Tag Archives: crocheting

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

SOLVE THE MYSTERY!

OK team – a new contest. This picture gets posted to my timeline weekly. After two years of this, I decided to trace its story via GoogleImage. No info. Can’t find anything other than first circulation date and that it appears to be Dutch.
So, the first person to bring the correct full story (who are they; who made the stuff; was this a dare, a charity, for fun, etc.) wins a free Spay and Neuter afghan, colors of your choosing (you pay postage only). Let’s get to the bottom of this. It’s kinda making me crazy.
crochet guys

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, crafting, Downton Abbey, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Yarn Porn?

DSCN0278Just as Jack was getting on his plane to head off to Scotland, friends of friends were having a yard sale here. And my friends told me about their friends’ yard sale because said sale sold yarn.

I guess I have a reputation or something…..

Being tied up all day, I couldn’t get to said yard sale, a knotty problem, to say the least, yet quickly solved by friends stringing together a series of emails in which I prepaid for the haul, and they hauled it to me.

The boxes and bags – about 200 skeins in all – arrived the day after Jack left, leaving his side of the bed the logical place to stash the, er, stash until I could get it put away at the weekend.

Hence “The Photograph.” I got my friend Elissa (yes, the one who shoots kittens) to document a playful moment and thought no more about it – until that night, when I put said playful photo on one of the many, MANY crochet sites out there on Facebook. The caption read, “My husband is gone for a month, so I’m trying to make the best of things” or something like that.

An hour later it had 700 likes and several very funny comments. And then it disappeared. Admin took it down and now I find my posts (on other subjects) blocked.

I don’t know which is funnier: taking it, taking it down, or taking it badly. Some people get their knitting into twists, y’know? And some are just too tightly wound.

Truth be told, makes me feel kinda empowered to have been banned from a crochet group, like maybe I could still have a shot at being cool?

Nah. I rescue kittens and my idea of a hot time while Jack is gone is binge-watching Netflix until midnight while crocheting and drinking club soda. (Wine while crocheting leads to some interesting pattern innovations.) I have long hair and wear sensible flats and the last time I had an affair it was with a fictional character in a classic novel. (Never you mind who; get your own book daddy.)

But I HAVE been banned; surely that counts for some kind of honorary coolness points?

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing

Why Writing is Like Crocheting (or Knitting) II

Today’s blog is dedicated to all the needleworkers out there, keeping the world warm and held together.

yarnStarting is the hardest part, isn’t it? The blank page {shudder} – nothing is scarier. And part of it is knowing that the foundation row has to be right. How often have we made an afghan that’s gorgeous, except down at the bottom it’s too tight and curls and won’t lie flat. Or worse, worked our way up and found on row 20 that the reason for this ever-increasing mistake is a tiny error back on row 2–and you have to go back and fix it, or nothing will turn out right.

Which is debilitating, as you stare at that massive tangle of ideas that might or might not be one single and whole thread, the piece of yarn that’s all gnarled up together so you can’t even see the beginning and ending of it. Your heart sinks as you take up the mass of loops and knots all stuck together, and yet, there’s this tiny piece of you that wants to get in there and tackle the thing, rise to the challenge, subdue it, turn order into chaos… and that’s pretty much the opening process, isn’t it? Every story has a beginning, the entry point A, and an ending, the exit point Z, so you try to find yours in all those crazy ideas tied together in your head, and they wind so tightly together that they seem like one thing.

But then you find either point–the beginning or the end–and start moving, forward or backward, patiently, one hand on the thread and one pushing through the tangle, moving, sifting, unwinding, over and under and back up again with gentle movements–although every once in awhile you just give the whole thing a good hard yank accompanied by a correctly-conjugated F word, and go get yourself a glass of something. Then you come back and sit down and think some more, slow, patient, finding the thread that runs through the middle of all those knotted bits.

And before you know it, you have a plan: a ball of thread to work with, a pattern to follow, and some time to get going. And time makes time, which people who do yarn work understand: it doesn’t take away your time, it gives it back. You write and write, and then you hit a mistake, a bit where the pattern doesn’t seem to read right, a character who dances sideways with a big raspberry, and you get frustrated and put it down and go away.

It’s amazing how a night off provides clarity, because when you make yourself take it up again yarn bombthe next day, well of course, here it is, a mistake in the pattern, or a doubled stitch, a word out of season, an idea in the wrong place, easily fixed, what were all the hysterics for? And on you go.

And on, and on, and then suddenly you look down and the thing that was a tangled mess that became a pattern and a plan has become under your steadily moving fingers a cohesive whole, a recognizable garment, a story to be reckoned with. You didn’t think you were getting anywhere and then BAM you’re putting on the edging, binding the whole ending back to the beginning. It’s colorful, and vibrant, and right.

rainbow-crochet-coatAnd satisfying. So very, very satisfying.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, writing

♪ Ponies in Sweaters ♪ and Sheep with bright Fleeces ♪

Jack’s weekly guest blog (the ponies below are Shetlands in Fair Isle sweaters, promoting Scottish tourism. Jack suggests we all go there now, because it’s warmer.)

shetlands in sweatersAs I write this, the temperature outside is zero degrees F. That’s thirty two degrees below freezing for us Europeans! Our heat pump is going flat out and just managing to hold 68 degrees in the bookstore. On days like this we don’t expect many customers. Everyone is huddled inside, the local schools and colleges closed because of the ice rinks that used to be roads.

Wendy and I have moved our center of today’s operations upstairs to the Second Story Cafe where it’s just a bit warmer (two degrees, to be precise). She is writing in the guest room and I am running the bookstore from a cafe table.

Locals tell us that the last few weeks are the coldest they can remember for a long time and I believe it. Even for a weathered Scotsman like me, this is freakishly cold.

Winters in Scotland…. ah, I thought I’d left them behind. I often tell folk that summers here are considerably warmer, but winters are much the same. This is not what I’m used to. Also, these really cold spells seem worse because the summers are so hot to me, creating more of a contrast. Then, too, the bookstore is in a big old house with drafty windows and doors. In Scotland, I believe the houses were better equipped to handle cold weather.

On the other hand, I may have just worn more appropriate clothing! Americans don’t work so much with wool as we do back on the Isles. And of course, your sheep aren’t as cute, either.sheep

Amidst the polar vortex onslaught, this place still manages to be an oasis (or perhaps an arctic camp) for some of our hardier customers. Our excellent chef Kelley has slept in the guest room these past two nights, to be sure of opening for hot breakfasts, and people are showing up, cold, wet and hungry for these and her bowls of warming lunch soups. Even our defiantly outdoor cat Beulah has given in and taken up residence (also in the guest room, fighting for bed space with Kelley) until things improve.

So we wait, hopefully and patiently, for the promised return more normal temperatures by the end of the weekend, and–less hopefully–for our January power bill. But I do think about grabbing Wendy and making a trip to Scotland soon, just to warm up. It might prove cheaper than heating the bookstore.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

You are Invited….

It’s that special time of year when tummy bugs, Celtic festivals, busy life syndrome and a host of last-minute “oh crap, is that due today” moments collide to produce….

exhaustionexhaustion. That’s me on the right, having just finished crocheting a pre-ordered SPAY AND NEUTER AFGHAN, a fundraising item to pay for – well, I guess you can guess what it pays for. See the rows of cat faces; that’s what you get if you don’t spay and neuter. (The cat face on top belongs to Owen Meany, who is quality testing.)

Elissa took this photo during the last Celtic festival meeting, held yesterday evening, just before the madness begins tonight at 7. And in the back of my mind as we discussed festival details and I put the last row on the blanket was “where can I get a birthday cake personalized first thing in the morning?” Friends-n-family thing we forgot to take care of.

Thing is, while I’d like to invite you to a pity party for five minutes of self-indulgent luxury, I know Jack and I are lucky to live in a community full of people willing to volunteer time and effort to run a Celtic festival. We’ve been fielding phone calls all week from Cincinnati, St. Louis, even El Paso, from Celti-philes coming to the event. It’s good for the town, it’s good for the musicians, it’s good fun.

(We’re also lucky to have friends who totally deserve really cool birthday cakes, and the fact that we forgot until last night is by no means a measure of our esteem for said friend…. you get that, Frank?)

And while no joint venture in a small town is without politics, if you just walk straight and keep your sense of humor, it doesn’t matter. Jack, Darinda, Elissa – all the members of the Celtic Festival committee – we know we’re having fun, and that other people will, too. So all those planning sessions (I think I crocheted that whole afghan at meetings in August and September alone) are worth it.

So is that look on my face. Go by, mad world. Actually, no: come here and share the mad gay whirl that is Big Stone Celtic. It’s gonna be a great two days.

bsc billboard

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

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