Thursday, July 30, 2009

What happened on my craft-cation

I know this may seem to fit better on my other blog, but trust me: I have a very good reason. I learned something very important about myself in the midst of the wild whirlwind of thread and fabric and paper and ink.
And really, this is something I've known about myself for quite some time now, but never before has it struck me with such drastic, immutable, dreadful force.
In the interest of being sly and not giving too much away at the beginning, I'll tell you a little story.

I already told you about how I was being selfish (blah, blah, blah) and how the MAN lovingly opted to take himself and the kids away for a little vacation. Overnight. Waterpark and sleepover at Grandma's and all that. I was a little giddy with the prospect of uninterrupted craft time, and there may have been tiny little purses and cards fluttering around my head like you see in Bugs Bunny cartoons (except those are usually birds, of course. Yellow ones, I think).
On Tuesday, I decided to sew. Laid out the pieces of fabric, decided on a design (messenger bag) and began to cut and piece. This was the first major sewing project that I had intentionally made for my etsy shop, so I was trying to be much more precise than usual on my seams and corners. (For a person as picky as I am about perfection, I am a surprisingly laid back seamstress.) (I'm not sure why.)
After several very frustrating encounters with my seam ripper and slight teeth gnashing, I was finished, and it does look mighty cute. I'm pretty proud of my idea to add an appliqued flower to the front flap. But as I was sitting on the floor for a very MAJOR seam removal, I got the bright idea (time out: do you think I'm pushy?---OK: back to the post) to turn on a movie while I ripped seams. An online (netflix) movie. (It was Hancock, if you're interested.)
And then, after the movie was over, I thought, well, that wasn't so bad. The movie noise had carried me past my frustration, and I hadn't been too distracted from my sewing. I even caught the main gist of the movie. Why don't I just watch something else? So I found some online episodes of this TV show I had forgotten to watch last fall, even though it did seem interesting.
And the next thing I knew, I had turned off my sewing machine and was sitting in my chair with a glass of Fat Bastard, a small bowl of chocolate chips, watching more episodes of this show. If you haven't seen it, it's a little creepy. Probably more horror than a girl like me should watch. Especially a girl who is alone and who has to take frequent potty breaks (my, how wine goes through one's body) in Lauren's creepy bathroom which has a door that creaks closed all on its own. Oh, and by now it was midnight.
Well, I don't know if it was the contagion of the show, the caffeine in the chocolate, the excitement of the day, OR SOMETHING ELSE (see how sly I am?), but for some reason, I kept watching and watching the show. Minutes crept past. Soon it was one. I toddled off to bed, somewhat unsteadily.
I lay there trying to find sleep, alone in the vastness of my dark room, but for some STRANGE reason, sleep was still elusive. So I reached for the lamp and my book and read for awhile, not stopping until my eyes were heavy enough and grainy enough to plunge me into sudden sleep. It was two.
(Have you figured out what my problem is? That last bit was the climax of the story, so the clues have all been given.)
The next morning, the morning light drifted over my eyes around 7 and I blinked at the clock. Too early. That would only be 5 hours of sleep. I drifted back under, waking again at 8. This time, my thoughts became coherent enough to realize that if I slept much longer, I'd be wasting Day 2 of my craft-cation in bed.
So I slugged my way out from under the covers and down the stairs to make some coffee. Bolstered by caffeine, I found myself half an hour later sitting in my craft area, waiting for inspiration to strike. Usually, with several uninterrupted hours, I can churn out ten to a dozen cards. Yesterday, I made two new designs (yes, I made 3 copies of each design, but copies are not nearly as time-consuming as new stuff). Yes, that's right: 2. And the rest of the day, I spent time doodling on a piece of paper, trying to figure out how to draw people from a perspective other than front-on. Also, trying to think of new designs. Nothing came, and my sketches are hideous. Shameful. I don't even want to show them to you.
Hmm, guess why my brain was so fuzzy? Even after 5 cups of coffee, the contents of my mind were more oatmeal-ish than anything else.
Maybe I need the MAN around to help me fall asleep at night, and maybe a few interruptions during crafting times are essential to remind me of what is really important.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Did I mention that I started something new?

Yeah, I've turned into a crafter now. The die-hard kind who just told her husband that instead of wanting to take a 4-day trip to Chicago, she really wants to just be home. Alone (ie: with husband and kids gone) (which means no interruptions for dishes-cleaning-laundry-food prep-kid care). So would he please either a) take them to Chicago without her or b) take them somewhere else?
I know. You don't need to tell me. It's a disease, an obsession, and it's not healthy.
But, you see, I opened this shop 2 weeks ago, and even though NOBODY has bought anything yet (I'm not holding it against any of you, but you could visit the shop and--you know--browse a bit...and maybe put something in your virtual cart...and just happen to pay for it. Just if you want to...), I still just want to make things. Lots of things. Things that use paper and scissors and fabric and thread.
And it's dangerous too, because even though I haven't made any money (yet), I still keep buying supplies. Oh, Michael's has a sale on paper? Better get some. Oh, Jo-Ann has their buttons 40% off? And some are even clearanced down to 25 cents? Got some. Oh, Hancock's of Paducah is selling Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner fabric for $4 and $5? Yup, got some of that too. Yeah, it's definitely a plague.
So anyway, Clint opted for plan b, and he's taking the kids to a waterpark on Tuesday. I'm just holding out till then, although I may be squeezing in a little sewing and painting and paper cutting before then.
After all, I can't help myself. Oh, and if that weren't bad enough, I also started a crafting blog. You can check that out here. I know, I know. Don't tell me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good news!

So I got a letter in the mail yesterday, addressed in my own writing. I looked at in for a second in bewilderment before I realized what it was: a reply from one of the agents I had sent a query to. I wasn't very optimistic as I opened it, thinking the chance of a positive response was very small. After all, everything I've read and heard about querying has been overwhelmingly pessimistic. I pulled out a blue printed sheet and scanned it, finally noticing the red check at the bottom. Yes, that's right! She wants to see my complete manuscript! I think I may have squealed, for Clint came running, and I showed him. Hugs ensued and a bit of jumping up and down. Then we settled down to talk logistics. I needed to go the printer and make a clean copy.
$23.17 later, all 312 pages are neatly stacked and ready to mail out, which I'm about to head out and take care of. Then, it's just a matter of waiting. Waiting for her to read it, to decide whether she thinks it's marketable, and if so, to convince a publisher that it is.
Your prayers and good wishes are coveted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kids' Day

Clint and I both have our birthdays in early June, and between birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day, it's really not surprising that Lauren and Jonah realized at an early age that something stinky was up.
It happened a few years ago. "Mom," Lauren asked, "when's Kids' Day?"
"What, honey?" I was probably busy doing something, not really paying attention.
"Kids' Day," she repeated, so patiently. (It makes me sad sometimes to realize how often I require my kids to be patient with me.)
Finally she got my attention and I turned to face her. "Kids' Day?"
"Well, there's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day. When's Kids' Day?"
She finally got through to my clouded brain. "Well, sweetie, there isn't one. Just one for Mommies and one for Daddies."
"Why not one for kids?" she asked.
Why not, indeed. Clint didn't need any persuading whatsoever, and that afternoon found us sitting in the living room explaining to Lauren and Jonah that there WAS a Kids' Day, conveniently falling in July, on which kids got presents and didn't have to do any jobs.
I don't think the "no jobs" part of the deal was nearly as enticing as the "presents" part. Still isn't.
So today marked our fifth annual Kids' Day. It's funny how often July 20 has found us on vacation...once we were camping, once in Virginia, once at Camp Arcadia. But this year we were home.
Here is how the day went:

Wake up to find daddy gone, so we had to wait till he got home (around noon) to open presents.

And they were very tempting...

I think Jared liked his present (ONE of the dart guns; the other is Jonah's)

Sit down to a nice diner, and then daddy and Jonah left to go fishing (caught three fish!), Lauren and her friend Chloe made popcorn and went downstairs to watch a movie, and mommy introduced Jared to Star Wars (or Star Whores, as Jared calls it).

It was a good day, I think.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pride and Prejudice AND ZOMBIES

I am an Austen fan. The manners, the sly humor, the layers upon layers of subtext, the well-developed characters--both major and minor--I love it all! And even though Emma is my favorite Jane Austen novel, when I saw this book advertised on amazon (click here for your own copy! Now only $7.77!), I knew I had to have it.
Finally, after a few weeks of my summer vacation have passed in a restless haze of waiting for the most opportune moment to crack the binding for the first time, I have succumbed. It was a long-awaited pleasure, and it was not a disappointment, overall.
Was it classic literature, deserving a space on my shelf next to Austen's other works? Maybe not. Was is pure, silly fun? Absolutely.
Here's the first sentence, just to give you an idea: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." And it just goes on from there. According to this revision of Austen's novel, England has been plagued by a--well, a plague that makes people into zombies. And the zombies like nothing more than to kill people and feast on their brains, which apparently are quite tender, succulent, and salty. A young person of any class or standing is sent to be classically trained in killing techniques by the masters of death-dealing in Japan (or China, if a family has less class or standing, such as the Bennett family).
Nobody with any brains leaves home without a dagger in her stocking and a Katana or Brown Bess strapped to her back.
The story unfolds much as does the Pride and Prejudice you may have been required to read in high school or college, with occasional (no, really, frequent is the better word) diversions for vomiting, sword-practice, and zombie slaying. Oh, and there are ninjas, too.
Remember Lady Catherine de Bourgh? She's an accomplished zombie slayer, one of the best in England.
How about Mr. Collins? Guess what? He's no good at all with killing zombies. I'm sure you're surprised.
Of course, all the Bennet girls are excellent swordswomen, and they have even perfected a five-point formation, which they use to good advantage when zombies attack guests at a ball.
It was gruesome, and the gore was only heightened by the illustrations every few chapters that usually featured zombies feasting on corpses or being decapitated by one of the main characters. Much of the text is word-for-word from Austen (85%, I've read in some sources), but there was certainly enough zombie mayhem to satisfy my taste for the gruesome.
Still overall, it was a fun read. Definitely something I'd recommend to a friend who has read and loved Pride and Prejudice. If nothing else, it will make you appreciate Jane Austen's genius even more.
One of the illustrations from the book. Don't worry: it's cauliflower the zombies are feasting on. Obviously, they're not very bright, and the veggie is often used as bait for zombies, who mistake it for succulent brains. That's Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy in the background, by the way.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The little things

I have been thinking for awhile about what makes me happy, where I find joy. And I realized that it is the small things that please me. Check over my list and see if you agree:

-a quiet, comfortable place to read and drink my coffee in the morning, seeing the sun stretching bright across the floor when I look up

-snuggling my children fresh from bed in the morning when the sheet wrinkles are still deep on their faces

-getting into bed and streching my toes into the crisp fresh scent of sheets fresh from the clothesline

-the smell of homemade bread

-getting a nice latte from a coffee shop

-walking into a library and inhaling the scent of printed pages

-the smell of rain

-making something with my hands

-walking through a fabric store and rubbing the fabric between my thumb and forefinger

-cracking open a new book

-rubbing Clint's head after a haircut

-watching him with the kids--with any kids

I could go on and on...but I'm feeling maudlin now...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why I'm not writing

Last week, a green bug bit me.

It makes me dream about fabric and paint

It makes me check my etsy site and email hourly

It makes my fingers itch to hold paper and a paintbrush

And to spend hours looking at fabric websites

And comparing prices

And tallying spending allowances

On things I haven't even sold yet

So I haven't been writing much...

Just crafting...

And thinking...

And planning...

And eating ice cream and chocolate cake...


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Art in the Park

I am so glad I persuaded my new good friend to try a different day. Glad she drove. Glad we pulled in a few more friends. Glad I went. To Plymouth's Art in the Park, that is. I just love art fairs, but I haven't been to one in years upon years.

I met a few designers of cards and jewelry who have etsy shops (like her or her) and who were so friendly when I told them about mine. Even though it was hot and sweaty, it was fun to share Jessica's croissant stuffed with Nutella and Lisa's roasted garlic baguette when we felt munchy and get a coffee (even though I was roasting) at the Plymouth Coffee Bean Co. And Lori gave me a few bites of her kettle corn, too. So friendly. So giving, all of them.

So here's what I got. The typewriter key earrings are for Lauren for Kids' Day (a Genthner family creation and tradition--July 20, if you're interested. Just like Mother's Day or Father's Day: the kids get presents and royal treatment), so pretend you don't know anything. And the Empire State Buildings are for me. They're made out of antique buttons! How cool is that. And the sticknymph business card: that's a promise. I'm going to get something from her etsy soon as I pick out my favorite from the multitudes of cute things. And she's inspired me to take off on a new design for card making. WHEN WILL IT EVER STOP?

I think that's why I like art fairs: I come home just itching to create.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I am a writer...

...and not a graphic designer. That's what I've realized this morning, although (really) I should have known that. I have spent all morning trying to use a program I downloaded (since I don't have photoshop) to create a banner for my new etsy shop (that--so far--is sadly empty because I've been fiddling around with hateful hateful hateful graphic design).
I've been thinking about biting the bullet and just buying a customized banner for $20 like one of these(Those etsy people are so clever: they know that craftiness doesn't always go with computer-ness, don't they?). But I have such a great idea for mine, and I want to make it myself.
So here I am, jiving on 4 cups of French Roast, my calorie counting plan discarded because of last night's binge on Black Raspberry Pie, ditching running for today to work on the computer, in my PJs, watching the hours slip past before I take the kids to the pool at 2.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Plunge

I have officially done it. Not the wimpy way like I did last time (a half-hearted email) but FOR REAL. I sat my little self down and typed up a query letter and a synopsis of my novel (the one about the French Revolution--death and betrayal--that one) and sent out packets to some literary agents.
For those of you not so well versed in the publishing protocols, that's what you have to do, really, before you can find your book on the shelf at Schulers. You have to convince an agent to represent your book, then that agent sells it to a publishing house, and the publisher--ah, publishes the book. THEN you can find it on the shelf at Schulers.
It's a daunting endeavor for me, though, because whilst I was at my residencies for my MFA, the mantra we all chanted to ourselves at night, so lulling and soothing, was this: "No book without an agent, no agent without a book." Yeah, the same thing that happens in the work world happens in the book world. You can't land a job without experience, but you can't get experience without a job. And most agents don't like to handle unpublished authors...but you can't get published without an agent. Sigh.
But I mailed out my packets this afternoon, and I'm crossing my fingers. But I won't keep them crossed--it can take anywhere from four weeks to never to hear back. So meanwhile, I'll just keep writing, keep reading, keep etsy-crafting (I'll get my shop up soon! Promise!), and keep doing all the other things that take up my time. Oh, and blogging too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Do you re-read books? I do. Love to. In fact, that's a prerequisite for nearly every book purchase for me: do I think I'll read it again? If not, it's off to the library. And a book in a good series that is still being written, that's a definite re-read. I just have to: have to refresh my memory by starting over from #1 each time a new installment in the novels (or now) movies comes out.
Well, this time I cheated. I only read #6, getting myself geared up to go to the midnight premiere of the film in a week and a half. And here's what really surprised me, although it probably shouldn't have: I didn't realize how much I'd forgotten. Maybe its because I've re-read #6 (and 7) fewer times than the rest of the series since they' the end...but still, all I really remembered was that ________ died and ________ was the half blood prince. That's all!

(Okay, I was trying to be nice and not spoil anything for those of you silly people who DON'T READ BOOKS and JUST WAIT FOR THE MOVIE, but my post will just turn into a bunch of deleted names. So if you don't want to know what happens, stop reading. Sorry.)

Totally forgot about Professor Slughorn and what a shifty, slimy sort of guy he is--but then he isn't really, is he? He can also be friendly and helpful, and he certainly has a soft spot for Harry--or it that just so he can get kickbacks from a grateful Harry in the future? I love these interesting, complex minor characters JK creates.
And what about Snape? Do you hate him or sympathize for him? He is such a tortured soul, and even though it seems like he really hates Harry, I wonder how much of it is an act--whether (like Harry says at one point in #6) anybody is even capable of acting that well. And of course, I've forgotten most of what happens in #7, so I don't really recall what ends up happening with Snape. I have a feeling he is doing a little of both--acting and hating at the same time. (And don't tell me: I'm going to dive into #7 as soon as I finish this post!)
And I remembered that Harry and Ginny hooked up by the end of the whole thing, but I forgot it happened so soon! I'm glad for it, though. Harry needs something positive in his life, especially after you-know-who dies. Besides, I've liked Ginny from the first mention of her in #1 (or was it 2?)--had a feeling she and Harry might be destined for each other.
Of course, Fred and George are probably my favorite Weasleys. Don't you love them? Every time they pop into the story, I end up laughing out loud. The tricks in their joke shop, the spell-checker quill of theirs Ron was using (that began making him write crass things when it ran out of magical power), the way they talk to each other and Ron--I love it. Any book that makes me laugh is an instant favorite.
TOTALLY forgot about Luna Lovegood commentating the Quidditch match. In typical Luna fashion, she spent so much time talking about inconsequential things like the shapes clouds were making, how much she liked or disliked some of the players, and whether one of the players (Zacharias Smith) might have a mysterious disease called Loser's Lurgy that she forgot to keep track of the score.
Really, only two complaints: one, I think the real action didn't start till the end. The Horcruxes. Those are the climax, the exciting part, and for much of the novel, I didn't even know to be concerned about them. Harry spent more time brooding about Malfoy and wowing Slughorn with the HALF BLOOD PRINCE'S potions ability. But still, a minor flaw, in my opinion, because I certainly didn't put the book down for lack of interest in the story. In fact, I read most of it in one day. My other complaint: I still don't really get WHY Hermione likes Ron. I believe his attraction for her, and I understand why he is interested in her, but I don't know what she sees in him. I LIKE Ron, don't get me wrong, but he doesn't seem like much of a catch. I think of all JK's characters, he could use more development. Who is he, when he's not with Harry?
But overall, if you haven't read this book (and would still like to, now that I've told you pretty much all the major plot events), you should read it. It's funny and exciting and touching. A good book on its own, without the props of #1-5 and 7. In fact, I like Harry more in this novel than in #4 and 5. He isn't as moody and whiny. He's determined, he's brave, and he's starting to believe in himself.