Tag Archives: publishing

What Yarn has Taught Me about Writing

Wendy yarnMy name is Wendy, and I’m a yarn hoarder [pauses for hellos from the assembly].

Not that this is a problem, mind. I enjoy my addiction. In fact, yarn has taught me many good things over the years, particularly about writing. The processes are similar: sit down, follow a thread, create a whole piece.

So here are a few pieces of wisdom that have found me during yarn meditations:

1) Every tangle – be it plot, wool, or life – has two entry points: the beginning, and the end. Find  either one, and it will eventually lead you to the other. And help you untie your knots. And leave you with a nice little ball to play with.

2) While tension is required to hold a project together, knowing when to finesse with gentle fingers (or words) versus when to give a good hard yank, is important. Too much tension creates an impossible situation–remember that television series known as 24?–while too little leaves a shapeless messy mass. Enough tension to keep the needle (or pen) moving with surety, not so much that the project fights its own creation: that’s the way to do it.

yarn kitten3) Cats do not help with the actual physical goal, but they sure are fun to have around during the work. Kids, too. Cuteness never hurts, and it lowers the blood pressure. Even if maybe you ought not let the cat or child actually write on any of the manuscript…. or play with the yarn.

yarn tangle 14) When dealing with a particularly large or vicious muddle, the first thing to do is separate out that which does not belong. Not everything in life is tied to everything else, even in Buddhism. Get rid of the bits that don’t contribute, and what you have left is a thread you can follow. Of course some projects are made of multiple colors and threads, but the time to weave them together is after they’ve been disentangled from each other and understood as themselves.

5) Don’t underestimate how much you’ve got to work with–or how fast words can pile up. Sure, kids, meals, day jobs, and the other stuff get in the way, but when you pick up your project–be it knitting needles, or nouns and verbs–just give it a few rows and don’t worry about speed. When you look back from the far end, you’ll be surprised at what those little bits and pieces of time and effort added up to, over the long haul.

birds in the nest6) Have fun. Joyless crocheting is like joyless writing: dull, misshapen and lumpy. You’re doing something cool. Disappear into it. Dive deep. Tangle and disentangle, sing the colors, swing those needles, and drink wine–or diet coke. It’s your project. Do what you want!

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Filed under crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, Uncategorized, writing

Country Cousins: 3 Books About Rural Living

Today’s blog is Wendy’s essay up on NPR Books. You can see it on the NPR page at the link below.

http://www.npr.org/2012/12/12/166479169/country-cousins-3-books-about-rural-living

December 12, 2012 7:00 AM

As a small-town girl, I love depictions of rural living when they’ve got a little style and sass in their makeup. Replete with enough quirks and quaintness to choke a mule, small towns are timelessly fertile ground for writers. But the best authors ignore — or even play with — stereotypes to tell truly compelling stories.

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm

by Stella Gibbons

Paperback, 233 pages

Stella Gibbons has plenty of sass. She was writing in the 1930s, when the “local color” movement glossed all things rural with sentiment, and farms were described without even a whiff of manure. Her comic novel Cold Comfort Farm stuck a pin in the balloon of idyllic country living. Featuring the Starkadder family, the cast includes oversexed farmhands Seth and Reuben, crazy Great Aunt Ada in the attic, and their sensible city-dweller cousin Flora Poste, who is capable of “every art and grace save that of earning her own living.” In one of the loveliest meta-storytelling devices ever, Gibbons marks her best passages with one or two asterisks, for the reader’s enhanced enjoyment. This book makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, which is at least once a year.

Homestead

Homestead

by Rosina Lippi

Paperback, 210 pages

Fewer laughs and more tears come from Rosina Lippi’s Homestead. A series of linked stories, it chronicles six generations of women in an Austrian mountain village, starting about 1909. Her characters are drawn with casual grace, and her understated writing is insightful and beautiful. In one tale she describes the interaction between a man and a woman negotiating sexual politics, as “Francesco had feared to ask too much of her, and saw, too late, that he had asked too little.” Quiet stories, and gentle ones, they depict the inner longings and outer strength of mountain women everywhere.

Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed

Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There

by Philip P. Hallie

Paperback, 303 pages

Through the influence of the charismatic pastoral couple Andre and Magda Trocme, the isolated village of Le Chambon became a “city of refuge” for Jewish people in Vichy France. Philip Hallie tells the story in academic language peppered with anecdotes and first-person interviews. Any small town has rivalries and factions, and these played into simultaneously creating sanctuary while dooming some rescuers. Le Chambon is part of that era’s larger story: the daily interactions of one small town set against the backdrop of hell come to earth.

These three writers reached into the enclaves of mountain villages, subsistence farms and human hearts — and gave us funny, sweet, sorrowful insights into small-town lives lived large.

Wendy Welch is the author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.

Three Books…is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Rosie Friedman with production assistance from Annalisa Quinn.

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Filed under book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized