsted weight dark brown handspun wool and two colors of alpaca singles. There would be color work, and so I did some swatching. These colors are awfully close to one another, so they make a very subtle pattern. For contrast, I have some cinnamon colored alpaca that is much brighter. I blogged about these alpaca fleeces here and you can see the colors closely here. I show you the swatch for one reason. Note how the singles do not skew. There is nothing wrong with knitting with singles, especially if one is knitting a pattern or in the round. If you don't overspin your singles, you won't have a problem knitting with them. People do this all the time. Just check out Lopi, Manos or Malabrigo yarns for reference!
#2) I needed more distraction. I finally started knitting up the Finn white 2 ply handspun yarn and brown 2ply Shetland handspun into my Selbuvotter mittens on size #1 needles. Not only is this intoxicating 2 handed 2 color knitting, but it is very intense, because every row is different. I can just about listen to music or an audiobook while doing this. Talking to someone is out of the question.

My friend Terri Shea wrote this book and it is stunningly clever. My smart friend Denise test knit this, so I know it should work. This mitten is good for keeping out the world and just focusing on....knitting.

This is a good prescription for the narcissistic among us...or the just plain overwrought "About the Author" types. Knitting with both hands in two colors keeps me from even being able to see my navel, thank goodness!

So, what should be in an author's bio, in your opinion? Advice?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say you should say whatever you want. The people who read bios want to know about the author. Tell them what you want to tell them. The mittens are going to be too delicious!! I'm swooning over the handspun!!!

March 5, 2008 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the subtle variation in the alpaca. You could knit it up and send it to me if you're bored. :)

As to the bio, I think it's entirely a personal preference. I tend toward the minimalist with personal items related to the book's subject matter (e.g. mentioning my cooking experience in a cookbook bio). But if you want to talk about other experiences, go for it.

March 5, 2008 at 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally like the inner-city and spaghetti parts; they talk about where and how you've connected with others on a personal level. The rest is all part of you, too, and they matter and I for one would like to read about them. How much they matter to you, enough to include in that context, is up to you: what I would do is write a rough draft and walk away from it for at least one day. Come back fresh to it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And don't be surprised if a week later you want to redo it. When you're deciding how to describe yourself to the whole wide world, it takes some time and sifting out after the first write-up.

March 5, 2008 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger SueJ said...

Maybe write two different versions & live with them for a week or so! I had Nancy Bush's 'Folk Knitting in Estonia' to hand (the mitts just need a thumb!) & read her bio. It wouldn't have invited me in to read it & certainly doesn't fit in with the writing inside. Maybe thsts it -the bio should reflect the writing INSIDE the book. I don't know what the 'form' is -should it sound as if someone else has written it? If so, get the Prof. on the job!!!! I love the swatches anyway & totaly understand the idea of hiding inside of a testing bit of knitting. I think my mitts and the Brigit socks that I have just started fit the bill!!!! I know about brain gym & it never mentions knitting but it certainly does the job! The handspin is, as always, awsome. I may never go to an American fibre fair but I certainly will have to buy your book!

March 5, 2008 at 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK we tried a different way and now I seem to be able to get here... what IS it with Firefox and Blogger?
I think an author bio with the more unusual and quirky stuff is better - if you want to mention your degrees which I totally understand, combine them in a sentence with teaching undergrads to boil spaghetti.

March 6, 2008 at 7:10 AM  
Blogger annmarie said...

I say it's *your* book, so you should write the author bio however you like! I also like knowing interesting bits about the people whose books I read. Leave it to the editor to suggest where you might 'trim' it if necessary. :)

March 6, 2008 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger weebug said...

i love how your mitten is turning out! sorry, no good insight for the bio at the moment.

March 7, 2008 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Well, bios are interesting... it's a little like the things people tell you about themselves when you meet the first time. It's your opportunity to present yourself to the world, only You Get to Edit!

Which is very cool, really. I think you should start with basic facts - name, where you live, credentials that relate to this context. Keep it very brief, and then add the seasoning - a few interesting, odd or funny things that fill out the bio and add color!

Go here: and have a look at my Folk School bio. The context here is Melissa as a fiber person and a musician. My friend Martha at one point added "and she can knit in the dark!" I'm sorry they took that out for this version... it was a great spice!

March 7, 2008 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Karen Johnson said...

I agree with the other comments here....say whatever you want. You are an experienced writer and know what people find interesting. I almost always read the author bios and often they are the boring "fill in the blanks" you mention. You are an interesting person and I think the spinning world should know about you.

March 8, 2008 at 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wrote the bio for my book and kept it quite brief. I said

"Janel Laidman has been pursuing fiber arts for over 35 years. She first began knitting as an exchange student in Denmark where she was impressed to see the Danish girls knitting socks while learning physics. She’s been fascinated by socks ever since.

Janel has published articles in Spin Off and Spindlicity, and teaches both spinning and knitting nationally. This is Janel’s first book."

I didn't include my academic credentials or all the fiber businesses I've started. I think of the author bio as an appetizer. You want to give them just enough to be interested to find out more.

It may also depend on your publisher. I don't remember who you're publishing with, but they may want certain stuff in there. Of course you know way better than I what that might be!

Congrats Joanne on getting so close to the end!

March 9, 2008 at 3:25 PM  

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