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After a week of traveling and having people over it’s nice to finally sit down and share some of the things I’ve been doing (and creating) lately.

So in between doing this in Dublin and seeing beautiful scenery like in the picture above and watching sunsets like this…

I’ve also been learning how to crochet.

My grandmother and knitting instructor was right: once you learn how to knit, crocheting is a cinch.  Of course, I still managed to botch things up a time or two, which meant having the unravel half the project.  But we got there in the end.  I decided to do a market bag (this is what I think of when I see the words “market bag”) for my first crochet project since, I figure, my vegetables won’t care too much if my rows aren’t perfectly straight. Jill’s  Rust Goes Green was a quick and easy project (even for a beginner) and it was a great way to finally use up some of this bulky nylon yarn I’d been practicing with for ages.

And the finished product…

And just for fun I made these dangly wire earrings with royal blue beads. I’m not sure about  the ear hook design so I’m thinking about changing them… maybe adding a loop so that the ends clip together to form a fill circle?

Two books that have become permanent features on my nightstand these days (along with the, happily, never-ending Cold Mountain Scarf) are Melanie Falick’s Weekend Knitting and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s The Hound of the Baskervilles of Sherlock Holmes fame.  The proprietor of the tiny second hand bookshop I bought it from in the market said Baskervilles was the only book that ever scared him…  I love the classic Penguin book cover possibly as much as the expert, chilling, and somewhat whimsical story-telling.

And in the meantime I’ve moved on to a new project (two actually, but the second will have to wait until another day). Now that I can crochet passably, I’m working on my first plarn project. Here’s a sneak peak of the lunch bag-in-progress, based on Vickie Howell’s design from her book Aware Knits. More to come when I’ve finished.

In addition to picking out our wedding favors these past few days (which, by the way, is still not a done deal: s’mores or candy rock?) I’ve also been looking into handmade wedding thank-you gifts for family and friends who’ve helped out. Naturally I’d like to knit and crochet some of these gifts. And I don’t just want to knit pretty flower pins and small gift bags either; I want my gifts to be personalized, practical, and something people would want to use or wear because, let’s be honest, the handmade movement is at its best when made-from-home crafts compete with factory-made items for usefullness and prettiness.  Otherwise, why would people bother with handmade? So picking the right gifts/patterns is key.

The other factor is, of course, time. Seeing as it’s taken me three months to get through half of a shawl for my sister’s wedding gift turned birthday present (granted, I was in the middle of finals), I know it’s better to be realistic than optimistic — game day is, after all, under three months away. Yikes!

But because I’m stubborn, I’m determined to at least try. Plus I’m sure these adorable gifties won’t take too long to whip up. What do you think?

1.) I love this Crocheted Hemp Flower Necklace from Crescendoh, which I’m thinking would be an adorable gift for the mothers and/or my soon-to-be sister in law. The kit comes with hemp yarn, a crochet hook, 40 hand-dyed buttons and intructions (v. important!). Of course, I think I would use different colored buttons and maybe throw in some novelty items, i.e. felt leaves, shells, and wooden buttons. We shall see.

2.) For our somewhat “green” wedding (whatever that means), I  thought this simple yet lovely market string bag from Erin Vaughan would make a nice gift.  You can never have enough of these washable, stretchable  bags, especially now as farmers markets are regaining popularity across the country.

3.) Here’s one for the winos and, incidentally, the men in my life.  I hope they wouldn’t feel too girly caring a “handbag” even if it is for wine. I don’t care either way. They’re cute as all.

Harry wine bottle tote by Tante Sophie.

I’ve never tried felting before but the instructions look pretty straight forward. I’d say now’s as good a time as any to give it a try.

4.) In the same vein, these crocheted baskets are darling. Perfect as fruit baskets, napkin holders, anything really.

5.) Finally, who doesn’t love an adorable, multi-purpose tote? What’s more, it’s made from recycled bread bags. Again, this would complement our eco-conscious wedding theme, plus it’d be great as a market or beach bag.

I love the colors on this one. Wonder what bread they used... Sarah Lee?

So will I have time for all these projects on top of writing this novel, on top of planning the wedding, on top of applying for real jobs? Okay, probably not. But one can dream, right? Besides, they’re great projects to put on the backburner if I don’t finish them before the wedding.

Hi folks!

I’m writing a novel that’s set partly in present day small-town North Carolina and partly in the Pacific during WWII.  It’s not a war story, per se, though there are several combat scenes based on Okinawa.  However, the heart of the story lies with my female protagonist, an 85-year-old southern bell who receives a long lost letter from her husband, dated 1945, and begins an investigation into her husband’s past military career.

My question is, can y’all recommend any novels (war novels even) where the narrative shifts between two settings, one in present day and one in past?  And perhaps any which deal with similar subject mater, i.e., war, the unearthing of secrets, old folks (older romance),  memory and memory loss (male protagonist has Alzheimer’s), shame, forgiveness, etc.  WWII Pacific Theatre would be helpful too.

Seems like so many war novels either  center around the combat, or else they harp on about bravery and/ or the futility of war… themes which might come into my story but are not the focus.

I would appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks 🙂

find ideas just by opening your eyes

How do you practice coming up with ideas for fiction?  Here are two tips I’ve learned over the years, which have helped me in my practice.

1)      Be Aware:  Imagine you’re brain’s a Brita-filter.  Every second of every day, our brains process stimuli which we receive from our environment:  the natural world, the people we meet, the media, all of that is part of our environment.  As writers and storytellers, we have all the information we need for coming up with great stories.  It’s just a matter of seeing them.

That squished snail you just stepped on, for example.  The way the grass looked this morning with fog laced through its blades.  The person you just walked past that was in hysterics for having stepped on the snail.  Who among us is completely aware of every little thing that happens to or around us on any given day?  No one.   But maybe we should.

By paying a bit more attention to the world around us,  not only will we feel more alert and tuned-in to this beautiful world, we’ll see something worth writing down.

2)      Ask Questions:  Go through life asking the question “What if?”  “What if there were creatures from another planet?” H.G. Wells might have asked.  “How would they react to humans?  What would they look like?”  See how one question leads to another? And this trick doesn’t just work for fantasy or sci-fi.  Consider Jane Austen:  “What if a snobbish land-owning gentleman fell for a feisty, dowerless girl?” In fiction, anything can happen.  Prod your imagination awake by asking it questions.  Begin by asking, “What if?” and see where it takes you.

As an exercise, think about one thing that happened to you during your day.  It can be anything:  a scene from your day, like a meeting or a coffee break, something someone said, that car that nearly ran you over as you were trying to cross the street, anything.  What “What-if” scenario can you imagine coming from that event?

Here’s an example:  you overhear a snippet of an argument between a man and a woman.  All you catch is the man saying, “What do you mean you forgot to get the dried blood?!”  You know he was probably referring to compost fertilizer, but what if he wasn’t?

But the scenarios don’t have to be that ripe for the pickin’.  With a little bit of prodding, you can turn anything into a story.

Just start asking the questions and let the story unravel from there.

Eileen Hughes goes into more detail about finding story ideas using these two simple ideas.  http://hubpages.com/hub/Tips-for-finding-ideas-to-write-a-story

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"The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate -- it is life, intensified, brilliant life." ~ Alain Arias-Misson

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