Category Archives: crafting

Things I Learned during Writing Residency

19226005_10154761056583505_1735351353313373426_nThings I have learned (some about myself, others about writing) during this residency:

Crocheting is as important as writing. Find your BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT thing and do it. You don’t need any more reason than that, so long as it’s not killing the household budget. If what you like is expensive or takes time your family can’t give you, see if you can pull a little dangling thread somewhere to get a small marked bit of time and space. You need it in life even more than writing.

The value of silence: it is tempting to tune into online TV during crochet time, the radio while we drive. Do without every so often. Sit and listen to what you’re thinking about, and be surprised at the connections that form because of the silence.

Don’t lose sight of places you like to be. Until I got to Fayetteville, I had forgotten how soothing, how inspiring, being in the woods is. Church, ball game, bathtub: wherever you go to get your writer on, don’t let anyone keep you from it.

Do new stuff because it’s new. This could be writing, finding a new place to hike, visiting a different town, cooking something weird, trying an intense craft pattern. Bust out of your comfort zone.

Know what you believe. I believe in Jesus. After that I’m listening. Right now polarities are oppositional in politics, religion, even how to cook lasagna. Every idea space is full of debates and hurricanes. Listening is good. Keeping one’s mouth shut is good. Usually people don’t want to know what you think; they want to tell you what they think. Let them; it’s grist for the writing mill, and not difficult to shake off what they will enjoy as a power move. It makes GREAT character study. Don’t get excited; get a notebook.

Draft fast; edit slow. My latest manuscript of 65K words drafted in three weeks. It was crap but had great bones. I set it aside for three weeks, then edited, sent to readers, edited again. The polished draft is with NYC’s publishing deities. Time plus chair plus keyboard makes drafts; fallow time plus finessing makes books.

Work with other writers in a bordered capacity. I’m fortunate to teach for Memory2Memoir and mentor writing educators with American NewMedia Foundation. What other people struggle with, how other people choose to tell stories, invigorates your writing. That said, offer too many consults and your time will disappear. When I sat down to do “other writer stuff” besides drafting or editing my manuscript, how much “other writer stuff” there was startled me.

Enter contests carefully. Writers can spend their lives looking for and finding them at $25 entry fee per. Like a plot itself, getting sidetracked to tell a wonderful story about some minor character may be fun, the writing great, but it doesn’t advance the overarching narrative. Entering contests because you don’t know what to write about yet? Awesome, keep going. Entering contests as avoidance to writing your book? Nope.

Have simple foods on hand. Peanut butter and apples were my staples, plus Trader Joe’s frozen polenta for hot meals. When you’re knee-deep in plot yet hungry, you can keep going.

Hope these are useful to you. I’ve loved my time at Lafayette Flats.

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Filed under between books, crafting, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Just the Right Note – –

Jack doesn’t quite make it with his Wednesday guest post –

This was going to be a post about my birthday on Monday and I suppose it still can be.

Yes – it was yet another one and I had a great night in the local-ish Indian restaurant with a group of close friends. I was also amazed at how many folk felt connected enough to wish me the best via Facebook, which has its good and bad points but keeps us all in touch if we can ignore all the crazy stuff.

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Good friends, good company and excellent curries on Monday evening

But my present to myself has been a year in the preparation. In a recent post I mentioned a guitar that was being repaired and put back in the condition (in fact better than) it was when I first bought it some years ago. So here’s the story –

I had been traveling back and forward between Scotland and the US and was very nervous about my big guitar having to travel in the hold of the planes, so I started researching ‘parlor guitars’ as they can fit in the overhead bins. I was searching online and found a guy in California who found parlor guitars at house clearances and had a whole lot for sale. I took a chance and bought one from him. A bit like folk buying a tour of Scotland from someone they’ve never met!

When it arrived it turned out to be a Lyon and Healy Lakeside. L&H still exist but haven’t made guitars for a long time. Based in Chicago they are known now for their pianos and harps. The Lakeside was their second top quality guitar – the top one was called the Washburn (the middle name of one of the partners). They sold the Washburn brand and that’s a whole other story.

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When my Lakeside arrived I was completely charmed and impressed. It is the only guitar I’ve seen with back and sides made from oak, and how anyone could have bent these sides is beyond me. It had a bright and punchy sound and was incredibly easy to play. These instruments were popular with mountain music groups of the 1920s and 30s because they were both cheap and could be heard alongside the banjo and fiddle. Sadly my guitar quickly began to deteriorate with a split on the top, a split in the heel of the neck and internal braces loosening.

Enter two new and good friends who made an introduction to an excellent guitar luthier in Nashville and organized transport of my beloved Lakeside to and from that wonderful craftsman. I really thought I’d get a quick response saying it was beyond help, but didn’t hear anything at all!

I had been told it would probably take a year as he had to fit it in between his own much sought after bespoke instruments and that’s exactly how long it took.

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This morning I finally got her back and I’m completely astonished. He deliberately didn’t try to make her look like new, but simply made everything just how it was when I first got her. But much, much better. She looks pretty much the same but sounds and plays like a dream. The big thing I found when I first got her was that the neck was narrow and had a distinct ‘D’ cross section which really suits my hand. When I sat down this afternoon to play her I knew all the trouble and expense was completely worth it!

So to all 400 of you who wished me happy birthday in various ways – I’m amazed I have that many folk who care. To those of you who made it to Sahib’s on Monday evening, I just finished my tandoori prawn tonight. To the love of my life who traveled down from WV to make sure I survived – hang on – we have a 20th anniversary approaching.

To Paul, Bill and especially Chris Bozung – thanks for giving me back the Lakeside (not to mention the anonymous original makers who’s instrument sold for the first time for $6 in 1906 in a Sears Roebuck catalogue).

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

angelSo here’s my problem…..

I started reading this book, thinking it would be funny, I could review it for Christmas and be timely and relevant and it was short and I’d finish it quickly….

…and I didn’t like it enough to finish it. I didn’t even get to the brain-eating zombies the Angel raised when he got confused by the wishes of the wrong child to have Santa raised from the dead after he’d been whacked in the face with a shovel by a Christmas-tree-stealing do-gooder whose friend wields a broadsword.

That enough about plot summary? The plot could best be described as “smoke pot while watching HBO all night, then write.” Yeah, hilarious. Not.

What’s funny about a bunch of stereotypes slouching toward Bethlehem in an overwritten “ain’t my word use clever” streams of unmerciful-undead never ceasing?

I never read any of Moore’s other books. Tom Robbins kills me, so funny, so kooky, so Lewis Carroll on  a good day. Moore, apparently, is meant to be like him.

Still waiting to see that parallel line meet itself….

So I’m sorry to tell you that I have no Monday book because I backed the wrong horse, and didn’t have time to start over.

All I can tell you is, save yourself. If you like character driven plots, well, his characters are as thin as the paper they’re written on. His plot is driven by wild horses running away, and I’m not going to be looking for any more Moores.

Go watch Alias Grace. It’s way better and you can crochet at the same time.

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Filed under bad writing, between books, blue funks, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, Uncategorized

The Monday Book-turned-Movie: CLOUD ATLAS

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I know, I know, you’re very disappointed in me. But I’m on a crochet deadline, and was  looking for Netflix background–less Netflix and chill than Netflix and hook, but there you go.

So I watched Cloud Atlas because the book by David Mitchell had intrigued me but we sold it before I could rad it. And three hours of movie lets one get a powerful lot of yarn moved into correct position.

The thing about this movie is it was able to add something the book wasn’t: jokes about who was playing what part.

For those unfamiliar, Cloud Atlas is pretty much based on the idea that no matter what century it is, people are behaving pretty much the same. There are good guys, bad guys, hustlers and altruists, and it all moves around in a big circle.

The funniest part is, the hunk hero from 2143 or so is the matron of an evil nursing home from 2012. That part cracked me up. Although the fact that “soylent green is people” was a funny line in 2012 and a real thing about food in 2143 was a bit sobering.

Cloud Atlas runs from the 1800s, when on ships running from Jamaica a bad guy is trying to poison a nice guy who saves another nice guy from getting beaten to death, through the 1970s when corruption in the oil industry is getting nice people killed, past 2012 when it’s the publishing industry and nursing homes that get the scrutiny, into ethical futurist questions in 2100 and 2300 (after the fall a few winters, if that tells you anything) when Earth is back to barbarism. If you don’t take it too seriously, it’s a good film. If you start to ask questions about how people know certain things or can gain access to certain places, forget it. This is a shallow, bright ride.

But it is a ride with some breadth, as the 2100s are shoot-em-up thriller, the 1970s are detective novel, 2012 centers around money, and 2300s is eat or be eaten with a few surprises thrown in. It was as bright and breezy as the afghan I was crocheting while watching, and less knotty if one didn’t ask too many questions.

For escapism or background noise, Cloud Atlas works well. For serious thought fodder, one doesn’t need two hours and 51 minutes of star-studded cast to know that everyone is pretty much after something, for good or ill, and that we recycle stock characters in the parade of our life. History repeats itself because we don’t learn the lesson the first time. Just ask Charlottesville.

 

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That Line between Hoarding and Recycling

The grandchild of two women who survived the Great Depression, I grew up watching my paternal grandma stick straight pins into a potholder on her stairs. No matter how bent, she would hammer them straight if necessary, and into the little blue felt heart (made from scraps of another project) they went. She had a jar of thread balls. Meanwhile, maternal grandma “Nanny” cut plastic milk jugs into scoops or used them to store well water against drought. Both hoarded bread wrappers and the plastic bags inside cereal boxes.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never found the line between hoarding and recycling. Plastic storage containers with no lids? Heck, I can start tomato seeds in them come Spring. Books from 1970 about education policy? Craft time, baby!

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Except, it never is craft time. Neat stacks of “things I’m going to make as soon as I have time” turn into spider condominiums in the garage. Boxes of one project get pushed to the rear behind other projects.

Still, I persist in refusing to throw things away, because gosh darn it, we all need to reduce our footprint on this planet. It feels more gracious to save the string too short to be saved in an old mint tin, then throw the whole thing away when a mouse starts nesting; now it’s a health hazard rather than my wastefulness.

(I would have set it out for birds to use, but FB says that’s bad for their health….)

Old bottles I can figure out; paste funny slogans on the side of them with scrap paper: Tincture of Smarm, Diplomacy syrup, Integrity Supplement. These are on a shelf in my office, and they amuse me. But there’s only so much room on the shelf.

Ziploc bags get rewashed and reused, but when I tried to make ice by freezing water in one the other day, it had pinholes and all the water leaked out into my chest freezer and now there’s something of a defrost crisis out there. And sometimes people edge away at the pool when they see my sun hat is crocheted from plastic grocery bags.

I was unraveling a sweater to save the yarn, and the big hole up its back meant every piece was about six inches long, but I kept tying them into the next string until Jack physically took it out of my hands and said, “Dear. Really?”

Save money, save the planet, but they never tell you how keeping stuff loses time–the other American failing. Saving time is a virtue in our society, perhaps more important than saving ourselves?

Having been a student for 12 years, every late July/early August, the urge hits to reduce my belongings to what can fit into a Toyota hatchback. It’s a grad school thing. It’s not good for marriages. But it does keep me from becoming a permanent hoarder, when my grad student side fights with my grandmothers’ DNA.

Should I throw away the box of envelopes stamped with an old professional address, or keep blacking them out with a marker and writing mine below it? Will I take that bag of mismatched socks to the trash (but they’re great for stuffing crocheted animals!) and give up ironing wrapping paper? Can I deny the penny-pinching miser I am for the sake of a home where I’m not tripping over stuff that will come in handy someday?

It’s a dilemma – to save or not to save, that is the question. Whether ’tis better to pay up at the store or feel like you’re beating the man and saving the Earth every time you stuff another box of weirdness into a closet?

Simplicity was never this complicated in Nanny’s day….

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Tuesday Book Sculptures

Sorry about yesterday, everyone. Traveling in rural areas of Scotland makes for spotty Internet. But all shall be forgiven, because I have now seen, in person, the Edinburgh Book Sculptures!

If anyone doesn’t know, I am a fanatic for these things. The backstory is best told on a different site, so I’ll just give you the basics here. In 2011, a mysterious little paper cut statue of a tree growing out of a book appeared in the Scottish Poetry Library. It was titled “Poetree” and had a tag honoring books, ideas, and words, thanking the library for existing.

Everyone thought that was nice, and then shortly a second statue appeared. And soon they were everywhere: the National Library, the Storytelling Centre, the Writer’s Museum, the Filmhouse, the Central lending library for Edinburgh, and the National Museum. Always celebrating words and ideas and thanking the institution (all of whom had free admission) for being there.

The sculptures gathered enough attention to have a book put out: GIFTED. And the best part is, once the sculptures gained international attention, it didn’t take the media long to figure out who had made the statues. And at her request, they withheld her name. So very British.

The other fun part about the sculptures is the books they are made from: the dinosaur from AC Doyle’s Lost World, the Hyde street scene from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And most of the rest from Ian Rankin novels (a great crime writer based in Edinburgh).

This is a random sampling of some of the statues, which I have now finally seen in person. Some of the venues were rather startled by my ardent worship, but I am a happy person.

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Toilet Yarn Bombing is Da Bomb

whoville-2016-035It’s not often that one gets to yarnbomb one’s own toilet.

Now that I have your attention…. :]

Jack and I took yesterday to get into the Whoville Spirit of things for the holidays here in Big Stone. The whole town has a Who theme going – I keep waiting for someone to display an album cover of Roger Daltry, but so far, everyone is behaving.

who-bugThere were days when one could join the cutout painting brigade, but with our crazy schedules, Jack and I had to handmake our contribution. So naturally it involved yarn.whoville-2016-036

Welcome to the Bookstore Whoville 2016, ladies and gentlemen! Flash photography allowed. And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Since I live with a Scot, it’s a somewhat mixed bag here.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch