Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Centerpiece Phobia

by Stephanie Black

Each year, Covenant Communications throws a Murder Mystery Dinner. Authors who released a suspense or mystery novel that year are invited to participate. Readers come to meet the authors, enjoy dinner, and try to figure out whodunit. Last year, with my first book on bookstore shelves, I was invited to join the cast of shady characters that made up the suspects. Being a board-certified introvert, I was nervous, but it sounded like fun. And the multi-talented Kerry Blair was writing the mystery—what could be better?

Then Covenant’s publicist casually—and calmly—informed us that each author would be creating a centerpiece for his or her table based on his/her book.

I was horrified.

Decorating is not my specialty. I look at a picture in a magazine or sit in the living room of a friend and there’s a pottery vase containing three wheat stalks and a couch strewn with varicolored cushions and a table displaying a basket of some random small item—rocks, maybe, or lemons—and a scarf draped over the back of a chair and it looks wonderful and I’m completely boggled. How do people do that? How do they get their ideas? How do they know what will look good together? My idea of decorating is as follows: take whatever knick-knacks you already own. Line them up on an empty surface. When you run out of room, find a new empty surface.

Maybe it’s genetic. My sister once used an old automobile tire as a visual aid in Relief Society. I’ll bet that shocked the socks off the lace tablecloth set.

Many years back, I was asked to do an “introduce yourself” centerpiece for a table at an RS luncheon. I was supposed to decorate my table with items that would help the other sisters get to know me. So I did. When I arrived at the luncheon to set up my table, I learned to my horror that apparently everyone else’s interests were defined by Easter lilies and artful, elegant items, or by interesting and unusual collections. I’d just brought, well, stuff. A fiction technique book. A violin concerto. A pacifier. The most artful thing about my table was the little candy bars I’d scattered around. “This is eclectic,” I heard a sister remark as she approached my Easter-lily-free table.

But there are, as the scriptures say, gifts differing and I thought that in writing fiction, I’d found my niche—a niche where decorating skills were not required.


For the Mystery Dinner I was supposed to create not only a centerpiece, but a centerpiece based on my book. Huh? There were definitely no Easter lilies or groovy doorknob collections that played a prominent role in my semi-futuristic thriller.

So I e-mailed Kerry Blair and begged for help. The brilliant and resourceful Kerry promptly gave me a suggestion that I was able to run with. In the end (with some final advice from my mother), I was miraculously able to produce a centerpiece that didn’t leave me mortified. But don’t think I wasn’t nervously eyeballing other authors’ tables, checking for Easter lilies.

In anticipation of any future Mystery Dinners I attend, I’ll make sure that a vase of roses and some of that sparkly confetti stuff play a prominent role in the plot of each of my books.

Or maybe I’ll just hang onto any old tires I find, just in case.


At 5/10/2006 10:08 PM, Blogger Sweebler said...

I'm offended you didn't talk about your other sister who brought a machete as a visual aid to her Sunday School Class.

At 5/10/2006 10:21 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Heck, I forgot about the machete. How could I? What was the lesson on, anyway? x

At 5/10/2006 10:55 PM, Blogger Karen Hoover said...

I'm dying of laughter here, Stephanie. Not to laugh at your expense, really, but you have quite a gift with words. The idea of a tire (or a machete) in Relief Society is AWESOME! ROFL Thank you for sharing. How can I find out when the next mystery dinner will be, anyway? I've been to one and it was great. I'd love to come to another. Any suggestions?

At 5/10/2006 11:39 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Thank you, Karen!

I think Covenant is planning to always hold the Mystery Dinner on the Friday before October General Conference. This year it will be on Friday, September 29th.

It was a ton of fun last year. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be there this year, since I just turned in a new manuscript last month. Even if it's accepted (I'm still holding my breath) it would take a miracle for it to be released this year.

But at least that gives me a long time to plan my next centerpiece.

At 5/11/2006 12:07 PM, Blogger Sweebler said...

The machete was used in a lesson on covenants. In Hebrew, you don't "make" a covenant. You "cut" one. Serious covenants were made by sacrificing an animal by cutting it down the middle and then the parties walking between the parts of the cut animal. This was to remind you what would happen to you if you broke your covenant.

So, I used the machete when I talked about the seriousness of making covenants, specifically marriage covenants.


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