Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, October 02, 2009

Quilt Camp & Writer's Cramp

I can't blog today. I am leaving for Quilt Camp. You'd think that with the temperatures dropping to near-freezing at night, the thing would be called Quilt Camp because that's what you bundle up in while telling ghost stories and making s'mores around the campfire. Nooo. No campfire. No s'mores. Probably no ghost stories. And, get this, we're going up to cabins in the woods to make our own quilts. I often wonder what our ancestors think of us seeking recreation in chores they did of necessity.

With an attitude like this, you're probably wondering why I'm going. Truth is, my most beloved aunt in the whole of forever is a camp counselor. She sent in my registration, bought me the pattern (patterns these days cost more than sewing machines did at the turn of the 20th century), put together a coordinating kit of materials . . . heck, she even gave me a state-of-the-art sewing machine that's worth more than my car. Now if she could just give me a little talent.

Turns out, quilting isn't all that different from writing.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was one of those egotistical dummies who read an LDS novel, thought I can do better than this, and set out to prove it. Turns out it's harder than it looks. I still haven't proven my point, but seven novels later I am not nearly as egotistical as I once was. (Some good came of it, in other words.) Quilting is also harder than they make it look at the county fair. This is probably because novels have remained about the same over the last few decades, but quilts have evolved from utilitarian bedcoverings to exquisite works of textile art. (Other people's projects, that is; mine are neither exquiste nor utilitarian.) While women once used flour sacks, tattered curtains, and leftover scraps from homemade garments to piece together a quilt, there are shops today that want to sell you a yard of designer fabric for 15.99. (And up.) My great-grandmother couldn't afford not to quilt. For me, quilting is scarcely affordable. I may, in fact, have to try to publish another book to finance my fabric addiction.

Hmm. I think I lost my thesis somewhere in that rant about the high cost of cotton thread. (et al) Quilting and writing seem similar to me at the beginning of every project. My first book started with only a character. I wrote a chapter about an all-star pitcher standing on a mound in spring training and getting pounded. I felt like I knew the character from the first sentence -- everything about him, in fact. Unfortunately, I had no plot, no theme, no purpose, and no other characters. I ended up following him around (for almost 900 pages!) to see what happened. (No, I can't explain my "creative process" any better than that.) Similarly, I often buy a yard of to-die-for-gorgeous fabric and carry it around for days, weeks, or months, waiting for it to tell me what it wants to be when it grows up.

Other books have begun with "what if?" A few years ago I was drafted to help with an Eagle Project to preserve and relocate cacti in the wilderness. I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool girly-girl, but I'm no Girl Scout either. In the first thirty minutes the project ruined two of my nails and caused me to blink rivulets of melting makeup from my eyes. I thought, I wouldn't last twenty-four hours out here by myself. It's doubtful I'm going to last twenty-four minutes, surrounded by Eagle Scouts. When I got home that night I started my first attempt at first person, writing about what might happen if a true girly-girl got lost in the Galiuros. (With an Eagle Scout, of course.) My quilting projects often start similarly. What if I make a full-sized memory quilt for my daughter's 21st birthday? I think. My daughter is now 22 and recently asked if I'd consider finishing her quilt for Christmas. I said yes. Since she didn't specify Christmas of which year, I think my word is good.

But they way in which quilting is most like writing -- if you're me -- is in the revisions. I have a quote up on my bulletin board from Pulitzer Prize winner James Michener. He said, I am not a great writer . . . I owe my success to being one of the world's great re-writers. In quilting -- as in writing -- I have a long way to go to become adequate, let alone an accomplished. But let me assure you of this: I am beyond doubt one of the best seam-and-scene rippers in the world today.

I can think of several more parallels, but if I go any further I will miss the bus up to camp. Besides, given enough time, I might even come up with something that vaguely resembles a blog, and we all know how hard I've been trying to cut back on blogging.

Finally, haven't forgotten the Javelina Short-Short-Short Story Contest. The winner, technically (and perhaps) is #2. I say and perhaps because I'm frankly a little suspicious of Anonymous and his troupe of Anonymous supporters. Nevertheless, I have no actual proof that anybody stuffed the ballot box, so he won, square if not fair. I am, however, going to award the second prize -- the one I offered for voting -- to #4 for having the most votes from people willing to identify themselves. I'm giving her this prize because she deserves it and because the first two names I drew for it were "anonymous" and the third was my husband's. (Don't tell Gary he won. He'll want to take that magnet down to the apartment for sure!)

Alright, I'm really, truly off to camp. Wish me luck. I'm resigned to missing out on s'mores, but maybe I can at least find somebody willing to listen to ghost stories. Maybe next week I'll put up pictures of my "campout." What better way to get out of blogging once again?"


At 10/02/2009 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoo hoo! I won the magnet. I love magnets, and considering I'm on a diet, the not-quite-pig clinging to my refrigerator will remind me not to "pig-out". Frankly, I’m glad I didn’t win the stuffed javelina, I don’t have room for it in my messy house, and although I already have a personalized copy of Closing In, I’ve been wanting to send a copy of that to my mother-in-law (she loves a good clean mystery) but I didn’t want to send her my only copy. I know I’d never get it back.

Good luck with getting anonymous to pony up with his name and address, Kerry. Of course, he/she could always go with a PO box and initials. Another good mystery?


At 10/02/2009 3:58 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I think Brandon Sanderson used a variation of the Michener quote in his address at the conference.

Good luck with the quilting!

At 10/02/2009 6:13 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Kerry--I'd love to become a quilter. I've made some baby quilts, and my dad's side of the family are all avid quilters.

At 10/02/2009 6:17 PM, Blogger Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I took a quilting class with my married daughter. We loved it! I don't know how you find the time to quilt and write. Of course, there's that time between midnight and 6:00 in the morning. Sleeping is such a waste of time. :)

At 10/02/2009 8:21 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

Congrats to Deb! I hear you about quilting not being affordable. But I love the way a quilt feels. There's nothing like curling up with one.

At 10/02/2009 9:32 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Have fun, Kerry. If you get tired of quiting, just take one off of the frame and curl up in it. You did remember to pack a good book didn't you?

At 10/03/2009 5:20 AM, Blogger Anna Buttimore said...

Jennie, you accidently (kind-of) said something extremely poignant and meaningful with the typo in your comment. Love it!

I know nothing about quilting. Never seen a quilt. Pretty sure we don't have it here.

Kerry, I'm ashamed to say that I'm one of those people who read an LDS novel and thought "I can do better than this". You may remember which one it was I read. I still think I can do better than that one, and you have, seven times. I have all the rejection letters to keep me humble.

At 10/03/2009 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cease to be suspicious, Kerry. I am a troupe of one anonymous supporter. I figured you figured how to figure that out. Does this mean I get nothing? Again? I'm such a loser.

At 10/03/2009 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...does this mean that Laman crossing the road riddle doesn't qualify as a short story? How long does a riddle need to be in order to qualify as a short story? Is there a book of short story rules that helps with Arizona wildlife story telling technique? I really want to win one of your contests. 1887 Mapleview Drive, Bountiful, UT 84010. Please?

At 10/05/2009 3:16 AM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Kerry, picture posting counts as a blog. I hope you have/had a marvelous time at quilting camp.

At 10/05/2009 10:34 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Deb: Let me know where you want me to send the book. I'm on my way out of town again today, but I'll do my best to get the prizes in the mail on Wednesday. Congrats!

Jon: A variation of the quote? Are you saying that in relying on my incredible memory instead of checking facts I whiffed it? :) Ah, well.

Kathi: Who told you I still write? I need to set them straight. :)

Jennie: No frames. We pieced tops and worked on special projects. (I'll have to post of picture of my "hang in there, kitty." Alas, I must admit I never use frames. I even quilt by machine.

Anna: You have quilts in England. I've seen pictures of them. Hint: They're often seen covering beds. It's SO fun to talk to you. I still remember the trolley/bonnet thing at Sky Harbor. You thought I was crazy and I was pretty darn sure you were! :) I won't mention on a G blog that I offered you a popular item here with a name that is obscene there. :)

Anonymous: YOU TOTALLY WON! No writing books needed. Thanks for the address. The javelina should arrive in Utah by the weekend. Please keep it warm. Chino is about as far north as they usually roam.

Marsha: It was fun, but not even half as great as the ANWA retreat. I may just have to go back to writing...

At 10/05/2009 3:28 PM, Blogger Tristi said...

Quilting camp? Like in the Elm Creek Quilts books? How fun is that!!

At 10/07/2009 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be sure to share those ghost stories, you know what a sucker I am...



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